In the latest installment of the James Bond franchise, Skyfall, our tuxedoed secret agent finds himself confronted with some difficult truths. Early in the film his inability to subjugate an adversary forces his superior to make a decision which, when carried out, places our hero’s career in limbo. Upon his return to MI6 he is submitted to a stringent physical and psychological evaluation in order to assess his ability and readiness to return to the “field”. Read more…
Wayne Rooney is closing-in on goal scoring records for Manchester United and England and, at 27 years of age, needs just another 56 goals to overtake Sir Bobby Charlton to top the Old Trafford all-time striking charts. Judging by his scoring rate over the past few seasons, it’s a target he should be able to hit, but what does the future hold for Rooney beyond these milestones?
As his first touch becomes evermore precarious and unreliable when off-form, we’re told he’s not a young man anymore, and received wisdom tells us that football is a young man’s game. Read more…
8th April 2010 was a day of stark contrast in Manchester United’s history. On the one hand, the Red Devils had just been knocked out of the Champions League the day after losing on away goals to Bayern München (a 3-2 win at Old Trafford proved insufficient to overcome a 2-1 loss in Germany) and on the other hand a virtually unknown Mexican striker, nicknamed “little pea,” was unveiled as a new Manchester United player.
Javier “Chicharito” Hernández Balcázar was signed from Club Deportivo Guadalajara (widely known as “Chivas”), arguably Mexico’s most successful team, for a reported fee of £6 million. At the time, he was unknown Mexican whose signing didn’t garner too much attention but in the years since there is no question that United’s scouts did a great job in plucking Chicharito from relative European obscurity. Read more…
It goes without saying that Manchester United have several world-class players fitting the bill to be classified as reliable penalty-takers, namely Ryan Giggs, Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney.
However, this (apparently) pleasant task has become a bit of a nightmare for the United faithful as of late, as the Reds Devils have failed to find the net 4 out of 7 times so far this season. The more positive side of such an equally dreadful and astonishing stat is that none of these 4 mistakes has proved costly for Sir Alex Ferguson troops.
In previous years, former Manchester United legends Dennis Irwin, Eric Cantona, Ruud Van Nistelrooy and Cristiano Ronaldo were all terrific from the spot. They had very different personalities but when it came to take a penalty, all four knew how to do it properly. Every one of them missed obviously the odd penalty, but fans knew a penalty in United’s favour meant an almost secure goal.
In the summer of 2011, Mexico won the Gold Cup, CONCACAF’s biennial tournament, featuring nations from North and Central America and the Caribbean. Mexico won the tournament on the back of exciting attacking play from some very promising youngsters. Among them were Gio dos Santos, who scored a magnificent goal in the final against the United States, Andres Guardado, Efrain Juarez, Pablo Barrera, and one Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez. Hernandez finished as the tournament’s top scorer, cementing his place as Mexico’s first-choice forward, capping an impressive year of goals that began against France in the World Cup and continued with Manchester United during the 2010-2011 season.
Having ended one month before the Gold Cup, Hernandez’s inaugural season with the Red Devils had been wonderfully scripted. The goals rained in for the Mexican forward, and his performances led to the downfall of Dimitar Berbatov, then the club’s leading scorer, culminating in the Bulgarian’s absence from the team sheet in that year’s Champions League final.
In stark contrast to his first season, Hernandez’s sophomore year with United lacked excitement- and optimism. Simply put, he could not find the back of the net. His overall play looked novice, cheap, and perhaps best suited for Sunday league play rather than the Premier League.
Danny Welbeck, resigned to the bench and on-loan in previous years suddenly looked like he would be the one replacing Berbatov alongside Wayne Rooney as United’s first choice attacking duo. Welbeck’s hold up play and seemingly telepathic understanding with Rooney only highlighted the weaknesses in Hernandez’s play.
Football is a game of “form”- those in form play over those out of form. Hernandez certainly looked like he’d lost his, and many wondered whether he’d be able to find it. During the 2012 summer transfer window, Sir Alex Ferguson brought Robin van Persie to the club, confirming what many already thought they knew: Hernandez was not to be relied upon to score goals at the rate he once could.
At the start of the 2012-2013 season, just over 3 months ago, Sir Alex Ferguson’s team looked like it would have room for only one true striker as the team would most likely play 4-2-3-1. That striker would seemingly be van Persie, and the subsequent performances he turned in (see: a lot of goals), confirmed as much.
Lost amidst the excitement of the transfer window, in which the Japanese playmaker Shinji Kagawa also joined the club, an observation from Sir Alex: “I think this season we’ll see a better Chicharito.” With this statement, Sir Alex both acknowledged Hernandez’s sophomore slump, and the effect that a summer of rest would have on the forward. “”For the last four or five years he’s played all through the summer. This year, with the co-operation of Mexico, he’s had a proper rest.” Could it be? How tired could he be? How much could one summer of rest benefit a young player like Hernandez?
The answers to these questions have been coming for a few weeks now, as Hernandez’s strike-rate reminds us of the glory days of his first magic season at the club. As eyebrows raised, concerned with whether United relied too heavily on van Persie, Hernandez brought them back down with intelligent performances against Chelsea in the Premier League and important goals in the Champions League. Today, against Aston Villa, he came on at the break and did what Messieurs van Persie, Rooney, and Young and Valencia couldn’t do- score.
But it’s so much more than that. His ability to move around the box and draw defenders who had previously looked like Maldini and Baresi out of position has no equal. Ron Vlaar, the Villa captain, had marshalled his defense to near perfection prior to Hernandez being bought on. The Little Pea’s intelligent movement, which took him to the wing, into the box, and saw him come deep into midfield left Villa’s defenders somewhere near lobotomized. Indeed, even Antonio Valencia began to run at and beat his marker, perhaps reminded by Chicharito that these were, after all, just men.
The goals were three, no matter what the dubiously named “Dubious Goals” panel says. The first a goal only he could score: the control awkward, almost comical; the defender hounding him, perhaps too closely; the keeper in excellent position to snuff out the threat. And the ball? Back of the net. The second? A volley, hit with conviction, glanced off a member of the Villa rearguard, leaving the defender with negative time to react. The defender? The aforementioned Maldin- excuse me, Vlaar. The third? A goal we’ve seen him score time and again. Never mind the execution. Never mind the intelligence in positioning and the perfect placement. This goal was a winner. Was it a header? Was it a tap-in? It was a winner.
Looking back on Sir Alex Ferguson’s comments, a summer of rest may just have been what Hernandez needed. He simply looks a sharper, stronger, better version of Chicharito mK I.
Now that was more like it! From front to back a proper Manchester United away performance. Lacklustre starts have been our downfall of late, yet the first quarter of this game was our most impressive of the season. The only criticism being our failure to put the game truly out of sight.
The principle reason for this was the wayward finishing from Danny Welbeck. For all his technical ability, he continually snatches at the chances that fall his way and should have been celebrating a brace on his return to the starting eleven. However to condemn his display on this basis would be foolhardy.
Welbeck’s performance was understandably overshadowed by the star turns of Rooney’s homage to Keane, and a back four who didn’t look like they had been introduced to one another minutes before kick off. Yet the influence of the young forward should not be underplayed.
There has been much talk of an evolution to a fluid, pacey style this season; in no small part down to the arrival of Kagawa. The man from Japan is still finding his feet, meaning we have struggled for fluency. At the Wongabowl it was a much more familiar name who helped make us tick. Groans usually follow the realisation of a striker banished to the wing – yet Welbeck’s appreciation of space make him a perfect candidate for the dual forward role.
He may have failed to make the most of the opportunities afforded him but his uncanny knack of appearing in the right place at the right time is one few players possess. Harper’s heavy touch might ordinarily have gone unpunished but for Welbeck’s awareness and tenacity. Credit may also be given from some quarters for the determination to stay upright and attempt an unbalanced finish following the keeper’s desperate last man lunge. I suspect we’ll be waiting a while for the moral guardians of the British press to reconsider their stance of Danny the Diver. Welbeck’s link play with Rooney, Cleverley and van Persie left the home side chasing shadows and reduced to using baser instincts to try and disrupt our rhythm.
Not only did Welbeck inject urgency and unpredictability to our attack but he offered some desperately needed support to our overworked left back. It is no coincidence that our much maligned Frenchman produced his best display for years when aided by a left sided attacker willing to press high up the pitch and force the opposing wide-man to worry more about assisting the full back behind him than attacking the one in front.
Alan Pardew certainly recognised this when switching his most dangerous player Ben Arfa to the other side of the pitch. It was fitting that against the expectations of the majority, it was the dream team of Rooney and van Persie who were withdrawn early meaning the local lad from Longsight remained on the pitch to hear the whistle that called time on his best performance since April.
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.
This summer will see the departure from Old Trafford of an iconic player who has broken several records on his way to becoming one of the most recognisable names in world football.
Yet this parting will gain only a fraction of the column-space and media attention that was afforded to Carlos Tevez, Eden Hazard, Wesley Sneijder and Fernando Torres, to name but four.
Cast your mind back four years; Man United had conquered Europe, complementing their re-found dominance of the domestic game. Cristiano Ronaldo had blossomed into one of the game’s greats, Wayne Rooney was demonstrating the perfect blend of quality and determination required to join him, and they were complemented by a cast of stars which included Hargreaves, Tevez, Ferdinand and Vidic, all helping establish United as the number one team on the planet.
Yet there was still something missing; that player who was unpredictably brilliant, who could win matches with unfathomable pieces of skill and mastery. Perhaps there was a desire to finally fill the void left by Eric Cantona from a decade previously. It was a maverick, a nonconformist who deviated from the blandness and uniformity of the modern day footballer, who Sir Alex longed for. United thought they had found that player at the eleventh hour, minutes before that summer’s transfer window slammed shut.
From an outsider’s point of view, it may have seemed somewhat peculiar that Ferguson plummeted to splash over £30 million on Tottenham striker Dimitar Berbatov. The wiley old Scot had arguably the most distinguished counter-attacking team in living memory at his disposal, yet he opted for the languid and often apathetic-looking Bulgarian. Read more…
Having started this season so well and performing so admirably at Anfield on Saturday, Danny Welbeck’s current form for United is typical of the way in which young English talent is thriving at the moment in the Premier League. After several seasons of young home grown stars frustrating, this season has seen an explosion of talented youth spectacularly arrive on the scene. Read more…