Archives For Players

Screen Shot 2016-08-14 at 12.55.37 PMThings couldn’t be going much better, an efficient, controlled, clinical performance at Bournemouth headlined by Zlatan’s goal, Bailly’s Man of The Match award, Blind’s calm assurance and a very impressive display from Fellaini. Top of the league and all that!

After the game Mourinho quite rightly pointed out he’s told the squad everyone will get minutes once September comes around and all competitions start. But that begs a lot of questions. Where does Pogba play? What will be the manager’s ultimate starting line-up? What will be the final squad?

With Lingard out Mourinho probably surprised everyone by starting Mata ahead of Mkhitaryan. Yet when everyone is fit or back from suspension, when the transfer window is closed and all the deals are completed, what team lines up to face City  on September 10th? Does Smalling walk right back into the team next Friday against Southampton? You would think so, but you can’t leave Bailly out and Blind has played well and provides a calm anchor. It also looks as if Fellaini is a Mourinho guy, forget the back pass against Leicester, in the first two games Fellaini has been everything you want in front of the back four.

Thanks to a relatively easy start and the successful transfer window United are in an enviable position. Everyone will be disappointed if going into the home game against City, there aren’t the maximum 9 points in the bank.

Screen Shot 2016-08-14 at 1.27.00 PM

But which players does Mourinho trust to challenge Guardiola for Manchester’s bragging rights? Which players may have come and gone? There are some really tough decisions ahead. Do you sell Mata to raise money for Madrid’s Varane? Who makes way if Southampton’s Fonte is the option instead?

Mourinho likes to have a squad of 22 players including three goalkeepers, so if by September 1st that squad is:


De Gea, Romero, Johnstone


Valencia, Fosu-Mensah, Bailly, Smalling, Blind, Shaw, A.N.Other


Pogba, Fellaini, Carrick, Mkhitaryan, Herrera, Schneiderlin, Lingard


Zlatan, Rooney, Rashford, Martial, – Depay (??????)

That’s 22:

Not included:

Schweinsteiger, Mata, Jones, Young, Rojo, Darmian, Perreira, Wilson, Borthwick-Jackson – Nine players!

Wow, and I mean wow.

As the question marks suggest I wouldn’t keep DePay, I’d sell him and buy a genuine jet heeled speedster. There are lots of twists and turns left before the City game.

United haven’t lost four in a row since 1961 therefore this is an ‘official’ crisis. So what can be done? 

  • A knee jerk firing of Van Gaal?
  • Van Gaal beats the board to the punch and resigns?
  • United stick with their manager and give him to the end of the season at least to try and sort it out. 

It’s a very tough call given the amount of criticism but if it’s me I stick. There’s a whiff of player power these days at United and there’s no doubt Van Gaal has had to back off his tough approach to lengthy team meetings, stultifying attention to detail and discipline. Yet the players didn’t respond yesterday to any change in his approach. 

Again there was no spirit or leadership until Rooney appeared and charged around yelling at the ref, made a few tackles and set up Fellaini for United’s best chance. Even in a poor display you want players who are obviously trying to make something happen, who take responsibility and try. Rooney did. The others? 

Memphis DePay? Absolute waste of money.

The senior players? Carrick, Smalling, Fellaini, Mata? Blind, Jones, Young, Herrera? Not enough leadership or contribution. Individually Carrick has been a great player. Smalling is a good as good as anyone in the Premiere League this season. Blind is under rated and technically a very good footballer. Fellaini needs to release his inner wild man. Mata is another very good footballer but he needs runners in front of him. Herrera is busy and often positive. But again has no runner to hit. 

That leaves Martial and De Gea. Martial is still learning, De Gea is under siege. 

Schneiderlin has missed the last few games and coincidence or not the defence is not the same without his bite and screen. 

Then there are the injuries. Shaw, Valencia, Darmian and Rojo. Is there a leader or a team bully there? Other than Rooney and the suspended Schweinsteiger I don’t think so. All good teams have leaders and United are missing a couple. Players need to step up. 

Collectively this is not a team. Where is the drive and passion? 

Who takes responsibility for this situation. Van Gaal and his selections, tactics and use of the 250 million? The players? Would a new manager turn the group into a more cohesive force?  

In the end surely you have to stick with a manager who has managed the best and won? Van Gaal bought and rebuilt the current squad. However bad it is, and it is bad, shouldn’t he and the players be given the opportunity to dig themselves out of the hole? If only because it’s got to the stage where bringing in anyone else who can make a difference either manager or players is going to be very hard. 

These are hard days. Every game is now a must win if Europe and better recruits in the summer are to be realized. Chelsea are without Costa on Monday and are another team in crisis. Now is the time for United’s players to step up. 

louis-van-gaal-manchester-united-fc-v-pfc-cska-moskva-uefa-champions-league-03112015_17exe4tpuyji313tgpjzl8ku13Not the greatest of displays agreed. So where do we start? Roy Keane’s attack on Wayne Rooney? Paul Merson’s view that United are a Subbuteo team? The Daily Mail’s Snoozeometer Ratings? The mystery player who says he can be 50% better if only Van Gaal would release him from his shackles? (my bet is it’s DePay). Rene Meulensteen echoing the “free the players” mantra. The Manchester Evening News criticizing the fans? Or Rio Ferdinand talking about the missing “animal” players?

Wow. It’s a good job United are second in the league and still have a chance of winning their Champions League qualifying group.

Enough already. Can everyone please shut up?

Rooney can’t carry the team on his own.

The team is set up the way it is because that’s currently the way they can succeed. Anyone remember Boring Arsenal or Don Revie’s first great Leeds team? Or countless Italian, German and yes Spanish teams with a defend first approach?

This is my mantra: Players determine tactics.

Now I’ll get critical. Meulensteen said earlier this week that Jesse Lingard is Andres Iniesta in waiting. You mean the Lingard that’s missed three sitters in the past two games? If Rooney gets those chances they are buried. If Lingard scores the two last night all the stories of woe would have have been spiked. Instead the headlines would have been about United’s latest youth academy product delivering his full potential or some such other guff and United winning the group with a game to play.


The glass is just about half full on Lingard, but he’s nervous and he gives the ball away too many times as well as missing sitters. I’d never start a game without Mata but that’s me. What do I know?

There is no God given right that United are going to blow teams away. Over the years too many Tuesday and Wednesday night Champions League and European Cup fixtures prove that.

Finally the Guardian projected which team will be top of the league on January 1st 2016. Guess which team it is? Correct their home is Old Trafford.

This is a time for patience grasshoppers. An away win at Leicester solves the current angst







Another match winning performance from De Gea; another good game from Smalling; and apparently another Paul Scholes too slow barb from Van Gaal’s favorite TV pundit. The Scholes’ remarks are reported in the Mirror. I don’t know the context but let’s face it: Scholes on TV + United  + Van Gaal = never let the facts spoil the opportunity for some controversy.



It was a deserved win. Memphis Depay’s opening goal was terrific. Great pass, great volley and then United deserve credit for immediately hitting back after Watford’s penalty equaliser. It was as if they heard whatever Scholes was saying on TV, because they immediately upped the tempo to overwhelm Watford and force Deeney’s own goal.

DePay goal

Now the worry is injuries. Hererra’s tweaked hamstring and Jones twisted  ankle are unfortunate. Martial and Rooney are expected back for Wednesday’s Champions League game against PSV, but there are questions about Fellaini and Carrick and of course Shaw and Valencia are out for months.

For me this is where Van Gaal’s insistence on organization and stability pays off. Forget the criticisms about ponderous play. It’s the solid, well-coached foundation which has United in second place in the league, and which also provides the ability to cope with injuries. Players know what they have to do and how they have to play. Young at right back? A fluid front three of Memphis, Lingard and Mata? in other words Van Gaal’s process and dare we say it “philosophy” is obviously working.

After PSV it’s something probably no one expected to hear, write or say – a  table topping match up at Leicester City. It’s currently a very interesting Premiere League. With City and Arsenal’s wobble today, Liverpool and Tottenham’s resurgence, and Chelsea bound to find some form at some point, the league remains wide open. United have a reasonable month of fixtures ahead. A bit of luck with the injuries. A couple of players arriving in January. Who knows what might happen? Just saying.


Verdict on Van Gaal

November 14, 2015

louis-van-gaal-wineThe debate continues on Van Gaal. Brilliant despot? Process Philosopher? Heretic dismantling United’s vibrant tradition of “attack, attack, attack”?

North Manchester’s ever blunt Paul Scholes, of course, fanned the recent flames, and the United Rant blog has produced various think pieces all with the recurring theme that currently United are Forever Dull or Dour. The latest speculates on the Dutchman’s legacy when he retires from Old Trafford, gives up his beloved nights at Wings and retires to Portugal.

Well I’m sticking to my constant theme. He’s doing a good if not great job, and others agree. United are in the top four; likely to go through to the next round of the Champions League; and have the signing of the season in 19 year old Anthony Martial who will win every Young Player of The Year Award this year, and many more awards in the future.

Anthony MartialVan Gaal has tightened the defence; made Old Trafford a fortress again; and rebullt and re-energized the squad. Yes he’s had the money. So have Liverpool. Van Gaal was asked to stop a decline which potentially could have seen United slip to the Anfield outfit’s current predicament. A once dominant force struggling and stumbling to reassert itself. Every year falling further and further behind its rivals.

Yes he’s doing it with defence and organization. What are his options? Everyone agrees he hasn’t got the two or three world class players with the pace, power and energy needed to re-establish United as a dominant force both in the Premiere League and Champions League. Can he get them? Has he got anyone in the junior ranks? We’ll have to wait and see.

If Memphis/DePay was as advertised that would be a boost. He isn’t, and in my opinion never will be. (sorry to sound like a broken record on this). Personally I’ll take a top 3 finish, and as good a showing as possible in this year’s Champions League while Van Gaal tinkers with the current squad, promotes from within, and buys the best if he can make them available.

Tactics and style of play are determined by the personnel at a manager’s disposal. It’s a simple as that.

#mufc #mufcfamily

Van GaalA very bad night at the office, but it was the same for Chelsea and Arsenal the night before. This is isn’t an apology for the team but a realistic appraisal. Do we really think Van Gaal would set the team up to play as they are if he thought he had other options? The first maxim in football is: You are only as good your players. Van Gaal hasn’t got box to box midfielders, or widemen who offer pace and penetration. There isn’t Beckham and Giggs, Scholes, Keane, and Ronaldo. If there were the team would be more vibrant and vigorous. So can we all get real? Enough of the anguish? Paul Scholes, who’s as sharp and trenchant off the pitch as he was on it, was his usual blunt self after the match.

“It’s a team you wouldn’t want to play against and it’s probably a team you wouldn’t want to play in either.

There’s a lack of risk and creativity. It seems he doesn’t want players to beat men and score goals – it’s not a team I would have enjoyed playing in.

Ruud van Nistelrooy, Teddy Sheringham, Andy Cole couldn’t play in this team.

You don’t get crosses in the box, midfielders looking for runs. I think it’s a very difficult team to be a centre forward in.”

Which of course leads to the debate about Rooney. I’ve been arguing for weeks now that Rooney is having a mare not because he’s suddenly lost his talent but that he has to play on his own without support. More from Scholes on that:

“I was at the Manchester derby and I watched him for the first 20 minutes, His movement was brilliant, but when he’s playing in that team there’s nobody prepared to pass to him. You’d be tearing your hair out.”

This is a team which is curently built not to lose,. Van Gaal obviously believes he doesn’t have the right mix of players to play a more up tempo, purposeful style, because the risk is too great. First of all he has to win, and the way he’s chosen is to be compact, careful and withdrawn. The one disagreement I have with Scholes is that he appears to think it’s purely tactics rather than talent which is determining United’s style.

So no League Cup this year, a few midweek nights off, but don’t expect this team to change soon. If you want success we have to be prepared to go through the very painful process of rebuilding and recruiting. Martial is proof that great young talent is very, very expensive. Memphis/Depay, Wilson, Lingard, and Pereira, are proof that other younger players have a long way to go. Meanwhile Schneiderlin, Schweinsteiger, Smalling, Jones and De Gea, are foremost in protecting the ability to build a  top 4 challenge.

On the face of it in recent years United have never been in a better position going into a Derby. I don’t want to tempt the footballing Gods, it is a Derby, anything can happen, City have deep resources, and all of that psycho babble. But United should win. Take that. City are without their two best players in Aguero and Silva. If Navas plays the right side is wide open. If Kompany plays he’s injury prone. Fernandinho and Fernando should be an Abba song. De Bruyne is a very good player, Sterling is quick and Toure is a balletic bulldozer. Van Gaal will tinkering and tailoring, but apart from Luke Shaw everyone is available for United and that includes Young. Don’t believe the he hasn’t played for three weeks doodah. He’s trained all this week.

It was Rooney’s birthday on Friday and I watched the recent BBC documentary about him. Forget the soft pedal approach by Gary Lineker that goes with getting access to a very private man, what jumps in any review of Rooney’s career is his talent, goals record, longevity, competitiveness, and sheer love of the game. He’s been a great servant to United and England. He remains a top class player and anyone who doesn’t recognize that is a moron. When you watch a review of his 13 plus years you can only applaud his talent. Even without the burst he’s better than most.  Remember this?

Let’s hope he scores on Sunday. Happy 30th.

A couple of years ago four of us created a lunch club we call The 4 Reds. Our lunches can last all afternoon, and usually involve at least 4 bottles of red wine while discussing everything United. Two of the group were in touch this week, and both entered the Rooney debate.

One is of the opinion… ” Rooney is done, doesn’t contribute enough anymore, and his best position is as a defensive screening midfielder.” The other believes he still has things to offer: …… “at last we have found/nicked/overpaid for a front man who actually wants to be a front man. This does two things: gives the midfield players more options for a pass, and allows Rooney to use his energy and football nous properly. When he plays as a lone striker (as for England of late) he wastes so much effort trying to harass their back four players for absolutely no return.”

I’ve been a enthusiastic Rooney supporter and defender but I am getting to the point where I do believe his future at the club may not last beyond this season. The burst has gone. The touch is not as sure as it was. He can huff and puff but he can’t blow the door down anymore.

The United Rant blog has an excellent piece this week exploring whether Rooney should be dropped and replaced in the secondary striker role by Mata. The writer challenges Van Gaal to continue the team’s evolution by dropping his captain.

This evolution has made Rooney less relevant; Mata’s form and Martial’s explosive start to life at United dictate that Van Gaal should be brave and drop his captain. Yet, the manager’s words after United’s victory over Wolfsburg point towards Wayne staying in the team, unduly untouchable. Worse still, Van Gaal refused to give Mata the plaudits he deserved after a magnificent night.

I’m not quite there for dropping Rooney yet. If all players are fit I’d replace Memphis/Depay rather than Rooney, and play Young in the wide left position. However the current problems at fullback may mean Van Gaal postpones the decision. One thing is certain however, if Rooney continues to struggle there is no doubt Van Gaal will do something about it. Rooney will become the latest to potentially face Old Trafford’s exit door. There is no sentiment in football. Even when you are close to goal scoring records. Even when you have been a terrific servant.

And speaking of the exit door, try this in the pub. One of the 4 Reds added the players recently let go, pulled in a few more from the past 5 years and built two teams of ex-Reds currently plying their trade in the Premiere league.

The clear out as you say has been enormous, and I was reminded of it while watching WBA v Everton with five ex-Reds on view. Even Darren Gibson had a run out! You could easily field two PL teams from those who have left Old Trafford in the last few years, and that does not take into account those like Van Persie, Nani, Hernandez, Kagawa, Pogba across the channel. How about

Howard; Bardsley, Shawcross, Evans, De Laet; Fletcher, Cleverley, Brady; Zaha, Djouff, Wellbeck

Foster/Lindegaard; Brown, Chester, Cathcart, O’Shea; Gibson, Drinkwater, Richardson; Obertan, Falcao, Campbell

Now for Arsenal on Sunday. You watch Rooney will have a blinder and make mugs of all of us.

First the diagram

Then a great breakdown from Man with Louis Van Gaal’s commentary.

Then a Russian appreciation

And finally a brilliant version speeded up


It’s been 24 hours since Hector Moreno fractured Luke Shaw’s leg in two places. Shaw’s had surgery and remains in Holland recuperating. Most fans are still fuming. I know I am.  Moreno’s was either an extremely unfortunate and clumsy act at an intense moment for which he has subsequently apologized or: he did him.

UEFA plumped for an unfortunate accident.

United are said to be furious at Moreno’s MOM award which is determined by UEFA officials and website staff, but Howard Webb says in the Manchester Evening News the ref got it right.

Luke Shaw’s injury was awful and I wish him a speedy recovery. But I have got to say that the referee made the right decision on the night,” says Webb.

“Moreno stretches with his right leg, which plays the ball cleanly. His left leg makes some contact on the follow through, but it is always tucked away under him and not aimed towards Luke Shaw.

“Luke is unlucky in that he gets his studs caught and twists, which causes the injury, but on the night, I think the referee made the right decision.”

The injury obviously influenced and overshadowed United’s performance. But even in defeat the signs were there the team is progressing.  As straight talking Paul Scholes said:

Yet Shaw’s loss is enormous and now Van Gaal has to retool. I don’t know if playing Rojo as Smalling’s partner will work. Was it a coincidence that Darmian had his worst game in a United shirt on Wednesday? Blind looks out of place at left back and maybe the safest selection is Rojo at left back? Darmian, Smalling and Blind had developed an understanding, why disrupt it?

I also owe Memphis Depay an apology. I’ve been among his biggest critics so far, but his goal was terrific. The shift to take the ball between two defenders and then the finish was first rate. Now do it in the league!  Ruud Van Nistlerooy is also full of praise for Anthony Martial. In another Evening News story Van Nistlerooy suggests Martial and Rooney could be the striking combination the team has been searching for.

“Martial could be revelation. But on the other side is it really realistic to expect that from him? He hasn’t got a lot of experience but he has great quality.

“I didn’t know anything about Anthony but it could be one of those unexpected successes. But he needs time. He looks like he has a lot of quality but we will have to see how that develops.

“Hopefully for United he can be the one. He looks like the out and out striker that is needed.

So now for Southampton. Presumably Schnedierlin will play in place of Schweinsteiger who had another fine game Wednesday but may need a rest.

What’s impressed me is the way the club has handled this week’s adversity. No overblown public drama. The players rallying around Shaw and a reliance on the supporters and pundits to express outrage. Smart.