Archives For Luke Shaw

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.

 

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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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On the face of it in recent years United have never been in a better position going into a Derby. I don’t want to tempt the footballing Gods, it is a Derby, anything can happen, City have deep resources, and all of that psycho babble. But United should win. Take that. City are without their two best players in Aguero and Silva. If Navas plays the right side is wide open. If Kompany plays he’s injury prone. Fernandinho and Fernando should be an Abba song. De Bruyne is a very good player, Sterling is quick and Toure is a balletic bulldozer. Van Gaal will tinkering and tailoring, but apart from Luke Shaw everyone is available for United and that includes Young. Don’t believe the he hasn’t played for three weeks doodah. He’s trained all this week.

It was Rooney’s birthday on Friday and I watched the recent BBC documentary about him. Forget the soft pedal approach by Gary Lineker that goes with getting access to a very private man, what jumps in any review of Rooney’s career is his talent, goals record, longevity, competitiveness, and sheer love of the game. He’s been a great servant to United and England. He remains a top class player and anyone who doesn’t recognize that is a moron. When you watch a review of his 13 plus years you can only applaud his talent. Even without the burst he’s better than most.  Remember this?

Let’s hope he scores on Sunday. Happy 30th.

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.

 

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Solid victory over Ipswich. Pereira a boost. Schweinsteiger’s influence grows by the game. Now for Sunderland at home on Saturday.

Due to the long term loss of Luke Shaw, Marcos Rojo’s short term hamstring knicknack and Paddy McNair’s injury, Van Gaal must reorganize again at the back. Every team has to cope with injuries but Phil Jones is back in contention and there are other defensive combinations available.

Darmian can play left back. So can Young.

Saturday could see

Valencia/Jones-Smalling-Blind-Young/Darmian

or

Darmian-Smalling-Blind-Young

I keep Smalling and Blind together. As argued previously Blind complements Smalling and makes him more effective. Blind’s technique, defensive smarts and ability to pass the ball are a very valuable package. It’s fullback where he has to make decisions.

Sunderland are a poor team, so further up the field is this the opportunity to give Pereira a further test. Who knows maybe Van Gaal even has plans for James Wilson?

There’s a lot that can go wrong for City at Tottenham on Saturday, and a draw in the Arsenal Leicester game would also benefit United.  It’s after Saturday when it gets much, much tougher. For me October defines the season.

BBC Sport Football Manchester United Fixtures

The Champions League fixtures are must win. Twelve league points are available from away games at Arsenal, Everton and Palace and of course City at home. It’s a serious test for the squad and the club’s ambition. Emerge out of October flying and who knows what may happen.

It’s been 24 hours since Hector Moreno fractured Luke Shaw’s leg in two places. Shaw’s had surgery and remains in Holland recuperating. Most fans are still fuming. I know I am.  Moreno’s was either an extremely unfortunate and clumsy act at an intense moment for which he has subsequently apologized or: he did him.

UEFA plumped for an unfortunate accident.

United are said to be furious at Moreno’s MOM award which is determined by UEFA officials and website staff, but Howard Webb says in the Manchester Evening News the ref got it right.

Luke Shaw’s injury was awful and I wish him a speedy recovery. But I have got to say that the referee made the right decision on the night,” says Webb.

“Moreno stretches with his right leg, which plays the ball cleanly. His left leg makes some contact on the follow through, but it is always tucked away under him and not aimed towards Luke Shaw.

“Luke is unlucky in that he gets his studs caught and twists, which causes the injury, but on the night, I think the referee made the right decision.”

The injury obviously influenced and overshadowed United’s performance. But even in defeat the signs were there the team is progressing.  As straight talking Paul Scholes said:

Yet Shaw’s loss is enormous and now Van Gaal has to retool. I don’t know if playing Rojo as Smalling’s partner will work. Was it a coincidence that Darmian had his worst game in a United shirt on Wednesday? Blind looks out of place at left back and maybe the safest selection is Rojo at left back? Darmian, Smalling and Blind had developed an understanding, why disrupt it?

I also owe Memphis Depay an apology. I’ve been among his biggest critics so far, but his goal was terrific. The shift to take the ball between two defenders and then the finish was first rate. Now do it in the league!  Ruud Van Nistlerooy is also full of praise for Anthony Martial. In another Evening News story Van Nistlerooy suggests Martial and Rooney could be the striking combination the team has been searching for.

“Martial could be revelation. But on the other side is it really realistic to expect that from him? He hasn’t got a lot of experience but he has great quality.

“I didn’t know anything about Anthony but it could be one of those unexpected successes. But he needs time. He looks like he has a lot of quality but we will have to see how that develops.

“Hopefully for United he can be the one. He looks like the out and out striker that is needed.

So now for Southampton. Presumably Schnedierlin will play in place of Schweinsteiger who had another fine game Wednesday but may need a rest.

What’s impressed me is the way the club has handled this week’s adversity. No overblown public drama. The players rallying around Shaw and a reliance on the supporters and pundits to express outrage. Smart.