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.
In the fourth part of our midfield transfer targets series, we’re going to look at four midfielders from the Premier League, players who have already shown that they can make it in the world’s toughest league.
Players signed from abroad are inherently more risky and inevitably take longer to adapt, these mids would have no such issues.
Assessed below are four players who all possess the strength, skill and experience to succeed at United straight from the start of the season: