Archives For Memphis DePay

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.

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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 :).

 

 

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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.

 

 

GettyImages-512312020-1024x695The real FC Midtjylland turned up at Old Trafford and were duly despatched by a United mix of teenage prospects, reserves and senior pros on a night local boy Marcus Rashford will never forget, and Memphis DePay found a level of opposition he could dominate. Seventeen players are now on the injured list, but the deputies done well. Rashford 18,  and left back Joe Riley, 19, were both making their European debuts. Rashford, born and raised in Wythenshawe, has been tipped for great things for a couple of years and City, Chelsea and Arsenal have all tried to lure him away. Until this season he’s played as a second striker or in the “hole”,  but two finely taken goals demonstrated why United think his future is as a centre forward. He showed touch, tenacity and pace.

Simultaneously the much maligned Memphis – and I’ve maligned him more than most – had his best game as a United player. Two back heel nutmegs, some genuine effort and a terrific goal highlighted an all around night of fun and frivolity from the Rolls Royce driving Nani clone. Now let’s see if he can do the same against Arsenal’s Hector Bellerin on Sunday.

The Arsenal game looms as the final test in yet another dramatic week in Unitedom. Somehow Rashford’s exploits have probably pushed Van Gaal’s exit/sacking soap opera off the back pages tomorrow, but’s it’s been quite the week on Twitter, in the media,  and the forums. The guys behind the Red Issue forum put together their conspiracy theory as a Twitter timeline.

Skulduggery

It’s 23 slides of spectacular reading.

So now for Sunday and Arsenal and a very different test. Beating Shrewsbury and FC Midtjylland is one thing, but let’s remember Arsenal gave Barcelona a good run for their money this week. Realistically the United treatment room door has to open wide if there is to be any chance on Sunday. De Gea, Martial, Smalling,  all need to be fit. Rojo needs to start. Jones needs a mind meld with Lazarus.

Tonight was great and uplifting. It’s a big ask for Rashford and Riley to do as well again.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

For whatever reason United lurched out of the gate and Arsenal instantly showed why October is going to be a very difficult month. As Arsenal fizzed and sparkled, United were lethargic and ponderous.  The spectacular goals from Sanchez and Ozil, and an excellent display from Walcott underlined a terrific Arsenal performance, particularly after their mid-week Champions League loss to Olympiakos. United did improve slightly in the second half, but it was a very large dose of medicine.

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Post match Van Gaal summed up everyone’s feelings about a very bad day at the office:

“I didn’t expect that. I was surprised. Not performing our game plan. No will to win. I didn’t see that and when you were top of the league so I was surprised, amazed, maybe that is a better word.

When you give a team like Arsenal so much space to play football you know that you shall lose and we have prepared ourselves in that way to play more compact but don’t lose your aggression. So it was amazing for me. I was very disappointed.

I don’t know why it happened like that. I put that question at half time and also after the match. But it was also difficult for the players to answer because they are all in an emotional moment.

We lost in a way you shouldn’t when you are top of the league. You cannot start like we started and the players know that.

We were not slow we just didn’t have the aggression. Players like Schweinsteiger and Carrick have great positional feeling to play football but then still you need aggression and winning the second balls.

You have to do it not just with the two in midfield but like a team. You have to play compact. But you need aggression when you have a duel and Arsenal were more aggressive than Manchester.”

So what happens now? Most of the squad have left for international duty. Van Gaal and his staff will be at Carrington with no one to talk to but themselves, and the questions are piling up.

Can Schweinsteiger and Carrick start together as a defensive midfield paring?

Why not play Schneiderlin every game with one of them alongside?

Is Memphis/Depay a Manchester United player?.

How do you solve the full back headache?

Should Rooney be dropped?

One game shouldn’t send everyone running for the life boats. After all United are third on goal difference. If you want to see a crisis look at Chelsea, Liverpool or Sunderland. Rodgers and Advocaat gone, and knee jerk questions being asked about Mourinho’s survival. City’s hammering of Newcastle came after two league defeats on the trot.

However with Palace away and City at home on the horizon, not to mention the almost 4000 mile trip to CSK Moscow, there’s not a lot of time to go back to the drawing board. My guess is there will be significant changes for the game at Everton.

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.