Lavish spending can bring opportunity for United’s youth.
Transfer deadline day was a flurry of excitement for many. The previously dormant Woodward had found his mojo and in Falcao pulled off the kind of unexpected transfer that was once the hallmark of Ferguson. Over the last nine months we have added proven quality and potential in equal measure. Skeptics point to the failure to recruit a world class central midfielder and central defender yet such players are a rare breed and noticeably thin on the ground. Odious Glazer stooge though he is; it is difficult to argue that the much maligned vice-Chairman has failed in 2014. Crossing the palm of leeches like Jorge Mendes with silver might not be to everyone’s taste but the outcome is undeniably appealing. Recruiting World and European champions to England’s seventh best team is worthy of acclaim.
In spite of all this I felt anything but buoyant as the players headed off for their international breaks. I have a natural inclination to focus on the negative – and the departure of Welbeck definitely warrants that description. On a football level it could potentially turn out to be strengthening a rival for a low fee. On an emotional level it is a sense that one of our own has been allowed to fly the nest. The sadness that emanated from the summer sales was based on a feeling that the club had failed. Failed to achieve the final phase of turning now first team academy products into key players in a successful team. Failed to harness and direct mercurial talent to consistently benefit the team. In the cases of Welbeck, Kagawa, Nani and Cleverley there will always be a sense of what might have been. Talent was not in question but through a combination of factors none of these players fulfilled their potential at the club.
Much has been written about each and I am in no way absolving the players themselves of responsibility. Social-media has a habit of building up players into cult figures far too quickly and inflated assessments of their quality come to dominate the discourse. This proves self-defeating as the players can never live up to the expectations leading to the equally misguided response that these feted players are in fact ‘not fit to wear the shirt.’ We all have our own bias – I have often spoken or written of my preference for homegrown players and satisfaction in the triumph of youth. In Welbeck’s case opportunities were limited for a player adamant that a central striking berth was required to advance his career. Two successive managers have now deemed the forward unfit for the purpose of leading the line for United. I suspect that even as ardent an admirer as Ferguson would have looked for a more proven alternative to replace the departing Rooney. A player has no more right to start for Manchester United because of where he was born than due to the size of his wage packet. The harsh yet entirely correct message sent out by Woodward and Van Gaal this summer is that no player in a squad finishing seventh is indispensable.
A pressing concern at the arrival of bona fide superstars is the impact on others in the squad. Much scrutiny has been placed on the ramifications for Juan Mata but of more concern for me is the extent to which it limits the opportunities for Januzaj, Wilson, Blackett and Lingard. A long season of a single weekly game offers little opportunity or need to return to the Fergie tombola. Yet fears for stunted development can be assuaged by the benefit of these players training on a daily business with a higher calibre of players instructed by some of Europe’s finest coaches. For all the thrill of Januzaj’s emergence last season he undoubtedly played too much, too soon and was regularly handed the responsibility of reviving a team devoid of ideas. Less football for players under twenty-two – who have been tied to academies since early teens – could be of long-term benefit in an era where burnout is a growing concern. If they develop as hoped at least two of the four can look forward to graduating to a starting place before van Gaal’s three-year tenure ends.
Eighteen days on and mourning what might have been has evolved into relishing what might be ahead. A previous manager once spoke of ‘aspiring’ to be like a team from Stockport. The arrival of world class talent means our young prospects need only look around them to find the level to which they must strive. The best way to join the best is to learn from them. That’s the United way.
379 appearances, 10 goals, 40 assists and 54 yellow cards.
Bought by Sir Alex Ferguson during the 2006 January transfer window, Patrice Evra took some time to adapt to the Premier League. Considered somewhat of a flop at the end of his first season, Evra and Vidic are the perfect examples that, sometimes, players need time to acclimatise themselves to new environments.
8 years on, and both players have left at the end of the same season as cult heroes in the eyes of the vast majority of the Manchester United fan base. However, there is a difference in the way both players left the club: Vidic’s decision to leave for Inter Milan midway through the season was seen by many as a player making a swift exit from a sinking ship; a decision the Serbian seemed to regret when saying goodbye to the fans. Manchester United’s ex-captain will always be regarded as one of the team’s greatest defenders, but there is something about Patrice Evra that makes his departure from the club that little bit harder to take.
First and foremost, he understood exactly what it meant to play for Manchester United. Many players have come and gone at this great football club without showing the professionalism or the passion that is expected from a player when he puts on that red shirt. Patrice Evra has.
“I got a load of DVDs, about the Munich disaster and the Busby Babes, about Bobby Charlton, George Best and Denis Law, about Cantona. The whole story of the club. You meet these people around the club and I wanted to know who they were. What they had done for the club. Out of respect. All the young players here need to understand the history of the club. I realised I needed to respect the shirt. I needed to respect the story. Every time I play that is in my head. What a privilege it is to play for Manchester United. When you pull on the shirt you are pulling on history, and I say thanks to God that I play for this club”
Every time he spoke about the club, he always did so with great respect. His constant references to the club’s history endeared him to the fans, as they saw how proud he was to be at Manchester United.
On the pitch, the past few years weren’t the kindest to Evra. His reluctance to track back and his loss of pace hindered the team, and many fans made sure to voice their opinion on the matter whenever they could. However, the bond Evra had created with the fans was such that, whenever he spoke off the pitch, much was forgiven.
Patrice Evra is a born winner, something Sir Alex Ferguson quickly picked up on, meaning it came as no surprise when the former Manchester United manager made him vice-captain. The past year has been a great example of this. During one of the most disappointing seasons in the club’s recent history, Patrice Evra always voiced his support for the manager. He knew the fans were disappointed and so, in turn, this disappointed him even more. Evra became, to a certain extent, Manchester United’s spokesperson and said all the things the fans wanted to hear; something David Moyes seemed incapable of doing.
With his contract up at the end of the season, Patrice Evra could have done something similar to Nemanja Vidic and sign for a new team on a free in January. Instead, he waited until the end of the season and left after Manchester United triggered a clause in his contract, allowing the club to make money from his move.
The fact that Ferdinand, Vidic and now Evra have departed from Manchester United’s defence is a huge loss in terms of experience, but the new manager won’t be too bothered. As the Dutchman said in his first press conference, “I’m not always convinced by the experience of players”.
The fans will be forever grateful that Evra did not leave the sinking ship half way through the season, but stayed until the very end, ensuring that, when he left, his departure wouldn’t be missed. The signing of Luke Shaw certainly shows that Manchester United are thinking ahead rather than relying on the old guard for the coming season, and with Louis Van Gaal in charge, it’s almost as if Patrice Evra knows that the Manchester United ship has found its new navigator.
He can now leave knowing the club is in safe hands.
Sign Him Up! – A Case for Patrice Evra
With the departure of Ryan Giggs, Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic confirmed, Kevin Levingston argues why the club must hang on to Patrice Evra…
This summer Manchester United are experiencing a season of upheaval quite unlike anything they have faced in the premier league era. The season is barely over and already, with the departures of Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and Ryan Giggs, United have lost more championship winning experience than many clubs have amassed in their history.
These are men that have embodied the club, season after season, and maintained a culture of professionalism, pride and success within the dressing room for all new arrivals and upcoming players to see. One word from Rio. One headfirst tackle from Vida. One look from Giggsy. Every action from these club greats drawing a line in the sand; “This is Manchester United…this is our club”. Like Roy Keane, Steve Bruce and Bryan Robson before them they made sure that any aspiring player knew what it meant to wear that shirt on their back, to wear that badge on their chest. They demanded performances from their colleagues, more often through setting an example than anything else. If you were a Manchester United player you better crawl off that pitch at Old Trafford having used up every bit of talent you have. All for the cause. Yes, these players knew what it was to play for Manchester United.
Their departure (or retirement) leaves quite a gap in the dressing room. It’s certainly quite the hammer blow to lose them all at once. Sure, the United team has quite an amount of experience in the remaining playing staff – Wayne Rooney has been with us for ten years – but by his own conduct has done little to suggest he can be the example for the next great United team.
And then there’s Patrice Evra.
To put it simply; The club MUST keep hold of him, for countless reasons.
Admittedly the Frenchman is a long way from the imperious form of 2007-12 when he was one of, if not the best left backs in the league and in Europe, but he still has a huge amount to offer. Quite often this season he has been rightly criticized for being irresponsible in defence, no longer having the legs to get back from his many forays into the opposition half. Such is the role of the modern fullback, though it could be argued that Moyes particular emphasis on wing play did not help Evra in this regard. Nevertheless he is a solid option, and you would struggle to name five leftbacks better than him in the league. Definitely worthy of a squad position.
Having played at least 45 games in all but one of the last seven seasons, Evra has racked up a staggering amount of appearances in his time at United. Combine this mammoth run with being comfortably on the wrong side of thirty and it’s no surprise his legs are not what they used to be. With a new left back almost certain to come in, there’s no reason why Mr Evra can’t benefit from the same rotation as Giggs and Ferdinand experienced towards the end of their time with us. A better deputy you will not find anywhere.
It seems increasingly likely that Luke Shaw will arrive at Old Trafford this summer, and who better to learn from than our wily Frenchman? Evra has played at the very highest level against the best players in world football and could certainly teach our next leftback a thing or two! Having such a player as your guide would be of undoubted benefit when dealing with the pressures of playing for this club.
He Gets It
Perhaps as important as anything else on this list. More than anything, Patrice Evra knows what it means to be a Manchester United player. This quote from the man himself sums it up best;
“Ever since I joined this club has been like a big family. It’s the most important thing for me. It would be difficult for me to ever leave this club. I think maybe I’m possessed by this devil. I could not leave. I’m happy here. This is the biggest club in the world and it’s a privilege to play for the best club in the world” – Upon signing a new deal in 2011
It would be a mistake to let a player with such passion for the club go. For his ability, for his leadership, for his complete dedication to the cause, Patrice Evra should be allowed to finish his career at Manchester United.
He just gets it.
Kevin Levingston is a freelance blogger and Shinji Kagawa enthusiast. He disappears quite a lot. When he’s around you can reach him on twitter @KevinLevingston
An Ode to Anderson Luís de Abreu Oliveira
He’s gone… He’s really gone.
After many years of frustrating the masses of United fans around the world, the January transfer window finally saw our beloved Brazilian, Anderson, leave Manchester for pastures new. His destination? Florence and Fiorentina. To many this is a cause for celebration and mockery aplenty, however, I can’t feel anything other than a sense of disappointment for our Ando and his career at Old Trafford.
Paul Scholes- The Maestro
There’s an overwhelming rush of emotion as you try to explain Paul Scholes. A rush that comes to a screeching halt as you just can’t figure out that perfect word or feeling for it. But you know it’s there and it’s so deep inside you that it feels like you are under the ocean, suffocating, as you frantically wave your hands and try to grab anything you can but you seem to just miss that escape, that answer.
It’s not easy. Words like legend, genius and the like are too common these days. They would never do justice to Paul Scholes. No way. It’s a classic irony that the man himself is the embodiment of simplicity. But you still don’t give up. A bit more effort and a bit more time and you finally come up with a word, a feeling, for this man. And then the words just don’t stop. The dam has been broken. You breathe again.
A Respectful Look Back: 5 Beckham Memories
By now, unless you’re “living under a rock,” so to speak, you’ve heard the news regarding ex-Red, David Beckham. After a professional career spanning just over 20 years (and beginning in 1992 with Manchester United), Beckham has finally decided to call it quits, and will be stepping aside from the world of football. At least, that is, in a playing capacity – rumour has it Becks is already exploring an investment stake in a new professional team in Miami, Florida.
The Day That Was Never Supposed To Come
I was sitting in my friend’s car earlier today. We were discussing what the players were referred to by their teammates. He’s a Liverpool fan. We had gone through all the Liverpool players. I started going through the United players. «…Giggsy…Chris…Anders…Chicha..Well, Sir Alex usually called him Chico..». Usually called him. He won’t anymore. Because it’s not his job. Sir Alex Ferguson is no longer manager of Manchester United.
We have all grown up in different circumstances. Some with a huge family with uncles, aunts, grandparents and the solid unit you call your mother and father. Some of us grew up in homes with just a mother or father. Maybe an older sibling. Maybe not. They were people on whom you could always rely. People who would never really go away. Through good times and bad times you’d stand together. United. Many of us grew up with Sir Alex Ferguson. Many of us have never known anything else. Many of us do not wish to know anything else. It would be to replace the reliable unity you formed. It was never a unity you chose to form. It was just the way it became. Sir Alex Ferguson was Manchester United.
The past couple of days have been a rollercoaster. For us all. I have danced through my entire emotional register. I have been heartbroken, I have been angry, I have been hopeful and I have been fearful. I was born in 1992. I have never known anything different than what stands ahead of me. My unity with Manchester United was chosen through a radical Frenchman and a baby faced Norwegian who never looked a day older than 14. Behind them stood this authoriative, proud Scot who didn’t need to gesticulate or make a mockery of himself to get his point across. He would, from time to time, lose his cool. But that was his passion, his heart, his relentlessness. He was a winner and he demanded that they transpired him whenever they stepped on the pitch.
I don’t know about you, but I really don’t think about all the trophies he won when I think about the legacy Sir Alex Ferguson leaves at Old Trafford. Sure, he took the club from a fallen giant to the juggernaut of modern football. He made it the biggest and most popular club in the world. But what he did was provide a sense on consistency. You could always rely on Sir Alex Ferguson. You always knew his mentality. His work rate. As the son of a plater’s helper in the shipbuilding industry in Govan his working man’s principles were something we all grew to cherrish. Nothing was done without hard work. Look at the players he created. David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Cristiano Ronaldo. Yes, their talent was obvious, but they were a product of hard work. Sir Alex Ferguson’s hard work alongside them. And in the end, we were the ones who benefited. Had I received had a penny for every time I have been told that Manchester United was the only thing that made a person smile, I would now be a millionaire.
And so came the day. The day that was never supposed to come. It happened so quickly. Too quickly. We never got a chance to react. He was just… gone. Sure, the rumours were there. They were there every summer. Every time the league was won, every time the season ended, every time something monumental happened at the club. This was the time for Sir Alex Ferguson to retire. And we laughed. Because we all knew it was untrue. He would never leave us. But, he did. He had won us the league. Number thirteen for him, number twenty for the club. He had knocked Liverpool off their perch. He had regained control of Europe. He had ruled the world. But more importantly, he had conquered all of our hearts. 26 years. 9692 days. And so he’ll ride off into the sunset. Having appointed his favorite deputy to lead the march on. But it will never be the same. We will all support David Moyes. Because he’s one of us now. We who grew with Sir Alex Ferguson, however, will forever have a section of out heart reserved to the greatest of them all. The hairdryer, the red nose, the chewing gum, the glasses, the rants, the smiles, the glory, the triumphs, the sadness, the grief and the anger. But more than ever, the unity. And the years we spent finding sense and normality in comfortably knowing that Sir Alex Ferguson would always be able to make us feel good about ourselves again.
When Alexander saw the breadth of his domain, he wept, for there were no more worlds to conquer
Thank you for the memories, Sir Alex Ferguson.
“The reincarnation of Cantona?” – Thoughts on Berbatov’s departure
Football is enamored with the past. Football writers, fans, and even entire clubs cannot seem to get enough of what has been. Manchester United are proprietors of one of the more interesting histories in British football. As such, United supporters have a rather extensive well from which to draw when they are feeling nostalgic. When Cristiano Ronaldo broke through at the club, he was declared the ‘new George Best.’ As Wayne Rooney inches closer and closer to a role at the center of the park, he turns more and more into Sir Bobby Charlton. Were it not for those flash hair implants, he might already be there. Sir Alex Ferguson, the most successful manager in English football, has long existed as the ‘new Sir Matt Busby.’
Fans use the past to give the present context. The past helps us place expectations on players, and it guides our belief in a player and, ultimately, in our club. As the present makes good on the past- as Ronaldo does become one of the world’s best, as Rooney inches closer to Sir Bobby’s club goal record, and as Sir Alex continues his revivals of the club a là Busby after Munich- we feel emboldened to continue linking today with yesteryear.
Yet the past offers pitfalls, as Dimitar Berbatov illustrated this summer. After toying with Italian hearts on the last day of the transfer window, Berbatov has joined Fulham FC, of London, in the borough of Hammersmith and Fulham.
Dimitar Berbatov Departure Special- ‘He Was Manchester United’s Godfather’
After travelling around Europe for the week on a private jet whilst deciding where to venture next, Berbanigma finally decided to sign for Fulham yesterday. We give our reaction to the transfer:
Dimitar Berbatov – the right player at the wrong club. Prodigiously talented, languid and with a playing style that made you feel like you were watching the only player on the pitch. Everyone else was just on the periphery for Berba. It is a shame to see him leave but it is the right decision for all parties as that much talent is wasted on the bench.
We will remember the highs (Liverpool hat trick) and also the lows (penalty vs Everton) but above all we will remember that the Bulgarian simply got what it meant to be a United player. Whether left out or on the bench there was no complaints whereas lesser players would be on the phone to their agent before the day was finished.
I wish him well at Fulham where he will quickly become the main man and the fulcrum of the team. Whatever happens, it won’t be dull and who knows, in a few years that shocking statue of Michael Jackson will be replaced with one of a certain Bulgarian casually smoking a cigarette seemingly in a world of his own. Thanks for the memories.
The Secret Footballer sums it up better than I ever could… Dimitar Berbatov…
The Godfather. That is how I will remember Dimitar Berbatov. Not because he used the film to learn English, but because every time I saw him on the pitch, I couldn’t help but think “That might as well be Michael Corleone”. The way his hair was slicked back, the slickness he managed to portray on and off the pitch but also the cigarettes and the wine. Especially those.
When watching Berbatov play, you couldn’t help but notice that the man is a connoisseur. Not of wines (he probably is) but of football. He didn’t run around like Park or track back like Wayne Rooney. With Berbatov, it all happenened once the ball was in his feet. Whether it was a ball magically plucked out of the air or a flick over a player’s tackle, once Berbatov received the ball, he owned it.
He will always be remembered for that hat trick against Liverpool at Old Trafford with a performance that will forever engrave his name in Manchester United folklore. However, Dimitar should first and foremost be thanked not for a majestic display over bitter rivals, but for a 19th title which allowed Ferguson to knock Liverpool off their f***ing perch.
Some will always complain about his inconsistent displays in previous seasons or the fact that he was lazy, but really, who cares? He was Manchester United’s Godfather. He was Dimitar Berbatov.
Спасибо, до свидания и прошайте Димитар.
What can you say about Berbatov that has not been said already? He’s an artist, a magician, a maestro which treats the ball as his orchestra. Players become mere peasants as he dances across them with a touch so delicate it would’ve scored three stars on the Michelin Guide.
The hattrick against Liverpool and the five goals against Blackburn will forever be remembered between United fans. So will his rejection to Manchester City on deadline day in the summer of ’08. A man who never complained and was dedicated and motivated to do a job for the club hhe described as his dream when he joined. However, he just didn’t fit in. United wanted pace, attacking on the counters. To all his qualities, Berbatov lacked the essential speed to cope. A genius who just did not fit into our club anymore.
I wish him all the best and I hope he gets an absolute awesome reaction from the Old Trafford faithful should he return in a cupgame this season. Or perhaps next season if he’s still at Fulham when they visit Old Trafford.
Thank you for the memories, Dimitar Berbatov!
*Can They Score contributor, Musa Okwonga, wrote a superb poem on Berbatov’s depature, check it out on his site here.
Another Great Servant Whose Time Is Up
Having waited six weeks to redeem himself, after two horrible performances against Athletic Bilbao, Ji Sung Park seemingly ended his Manchester United career this week with one of his worst performances in a Red shirt. With only two months left to run on his contract, it seems that his thoroughly commendable Red Devils career has sadly sizzled out as the effects of ageing start to truly take its toll on the South Korean’s 31 year-old legs.
Diligent, determined and defensively minded, Ji Sung Park’s Manchester United career has gone on a lot longer than many people expected when we signed the little known winger from PSV, for £4million, in the summer of 2005. Initially, many people saw his arrival as a marketing ploy, quickly citing the Dong Fangzhou experiment, but he has undoubtedly been much more than that; although he has inevitably contributed to the fact that 1 million Koreans have United branded credit/ debit cards and have such a healthy presence in the county.
Still, South Korea’s former captain is set to finish his United career on 205 appearances, assuming that he is not involved against Swansea or Sunderland, which is a figure that only 88 players can claim to beat. Despite his diminishing abilities, after the retirement/ departure of so many players last summer, the workmanlike winger remains one of the most experienced players in the squad.
Park, June 2011
“I wont be able to show my best after one or two years. I don’t know how long I can stay at Manchester. I never thought about retirement but it’s obvious that I don’t have much time left as a player.”