Man United Performance Offers Hope of Top 4 Finish

Van Gaal's Press Conference: Southampton

As Man United faced up to Stoke on Tuesday night many fans feared they’d witness another boring, high possesion, few chances type of game but we couldn’t have been more wrong.

The stats show it’s the small, defensive teams United have struggled to break down this season, making Stoke possibly to worst team for us to play. Our slow, possession based football is easy to defend against, so The Potters, who are known for being notoriously difficult to break down, will have been confident they could leave Old Trafford with at least a draw.

From the start Man United showed great intent with shots at goal, quick passing and over loading our attacks with players wide and through the middle.

Our first goal came from a brilliant low cross by Cameron Borthwick-Jackson which the Stoke defence were hesitate to touch, with fear they could knock it in themselves, only to be met by Lingard at the back post.

The Man United we’ve seen this season may have rested with the lead until half time but this was a team which were out to prove a point and eventually it paid off.

The second goal will surely go down as one of the goals of the season, it was quick, decisive  and everything we’ve seen throughout the years. A quick ball from Carrick eventually reached Mata on the wing who managed to take out two Stoke defenders with a slick pass to Rooney who crossed it to Martial, leaving the French youngster to curl it into the top corner.

Two goals in the first half? Man United fans couldn’t believe this was the same team they’ve been watching all season, a team who haven’t scored a first half goal since September.

The second half was always going to struggle to match the intensity of the first but in the 53rd min another great passing move ended with Rooney tapping the ball in to make it 3-0.

Are Man United Back?

I know Man United fans don’t want to hear or answer this question but there’s a reason we should at least consider it. The performance against Stoke wasn’t a one off. Consider how well the team played against Liverpool and Derby, quick, attacking, using width, it’s almost as though van Gaal has learnt how to get the best out the team.

We started the season with a strong defence but poor in attack, however due to criticism from fans, media and club legends, he began focussing on playing more attacking football. This left us short in defence, often conceding unnecessary goals but in the last few weeks we appear to have gotten the balance right.

We are able to break down defensive teams using quick passing and width, while also not getting caught out on the counter attack. I know we could say Southampton proves otherwise but could that just be a one-off?

I’d like think these performances will continue and with Arsenal and Chelsea coming up it’s going to be vital we win our next few matches if we want a top 4 finish.

Louis Van Gaal Talked Out Of Quitting Yet Again

According to Jamie Jackson at The Guardian, Louis Van Gaal tried again (a third time reportedly) to resign his position as manager of Manchester United but was rebuffed by Ed Woodward. Woodward would like him to see out this season, at least, as he does not want to make a managerial change mid season. The meeting ended with Woodward asking Van Gaal to reconsider as he spoke with his family on his trip back to the Netherlands to celebrate his daughters birthday. Another meeting is planned for today for Woodward to receive Van Gaal’s answer.

The madness of this story is simple: if it is true and Van Gaal has tried to resign once, much less THREE times, we should allow him to move on. His resignation is his admittance that things aren’t working and it would be best for the club if he moves on. Woodward may be grasping at straws to try and keep the beleaguered manager for a few more months as the football only seems to get worse each time United take the pitch, but that is exactly what it appears he is doing. If there are other moves being made (ie., Jose Mourinho or Pep Guardiola) that cannot come to fruition until the summer, this would show how little confidence Woodward has in Ryan Giggs, the man originally slated to take over from Louis Van Gaal at the end of his contract.

Whatever is happening, Woodward and the club look like daft fools grasping at things that are not there.

 

Van Gaal’s Press Conference: Southampton

Van Gaal's Press Conference: Southampton

After last week’s 0-1 away win at Liverpool, United will be looking to continue 2016’s improved run of form. Before our next game against Southampton, some big topics were covered by Van Gaal in his weekly press conference.

Injuries

The first news to break early this afternoon was that Ashley Young has sustained a serious groin injury after the match with Liverpool, and will need to undergo major surgery that will keep him out for “a very long time”. During this season, Young featured early on at left and right wing, but, more importantly for us right now, has also featured at left back and right back, leaving us with only one first team player to play there – Darmian.

Van Gaal also confirmed that Phil Jones and Bastian Schweinsteiger are also set to miss our upcoming game against Southampton, while more positively, Adnan Januzaj is back to full fitness and is eligible to play.

Full-Back

As a result of Young’s injury, which leaves very few options at full back, Van Gaal was questioned whether he had left his squad too small this season. “No, that is not true, I think when you see how unlucky we have been in the full-back position. I have started with Valencia, Shaw, Rojo, Darmian and Young, sometimes, and they are all injured – only Darmian is now back.”

With only Darmian as a first team regular at full back, Van Gaal was subsequently asked about youth players filling that position comfortably for the rest of the season, to which he responded, “you have seen how I have used youngsters like Borthwick-Jackson and Varela who are doing great but the level of Manchester United is high. To give a high performance every week normally is very difficult for youngsters, which is why we have to look always in this transfer period for replacements.”

Transfers

Our full back positions need strengthening, and Van Gaal was asked about his likelihood of dipping into the transfer market in what remains of this month. “The difficulty is that we ask for a level and the clubs do not want to sell in this period and that is our problem. We are looking, but it is not so easy. Nobody can understand that because [they think] it is easy and it is not so.” From both these comments and the ones around our young full backs, it would not be surprising to see us exploring the market for another full back, but the question is whether we would be panic buying, overspending, or generally not getting the level of quality the summer transfer window offers.

Rooney

After Wayne Rooney’s recent form, Van Gaal was questioned on his influence on the team’s performances. “It is a fact that since Rooney is scoring we have won our games, or at least we draw against Newcastle United away. There is a parallel and I have said that always that he is not only important as a player but as a captain, so I am very happy with him.”

Liverpool

At half time during our 0-1 win over Liverpool, reports began to emerge of a very heated debate in the changing room in order to raise performance levels. Asked on Rooney’s part in that, Van Gaal said “not only Wayne Rooney is doing that, there are several players doing that and that is what I want because the players are self responsible and it is not only the manager which is why I have made this approach to the players. Responsibility for the result and commitment for the result is very important and that they are showing.”

Difficult Period

December 2015 culminated in one of our worst runs of form for 40 years and set new unwanted records for the club. Since the turn of the New Year, we have seen improvements in our record. Asked on whether the difficult period had come to an end, Van Gaal responded, “it is not interesting for me, it is only interesting for the players. The players play the game and have the resistance in the game, so I think the pressure is a little bit gone, but it would return if we lost against Southampton. It is always the same pressure for Manchester United – we have to win. Our fans are always expecting us to win, especially at home.”

Let’s hope we can do exactly that against Southampton, which you can catch at 3:00pm on Saturday 23rd January.

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.

Guardiola Meets with Manchester United Leaders

News that will delight many of the fans of Manchester United hit news outlets late Thursday evening (depending on where you reside of course). L’Equipe Football journalist, Thierry Marchand tweeted this (it has been translated):

“Pep Guardiola met the leaders of Manchester United. The meeting took place last week in Paris at the Bristol Hotel.”

Guardiola and Bayern returned from their Winter Holiday training session on Wednesday and were back in training in Munich on Friday. This would have given him ample time to attend such a meeting in Paris, whether on Thursday or over the weekend.

Most reports place Guardiola firmly in Manchester, but in the blue half of the city. He has yet to sign a deal but seems to have some type of verbal agreement with Manchester City as, according to Spanish journalist, Guillem Balague, City has been “building for the past few years” to obtain Guardiola as their manager.

At this point it is anyone’s guess as to where Guardiola will end up next. Manchester United should do everything they can to pursue the best manager in the world, as should any club. Guardiola’s love for true footballing history should give Manchester United an advantage, even if they are entering the race for the best manager in the world a little late. Should Manchester United somehow scupper City’s great plan for Guardiola and sign the Spanish midfielder turned world class manager, it will go down as one of the greatest captures in recent memory in the footballing world.

Are you Fellaini In or Fellaini Out? As exit rumours to AC Milan reignite

Fellaini stay or go?

According to reports Manchester United have driven up the asking price to at least £19million for flop Marouane Fellaini. For most supporters this can only be too good to be true as Fellaini has taken a lot of criticism from the fans for his poor displays this season.

How much longer will Fellaini last at United?
How much longer will Fellaini last at United?

In Sunday’s big derby Manchester United beat rivals Liverpool 1-0 to jump up to 5th and two points behind Tottenham in the Premier League table.

In a match that saw Liverpool dominate the bulk of the game with chance after chance, they failed to finish them, thanks to a man of the match winning performance from David De Gea, and a late strike from United captain Wayne Rooney 12 minutes from the end.

2016-01-19 19.31.34

In the build up to the winning goal it was a header from Marouane Fellaini that rattled the crossbar and ended up landing at Rooney’s feet which set up the goal.

An assist or another missed opportunity for the big man? By all means this was no assist from Fellaini. Yes, if it wasn’t for the header then the chance wouldn’t have fallen in that way. But the truth is that United were overrun for most of the game, central to that was Fellaini.

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From Scholes vs Gerrard to Fellaini vs Lucas supporters mocked on social media.

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Let’s not fool ourselves, Fellaini is no deep lining midfielder. Usually looking awkward and erratic is his style. The ability to chest the ball and bring it down is his biggest asset. But is this the United way? Is this what the supporters want to see week in week out? It’s simple, no. For a manager who is obsessed with ball possession, it’s quite hard to understand how Fellaini continues to start matches when keeping possession is not his best attribute.

For a player who appears to be taller than most, he lost an awful lot of arial battles on Sunday. And his awkward style can leave supporters panicking whenever he clutters into his opponents with rash challenges. Some may argue that he could’ve been sent off in numerous matches.

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As an Everton player Fellaini was a handful operating mainly in the number 10 position, his most effective position. At United Wayne Rooney, Ander Herrera, Juan Mata, Adnan Januzaj and Andreas Pereira can all play in this position. Is Fellaini a better number 10 than those players? No. Is Fellaini the right fit for United in this midfield? No. So why does van Gaal continue to play him? Van Gaal could have opted for Herrera in the deep lining midfield role with Mata in the number 10 instead.

Hererra averages a higher passing accuracy and more defensive interceptions, but is the most likely of the two to be subbed or even dropped. While Pereira who was the stand out performer on the US Pre-season Tour cannot even get a look in. Van Gaal’s stubbornness could lead to United losing both players who could be the future of the club, just to accommodate a player who clearly should not have a future at the club.

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Something will have to give in the end. Fellaini is simply not a United player. His slow and misplacing passing style will only do more damage than good in the long run. If it is true that Milan are in for the big man then Untied should cut their losses and drop the asking price. So in other words it’s Fellaini Out for me.

Match Review: Liverpool 0 -1 Manchester United – Smash and Grab

Like a thief with no business making off with the goods, Manchester United somehow found three points as their reward after their latest trip to Anfield. David DeGea saved United’s blushes, and Louis van Gaal’s job, with Wayne Rooney grabbing his team leading 12th goal this season in all competitions making wasteful Liverpool pay with United’s only shot on goal.“Why can’t we play Liverpool every week,” quipped United fans post match as Louis Van Gaal completed his second double in a row over the red half of Liverpool. It wasn’t pretty by any stretch of the imagination.

MATCH REVIEW: United’s starting eleven, excluding DeGea, were completely absent in a first half that saw Liverpool have the better of the possession, chances, and they looked the most likely of the teams to score. Their only shot on goal fell to Adam Lallana who placed a tame header right at DeGea. Firmino could only fire wide from the rebound. Jordan Henderson and James Milner both had poor volley’s fail to trouble the second best goal keeper in the world as voted by FIFA.

On the opposite side, United failed to trouble the error-prone Belgium keeper. The mistakes Simon Mignolet has committed this season made this a huge mistake from United. Right before the half, 18 year old Cameron Borthwick-Jackson came on as a sub in place of the injured Ashley Young. His display the second half would prove he deserves more of a run in the first team.

DeGea continued to show why he has been voted as United’s Player of the Season two years in a row. With Liverpool continuing to play with the initiative into the second half, a brilliant double save kept them at bay. First from Emre Can and then the rebound effort from Firmino, the Real Madrid target showed again why Manchester United loves the fax machine in the office’s at Real Madrid City. The Spanish International keeper was relieved Henderson’s later effort, after a cut-back from Firmino, was drilled straight into his arms.

With Liverpool still prodding and attacking the United defense, the smash-and-grab was truly on. As has been their downfall numerous times this season, Liverpool would concede yet again from a set piece.

The corner was taken short and Juan Mata was allowed to cross the ball into the box.  Although he was being marked by 4 defenders, Maraoune Fellaini headed the ball onto the frame of goal. The rebound found Rooney, who wasn’t marked, and he lashed the ball home being forced to wait on the bounce and keep the ball under the bar. This was Rooney’s fifth goal in the last 4 matches – what a 2016 Rooney is having so far!

Jurgen Klopp immediately brought on striker, Christian Benteke and newly signed defender, Steven Caulker (whom he played up front for a second match in a row) in an attempt to find an equalizer, but it never came.

Football can be a cruel game, and in a matchup of two very poor teams, Liverpool, again, was the poorer of the two struggling sides.

NOTES: Wayne Rooney’s goal at Anfield was only his second in the red half of Liverpool in the last 11 years. His quality strike brings him to within 7 goals of Sir Booby Charlton’s record of 249 goals for Manchester United.

Louis Van Gaal has yet to lose to Liverpool as the manager of Manchester United in the Premier League. In the 2015/16 season United has had 4 shots on goal against Liverpool in two matches and all 4 shots have found the back of the net.     

FINAL THOUGHTS: Louis Van Gaal is not out of the woods yet. The United display at Liverpool was eerily similar to what has been on show this season and doesn’t bring hope to many United fans grasping to the belief the Iron Tulip has turned a corner. United managed only 7 shots during the match with their only shot on goal scoring past Mignolet. The three points may keep the boo-boys at bay, for now, but his job at Manchester United hangs on the edge of a knife. Losing another match could see the end of Dutchman’s reign at Manchester United, and rightly so.

Liverpool Vs Man United: Which Team Has Improved Most?

Liverpool v Man United - Anfield

I’m Looking forward to the weekend, Manchester United travel to Anfield to take on Liverpool. Come Sunday the team will need to be in top form with Liverpool scoring 3 in their draw with Arsenal. As you may recall United have been in better attacking form, coming at the cost of the defense. Many of us have been hoping to see some news regarding Fellaini being sold, or even just seeing some news about how he will be at least starting out on the bench and not in the first XI. Sadly I have yet to see any news about this, which sadly has me believing that van Gaal is still planning on starting him.

Man Utd Starting XI

In a 4-2-3-1 Formation I predict that van Gaal will have De Gea Darmain Smalling Blind Borthwick-Jackson Fellaini Schneiderlin Mata Herrera Martial Rooney. But rather that I’m sure that many of you like me would rather see something such as in a 4-2-3-1 as well. I wish that van Gaal would let us see De Gea Varela Smalling Blind Darmian Schneiderlin Herrera Martial Mata Memphis Rooney.

Playing Varela as the right back against Liverpool is a must. They attack with pace from their left, our right, and as proven Darmian does not have the most pace about him, so bringing in Varela would prove to give us a better defense against their best attacking threats, especially with Martial tracking back to help. On the other side we have Darmian who is the better defender of the two, and will need to be when Memphis rarely tracks back.

If Memphis doesn’t play and Januzaj can, I would love Januzaj in front of Varela (the two built some amazing chemistry in the youth set up since Varela was bought), and Martial in front of Darmian to protect him with some pace. In the center of the park Ander and Morgan give what has been wanted in the center for years.

The defensive prowess of Morgan combined with the attacking of Ander make a wonderful midfield pair, with both having an eye for both a tackle and an incisive pass. The attacking three with Martial, Mata and Memphis bring up pace, a desire to take one on, and combined with the great vision of Mata can really help out supply the newly found form of Rooney to finish the ball like his old self. Lingard will surely start amongst the substitutes due to his poor performance and the missed shot he had against Newcastle United.

Key Matchups to Watch

Roberto Firmino vs. Daley Blind and Chris Smalling:images-7

Assuming Klopp plays a similar eleven against us as he did against Arsenal Firmino will have a much harder matchup as the lone striker. Against Arsenal he could use his pace to sneak through gaps between Mertesacker and Koscielny, neither of which posses the pace of Smalling or Blind.

Wayne Rooney and Anthony Martial vs. Liverpool’s defense:images-5

As seen in the reverse fixture this season, the speed of Martial can torment a defense, with his first appearance for the club coming against Liverpool and scoring a magnificent solo effort goal in front of the Stretford End. It will be a large task for Clyne to see if he can slow down Martial. More towards the center there is a battle sure to be fought between Rooney and the center backs of choice for Klopp. Against Arsenal Klopp sent out an aging Kolo Toure paired next to Mamadou Sakho. Rooney will surely try to play closer to the aging Toure with whom he can out pace and find space behind, as well as combine swell with Martial to get behind Clyne and attempt to recreate the goal he scored at Old Trafford.

Morgan Schneiderlin vs. James Milner:

The name James Milner is one United fans are fairly common of, when he played for cross-town rivals City. Milner has been an important cog in the center of the park for Liverpool and it will be interesting to see how the battle between he and Schneiderlin ensues.

Final Prediction:

Manchester United 3 – 1 Liverpoolimages-6

Manchester United goals by: Martial Rooney Smalling

Liverpool goal by: Firmino

 

 

Disagree or have any thoughts? Be sure to leave a comment below.

Man United Fans Great Performance At Newcastle

Man Utd Fans Newcastle

Man United fans put in a great performance away at Newcastle on Tuesday night, whether we were winning or drawing, they just kept singing.

Between reminding Newcastle fans about Alan Shearer getting them relegated and classics such as United Calypso, United fans showed by they are truly the best in the world.

As the video above shows, while our performances on the pitch haven’t been up to our expectations, our fans have stood by the team regardless of being left disappointed by the last 3 years.

Songs

  • We’ll Never Die
  • He Sent You Down
  • Here’s To You Vincent Kompany
  • Spirit in the Sky – Georgie Best Song
  • United Calypso
  • He Sent You Down
  • What A Feeling What A Night
  • Banks of Irwell