Archives For Anthony Martial

Better Louis

A lot of good things happened at Goodison. Right from the kick off United were on the front foot. The Arsenal performance for now consigned to a blip. The team was better balanced, every player contributed and there was urgency and purpose throughout the pitch as Van Gaal highlighted afterwards:

“We lost in a horrible way at Arsenal and we had to hold a lot of team meetings before this game, It was more than the response I was looking for, we controlled the game and played one of our best matches. We could have scored more goals in the second half.”

Totally agree Louis.

Van Gaal may have found something with Schneiderlin, Schweinsteiger and Herrera as a fluid, rotating midfield in a 4-3-3 formation.The goals from Schneiderlin, Herrera and Rooney, all came from more energetic, enterprising, dynamic play. Chance made, chance taken, thanks. In the wide left role Martial showed how you can both be a disciplined team player and also display dazzling individual talents. By the end of the game Coleman was roasted, toasted, fried and frazzled.

Martial also revealed he has an eye for a pass with a through ball putting Rooney in for a one on one with Howard for what should have been Rooney’s second goal.

The defence had to cope with the ever bruising Lukaku, and once again this season Smalling showed he’s become one of the league’s top defenders. For much of this season I’ve argued for Blind as Smalling’s first choice partner, but on this showing the bloody nosed Jones has stepped ahead. It’s the perpetual promise, Smalling and Jones as the next great central defensive duo. But the big question remains: Can they and the rest of the defenders stay fit? They have played 9 games together in three seasons as centre halves. Nine games, count them!

Meanwhile Blind may struggle to get back in the team. Rojo had a good game Saturday. United again looked solid at the back, and might remain so if that back four remains free of injury until at least January when reinforcements can be bought. De Gea is the best goalie in the league, full stop. He proved it yet again with his second half saves from Lukaku and Barkley.

As for the bench warming Memphis/Depay the stories are beginning to leak about his attitude and how Giggs has given him a bollocking. Couple that with his poor performances and it’s not too early to start wondering if he has a long term future at the club. Currently there is no comparison with Martial. None at all. Martial is a player.

So what now? Arsenal was a disaster. Next up it’s midweek in Moscow for the Champions League game against CSKA, and City next weekend. Has Van Gaal righted the ship? Maybe he can work that out at Wings tonight?

Meanwhile please spare a thought for Howard Kendall, Everton’s former player and manager who died on Friday. I spent a lot of time with him when he managed the brilliant Everton team of the mid 80’s. You couldn’t wish to meet a more generous and decent man. His record as Everton’s manager spea_67600255_howardkendall_gettyks for itself.

  • First Division champions: 1985, 1987
  • First Division runner-up: 1986
  • FA Cup winner: 1984
  • FA Cup runner-up: 1985, 1986                             
  • European Cup Winners Cup winner: 1985
  • League Cup runner-up: 1984
  • Full Members Cup runner-up: 1991

A win is a win in a Champions League where British clubs are finding the going difficult. Ask Arsenal and Chelsea. All in all a resilient performance against a wMata-Man-Utd-goals-356760ell organized and competent Wolfsburg team.  Mata with a penalty and wonderful assist for Smalling’s goal, Martial, Smalling, Schweinsteiger, Schneiderlin and Darmian were all excellent.

Yet for me the most positive sign in recent weeks is the team spirit. Van Gaal acknowledged this in his post match comments, while also being underwhelmed by the overall performance.  There is no doubt Van Gaal is the team’s toughest critic. He sets the standard high, and tells it like it is.

“We have given a lot in the first half to get back in the game and maybe it was also because of the accumulation of matches in the last weeks but I cannot understand how we can give the ball away so easily.

“We have to keep our feet on the ground and we have to improve a lot to be the top of Europe. We have beaten Wolfsburg and I am very happy about that. The players are also very happy but we have to improve and we have to know that. So I have said that to the players. That is why we are here, to improve ourselves so we win every game. Today we have won this game but it could have been done in a better way. We were suffering in the end. A lot of players are very tired because of the accumulation of matches. But I think the team spirit kept us in the match.”

The players did look leggy at the end and now there is that season defining month ahead. Starting with Arsenal on Sunday the team’s fitness, character, depth, talent and togetherness will all be tested. Maybe it’s time to accept Bastian Schweinsteiger’s invitation for some well deserved r and r at the Munich Beer Festival?

This is the one

Arsenal, CSK Moscow, Everton, City, Palace, no problem. it’s a regular social event for Bayern Munich’s players and staff. Beer and footballers, what could go wrong with that? Cheers Louis.

Beer for Van Gaal

So here we are. It’s taken two years, UnitedBastian are back at the top of the league.

BBC Sport Football TablesFor Schweinsteiger, Mata, Schneiderlin, Darmian, Blind, Martial, Memphis, Fellaini, Herrera, Romero and Pereira, new territory in a United shirt.

Eleven players from Saturday’s match day squad of 18, are league leading newbies. The size of the transformation encapsulated in a teamsheet.  Add Van Gaal and his Dutch assistants and it’s staggering.

We’ve all watched and sometimes winced at the changes. The failed transfer attempts for Bale, Muller, and others. The Falcao and Di Maria experiments.  We all recognize it’s not buccaneering, cavalier, heart in your mouth Ferguson Football that’s topping the league, but Van Gaal’s calm, methodical, patient, planned game.

Yet this is a milepost and an initial return on the millions spent and huge turnover in players, and staff. Yes United have the resources, fanbase and business organization, but we should all savour that top spot and not least Van Gaal.

You can only imagine the sense of relief behind the scenes at Old Trafford late on Saturday.

So what happens now? Football is unforgiving. Wolfsburg on Wednesday. Arsenal away next Sunday. It could be a brief visit to the top spot, as Van Gaal said after Sunderland

“Ask me in May”.

Chelsea’s current decline. and City’s slump are indications of how things will change. However you don’t get to the top of the league without doing something right. Mata was terrific Saturday. Martial looks a steal. Schweinsteiger delivers calm authority. Blind just keeps on being a good footballer. Smalling is dominant. Enjoy it.

In the meantime spare a thought for Luke Shaw.



Hands up if a month ago you had never heard of Anthony Martial? I hadn’t.

Hands up if a month ago you believed David De Gea was finally on his way to Real Madrid. I did.

Martial 2 De Gea 2

Hands up if you thought United would be second after six matches? I thought they would be third.

All in all a very good day on the south coast after a very pedestrian half hour and Southampton’s well worked opener.  Cue Rio the match summariser:

As we know things soon got a lot better thanks to Martial who after rudely interrupting Southampton’s dominance then had a Roy of the Rovers moment when he forgot about running at and behind Southampton’s defence to help out Virgil Can Dijk with his cramp. It was a wonderful gesture, “i’m sorry I’ve run you ragged” and a spectacular first full start in the league.

The third goal was brilliant, 45 passes, count them 45 -take that Barcelona and Arsenal –  revolving around a fulcrum of Schweinsteiger, Rooney and Mata whose eventual finish was superb. I tried to find a good YouTube of the goal but there isn’t one there yet. If anyone finds the full clip with all the passes please send it my way.


So here we are. A labored first half of the first half. An eruption of pace, invention and possession, then a nervy few moments. At the end without De Gea’s brilliance the game is a draw and maybe even lost. Get that hanky out Florentino

United now sit second but there is a tough set of fixtures on the way.

BBC Sport Football Manchester United Fixtures

Van Gaal, meanwhile, is treating us all to Veteran Coach Psychology 101. On the one hand he points to Memphis/Depay, Martial, and Shaw, as “building for my successor”. He lays out a vision of a Busby/Ferguson future dynasty built on very expensive youth, but then as he did after today’s game he’s quite capable of concentrating on the now:

“We have made a statement that we shall compete for the title,” Van Gaal said.

“You cannot expect a title from a team in transition. But when we are close we shall grab it.”

To me that reads like the truth. He knows what he has, and he’s telling us don’t expect too much. When he points to the future there are those who accuse him of absolving himself of responsibility by preparing the fans that it will take time to restore United’s dominance. Yes we all want “our title back”  but maybe the Practical Philosopher in Van Gaal is correct. Nervy wins on the back of goalie heroics and 19 year old debutant centre forwards thrilling promise may not encourage title dreams yet. But for me 45 pass created goals do.

One final note about Luke Shaw. This was a great touch on Instagram even if the cynical old hack in me thinks United’s PR department probably “helped” with the image:

Schweinsteiger’s best game; Blind terrific; back four top notch; and what a debut for Martial?

Forget the first half. Liverpool parked the bus and arrived without invention or aggression, maybe because Coutinho and Henderson were missing? We watched a game marooned in the middle third and no one from United ran at Liverpool except Shaw. No frontline penetration, pace, or goals. A yawn fest.

So let’s concentrate on the second half.  If Memphis/DePay has pace or confidence he hasn’t shown it yet. I know I sound like a broken record but I’m beginning to wonder if he has it at this level. Louis Van Gaal has a major decision to make. Maybe Van Gaal gave it the old Busby and Ferguson “just go out there and express yourselves” at half time, but we all saw the immediate impact when Ashley Young replaced Memphis/Depay. Blind’s perfectly executed training ground free kick and Herrera’s “take that” penalty and United fans were a heck of a lot happier.

De Gea did his thing saving good efforts from Ings and Ibe, and even though Benteke’s brilliant overhead kick made for a few anxious moments United were much, much better.

The icing on the cake was of course Anthony Martial’s debut goal. Kudos to the Twitter psychic who predicted it.

The early word on Martial was that he loves to drift left, cut in onto his right foot and drive at the heart of the defence. Job done, and a classic “allez vous faire foutre” (go fuck yourself) to the Daily Mirror and the “What A Waste of Money” chorus.

But let’s not get carried away. One brilliant goal doesn’t make a career. Remember Federico Macheda? Well he’s currently playing for Cardiff and is out for 10 weeks following back surgery.

All in all a very good day for Van Gaal. He can celebrate at Wings sitting in second place before focusing on Tuesday’s Champions League game at PSV. Rooney is expected to be out again so there are questions about the forward line. My bet is Fellaini starts again and I hope Young does too.

It’s been quite an international break, and for me Louis has done brilliantly. He’s welcomed back one of the world’s’s top goalkeepers, watched his captain become England’s highest scoring player and his latest teenage recruit make a reasonable debut for France. Yet wherever he turns there’s a critic waiting in the wings. It’s just incredible. Take Gary Neville in Friday’s Telegraph warning about warning signs. England’s assistant coach, former United captain, business partner and friend of the assistant manager jumped on the critic’s bandwagon. C’mon Gary get real. You of all people should know how difficult it is to rebuild a team on the run while qualifying for Europe, when you can’t buy the superstars you want. The level of expectation surrounding United never ceases to amaze. Sir Alex Ferguson did not hand over a team of world beaters. The last championship was won on the backs of a striker having a once in a lifetime season and teams who folded in face of United and their manager’s reputation. United did not play well that season. There were spectacular comebacks, and last minute heroics but they were not a fluid attacking powerhouse. Far from it.

Van Gaal was on top form in his pre-match press conference and he deserved to be. Here it is in full and the opening “well????” is spectacular.

All the headlines are captured by Scott at The Republik of Mancunia 

So now for Liverpool. Without Coutinho, but with Benteke ready to give Blind a test. Maybe Liverpool spring a surprise and play Sturridge. Who cares. Liverpool lost 3-0 at home to West Ham in their last match. It wasn’t a fluke. They were awful. United might give their biggest, bitterest rivals a battering. Then what’s Gary going to say?

Just another 48 hours in the history of Manchester United. David De Gea remains, the new 19 year old fleet footed Anthony Martial arrives. Forget China and the stock market, the European refugee crisis, or Global Warming. When United are involved and it’s Deadline Day nothing gets in the way of Twitter and the Pundits.

So, where do we go from here? Fortunately the international break delivers an opportunity for a few deep breaths, some Zen and maybe Louis to have a few reflective Chinese meals at Mr.Wings .

United’s net spend is around 30 million quid. Arguably the world’s best goalkeeper is back in the fold. Martial has arrived to bring pace, youth, power and perhaps a few goals. And then United get on with it because Liverpool – sans Coutinho and his potty mouth -are next, and the Champions League matches follow.

Who knows the real story on De Gea. It’s Madrid’s fault obviously. You don’t spend a year courting a player in semi-public then fail in the last minute. Hopefully it’s a farce that eventually plays in United’s favour. Maybe Dave forgets Madrid and patches up any strained Old Trafford relationships?

There’s also been plenty of digital ink on Anthony Martial aka The Most Expensive Teenager in Football History. He’s too too young; too inexperienced; French Football is appalled and amazed at the size of the fee; so is Spanish Football yada yada.

The Professor weighed in, probably cos United beat him to the punch:

Drama, shock, horror, and wringing of hands.  Who cares if Martial scores the winning goal in a Champions League game or a Cup Final or the winner against City, or Chelsea? If he has 10 years at United he’s cheap. Look at Rooney.

In the meantime United have named their Champions League squad. In among De Gea, and Martial, is Nick Powell. Where’s he been? Not a mention in the past few weeks. Not on tour and now in Europe. Well he’s been out for more than six months with an injury which required a significant surgery.

Full squad:

Goalkeepers: De Gea, Romero, Johnstone

Defenders: Jones, Rojo, Smalling, Shaw, Varela, McNair, Darmian

Midfielders: Carrick, Blind, Young, Herrera, Powell, Valencia, Fellaini, Schneiderlin, Schweinsteiger, Lingard, Pereira, Mata

Forwards: Depay, Martial, Rooney, Wilson

Enjoy the next few days Louis and the food at Wings.