Thursday, 23 January 2020

Build a bonfire, build a bonfire, put the Glazers on the top...

Put Ed Woodward in the middle and we're burn the f*****g lot!

As United's season hit its nadir with the home defeat to Burnley, the unrest was clear. The reworking of the chant usually reserved for our nearest and dearest from across the city and 'up the road' took on a new twist.
Perched high up in the post seats, Ed Woodward couldn't have failed to hear it. Neither could the Glazers, no doubt counting their millions and checking United's financial state of affairs on a far flung American ranch in the middle of Nowheresville. For all the talk of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's future, there was no doubt where the anger was pointed at. This was the first game we have seen the United faith stand in unison and as one against the Glazers and Woodward as a collective. The vitriolic chants aimed at the club's hierarchy were borne out of years of negligence and shameful ineptitude. The club is carrying a gorilla on our backs and it leaves us wondering when - or maybe if - football's greatest name will return to former glories.
Woodward's epiphany spelled out where the priorities lie in one of his bizarre "investment calls".
"Playing performance doesn't have a meaningful impact on the commercial side of the business." No other company so obsessed by money and profits would keep such a hapless operator in charge of all its affairs. How a man with no footballing knowledge at all continues to be allowed to make all the major football decisions at the club only shows the level of incompetence.

After months, no - years - of anti-Glazers apathy, this was the night when tensions spilled over in the stands. The tremors became an eruption as the owners, even in absentia, felt the full force of our fury. The pent up frustration, the hatred and the repulsion at these clowns, these vile pieces of s**t masquerading as football club owners finally hit boiling point. Old Trafford was virtually empty by full-time. Damning, but also encouraging as that will hit them where it hurts the most - their pockets. It's a catch 22 situation as the team needs our support but empty seats means empty coffers and that can only be a positive in this campaign to get them out. It only went to underline the depth of feeling.

 It won't make a jote of difference - if the "Green and Gold until its sold" campaign didn't get these cancerous, poisonous, penny pinching puppets out of our club, then neither will a few dissenting voices from the terraces. But it makes you feel better and opens the eyes of outsiders as to where the real problems lie. Yes, Solskjaer is struggling, but he's being made to do so. I don't think he's the man for this job, its too big for him but the cancer have set him up to fail. They've rendered an an already difficult task almost impossible. Another United manager - the fourth in succession - let down by his board.
He's not David Moyes, Louis van Gaal or Jose Mourinho - a hired hand, an outsider, a foreigner with no connection to the club. The Norwegian, the hero of the Camp Nou in 1999, is all but impeachable even if the football is lumpen, the decisions baffling and there's no discernible style. All this has exposed an unsuitability for top level management, but its not his fault. And so it goes back to Woodward - no longer the manager's human shield, no longer the man lurking in the shadows out of harm's way. The man was paid 4.2million last year and for what?

While views about Solskjaer as a manager are mixed at best, the majority of fans believe our club's problems go much deeper. There's anger at a combination of what we perceive to be a lack of investment, huge amounts of money exiting the club in share dividends (with not a penny put in) and finance payments, and poor recruitment.
For that, we hold this board - who bought the club in controversial circumstances in 2005 - and Woodward, effectively United's chief executive since the exit of David Gill in 2013, responsible, which is why they are being singled out for criticism.
United's net spend this year was a shade over 60m. One of the richest clubs in the world in need of rebuilding spending three quarters of Harry Maguire's transfer fee on a rebuild. Woodward's seven year reign of terror has seen the club invest approximately a billion on transfers but yet here we are with dogshit squad that's as thin as paper. It's staggering how bereft this hierarchy have left him - you can't legislate for injuries but everyone knew we needed another midfielder and we still haven't replaced Romelu Lukaku.
Whilst Solskjaer retains the backing of the hierarchy in the wake of the Burnley defeat, the pressure is mounting and he will eventually be the latest fall guy in the Glazers reign of terror.

Match report: Man Utd 0-2 Burnley

United's season hit a new low as Burnley deservedly claimed their first ever win at Old Trafford on a night of toxicity.

The Clarets took the lead shortly before half-time when Chris Wood spun Harry Maguire to meet a Ben Mee knockdown and smash in from six yards.
Jay Rodriguez doubled the visitors lead when he played a one-two with Wood and slammed a dipping effort beyond David de Gea from distance.

It was the third season in a row that Burnley had taken a 2-0 lead at Old Trafford but the first time they secured all three points. To say they had to hang on would be doing Dyche's men a bold disservice. They were comfortable, compact, superbly well organised and never looked troubled for their first victory at OT for 57 (FIFTY SEVEN) years.
United - bereft of the injured Marcus Rashford - were lacklustre for long periods and barely threatened Nick Pope in the Burnley goal. Substitute Luke Shaw thought he had set up a frantic finale but his header was ruled out by VAR for a push on Jeff Hendrick.
By then, thousands had left Old Trafford in their droves and the stadium was virtually empty by the time referee Jonathan Moss had blown for full-time. It was a night when the anti-Glazer movement stepped up a gear but that failed to mask the plethora of shortcomings for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side.

Aaron Wan - Bissaka proved United's most impressive performer as he turned in his most impressive attacking 45 minutes in Red.
A trio of searching crosses almost provided the opener but Dan James, Juan Mata and Anthony Martial respectively were unable to find the breakthrough. Martial continued to deputise for United's stricken leading scorer but looked short of confidence and fitness as he toiled in vain.

Nemanja Matic also set up the Frenchman but he snatched at the opening and Burnley left-back Taylor managed to rescue the situation with an excellent lunging tackle.
Wood went close with a header but we failed to heed those warnings as Burnley moved ahead with their next attack.

Phil Jones, in for the ill Victor Lindelof, gave away a free-kick and the set piece was lumped forward into Mee, who flicked on for Wood to lash home despite the attentions of Maguire.
Before the Reds could draw breath after half-time, it was 0-2. If the first goal was a typical Burnley one, the second one was out of character with Dyche's obdurate and awkward Clarets.
A swift, smart passing move cut United open and Rodriguez stunned Old Trafford into silence with a stunning left-footed strike that flashed high beyond De Gea who had no chance.
James went just wide and Juan Mata then should have done better with a free-kick but the in-form playmaker was off target as he put it over the bar.
Pope blocked from Martial and Greenwood flashed a shot wide, but the visitors did what they do best and mopped, blocked and stopped everything that came their way.

Shaw's 89th minute header looked to have started a dramatic late fightback but a bleak night was summed up when it was ruled out.

Overall team performance: 4/10
United Faithful Man of the Match: Aaron Wan - Bissaka

Wednesday, 22 January 2020

Seven years of ineptitude epitomised by United's night of shame

How low can you go? Of all the peaks and troughs, all the trials and tribulations and all the false dawns, this has to be up there as the nadir. Burnley, the unfashionable east Lancashire club coached brilliantly by their ginger, gravel voiced and under-rated manager Sean Dyche, came to Old Trafford and won for the first time in 57 years. Make no mistake, they fulled deserved it too. The worst thing about this result? It didn't come as a shock.

For the fourth season in a row, they arrived at United and took a 2-0 lead. This time, though, there was to be no fightback. As the anti-Glazer movement finally took hold, it did little to mask the ineptitude on the pitch. The resilience and defiance of a sparsely populated Old Trafford warmed the heart, but United toiled to the point of exhaustion. Just the club, the players had nothing left to give. Run into the ground. The effort and commitment again could not be faulted, but there was just no creativity or quality. I wonder if there's a player in Portugal we could get to solve that? It's 2020 and yet Phil Jones continues to ply his trade as a Manchester United player. That, more than anything, summed everything up.

The Glazers, United's awful, dollar obsessed owners have run the club into the ground to such an extent they should be up on negligence charges. A stadium not fit for purpose, the worst United squad I've ever seen, an awful coaching staff and an inept, penny pinching, power crazy, puffed up piece of shit as a CEO. It's all on them. They've dug a grave and we've fallen into it, unable to climb out.
 Ed Woodward has been in his role for seven years and it has been a reign of terror. Three signings in as many transfer windows whilst eight players have gone in the same timeframe. A small fortune invested - through the club's money - yet here we are left with a dogshit squad lacking just as much in quality as it is in quantity. A billion taken out of the club yet not a single penny put back in. How can a man with no football knowledge continue to be responsible for all the big football decisions. He didn't get a director of football because it would cost too much and he didn't want to relinquish control. He remains the apple of his bosses eyes because of his ability in the financial world. Just yesterday it was announced share prices have gone up. Woodward is the safest man at the club yet should be out the door.

The stadium's empty, fans are showing vocal displeasure towards players, manager and the board, and results are at a 30 year low. There's only one way this club is going and no one's being held accountable for the mess.  We desperately need signings with our midfield and attack non existent yet it takes an age to complete any transfer deals - if they're ever completed at all. Yet the first sniff of a commercial deal to be had and it's done within hours. Of course, I totally understand that there has to be a business side to any football club, but when you put profits first there will always be trouble. But what's a business if you don't make a profit. Surely its more sustainable to get the team winning and make your millions that way. The Glazers culture is all about the interests of investors not fans, and we need players that are tougher - physically and mentally. Fans are starting to vote with their feet as thousands stayed away and loads more left before the final whistle. No amount of apathy could cover for the plethora of shortcomings. I feel like I've been like a broken record saying all this, stuck on repeat for years. My anger towards these clowns in the boardroom needs no embellishment.

The Romelu Lukaku money? Been used to keep the cashflow going and service the crippling debt they put us into. Of course it has. This was a night when all of that finally came home to roost. A night when those seven soporific years were illuminated as brightly as the Old Trafford floodlights. The outside world finally began to realise that the issues permeating through the corridors of power do not lie squarely on the shoulders of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Of course as the manager he has to carry some of the can but he should resign and admit that he's in an impossible position. He's incredibly naive, has no clear philosophy and got tactically outmanoeuvred by his opposite number. Mike Phelan's a dinosaur, Michael Carrick's not a coach and the other bloke had a bit of time at Tottenham. But the problems are far, far deeper than that. Changing the manager would simply be like re-arranging the deckchairs on the Titanic.

You could bring in Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola as joint managers and they'd fail. No manager in world football - indeed, not even the good Lord himself -  could make a success of this under this poisonous, toxic, cancerous boardroom regime. Just ask Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho.

Tuesday, 21 January 2020

United should swoop for striker amidst injury crisis

It never rains but it pours. Already hit by the twin injury blows of Scott McTominay and Paul Pogba, United were hit by the news that Marcus Rashford faces up to six weeks out.
Our talismanic figurehead and top scorer will be sidelined until April with a stress fracture in his back that he sustained against Wolves in the FA Cup.
It's clear that he's been carrying an injury for a while now and has been overplayed, but a small squad and his importance to us has meant that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had to play him.

I saw Solskjaer coming in for criticism for risking Rashford in the replayed tie, but he'd have been in the firing line if he HADN'T played him and we'd got knocked out. We needed a goal in a tight game so it made sense to put him on. Injuries happen and you can't legislate when something like this happens.

United's owners, the dreadful, dollar-obsessed Glazers, need to look at themselves. Its their failure to deepen a wafer-thin squad and our addiction to one man - Rashford - that epitomises our abhorrent recruitment policy.

A player knowingly playing with a problem, Rashford willingly tore into December. On the first of the month, he played against Aston Villa. Three days later, he completed another full 90 against Spurs. Another few days further on, he played in the win over City, and on and on he went. Given a brief respite from the sanctuary of the bench for the AZ Alkmaar game, he continued to feature against Everton (90 minutes), Colchester three days later (62 minutes), 90 minutes in the pre-Christmas defeat to Watford, 66 minutes on Boxing Day vs Newcastle, and a draining full match against Burnley 48 hours later. Evidently feeling pain, Rashford continued to ply his trade during United's frantic festive schedule. Eight games in 23 days, 11 hours and five minutes out of a possible 13 1/2 hours. To January, and he featured against Arsenal, as a sub against Wolves, 90 minutes in the League Cup semi final with City and his 200th appearance for the club vs Norwich. Solskjaer had a chance to rest him for the Colchester cup tie but it shows his indispensable Rashford has become that he chose to use him against the fourth tier side. He'd played continuously non stop for three successive seasons, along with England friendlies and two major tournaments - World Cup and Euros. All while having a stress fracture in his back and a floating bone in his ankle. Inevitably, he broke. If anyone worked non stop as much as Rashford has, they would be broken and run into the ground too.

It leaves 18-year-old Mason Greenwood as our only out and out striker. Greenwood is only a baby and is at risk of burnout if he comes into the team week in week out to replace Rashford.

 Anthony Martial isn't a natural number nine and he too has played a lot of football. With the January transfer window still open, the Reds should get a striker in - even if only on loan - until the end of the season. PSG wantaway Edinson Cavani would be my choice. Although he's 33, he's proven, he's experienced, he knows where the net is and, importantly for the powers that be, he'd be cheap.

The Uruguay international clearly wants to leave. Its a no brainer surely? Not only would it alleviate pressure on Greenwood and Tony M, but the young players would learn from him and it would take us through to the end of the season with a reputable out and out hitman whilst Rashford recovers.

Your move, Ed Woodward...

Monday, 20 January 2020

Match report: Liverpool 2-0 Manchester United

United were beaten but certainly not outclassed as Liverpool scored early and late to clinch victory at Anfield.
Jurgen Klopp's side took another step towards their first ever Premier League title as Virgil van Dijk's header and Mo Salah's breakaway second sealed the points against a United side bereft of our two most influential players - Scotty McSauce and Marcus Rashford.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side rallied and can count themselves unfortunate not to emerge with a point with Liverpool hanging on in the closing stages as United dominated most of the second half. The team will look back on Anthony Martial's gilt-edged second chance opening and two good saves from keeper Alisson Becker. The fact that Liverpool are the best team and yet only put the result beyond doubt with the last kick of the match will offer Solskjaer and the Reds a huge dose of encouragement.

Chelsea's last gasp defeat to Newcastle on Saturday means United remain in touch with the Champions League positions, five points behind, but our own inconsistency and Rashford's six-week absence with a stress fracture points to an uphill struggle in that regard.
Solskjaer sprung a surprise by setting United up in a 3-5-2 system with Luke Shaw in a back three and Aaron Wan - Bissaka and Brandon Williams as wing-backs. The first chance of the game fell to the league leaders when Sadio Mane met Trent Alexander - Arnold's free kick, but the Senegalese's header drifted wide.

Yet Liverpool had more joy from another header five minutes further on. Van Dijk connected with another Alexander - Arnold set piece to get above Brandon Williams and power home beyond the stranded David de Gea.
Luke Shaw's last ditch tackle snuffed out the lurking Mane, and Liverpool then had another goal disallowed when Roberto Firmino thought he'd doubled the lead only for VAR to correctly judge that there had been a foul on De Gea by Van Dijk. Replays showed that our keeper was clearly impeded by the swinging arm of the giant Dutchman.

Gini Wijnaldum had a further effort chalked out, this time for offside, but United grew into the game and began to push Liverpool back.
Anthony Martial put the ball just wide with a curler, before Andreas Pereira came within inches of turning home a Wan - Bissaka cross.
Alisson saved well as United's number 15 tried his luck from distance, before Mane had a half chance on the turn at the other end.
After the interval, the hosts again started well as they looked for the second goal to kill off the tie. Firmino went close and Jordan Henderson rattled the upright with a piledriver with his effort pushed onto the post by a full stretch De Gea.

Alex Oxlade - Chamberlain fired just wide and Fred also went close at the other end before the turning point of the tie.
United worked the ball superbly to Martial - via Fred and Pereira - and the Frenchman burst into the box. With only Alisson to beat, though, he couldn't keep the ball down and blasted over from close range.

Martial and the immense Fred again tested the keeper, just after Mane cut in and flashed just wide from inside the box.
With the game still in the balance and a far from impressive Liverpool there for the taking, Solskjaer threw on Juan Mata and Mason Greenwood as the Reds manager went for it.
It almost proved an inspired change as the teenage striker came within inches of turning home a wicked Martial cross. Mata was denied by Alisson and Fred had a shot blocked, with the champions elect clinging to their one goal advantage.

United's growing threat was clear as Klopp took off his centre forward Firmino and replaced him with the defensive abilities of Fabinho.
United continued to throw men forward but to no avail as, from our own corner, Alisson thumped long and Salah shrugged off the attentions of the backpedalling Dan James to place the ball under the advancing De Gea.

Overall team performance: 7/10
Man of the Match: Fred. Immense. The best player on the pitch by a distance.

Saturday, 18 January 2020

My lifelong love affair with Manchester United

Manchester United. A name defined by its storied history, synonymous with the highest of standards and elevated by legendary exponents of the famous red and white like Best, Law, Charlton and Cantona et al. A club united by tragedy just as much as triumph. Revered, reviled and with an estimated 650 million fans at its mercy week it week out, Manchester United is a palatial, global, grandiose monster.

I’m not from Manchester. I am, in fact, a Southerner and proud of it. “Why do you support United” “Why do you care so much about a club at the other end of the country.” “Just another glory hunter.” I get this so much I’ve become immune to it. It used to annoy me, now I just laugh. It’s the norm, but no matter how much you try to explain, it always falls on deaf ears. Everyone has their own reason for supporting their club, and what difference does it makes where you’re from?

I was first introduced to United as a six year old and knew nothing about everything. A six year old doesn’t know what a bandwagon – never mind a glory hunter – is. My first tentative affinity with the club that would become my lifelong passion came in a season that saw us miss out on the league title to Arsenal. Surely, if the narrative of the glory hunter holds sway, that would mean I’m now a Gunner (shudder!).
As so many things do, it happened by accident. I was introduced to United by my family. My late uncle, now sadly no longer with us (he passed away two days after we won the EFL Cup in 2017) was a Stretford End Red for the best part of 20 years. A born and bred Lancastrian and dyed-in-the-wool Red, had a spare ticket after his work colleague couldn’t make it one Christmas in 1996. On a family holiday and eager for a new adventure, I obliged to go with him to Old Trafford and the seeds were sown.
They say you never forget your first time, and that was certainly the case for me. Holding my uncle tentatively by the hand, I remember the feeling of climbing up those steps as Old Trafford opened out before me. There were no words to describe the place. Even then, as a naive, innocent, unknowing boy, the place gripped me. There was to be no going back. The sight of the tiered seating, the sounds, the smell, the atmosphere, the feeling that this was a place where something special happens. From that moment on, Manchester United became my club.
I don’t remember much about the game  – I’m told we won 4-0 – apart from the lad in the number 7 shirt with the bleach blonde hair patrolling United’s right wing. If I had any more reason to know where my loyalties would lie, he was it. Some young tyro by the name of David Beckham. Whatever happened to him? Watching him hit pinpoint pass after pinpoint pass on to the head of whoever United’s striker happened to be was a thrill. It always amazed me how he managed to hit his intended target every time.

Growing up as a football mad lad in England in the early 90s, it was impossible to ignore the influence Becks had on you. Everyone resonated with him, everyone wanted to be him in the playground games of seven a side. You would model your hair on him. For me, he was the epitome of Man United. The working class boy from a London council estate of underprivileged background, he did things with a football I never even thought possible. It was thanks to him, and the influence of my uncle – whether by co-incidence or design – that I caught the bug that is United.
When the time came for Beckham to leave Old Trafford for pastures new, it marked the only time I’ve ever cried over something to do with the Reds. Now 12, I was beginning to understand the world around me but I felt as if that world had collapsed when I read the news of my hero’s departure. I couldn’t for the life of me work out why anyone would ever want to leave United. I had thought Beckham would be there for as long as his body, and the club, allowed.
Little did I know that, in fact, it marked the start of a bold new era for the club, emblazoned by Beckham’s replacement, a brash, brazen and braided teenage tyro by the name of Cristiano Ronaldo. Life would never quite be the same again but at least we had a player to do the number championed by Beckham proud.

David Bowie once sung about changes, and more than a decade on, times are bleaker. We’ve got no Beckham-esque cult hero and the glory days that Becks and co were so synonymous with are but a distant memory. But that doesn’t diminish the fire, it’s for the love, not the glory. That word again. You see, I never chose Manchester United, I always think that they chose me.

Man Utd face the most daunting challenge in world football against Liverpool

Just how do you solve a problem like Liverpool? When Manchester United emerge into the Anfield cauldron in just over 24 hours time, they face the most daunting challenge in world football.
There cannot be a more difficult place to visit right now than L4 0TH, and I've never felt less confident going there than I do this time.

A team that haven't been beaten at home by anyone for two months shy of three years sit top of the Premier League by a country mile, 14 points clear of Pep Guardiola's back-to-back title winners. The numbers for Jurgen Klopp's side are frightening. 20 wins from 21 league games, 50 goals scored and only 14 conceded. The reigning European and World champions look on course for their first ever Premier League title - their first league title win for 30 years - an unstoppable juggernaut that have swept all before them this season. Oh, and they're unbeaten in 38 league games - the equivalent of an invincible season - across the last two campaigns. Even United during our most dominant days never saw anything like this.

Surely its merely a case of when, rather than if, they win it. Even our jointly held record of the earliest Premier League title win could be under threat. Saturday marks 1,000 days since the team last lost at home in the league, at the hands of Crystal Palace and former striker Christian Benteke in a
1-2 reverse on 23rd April 2017. One.Thousand.Days.

The only team to take points off them so far? Well, that would be us. But that came at Old Trafford and we had a full-strength team for the 1-1 draw in October. We were five minutes away from victory, only for substitute Adam Lallana to salvage a point, the only time the Reds from Merseyside have failed to secure a league victory. Liverpool have often struggled on our own patch but it will be so much harder stepping into the fortress. But we won't be going there with fear and its a free hit.

All this, and United face going there with no midfield and potentially no attack, with top scorer and talisman Marcus Rashford a major injury doubt for the game. Our chance of pilfering even a point can be downgraded from slim to none should our no.10 - who scored in the reverse fixture - miss out. Even if he defies the odds and plays, it's the biggest ask an opposition side can face.
Even setting aside things like the 'history' of the fixture (irrelevant) and 'the football gods (also irrelevant) there is one thing weight in our favour - we have an exceptional record in the biggest of games and are unbeaten against the sides in the top four this term.

We know that this United side are capable of upsetting anyone on its day and victory at the Etihad will give the players the belief that anything is possible. United showed what we can do but will need to be even better and then some to replicate that in this one.  City's shaky defence laid the platform for United to seize the initiative and go on to victory. I don't see that with Liverpool. There doesn't seem to be any weaknesses, nothing to exploit. Even that win seems a long time ago now, as does any thought of Liverpool not cantering to that first triumph since 1990. It hurts to say it but you have to face facts.

Armed with one of the best pound for pound centre-backs in the world - there are few better than Virgil van Dijk - and two outstanding full-backs in Trent Alexander - Arnold and Andy Robertson, their defence is solid. On the odd occasion that you do get past that exceptional quartet, goalkeeper Alisson, one of the best in the business often bars the way.
Their front three of Mo Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane speaks for itself, and whilst on paper their midfield might lack the stardust of the rest of the team, Gini Wijnaldum and Jordan Henderson provide the brawn and Alex Oxlade - Chamberlain the brains with the likes of Lallana, Divock Origi, Xherdan Shaqiri and new boy Takumi Minamino waiting in the wings as cover.
You simply can't see how this United side are going to find a way through the best team on the planet.
I hope I'm wrong.

Even for a club that makes the impossible possible, this one is too big an ask.
We're simply not strong enough in midfield, we get overrun in there every week