Thursday 30 July 2015

Carrick satisfied with Tour tests as United focus on Spurs opener

Michael Carrick believes United are in good shape for the start of the Barclays Premier League campaign, thanks to the tests provided by the four games in the States.

The US Tour came to a close with a 2-0 defeat to Paris St-Germain in Chicago, ending the Reds run of three successive pre-season wins.

Carrick feels that United can take plenty from the encounter against the French champions going into the season's opener against Tottenham Hotspur at Old Trafford next weekend. 

"It's all about Tottenham- that's what we've been saying and working towards since  we got here- that's when the business really starts" the midfielder said.

"We've had some good games over here to get us ready.
"If the games are too easy you don't get enough out of them so the Barcelona game and this one have been good for us and we can take a lot into the Tottenham game.
"PSG are a very good team with some world-class players so it was a good test for us to see how fit we are and where we're at.

"I thought we played some good stuff at times and we were disappointed to go 2-0 down in the first half and then after that they shut us down and made it difficult for us to create anything.
"There were a few tired legs at the end of the game, with the heat and humidity, but it was a good workout for us."

Youngster Sean Goss was given a first taste of senior action when he came on for the final 10 minutes, replacing Carrick.
"It's always great to see the young players getting a chance and the opportunity for Sean to come away on tour was probably a bonus for him in many ways.
"So to come away and train, and then get 10 minutes at the end, is great for him and will probably make him even more hungry to succeed." Carrick added. 

Tour 2015: United 0-2 PSG

United signed off their US Tour with defeat to French champions PSG in Chicago but this was a game that LVG and his side will take plenty of positives from.

The Reds came into the match with three wins from three on Tour, but indecision at the back was United's undoing and, despite creating numerous chances, we slipped to defeat through an won goal from Luke Shaw and Zlatan Ibrahimovic's 34th-minute strike.

One of the plus points from the game was the continued development of the partnership between Memphis and Wayne Rooney, and the pair looked lively early on.
In the 17th minute, Depay was presented with a golden chance to put the Reds ahead  when a lovely ball from Bastian Schweinsteiger found Rooney, who slipped in Memphis, but he could only blast the effort wide.

PSG went close soon afterwards when Ibrahimovic headed a Lucas Moura corner narrowly wide, while the Reds did put the ball in on 22 minutes through Juan Mata, but he was flagged offside.

Against the run of play, PSG took the lead three minutes later after confusion in the United back-line.
A long ball forward was chased down by Blaise Matudi and, as Phil Jones and Shaw chased back, De Gea raced from his goal and was left stranded when SHaw's inadvertent touch rolled past him and into the net.

Rooney went close twice in quick succession when he flashed a couple of efforts narrowly over the bar before PSG doubled their advantage through Ibrahimovic, who picked up the ball in midfield, played a one-two with Maxwell before slotting home unmarked for close range.

Memphis had a free-kick well saved by Kevin Trapp shortly before the interval  but the Reds went in at the break two down with a tough job in the second half to preserve our 100% record on the Tour.

Sam Johnstone, Andreas Pereira and Morgan Schneiderlin were all introduced at the break, and the Brazilian played in Rooney- who in turn picked out Depay- but the Dutchman's effort lacked power and failed to trouble Trapp. 

PSG held firm at the back thereafter, with the Reds unable to mount a fightback, and LVG's men now return to Manchester to continue preparations for the start of the new campaign, with all the focus now on ensuring a winning start to the competitive season.

Wednesday 29 July 2015

How to solve a problem like (Angel Di) Maria part 2

In October, Argentina lost a friendly match 2-0 against Brazil in Beijing and Di Maria played the full 90 minutes.
The air quality was not great, the temperature was high and three days later he featured for the final 17 minutes of a friendly against Hong Kong national side.

The round trip was approximately 12,000 miles, and for a player who had not had much of a summer break because of his international commitments, and had finished the World Cup with a thigh injury, the Far East trip must have been physically draining.

In addition, United manager Louis van Gaal's search for his best formation- and Di Maria's best position in it- meant there was little continuity in his role.

In the South American's first 16 games for the Reds, he played in six different positions including the unfamiliar role of central midfielder and striker.

Consistency continued to prove elusive, and Di Maria's contribution seemed to be affected as a result.
As well as his goal drought, he created only three goals in four months between October 2014 and February 2015.

A pelvic injury kept him out for virtually all of December. 

So a likely combination of fatigue, injury, lack of form and getting used to a new country and language difficulties could all have been playing on his mind when he suffered a break-in at his Cheshire mansion in January.

The intruders did not gain entry and no-one was harmed, but the impact on him and his family was so great that they are now living in a city-centre apartment. 

On the pitch, Di Maria's slide continued and, sent off in the FA Cup quarter final defeat by Arsenal in March, he was a substitute in six successive games following his return from suspension.

He did start the final game of the campaign at Hull but limped off injured after 23 minutes, somewhat synonymous with his final days at the club. 

This combination of circumstances led to Di Maria becoming extremely unhappy and wanting a move, but as recently as Sunday, LVG said he hoped Di Maria would stay.

Yet the Dutchman has also stated that it's counterproductive to keep unhappy players, PSG were keen on taking him last year and are now offering a get-out.

United fans have been here before (think Seba Veron and the then record signing Dimitar Berbatov, who left for Fulham six months after winning the Golden Boot).

Yet possibly more than those two, Di Maria's imminent exit will leave a sad sense of "what might have been" purely because his talent has been so obvious in the past and his exit so swift.

When you sign a player as good as him , you have to give him more than one season to adapt and settle. 
He proved he had the ability and wow factor that United needed, he proved he can play under LVG, now he's leaving and it is hugely disappointing. 

How to solve a problem like (Angel Di) Maria (Part 1)

He was British football's most expensive signing, a World Cup finalist and regarded as one of the best players in the world at the peak of his powers. 

His capture was supposed to send out a message: that United could still compete with Europe's elite for the best players. 

But as Angel Di Maria looks set to leave Old Trafford for French champions PSG after a single year in the Premier League, United Faithful takes a look at why the £59.7 million Argentina international has failed on the very stage that seemed ready-made for his talents.

It all seemed so perfect.

In the summer of 2013, Manchester United had been looking for a marquee signing to usher in the post-SAF era.
Cristiano Ronaldo could not be lured back from Real Madrid and Gareth Bale was chased but ultimately had his heart set on joining CR7 at the Bernabeu. 

Twelve months on, the need was more acute.
Without the collective mental strength SAF  had so painstakingly forged and demanded, technical, tactical and physical deficiencies had been brutally exposed during David Moyes ill-fated tenure.

Glamour was not just required for the feel-good factor for the fans, it was a necessity if we were to compete with Chelsea, Manchester City and a revitalised Liverpool.
Meanwhile, Real, back in the 'Galactico' business of accumulating star names, had one man too many following the arrival of one of the 2014 World Cup's stand out performers, James Rodriguez of Colombia. 

Di Maria, man of the match in the Champions League final three months earlier, was deemed surplus to requirements and United vice-chairman Ed Woodward sensationally swooped. 

The Argentine signed a five-year contract on 26 August 2014 for a British record fee of £59.7m.

Talk at the time suggested that Di Maria would be paid in excess of £200,000 a week plus bonuses, and his early performances suggested such optimism was justified. 

Di Maria scored twice and claimed an assist in four of his first five games for United, including a magical chipped finish at Leicester.

United fans were captivated and left drooling by our new number seven, and Angel responded by claiming that the move to OT from Madrid represented a step up in his career. 

Working out why good things turn bad is a precarious business: but the facts are that after the victory over Everton on 5 October, Di Maria did not score again until 4 January in the FA Cup win at League One Yeovil. 

Did anything happen in between?

It's difficult to say, and maybe not one specific seismic moment but a few events rolled up and made a big one seem significant. 

Monday 27 July 2015

United sign Sergio Romero as keeper cover

United have signed Argentinian goalkeeper Sergio Romero as a result of the ongoing uncertainty over David de Gea.

28-year-old Romero was a free agent after leaving Serie A side Sampdoria and will replace back-up keeper Victor Valdes, who has been told he can leave by Louis van Gaal.

Romero, who has signed a three-year deal played in the 2014 World Cup final and won the 2008/09 Eredivisie title under Van Gaal at AZ.

De Gea is into the final year of his contract and is wanted by Real Madrid.

There's no way that United are going to allow Dave to leave for free, but Van Gaal is covering all bases and preparing for whatever De Gea's intentions are. 

"We have to prepare our season with the threat that David de Gea is going to Madrid, of course, we do not know this yet but you have to be ready in advance" said Van Gaal. 

Should De Gea stay at United, van Gaal has said that the Spaniard may not be an automatic pick in goal.

"You always need competition" added the Dutchman.
"When I see that a player is better than the player in the line-up, then he shall play the next match."

Romero, who saved two penalties in a semi-final shootout as his side knocked out LVG's Netherlands en route to the final, has 62 caps.

"He is a very dominating goalkeeper, he is strong in the 60-metre area and his stature is also tall and he gives a lot of confidence to the players, so of course this is very good.

"He has to learn English because that is also a problem always with a foreign player.
"He is very good with his feet, so he fits in our profile- I have a lot of confidence that he can fulfil what we are expecting."

Sunday 26 July 2015

Di Maria does not join Tour as PSG close in

Angel Di Maria's proposed move from United to Paris St-Germain is close to completion, the French champions have said.

The Reds look set to take a huge financial hit on Di Maria, as French paper L'Equipe have reported that a £46.5 million deal has been agreed for the 27-year-old.

But it is understood talks are ongoing with a fee yet to be decided. 

Di Maria was signed for a British record £59.7 million from Real Madrid last summer, and despite a sensational start to life at United, his form faded for a number of reasons and he ended the season as substitute.

The Argentine midfielder was widely expected to join United on tour on Friday, but did not do so and United boss Louis van Gaal "does not know why".
However, it has now been claimed that the club's record signing will travel to New Jersey-where PSG are based during their US tour- for a medical with the Ligue 1 club.

"He was not on the plane" said LVG after the Barcelona win.
"Marcos Rojo was also not on the plane, but for him it is a passport issue- Di Maria, I don't know
"I cannot say anything."

Di Maria made 27 league appearances last term, but netted just three goals and, after a brilliant start to life at OT, his form faded away and he lost his place to Ashley Young.
His  most infamous moment was his sending-off during the FA Cup exit to Arsenal when he appeared to push the referee Michael Oliver, and it is seemingly that incident that spelt the end of his time in Manchester. 

Former United manager and current PSG boss Laurent Blanc said:

"There is a good possibility he could sign but there is nothing official, we have to have patience for a little time longer.
"We think the outcome is very close."

With the two clubs to face each other in the final game of United's US Tour on Thursday, there is even a chance that Di Maria could line up against us in that game.

The Reds are eager to sign a new striker following the departure of Robin van Persie and, with a wealth of options to fill Di Maria's position on the left with the acquisition of Memphis Depay, the Argentine's sale could see LVG launch a move for one of the big names we have seemingly been endlessly linked with. 

Blossoming young talents shine in pre-season win

United's hugely promising performance against Barcelona in Santa Clara on Saturday was noteworthy not just because of the result but also because of the impact and contribution of several of the younger members of the squad.

The Reds have always championed youth and Academy graduates and, despite the massive outlay in incoming foreign talent since LVG took charge, the emphasis on youth is still at the forefront of his philosophy.

Of the XI who finished the game against Barcelona, seven had come through United's youth teams. 

There is nothing United fans enjoy more than seeing a promising home-grown youngster develop into a world star, and for me, one in particular stood out on Saturday: Jesse Lingard.

Despite standing out as a leading light on the last two pre-season Tours for United, his best moments have come away from Old Trafford on loan, but I feel sure that he would have made an impact at OT last season if it wasn't for that injury sustained against Swansea on the opening day.

His well-taken goal (with fellow Academy graduates James Wilson and Tyler Blackett involved in the build-up) spoke volumes of his confidence, composure and eye for the spectacular.

There were also signs that Adnan Januzaj, who endured a difficult campaign last term after a brilliant debut season in 2013/14, is beginning to rediscover the kind of form that had him touted as the next big thing at United.

He scored the decisive third goal with a clinical break-away finish and set United on the attack with several mazy, incisive bursts forward.
It was an impressive run-out as a substitute and good to see Adnan catching the eye once more. 

Blackett, who was used sparingly by LVG last season and at times struggled, looked a totally different proposition with many surging runs forward from left-back, some tidy interceptions and an assist for the Reds second goal. 

Performing well on the pre-season tour is one thing, but stepping up to the mark in the high-pressure, high-octane, testosterone-filled world of top level football is quite another and there have been many examples of burgeoning young talents falling by the wayside when the going gets tough.
However, it would be of serious disservice to this batch of youngsters if LVG doesn't at least consider the likes of Lingard, Andreas Pereira (who also impressed on Saturday), James Wilson (for me, the jury is still out on the young striker) and Januzaj for the opening match against Spurs and both domestic cup campaigns at the very least.

The future's bright, the future's red and white. 

Saturday 25 July 2015

Match report: United 3-1 Barcelona

United's preparations for the new season continued apace with an impressive Tour win over the reigning European and La Liga champions in Santa Clara on Saturday.

Barcelona may have been without the talents of Lionel Messi and Neymar, but they still named a strong side with seven of the XI having featured in the Champions League final six weeks ago.

Luis Enrique's side started on the front foot and almost went ahead in the fourth minute through Luis Suarez, who thumped his effort off a post from a free-kick.

David de Gea, playing in his first match of Tour 2015, saved well from Sergi Roberto before United took an eighth minute lead through Wayne Rooney's header from Ashley Young's corner.

The latter went close again when his well-hit effort was tipped over by Marc-andre Ter Stegen, and Rooney also called the keeper into action with a low effort that was pushed behind in a flurry of United chances.

Our old enemy Suarez was in the mood to be a pain to United again, and he rattled the woodwork for a second time when his 30 yard scorcher crashed off the post with De Gea beaten shortly before the break. 

The Reds performance was hugely pleasing but the one slight concern was the wobbly performance of Daley Blind, who again started at centre-back which, to be fair to the Dutchman, is not his preferred position. 

Ivan Rakitic smashed a good effort narrowly over the bar and Suarez had a goal chalked out for offside, before United went 2-0 having made a raft of changes (in fact, the entire XI) just beyond the hour mark.

It was a goal straight out of the club's academy, as James Wilson and Tyler Blackett linked up to play in Jesse Lingard, who swept in a well-taken finish from close range.

Adnan Januzaj fired wide and Lingard again went close, but Barcelona kept coming and struck the woodwork for a third time.

Substitute Ivan Rakitic- a scorer in that Champions League final- whipped in a free-kick from the left and young striker Munir headed against the post.

Rakitic shinned the ball wide from Sandro's cross and then forced Sam Johnstone into a good save as Barca pressed in the closing stages.

They finally got the goal their performance merited when Rafinha crashed home a brilliant volley, only for Januzaj to make sure of the win for the Reds in the dying minutes when he ran through and smash home left-footed.

Barcelona may have been missing Messi, Neymar, Dani Alves and a few others for a pre-season game that means nothing, so whilst its important not to get too carried away in the game's global standings, the manner of the Reds performance (and the young players in particular) will send out a hugely positive statement of intent.


Wednesday 22 July 2015

Tour 2015 match report: San Jose Earthquakes 1-3 United

Memphis Depay scored his first United goal as LVG's side secured a second win of Tour 2015 in California on Tuesday night.

The £31m Dutchman's effort- a calm, low, well-taken finish- was sandwiched between strikes from Juan Mata and Andreas Pereira, who also netted his first goal for the senior team. 

Van Gaal started with the same team that overcame Club America in Seattle- and his attacking duo of Depay and Rooney were at it from the off.

In the fourth minute, the Dutchman powered forward, twisted and turned before he saw his shot parried by David Bingham in the Quakes goal, and, from the rebound, Mata could only find the side netting.

Five minutes later, a superb Luke Shaw run down the left almost dropped to Depay, but the Quakes managed to clear the ensuing danger. 

Rooney again narrowly failed to convert from a good position, before United's pressure told and Mata-somewhat inadvertently- gave us the lead with 32 minutes on the clock.

Picked out by Ashley Young- who impressed throughout on the left-hand side- the Spaniard seemed to be aiming for the onrushing Depay- but the ball evaded everyone and nestled into the corner.

Four minutes later, Depay did manage to get his name on the scoresheet, when he capitalised on a poor backpass and slotted home from close range.

With the half drawing to a close, the MLS side were given a lifeline and halved the deficit through Fatai Alashe, whom steered in a sliding finish from Shea Salinas' run and cut-back. 

After Mata had seen an effort well-saved on the stroke of half-time, LVG stuck to his plan of fielding the same XI that had come on at the break in Seattle, although Sam Johnstone remained in goal owing to fitness concerns to both  David de Gea and Anders Lindegaard.

There was one slight tactical tweak  with Adnan Januzaj moving out to the left to allow Pereira to take up the no.10 position the Belgian had played in the opening tour match.

It was the young Brazilian who restored the Reds two-goal advantage just after the hour mark with a fine header from Jesse Lingard's in swinging cross.
Marc Pelosi lashed an effort just over the bar for the Earthquakes, and Chris Smalling also went close with a header late on, but there were no further chances as United made it two wins from two on the tour.

Next up... Barcelona on Saturday in Santa Clara. 

United first half XI: Johnstone; Darmian, Jones, Blind, Shaw; Mata, Carrick, Schneiderlin, Young; Depay; Rooney.
Second half XI: Johnstone; McNair, Smalling, Evans, Blackett; Schweinsteiger, Herrera; Lingard, Pereira, Januzaj; Wilson.

Saturday 18 July 2015

Four new signings shine against Club America

Manchester United's four new signings- Memphis Depay, Morgan Schneiderlin, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Matteo Darmian- all completed 45 minutes during the Reds 1-0 win over Club America, all of them impressing on their first outing for the club.

Schneiderlin's looping header after five minutes was the only goal of a testing first outing in the US, but the attacking intent of Depay, the forward forages of full-back Darmian and the cool-as-you-like midfield mastery of Schweinsteiger also caught the eye.

Memphis, Darmian and Schneiderlin all started the first half whilst 11 changes at the break paved the way for the introduction of World Cup-winner Schweinsteiger.

Second-half captain Chris Smalling, said of the new signings: 

"I thought they were brilliant, they clicked like they've been here a while and it's promising for the new season."

He reserved special praise for Schweinsteiger, who operated just in front of the back for in a midfield holding role.

"It's brilliant to know he's there just in front of the defence", Smalling told MUTV.
"He sucks players in and then plays the pass just at the right moment."

But match-winner Morgan can rightly claim the headlines as he Tour 2015, presented by AON, off to a winning start.
He told MUTV: "It's good to start with a win, the first game is about doing what the manager wants from us, we did our best and there's a few things to work on but it's our first game.
"We want to get ready and be ready for the Premier League."
"We worked a lot on set-pieces and I was told to get to the far post, I was happy to get to the ball and it was a great cross from Mata for me to score.
"I am very happy to score in my first game for United, but the main thing is to get fitness in the first game in pre-season."

Pre-season match report: United 1-0 Club America

Morgan Schneiderlin got his United career off to the best possible start with the winning goal as United kicked off Tour 2015 with victory in Seattle.

Schneiderlin was one of four debutants on the night, with Matteo Darmian, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Memphis Depay also all being given maiden Red run-outs.

United began brightly and took the lead inside five minutes when the ball fell to Mata on the right wing from a corner and he crossed to the far post where Schneiderlin, signed from Southampton a day before the Tour, rose and looped home a header.

Club America looked to respond immediately and two minutes later Pablo Cesar Aguilar slid in to meet a cross at the far post, but could only put it wide.
At the other end, Mata then went close after good link-up play between Luke Shaw and Ashley Young, with the latter cutting the ball back for the Spaniard, whose effort was well saved.

Wayne Rooney flashed a shot wide after good work from Depay, but the Mexicans still posed a threat and Sam Johnstone (deputising in goal for David De Gea who had a minor injury), smothered the ball at the feet of Miguel Samadio.

The Reds restarted the second half with a raft of changes as LVG stayed true to his word in playing two different XIs, and his much-changed side were on the attack from the off upon the resumption. 

Andreas Pereira collected the ball in the area, sold Gil Buron a sumptuous dummy and fired an excellent effort narrowly past the post, while Adnan Januzaj also went within inches of doubling the Reds advantage.

Ander Herrera was next to flash an effort wide, on 70 minutes, when his flicked header from a free-kick rolled agonisingly wide, but Club America weren't going to go down without a fight.

Anders Lindegaard hadn't had much to do up until he was beaten by Alejandro Diaz's close-range shot, but, fortunately for the Reds, his effort struck a post and rebounded wide.

Januzaj looked particularly lively and stung the palms of the Club America goalkeeper late on, but that proved to be the last real opening for United, as LVG's men held firm and ensured a winning start to Tour 2015. 

United first half XI: Johnstone; Darmian, Jones, Blind, Shaw; Carrick, Schneiderlin; Mata, Depay, Young; Rooney
Second half XI: Lindegaard; McNair, Smalling, Evans, Blackett; Schweinsteiger; Lingard Herrera; Januzaj; Pereira, Wilson.

Thursday 16 July 2015

Van Gaal says Valdes will be sold.... and I don't blame him for taking action

Louis van Gaal has hit out at United keeper Victor Valdes and says that he will put the former Barca man up for sale after it emerged that he "refused to play" for the club's Under 21 side.

Good on you, Louis, I say. 

There are a number of people I've seen on social media who have said that Valdes has every right to complain seeing as he was his club's number one for years, is one of the most decorated players in the game and that van Gaal has treated him with disrespect by not giving him a chance. 

The first part of that sentence may be true- Valdes is a very talented keeper who has won everything but who does he think he is to go against the demands of the manager and think himself above playing for the second team when asked to?

It's Valdes that has treated this great club with unprofessional and disrespectful behaviour.
The irony is that the very reason for his presence in the reserve side was to re-build his career and fitness after suffering a serious cruciate knee ligament injury.
He was only ever signed as back-up for David De Gea (why would you drop him) and this was a factor that Valdes was all too aware of when he joined but his outburst this week would suggest that he expected to be first-choice.

Valdes has clearly fallen foul of the first rule of becoming an established Manchester United player.... no one is bigger than the club or manager (just ask Ruud van Nistelrooy, Roy Keane and David Beckham).

The 33-year-old would have made excellent cover for De Gea, but he's blown his chance with a silly piece of petulance. 

My mind casts back to the infamous incident at Manchester City when Carlos Tevez refused to go on against Bayern Munich because he wasn't happy as a substitute.
He hardly played for them again, proving again that no matter how much you've won or how good a player thinks he is, the manager is in charge when it comes to the big decisions.

This whole incident has made the club look bad, but LVG has done right thing in showing that he doesn't stand for any nonsense, and that for any player who doesn't fall in line with his philosophy, there's only one way to go and that's out.

Every cloud has a silver lining and in this case, it's that surely the Reds have now won the battle to fend off Real's attempts to land David de Gea, as it seems unlikely that Van Gaal would let him go having now decided to sell Valdes.

Monday 13 July 2015

Profile: Morgan Schneiderlin

With the addition of Bastian  Schweinsteiger, the second of our midfield acquisitions has somewhat seemingly crept under the radar, but here we take a look at the career of our newest recruit, 25-year old French international Morgan Schneiderlin.

Schneiderlin moved to Southampton from Strasbourg in 2008 but it was far from an easy introduction to English football for the then 18 year old- Saints were in the midst of a rapid decline having just been relegated to League One.

Despite his obvious potential, Schneiderlin initially struggled with the physical, combative approach of the third tier's more "rough and ready" sides, but, having won promotion back to the Championship, he developed into one of the Saints most reliable and influential players.

Under the tutelage of first Nigel Adkins and- latterly- Mauricio Pochettino- Schneiderlin has blossomed into a genuine talent and, in 2014,  he gained senior international recognition for France having captained them at under-18 and under-19 level. 

It was Adkins who improved the defensive side of his game, when the then-Saints boss spotted his potential and encouraged the 23-year-old to adapt to the physical side of his game- to start harassing opponents and break up their attacks.  

He possesses a superb, Paul Scholes-esque range of passing, an insatiable work rate, is equally adept with either foot and, as well as his defensive capabilities, he has earned unanimous praise for starting his team's attacks from deep. 

When his signing was announced on Monday, Schneiderlin was quick to look to the future, but he also paid tribute to his former club following his departure:

"Once I learned that United wanted me, it was an easy decision to make, I have enjoyed seven happy years with Southampton and it's a club that will always be in my heart, but the chance to be part of this squad to help this great club be successful was too good to miss."

Schweinsteiger: Deep lying anchor in the Robson mould

Bastian Schweinsteiger is a player whom United have been crying out for: an experienced and inspirational leader with an impressive reading of the game and a superb footballing intelligence that has made him one of the most decorated players around, both on the domestic and international stage.

Some may point to the fact that he's almost 31 and a player whose best days are behind him: I disagree, for his role in this United side is one that will befit the latter years of his career.

A deep-lying central defensive midfielder and the first German to play for the Reds, his distribution, energy and leadership qualities will hold the engine room together, drive United forward and create space for the team's attacking creative talents.

The biggest asset that Bastian will bring to United is his leadership (as captain of the World champions, Schweinsteiger will not be phased by the pressure of a transfer to Old Trafford).

Although Wayne Rooney looks set to retain the captain's armband and rightly so, recent history tells us that United's best natural leaders have been those that have played in the same position as Schweinsteiger (Bryan Robson and Roy Keane as two obvious examples).

Rooney is a fine skipper, as was Nemanja Vidic, but Schweinsteiger's technical brain, experience and communication, as well the ability to dictate the tone and tempo of the entire match from deep, makes him captaincy material in every sense, our captain and leader without the armband. 

As good as Michael Carrick has been for United- and he is hugely under-rated- he is now 34, has struggled with injury and can't be relied upon to stay fit week in, week out.
With the additions of Schweinsteiger and Schneiderlin, we've got cover for Carrick (or maybe he's the cover for them) and, for the first time since Robson- and latterly Keane- retired, we've not only got bags of experience and know how in the midfield "anchor" role, but depth and quality in abundance. 

Schweinsteiger and Schneiderlin are likely to be paired together in defensive midfield, with one sitting deep and stopping opposition attacks while the other pushes forward- with Carrick an able deputy in the event of injury or squad rotation (Schweinsteiger and Carrick surely will not play together, as they are too similar in style and stature). 

Bastian Schweinsteiger is, in my view, the best signing we've made in years and is the perfect fit for a midfield that was in desperate need of surgery- now, however, it's in good hands. 

Schweinsteiger and Schneiderlin: In quotes

Manchester United have thrown down a statement of intent ahead of the new season after signing both Bastian Schweinsteiger and Morgan Schneiderlin this afternoon for a combined fee of around £40m.

Reacting to the news of the double signings, United manager Louis van Gaal said on Schweinsteiger:

"I am truly delighted Bastian is joining Manchester United, his record speaks for itself.
"He is the ultimate professional and there is no doubting his talent and ability to control and dictate games.
"He brings a wealth of experience and is an excellent addition to our squad."

On Schneiderlin, LVG added: 

"Morgan is a very talented player with great energy, work rate and ability.
"His skills will complement the players that we already have and I am very pleased that we have been able to complete this deal before the tour to the United States." 

The double deal was announced on the day that United jet off to the USA on their pre-season tour, and David De Gea, himself the subject of intense transfer speculation, was among those who boarded the flight at Manchester Airport.

Tour squad: Tyler Blackett, Daley Blind, Michael Carrick, Matteo Darmian, David De Gea, Memphis Depay, Jonny Evans, Maroaune Fellaini, Sean Goss, Ander Herrera, Adnan Januzaj, Sam Johnstone, Phil Jones, Anders Lindegaard, Jesse Lingard, Juan Mata, Paddy McNair, Andreas Pereira, Wayne Rooney, Morgan Schneiderlin, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Luke Shaw, Chris Smalling, Antonio Valencia, James Wilson and Ashley Young. 

Midfield is sorted- next, a striker

Having captured both Morgan Schneiderlin and Bastian Schweinsteiger in a double midfield signing, United's attentions should now focus on finding a striker to complement Wayne Rooney. 

With the departures of Robin van Persie and Radamel Falcao- and a long-term injury to Javier Hernandez (who's United future still remains unclear)- Wayne Rooney and James Wilson are the club's only recognised senior strikers.

Louis van Gaal admitted that United's lack of strikers was a "problem", but also hinted that new signing Memphis Depay may play up front.

Dutch international Depay- signed from PSV for £31m- is primarily a winger capable of playing on either flank- but can also play a central role. 

Van Gaal said: 

"It is one of the reasons that we have bought Memphis because maybe you remember that he has played in the striker's position also in the Dutch team.
"I have to see how we solve this problem, I don't know whether he will play there but it is a possibility" said van Gaal.

When fit, Rooney- as captain and talisman- is the first name on LVG's team sheet but has played in a deeper role under Van Gaal and prefers the number ten position just off the front man.
United have been linked with a host of strikers during this transfer window (Harry Kane, Karim Benzema, Edinson Cavani and Thomas Muller, to name but four) but, as yet, there's been no confirmation that United are in talks with any of the supposed targets and Van Gaal has said he would not buy for the sake of it. 

I'd imagine that Depay will play from the left with Rooney up top- of course, Rooney is more than capable of filling the striker's role throughout the season- but you can't vouch for injuries and, should that happen, we're going to need proven goalscoring cover. 

United's pursuit of Schweinsteiger and Schneiderlin has been common knowledge- the search for a striker a little low-key, but we're doing business early and don't be surprised if Ed Woodward pulls off another masterstroke in the striking department before the transfer window is out.

Midfield additions leave LVG spoilt for choice

It was common knowledge that Louis van Gaal would be dipping into the transfer market this summer for a midfield replacement for the still brilliant, but nonetheless ageing and injury prone, Michael Carrick.
Boy, how he's done that.
So much so, that we're now, in fact, spoilt for choice when it come to the "engine room" of the United midfield. 

I'd imagine that we'll line up in a 4-3-3 ( Schweinsteiger as a deep lying central defensive midfielder, and Schneiderlin with either Herrera or Fellaini alongside), then Depay on the left or right, Wayne Rooney down the middle and either Juan Mata or Angel Di Maria the other side.

Alternatively, LVG could revert back to the 3-5-2 (shudder!) with Matteo Darmian and either Luke Shaw or Daley Blind as wing-backs, any three of Ander Herrera, Marouane Fellaini, Carrick, Mata, Di Maria, Schneiderlin and Schweinsteiger across the middle and Depay leading the line with Rooney.

I would also think that a rotation policy between Carrick and Schweinsteiger seems the most likely, as to play both together would give us bags of brains and know-how but lacking in legs and pace.
A 4-2-3-1, would, for me, suit the personnel we've got the best, with the two new recruits sitting deep and Mata, Di Maria and Depay "floating" around in space (interchanging) supporting lone striker Wayne Rooney.

This formation also seems a good fit as, at present, only Wayne Rooney seems the obvious automatic starting striker as, despite James Wilson's undoubted burgeoning talent, I feel he's not yet ready for a senior place in the XI on a weekly basis.

Quite where Carrick fits the equation I'm not quite sure, but it's possible that van Gaal will rotate him and Schweinsteiger (given that both can be susceptible to injury), or, as another option, use Carrick as substitute to use his experience and intelligence when looking to wind the clock down in important matches (similar to how Ryan Giggs was used in the latter days of his playing career). 

Either way, it'll be worth keeping an eye on the pre-season games as these may give us an early indication of LVG's set-up looking ahead to the new campaign.

One thing's for sure, and that is the fact that LVG will have a selection headache when it comes to picking his midfield for next season, but it's certainly not a bad one to have. 

United seal £39.4m double Sch-ining

United have completed the double signing of Germany midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger and France international Morgan Schneiderlin.

Schweinsteiger, 30, has signed a three-year contract with the Reds from Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich for a reported £14.4m fee.
Schneiderlin has moved from fellow Premier League outfit Southampton for a fee in the region of £25m.

The 25 year old has signed a four-year contract with the option to extend it by a further year.
The two new arrivals, along with forward/winger Memphis Depay and Italian full-back Matteo Darmian takes the club's summer spending to more than £80 million (or nearly two Raheem Sterlings.)

Schweinsteiger played under United boss Louis van Gaal when the Dutchman managed Bayern between 2009-2011, and the German admitted that "United were the only club he would have left Munich for."

"I feel ready for this new and exciting challenge in what I regard as the most competitive league in the world and I am looking forward to working with Louis van Gaal again.
"I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at Bayern, it has been an incredible journey and I didn't take the decision to leave lightly, Manchester United is the only club I would have left Munich for" said Schweinsteiger.

Schweinsteiger made his Bayern debut in 2002 and appeared 536 times for the club, winning eight Bundesliga titles, a Champions League, seven domestic cups, a Club World Cup as well as helping his country win the 2014 World Cup.

Schneiderlin joined Saints from Strasbourg in 2008 for £1.2m and has risen through the ranks with the South Coast side, having played for them in League One, Championship and the Premier League. 

"Once I learned that United wanted me, it was an easy decision to make, I have enjoyed seven happy years with Southampton and it's a club that will always be in my heart, but the chance to be part of this squad to help this great club be successful was too good to miss."

The two will now join their new United team-mates when they fly out to the USA for our pre-season tour on Monday.

Saturday 11 July 2015

United sign Torino defender

United have signed Torino and Italy defender Matteo Darmian for an undisclosed fee, thought to be in the region of £12 million. 

The 25-year-old Italian international has signed a four-year deal at Old Trafford, with the club having the option of a further year.

"To work with Louis van Gaal, a manager that has achieved so much in football, is such an exciting prospect.
"When a club like Manchester United show interest, you can't turn them down" said Darmian. 

He has made 146 appearances for Torino since his debut in 2011 and he also has 13 international caps, including a start in all three of Italy's World Cup matches in Brazil last summer.

"Matteo is a right-sided full back with the versatility of being able to play on the left" said United boss Van Gaal.
"He is a strong defender and he has the ability to go forward in the attacking positions which is a fantastic attribute to have and much needed in the fast rhythm of the Premier League."

Darmian's signing follows confirmation that a deal has been agreed with Bayern Munich for midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger to move to Old Trafford.

He is expected to join up with LVG's side as they leave for the pre-season tour to the USA on Monday. 

Profile: Bastian Schweinsteiger

United and Bayern Munich have confirmed that an agreement has been reached over Bastian Schweinsteiger.
Pending a medical and personal terms, Germany's captain and midfield lynchpin will play his football at Old Trafford next season.

Born in Kolbermoor, West Germany, Schweinsteiger has played for Bayern his entire career, but with United in urgent need of a midfield enforcer, LVG, who has managed him before, has decided he is the man to fill the playmaker void. 

First emerging as a left winger, he can play anywhere across the middle but has excelled as a deep lying, box-to-box midfield playmaker.
A leader and world class player who can make his mark on any team, Schweinsteiger is the captain of the world champions following Phillip Lahm's retirement, and his leadership qualities will be a huge asset to the Reds: having lost the experience of Rio, Vida and Patrice Evra, the Bayern great is used to driving his team on the biggest stage.

Last time he faced United, he scored Bayern's equaliser in the first leg of the quarter-final at Old Trafford, but later saw red as his team eventually prevailed in the two-legged tie. 

Van Gaal wanted reliable cover for the 34-year-old Michael Carrick, and, in Schweinsteiger, there are not many better.
The 30-year-old is one of the most decorated players in world football (he'll fit right in then), having won EIGHT Bundesliga titles, seven German Cups, a Champions League, a Club World Cup as well as the World Cup with Germany in Brazil last summer.

He made his Germany debut in 2004 and, to date, he has won 111 caps for the national side, making 342 appearances for Bayern Munich over a 13 year career at the Bundesliga giants.

A superb reader of the game with a brilliant technical brain, there is no denying that Schweinsteiger is nothing but world class and, despite only playing 25 games for Bayern at 30 years of age last season, he remains one of the most sought-after players in the game (did I mention that his girl is smoking hot, too....)

Bastian's girlfriend, Serbian tennis star Ana Ivanovic (celebrity crush alert!!)

Schweinsteiger playing for Bayern last season

United closing in on Schweinsteiger move

United are close to completing the signing of German international Bastian Schweinsteiger from Bayern Munich.

I write this post erring on the side of caution- indeed I still feel a tad silly when we somewhat jumped the gun on this very page over Ilkay Gundogan and reported him signing for us only for him to subsequently stay at Dortmund (although in my defence, everyone else was saying it too). 

United have been linked with a number of high-profile arrivals this summer, but, should Schweinsteiger arrive at Old Trafford, it would be a significant statement of intent similar to the one we made last summer with the arrivals of Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao.

The 30-year-old is believed to have told Bayern he does not want to extend his contract, and although the two clubs are yet to agree a fee, United are prepared to give the World Cup winner a massive increase in his salary.

Schweinsteiger is widely regarded as one of the best midfielders in the game today.
A box-to-box player with a terrific energy and work rate, his set-piece delivery and reading of the game- as well as his prowess for the spectacular goal or two- would make him a world class addition to this United side (he's also dating Ana Ivanovic so any chance to see more of her at OT is an added bonus).

Although it could be argued that Schweinsteiger is too old to slot into the high tempo, fast paced, intense and frantic world of a Premier League midfield, he is still only 30 and has at least five years at the top level left in him.

United have made only one signing so far this summer- despite being linked with every player under the sun- but Italian full-back Matteo Darmian also appears to be heading to Old Trafford for £13m from Torino. 

Friday 10 July 2015

RVP: Fenerbahce begin talks to sign United striker

Turkish side Fenerbahce have opened talks to sign Manchester United striker Robin van Persie. 

Van Persie, 31, moved to Old Trafford from Arsenal for £24m in 2012 and scored 30 goals in an outstanding first season with the Reds to help United to the Premier League title in 2012/13.

But the Dutchman, with one year left on his contract, has struggled with injury and form and scored only 10 goals last season. 

Ex-United team mate Nani joined the Turkish Super Lig runners up for £4.25m on Monday.

RVP's departure would leave us with only two fit first-choice strikers in skipper Wayne Rooney and young burgeoning talent James Wilson.

Colombia forward Radamel Falcao, who spent last season on loan at United, has joined Chelsea while Javier Hernandez is recovering from a fractured collarbone.

Recent £31m signing Memphis Depay, though primarily a winger, could play a central role, with Van Gaal having previously spoken of the Netherlands international's "versatility".
He played both as a striker and as winger at PSV last season and scored 22 goals.

RVP is the Dutch team's all time top scorer with 49 goals in 98 games, a tally which includes THAT brilliant diving header against Spain in their World Cup opener last summer as they finished third.

He began his career in England with a stellar spell at Arsenal, where he netted 132 goals in 278 appearances for the Gunners.
He has scored 58 times in 105 games for United, but it seems as though his spell at the club is drawing to a close. 

Although the past two seasons have been somewhat disappointing, RVP will always have a fond place in United's fans hearts for his role in the 20th title (who can forget that injury time winner to shut up the neighbours in December 2012, just one of many memorable moments).

Best of luck in Turkey, Robin...

Monday 6 July 2015

Nani seals £4.25m Fenerbahce move

United winger Nani has joined Turkish side Fenerbahce for £4.25 million (6 millions Euros) on a three-year deal.

The 28 year old Portuguese international made 229 appearances for the Reds in seven season at Old Trafford, scoring 40 goals. 

An enigmatic player capable of delight and despair in equal measure, on his day Nani could be simply unplayable but sadly he never found his best form often enough during his United career.

Nani signed a new five year deal in 2013, but, having spent last season on loan at boyhood club Sporting Lisbon, he joins his international team mates Bruno Alves and Raul Meireles at the Turkish Super Lig club. 

The winger won four Premier League titles, two League Cups, a Champions League, a FIFA Club World Cup and four Community Shields in his United career.
There were some memorable individual displays as well, most notably two outstanding displays in titanic tussles with Arsenal.

A brilliant man of the match performance in a 4-0 FA Cup win in February 2008 put the Gunners to the sword, and  in January 2010 he enjoyed arguably his best ever game in a United shirt when his scored one and set up another to further punish the Gunners in the Champions League semi finals. 

In his first season at United, he scored from the spot in Moscow to help United to a third European triumph whilst he was also influential in a 3-0 home win over Liverpool earlier that season. 

In 2010/11, he was recognised as United's Players Player of the Year as the club achieved a record-breaking 19th league title. 

The 2013/14 campaign was a frustrating one for Nani as he spent most of the season struggling with injury and trying to find form, with the winger dropping in and out of an ever changing United side.

New Reds manager Louis van Gaal deemed Nani to be surplus to requirements and he was sent out on loan back to the club that United signed him from for the duration of last season.
He scored seven goals in 27 appearances for Sporting last term, also netting in a penalty shootout win over Braga to help the club to their first trophy since 2008.

Nani was not everyone's favourite when he played for us, but his  fleeting individual brilliance- often at crucial moments- and extravagant goal celebrations ensure he will leave his mark on United's recent history.

All of us at United Faithful would like to wish Nani all the best as he embarks on a new chapter in his career at Fenerbahce in Turkey.

NB: There is a possibility that United could face off against Nani's new side in the Champions League play-offs in August.
The Reds are seeded for the draw and Fenerbahce are among our possible two-legged tie opponents. 

Players report back for pre-season training

Sorry for the lack of recent posts- a combination of work, Wimbledon (the tennis, not AFC) and a lack of activity at United have made it difficult to update. 

Two players at the centre of recent frenzied transfer speculation were among the United players who reported back for pre-season training this morning (Monday).

David de Gea and Robin van Persie- whom have been linked with Real Madrid and Fenerbahce respectively- reported to Carrington for the first day back after the summer break.

The fact that De Gea was spotted in Madrid (is he not allowed a holiday in his home city) only fuelled rumours over an impending move to the Bernabeu, but the fact that he has reported back with the Reds will give hope of a new Reds deal to United fans everywhere.

If he is actually going anywhere, why would he have come back for pre-season?? 

One United player has already swapped Manchester for Fenerbahce (Nani for £4.2m) and, if the reports are to be believed, another will soon follow suit with Van Persie, according to some newspapers, having already agreed personal terms.

The squad, including new addition Memphis Depay, have begun preparations for their pre-season tour Stateside and depart for the US next Monday ahead of the first game against Club America on the 17th. 

A deal for Ilkay Gundogan is looking less likely with the midfielder in talks over a U-turn on his Dortmund future, but proposed moves for Bastian Schweinsteiger and Morgan Schneiderlin are still in the pipeline. 

Meanwhile, Louis van Gaal has revealed his tactical strategy for the US tour.

The Dutch manager has said that he will rotate his squad in 45 minutes bursts to "adapt to the situation", whilst also revealing that a number of the younger members of the squad will be given game time in the USA.