Is This the End of the United I Loved and Loathed?
Andreas Pereira’s performances in the International Champions Cup have lead to him being touted as a possible star of the future. Both Manchester United fans and national newspapers alike have compared the young Brazilian’s talents to those of Adnan Januzaj. I can’t say I have read many football-related articles over the past three months although one I did read was by the brilliant Paul Ansorge of United Rantcast. However, the main thing I gleaned from the piece is definitely not what the author intended.
It was a mention of Ashley Young that really struck a chord with me and actually left me feeling a little bit sad. Sadness at the sudden realisation that this is probably the end of the Manchester United that will rely on Young to be a key member of the first team. This might seem odd, especially given the fact many fans spent last season bemoaning the fact the likes of the 30-year-old winger were being relied upon to secure Champions League football.
Since the latter years of Sir Alex Ferguson’s reign supporters have grown accustomed to United sides made up of square pegs in round holes. Whether it was the pursestrings of the owners or Ferguson’s belief that there was no value in the transfer market, the club’s much publicised lack of investment in the midfield became something of a running joke amongst exasperated fans. The legendary Scot routinely favoured the likes of Alan Smith and twins Fabio and Rafael in the middle of the park ahead of signing a recognised central midfielder. It has been almost ten years since the club significantly restructured the midfield – with varying success.
Both David Moyes and Louis van Gaal have been impacted by the previous regime’s transfer strategy but after a disastrous 11 months under Moyes things have started to change. Van Gaal was entrusted with almost £150 million during his first season in charge and some of those moves have helped to strengthen the squad, yet they didn’t fill the huge, decaying holes. Misfits Radamel Falcao and Angel Di Maria will almost certainly both be gone by the end of the transfer window, the former having already joined Chelsea after an ill-fated season at Old Trafford. The Argentine on the other hand looks set to be unceremoniously sold to Paris Saint-Germain at a big loss after a breakdown in the relationship between club and player. It is not what many fans would have anticipated after the arrival of two seemingly world class players but things don’t always work out in football.
So far this term the Dutchman has already spent around £70 million on five new faces. This time though, things are different. It isn’t a pair of ‘Gaalacticos’ that have Reds salivating, it’s the quiet and speedy acquisitions of five players, all of which address actual issues within the squad. While this is definite progress and shows real signs of intent I can’t help but feel I’ll pine for the Manchester United who could compete with the best despite playing Antonio Valencia at fullback.
There is however, some hope for those like me who will long for the frustration of seeing another teamsheet with Michael Carrick at centre-back. Already this pre-season we’ve seen Adnan Januzaj up front, James Wilson on the left and Daley Blind at the back alongside Phil Jones. It might be likely that we’ll see a more complete midfield this term, the arrivals of Morgan Schneiderlin and Bastian Schweinsteiger mean it is improbable we will see Wayne Rooney shielding the back four come the first game of the season but it definitely isn’t totally implausible.
The club are widely reported to be attempting to bring in Real Madrid’s Sergio Ramos but with recent reports suggesting Van Gaal won’t consider any other options if the Spaniard isn’t available we may well see Blind keep his place at the back during the competitive season. It is not ideal but this is the Manchester United I’ve grown to love and loathe in equal measure and I’m not ready to say goodbye just yet.
Reasons for Festive Cheer
United kicked off their run of festive fixtures with an important three points at home to West Ham this afternoon. An attacking themed line up saw Rooney and Januzaj restored to the team, perhaps cruelly at the expense of star mid-week performer Ashley Young. The decision to hand Rooney the captaincy was once again controversial whilst Jones was moved to midfield with Smalling coming in alongside Evans at the back.
A Wet and Blustery Win at Stoke!
A win at Stoke tonight was inspired by two moments of magic involving the out of form Ashley Young. The winger put in a match winning performance as a goal and assist proved enough to ensure United’s progression to the Semi-Finals. The reward? A tie against Sunderland over two legs at the beginning of January.
Safe Yet Solemn, United’s midfield Struggled To Excite
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.
MUFC Class of 2013: End of Term Report: Midfield
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.
With Wingers Like These, Who Needs Midfielders?
As the final whistle blew at St Mary’s on Saturday evening, two-hundred odd miles north west it’s likely that the sound of ripping paper could be heard tearing through the front room of the Ferguson household.
With City beaten 3-1 by Southampton, all bets were off (in some cases quite literally) and any ideas of squad rotation were quickly abandoned; the advantage would be pressed home with a full-strength side to secure 12-point lead at the top.
Based on present form, the core of United’s strongest starting eleven picks itself at present: De Gea in goal; Evra and Rafael out wide; Evans guards the centre alongside one of Vidic and Rio; Carrick and Cleverley take the middle; and Rooney and van Persie line up at the front.
United Should Avoid Euro Stars
Euro 2012 has once again encapsulated Europe; shaping the evening schedules for football fanatics across the continent.
The prestigious tournament has lived up to its billing and provided us with what we crave: entertaining, gripping football matches.
For most of us however, international football isn’t a priority, it’s more of a sideshow designed to keep us amused over the summer months when we don’t have to worry about contract talks stalling or what formation Sir Alex is going to line up to negotiate a tricky away fixture.
How many people would swap seeing their club lift the league title, for their country lifting the European Championship this summer? No, me neither.
Even when we watch the competition we think about United’s players. Oddly, Manchester United only has six representatives at this summer’s tournament; a mere three of whom are likely to feature in all their country’s matches – Nani, Ashley Young and Danny Welbeck. This inevitably leads us into inspecting other players more intently, in the hope of finding a hidden gem who could bolster United’s ranks.
The Only Utd Player Remaining
Don’t be fooled, this is an age-old trap! The worst time to sign a player is after he has performed well in a major tournament, be that the World Cup or the European Championships. But why is this?
United at the Euros
As the 2012 European Championship kicks off this evening, here is a quick check on the 7 Manchester United players called up for their respective countries and an analysis on what impact they may have during the competition.
Anders Lindegaard (Denmark)
8 PL games, 6 clean sheets
An injury to Thomas Sorensen the day before the final squad was due to be announced has left Morten Olsen without his first choice goalkeeper. Kasper Schmeichel was drafted into the squad, leaving Stephan Anderson and Anders Lindegaard the front runners to start in goal versus the Netherlands on Saturday.
Anderson has been given the number 1 shirt and played the full 90 minutes in Denmark’s last pre-tournament friendly, a 2-0 win over Australia; giving us the impression that Anders Lindegaard will be the Dane’s backup goalkeeper in Euro 2012.
29 PL games, 8 goals, 10 assists
The Portuguese forward is set to start on the opposite flank to former United star Cristiano Ronaldo. This is Nani’s second senior international tournament following Euro 2008 after missing the 2010 World Cup. Four years ago, Nani’s only start came in Portugal’s final group game which was a 2-0 defeat to Switzerland and he only made substitute appearances in 2 out of Portugal’s other 3 games.
This time around, Nani will be looking to make an impact in this tournament as a starter. But it won’t be easy for the Portugal national team as they have the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark in their group, all of whom are above them in FIFA’s World Rankings with all 4 making the top 10. Coached by Paulo Bento, this team is well organised but struggles to compensate for the imbalance Ronaldo causes.
Stat Attack: Rooney’s Revival Rattles Chelsea
Wayne Rooney scored two penalty kicks as Manchester United fought back from a 3-0 second half deficit to rescue a dramatic point from Stamford Bridge.
Manchester United looked dead-and-buried 5 minutes into the second half when David Luiz’s header was deflected into his own net by Rio Ferdinand, to give Chelsea a 3-0 lead.
The Nani and Young Conundrum- Can It Really Work?
Let’s face it, when we first thought about strengthening our midfield this summer, our attention immediately turned to the likes of Luka Modric and Wesley Sneijder; not Ashley Young.