Archives For juan Mata

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Three losses on the trot. The knives are out. Rooney is the fall guy. Mourinho’s not far behind, and United are back to playing Van Gaal’s sideways football. Not a good week. Yet it’s only September as Mata pointed out on his blog, and only City who have real daylight between United and the rest of the chasing pack. Maybe that’s why it’s so painful? City are wonderful to watch. De Bruyne the mastermind of their quick, mobile, swarming play. Guardiola style at it’s best. Liverpool aren’t far behind. Meanwhile United’s giants lumber.

The ruthless side of Mourinho will surely be seen in the coming weeks.  The midfield has to have more dynamism and penetration. Pogba has to turn up. By the time the October crunch away fixtures against Chelsea and Liverpool arrive Mourinho has to find width, speed and a midfield combination that both protects and threatens. The key could be Mkhitaryan.

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Surely there is a mix of pace, craft and steel in Mkhitaryan, Mata, Pogba, Lingard, Fellaini, Schneiderlin, and Carrick. When everyone is fit there’s just too many good players available. But it’s Mkhitaryan who is potentially the most interesting. The Czech Republic’s captain Suchy’s foul on the Armenian during the first match of the international break has had a significant impact on United. Mkhitaryan brings exactly the qualities of pace and imagination United need, and we haven’t seen the best of him yet.

The same can be said for Pogba. Underwhelming is too generous a word. We’ve witnessed flashes of brute force, power, and an occasional mazy run. But he aint no Zidane yet.

And what about the rest of the team? The criticism of Rooney is merciless. Yes he’s having a terrible time. However people are quick to forget there would be no FA Cup win without the driving run setting up Mata’s equaliser. The same determination created the winner at Hull. Yes he’s getting caught on the ball far too often. Yes the passes are less than pin point. And yes it maybe time to put him on the bench. But he’s not the reason United are misfiring. There’s no balance in the team.

Mourinho has the players. Perhaps some aren’t fit, but now is when a manager earns his corn. Unfortunately, for me anyway, Mourinho’s darker characteristics are showing. Blaming Luke Shaw publicly for the second goal at Watford isn’t exactly brilliant man management. Especially when Shaw is said to have had a reoccurrence of a long standing groin injury. Mourinho’s reputation for handling young or sensitive players is awful. Not exactly a nurterer our Jose.

Yet this is exactly a period when players need someone to lift them, and to make the best decisions for the team. If anyone needs to step up it’s the manager. Let’s see what the line up is against Leicester on Saturday.

 

 

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.

 

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It’s not like him, but it was dumb and when he writes his weekly blog Juan Mata will be the first to admit it (which he does). Who knows if United would have won without him but once Mata was sent off United never looked like getting anything out of the game. Earlier Liverpool got lucky after being a man down to win with that last second no-penalty, and yesterday Arsenal battled all the way for a draw, but United never got going.

In the chase for the 4th spot the eventual price of the red card, could be very, very costly. It was Mata’s first ever red and Van Gaal defended his player.

“What can I say when you send off a player like Mata? I have asked him if it’s his first red card and he said yes.

“When you give the first and second yellow within minutes, you can do it according the rules, but I think the referee has to know the person doing it.

“I don’t think Mata has ever had bad tackles and something like that. Most referees show that [discretion].

“You know the first one is a stupid yellow card and then you have to be aware the referee can give a second yellow card.

“A referee has to decide within one second but when you know the player, Mata never hurts a player.

Van Gaal now has to pick the team up before Liverpool in the Europa Cup on Thursday, West Ham in the FA Cup next Sunday, Liverpool again in the return Europa leg and City in the league the following Sunday. Mata is suspended against West Ham.

Screen Shot 2016-03-06 at 11.32.15 AMEven before today every game until the end of the season was a cup final. A loss doesn’t change that. Realistically United can lose one more match in the league and maybe draw another, away games at City and Tottenham emphasize the scale of the task.

Meanwhile Sunday’s papers carried speculation that Mourinho believes Ryan Giggs is the next United manager. It’s a gamble for the club, but in the end if United believe in the current crop of kids it may be one worth taking.

 

 

Mata strike

The wonderful Juan Mata strike that beat a very unlucky Watford,  not only extended United’s winning streak to 4 games but in the end poses a larger question.  Are we sure we want to replace Van Gaal with Mourinho people? Really, really sure?

What will happen to Marcus Rashford, and Timothy Fosu-Mensah, not to mention a bunch of other promising kids . Axel Tuanzenebe, Ro-Shaun Williams, Callum Gribbin, Devonte Williams and Angel Gomes are all waiting in the wings. Admittedly they are young, raw, and may never make it, but with Mourinho in charge we won’t find out. With Van Gaal we will. Look at the track records. Mourinho will team with Mendes and spend a fortune. The kids will wither on the vine. Van Gaal’s approach is always to give youth its chance.

So the question is given the exuberance and promise of the past 10 days do we stick or twist? If Van Gaal is to keep his job and send Jose looking for another one, he has to realize at least 5 of these 6 targets .

  1. Qualify for Europe – either via the Europa League or finishing in the top 4
  2. Win a Cup, doesn’t matter which one FA or Europa
  3. Beat City at The Etihad
  4. Finish higher than City in the league
  5. Win every home game
  6. Beat Liverpool in the Europa Cup

Wednesday once again simultaneously put the Premiership in both the washing machine and the spin dryer. With Arsenal, City and Tottenham’s losing, United are definitely back in with a chance of the top 4. There is a daunting fixture list in all competitions. Liverpool in the Europa, West Ham in the FA Cup, and realistically United have the toughest schedule of all the top 6 in the remaining league fixtures. However players are coming back, and youth is being given its chance. The glass is half full. The dressing room is reported to be happy.

This week I had to defend Van Gaal against a friend who argued he has done a terrible job. He pointed at the amount of money spent; the boring football; the failure in the Champions League; and the terrible December against the likes of Bournemouth and Stoke. All valid points.

However given the injuries and the necessary rebuilding I think it’s simple. Van Gaal has done a good job.

 

 

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If Sir Alex Ferguson smiles broadly at the end of a game, claps and sings along with “Glory, Glory, Man United”  you know United have produced a landmark performance.

Sir Alex Ferguson Singing Man Utd Hymn After Man Utd 3-2 Arsenal 28.02.2016 – YouTube.

Today’s win was probably the most pulsating, energized football seen at Old Trafford since the old boy retired, and it’s hard to think of a Manchester United teenager who’s had as much impact in his first two games as Marcus Rashford. Four goals and an assist in those two games keep all sort of hopes alive. It’s easy to go ga ga over Rashford.  After the game both managers were:

Louis Van Gaal: “He’s a special talent.

I could imagine what he did in the first game because he is a striker so he is coming into the situation to score goals.

The first match is always good because he can do the things that he thinks he wants to do, but in the second match he has to do what the manager wants him to do and he did it fantastically.

I think his performance was better than the first match. Normally the first matches a debutant plays are good, but it is the consistency – he has to show it in the third, fourth, fifth match. But what he showed in his second match is special, I think.”

Arsene Wenger: ” The player who was surprising for me talent-wise was Rashford because of the timing of his movement and his intelligence.

‘His movement in the box was great and he could be a very positive surprise for Manchester United on what I’ve seen today.’

_88490648_rashfordThe pinch of salt is Rashford was replaced after 80 minutes today by Adnan Januzaj, who two years after he was was the subject of an international tug of war for his services, and a  huge bid from PSG, is proof that football can be the most unforgiving of games. As the United Rant points out Januzaj was “the boy who could do anything”.

Arsenal were well beaten today. After the stultifying, dull and ponderous fare of many of this season’s games, we watched youth and verve assert United’s traditions. Memphis made life very difficult for one of the league’s best right backs. Mata had strikers making forward runs and players to pass to. Schneiderlin shut down Arsenal’s passing lanes, and Blind proved yet again how valuable he is. Everyone did their part and 18 years old Tim Fosu-Mensah, who is the 31st player used by Van Gaal this season, did enough to justify all the rave reviews coming our of Carrington.

Van Gaal has argued all season that he carries a small squad because it removes the obstacles from giving young players a chance. That’s been a dangerous game to play with up to 15 players out injured, but today justified his argument. Has he regained the fan’s trust?

Louis fallsThe Stretford End sang his praise after his comedic turn of the season when he collapsed in front of the 4th official to protest Alex Sanchez’s diving antics. Will those same fans be singing his praises next season? Obviously we won’t know for a few weeks yet, but today must have gone a long way to restoring both the board and fan’s trust in the manager.

 

 

FB6EE0C38D5E423F9BE4BE22B60B536ETick-tock, tick-tock, one down two to go. If this is the pivotal week in LVG’s Old Trafford career it began with the coziest win over the League One strugglers. Shrewsbury were never in it. A very professional performance from United capped by the third goal from Lingard. Mata’s free kick was wonderful but I tend to agree with those who claimed the three players running back were offside. Nice trick though, and brilliant finish. The only problem is that yet again there were injuries. If there is a summer spending spree United should buy 6 full backs. Borthwick-Jackson is presumably out against Midtjylland on Thursday. Lingard didn’t look comfortable at the end, and the desperately unlucky Keane may be gone for weeks.

If there was a silver lining it was the team performance. Whoever is leaking stories about the senior players being unhappy with Van Gaal can’t be talking about Mata, Smalling, Blind, Martial or Schneiderlin. All played as if they meant it, and for me there was no indication of a team trying to get the manager the sack.

Now there needs to be a magic sponge. Thursday is a huge game, but Midtjylland don’t play in front of 75,000 very often and if it’s one of those magical Old Trafford nights and the crowd carry the team the Danes will get a battering. I’m not worried about Thursday, but Sunday and Arsenal is different. United need De Gea back, Rojo would be a bonus, Jones would help, but that’s about all to hope for.

Van Gaal says March is looking better:

“I think in March a lot of players are coming back and then we’ll have a full selection, and with our full selection we were first in the Premier League.”

Give the man his due, he doesn’t lay down.

Now for some speculation. If by any chance United win the next two matches what happens to all the hand wringing, vindictiveness, poison, slander, lies and general bonkersness about Van Gaal? He’s a football magician if he gets out of this week. An FA Cup tie, a Europa League salvage job, and a must win against the League favorites? All in 7 days? C’mon people, we know Woodward and the Glazers are ultimately responsible for this mess. It would be something special for Van Gaal to be celebrating 3 wins on the trot on Sunday night.

 

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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.