Archives For David De Gea

Man in the middle

It doesn’t get any worse. Most of us have just uncurled from the foetal position. Look at the faces and the headlines.

FergieScreen Shot 2016-03-11 at 7.17.58 PMScreen Shot 2016-03-11 at 7.17.36 PMScreen Shot 2016-03-11 at 7.18.18 PM

Beaten by the team Fergie knocked off their perch. Beaten by high pressure, energetic Dortmund style Klopp football. Without De Gea it could have been a rout. Even though the Spaniard almost kept the score respectable, a very different United need to turn up next Thursday.

This isn’t a team that withstands the modern pressing game. Not enough players are confident on the ball. Not enough strikers have ice in their veins. Rashford’s fluffed chance after just 15 seconds was the only time United seriously threatened. It’s not fair to criticize him, an 18 year old 8 yards out from goal and in front of the Kop must be forgiven, but a mature top-class striker buries the cross from Depay, who along with a few others took the rest of the 89 minutes and 45 seconds off. After that Liverpool never stopped. Sure the penalty was iffy – Depay again – and there’s the terrible mistake by Carrick for the second, but if Liverpool did not win the game it would have been a travesty.

It’s quite possible by next Thursday night United will be out of two cups and with the slimmest chance of achieving what now looks like a miracle top 4 place in the league.

So what do you do? Take the Scholes, Ferdinand, rabid fan and media route? The “this is terrible..no one tackles..it’s the worst United team…not in my day…I’d have been embarrassed..anything but effing Liverpool…let’s get effing Mourinho…let’s get effing anybody…approach?.”

Or do we wait until next Thursday and hope that magic strikes in the next two home games?

The practical and sensible out there will quite rightly say no chance, and firmly point to the corporate machine running United as a global brand and business rather than a football club as the reason United are in the mess they are. But to be honest Liverpool too are American owned, and probably deeply envious of United’s global reach and money making capabilities.

In the end it’s not all about money. Real, Barcelona and Bayern have always paid big money for and to players. What’s needed at United is the kind of strength and long term view that saw Ferguson given almost four seasons to build a football battleship. Whether Van Gaal is the man to manage United isn’t the real question. Someone has to stand back from all the emotion and make some solid, sensible decisions. And sell Depay too :).

 

 

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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saps

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.

 

 

 

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.

 

Schweini

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.

 

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.

Mata

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:

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.