Archives For Anthony Martial

Zlatan

Not a bad day at the office. Lingard’s injury apart, for the ever Machiavellian Mourinho things could not have gone much better.

Zlatan got his goal. Bailly showed plenty of signs of being a dominant force. Bailly 1

Mourinho won his first trophy as United manager, and also had the opportunity to speak openly about Paul Pogba and what he brings to the team.  Pretty obvious really.Paul-Pogba-miami

Who knows where the 100 million man was having his medical, but by the middle of this week his height, power, and technique should be Jumping Jack Flashing at Carrington.

If there’s one thing United aren’t going to lack this season it’s height and power.

It’s been a curious pre-season. The marketing trip to China was a long way for nothing. An interruption and marketing exercise which must have driven Mourinho nuts. The transfer business is done for now, but maybe there’s more to come. Apart from the expected exits of  Schweinsteiger, McNair, Pereira, Blackett, and possibly Mata, Jones or Young, don’t be surprised if United don’t throw a blockbuster at us. Maybe they sell Martial and bring another striker in? The young Frenchman had a poor Euros. There are rumours about his petulance and “off the field activities.” He may not fit the Mourinho team player mould, and he also slows down Rashford’s progress. I know it’s heresy to speak ill of a new found fan favourite, but Mourinho is ruthless and 75 million in the bank and the opportunity to buy his own striker maybe irresistible.

Pogba will bring dynamism to midfield, Rashford has pace, so have Shaw, Bailly, Mkhitaryan, Valencia and Smalling, but there is room for another jet heeled, electric striker to complement Zlatan. And it isn’t DePay.

In my last post I argued that Pogba wasn’t worth a 100 million transfer fee. I want to clarify. As a footballer he’s not worth it. As a marketing opportunity he is. Today’s values are obviously skewed by the enormous amounts of TV and advertising cash sloshing around the game and particularly the Premiere League. United’s profits are enormous. If Pogba helps deliver a championship this season he’s paid the fee.

So the Mourinho era with all it’s Special ingredients begins with a trophy. Jose

We’ve had Funny, Charming Jose passing Andy Tate’s Manc Quiz.  We’ve had Ruthless Jose banishing Schweinsteiger to the reserve team dressing room. And we’ve had PR Savvy Jose dedicating the Charity Shield win to Louis Van Gaal and the 7 players who didn’t make  the team or bench.

In the end what counts is results. The real business begins next Sunday in Bournemouth.

 

Rsshford

Oh to be from Wythenshawe and score the winner in the derby. United have got a centre forward. Marcus Rashford is the real deal. Forget the comparisons with Federico Macheda try a youthful Thomas Muller instead. Pace, courage, a willingness to run, forage, compete and harass; excellent touch; a finisher’s ice cold  instincts; all topped off by a boy next door personality. Whatever else happens this season United have reason to celebrate a local hero.

Rashford’s superb goal keeps United in with a chance of overhauling City for that precious Champions’ League spot. City were dreadful. Admittedly if Kompany was playing Rashford and Co would have had a more competitive and bruising afternoon. Without their captain’s drive and energy City looked tired and lethargic. The word out of the Etihad is that the senior management believes the squad isn’t fit enough. On this performance they aren’t. United won the key battles, the second balls, and dealt with any threat from Aguero.

Carrick and Van Gaal

It was a win for Van Gaal and the team to savour on a day when the respected Spanish newspaper El Pais said an option deal is agreed for Mourinho to take over in the summer. The option is interesting and clever. El Pais says if United don’t agree formal terms with Mourinho by May 1st there’s a  5 million pounds walk away penalty. If they keep Mourinho hanging until June 1st and then opt out, the compensation rises to 15 million pounds.

Smart thinking, because if United’s kids continue to blossom the club’s transfer priorities may change. What happens to Rashford, Fosu-Mensah, Borthwick-Jackson and a few more if Mourinho arrives? A new coaching staff brings its own ideas. Everything starts all over again.

With eight league games left, and the FA Cup replay with West Ham to come, United’s season is poised. Losing to Liverpool in the Europa Cup was a huge setback on many levels, but beating City away and closing the gap between the teams to a point will light up the dressing room.

It’s a huge ask for Rashford, 18, and Martial, 20, to deliver the 4th League spot and perhaps the FA Cup but it’s not impossible. Today’s team had balance, and dynamism. Players are returning from injury.  Rashford and Martial will get some help.  Rooney and Shaw aren’t far away, Young is back in training, and there’s now the two week international break when a lot of the squad will get a well earned rest. Don’t be surprised if United report Smalling has an injury and has to pull out of the England squad. Let’s hope Martial has a dose of French flu too.

Brilliant Payet free kick, rotten refereeing by Atkinson to have Payet available to take it after his dive to try and win a penalty. Terrific Martial goal, but maybe justice was done because Big Ass Schweinsteiger used all his smarts to take out the West Ham goalie who might have saved Martial’s effort but for the German’s well positioned bum. So United live to fight another day and cling to life in three competitions.

Now let’s try to put a little perspective on this grand opera of a season so far. There is a real possibility the Premiere League top 4 will be Leicester, Tottenham, West Ham and Liverpool. No United, Chelsea, Arsenal or City. What big four? What pre-season predictions? Arsenal deservedly knocked out of the FA Cup at home by Watford, barring a miracle out of the Champions’ League by mid-week, are truly struggling in the league. City are out of the FA Cup, should qualify for the next round of the Champions’ league but are in serious danger of missing the top four. And in the past 7 days last year’s champions Chelsea went out of the Champions’ League and the FA Cup, and may finish just above half way in the league. Football bloody hell.

And while Arsenal’s fans bemoan Arsene Wenger, United’s fans and most of the media are unanimous in their support that Jose Mourinho should be announced as the next United manager asap.

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I just don’t get it. Mourinho must be responsible for Chelsea’s downfall this season,  is everyone forgetting Chelsea fired him? Take your pick. There’s the Dr.Eva Carneiro debacle, player disillusionment and revolt, Mourinho’s now traditional third season team failure and psycho-meltdown, or all of the above? There are rumors many of the current United squad want out if he’s appointed. The fans and media maybe mutinous but, again, for me he’s not the right guy.

My mantra for all season has been: take Van Gaal for another season, if only because of the stability he brings and because it’s very, very difficult to find someone who is going to instantly re-establish United as England’s dominant force.

Meanwhile Van Gaal and United enter probably the most pivotal two games of his tenure. An against the odds home win against Liverpool in the second leg of the Europa Cup on Thursday,  followed by a win at City on Sunday would pour an ocean of cold water on the crusade to sack the Prophet of Process. Two losses, however, should end all the speculation and force Woodward to put us all out of our misery by announcing the club’s plans for next year.

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Let’s not get too excited, particularly as it’s Chelsea away on Sunday yet tonight was a reassuring win. Three first class goals, with Martial’s the pick. Admittedly Stoke were tired and depleted coming off the back of their two cup defeats last week and without their first choice central defenders, yet nevertheless United were very good value. Sharp, direct, inventive and quick.

This result competes with the away win at Everton as the best performance of the season, and was obviously a much needed league tonic for all in Manchester United-dom.

There’s still a long way to go however, and February is a packed month for an injury hit squad. Screen Shot 2016-02-02 at 3.22.02 PM

Six more games in 26 days, a lot of football. Yet having ignored any opportunity in the transfer window, Van Gaal obviously has faith in Borthwick-Jackson, and the return to fitness of Jones, Valencia, Schweinsteiger and Rojo, with Shaw even a possibility by late March. As for the “United won’t let Van Gaal direct the transfer policy” twaddle, I can’t believe the club wouldn’t have backed him if the right players were available.

However, let’s face it, City stole the show this week. The Guardiola news reinforcing the view they are now Manchester’s #1 club and destination. It’s more than a legitimate claim. The bundles of money, an existing great squad, wonderful youth academy, and now the world’s most sought after manager? Will the world’s most sought after players follow? Can you imagine City with Neymar, Pogba and Stones? They have the money and the gold Rolexes to do that.

It’s going to be interesting. Yet, let’s play football fantasy here.  What happens if they have a disastrous run? Look at the table.

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If by any chance and, it is the longest of long shots, City collapse, don’t qualify for Europe and United do? How would you feel then? How would Pep feel? Ha!

For a moment forget the Louis Van Gaal Louis Van Gone drama and his current war with the Press. Watching the FA Cup win at Derby once again underlined something wonderful and worth celebrating. The hard core, real Man United supporters. The people who travel to support.  Look at them:

No wonder the United players joined in at Liverpool.

Louis understands the bond and the responsibility the fans. It’s why he always signs autographs and why he’s never afraid to acknowledge they deserve to boo, or come up with signs like this.

Derby-County-v-Manchester-United-FA-Cup-Fourth-Round

At Derby the players listened. There’s no doubt they are playing for Van Gaal. We know the mix isn’t right, even though Rooney is returning to form and Martial delivered another performance illustrating why he’s going to be a superstar. But Van Gaal is correct when he says that mix can only be improved by the “process”. Meaning shrewd acquisitions, a commitment to youth, and forgetting the screaming headlines of doom and disaster.

The Manchester Evening News has four reporters covering United. The paper and those reporters obviously don’t have a relationship with the club anymore. It has succumbed to today’s demands. If United are big business how big is the media? The MEN and all the other outlets chase each other and the internet traffic that drives the simple equation: Eyeballs = ads, = revenue.

Then there’s us. The bloggers, the Twitterati, The Facebook pagers, and the commenters. Everybody has a megaphone. Look at a past few headlines on the United Rant.

Five Ways Louis Van Gaal can save his job

Louis Van Going: The replacements

Tactical Rant: Three issues behind United’s impotent attack

Full disclosure every time I link to the United Rant my traffic on this blog goes up. Some of you visit here after seeing a snippet there.

I can understand why Louis gets exasperated and hits back at the media. Who wouldn’t? Yes he earns a fortune and is answerable to the supporters. That’s a given. But with all of his experience you would think he would know better? As a friend texted this week:

Better to be like hound dog Pellegrini…who sends them to sleep and when they wake up they realize he’s said sod all.

 

The Press and us are lucky with Louis. He’s good value. He tells it like it is, even if he walks out.

Now for Stoke and Mark Hughes’ return. A big test for Borthwick-Jackson and possibly Varela. Stoke are physical, and in Artonauvic and Walters have forwards who can bully defenders. But Stoke were beaten today at Palace, and had a hard game Tuesday losing to Liverpool in the League Cup on penalties in extra time. Shawcross is out and United couldn’t be getting them at a better time.

Meanwhile no news on the transfer front. For me whether a player or players  are signed by Tuesday goes down to the wire. It’s not a question of need but availability.

 

louis-van-gaalWhere do we start? Worst performance of the season?  The boos? Champions League receding? Injuries?  Or the alleged Mourinho begging for a job letter?

Let’s begin with the squad and the lack of depth and quality players. Even with all the injuries there should be better players available.

Eleven new players have arrived in Van Gaal’s era. Everyone keeps talking about the enormity of the estimated 250 million pound spend, but keep in mind how much Chelsea, Barcelona, Real, Bayern and City also spent in the past few years. What matters is is how the money is used, and that maybe Van Gaal’s undoing.

As my friend John says:

In the end LVG, like all managers is judged on two things. Results obviously, but also signs that a team is improving. I think it is the second which will ultimately condemn him, since the eleven signings made on his watch have not improved the team.
He’s been unlucky with Shaw. Of the rest,  Blind is good value and arguably the best buy, Martial is a talent; Schweinsteiger provides leadership; Schneiderlin is solid; Depay is dreadful; Rojo injury prone; Herrera flatters to deceive; the jury is out on Darmian; Romero is a bench warmer; and Falcao and Di Maria were complete failures.
How many of the current team would get into the current Arsenal, City, Tottenham or Leicester starting line ups? De Gea and Smalling definitely. Rooney and Schneiderlin probably.
Yesterday United were beaten by a goal from a 4 million pound centre forward, yet Martial and Depay collectively cost around 60 million pounds. In a collective team performance lacking every traditional club value United ended the match with four teenagers on the pitch, Januzaj preferred before Depay as a sub and boos cascading from the stands. Van Gaal isn’t helped by inheriting a youth policy which in the past 20 years has delivered only one star, Paul Pogba, who, of course, in an ultimate irony for one of the world’s richest clubs, left for Juventus after an argument over wages.
The supporter’s anguish is perfectly summed up today in an open letter to the Glazers from the ManchesterLalaLa blog.

You are obviously intelligent, highly successful businessmen, but having been a United fan for 60 years, just like my father before me and his father before him, I have never seen such a clueless pair effectively in charge of this sporting empire.

I completely understand that Woodward is a star in your eyes on the commercial front, and that’s obviously where he belongs. But thanks to Woodward and Van Gaal, the football side has descended into farce, and if this continues, the damage to the brand will be disastrous. The core values at United are winning and doing it with style – something United are a million miles away from at this point in time.

This week Columbia Sportswear was added to the money roll as yet another sponsor. But what good is a worldwide brand if the team at its heart doesn’t perform? You can only market the past for so long.
Meanwhile it’s reported that Jose Mourinho has written a 6 page letter to the board outlining his credentials, and explaining why he should be immediately appointed as manager. Jorge Mendes, Mourinho’s agent and friend of Ed Woodward, rejected the report as “ridiculous and absurd”. I hope so because unless you believe in winning at all costs Mourinho’s practical approach and theatrical temperament is not right for United.
After the match Van Gaal acknowledged the supporters’ right to boo. You have to admire him for that. If only the Glazers would do the same.
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No offence to the Jamie Vardy Show, and congrats to Vardy, but his opener and Premiere League’s consecutive scoring streak record setter was a poor goal from United’s point of view. Young gave him a free pass over the final 5 yards and Vardy’s specialty is scoring from that angle. United never looked like losing today, but again possession didn’t translate to goals. United had 69% of the play yet it took a set piece and some true grit from Schweinsteiger to force an equaliser.

leicester-man-utd-schweinsteiger_1Add today to his efforts at Watford last week and Schweinsteiger is taking some games by the throat.The Manchester Evening News quite rightly labels the German  “a captain without the armband” and he looked like a man on a mission all day.  Less could be said for the forwards. Martial is having a blip; Mata is going through a poor stretch; and Rooney just looks tired.

The days of Squeaky Bum Time for now perhaps should be labelled Rusty Bum Time. Things are just taking a bit more time to get going.  The focus remains on defensive organization and solid fundamentals and it will probably remain so all season. After today’s game Gary Neville echoed what a lot of us have been saying, United are very close to a championship team but…..

“……they need that match-winner, that Neymar, that Luis Suarez, the one that is going to light up a game and score one or two goals to take it away, then all of a sudden they would look like a Barcelona, because they’re dominating possession, making teams look foolish.

“Even in the last 15 minutes, they didn’t fully commit to winning the game. Historically, you would like to see punch after punch, you would want to see bodies being thrown forward, but you might get caught on the counter attack and lose 2-1 that way.

We all know the no risk approach is driving some critics and fans bonkers. Probably no-one understands that more than Van Gaal. Who wants to be the manager of The World’s Most Criticized Team?