Archives For Phil Jones

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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.

 

4738447My very good friend Steve and his son James, a David De Gea bonkers 10 year old, are season ticket holders at Old Trafford. Steve who’s an avid reader of this blog sent this e mail today:

Was a great win yesterday from an awful team, two Liverpool fans at my work said I must be embarrassed by the result and performance yesterday, I just smiled at them shook my head and said yes doesn’t it feel great !!

Still not convinced by LVG and his boring football, honestly its dire going to old Trafford, I kept telling James it didn’t used to be like this but think it may last for a while yet

Says it all really.  A father worries about his son and most of all wants to share those magical weekend moments they can relive forever. This is their third year of season tickets. James’ memories are Moyes and Van Gaal football, and the rebuilding job. Poor lad. His Grandma says he’s a built in noisemaker in the house. Can you imagine how loud he would get if United woke up and wowed Old Trafford?

To be honest the mailbox lit up since Rooney’s net bulger. Another email said:

Sack em all.

I was hoping they would lose the next three matches to provoke a real crisis, rather than limp along like this. Then Van Gaal and maybe even Woodward would go, and maybe, just maybe the Glazers would sell.

 

Serious even heretical stuff. But let’s face it there’s no chance of the Glazers selling or even Woodward getting the sack while Adidas, Chevrolet, DHL, Aeroflot, Aon, and the legions of fast food, beer, wine, noodles, paint, diesel engines and medical equipment sponsors hand over the billions to the brand. In the meantime maybe we should get T shirts made? Brand On The Run.

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Steve, James and the rest of us will just have to wait while hopefully that sponsorship money is translated to success on the field. As argued here loud and often, the problem with that is great players want to win the Champions League; the soon to be great players are hard to identify (see Memphis DePay); and the could be great players are coveted by their clubs – see Harry Kane.

With Adidas’s help United could land a biggie this summer, but is a biggie like Bale or Reus or Muller enough? And what about John Stones? Can United get him if Barcelona are interested? Then there’s the Mt.Everest of “what ifs”. What happens if they are 5th and don’t win the Europa Cup? No biggie for Ed, Louis, the sponsors and most of all us – that’s what.

Sunday’s game highlighted one fallen superpower who can’t buy it’s way back. Let’s hope there weren’t two on the pitch.

The clock is now ticking on an impossible mid-season transfer window. I’ve argued for months that Van Gaal deserves time. I’m sticking with that conviction. It’s not his fault he can’t truly let the players off the leash. He hasn’t got the players.

Couple of last thoughts. There’s another blast about Rooney in the United Rant today. Obviously he will never have the burst or be the same player again. He’s had 14 seasons of being kicked. But he’s still scored 5 in 4 games and you would not want that chance on Sunday, in that position, falling to any other player.

And finally brilliant stuff from Carrick, Jones and Rojo to go in with the crowd. Just brilliant.

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.