Thursday 15 June 2017

United complete Lindelof signing in first summer swoop

United have completed the £31 million signing of Benfica's Swedish international centre-back Victor Lindelof. 

The centre-back, capped 12 times by his country, becomes the Reds most expensive defender, eclipsing the £29 million paid for Rio Ferdinand in 2002.

Lindelof will officially join United on July 1 on a four year deal with the option of a fifth. 

If Lindelof can replicate the quality and class that Rio brought to the United back line, then we've got ourselves an excellent foil for Eric Bailly, who impressed last season after his arrival from Villarreal. 

The 22 year old played 47 times for Portuguese champions Benfica last season, and represented Sweden in all three of their group matches at Euro 2016. 
Lindelof proved a key man at the heart of the Benfica defence last term as Rui Vitoria's side added the domestic cup to a fourth consecutive Primeira Liga title. 

He began his career in his homeland with Vaster SK, for whom he played for four seasons before he signed for the Lisbon club in 2011.
He went on to star in Sweden's victorious European Under 21 Championships campaign in 2015, and also brings with him the added experience of Champions League football - having played in every minute of Benfica's run to the last 16 last term.

Jose Mourinho is known to be a long term admirer of Lindelof and intended to make a move for him both last summer and in January.

Such was the run of form of Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo and Daley Blind, however, that the club shelved plans to bring him in then, but now Jose has finally got his man. 

Jones and Rojo cannot be relied upon to stay fit though and Blind - largely excellent when utilised in central defence - does not have the stature Jose demands from his defenders.

Lindelof, at 6ft 2in, does and the imposing Swede bears the hallmarks of the defensive lynchpin that United have lacked since the twin departures of Rio and Vida in 2014. 

He said: "I'm thrilled, I have enjoyed my time at Benfica enormously and I have learned a lot there. But now I'm looking forward to playing in the Premier League at Old Trafford and for Jose Mourinho and the wonderful fans of Manchester United.  I'm keen to get started and make my own contribution to the team's efforts to deliver more trophies." 

With Lindelof set to make his United debut on the summer tour to the USA, Jose is still thought to be in the market for further defensive re-inforcements. 

Wednesday 14 June 2017

United to host the Hammers on the opening day

United kick off the 2017-18 Premier League season as we ended the last - with a home game against London opposition.

83 days after the 2-0 win over Palace brought down the domestic curtain, the Reds welcome Slaven Bilic's West Ham side to Old Trafford on Saturday 12th August.

Four days earlier, Europa League champions United face Champions League winners Real Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup in Skopje. 

As winners of Europe's second tier tournament, the Reds won't need to negotiate a potentially slippery Champions League play-off, as we go straight into the competition's group stage.

The first matchday is Tuesday or Wednesday 12th/13th September, off the back of an always tricky visit to Mark Hughes' Stoke on the 9th.

The first domestic heavyweight clash to be circled on the calendar comes away to Liverpool on the 14th October - almost a year to the day from the corresponding fixture last term, which ended 0-0.

United then travel to newly promoted Huddersfield (a first ever visit to the John Smith's Stadium) before back-to-back games against high profile London rivals Spurs (28 October) and champions Chelsea (4 November). 

We host the two other newly promoted sides Newcastle and Chris Hughton's Brighton in successive home matches before we finish November with a trip to Watford.

The hectic run of festive fixtures over Christmas and New Year can make or break a club's season, with seven matches packed into the space of four weeks.

United travel to Arsenal on the 2nd December and then host cross town rivals City a week later, although both of these fixtures are likely to be re-arranged to meet the demands of TV coverage.

The Reds end 2017 with two home games in four days as Burnley make the 28 mile journey to Old Trafford on Boxing Day.
After Southampton's visit on the 30th, United get one day's rest before kicking off 2018 at Goodison Park.

Other key dates are the 24th February when the champions are in town, the 10th March for Liverpool's visit, and the return derby at the Etihad, provisionally scheduled for the 7th April. 

We visit the south coast with a first ever trip to Brighton's Amex Stadium in our final away league fixture of the campaign.

United finish the season as we started it at Old Trafford, with Marco Silva's Watford the opposition on Sunday 13th May. 

Bring it On!!

Friday 9 June 2017

Zlatan set to leave after United fail to offer new contract

United are set to release Zlatan Ibrahimovic after the club chose not to offer him a new deal.

The Swedish striker signed on a one year contract, with the option of a second, when he joined  the Reds having been released by PSG in the summer.
The addition of one of Europe's most prolific and reputable strikers came without the lure of Champions League football and represented a real coup for Jose and the club. 

Zlatan came to England with doubts about his suitability for the fast and physical nature of the Premier League but instead proved the greatest free transfer the league has seen.
He brought with him the charismatic swagger of the superstar target man we've not had since Eric Cantona, and leaves us with many cherished memories. 

He ended his first and only season at Old Trafford with 28 goals - including the winner in the Community Shield, a brace in the EFL Cup final and hat-trick against Saint Etienne - to top United's goalscoring charts. 

The extension in the deal had not been triggered when he suffered a season-ending knee injury in the Europa League against Anderlecht in April which meant he missed the final ten matches of the campaign. 

Although the decision to allow him to leave may seem a strange one to outsiders, it makes perfect sense for the club.

There is no timeframe on his recovery but other players younger than him have suffered the same injury and been out for up to a year.
Zlatan will be 36 in October and to keep him on the payroll when he won't return until mid 2018 - and even then there are no guarantees on his fitness - is a risk not worth taking. 

Zlatan has been offered the use of United's Carrington training ground to complete his rehabilitation after his cruciate knee ligament surgery. 

His contract officially runs on 30 June and, although there has been no mention of a new one, the fact that he will remain in Manchester, could suggest that it remains a possibility. 
The extent of his recovery and our form in the opening months of next season could prove the decisive factor - but it still seems very likely that he will leave.

United have pulled out of a deal for Atletico's Antoine Griezmann, but are now believed to be in talks with city rivals Real over a possible move for out of favour forward Alvaro Morata. 

Sunday 4 June 2017

Carrick Testimonial: United 08' XI 2-2 Michael Carrick All Stars

The man himself fittingly rounded off the scoring for United's double winning 2008 side on an emotional and nostalgic day on his testimonial. 

Gaizka Mendieta put the All Stars ahead on 22 minutes, only for the Reds to roll back the years when Ryan Giggs corner found Nemanja Vidic to power in  a header.

Robbie Keane looked to have won it after the break only for Carrick to rifle home a 25-yarder eight minutes from the end to make it 2-2.

The match pitted United's 2008 Premier League and European champions - managed by Sir Alex Ferguson one last time - against a squad of decorated former legends to honour Carrick's 11 seasons the the club.

Edwin van der Sar, Vidic, Rio Ferdinand, Paul Scholes, Giggs and Patrice Evra graced the Old Trafford turf once more, with Louis Saha, Dimitar Berbatov, Gary Neville and Michael's younger brother Graeme on the bench.

 Managed by Carra's first boss at West Ham Harry Redknapp, the opposition side featured Liverpool legend Jamie Carragher, Chelsea veteran John Terry, former United man Michael Owen as well as ex internationals Keane, Clarence Seedorf and Marcos Senna. 

The match was preceded by a minute's silence in memory of the victims of the terror attacks in Manchester and last night's atrocity in London.

Shay Given cleared well under pressure from Evra early on before Wayne Rooney lobbed over the bar after a typically pin-point pass from Scholes.

Seedorf had the crowd purring with a neat nutmeg on Darren Fletcher before the 41-year-old Dutch legend played a part in his side's opening goal.
His sublime cross field pass found Eric Abidal whom in turn found Keane to cut the ball back for Mendieta who slotted in from close range.

Rooney headed wide before Vidic's leveller two minutes before the half hour and Scholes and Carrick then both went close with efforts from distance. 

Van der Sar saved well from Senna and substitute Gary Neville skewed a speculative volley waywarddly wide, to the mass amusement of a packed Old Trafford. 

Given tipped wide from a Berbatov header, and Mikael Silvestre's lunging challenge thwarted Eider Gudjohnsen as the striker shaped to shoot.

That was to be only a brief respite as Keane lobbed Van der Sar in expert fashion a minute later after Richard Garcia had picked him out.

Saha fired over the bar but United levelled on 82 minutes and, fittingly, it was Carrick who had the final say when he lashed in with a trademark effort from distance.