Wednesday, 23 November 2022

Manchester United break the internet on a seismic day

How very Manchester United. How very Manchester United to render even Lionel Messi and the FIFA World Cup as merely a footnote. 

Tuesday 22 November began with one of the greatest shocks in the history of football as the rank outsiders of Saudi Arabia stunned Messi and his mighty Argentina side - ranked third in the world and many people's tips to become world champions. La Albiceleste - Lisandro Martinez, Messi, Angel Di Maria et al, humbled by the small Arab nation whose football team sit outside the world's top 50. 

Yet by the time the nation went to sleep, that was not even the second biggest story of the day. First came the news we had perhaps all been expecting - CR7's departure from Old Trafford by mutual consent after his contract was terminated following his explosive interview with Piers Morgan. 

It simply had to happen but it's such a shame it had to end this way. A mutual parting of ways is best for both parties and the fact there was no money involved despite being entitled to a 17m pay off speaks volumes of the affection in which he holds United. Ronaldo had seven months left on his £500,000 a weak deal but had gone past the point of no return. For United to terminate a player's contract - never mind one of Ronaldo's stature and status - is unheard of. 

Despite the fact there was no other option, few would have seen this coming when Ronny re-signed for the Reds amidst an outpouring of excitement and adulation. The divorce was swift and amicable but the moral of the story? Never get back with your ex. I couldn't contain myself when it was announced the GOAT had come home but, looking back now, Ronnie's Return should never have been made into a sequel. 

I'll always be grateful for what Ronaldo did for this club - he left an indelible mark on United history which needs no embellishment. Ronaldo plundered 145 goals in 346 games for the Reds across two spells and spearheaded one of our greatest-ever sides to double-winning league and European glory in 2008. He is the best player I've ever seen live but that was then, this is now, and modern football waits for no man - not even when that man is Cristiano Ronaldo.

Yet the biggest bombshell had yet to drop. With the irresistible combination of the sport's biggest global megastar and the world's most headline-grabbing club dominating the media, an even more seismic story was gathering pace.

Shortly after 8pm, the first drip-feeding began. News of an announcement, coinciding with the close of trading at the NYSE, set pulses racing. Then came confirmation of the words we'd been waiting seventeen years for. The Glazers - United's parasitic penny-pinching owners - were exploring "strategic alternatives" including a full sale of the club. Let me just repeat that. I still cannot believe it, it feels like a dream, it feel like all my birthdays and Christmases have come at once. The Glazers are looking to sell. Toast it, laud it, drink it in. It's the first time since their controversial purchase of United the cancer have actively mentioned selling, and the first time the mainstream media have picked up on it to such an extent. Is this real? Am I dreaming? Someone will pinch me and tell me to wake up any minute now. 

I'm trying desperately not to get overexcited, to keep my emotions in check, but I write this with tears of joy in my eyes. It very much seems as though they have hung up the 'for sale sign around the decaying gates of Old Trafford at last. 

This is better than any trophy and any treble. This is bigger than anything United have done in the past or will do in the future. Of course, it doesn't necessarily mean the club definitely WILL be sold but it's the closest we've been to that glorious day at any point since the scum bought us in 2005. There certainly won't be any shortage of interest and there are already reports of numerous offers on the table. 

This has been in the offing for a while with the fanbase reaching boiling point over the ESL debacle, reports of kit sponsor TeamViewer withdrawing from the deal and declining on-pitch performance. 

Huge credit, too, must go to supporters groups The 1958 and M.U.ST, to name but two: superbly unstinting, passionate and effervescent in their fight to drive out the vermin. This news is a testament to their fantastic work in organising protests, attending focus groups, penning open letters and becoming synonymous figureheads in a seventeen-year battle to get their club - our club - back. A battle we're finally on the verge of winning. 

A wonderful, wonderful day in the history of Manchester  United. A day which surely marks the start of the end of the Glazers seventeen-year reign of terror at Old Trafford. A day seventeen years in the making. 

Tuesday, 15 November 2022

Cristiano Ronaldo is right but also oh so very wrong

Alejandro Garnacho smashed through the ceiling and catapulted himself into the national spotlight with his late heroics at Fulham.

The Monday morning papers should have been full of superlatives for the young Spanish-born Argentine, but it was a man almost 20 years his senior who - inevitably - grabbed the headlines.
Shortly after 10pm on Sunday, the internet broke and the world's collective jaws dropped to the floor. Cristiano Ronaldo, one of this club's greatest ever players and arguably the finest ever exponent of his craft, spoke. He spoke damningly and at length. Even his choice of interviewee was questionable, but what he said overshadowed everything which had gone before.
    
Yet here's the thing. You won't find a single Manchester United fan, myself included, who would disagree with 98% of what he said. We've been saying the facilities have been in urgent need of investment for years. Nothing has changed in 20 years whilst our rivals have modernised, upgraded and left us for dead. Old Trafford's leaking roof is a testament to that and the players are still using facilities they had during Ronaldo's first spell at the club back in the 00s. He feels the club has stagnated and has failed to move with the times, with the setup exactly the same as it was when he left. 
That is a concern - particularly when it comes to enticing new talent into the club - but doesn't come as a surprise. It is what we already knew. Old Trafford looks great on TV but in reality it's a run-down relic, pickled in aspic and has been allowed to fall into a state of disrepair. It's a shit hole and a damning indictment of the board's ineptitude. 

 His extraordinary attack on the club's running (or, more pertinently, lack thereof) carried enormous weight. Again, you can't argue with it. We've been saying the same for years - we know the Glazers don't give a s**t, we know they see United as a cash cow, an asset to bleed dry and not a global institution to take care of, to cherish and to protect. You'd like to think hearing all this from the mouth of the world's biggest global sports star will make them squirm. Then again, they are thick-skinned and oblivious to everything around.

If Ronaldo had left things at that, and if his words had helped to force the hated and much malinged Yanks to put the club up for sale, it would only embellish his legacy. We'd have loved him even more - he would be worthy of a statue and having a stand named after him. If he'd ended the interview there, the love and adoration for this man at our club would have lasted for eternity. 

But then again, nothing he said was new.  All of this has been blindingly obvious for years, so why he felt the need to say it is beyond me. Many pundits and former players have suggested both the timing and the tone of the interview - as the domestic season pauses for the World Cup -  is to make his position at United untenable and force through an exit in January. 

As refreshing as it was to hear someone of such stature call out the club's hierarchy for what they are, Ronaldo has made a huge and fatal error of judgement. His comments on Wayne Rooney and Reds manager Erik ten Hag has sent him past the point of no return. To accuse the club of 'betraying him' is very rich indeed coming from the man who failed to turn up to training, refused to come on as a sub, left the ground early twice, lied, and then felt the need to air his dirty linen in public. Oh, plus the fact he almost signed for Pep Guardiola and Manchester City.

This coming from the man who said he was 'a slave' the last time he was here. He cannot handle the fact he is no longer the main man. He could have said any of this at any point last season but he was in the team then, and scoring goals. He doesn't like the fact new talents such as Garnacho have taken centre stage and can't accept the fact his star is on the wane. Don't forget, too, ten Hag integrated him back into the side after his antic in the Tottenham game and made him captain against Aston Villa. 

It is a huge shame this will be the over-riding memory of his time at United. It is all anyone will ever remember which is some going considering this is a player with 145 goals in 346 games for us. A player who had surely the greatest season in modern times with his astonishing 42-goal haul in 2007-08 to inspire us to the double. Yet the memories of those wonderful times, those heady days with Ronaldo and the Reds at the summit of English football, have been eviscerated almost overnight with the damage he has done. The minute you publicly criticise your manager, there can be no way back. Ronaldo is done. He has surely played his last game for Manchester United. He is in breach of contract and has brought the club into disrepute. Despite everything that's happened, Ronaldo will always be held in high regard at Old Trafford: no one, probably least of all him, wanted things to end like this. 

Sunday, 13 November 2022

Match report: Fulham 1-2 Man Utd

United snatched a dramatic 93rd-minute winner through teenage substitute Alejandro Garnacho in the last Premier League game before the World Cup. 
As the domestic season takes an unprecedented hiatus as the tournament is played in Qatar, Marco Silva's plucky Cottagers suffered an agonising - and, in truth, undeserved, late loss for the second week in a row.

Denmark captain Christian Eriksen slid home his first United goal in the 14th minute before ex-Red Dan James stepped off the bench to equalise for a vibrant and impressive Fulham side. But just when a United old boy looked to have cost his former side victory, Garnacho - very much United's future - squeezed home his effort with the final kick of the game. Eriksen picked out the onrushing Argentine and he raced through to poke home across Bernd Leno and spark scenes of wild jubilation among the visiting fans, players and coaching staff. 

A draw would have been a fair result but the importance of this simply enormous victory cannot be underestimated as Erik ten Hag's side go into the break three adrift of fourth placed Tottenham, and four of place above Newcastle, with a game in hand on both. 
With Antony and Jadon Sancho both absent, Cristiano Ronaldo not in the squad and Diogo Dalot suspended, Anthony Elanga started on the right as Anthony Martial returned for only his second league start of the season. Tyrell Malacia was drafted in as a makeshift right-back in the absence of United's erstwhile ever-present Portuguese. In a boost for the Reds, Fulham dangerman and talismanic striker Aleksandar Mitrovic missed out through injury.

It was the Serbian's deputy, Brazilian forward Carlos Vinicius, who had the first effort of the contest. The ball was played into him by Premier League veteran and compatriot Willian only to see his shot saved by David de Gea.

Martial showed glimpses of his menace as he went close to putting the visitors ahead on 12 minutes. Luke Shaw and Marcus Rashford linked up down the left and the latter did well to tee up Martial, but ex-Arsenal keeper Leno tipped the ball wide with a good low save.

Fulham, who finally looked to have established themselves at this level after years of being the league's "yo-yo" club, failed to heed those warnings. Only a few minutes after that miss, United took the lead as Eriksen's first goal for the club capped off a superb quick sweeping team move. 

Casemiro's timely interception set the Reds rolling with Eriksen and Martial also involved. The ball found its way to Bruno Fernandes on the right and his cross was missed by the Fulham defence for Eriksen to steal in at the back post to slide home.

de Gea saved well from Harry Wilson but United should have put further distance between themselves and their hosts with two chances in quick succession before half-time.
Martial headed over from a Shaw cross when he should have done better, and Eriksen then flashed a shot narrowly wide after Fernandes had picked him out.

If United had dominated the first half, Silva's side came out swinging and the Reds needed their keeper to keep a resurgent Fulham at bay. The Spanish stopper - whose exclusion from the World Cup squad becomes more and more baffling by the week - saved superbly from Vinicius and then from a Tim Ream header.

Silva introduced the Welsh speedster to ask further questions of his former side as Fulham pushed for a leveller and, of course, it had to be him who got it. Only two minutes after his introduction, James darted between Victor Lindelof and Lisandro Martinez to meet Tom Cairney's ball in and turn home a deserved leveller.

de Gea tipped wide from the impressive Joao Palhinha before Erik ten Hag then summoned the wunderkid to inject life into United's struggling attack. The young Argentine instantly proved a threat as he linked superbly with Rashford and Fernandes for the latter to steer an effort off target on the stretch. United then had what looked a stonewall penalty not given when the substitute Garnacho went tumbling under the challenge of Bobby De Cordova - Reid. 

But just when it seemed as though United would fail to win on a weekend where all their closest table rivals did so, there was a late - very, very late - sting in the proverbial tail.

A neat one-two with Eriksen saw Garnacho's burst of pace beat the Fulham defenders to the ball and he hit his strike first time to squeeze the shot beyond Leno and snatch all three points right at the death.

Cue bedlam in the away end at the Cottage as United went into the break in a strong position to get into the top four and breathing down the necks of Tottenham and surprise package Newcastle.

Overall team performance: 6/10
United Faithful Man of the Match: Alejandro Garnacho. This kid is going to be something very special indeed. 


Friday, 11 November 2022

Fulham v Man Utd predicted XI: Malacia right-back, Martial starts

 Manchester United travel to west London to face surprise package Fulham in the final match before the World Cup for Erik ten Hag's side.
United will go into the break on the cusp of the top four and the match with Marco Silva's Cottagers leaves the Reds with only one side to face of everyone currently in the top half. 
Aston Villa ended our unbeaten run but we then exacted a modicum of revenge with victory over the Villains in the League Cup last time out. 

Who will play at right-back with Dalot suspended? 

Diogo Dalot is suspended for the trip to Craven Cottage so will not feature, and Anthony is also out as is Jadon Sancho. With that in mind, here is how we think the Reds will line up on Sunday.

GK - David de Gea

Was given a rare night off between the sticks on Thursday as debutant Martin Dubravka came in. But de Gea will return here against a Fulham side expected to be without star striker Aleksandr Mitrovic. Quite how this man has not been included in the Spain squad for Qatar is simply beyond me.

RB - Tyrell Malacia

This is the big call for ten Hag. Dalot has played every minute of every game, he needed a rest and will have one due to his fifth booking of the season at Villa. Aaron Wan - Bissaka has vanished into exile, so you get the feeling ten Hag would rather play either Victor Lindelof or Tyrell Malacia (a natural left-back) out of position to fill in. We think he will opt for the young Dutchman.

CB - Victor Lindelof

Malacia's moonlighting at right-back will see Lindelof line up in the centre in the continued absence of Raphael Varane. Lindelof has done OK since coming into the team and ten Hag prefers him over Harry Maguire so it seems likely the Iceman will get the nod. The afternoon will be easier for him without the threat of the dangerous Mitrovic. United cannot play a high-line counter press with Lindelof so we'll have to compromise. ten Hag could opt for Lindelof as a stand-in right-back which would see Harry Maguire come in. 

CB - Lisandro Martinez

Absolutely love this man! He has been a revelation and one of the signings of the season. Needed a rest and got one on Thursday in readiness for this one. The World Cup-bound Martinez, part of a mightily impressive Argentina side, has featured in every game for United since signing and hasn't missed a minute in the league. 

LB - Luke Shaw 

The only out-and-out left-back in England's World Cup squad, he is nailed on to start here with Malacia out on the right. Shaw's form has picked up again after a dip in form but we have to hope his mind is not already on the challenge awaiting him in Qatar. Will be up against ex-Gunners and Chelsea man Willian, still going strong at 34, so this won't be an easy ride for him. 

CM - Casemiro

Another to get a much-needed night off in the cup with an eye on Craven Cottage. The first name on ten Hag's team sheet and such an important player for this side. The difference between his partnership with Christian Eriksen and the incompatible McFred needs no embellishment. Surely the first five-time Champions League winner to grace the quaint and intimate surroundings of Fulham's riverside west London abode. 

CM - Christian Eriksen

United's 'double pivot' picks itself and after a breather against Villa, Eriksen will be back in from the start here. Made a difference off the bench on Thursday with his link play, vision, and passing between the lines. A key man for both United and potential World Cup dark horses Denmark, it has been a wonderful renaissance for the likeable string puller after his traumatic experience at the Euros. A brilliant signing and such a key play in ten Hag's system.

RW - Alejandro Garnacho

Antony and Jadon Sancho are still out of action through injury and illness respectively, and Anthony Elanga hasn't done enough to justify his inclusion. We've seen enough of Alejandro Garnacho to suggest he's going to be something very special, having caught the eye against Sociedad and Villa. Even in defeat at Villa Park, the young Argentine emerged with his reputation enhanced and deserves another go at things here. We would play on the right as Marcus Rashford is better on the opposite flank. It's time to unleash Garnacho on an unsuspecting Fulham side. 

CAM - Bruno Fernandes 

You don't know what you've got until its gone. The old adage couldn't have been more evident as United toiled in Fernandes absence at Villa. His creativity, industry and work rate is the glue in this United side and it's great to have him back here. For all the criticism he gets, he is this side's most influential player and starts when he's fit, simple as that. Fernandes has been shoehorned out wide to accommodate Donny van de Beek but that experiment ends here. 

LW - Marcus Rashford

Top scorer Rashford has eight goals this season, and his impressive form has been rewarded with a return to England duty. Named in the England squad, Rashford is at his best when cutting in and causing havoc from the left. With the return of Martial, expect a return to his more natural position after a spell playing down the middle. 

ST - Anthony Martial 

Six appearances, two starts, four goals. Martial marked his return to the team with a quickfire equaliser against Villa and got an hour under his belt before being withdrawn. That would suggest ten Hag was saving him with this game in mind. He is without question the best of our striking options and would be prolific if only he could stay fit and firing. Ronaldo is expected to be absent at Craven Cottage so Martial starts up top by default. Good to have him back... but for how long?

Prediction:

A difficult last game before the mid-season break for the World Cup. No Mitrovic, but United loanee Andreas Pereira will cause problems and this is another potential banana skin for ten Hag and his Reds.
Fulham have broken their trend as perennial Premier League strugglers and have already bloodied the noses of some of the league's leading lights. They've drawn with Liverpool and only lost 2-1 to the top two sides Arsenal and Man City. We think United will do enough... just. Fulham 0-1 United


Monday, 7 November 2022

Come in number 34 your time is up

No one can have been more delighted to see Erik ten Hag appointed at Old Trafford than Donny van de Beek.


Now in his third season in the English game, it still feel like van de Beek is yet to truly arrive - if he ever does. ten Hag was seen as van de Beek's best shot of a revival at Old Trafford. After all, United's current gaffer was the manager that helped put him on the map at Ajax. But his compatriot - van de Beek's fourth different United manager - has been just as baffled with how to solve a problem like Donny as his immediate predecessors. Sometimes despite the best efforts of all parties, the component parts are simply incompatible. 

That was the impression you got from watching the disparate Dutchman on Sunday at Villa. 

It was his second successive start and his first in the league for 701 days. It is surely his last. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was widely criticised for not giving van de Beek, a player he signed (but never really wanted), enough chances but he did. It's just van de Beek did nothing to justify his selection every time he played. With a stroke of delicious irony, perhaps his best performance in the Red of United came in the second half of the 4-1 defeat at Watford which brought about the end of Solskjaer's reign. Is it any wonder Solskjaer didn't believe in him despite numerous chances to prove his worth? 

van de Beek's no show inadvertently proved why Fernandes remains this side's most important player. Such is Fernandes' crucial role as string pulling architect-in-chief, almost everyone felt Christian Eriksen would move into the attacking tip of ten Hag's three man midfield system. The Danish playmaker has been used in a slightly more withdrawn role since his signing in the summer, but his natural attacking instincts and ability to make things happen seemed to suggest he was tailor-made for the number 10 role. 
It seemed obvious either Scott McTominay or the World-Cup bound Fred would fill Eriksen's void and slot in alongside Casemiro, not only offering an extra layer of 'beef' in midfield but also allowing Eriksen's star to shine. But ten Hag, despite van de Beek's anonymity in San Sebastien, again stuck with him. He surely cannot persist with him any more. 

Whilst it's true none of the team covered themselves in glory on a bad day at the office in the Midlands, van de Beek's struggles were the most noticeable. Quite how he lasted 65 minutes before being hooked again is beyond me. The first time you noticed him was when the number 34 flashed up on the electronic substitutes board, signalling his imminent departure. He managed only 18 touches in the game and proved more of a hindrance than a help. You had to feel for him a bit as he trotted off, head bowed, after another afternoon in anonymity. 

He looks completely and utterly lost in the Red of United - all at sea, out of place and completely incompatible with the stresses and the strains of our 100mph English game. 

 If even ten Hag, the man who literally invented Donny van de Beek, cannot spark him into life, then it is surely the end of the road for the player. Sometimes, a player can look the business in Europe but then come here and just not 'be it'. van de Beek epitomises that. He is simply not good enough for the Premier League and four different managers can't be wrong. Five if you include Frank Lampard when the player spent half of last season on loan at Everton. 

Of course, he has not long returned from injury and only started at Villa Park by default. But his United career has failed to live up to expectations for far too long, meaning there is a growing belief both the club and van de Beek might have to accept it just hasn't worked out. Relative to expectations, he surely has to be one of the worst players I've seen in a United shirt. 

I don't want to make this sound like a personal vendetta or an attack against the player, but I just do not see what he does, or what he is supposed to be. Is he ten? A six? An attacking player, or a box-to-box playmaker? There is simply no identity - baffling for someone signed from a club synonymous for exactly that. 

It's time to amicably part ways and move the player on in January. Come in, number 34, your time is up. 

Match report: Aston Villa 3-1 Man Utd

Manchester United felt the full force of Unai Emery's impact as struggling Villa ignited their season with a deserved win over an off-colour Reds side.

Erik ten Hag's depleted team slipped to a first defeat in nine games as Emery - in his first game in charge of the west Midlanders - guided his new side to an impressive victory. Leon Bailey fired in an early opener and Lucas Digne's free-kick saw United go 2-0 down before we had even had a chance to draw breath.

Luke Shaw's deflected effort gave the side hope but Jacob Ramsey extinguished any chance of a fightback with an early second half strike.
United were without several key players including the injured Raphael Varane and Antony, with Bruno Fernandes suspended and Jadon Sancho also sidelined. Anthony Martial was fit enough for the bench. Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, Cristiano Ronaldo was handed the captain's armband.

Villa, to their credit, caught United napping and went ahead after only seven minutes when the eye-catching Ramsey dispossessed Victor Lindelof and held off Lisandro Martinez to play in the onrushing Bailey, and he fired in low beyond the stranded David de Gea.
With the white-clad Reds (you know what we mean) still reeling with that shock to the system, things got worse four minutes further on when Ramsey was scythed down and Digne's superbly struck set piece left de Gea with no chance after referee Antony Taylor moved the United wall back too far.

United belatedly sparked into life and finally began to press, pass and make life difficult for Villa. Alejandro Garnacho, on his first Premier League start, forced a save from compatriot Emiliano Martinez having been played in by Christian Eriksen. 
Ronaldo went close with a header and Casemiro shot wide before an improved United side got the goal their pressure deserved, albeit with a huge slice of luck thrown in. Luke Shaw's speculative shot from distance looked to be sailing harmlessly wide until it struck Ramsey and looped up over the motionless Martinez.

At that stage, on the cusp of half-time and with United in the ascendancy, you would have got good money on ten Hag's men mounting a recovery.
The next goal was crucial and it was Villa who got it with United hit quickly just as they were from kick-off.
Bailey skipped past Martinez and stung the palms of De Gea but - three minutes later - Ollie Watkins burst clear of Lindelof and cut the ball back for Ramsey to slam the ball into the corner first time.

Both Tyrone Mings and stand-in skipper Ronaldo were booked after a tussle in the penalty area and the Reds had optimistic claims for a penalty waved away when the Villa keeper Martinez clashed with substitute Anthony Elanga.

United's best opening after the interval fell the way of right-back Diogo Dalot. Casemiro found the Portuguese player, who sprinted through, but he opted to cross instead of having a shot. The ball fizzed beyond every United player and Villa cleared their lines.

Martial was introduced with 25 minutes to go but Emery put the squeeze on ten Hag's men as Bailey and Ramsey dropped back to force United through the middle and snuff us out.
They did so successfully as United frustratingly ran out of ideas. Dalot picked up a booking - his fifth of the season - which means he will miss the next league game at Fulham (although it does allow Dalot a long overdue rest). 

So United's unbeaten run is over but let's hope this was just a blip, a bad day at the office, 

Overall team performance: 5/10
United Faithful Man of the Match: Casemiro. At times, a one man midfield. 

Wednesday, 2 November 2022

Ill-informed Graeme Souness needs to read, watch and learn the game


 Ahead of United's match against West Ham at the weekend, the Red Army were pictured in Manchester with a banner which had no words but said it all. 
Emblazoned with the light blue and white of Argentina and a butcher's knife positioned in the middle, the flag paid homage to Lisandro Martinez - United's new recruit who has become a cult hero at Old Trafford almost overnight. I can't remember a player becoming so popular so quickly. 
Nicknamed 'The Butcher of Amsterdam' during his spell in the Netherlands with the Dutch giants of Ajax, Martinez has only been in Manchester for three months but has already captured our hearts thanks to his passionate, no nonsense, determined and aggressive performances at the heart of defence. 
Martinez has been outstanding, a revelation, and the early favourite for United's Player of the Year award since his move from Ajax in the summer to become one of the finest exponents of his craft in the English game. Name me a better centre back in the Premier League right now? I'll wait.

Erik ten Hag wanted to sign characters as well as quality, and in Martinez he has both. Martinez - small in size but mighty in stature - is the type of personality a disparate dressing room desperately needed but he's also delivered on the pitch in a position which we needed to strengthen.

There were doubts about Martinez's height, despite the fact World Cup winning Fabio Cannavaro, one of the best centre backs of all time, also stands at 5ft 9. The great Italian proved whilst height is a useful attribute for a defender, it is not a pre-requisite for defensive prowess par excellence. Even before his United debut against Brighton on the opening day, the barrage of questions and criticism from pundits and rival fans alike had written Martinez off as a failure even before he'd begun. Yet Martinez has responded in spectacular style to leave those naysayers in the dust with lots of eggs on lots of faces.

Whilst it is too early to say he has been a 'successful' signing (you need to give him a least a season before passing judgement), he has already made a major impact during his time at the club and ten Hag could do with more players like him in the future. He reminds me a bit of Nemanja Vidic for his aggression, passion and willingness to stick his head in where it hurts. 

Martinez is a brilliant one one one defender, his ability to read the game is top class and he's genuinely world class when it comes to his ball carrying and distribution from the back. 
He's effectively a midfielder playing at the heart of the defence, he brings us something different and we've not had a centre-back this good on the ball since the days of Rio Ferdinand. His dynamic range of passing and ability to break the lines from deep in orchestrating attacks has been integral to ten Hag's possession-based, high-pressing style and have added a different dimension to an evolving and improving United side.

All this and you can see why Graeme Souness's comments this week were simply baffling and make no sense. Instead of admitting he was wrong and giving credit where it's due, oh no we can't do that now can we, as he's been told to be controversial and make comments surely even he does not believe. Souness was one of the pundits who was very quick to write Martinez off when he said someone under 6ft could not hope to do well in the physically demanding environment of the English top flight. Martinez has made him look like a right prat in that regard (which admittedly isn't hard to do) but, remarkably, it was not the worst of what he said.

Souness suggested Martinez has done little to prove him wrong and apparently he isn't "very good on the ball." Has Souness even watched Martinez and United this season at all? Does Graeme Souness have a pair of eyes? Of course he's entitled to his opinion, but he really should read, watch and think before he speaks nonsense in front of millions on national radio. The man hasn't got a Scooby. Pundits are paid very handsomely to inform, to educate, and to do even basic research to justify the position they are in. It makes you wonder whether Souness was told to say it just to give his particular media platform views and clicks, as surely even he cannot be that ill-informed. Having a different view is fine, but not when it's completely ridiculous and he's only said it to justify himself. Pinging a 60-yard diagonal pass from centre-back to the right wing isn't good on the ball apparently. 

It makes you wonder whether he was told to say exactly the opposite of everyone else. Martinez is absolutely elite with the ball at his feet - his passing and his distribution is his best asset so what more does Souness want? He simply cannot have watched him play for us or, if he has, has been watching something completely at odds with the rest of us. Even Stevie Wonder can see our no.6 is one of the best ball playing centre backs in the land. 

Souness needs to do better, apologise to Martinez, admit he was wrong and give credit where it is due for once. If he is the best the UK has to offer, then the punditry industry is in a far worse state than
I thought.