French poet and historian Voltaire once wrote; “Opinion has caused more trouble on this little earth than plagues or earthquakes”. He didn’t know it at the time, but when it comes to football, he may have had a point. United’s opening round defeat to Everton has prompted discussion in all quarters, with every critic, journalist and punter clamouring to offer their own opinion on the state of affairs at Old Trafford. Views range from the somewhat overconfident declaration that we have a team capable of immediate domestic and European dominance, to the cynical belief that we may as well pack up and go home now; such are our slim chances of success this year. The truth is perhaps somewhere between these extremes. The signing of Robin Van Persie and Shinji Kagawa will undoubtedly strengthen a team that missed out on the league title last season by goal difference alone, but a period of adjustment is inevitable as the team discovers how best to utilize these player’s talents. Add to this the fact the injury crisis ravaging our defence and the fragmented nature of our preseason and it’s easier to see why the Reds didn’t have the best of games against Everton. This is a team that will undoubtedly improve as the season goes on and players return to full fitness. Most detractors predictably aim the bulk of their criticisms towards our midfield. Another summer is almost gone and Sir Alex has yet to sign the midfield enforcer craved by so many. It has also become clear he has no intention of doing so.
“We’ve never had a holding player…I’ve not had it for 25 years. Why should I think about it now?” (May 2012).
This sentiment will no doubt frustrate many Reds supporters but such is the gaffer’s unwavering loyalty to Michael Carrick it is unlikely we will see a defensive midfielder added anytime soon. Add to this the re-emergence of Tom Cleverley and the signing of Kagawa and it becomes clear that Sir Alex has his own ideas of how best to move the team forward. Whether it will ultimately pay off remains to be seen, but as the Scot moves into his 26th season at the club, he is probably entitled to a little faith. It is, however, shaping up to be a career defining season for many of our players. Tom Cleverley will be looking to rediscover the form that saw Sir Alex prepared to build the team around him last year before injury curtailed his season. Impressing both in the Olympics and in pre-season the Basingstoke born midfielder will hope to build upon the promising relationship developing with Kagawa, and firmly stamp his name on the Gaffer’s team sheet. Alongside him in the centre, Anderson will be attempting to finally realize some of the form and potential that he has been on the brink of realizing for some years now. Now entering into his sixth season at the club, the charismatic Brazilian may be quickly running out of opportunities to show that he is capable of being a player for this club; a reality that is not lost on him.
“I need to prove what I can do. I know the boss and my team mates believe in me. I have just had bad luck. I need to improve…” (July 2012).
The form of Wayne Rooney was often scrutinized last season. Remarkable when you consider the sheer number of goals he scored. It is a testament to the lofty expectations placed on the former Evertonian that despite racking up a career best 35 goals in all competitions neither the fans nor indeed the player himself were pleased with his form. Over the last three or four seasons Sir Alex has successfully converted the striker into a highly functional goal scorer, capable of hitting the net even on bad days. The arrival of Robin Van Persie will hopefully breathe new life into Rooney, both lifting the burden of being United’s main man and introducing a bit of healthy competition. It would do the forward no harm to realize he is no longer immune to being dropped. The striker looked abject at time’s last season and a few games short of match fitness against Everton. Improvement is inevitable as the player embarks upon what should be his peak years. If the thought of playing up front along side Van Persie and Kagawa doesn’t whet his appetite, nothing will. In truth the Everton game may have come too soon for the Reds. International commitments saw a great number of senior players miss the opening games of pre-season. When coupled with the copious injuries wreaking havoc on our defence it is little wonder Sir Alex’s men were shy of form in the opening fixture. As players return and new signings settle in the team is certain to improve. Midfield frailties considered, it would be foolish to expect anything other than a competitive Manchester United when Sir Alex Ferguson is in charge. Though as always, he will do things in his own indomitable way with a clear idea of how he wants the team to form and progress. American Philosopher Elbert Hubbard once said “To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, be nothing”. This is one thing the unconquerable Scot will never be guilty of.
Kevin Levingston is a freelance writer and blogger. You can follow him on twitter here: @KevinLevingston
Check out what our Manchester United Transfer Scout has to say about all the latest player rumours.
Robin van Persie has been confirmed as United’s first superstar arrival since Dimitar Berbatov. Our editorial team give their reaction to the signing:
Until this deal was confirmed I was never fully convince it would happen. Now it has it raises more questions than answers, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Adding a world class player to your side is always a reason to celebrate.
There are a number of potential positives. Firstly the burden on Rooney to be our main source of goals is reduced. This increases our opportunities to rest or drop Rooney when his all around game falls short. I’m always concerned when a player is deemed irreplaceable despite form and the arrival of RvP will hopefully galvanise Rooney to put the effort in to improve and maintain his performance levels (this was certainly the case in the Ronaldo/Tevez era). In addition the fact that on the pod we couldn’t reach a consensus on how he would be used means that, in the light of Kagawa’s arrival – we are genuinely unpredictable in terms of personnel and tactical shape. This was rarely the case last season. Finally, the timing of this addition is vital for re-energising a jaded, divided fan base. Arguably for the first time since last season’s denouement it feels like we’ve regained our swagger.
There are potential risks with the transfer. The age and injury record of the Dutchman have been covered at length. In addition the injection of an established superstar into a dressing room packed with egos is always a risk – although there is no finer manager than Ferguson at ensuring unity amongst big names. A further concern going forward is the impact on our young strikers – Hernandez would hope to push on after a difficult second season and Welbeck will aim to build on the momentum of his own breakthrough season. A look at our fixture list (particularly after European fixtures) indicate there should be enough games to go around but it would be a real shame if their development was stalled in pursuit of short term glory. Perhaps the biggest concern about this transfer is that the money could have been more wisely invested on a quality midfielder (such as van Persie’s wantaway now former team-mate) given our shortcomings in that area last season. Only time will tell if this is a Ferguson master-stroke or one luxury too far.
I am in my mid 30’s and I have to admit that I have been very giddy today. It has been a long, long time since I have been this excited about a Manchester United signing. What a statement of intent from Ferguson. The fires still burn deep inside him and last year’s last minute failure hurt him and this is his response to the league.
I have always admired Van Persie as a player. With a wand for a left foot and an intelligent mind, he has impressed ever since he signed for Arsenal. But I hated him as a man as he appeared arrogant and aloof and being one of our rivals best players always made me fear his presence on the team sheet. The main thing now is that he becomes “our” arrogant superstar and has the added bonus of having a touch of nastiness about him too which we can lack at times.
Off the pitch, van Persie is coolness personified. He came across wonderfully well in today’s press conference. The main thing I liked was that he just “gets” what it means to be a United player. He was beaming from the minute he learned the deal was done and could barely hide his deep admiration of the club and its principles.
On the pitch, he gives United a new dimension. For the first time since the departure of Ronaldo, opponents will take to the pitch fearing our firepower. In the mid to late 1990’s, teams took to the field often simply happy to keep the scoreline vaguely respectable. To return to this level of intimidation is beyond exciting. How Ferguson fits everyone in is another question altogether and one I do not envy the great man. On paper, Rooney, RvP, Welbeck, Hernandez, Valencia, Nani, Cleverley, Scholes etc look a formidable force but how do you mould them into a cohesive unit? One thing is for sure, we will not be short on goals or excitement! The return of Vidic will be key as if we can keep it tight at the back then with that mouth watering attacking lineup, we are almost assured goals.
In a preview of the season, I longed for a return to exciting football played with verve and exuberance that has been the hallmark of United down the years. I have a feeling that I will not be disappointed. Strap yourself in, it promises to be one hell of a ride.
Have yourself a good look at this picture. Look at it. Grasp it. Feel it. Remember when your art teacher used to ask you; “when you look at this picture, what do you see?”, obviously wanting you to pinpoint your emotions and feelings when watching it. I do. When I look at this photo I see shock. I see an element of surreality. I see the unexpected. I also see promise and progression. I see hopes and dreams, I see a man of goals and his smile that gleams. I see something I never thought I’d ever see, I see Manchester United’s RvP.
“Manchester United have announced the signing of Robin van Persie.” I think none of us really expected it. Amid the rumours and the expectations we all made. Juventus would come in, City would manhandle us financially. “Van Persie prefers United to the rest”. Just like Samir Nasri did, just like Lucas Moura did, just like Eden Hazard did. You can read all the stats and numbers in the world and you would still know nothing about what Robin van Persie brings to a worldwide fanbase who have been begging for someone like him. To say that this is not the marquee signing people have been waiting for would be nothing short of asinine. If there ever was a question of intent, I think those who raised that question, among them a certain English striker, received their answer just by quickly glancing at this photo.
What I believe Robin van Persie brings to Manchester United is his hunger. His time at Arsenal have not been as fruitful as one may have hoped, thus leaving him more wanting of success than perhaps anyone out there. For a Manchester United who last year was caught out due to lack of maturity and experience during the run-in, this was the perfect signing. I’m not saying that “RvP” is a specialist in terms of calming the ship. I’m saying that when the going gets rough, he’s used to people looking at him for the advice. When Wayne Rooney crumbles under the pressure, and he needs someone to step up to the plate, he’ll have van Persie. A football team needs leaders who shine through even on the darkest of days. A talisman. Someone who can carry their team on the back. These are qualities that embody Robin van Persie.
So here’s to you who went sleepless last summer waiting for Wesley, here’s to you who saw Samir lift a trophy with skyblue ribbons, here’s to you who thought this was our time to walk in the garden of Eden. Here’s to you who said Shinji Kagawa wasn’t a big name signing. Here’s to the hopeful, here’s to the doubtful. Here’s to you all. Here is Robin van Persie – Manchester United player.
Van Persie’s arrival has lifted the air of resignation thats been slowly drifting around the outskirts of Old Trafford and put the defending Premier League champions, Manchester City, on the back foot.
It was widely expected that Glazernomics would see City pull away and consolidate their position at the summit of English football this summer but this signing is the first time we’ve acted in anger to their recent rise.
The arrival of the Van Persie will reinvigorate the squad and transform a potent team into a deadly one. The Dutchman is a world class striker and will bring back a fear factor unseen since the Ronaldo days.
Inevitably, it will be difficult for SAF to balance playing time between the strikers but it is a position that the likes of Di Matteo & Vilas Boas could only dream of. Tactically, the arrival will also give offer Sir Alex a more flexible front line with the overdue arrival of not one, but two, left footed attackers to the first team and see us revert back to the more fluid formations seen back in 2007/08.
Financially, I’m pleasantly surprised that we’ve made such a financial investment. £25m on RVP this year is not a waste of money, £100m on interest payments is.
For videos of van Persie’s press conference, check the CanTheyScore homepage for recent posts.
I love Twitter. I love the insight, the access, the debate and I love how it makes me look like I’m doing something on my phone when I’m in public with nothing else to do. That being said, however, Twitter does infuriate me. Every Tom, Dick and Harry (no associations or usernames intended) suddenly becomes a “source” for transfer rumours and if you believe everything you read players have signed for four different clubs within half an hour of each other.
It’s funny that this has only just recently started to wind me up. I’ll admit that during the Eden Hazard transfer limbo I enjoyed seeing millions of tweets so assured that he was signing for United, it gave me hope. This, alas, didn’t come to pass, and since then the endless nonsense really has started to get on my nerves. I’ll be honest, it’s really since we were linked with a certain Lucas Moura. Read more…
Bobby Hare – @BobbyHare – reckons United are like a supercar without the engine. Add a souped up central midfielder and watch them go…
It’s been painfully clear for three seasons that United’s central midfield is in urgent need of attention. That the club has still strongly competed during that period is testament to Sir Alex’s enduring brilliance and an underrated level of ability in other positions. Worryingly, the umbilical cord to Giggs and Scholes remains firmly attached, and while their class is indisputable, there is something worrying about these elder statesmen being such integral components of the United machine; by all rights, they should be clapped out by now.
It hasn’t helped that the likes of Cleverley and Anderson, on whom many of Fergie’s well-laid plans will have been premised, have grown so familiar with the treatment table. When Fletcher’s nasty illness is entered into the equation, it’s clear that United are woefully under resourced in centre of the park. 90% of the time, the old stagers are still capable of schooling those before them, but problems have arisen when facing the midfield aristocrats; United have been disparagingly cast as the paupers. For a club whose supporters have been brought up on marvels like Robson and Keane, it’s a bitter pill to swallow.
Football fans are fickle. They always have been, and always will be. It isn’t hard to find examples but the debut season of Phil Jones makes a pretty good case study.
Expectations following his signing were moderate; a learning season awaited as understudy to the indestructible partnership of Vidic and Ferdinand. As so often happens, circumstances ripped up the best laid plans and Jones became a mainstay of the first eleven. Early swashbuckling performances fuelled a hype unlike any I have experienced as a United supporter; ‘future captain’, ‘best English player of his generation’ and a multitude of twitter in-jokes lauding his invincibility.
Fabio Da Silva’s long-rumoured loan to QPR has gone through this week. The move might not be enough to arouse Jim White but it could have a significant impact on Manchester United’s fortunes. So what ramifications might this have on our squad?
Amidst a gloomy economic outlook, loans of some sort or the other seem to be dominating the front pages of news. Loan news in the footballing world occupies tiny, three-inch column spaces in the middle pages, but appear to have proven far more fruitful. Last season saw the return of Danny Welbeck and Tom Cleverley following successful loan spells in the premier league with Sunderland and Wigan Athletic.
Previous beneficiaries of the loan system have included stars such as Paul Scholes and notably David Beckham. With the yoke of ‘Glazeronomics’ unlikely to depart any time soon, it becomes all the more imperative for a club like United to reap returns on loanees which they can reinvest on the pitch or the market. So who are the ones likely to be farmed out for a season or two? And when they return, do they stand a chance of cutting it at United?
The reserve team captain tops this list. Over the last couple of years, Old Trafford has seen overseas talents, in Giuseppe Rossi and Gerard Pique, hone their skills at the club, but eventually grow to world class players elsewhere. Paul Pogba could, and most likely will, follow them to achieve stardom away from Old Trafford. Is there a trend beginning to surface? If so, it must end here. Petrucci isn’t likely to make the cut immediately at OT. However a string of impressive performances for the reserves have convinced this writer that he could light up the theatre of dreams in the years to come, IF he sticks around long enough.
Bobby Hare – @BobbyHare – assesses the state of United’s squad and concludes that, contrary to common opinion, there isn’t a great deal wrong with it…
With the Euros nearly finished, we can begin to focus all our attention on what really matters during the close season – transfers. It’s been a familiar tournament summer for United, with England crashing out and the club’s star turn getting it in the neck for the failure. United have already been active in adding to their squad, but transfer hungry muppets are already twitching like crack fiends, desperate for their ‘marquee’ hit.
Conventional wisdom dictates that Manchester United need to sign a striker in the summer transfer window.
Following the flurry of activity in and out of Old Trafford already this summer, Sir Alex Ferguson looks like he will be one short of his favoured four forward options going into next season.
Following the departure of Michael Owen already, expected exit of Dimitar Berbatov soon enough and a nasty cruciate-ligament injury to William Keane which will rule him out for nine months (when he was destined to be involved next season), the Red Devils are left with only three recognised first team strikers. That is following the departure of other experimental strikers in Mame Birame Diouf in January, rumoured loan move of Macheda next season and necessary re-loan of Portuguese flop, Bebe.
Of course, Sir Alex may well decide to use Ashley Young as an auxiliary striker as he has been used for England in the Euros so far or he may deem another unnecessary in light of Kagawa’s arrival and a possible transition to 4-2-3-1.
However, on show in Ukraine and Poland is a plethora of goal-scoring potential who Martin Ferguson, our chief European scout, is sure to be watching.
(Poland and Borussia Dortmund)
With a nation’s hopes resting upon his shoulders, Lewandowski opened the scoring in this year’s European Championship with a fine header against Greece in the competition’s first match. A strong and athletic threat with a 6ft 3″ frame, he has become a key figure for both club and country.
After forming a telepathic relationship with United’s new signing, Shinji Kagawa, last season, Lewandowski finished the season with 22 goals in 34 Bundesliga appearances, after firing in more shots per games than any other player. However, the 23 year-old’s main weaknesses are his hold-up play and passing in general; in his Champions League appearances, for example, he averaged a pass completion rate of just 56%. Nonetheless, he is the second youngest player on the list and should improve on both of these weaknesses over the next few years.
The Poland coach, Smuda, did suggest Manchester United were a possible destination this summer but this was categorically ruled out by Borussia Dortmund who insist he is not for sale, even though a bid over £25million could prove very tempting.
(Holland and FC Schalke)
Seemingly linked to United every summer for the past five or six season, by lazy journalists in search of hits, the Dutchman is finally showing the form, at 28 years of age, that the prodigious goal scoring record in his younger years predicted. Scoring 39% of Schalke’s goals in the Bundesliga this season with a staggering 29 goals in 32 Bundesliga matches, he really is at his peak.
Averaging a goal every 96 minutes, in comparison to Podolski at every 140 minutes and M B Diouf at every 129 minutes, it is amazing that he has been ousted from the national team’s starting XI by a seemingly unfit and out-of-form Afellay. Made all the more bizarre considering that he scored 8 goals in just 5 Europa League matches this season and set up the same amount of goals as Shinji Kagawa with 8.
Despite all this, Huntelaar would be available for a fee just shy of that paid for Kagawa as his contract only has one year left to run and the Dutchman is keen to move on to a bigger club. If Sir Alex is interested, £14 million on a proven goal scorer may be a worthwhile investment.
As the summer of football is about to commence, I picked out 11 players that I will be keeping an eye on in Poland and Ukraine in preparation for the new season.
As a football scout’s nightmare, international tournaments usually prove to be more of a hindrance than anything else in terms of finding talent for the domestic season (due to exaggerated valuations, temporary bursts of form and other factors) but here is a team full of players that I will be watching for differing reasons.
On Tuesday, Tom Pattison published his Player Profile XI which focused on 11 players, from 11 teams, whom he is looking forward to watch and this XI is also limited to one player per country, hence the absence of some of the more established names.
Wojciech Szczesny (Arsenal and Poland)
As the last line of defence for one of the host nation sides, Szczeny will need to be in fine form if Poland are to progress out of the group stages. One of their most talented players, at just 22 years of age, the Arsenal keeper goes into the match after an indifferent season at club level (and a season in which he has been superseded as the most talented young keeper in the PL). Undoubtedly a talented shot stopper, his season has been blighted by mistakes but I believe that with his larger than life personality, he will rise to the occasion.
John O’Shea (Sunderland and Republic of Ireland)
Leading the Republic of Ireland to their first international tournament in ten years, John O’Shea has endured an injury-ridden first season away from Old Trafford. Integral to the solid, defensive unit that Trappattoni has developed over the last four years, it will be interested to see how the former Manchester United cult-hero performs against Spain, Italy and Croatia. Considering his age (31) and the likelihood of Ireland qualifying for Brazil 2014, this tournament may well prove to be his last on an international stage, after 75 caps and over 350 games for Manchester United.