TRANSFER INS and OUTS of the SUMMER 2016 WINDOW

Pogba United

PLAUSIBLE TRANSFERS TO MAKE UNITED BETTER:

OUT: Juan Mata:
The obvious first choice out. Mourihno has made it clear multiple times that the small Spaniard is not beneficial to his style of play. Not much else to say, we have plenty of options at the number 10 (Herrera, Januzaj, Pereira, Rooney) that he is no longer needed and by selling will bring room for more youthful players to come through.

IN: Paul Pogba (Juventus):
Ok yes here is the long shot and the only long shot I will offer. Typically considered one of the few mistakes, most likely the biggest mistake, of the greatest manager of all time, Sir Alex Ferguson. Paul Pogba may take a world record bid to acquire but there is no doubt that he would be worth it. He is a world class player already at only 23 and still has room for improvement. He can be the next big name at United, and the heir to Rooney’s no.10 when he decides to hang up the boots. He is the perfect combination of skill, speed, size, and strength not to mention the screamers that are just as common as those Scholes used to hit. At any fee, Pogba is a great signing, and if bought, will complete our team and restore us to our rightful spot at the top of the table.

OUT: Marouane Fellaini:
A panic buy and the only thing to remind us of the awful time Moyes had at the club. Fellaini should have been shipped off 2 years ago. But alas he has not, and he must now go to clear up room in our squad. Evertonians still hold him in high regard, so I am sure they would snatch him back in a heart beat, and I would sell him in a heartbeat for a mere 15 million.

IN: Geoffrey Kondogbia (Inter):
Although after only one season with Inter, I think Kondogbia would be a realistic, quality target. He can provide great competition in the midfield and at only 23, may be able to establish himself as a great holding midfield piece for years to come. He plays a punishing style of play, throwing his 6 ft 2 in frame around. Dare I say is a great partner for Pogba if he ever returns with that French connection.

OUT: Antonio Valencia:
Unless Mourinho sees him as a midfielder once more, I do not see him staying. To be fair, he is not a right back and has adjusted better than anybody ever expected him to and with the options I think should be ahead of him, I don’t see a reason to keep him. Plus the next signing I am proposing is definitely ahead of him for me.

IN: Mattia Di Sciglio (Milan):
Now this one solely depends on how Mourinho feels about our current right back options. If he feels comfortable with how Valera and Darmian are, then there is no need for another right back. If he doesn’t, enter Di Sciglio. Good defensively, but still needing a little extra quality on his attacking end product, at only 23 there is room to improve. He and Varela can make a great rotation in his first year if neither can establish themselves immediately.

OUT: Daley Blind:
To be fair to Daley Blind I think he deserves a move away. He is quality enough to be a starter at top clubs, just not ours. He isn’t better than either of our top midfield options (Schmidfielders, Rooney, and Herrera), and is far too weak to play as a center back. No disrespect to Daley Blind, as he is a great footballer, but he just does not fit into the team anywhere.

IN: Youri Tielmans (Anderlecht):
Wow are the big clubs still trying to fight this one out. Amazing quality at only 19 he has been touted to replace about every great midfielder of the past decade. His small frame, 5ft 9 ½ in, means he will need to be partnered with a punishing style midfielder, see Kondogbia, but has never been an issue for those he has been compared to. For example just in the last year he has been compared to the like of Scholes, Iniesta, and Pirlo. Those are huge expectations, and think that if he is bought, he should be loaned back to Anderlecht for a year to finish development, but just to sign him up would be a huge accomplishment.

NOTE: These are my opinions as to who should be sold and signed realistically. Yes I could have put Ronaldo, Messi, Bale, Neymar, and the whole list of them but I prefer to keep realistic expectations although we are the biggest club and England and one of if not the biggest in the world.

CONFIRMED IN:

Eric Bertrand Bailly (Villareal):
Bailly is a 6 foot 1 imposing center back who isn’t afraid to go into a tackle strong. Although he has had some past disciplinary issues with yellow and red cards, he is a great defender and has amazing potential. I am sure many of you have see his mistake that lead to a Fernando Torres goal, but I assure you that is an outlier. This player is strong defensively, as shown by his impressive performances against the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, and Luis Suarez, but still has room to improve with the ball at his feet and at reading the game.

Tahith Chong (Feyenoord):
Tahith Chong confirmed over his official Instagram that he is Old Trafford bound. The 16 year old attacking midfielder is comfortable with the ball at his feet and shows promising pace, especially for one who is not particularly finished growing. He can be a promising talent to compete with the likes of Andreas Pereira, Adnan Januzaj, and Memphis Depay in a few years time.

Michael Carrick:
The club confirmed today that they have resigned Michael Carrick to a one year deal. Mourinho believes Carrick’s experience may prove vital to the team this season in their hopes to bring the title back to Manchester. Carrick (34) will not play nearly as much as he once did, but he will provide knowledge to the younger players, and occasionally go out and show his incredible vision and run the midfield like he can.

A (non)Emotional Defense of Hating Van Gaal’s Philosophy

“It’s hard to recognize my club. It sounds dramatic, I know, but it’s true. It’s like Leicester are United of old and United are Leicester of old! I don’t understand!” As we chatted about United’s latest failure, a terrible showing against Liverpool in the Europa League, emotions started to run high. This, after all, is football. It’s an emotional experience.

“Then, Van Gaal has the audacity to tell me that if I look back at his time in charge I can see that his philosophy is working?! Seriously?! If his goal is playing terrible football and draining the hope and life from the players and supporters, then he’s absolutely right!”

Ah, football…bloody hell.

There’s no point in sugar coating what Louis Van Gaal has instilled at Manchester United, no point at all – even if you are a ‘top red.’ The uncontrollable Dutch legend, with a resume of trophies any manager would kill for, seemed the perfect fit for a United side still sick from the loss of the greatest football manager of all time. The David Moyes experiment died from multiple complications while still in its infancy. A, now, trigger shy Woodward was just the opposite 8 months into the Scotsman’s tenure at United as he was unceremoniously shown the side door at the AON Training Complex. In truth, especially after the Netherland’s display at the World Cup under Van Gaal, the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich man seemed the perfect appointment.

But it has been anything but that.

Claiming to want to train the brain of his players, Van Gaal has used multiple daily sessions, even during the season, and the same few drills over and over to instill his philosophy into his players. An eye-catching first summer tour in the United States proved what we now know – the less you know of the Dutchman’s philosophy the better things tend to go. A 7-0 drubbing of a poor LA Galaxy side in California was literally a mirage. Wins over Cristiano Ronaldo’s Real Madrid and Steven Gerrard’s Liverpool taught us nothing about the greater picture. The wins were preseason friendlies but everything we needed to know was right there, we just didn’t realize it yet! The Dutchman’s philosophies were still new and his players weren’t firmly grasping them as United ran, somewhat, riot on their preseason tour. Van Gaal’s philosophy would begin to sink in, and just in time, for the opening day of the Premier League: Manchester United 1 – 2 Swansea at a packed and hopeful Old Trafford.

Four wins out of their first 12 fixtures in all competitions saw Van Gaal scrambling to ease the Moyes-like unrest growing through the United faithful. “He needed to get the dross out of the club,” was the excuse after United were battered like a beach in a hurricane at League 1 side MK Dons, 4-0. A ten match unbeaten streak followed this horrendous beginning to Van Gaal’s tenure and fears were put to rest, even if only for a while. Wins away at table toppers Southampton and at Arsenal sandwiched a 3-0 win against Liverpool at Old Trafford.

But never ever forget, it’s the hope that kills you.

Only 3 losses out of the next 12 matches saw United sitting in a good position in the table, but the final loss in that stretch saw Dat Guy, Danny Welbeck knock United out of the FA Cup at Old Trafford with his new Arsenal outfit. The results were going United’s way but the football on display was the kind of stuff most of United’s supporters had never seen before – alarm bells were already beginning to ring. The final 10 matches saw four wins in row to lock up 4th spot but 4 losses from their last 6 matches reinforced the fear that had already been planted early on – Louis Van Gaal is not right for Manchester United.

Match results are one thing, but player performance and man management are a completely different story under the Dutchman. Rafael gave away a penalty at Leicester and was sold. Chicharito missed a penalty, and a couple sitters, and was loaned to Real Madrid for the season. Tom Cleverly found greener pastures at Aston Villa, and eventually back with Roberto Martinez at Everton permanently. Darren Fletcher followed Jonny Evans’ lead and headed for West Brom. He even sent his own son, Robin Van Persie, packing and Nani joined him in Turkey.

The philosophy was in full play.

Wingers became strikers and visa versa. Backs were moved in to central defense and midfielders’ passes, backwards and sideways, per game tripled. Keep the ball. Poke and prod the defense for openings. Don’t take chances! Take a touch before shooting – you’ll be more accurate. Everyone was over trained. The squad was thinned out. Youth were brought in to fill the gaps – which is how it should be! But at one point 16+ injured showed Van Gaal’s naivety to a long English football season. He now uses youth to cover his failing tracks – ”fill in the blank name’ part of the squad for tonights match.’ Meetings were scheduled for those players to explain themselves when they missed a penalty or an open goal; they were then pulled from that duty. The confidence of each and every player on the pitch was greatly diminished and the world could see it. New players would quickly succeed only to be eventually influenced by Van Gaal and lose their way. The players, and fans alike most likely, like the Dutchman as a man but his football was the stuff sleep is made of.

The Dutchman’s second season was worse but why bore you with the details. Let’s just say United were top of the league at the end of September, 1 point off the top at the end of November, but a disastrous December decimated the club as far as 7th place. In a Premier League season when Sir Alex Ferguson would have walked the league by 20 points, Van Gaal is fighting for a Europa League spot.

The humane thing to do would have been to put the sick and dying animal down in December, giving United the hope (there’s that word again) of turning things around, but that highly necessary move never materialized.

Instead, the Iron Tulip, once feared in football, now only scares his players and supporters every time he has a press conference. Once a highly respected football man, Van Gaal now trolls his own club with his statements, his lineups, and his offerings of hope.

I hate myself for hating the man and the philosophy that has turned our club into a footballing joke, and this cancer goes much higher and deeper than Van Gaal’s office, but I hate it nonetheless.

In the words of my friend, “Make it stop. Please…make it stop.”

Stuck in the Middle (With You)

It is said that almost everything in life is cyclical. Just wait long enough and those out of style bell bottoms you’ve been hanging onto for 25 years could be the fashion statement of your company Christmas party this year (that Rosso Bianco Nero Jimmy Murphy Bobble Hat will never go out of style though). The cyclical nature of pop culture is easy to follow. The cyclical nature of football can be also.

January 1, 1972 and United were top of the table under new manager, Frank O’Farrell. The Irishman had replaced the retiring legend, Matt Busby in summer of 1971. The Red Devils were away to West Ham on the first day of the new year. A 3-0 defeat was the beginning of United losing 7 league matches on the trot. Despite being 10 points clear at the top at one point they would never recover from this slide. They finished 8th in league. George Best, Denis Law, and Bobby Charlton finished the season with 26, 13, and 12 goals respectively.

The slump that took United out of the title race at the beginning of 1972 continued to the end of the year. O’Farrell couldn’t come to grips with the excesses of George Best and dropped him. The hard nosed manager would lose 11 of his first 22 matches in the new season and was relieved of duties in late December, 1972. O’Farrell only spent 18 months in charge of Manchester United.

Fast forward to 2015. Does any of this ring a bell? It should.

Louis Van Gaal has somehow survived as Manchester United manager. Like O’Farrell, Van Gaal should have been relieved of duty in late December after only 18 months on the job. Like O’Farrell, Van Gaal had United top of the league only to see it slip away after a shockingly poor run of results. Like O’Farrell, the right thing for United to do then, as was the right thing to do in December, was to make a managerial change.

Midseason managerial changes can be a shockingly bad idea. But to see Chelsea now, compared to how they were at the beginning of the season, shows that changes mid-season can have the right effect on a team devoid of confidence.

This was the change United needed in December of 2015, just as it was needed in December of 1972. Due to rumoured board room squabbles and executives worried about their own skin as opposed to the club’s, the change did not happen. The maddening thing is, everyone knew a change was coming. Everyone. Results were poor. Team morale was non-existent. Footballing creativity and joy was no where to be found. And United were slipping. Champions League had gone. 1st place had slipped to 7th place in a few short weeks. Had this season not been the strangest for 20 years, United wouldn’t be in 5th place as they are now – they would be occupying 11th place.

Depending on what and who you believe a change is coming. It didn’t happen when it should have but it is going to happen. Jose Mourinho will be the next manager of Manchester United, supposedly. Gentlemen’s agreements, secret deals, houses already purchased, and new players already coming in lead one to believe that the change is coming.

So where does that leave us now? Stuck. Somewhat hopeful of a change in fortunes, a run of good luck and results, possibly even a top four position… But, like Stealers Wheel sang in 1972:

Here I am, stuck in the middle with you.

Trying to make some sense of it all,
But I can see it makes no sense at all
Is it cool to go to sleep on the floor?
‘Cause I don’t think that I can take anymore

Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right,
Here I am, stuck in the middle with you.

1972….2015. We’re stuck in the middle with Louis Van Gaal and there is still so much to play for.

I think I’ll just go to sleep, right here on the floor.

 

Selling Diamonds – Ed Woodward’s Rise to the top of Manchester United and How He Can Stay There

“Selling the diamonds.”

This is Edward Gareth Woodward’s way of summarizing what he does for the Manchester United worldwide brand. His somewhat innocuous rise to the top of the biggest footballing franchise in the world started during the clubs most controversial time – the leveraged forceful takeover by the wealthy owners of American Football’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Glazer Family.

Woodward at the time was working for J.P. Morgan & Co as an accountant and tax advisor. He qualified as a Chartered Accountant out of the University of Bristol but his main studies had been Physics. Because the takeover of the club was so incredibly complicated, Woodward was assigned to the case by his employers. The deal, which was almost dead, was resurrected by Woodward in Superman-like fashion. His exploits in securing the deal for the Glazers earned him a position in the new regime – a “financial planning” role.

At the time, David Gill was in charge of the footballing operations for Manchester United and he, of course, worked closely with Sir Alex Ferguson. Manchester United, despite the takeover massacre, would now enter some of its most fruitful years on the pitch, winning 3 Premier League titles in a row and the Champions League. Meanwhile, off the pitch, there was a shift of power taking place. David Gill was growing further away from the Glazers, speaking to them only once a week, while Woodward was speaking to the American owners on a daily basis. On top of that, Woodward was adding to the bottom line with sponsors in a way that had never been done – with the players themselves and with the club badge.

Because of this (adding to the bottom line) Woodward was given the top spot after David Gill left and was ready to send United into another galaxy as he worked with the greatest manager ever. But it wasn’t to be. To Woodward’s shock, Ferguson retired just as he was stepping into the job. What Woodward did take from the relationship between Gill and Ferguson was an understanding that to make transfers happen these two positions needed to be completely in sync. This was cruelly exposed when a deal for Thiago Alcantara was prepared and ready behind the scenes but the manager and his staff dithered on the ball. Eventually it was decided that he was not Manchester United quality and much of Woodward’s hard work and best laid plans were destroyed. The blame fully fell at the feet of the top man at United.

Fast forward a couple of years and some top deals have been accomplished with Woodward and Van Gaal as a team. With Memphis Depay set to sign with PSG, a phone call from his former National Team manager changed the pacey wingers mind and a deal for the young goal scorer was secured rather quickly. Woodward has also carefully forged a relationship with football’s most powerful agent, Jorge Mendes. Deals for Angel DiMaria and Radamel Falcao may not have been possible without that relationship.

Woodward has been forced to learn on the job and has had his failures and his successes. Like many who can hide away when things don’t go as planned, Woodward is in the limelight and on the lips of United supporters constantly. There are few to sing his praises on Social Media and in the news, but behind the scenes he is a well-liked man. It’s been said the Manchester United offices are a better place to be with him in charge, whereas under Gill and Ferguson it was a much more tense place. His bosses see the value he has brought to United and there doesn’t seem to be a chance any change will come at the top of the boardroom at United. Despite all this, there are a few things Woodward could do to change how he is perceived among the millions of United fans around the world (including those in Manchester).

First, he could take on an advisor – someone he could work with closely that would allow him room to voice footballing ideas and receive necessary feedback from a “footballing” man. Woodward is not a footballing man and was looking forward to learning from Sir Alex Fergsuon. The two still speak often but it is not the same as having someone at the club focused on the club. An official Footballing Director would be a great plan, but if not, someone to help Woodward in making key decisions when it comes to player transfers, the Academy, and the future of the footballing side of Manchester United would be ideal. Without the trophies, the sponsorships will die away one at a time.

Second, he must continue to pursue the top names in football (Neymar, Messi, Ronaldo, Muller, Bale, etc.), but he must also use his footballing advisor to better find the quality players United need to fill the gaps. This seems to be the toughest job as “selling” United to sponsors is easier with players like Neymar and Bale in your squad. However, constantly pursuing them and failing leaves the United squad open and vulnerable to the hits that are sure to come in a long footballing season in England.

Third, something must be done about the current failings in the Academy at Manchester United. If any club is known for promoting its youngsters and “winning with kids,” it would be Manchester United. But with no replacement for Brian McClair yet and City taking the initiative with their Academy, United seem to be behind the 8 ball – not something we are used to. These wrongs must be rectified and a focus on bringing through our home grown youngsters must once again take a prominent place at the Manchester United table.

Fourth, Woodward must find a way to restore the faith of the United faithful in the hierarchy of the club. With the hundreds of millions of Pounds that have been snatched from the club to pay outrageous sums of interest, the supporters of the club have been robbed of their club. The focus has been shifting for a number of years away from football on the pitch to football off of it. If Woodward could somehow restore these areas back to items of prominence at the club, our football planning off the pitch will result in fantastic football on the pitch.

Lastly, and probably most importantly, Woodward must pursue Pep Guardiola 100%. Ego’s must be laid aside. Guardiola may end up at Manchester City (if he does, proper respect to them for that), but not pursuing him because you don’t want to be seen like you’ve lost wreaks of too much ego and not enough love for the club! Restoring Manchester United to the heights of world football on the pitch means obtaining the best manager on the planet – Pep Guardiola. If we are the biggest footballing brand on the planet, no player or manager is out of reach. It isn’t always going to work out, but not trying is always worse than failing.

Woodward is in a position of prominence and must put ego aside to achieve the greater good – glory on the pitch for Manchester United. If he does this, his pursuit of sponsors off the pitch will never have been easier.

How Close Is Ryan Giggs To Becoming Manager of Manchester United?

Ryan Giggs Man United Manager

Ryan Giggs is undoubtedly one of the greatest Manchester United players of all time. With 963 appearances, 108 premier league goals and 34 trophies spanned over an illustrious 24 year playing career, Giggsy will live fond in the memories of Manchester United fans for decades to come. Being branded as one of only two players that made Italian world cup winner Alessandro Del Piero cry when watching football (the other being Maradona) it’s not hard to see the impact the Welsh wizard has had on world football.

Great players don’t always become great managers, this was apparent with all-time premier league top goal scorer Alan Shearer. Shearer who suffered a disastrous first season as head coach of Newcastle saw their 16-year stay in the top flight ended with defeat to Aston Villa. Which presses the question, is Giggs ready to take the leap from playing to managing?

At 42 years old, Giggs will be a very young and inexperienced manager, but being an active part in United’s title winning side in the 2012/13 season means that, unlike Shearer, Giggs knows what it takes to succeed in the modern day premier league, something that LVG and David Moyes both lacked the knowledge off. Giggs has been with the club for 25 years now which signifies that nobody knows the club better, and more importantly nobody knows what makes the club succeed better than he does, so ideally he seems the perfect candidate. Giggs has slowly been learning the ins and outs of the responsibilities of the manager role, firstly through his 4 game stint as first team coach and secondly being assistant coach to David Moyes and LVG. Although time under David Moyes and LVG may not be casting Giggs’ managerial potential in particularly good light, he will be gaining invaluable knowledge of what not to do as a first team manager.

Indications and clues that Giggs could even replace LVG are accumulating thick and fast. When LVG was questioned on the signing of ‘waste of money’ Anthony Martial, the Dutchman was quoted saying that United were “routinely quoted £10m more for a player but I have not bought Martial for me. I have bought him for the next manager of Manchester United.” Giggs was watching the Frenchman for 12 months prior to the transfer window closing, indicating that Giggs gave the instructions to LVG to give make the transfer possible.

A lot of fans are calling for LVG to be replaced by top managers such as Jose Mourinho, Pep Guardiola, and Carlos Ancelotti. I don’t think we should be considering anyone but Giggs. To these 3 managers managing Man Utd would be just another club, but for Giggs it would be taking control of his club, the boyhood club he’s helped turned into world beaters. He more than anyone is going to be the most disappointed about the demise of the club’s standard of football and reputation, and I believe he’s the only person that has the passion and work ethic needed to successfully revive the club from the flatline of the Moyes/LVG era.

The players are growing increasingly fed up of the introduction of managers that don’t understand the way they work best, this is evident in the boring and lacklustre performances being displayed in the recent weeks. Giggs would not only have the respect of the players, but would have the complete and total backing of the fans and the board. Clubs like real Madrid and Barcelona have made the leap from plucking managers from clubs all over the world to realising that home grown is the way forward. With the board, fans and players becoming unsatisfied with externally sourcing managers I think Giggs’ appointment is a lot closer than most are anticipating.

Newcastle, Liverpool & Planning Failures

Twenty Four hours on from Manchester United’s most thrilling encounter in months, the Premier League table looks much clearer. Arsenal, Manchester City, and Tottenham all dropped points ahead of United in the table, while Liverpool dropped points behind them. If December was ground zero for United’s time with Louis Van Gaal at the helm, our trip to 18th placed Newcastle may have more signs of promise than a petrol station just down the road when your car is already on fumes.

United players all felt like their work at St. James Park was two points lost rather than a point gained. A win was desperately needed for the underperforming Red Devils against a poor Newcastle side who drew 0-0 at the beginning of the season at Old Trafford. This was not that match.

The football was a different brand. The pitch? Open and expansive. Rooney found the fountain of youth. Van Gaal found emotion on the bench no one in the Red half of Manchester has ever seen before. But the manager’s defensive frailties were exposed again in the harshest of ways. As many United fans quipped after the match, “I’d rather have 3-3 than 0-0 any day,” this loss still stung. Had Rooney and Lingard been even more clinical than they already were, United would have been 3 goals clear early in the second half. As it turned out, the chance fell to the much ostracized Fellaini to seal the three points. With the goal gaping his powerful header found the keepers grateful arms when it was easier to score. United took only 2 points from Newcastle in the 2015/16 season.

United’s owners, Executive Vice Chairman, and manager must now travel down the dark tunnel of brutal honesty and soul searching. Why were young defenders not purchased when Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic were a season or two away from leaving United? Was the plan for Jonny Evans, Phil Jones, and Chris Smalling to be the next world class defenders at the back for the famous Manchester United? If so, only Smalling has come close. Evans and Jones have massively underperformed leaving United’s player development and performance grading system in serious doubt.

Whatever the reason, United now must dip into the transfer market yet again. Promoting from youth while purchasing the best up and coming talent around used to be how things were done. Now United must spend big to cover the gaping holes left by failed planning and proper investment. No less than two quality defenders must be purchased. The names of Athletic Bilboa’s Aymeric Laporte and Everton’s John Stones come immediately into mind. Young, fast, strong, dynamic, and ready to take the next step – United should throw 45-50 million at each of their respective teams to ensure they end up in the Northwest of England.

After a couple of goal filled days in the Premier League in the second week of January United sit only 2 points outside of the top 4. This surely can be their only goal for the Premier League yet again. Louis Van Gaal’s failings in seeing the problems clearly developing with his squad through the early part of the season and making little to no changes in formation, tactics, and player selection are mainly at fault. Since Van Gaal’s first season in charge it’s pretty much always been a dreary sort of United performance each time they step onto the pitch. Van Gaal has them setup to defend without attack or attack without defense. There seems to be no middle ground.

Next up is a trip to Liverpool. They seem to possess many of the same issues under Jurgen Klopp that United do under their Iron Tulip, but with squad talent vastly favoring the Red Devils. Last season’s trip to Anfield gave us one of the more dominant United performances against our hated rivals – Juan Mata beautifully on the double that day. United may be looking to Liverpool hater, Wayne Rooney to lead them to victory. His resurgence has seem him score 4 goals in 3 matches in 2016 – more goals than in the last two months for the Evertonian. An on form Rooney coupled with an incapable defense could see United score some goals and ship some goals.

At this point, your guess is as good as mine as to what will happen at Liverpool on Sunday. But one thing is for sure, with ground zero behind us there are few expectations with the United fans any longer. Three points could push us back into the top 4 while another draw, especially a loss, could see Louis Van Gaal shown the door at Old Trafford.

Rooney’s Resurgence: Is The Old Wayne Back?

Wayne Rooney first Manchester Derby

Wayne Rooney is back! He has played excellent ever since van Gaal has relaxed his “philosophy” on how the team should play. Rooney excels when he is allowed to pick up the ball deep and come in for crosses, or take those long strikes that always seem destined for the back of the net.

Rooney scores a brilliantbackheel
Rooney scores a brilliantbackheel

His two-goal display, a penalty and a cracker from the edge of the penalty area, have shown this resurgence. He has now scored in three straight games. This New Year is certainly showing a new Rooney. With four goals in those three games he is closing in on his tally of six goals last calendar year, showing he is finally back to finding his scoring touch and that he is indeed still good enough to lead the attack.

 

 

Why Fellaini needs to go.

Marouane Fellaini needs to go. United supporters are getting beyond frustrated with him, and although he has not had a good game in what seems like a lifetime, we still stand by him. Just because we stand by him does not mean he gets to stay. He loses us games. He is poor, technically speaking.

We have all made this motion when Fellaini misses
We have all made this motion when Fellaini misses

His first touch is awful. His only attacking contribution is with his head, and he can’t even win a ball in the air and put it on target. He missed an absolute perfect opportunity for somebody of his size from a perfect cross. Defensively he is a liability. His errand passes, poor tracking back, and continuously losing his man consistently costs us.

The Beauty in our Youth

This year LVG has had many youth players join the first team, most recently the talented midfielder James Weir. United look set for the future with youngsters being given first team experience, whether they’ve been kept on the substitutes bench or not. These have so far included:

  • Adnan Januzaj

    Shaw and Memphis have become close
    Shaw and Memphis have become close
  • Andreas Pereira
  • Anthony Martial
  • Axel Tuanzebe
  • Cameron Borthwick-Jackson
  • Guiellermo Varela
  • James Weir
  • James Wilson
  • Jesse Lingard
  • Luke Shaw
  • Marcus Rashford
  • Memphis Depay
  • Nick Powell
  • Paddy McNair

    Varela overlaps Januzaj
    Varela overlaps Januzaj
  • Sean Goss
  • Tyler Blackett

Note: All players on this list have a first team number.

Sir Alex Ferguson, Louis Van Gaal & Getting Lost Along the Way

What can be said about Manchester United these days that hasn’t already been said a thousand times?

“The football is boring!” Heard it.

“Fans are falling asleep!” I’ve seen the videos on Twitter.

“The manager is delusional!” I’ve said it myself a few times.

“If you were a top red you’d support your club!” This ‘top red’ nonsense needs some explaining anyhow.

You’ve heard them all too, no doubt, and more.

We’ve all seen the statistic pages about goals scored (or lack of), points obtained (or missed), matches in a row not scoring at home in the first half (what are we at now, 10?), and new records set (in a negative way) – we’ve seen them all. They hurt. They cut deep into a fan base who, save for the last 2 ½ seasons, has basically known only large amounts of success. The failures have come few and far between, but there were failures. We’ve been knocked out of the FA Cup unceremoniously more than a few times (Oh Danny boy); same with the League Cup (will we ever forget MK Dons). This is football.

Bad losses and streaks happened under Sir Alex Ferguson, but we’ll choose to remember it all with rose colored glasses. Truth be told, after Manchester United won the Premier League 8 times in its  first 11 seasons in the newly formed top flight (never missing out on the top prize longer than one season), they only won the trophy once in the next 5 seasons (going three straight seasons without winning it). There were calls for Ferguson to do what he had planned to do and had changed his mind, retire.

For United fans these were tough times. During this barren stretch, the only trophies to make their way into United’s famous trophy cabinet was the FA Cup in 2004 (the year before Rooney’s arrival) and the League Cup in 2006. I’d reckon to say Van Gaal would love to have these trophies now. A bang on-form Van Gaal display meant the League Cup is gone for another season. We are still, somehow, in the FA Cup – no words will be wasted here on the Sheffield United debacle. Our next opponent is the Rams of Derby County FC. They sit second in the Championship and love to score a goal or two at home – I wonder what that’s like. As predictable as Rudd van Nistelrooy scoring goals, Van Gaal will deploy two defensive midfielders with the hope of a replay at Old Trafford. Don’t let the sarcasm get lost on you now…but am I wrong? One thing is for sure – it will be dire. Apparently Van Gaal believes you and I are happy.

Next up for United is a trip to St. James Park. Historically a tough trip for United. These two famous clubs have faced each other 162 times with United winning 83 of those matches. Quite honestly, a win tomorrow for United seems almost impossible and there is little hope in the reserve tank to believe for something else. The players look devoid of confidence and joy, and the manager seems more firmly rooted that his system will be found true. His resume is impressive and Van Gaal has won the lot – something we all pointed to when he succeeded the clueless Moyes. His history of getting fired for failing is also impressive. Sadly it looks like we’ve gotten the delusional-needs-to-be-fired Louis Van Gaal, as opposed to the trophy winning mad man we expected.

A trip to Liverpool next Sunday looms on the near horizon. Van Gaal has not yet lost to the Red half of that famous city just down the M62 from Manchester. A loss for Van Gaal at Newcastle may not be the final straw of his United career, but a loss to Jurgen Klopp’s rebuilding project at Anfield would surely send the Dutchman to his hideaway in Portugal 17 months sooner than planned.

Rebuilding is tough, but money has been spent and good players, even a couple great ones, are currently playing at United with a youth team filled with promise. This dire, boring, drudge-filled, fearful, impassionate football doesn’t have to be a part of that process. Van Gaal, while trying to implement strict policies in his philosophy, somehow lost his way on the pitch. His inability to reverse the trend is alarming, and a spirited 35 minute display against Chelsea is no turn around. Louis Van Gaal needs wins, and uncharacteristically of a win, he needs them to be done in a manner that not only entertains the fans but rejuvenates the players he has lulled into a stupor.

Your guess is as good as mine what the next 6 days of Manchester United football will bring. There is little hope right now for anything but draws and losses and that should never be the expectation of a Manchester United fan, much less of the manager in charge of the whole show.

Is Louis Van Gaal The Right Man To Take United Forward?

Louis van Gaal

Following in the footsteps of the most successful manager in football history was always going to be a challenge, a challenge that proved too much for previous manager David Moyes. After what United fans could only describe as one of the most disastrous seasons the club and its loyal fans had ever witnessed, we turned our hopes of a successful revival to World Cup stand out Louis Van Gaal.

Louis Van Gaal boasted an impressive CV , winning silverware with Ajax, Barcelona and Bayern Munich before starting his tenure as first team coach of The Netherlands. The majority of our fans were all full of optimism and excitement when it was announced that he would be taking charge of the club. Hollands brilliant display in the World Cup, accompanied by the clear love and support of Manchester United players Robin Van Persie (Which was evident in the high five following Van Persie’s excellent diving header against Spain) got all of us very excited. The incredible unbeaten run in pre-season furthered our optimism and got us all itching for the new season to begin.

Fans were on cloud nine after the Summer acquisitions of world class players such as Angel Di Maria , Luke Shaw, Marcos Rojo, and fans favourite Ander Herrera. Finally we had the players we’d been screaming out for all summer. Fielding one of the most expensive teams in football history , the pressure was on Louis Van Gaal to bring glory back to Old Trafford.

His first season resulted in finishing in 4th place and champions league football was returning to Old Trafford once again. We knew it was going to be hard to recover mentally from the horror shows of the Moyes era and Despite not finishing as high as we’d hoped, fans were content with the fact we’d once again clinched champions league football and were prepared to back Louis Van Gaal for the 2015/2016 campaign. Disappointments came in the form of lethargic and under performing Angel Di Maria and January deadline day loan signing Radamel Falcao . Despite an impressive start Angel Di Maria failed to impress fans with his lacklustre and unpassionate performances and was swiftly sold to Ligué one front runners PSG. Rademel falcao was a fans favourite to start with, the roars of El Tigre resonating around the Stretford End will be something that long lives in the memory of Manchester United fans, however what will not live in the memory is his woeful demise from World Class striker to an extremely poor one. The decision to not sign him on a permanent basis wasn’t a shocking one.

Louis Van Gaal will have been very pleased with his summer signings and more so with a string of impressive results at the start of this season, Wins against Tottenham, Aston Villa and a 7-1 aggregate thrashing of Club Brugge in the Champions League left united fans with a positive approach to the remainder on the season. The deadline day signing of Anthony Martial raised a few question marks over the Louis Van Gaal’s spending. 36million pounds on an unproven 19 year old seemed ridiculous. Fans doubts were quickly diminished after an incredible solo goal against Liverpool put Man United fans and commentator Martin Tyler into a state of pure astonishment. Martial was one of a few united summer signings along with Dutchman Memphis Depay, World Cup winner Bastian Schweinstiger, Southampton midfielder Morgan Schneidlerlin, Italian fullback Mattieo Darmian and goalkeeper Sergio Romero. Another string of good results left United battling for top spot and fans were excited for the coming fixtures. As the season hit October the problems began to start for Louis Van Gaal. After a horror tackle left Luke Shaw with a double fracture of the leg, Manchester United were without an experienced left back, Reece James had been transferred to Wigan and we had to rely/still are relying on cover from either Ashley Young, Darmian and more recently Cameron Borthwick Jackson. The problems accelerated thick and fast after that as Manchester United’s Champions League dream was abruptly ended by a defeat to Wolfsburg and a string of losses followed by an exit from the league cup in the 4th round to Championship side Middlesbrough accompanied by 0-0 draws began to make the fans restless.

Is Louis van Gaal To Blame?

I am with a lot of other Manchester United fans when they complain about how the quality of football has deteriorated and that we’ve become boring to watch. Its become painful to view and is slowly turning the club into a laughing stock. But the key question here is, is this Van Gaals fault? I was extremely happy when we had signed Memphis Depay, a goal scoring pacey winger is just what we needed. This season has proved difficult for Memphis, there were indications that we had signed the player we had seen at PSV when he scored the impressive brace in the Champions League, but apart from that he hasn’t contributed to the team a huge amount. With the odd assist and goal here and there he lands himself in the increasingly large pile of disappointing signings. Another disappointment this season has been Wayne Rooney. Fans, like myself, have been left completely bewildered at his performances this season, there’s no passion, no desire to score, he seems unfit, and just generally not bothered at all. If your captain and leader has that mentality what does that show to the other players? A team is a reflection of their leader and right now i think the team is bang on Rooney’s level of motivation. I miss the Rooney that would be kicking out at players ,never stop running, flying into tackles , putting his neck on the line and doing anything he could to help the team. Are these poor performances Louis van Gaals fault? Personally i do think so. I’m sure the the word philosophy haunts you as much as it does me. Van Gaals philosophy seems to be to keep the ball, dominate possession and that’ll win games, but clearly that’s not the case. And the key problem is that to put it bluntly, Van Gaal is relentlessly stubborn and wont change. Football has changed hugely the past 5 – 10 years. His philosophy may have worked then but in a game that’s ever changing you have to adapt to the new styles, whether it fits your ‘philosophy’ or not. This is also not the philosophy that has carved players like Rooney into world class strikers , instead of trying to impose his own outdated strategies, he needs to start to look at the premier league winning side he inherited + Mata and Fellaini and work with the formula that got them there. To sum that section up, I believe that the players lethargic passion and boring attitudes are a result of the outdated styles of Louis Van Gaal, trying to instil tactics which are completely outdated and not what the players play well with,this is obviously going to result in the players becoming increasingly frustrated and a dip in the squad morale. Players who don’t believe in the manager and don’t play well under the managers system will not produce goals and hence will not win games.

I really do feel for LVG though, if you spend 250+ million on world class players you should expect them to fulfil a job and perform regardless of whether they like it or not. Maybe the players need a crash course in what it means to represent a club like Manchester United. Players like Patrice Evra , Rafael, Scholes, Giggs ect they all knew what it meant to play for us. Does the squad we have now? If I was given the red shirt and an opportunity to play I would be putting in 110% every week because I love the club. Does anybody in this Man United side share the same mindset? Bar maybe 1 or 2, I don’t think so. I think Sir Alex made this a vital requirement for any player he had in his side and I think this is hugely responsible for the success. I think this is where managers like Moyes and LVG have failed. They cant communicate to the players enough to motivate them sufficiently and make them realise the honour, desire and commitment you need to have to wear the shirt.

To conclude I don’t feel Louis Van Gaal is the right man to take us forward. His ‘philosophy’ is outdated, he’s managed to turn a once predominantly attacking side into a slow, boring and non-threatening, average side. He also can’t affectively motivate his extremely talented group of players to perform week in week out and having him continue into the 2016/2017 campaign would be a big mistake for the club.

Adnan Januzaj Mistreatment by Louis van Gaal

Louis Van Gaal has mistreated Adnan Januzaj at Manchester United. He was the once promising spot in a terrible campaign by David Moyes, a campaign that produced better numbers than this of LVG.  

Louis Van Gaal put him on the outskirts of the squad in his first season, and when he actually had time to showcase his ability during the pre-season and the start of the year he did quite well but was sent out on loan instantly to a squad in which he would be put further down in the pecking order, behind the likes of Marco Reus, Shinji Kagawa, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Pierre-Emerick Aubuyang and instead Wayne Rooney, Antony Martial, Juan Mata, Memphis Depay and Ashley Young would be the competing forces.

In this slump the team is currently in, it is very hard to see any bright point, and we need an injection of pace and creativity, something we could find with Adnan Januzaj. While Adnan was rotting on a bench in Germany, we were struggling to keep pace with the title challengers, raising further questions about LVG and his future, something which could be changed just by putting in Januzaj instead of the current lineup. Mata, A creative but slow methodical player.. Lingard, a youthful exuberant player who needs more refining much like Januzaj just not as quick or skilled. Memphis, who has thus far struggled to adapt to the premiershi. Martial who also has trouble sometimes with defences adapting to him but has thus far been one of our attacking bright spots. Rooney, who has been far below his standard ever since LVG became manager. Herrera, who has been our best outfield player when played but has been pushed to the outskirts of the squad by LVG for some unknown reason. Outside of these six we have little attacking talent since both Young and Valencia have been converted into makeshift fullbacks and Fellaini is more or less just a tall presence around the box with little other to offer in attack.

If LVG would give up his “Philosophy”, one that does nothing but put us to sleep and lose us games, he could switch to a 4-1-4-1 formation where Schneiderlin could be protecting the back four and have Memphis, Herrera, Mata and Januzaj across the four with Rooney up top, which would produce more goals. This would also allow Rooney to regain his form that had allowed him to be considered world class at one point.  When Memphis or anybody across that line has troubles Martial could step in and inject pace on the wings, or up top dropping Rooney to one of the two attacking mids, pushing Mata (if not dropped) to the wing. This would bring in more attacking play and would get United back to the United way.

In a sense the idea of tiki-taka played by LVG is useless. Nobody in the world uses it. Not Bayern not Barca only United and small minnow clubs. Tiki-taka is possession to keep the ball away from a better attacking opponent, keeping up the defence, producing a great defensive stat but very few goals to show for the domination in possession. Barca and Bayern play an overloading style to create a disadvantage to the other squad on a side of the field in which they may exploit, as shown by the greatness in goal differential of those two and the attacking talent flocks to those teams because of all the space they create for those attackers.

Due to Januzaj not excelling in a “passing first” type of system and wanting to take players on, he has been loaned out. For some reason LVG prefers a Memphis who likes to take players on, but drastically fails, due to the fact that he signed him as his Dutch superstar, something that LVG loves, while Adnan takes players on, beats them, and produces chances for either himself or the rest of the squad but often lacks the final shot.

With everyone playing poorly, such as when Moyes was around, i believe Januzaj will show his ability and produce far more in time and eventually get the rest of the squad producing with him just like under Moyes. There is a reason Ryan Giggs trusted him with the number 11, his famous number. Ryan Giggs sees a lot of himself in Adnan, a youthful, fast, smart player, who at first wasn’t the best with his end product but is continuing to refine it and I am sure if Giggs were currently the manager he would keep Adnan in the first 11 week in week out, letting him produce to his full capability and show us the potential we have all seen.