Saturday 30 July 2016

Pre season: United 5-2 Galatasaray

Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored four minutes into his United debut as Jose Mourinho's side staged a stirring second half comeback against the Turkish champions in Stockholm.

The 34-year-old scored in his homeland with an acrobatic overhead but Gala bossed the remainder of the half and led at the interval through Sinus Gumus and Bruma.

Wayne Rooney turned the game on its head for a much-changed Reds side with a quickfire brace after the break and further goals from Marouane Fellaini and Juan Mata added gloss to the scoreline.

The result was largely a footnote, but the presence of Ibrahimovic in the United line-up ensured that this was far from a routine friendly and he justified the attention with an impressive impact.

Zlatan met Antonio Valencia's run and cross with a typically athletic bicycle kick that bounced into the turf and beyond the sprawling Fernando Muslera inside five minutes.

Ander Herrera went close but despite rarely threatening up until then, the Turkish side were level on 22 minutes.

Having put the Reds ahead, Ibrahimovic conceded the set piece from which one-time United target Wesley Sneijder picked out Gumus to head home beyond David De Gea.

Suddenly, Galatasaray assumed control as the Spaniard saved twice in quick succession- first from Sneijder and then Yason Oztekin.
He was powerless to prevent the Turks taking the lead, however, when Bruma played a one-two with Gumus and curled in a beauty from 20 yards with five first half minutes to play.

Jose Mourinho made five changes at the break and it did not take long for his new look- literally- (United were playing in the new white away kit)- to equalise upon the resumption.

Marcus Rashford fed Valencia whom in turn burst free down the right and crossed for Rooney to slam in a finish from close range on 55 minutes.

Shortly afterwards, United found themselves ahead thanks to a sensational piece of skill and pace from Rashford.
The young striker raced on to Rooney's excellent through ball to skip past Serdar Aziz, burst into the box and looked poised to shoot until he went down under a challenge from the onrushing Muslera.

Rooney stepped up to fire in the resultant spot-kick and, from then on, the rampant Reds never looked back.

Marouane Fellaini looped home an excellent header from Valencia's cross at the culmination of a neat move, De Gea saved well from Oztekin at the other end before a further six substitutions from Mourinho. 

Carrick and Mata linked up for the latter to sweep in the fifth to complete what was now a rout as United warmed up for next week's Community Shield match in style in Gothenburg.

United: De Gea (Romero 67); Valencia (Memphis 67), Bailly (Rojo 67), Blind (Jones 67), Shaw (Darmian 67); Schneiderlin (Carrick 46), Herrera (Fellaini 46); Mkhitaryan (Lingard 46), Rooney (Mata 67), Martial (Young 46); Ibrahimovic (Rashford 46). 

Man of the Match: Antonio Valencia. 

Thursday 7 July 2016

United sign Mkhitaryan for an undisclosed fee

United have signed Armenian international Henrikh Mkhitaryan from Bundesliga side Borussia Dortmund on a three year deal.

The 27 year old national captain becomes Jose Mourinho's third signing as Reds boss and joins the Old Trafford club for an undisclosed fee, thought to be in the region of £20 million.

Voted last season's Player of the Year in the German top flight, Mkhitaryan (Mik-a-tar-ian) can play anywhere in a front three and scored 23 goals- with 31 assists- in an outstanding campaign last term. 

He is very much in the United mould: all-action, box to box, strong in the tackle and exceptionally quick.
He's not afraid to shirk defensive responsibility either, a key blueprint for a Mourinho side and the fact that his impressive stats came from the wide positions was not lost on his new manager. 

"Henrikh is a superbly creative player with great skill, vision and a good eye for goal, I am delighted he has chosen to sign for United and we are all looking forward to working with him"
"He is a fantastic player and I like even more the fact that he scores and assists a lot of goals despite not being a striker" said Mourinho. 

Mkhitaryan began his career in his homeland with FC Pyunik after rising through the ranks before a move to Ukrainian side Metalurh Donetsk followed in 2010.

Capped by his national side at 18 years of age- he has 60 Albania appearance in total- Mkhitaryan quickly attracted the attentions of Ukraine's biggest club Shakhtar, who signed him for $7.5 million a year later.

A league champion during his time at the Donbass Arena, it was at Dortmund that Mkhitaryan really forged his reputation, however.
Despite a number of high profile departures and a solitary German Cup on the honours board, his explosive link-up play with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang caught the eye last season

Having been signed by Jurgen Klopp in 2013 for £23.5 million, Mkhitaryan was in the last year of his contract and made 140 appearances for Dortmund, scoring 40 goals. 

It looks likely that he will operate from the right of a front three for United. 

Mourinho's insistence that Wayne Rooney's future does not lie any deeper than a No.10 indicates he'll be in behind Zlatan, with Martial on the left and new man Mkhitaryan on the right. 

He described the move to Old Trafford as a "dream come true", and said:

"I am very proud and excited to play for a club with such an illustrious history and hope to be part of that history for a long time.
"It is a dream come true and I thank the trust shown in me by Jose Mourinho."

Saturday 2 July 2016

End of an era as Giggs looks set to move on after 29 years

Ryan Giggs has ended his 29 season career at United after agreeing a settlement with the Old Trafford club.

The 42-year-old had a year left on his contract as assistant manager but new manager Jose Mourinho intends to fill that role with long-term friend and confidante Rui Faria.

Unable to reach an agreement over another role at the club Giggs - United's all time record appearance maker with 963- has decided to move on.

Giggsy has his UEFA Pro Licence, a mandatory coaching qualification and has made no secret of his desire to move into management

Linked with Swansea last season, he felt he was ready to take over at United having served his apprenticeship under David Moyes and Louis van Gaal following a four-game spell as interim boss after the former's sacking in 2014.

He was known to be less than impressed with how Van Gaal's exit was handled after the FA Cup win and was also disappointed to be overlooked in favour of Jose Mourinho.

He is unlikely to be short of offers from chairmen ready to give the Welshman his first permanent managerial role, having passed all the relevant coaching qualifications and learning his craft at the biggest club in the world

Giggs represented one of the last remaining links to the glorious Ferguson era, and given his service and achievements at our club, it's a PR disaster to allow him to leave.

He was largely responsible for the first-team promotion of 18-year-old Marcus Rashford and is the embodiment of the United traditions of a commitment to youth and attacking football. 

However, he was part of static management team criticised by fans, pundits and former players alike for a dull style of play that ultimately cost Van Gaal his job.

Spearheaded by executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward, United are now a different club to the trophy-winning juggernaut of the Sir Alex era.

With a revised transfer policy of world class marquee signings and the abrupt end of the Moyes and Van Gaal tenures - coupled with the appointment of Mourinho - winning has been prioritised ahead of longevity and long term planning.

Despite one senior member of the club's hierarchy saying Giggs "triple-ticked" many essential components needed for the United manager's job, he remains unproven at the highest level.

It now seems likely that he will have to prove his worth and cut his teeth of management at another club, but whether that will lead to an eventual return to the Old Trafford hotseat in the future, it's too soon to tell.

Thanks for the memories, Giggsy.

Zlatan is perfect for United - and he for us

As he has shown throughout his highly successful - and often controversial - career, Zlatan Ibrahimovic belongs in the spotlight.

He wants the eyes of the world on him and to know how good he is. 

The same goes for United as the glare once permanently fixed on Old Trafford has occasionally been retrained elsewhere during recent seasons.

 But the recruitment of the Swede, following hot on the heels of Jose Mourinho's appointment, will do much to wrest it back.

The timing of Zlatan's arrival is more than opportune as United look to regain domestic rule.

With a master motivator at the helm of a squad boasting plenty of established and emerging talent and Ibrahimovic's confidence swelling the collective self belief, the Reds may finally rediscover the aura of invincibility that disappeared with Ferguson's departure.

Everybody has an opinion on Zlatan, nobody more than the man himself.

Asked to describe his unique style of play, the enigmatic Swede simply said: "Zlatan style".
He gives off the impression that he could batter defenders senseless, rabona them into the top corner and sashay off into the Northern Quarter to celebrate.

He has edge and presence aplenty and that is something United have long needed. 

The man's egocentricity will irk opponents - and all the better to re-establish the us-against-the-world mentality so prominent under Sir Alex - but it is as well founded as can be.

Never has the famous Old Trafford banner proclaiming United as 'not arrogant, just better' seemed so appropriate. 

Is there anything wrong with being both?

A phenomenally skillful player who has won virtually every available honour in the game, Ibrahimovic fits perfectly into the Reds dressing room subculture of lavishly-decorated veterans alongside Wayne Rooney, Michael Carrick, Bastian Schweinsteiger and (on achievement rather than age), Juan Mata.

He will bring a new dimension to the attack, both in experience and ability.

He will co-exist with burgeoning, raw and exciting young talents Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford who can only benefit from working with a striker of such standing. 

While the winning habit is fresh in the collective mind of the FA-Cup winning squad inherited by Mourinho, it is ingrained in Ibrahimovic.

The Swede has finished 13 of his last 15 seasons as a league champions in the Netherlands, Italy, Spain and France.
The man is simply unaccustomed to failure.

He is, however, accustomed to thriving under pressure on the biggest of stages.

He has met the demands of success at Ajax, Juventus, Inter, Barcelona, AC Milan and PSG.

Now he enters English football at the biggest club in the country, a giant looking to end a three-year wait for a domestic league title. 

This is going to be fun! 


United complete Ibrahimovic signing

United have completed the signing of out-of-contract striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic on a one-year deal.

The 34-year-old, capped 116 times by Sweden, has retired from international football and left French champions PSG at the end of last season having been strongly linked with the Reds since.

Zlatan removed the final barrier to his first season in England when he said he did not wish to be considered for Olympic duty in Rio following Sweden's early Euro 2016 exit.

Ibrahimovic is Jose Mourinho's second signing as United manager following the £30 million capture of Villarreal's Ivorian defender Eric Bailly.

The former Barcelona, Juventus and Inter Milan player is one of the most feared and prolific strikers in the game, having scored 392 goals in  677 matches, winning a trophy in every season of his career since 2001 including 13 league titles.

Four of those came in a stellar spell at the French club in which he won the domestic quadruple twice and, last term, he enjoyed the most dominant season of his career as he netted a record-breaking 50 goals in 51 appearances.

"I am absolutely delighted to be joining a fantastic club in Manchester United and am looking forward to playing in the Premier League for the first time in my career" he said. 

Ibrahimovic has an ego and an enigma to match his supreme footballing talents and is renowned as a box office maverick with a reputation for speaking his mind.

United's history is littered with temperamental big name players: George Best, Eric Cantona and Cristiano Ronaldo to name but three but questions may be asked of the 34 year old's ability to adapt to the physical demands of the Premier League. 

Neverthless, his arrival is sure to bring excitement and unpredictability to an Old Trafford fanbase starved of both over the last few seasons, and his long running feud with new City boss Pepe Guardiola can only endear him further.

Ibrahimovic worked together with Mourinho during their time at Inter and after the two men confirmed they will link up again, the Portuguese said:

"Zlatan needs no introduction, he is one of the best strikers in the world who has won trophies wherever he has been and I know he will grasp this opportunity to help me and the team win titles.

"I am certain that his talent and personality will delight the fans at Old Trafford next season and that his experience will be invaluable in helping to develop the fantastic young players we have in our squad."