Archives For Bastian Schweinsteiger

We are witnessing the practical, ruthless, side of Jose Mourinho. Make no mistake Ferguson had it too, so did Busby, but would either of them have publicly embarrassed a player like Mourinho did on Sunday with Juan Mata?

Spare a thought for Mata and Bastian Schweinsteiger too, cos both are history at Manchester United and represent Mourinho’s management style. Mata too short.Too nice.  Mata 1

Schweinsteiger too injury prone. Too slow. Both gone.

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Apparently Adnan Januzaj is also receiving the: “Go to the reserve team dressing room….. or get changed in the toilet” treatment. Mourinho looks one way and that’s forward. There was never a doubt about how he would operate.This is a manager intent on winning. There is no time or place for sentiment. You can’t even make joke about No More Mr.Nice Guy. That was never on the table to begin with.

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!

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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Remember the Four Tops hit? “It’s the same old song”?, well here we are again. The Stretford End boo birds and “attack, attack, attack” surfaced in the 70th minute, as for the third game in a row United’s patient – others say pedestrian, pedantic or boring football, and lack of finishing delivered a draw.

A few headlines:

Insipid and ineffectual the Manchester Evening News.

Fans jeer dull stalemate The Guardian

Fans vent fury Irish Independent

I must have watched a different game. C’mon it wasn’t that bad.  Fellaini hit the post and had one kicked off the line. Martial, Mata, Schweinsteiger and Lingard all missed chances. West Ham could have had 4 as the post saved United twice, De Gea outwitted Moses and Zarate missed a sitter. 

The brief second half cameo from Memphis/DePay was the most positive, least fussy and direct performance I’ve seen from him this season.

United are in 4th but only three points off the top and with the same amount of points as City, who were well beaten at Stoke. By all accounts the 3-1 Arsenal home win over Sunderland flattered to deceive, Tottenham drew at WBA, and of course Chelsea’s defeat at home to Bournemouth  proves once again why this year’s league is to say the least unpredictable.

It’s a logjam up there and if United can open the check book in January they will not be far away. I’m sticking to my guns on that. The question is who can they get?

Cavani? Can he take the Premiere League’s physical side?

Vardy? Maybe.

Kane? No chance.

My guess is if someone comes it will be from Europe. But price shouldn’t even be a consideration. This January unlike others may be the time to buy because the league is wide open.

Meanwhile whither Van Gaal?

There’s no doubt there is tension behind the scenes at Old Trafford. The rumors and leaks of the players being unhappy with his methods, discipline, and organization are too frequent to ignore.

On Friday he said if he loses the dressing room he’s gone. That’s not an empty threat. He’s given himself his own walking papers at Bayern, Barcelona, Ajax, and AZ Alkmaar. In Aloysius Paulus Maria van Gaal’s world it’s always been “My Way or I pack my bags and drive off down the highway”.

Remember Alex Ferguson’s first two seasons at Old Trafford? You should. Van Gaal’s record is too good to throw away easily**** Update since this post was first written much has been written about how the Old Trafford hierarchy is  happy with Van Gaal and his methods, and are ready to sit down with him to discuss extending his contract. Good.

Now for Tuesday and Wolfsburg. Now that is a BIG game.

 

 

 

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?

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.

 

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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.