Archives For Marcos Rojo

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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!

For a moment forget the Louis Van Gaal Louis Van Gone drama and his current war with the Press. Watching the FA Cup win at Derby once again underlined something wonderful and worth celebrating. The hard core, real Man United supporters. The people who travel to support.  Look at them:

No wonder the United players joined in at Liverpool.

Louis understands the bond and the responsibility the fans. It’s why he always signs autographs and why he’s never afraid to acknowledge they deserve to boo, or come up with signs like this.

Derby-County-v-Manchester-United-FA-Cup-Fourth-Round

At Derby the players listened. There’s no doubt they are playing for Van Gaal. We know the mix isn’t right, even though Rooney is returning to form and Martial delivered another performance illustrating why he’s going to be a superstar. But Van Gaal is correct when he says that mix can only be improved by the “process”. Meaning shrewd acquisitions, a commitment to youth, and forgetting the screaming headlines of doom and disaster.

The Manchester Evening News has four reporters covering United. The paper and those reporters obviously don’t have a relationship with the club anymore. It has succumbed to today’s demands. If United are big business how big is the media? The MEN and all the other outlets chase each other and the internet traffic that drives the simple equation: Eyeballs = ads, = revenue.

Then there’s us. The bloggers, the Twitterati, The Facebook pagers, and the commenters. Everybody has a megaphone. Look at a past few headlines on the United Rant.

Five Ways Louis Van Gaal can save his job

Louis Van Going: The replacements

Tactical Rant: Three issues behind United’s impotent attack

Full disclosure every time I link to the United Rant my traffic on this blog goes up. Some of you visit here after seeing a snippet there.

I can understand why Louis gets exasperated and hits back at the media. Who wouldn’t? Yes he earns a fortune and is answerable to the supporters. That’s a given. But with all of his experience you would think he would know better? As a friend texted this week:

Better to be like hound dog Pellegrini…who sends them to sleep and when they wake up they realize he’s said sod all.

 

The Press and us are lucky with Louis. He’s good value. He tells it like it is, even if he walks out.

Now for Stoke and Mark Hughes’ return. A big test for Borthwick-Jackson and possibly Varela. Stoke are physical, and in Artonauvic and Walters have forwards who can bully defenders. But Stoke were beaten today at Palace, and had a hard game Tuesday losing to Liverpool in the League Cup on penalties in extra time. Shawcross is out and United couldn’t be getting them at a better time.

Meanwhile no news on the transfer front. For me whether a player or players  are signed by Tuesday goes down to the wire. It’s not a question of need but availability.

 

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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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

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.