It’s hard to think of a more underwhelming major signing in recent times. The previous big splash of Glazer cash to have failed to hit the heights expected was Dimitar Berbatov; yet even he could always rely on a vocal band of admirers to fight his corner. Fellaini has had no such luck. Whereas the capture of the Bulgarian mercurial enigma (cliché klaxon ago go) represented a thrilling, logic defying pursuit of yet more attacking adventure, our Belgian acquisition is by contrast a depressingly sensible acceptance of functionality over flair.
If he were watching, Roy Hodgson might have described Manchester United’s 2-0 victory over Crystal Palace as a game of “high quality”, but he would have been alone in holding that opinion. Crystal Palace haven’t given the impression that they will stay up too comfortably, and continued that form here. For the most part the south-Londoners failed to show even brief glimpses of quality, and were particularly sloppy with the ball in their own half.
During the 66th edition of the Can They Score podcast, we will save you the effort of enduring any international week rubbish and focus solely on our Blockbuster clash against Ian Hollyway’s Crystal Palace this Saturday with in depth discussion on Zaha, Nani and Co. Listen to this week’s Can They Score podcast to get our full analysis! Read more…
Due to Tom’s busy summer schedule, other writers from the Can They Score team will continue the MUFC class of 2013 end of term report. With Chris snapping up the easy job of rating the forwards in the team, I, Frenchy, have been left with the nightmarish duty of evaluating and grading Manchester United’s rather lacklustre midfield.
I have evaluated every player who made a minimum of ten appearances over the season. For each I have followed a standard school report format: identified what I considered a realistic objective for the start of the season (OBJ), identified what went well (WWW) and even better if (EBI). Each player has also been graded. The judgments are based on performance against expectations and in no way should be considered a hierarchy of ability. Read more…
Anderson’s exit from Manchester United has long been on the cards, but the midfielder’s recent admission that he could return to his ‘roots’ could see the Premier League leaders step up their interest in Porto midfielder James Rodriguez.
A possible loan deal back to Porto has been mooted, but both player and club will be keen for any move to be permanent.
Anderson has suffered a succession of injuries during his time at Old Trafford, but a collection of poor form, lack of goals and inability to keep the ball has seen the early appreciation of the Brazilian midfielder’s energy and drive quickly dry up.
The player himself has publicly admitted that he has “tried to leave [the club] several times but never managed it”, whilst rumours of a move to Brazil are also steadily increasing.
Anderson has been quoted in Portuguese paper A Bola, as saying that “Porto are the only club I would consider moving back to Portugal for… my past is there” and a return to the Estadio do Dragao could provide the hard-working midfielder with an outside chance of making the Brazil squad for the 2014 World Cup, should he be able to stay clear of injuries.
Manchester United are likely to recoup less than half of the £20 million fee that the Red Devils paid for the Brazilian midfielder back in 2007, but Anderson’s impending departure could help improve Sir Alex Ferguson’s long term pursuit of Colombian midfielder James Rodriguez who has once again excelled in the Liga Sagres.
Rodriguez followed up his title-winning performance of 13 goals in 20 games last season, with eight goals in 17 appearances this time around, as the Dragons once again battle Benfica for the Primeira Liga championship.
Nicknamed ‘El Nuevo Pibe’ by former Colombian great Carlos Valderrama, Rodriguez has been likened to former Manchester United player Cristiano Ronaldo with the player’s dribbling ability, ball control, shot power, creativity and overall speed drawing comparisons.
Rodriguez won the Primeira Liga Breakthrough Player of the Year award last year and the 21-year old is thought to be open to a move to the Premier League leaders.
Sir Alex Ferguson is keen to reengineer his attacking line for next season following the January acquisition of Crystal Palace prodigy Wilfried Zaha and Portuguese winger Nani is another who could leave Manchester United in the summer.
After being priced out of a move for Gareth Bale last season, Sir Alex Ferguson may use the extra Premier League television money to secure a deal for long-term target James Rodriguez, whether Anderson can facilitate a move back to Porto or not.
Following United’s successful progression into the next round of the FA Cup, this week’s Can They Score podcast looks back at our 2-1 victory against Reading before previewing our next PL match against Queens Park Rangers. We’ll be critiquing Nani’s performance, defending Ashley Young, looking at a bit of Brazilian magic and talking about the legendary Emile Heskey. We also pick our players of week, do a red’s recall on Ray Wilkins and give our predictions. Joining me in the studio is Steven and Frenchy.
Manchester United’s bizarre victory at Reading, on Saturday, was very much in keeping with the clichéd script they have been writing this season but another sub-plot followed a far too familiar story. Anderson, United’s go-to man in recent games, scored a belter before hobbling off in agony clutching his hamstring.
It’s a sight United fans have become frustratingly accustomed to. Anderson has blown hot and cold since his arrival in 2007 from Porto, and frustratingly for United, it’s often been the latter.
His highest number of appearances in a season have been in his first two – 38. It has been a downhill path from there. He made just 23 appearances in the 09-10 season followed by 30 in 10-11 and a measly 16 last season (thankfully no United fan wants to recall that..).
He has been burdened, not encouraged by the expectations placed on him at Old Trafford. United have been crying out loud for a midfield enforcer since Roy Keane’s unceremonious departure and Anderson was pencilled in as the perfect replacement. Never a player of the Keane mould, Anderson was nonetheless a player who could assert his authority in midfield as he showed during his two seasons with Porto where he had a free reign in midfield- a role he cherished. Hard-work has always been part of his game but it has been very difficult for to sustain a place in United’s ailing midfield.
It took him an incredible 78 games to register his maiden United strike (a left-foot cannonball at White Hart Lane), perhaps an indication of how things have gone for him since his move. He has 157 appearances to date for United, 3 Premier League titles, 1 European Cup and 1 League Cup, but how many of those games can he lay claim to have influenced?
Injuries have put the handbrake on his career, striking just when his form was about to reach its crescendo. He has been unable to turn that ripple into a wave, all hopes cut short before they could even begin to build. An early return from a serious knee injury last season was swiftly followed by a series of niggling injuries that sidelined him for the rest of the season.
Where players redouble their efforts in training to regain the sharpness lost after a prolonged period on the sidelines, Anderson seems to relish the time off. That Ryan Giggs completed the full 120 minutes at Stamford Bridge in the Capital One Cup while Anderson huffed and puffed before being replaced in the 2nd half was an indication of how far the buck as fallen for the Brazilian.
And just when performances (and consequently expectations) started to gather momentum, Anderson finds himself on the treatment table again. With a gigantic Manchester derby, one of the biggest in recent times, looming on the horizon, United could have done with their Samba star as the fulcrum of their midfield. Instead he’ll watch on from his now all-too familiar position in the stands on Sunday as United head into the lion’s den.
In the latest edition of the Scouting Report, I will be taking a look at some player statistics from the first part of the season and in this piece, I will be looking at appearances, goals, assists and passing statistics. So far this season, Manchester United have played 20 games, winning 15 of those and losing the remaining five and, as the season moves towards the Christmas period, it is an appropriate time to focus on some of the United players contributions during the current campaign. Read more…
I would like to start off this letter by saying “I knew it”. “Knew what?” I hear you ask. The answer is simple: I knew all along that you had it in you. That you had it in you to turn critics around (so far) and show the world what you are capable of. Your last few performances at the club have been nothing short of wonderful. People said you had lost it, that you should be sold, that you were a waste of space. Those people are now very quickly changing their minds. It shows how fickle human beings can be.
I cannot even start imagining how difficult it must have been for you to keep faith in your own ability after such a long time on the sidelines. Your luck with injuries has been dreadful and the fact that you put on weight can only be linked to those months of desolation away from the training ground. However, it seems that last summer did you a world of good. During pre-season, people, including your own manager, noticed how hard you worked to shed the “injury” weight. People started to notice that your ability to move around the pitch had improved compared to last season. I’m sure you heard the childish jokes about your weight. Forget about those. They seem to have stopped.
One element of your game that still appears criticisable since your comeback is your inability to physically complete 90 minutes. People seem to be unaware that match fitness comes only with playing football week in, week out. Starting once every 2 weeks or so can only hinder one’s fitness. Training hard does not compare to the hardships of a full match. Training is there to hone your technical abilities and help you on your way to gaining that precious match fitness, but the latter can only truly be obtained through playing competitively. This is not your fault. If anyone’s, it’s Sir Alex Ferguson’s.
On the positive side, the manager seems to have realised that your best and favoured position is not as a tenacious central midfielder. I remember seeing your performance against Manchester United for FC Porto where you managed to impress football’s greatest manager. I remember you running past our midfield with such ease. I remember that you played as an attacking midfielder. Why Ferguson chose to deploy you as a more defensive player remains a mystery. Perhaps it was because at the time, Manchester United did not play with an attacking midfielder or was it because Ferguson simply thought that he would be able to re-train you in a different role? I must say that you adapted pretty well. Remember those performances against Gerrard and Fabregas? The display against the latter even earned you a song that you must be familiar with. It goes something like: “Anderson, son, son, son, he’s better than Kleberson…” If not, listen out for it next time. It’s incredibly catchy. Nevertheless, it is good to see you relishing the opportunity given to you in that favoured free roaming, attacking role of yours. Make the most of it!
May I also say how impressed we all have been with your improvement in the shooting department? No longer do you seem to sky every single shot. You actually seem to hit the target more often than not. Perhaps a bit more work may be needed, but that goal against Newcastle in the Capital One Cup (who thought of that name, seriously?) is proof that certain aspects of a player’s game can be improved. Did you work hard at it over the summer? I remember a few of your goals in the U-17 World Cup for Brazil. They were majestic.
In the passing department, you do not fail to deliver either; 3 assists vs. a fairly strong Chelsea side? Who would have guessed that before the game? However, I feel that your 91% pass completion rate this season is more impressive. It shows consistency, an element that many have criticised you for over the years. Carry on like that and who knows, maybe you’ll beat Scholes by the end of the year? I doubt it though.
Your English also seems to have improved. That interview with Paddy and Quinton was rather amusing and incredibly enlightening about your past and the hardships you lived through as a child. Your family must be proud.
I think I’ve said all I can for the time being. Let’s hope you read this someday, somehow.
As was made obvious on the pod this week, I don’t much care for the League Cup.
A trophy where the best teams send out their reserves has that same anti-climactic feel as in World Athletics events when USA and Jamaica put their B team in for the semi-final. Same badge, but an altogether different product. If I’m honest, I didn’t even have my heart set on watching the game last night; as any married person will be aware, remote control politics is a high stakes game. Foregoing viewing last night as a bargaining tool for more important televised moments seemed a likely move. So it was a pleasant surprise that my beloved decided that a bath was in order just before eight thirty. So taken aback was I by the realisation that I bounded up stairs to set the taps in motion. One of life’s great joys is watching Manchester United – so to be able to do so unexpectedly meant the serotonin was flowing even before the kettle had boiled.
Fletch and Ando party like it’s 2007.
Settling down for the final five minutes of the first half, brew in hand, reality bit. I remembered what the Coca Cola/Worthington/Carling/Capital One/Mickey Mouse trophy was like. Tonight’s ‘entertainment’ would be the same old laboured, disjointed performance that had characterised recent seasons. Ferguson has understandably viewed the contest as a chance to give forgotten players a chance to shine/attract buyers – Macheda and Diouf as wingers, Michael Owen labouring up front, etc. What an absolute delight then to see what actually looked like a football match. Not only that, but players seemed to actually raise their game for the occassion. Rooney’s first touch didn’t see the ball move into a new postal code for a start. Cleverley looked like the vibrant presence many have pinned their hopes on this year, popping passes around and revelling in the freedom of a more advance role. Biggest shock of the lot though was Anderson not playing like a star struck fan who had won a DHL contest to play for United. His passes were crisp and inventive, his use of the ball was intelligent and his driving runs were rightly rewarded with his name on the scoresheet. The positives didn’t stop there – a back four comprised of players new to the first team picture handled the challenge – hope springs eternal that the inevitable injury to Ferdinand or Evans won’t automatically require a redeployment of Carrick. Darren Fletcher survived ninety minutes and showed glimpses of the tenacity we have been missing so badly.
Powell has seized every opportunity to impress in his short United career.
My own personal favourite performance came from a player who spent just a small amount of time on the pitch yet made a big impression. It is a special feeling when you watch a cameo and have the sense that in years to come you will reflect on seeing a player at the start of a career that has since gone stratospheric. For all the fanfare surrounding the addition of Kagawa and van Persie, it might just turn out to be the youngster from Crewe who is considered our best business of the summer. Powell’s head appears on a permanent swivel, he plays continually on the front foot and his desire to exploit the merest opening is reminiscent of both Andres ‘the ghost’ Iniesta and Indiana Jones reclaiming his hat. It is some time since I have seen a player of such minimal experience, in such a paucity of minutes, look so accomplished. There is no better manager to judge and nurture such a talent as Ferguson and the early signs are of a player who will become a fixture in our first team before too long.
After the stuttering performance and fortunate result at the weekend, this game came as a real pick me up. A cohesive, exciting performance with two goals to cherish. The opposition were admittedly understrength, yet as their manager has opined today, Newcastle presented a formidable challenge. A challenge that we withstood, even allowing for a traditional wobble before the night was over. Real quality lurks beneath the surface of our regular eleven and it is comforting to know that whether enforced or by choice, the manager has the tools to make changes should our main men fail to fire.