Wednesday, 17 July 2019

Pre-season match report: Man Utd 4-0 Leeds

United turned on the style in our second pre-season tie Down Under to put old foes Leeds United to the sword with a 4-0 drubbing.

Mason Greenwood scored his first goal at senior level, fellow Academy graduate Marcus Rashford added the second before unlikely scorer Phil Jones and Anthony Martial completed the rout against Marcelo Bielsa's men.
Although this was only a benign pre-season friendly on the other side of the world, the first meeting between these two historic footballing Uniteds since 2011 was witnessed by 55,274 fans inside the Optus Stadium.

Energy and intensity were again features of the performance from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's United. Some of the attacking football, particularly on the counter, was really pleasing on the eye.

Once again, the boss handed out valuable playing time to 23 members of his squad and he also started new signings Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Daniel James together for the first time. Axel Tuanzebe was the only unused substitute, while the ill David De Gea and injured Lee Grant, Luke Shaw and Romelu Lukaku were all ruled out ahead of kick-off.

After Rashford had fired off a post early on, United took the lead four minutes later. Aaron Wan - Bissaka latched on to Paul Pogba's perfectly weighted through ball and in turn picked out Greenwood. The 17-year-old has been widely tipped for stardom and definitely looked sharp to slot in his first senior goal with aplomb.

The Reds kept up the early pressure and Pogba was in the thick of it, bending a 25 yard free-kick just wide of the post before stinging the palms of Leeds goalkeeper Kiko Casilla with a rasping drive moments later. The engimatic Frenchman looked hungry and busy in the heart of the Reds engine room.
The Championship side then went close twice in quick succession as Jack Harrison flashed a shot wide and Patrick Bamford was denied by Sergio Romero from close range.

Leeds were made to pay for those missed opportunities on 27 minutes, when a sweeping Reds move culminated in Rashford's smart finish beyond Casilla after Scott McTominay had played him in.

The Reds' pace was proving to be effective on the break and a third goal almost arrived on 44 minutes, via the right foot of new signing Daniel James. He burst forward up the flank and saw his low shot bounce off the post in the last meaningful moment of first-half action.

 Just like he did against Perth Glory, Solskjaer made 11 substitutions at the start of the second half and that fresh side began with the same intentions as the men they replaced – to attack and score. After seeing a shot from range tipped over the bar, Andreas Pereira earned an assist from the resulting corner when his in-swinging cross was powerfully headed home by the much malinged Jones.
Angel Gomes was playing in the no.10 position, just behind striker Martial, and the diminutive Academy graduate showed several glimpses of his natural talent on the ball, most notably having cut inside from the right and dragging a left-footed shot just wide.
 The fourth goal arrived with 21 minutes to play when impressive substitute Tahith Chong was scythed down by Liam Cooper and Martial duly did the rest from the spot.

Solskjaer’s United have now confidently earned two successive wins during Tour 2019 and proudly, all six of the squad’s goals so far have either been scored or set up by an Academy graduate, including the spot-kick earned by Chong and converted by Martial.

The squad is set to fly from Australia to Singapore on Thursday afternoon for the second leg of this hard-working pre-season tour.
Serie A giants Internazionale await on Saturday, in a match that will provide a more detailed assessment of the progress that is being made by Ole and his staff. 
First half United: Romero, Wan-Bissaka, Bailly, Lindelof, Rojo, McTominay, Pogba, Greenwood, Mata, James, Rashford.
Second-half United: J. Pereira, Dalot, Smalling, Jones, Young (C), Matic (Garner 78), A.Pereira, Chong, Gomes, Lingard, Martial.

Monday, 1 July 2019

United’s full-back positions in safe hands again following exciting Wan-Bissaka signing

February 25, 2018. Crystal Palace are preparing for a Premier League game at home to Spurs. They have more players on the treatment table than they have available for selection and a crisis in defence.
Right-backs Joel Ward and Martin Kelly are both out. Reds loanee Timothy Fosu-Mensah is needed in central defence because so many other players are injured. Eagles manager Roy Hodgson hands a professional debut to a player few in the ground had even heard of: an English 20-year-old of Congolose heritage by the name of Aaron Wan-Bissaka.
 You’d have got long odds on that very same young man quickly becoming Manchester United’s fourth most expensive player ever. Only Paul Pogba, Romelu Lukaku and Angel Di Maria have cost us more. Exalted company indeed.

Fast forward a year, and Wan-Bissaka is now among the most sought-after young players in English football. He has the kind of vital statistics that make football’s data analysts drool, and the Croydon boy has burst on to the scene with a stunning breakthrough season in south London, his first full campaign at the top level. ‘Rapid rise’ hardly begins to cover it. Leading the way for tackles, take ons and interceptions, Wan – Bissaka, statistically at least, is the real deal.
The saying goes that you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. Eight years on from the retirement of the last Manchester United full-back worthy of the name in Gary Neville, and following the signing of Wan - Bissaka, the Reds finally look set to once again possess a full-back that doesn’t make cover us our eyes in horror.
From the reckless Rafael, the consigned to oblivion Matteo Darmian via the never-quite-good-enough winger turned full-backs Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young, the United right-back berth has gone from a beautifully maintained, well trodden footpath of Neville and co. to a polluted and abandoned wasteland in recent years.

Consigned to the history books are the days of craned necks as Young’s umpteenth cross ends up ten rows back in the Stretford End, and the howls of derision as another corner trundles tamely into the shins of the nearest opposition defender. Gone for good is United’s penchant for the makeshift, the make do and mend that has epitomised our fall from grace. No disrespect to Messrs Valencia and Young – both loyal and long-serving – but both have become synonymous with United’s dated mentality.

Wan-Bissaka may be, in my view, £20m overpriced after one season at this level but, still only 21, he is both our present and our future. The second summer signing in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s new, fresh transfer policy of recruiting the cream of young British talent, Wan – Bissaka is well equipped to serve United for more than a decade. When you look at it like that, and consider the fact that his fee probably reflects the current going rate for any decent full-back, then 50 million doesn’t look so steep after all. If Juan Bissaka is worth that much, then what’s the demand for two Wan-Bissaka’s (sorry, see what I did there?).

Worlds apart from the moribund mob that masqueraded as their predecessors, the prospect of Wan-Bissaka in tandem with Diogo Dalot (one year AWB’s junior), is enough to have United fans excited again. Regarded as two of the best young attacking full-backs on the continent, the pair – together with Player of the Year Luke Shaw – will ensure that United’s full-back positions are in rude health again. There is lots to admire about Solskjaer’s Old Trafford ideology, now we just need to crack on with getting a midfielder and a centre back or two.

Friday, 28 June 2019

Manchester United sign Aaron Wan - Bissaka

Manchester United have completed the signing of highly-rated Crystal Palace full-back Aaron Wan - Bissaka for £45m plus add ons. 

Although either club are yet to officially announce the deal, Wan - Bissaka had his medical on Thursday and was then pictured in a United shirt before signing a five-year contract. Although the price tag seems hefty for a player with only one full season under his belt, it represents value for money as the going rate for any decent full-back in the modern market. Throw in the fact that Wan - Bissaka is still only 21 and could be at United for over a decade and it looks a bargain.

The thought of him in tandem with Diogo Dalot, one year his junior, is an exciting prospect and the pair of them - together with Player of the Year Luke Shaw - means that United's full-back positions are in the best health since Gary Neville.

Wan - Bissaka becomes United's second summer buy and continues the trend of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's revamped transfer policy in bringing the cream of emerging British talent to Old Trafford. Both he and Daniel James are young, hungry and have everything to prove.
Solskjaer may not be the right man to take United forward, but at least he has a clear plan in mind for the foreseeable future, which is more than can be said for any of his more illustrious precedessors.

So what does A W-B bring to the table - what exactly is it that has persuaded the Old Trafford hierarchy to bring the player to United. An analyst's dream, he is - statistically at least - the best full-back on the continent. Leading the way in tackles, take ons and interceptions, it has been a rapid rise for the Croydon boy of Congolese descent.

Defensively, Wan-Bissaka is one of the most sought after players in Europe. He has made more successful tackles – where possession of the ball is regained or the ball goes out of play – than any other player in the top five European leagues this season, with 129. Every other player who ranks anywhere near him is a central midfielder, with his closest-challenging full-back Leicester’s Ricardo Pereira. On top of this, he was only dribbled past 7 times out of 35 Premier League games he played all season and never more than once in a single game. What United get with the money then is arguably one of the best defensive full backs in Europe. Furthermore, he has an average tackle succession rate of 3.7 per game, again, one of the highest for any defender in The Premier League. Wan-Bissaka therefore, represents to be a stellar defensive signing for United.

 Offensively, he does like to bomb forward, yet this side of his game can improve with more experience. He impressively made 56 crosses into the opposition penalty area in just 35 Premier League matches, creating 14 chances but only assisting 3 goals. However, with better offensive players at United, this will significantly improve his chances of getting better acclaim for his contribution to goals. Along with a passing accuracy of 73%, these statistics are eye-catching, considering he completed this in a mid-table team like Crystal Palace.
Wan-Bissaka represents to be a smart move by Manchester United; Young, hungry and talented, he has all the attributes needed to take his game to the next level and can replicate to Solskjaer what the famous Gary Neville did during his time in that position for Sir Alex Ferguson -  defensively sound with an eagerness to create chances and score goals. A valuable addition to an out-of-date squad.

It is thought that he will don the number 29 shirt at United, just as he did for Palace. Welcome to Manchester United, Aaron Wan - Bissaka. 

Friday, 14 June 2019

United to face fellow heavyweights on opening day

Manchester United will begin the 2019/20 Premier League campaign at Old Trafford for the third season in a row. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side will face Chelsea - with the west London side under yet another new manager - in the last of the ten ties on opening weekend.

The Reds were first up on a Friday night in 2018-19, but will have to wait until everyone else has played before we take centre stage this time.
The clash with Chelsea is always one of the highest profile fixtures on the football calendar, and has already been selected for live television coverage.
It will be the first time we’ve met the Blues on the opening day since the 2004/05 season, a 1-0 defeat at Stamford Bridge with a certain chap by the name of Jose making his managerial debut for the Blues.

Our first away trip of 2019/20 comes the following week when we travel to the Midlands to take on Wolverhampton Wanderers looking to avenge last term's league loss and cup KO at the hands of the men from Molineux.

 Fans will no doubt already be anticipating our meetings with Liverpool next season, which are currently scheduled for Old Trafford on 19 October and Anfield on 18 January.

The first Manchester derby of the new season takes place at the Etihad Stadium in early December and we host our neighbours a few months later, in early March.

To finish the 2019/20 campaign, the Reds will welcome West Ham United to the Theatre of Dreams in the penultimate weekend, before wrapping things up away to Leicester City on Sunday 17 May.

There will be a historic innovation introduced into the annals for the first time next season - that of the "player break". This will take place in February, after the Reds host Wolves at Old Trafford on the first day of the month.

The Reds will then take on Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, in a reversal of 2019/20's opening fixture. The clash in the capital will be staged either on the weekend of 8 or 15 February, with the spare weekend allowing the club a space in our schedule. The exact dates will be finalised around 14 December, when adjustments to that period are announced due to television coverage.

The idea is for these rounds of fixtures to be spread across a fortnight to enable clubs to take a break from the action, akin to other leagues across Europe such as the Bundesliga and La Liga, in a bid to aid the England national team and English clubs in Europe, even if Premier League teams contested both the Champions League and Europa League finals last term.

 The Football Association confirmed when announcing the plan that the February break would be structured to ensure that fans still get their fix of football over this period and to ensure the season concludes on schedule. 
Each weekend during the break will feature five Premier League games on the first weekend and five on the following weekend, they stated on their official website.
To incorporate this, the FA has agreed to move the Emirates FA Cup fifth-round matches to midweek. In addition, from the start of the 2019/20 season, fifth-round replays will be removed from the calendar, being replaced with extra-time and penalties in the first tie.”

Wednesday, 12 June 2019

Daniel James signing bucks Man Utd trend

Manchester United pretty much announced their first signing of the summer on Friday, welcoming Swansea City winger Daniel James to the club. The 21-year-old earned plaudits for his performances in the second half of the season in the Championship, particularly drawing attention after his FA Cup display against eventual winners Manchester City.
Now moving to the upper echelons of the English elite, he fits the profile of a seemingly new vision of young, untapped potential  for the future that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wants to bring to Manchester United. Players who will fight until the death and strain every sinew for the badge on the shirt rather than the sole motivation of an overinflated pay packet.

While that makes for exciting news when considered alongside the traditions of England’s largest club, it differs with recent signings in the sense that James is unlikely to immediately be a key player for United, but instead offer a tactical threat and more options. For so long, United and Ed Woodward's transfer raison d'etre has been a penchant for the big name, quick fix, don't-really-need X Factor Galactio. Think Memphis Depay, Angel Di Maria, Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao and Bastian Schweinsteiger to name but five. All players that arrived at United with a hefty price tag and even loftier expectations, but all failed to live up to the hype.

 The addition of James bucks this trend as an emerging young British talent for the future - a winger that we've so obviously and clearly have needed now for the best part of a decade. With a deal for Aaron Wan - Bissaka of Crystal Palace potentially in the pipeline, it's a transfer strategy that goes against the grain of how this Glazer-led regime have gone about their business.

Arguably joining the club as the only proper winger in the squad, James boasts all the qualities of an excellent modern winger, with blistering pace and trickery, two-footedness, and the ability to move wide and cross or cut inside and involve himself in plays. This combination of traits could make him difficult for any opposing fullback. Combined with his penchant for heavy work rate and defensive contribution, this will alleviate some of the woeful fitness and distance records recorded by United last season.
In terms of expectations, the Welshman can be expected to feature more than recent young signings Diogo Dalot and Victor Lindelof in their respective debut seasons, but he would not slot into the side as the likes of Paul Pogba and Eric Bailly did when they joined under Jose Mourinho.

With Alexis set to be given the chance to banish his United woe, James will primarily be competing with Anthony Martial for the left-wing berth. The impressive Welshman can also play wide right, as a number ten and through the middle as a striker.

I'm really looking forward to seeing what James has to offer at Old Trafford. His squad number will be announced in due course.

Confirmed: Daniel James is a Man Utd player

So it's official. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has made his first signing as Manchester United manager with the capture of Daniel James from Swansea.

We penned on these pages a few days ago that a deal for the Welsh winger was imminent, and the 21 year old's £15m switch from Championship Swansea was confirmed today. James joins United on a five-year deal, he's certainly one for the future and we can't wait to see him in Red in 2019-20.

Swansea academy graduate James scored five goals in 38 appearances during a breakthrough 2018-19 season.
"This is one of the best days of my life," he said.
 James added: "This is one of the best days of my life and a challenge I am really looking forward to. The Premier League is the best league in the world and Manchester United is the perfect place for me to continue to develop as a player.
This is an incredibly proud moment for me and my family; however, it is tinged with sadness that my father isn’t able to share this experience with us. I am looking forward to working with Ole, meeting the team and getting started.”

James, whose father Kevan died suddenly last month, started both of Wales' recent Euro 2020 qualifying defeats by Croatia and Hungary under Ryan Giggs.
He scored his first Wales goal on his competitive debut in a 1-0 win against Group E rivals Slovakia in March.

Jumping from the second tier to the Premier League could take some adjustment but it's hardly unprecedented. Several of United's greatest ever players - Steve Bruce, Denis Irwin, Roy Keane and Peter Schmeichel came from the lower leagues - and look at Liverpool's Andy Robertson who signed from Hull.

A direct winger bursting with pace and trickery, 2018-19 proved a breakthrough season for the Welsh international. He scored five times and claimed ten assists in a eye catching debut campaign for the Swans, and earned widespread plaudits for his display against Manchester City in the FA Cup quarter finals.

 United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer told the club website: Daniel is an exciting young winger with lots of skills, vision, exceptional pace and a good work ethic. He had a great season with Swansea City and has all the attributes needed to become a Manchester United player.
“We are delighted he has signed with our club and we are all looking forward to working with him. This is the perfect environment for Daniel to continue his development.”

Saturday, 8 June 2019

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to make first signing as United boss

Man Utd have agreed a deal in principle to bring Swansea's wing wizard Daniel James to Old Trafford.
Touted as one of the most exciting and highly rated young talents in the British game, James has emerged into the national spotlight after an impressively eye-catching campaign last time out. Having risen through the ranks of the Swans academy to earn what he has described as a "dream" move, the 21 year old will become Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's first signing of the summer - and as United boss. He almost joined Leeds in January but a deal could not be reached, so he's seen the light and joined the only United worthy of the name.

The move hints at Ole's preferred transfer strategy, with a string of big-name, high profile "X Factor" signings - Bastian Schweinsteiger, Memphis Depay, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao to name but four - having fallen flat. The focus now appears to have switched to young, exciting, hungry British player in lieu of expensive overseas imports. James is, hopefully, the first of many to fall into that category. I'm excited to see what he will bring to a United squad in urgent need of re-inforcements. He can play on either flank or as a number ten from attacking midfield. He's a brilliant young player who will play, fight and give his all for the badge - someone who actually wants to be at the club rather than only an overinflated pay cheque. Exactly the sort of player in our side conspicous by his absence.

Twice capped by Ryan Giggs at full international level for Wales, James has completed his medical at Carrington ahead of a proposed £18 move, after add ons
The deal is expected to go through when Fifa's international transfer window opens next week. He scored the only goal in a 1-0 win over Slovakia on his full international debut in March.

Known for his blistering pace and intricate trickery, James claimed nine assists and scored five times in the Championship during his breakthrough 2018-19 season. Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola noted how "incredibly fast" James is after his side were given an FA Cup quarter-final fright at Swansea in March - it was that game that reportedly swayed United to move for the Welsh talent.

The winger has impressed this season at Swansea, showing electric pace and a willingness to fearlessly take on defenders, an asset that has clearly impressed Solskjaer.
This is the sort of signing United should be getting over the line. James is not a ready-made star, but is an exciting prospect and was bought at a very affordable price. United fans will be hoping to see several more new arrivals before the summer window shuts with a huge overhaul still required.