Friday 31 August 2018

United's familiar foes and new faces in cup draws

Cristiano Ronaldo will return to Old Trafford after United were drawn with Serie A champions Juventus in the Champions League - a tie that will also see Paul Pogba face his former employers.
Jose Mourinho's United were put into Group H of the competition and, as well as Juve, will take on La Liga team Valencia and the unknown quantity of Swiss Super League champions Young Boys in this season's group stage.

It would be dangerous for United to focus solely on Ronaldo - signed from Real Madrid for £99m in the biggest transfer of the summer. With the likes of Paulo Dybala, Douglas Costa and Ronnie's ex-Real team mate Sami Khedira pulling the strings from deep, Massimillano Allegri's side are going to take some stopping. The 2015 finalists are genuine European and domestic heavyweighrs, the pre-eminent force in Italy, and will be among the favourites to go all the way to this year's showpiece in Madrid. Pogba, the subject of much scrutiny and pressure at United at present amid a strained relationship with Mourinho, won four successive Serie A titles with Juve during his four seasons in Turin, sandwiched between his two unfulfilling spells at Old Trafford. Pogba played 155 ties for Italy's Old Lady in four seasons between 2012 and 2016, and will come up against the team-mates and manager he enjoyed so much success with as a four-time champion in Serie A.

 Valencia were the club where Andreas Pereira spent the last campaign on loan, and the club are back at Europe's top table for only the second time in five years. They failed to progress beyond the group in their last Champions League campaign in 2015-16, finishing third before a Europa League exit during Gary Neville's ill-fated three months at the helm. A creditable fourth-placed finish sealed their return this time around. Chelsea loanee Michy Batshuayi, ex-Arsenal man Francis Coquelin and Dane Daniel Wass - who played against United for Celta Vigo in the Europa League - are just three of the Spanish side's more well-known names. Denis Cheryshev, one of the stars of Russia's unlikely run to the World Cup quarter finals, in which he scored four group stage goals, plies his trade at the Mestalla on loan from Villarreal. Not much is known about the fourth team in our group, Young Boys of Berne, who will make their Champions League group stage debut having broken Basel's eight-year dominance of the Swiss league with a first league title in 32 years last season. The Reds will travel to the Stade de Suisse in Bern for our opening game of the tournament on Wednesday 19th September.

The third round of the EFL Cup is the stage where the Premier League giants enter the fray, and United were pitted against another familiar name in last night's draw. The Reds were handed a home tie with a Derby County side that we faced most recently in January at the same stage of the FA Cup, the latest in a string of cup meetings with the East Midlands side. We also played Derby twice in both cup competitions in 2009, and won 3-1 under Louis van Gaal on route to our then record-equalling 12th FA Cup eight years later. They have regular opponents in domestic cup football, and have proved a tough nut to crack in recent years.

This time though, there is added intrigue to the contest, with a certain Frank Lampard recently installed in his first managerial post at the ipro Stadium. Chelsea legend Lampard won the Premier League twice under Mourinho at Chelsea and will now pit his wits against his mentor from the dugout when the two men meet as managers at Old Trafford on 25th September.

 After a troubled start to our league campaign, the cups can offer respite and United may focus on these two contrasting competitions to kick-start a season that has yet to really get going. COYR!

Thursday 30 August 2018

Divided, broken and upside down, Man Utd are a club without a clue

As one of, if not THE, biggest club in the world, United are accustomed to hitting the headlines whatever we do, but none more than in the past week. As if the home defeat to Tottenham was not bad enough, the club's predicament has only worsened - in these patience wearing, troublesome, tense and turbulent times, we must be a headline writer's dream at the minute.

It's no secret that United are just as much of a mess off the pitch as on it, and if there's one situation that epitomises the divisive, shambolic and upside down way the club is being run right now look no further than Anthony Martial. A player that doesn't want to be here and a player that Jose Mourinho blatantly wants rid of. Patience has worn thin with a player constantly threatening to throw away the world class potential that he possesses. The news that he's in line to sign a new five-year deal has left me, and I'm sure many others, scratching my head in bemusement and disbelief.
At the moment, these rumours may just be that - rumours, but there's often no smoke without fire and this is a deal that has the ugly stain of Ed Woodward plastered all over it. It's increasingly clear that this man - not Jose Mourinho - has the power and that he's running the club completely at odds with how Mourinho wants things done. Now it appears that this man - an accountant with absolutely no knowledge of football whatsoever - is sticking his oversized nose into business that's nothing to do with him once again. Words can't describe how much animosity I'm feeling for this power hungry, ego-driven, money obsessed, clueless, useless, toxic and pretentious puppet. He's determined to continually undermine one of the best managers in the business, a man whose task of reviving United's fortunes are becoming more and more complicated, to satisfy his own commercial agenda and greed.

This is what happens when a club prioritises commercial success over the playing side- you get the commercially driven signing of Paul Pogba seemingly dictating terms in ugly fashion and a CEO obsessed with that dreaded re-sale value angle. It is wretched, but that seemingly only scratches the surface as far as Martial is concerned. When we signed Pogba, Woodward said it had been a deal two years in the making. In other words, long before Mourinho even arrived at Old Trafford. Proof, if it were needed, that Woodward is going over Mourinho's head when it comes to recruitment and contracts.

If rumours are to be believed, the factor behind Martial’s new deal revolves around the fact there is a belief within his camp that he can outlast Mourinho. He's basically admitted that all the time Mourinho is here, Martial is not even going to bother giving his all for the red of United.
 This is what Manchester United have turned into, a club with no direction from the top. If you will, well Mourinho won’t be here soon anyway so I’ll bide my time.

How vile and disrespectful, how about wanting to stay for the badge and playing for, still, one of the biggest clubs around? Forgot that was too much to ask for…
This is a guy who Mourinho omitted from his Tottenham 18 for footballing reasons, a tactical call after his no-show, quelle surprise, against Brighton, much like the season before. This is a guy who has done absolutely nothing for the past year, a player who is lazy and body language horrible.
We are indulging players who frankly do not give a monkey’s backside about the badge or striving to reverse United’s slide into laughing stock. Yes, Paul Pogba, I include you in that too.
The cameras have been deliberately fixating on Woodward at full-time of both defeats to Brighton and Spurs, and each time the anger within me has risen to boiling point. 
The Glazer puppet is running the show, not one of the best managers to have ever graced the game. Divided, broken and ripped apart from top to bottom, offering Martial a new contract is further proof that there's a bitter power struggle raging fiercely in the Old Trafford corridors of power.
 A battle that one way or another, will inevitably end in tears.

Wednesday 29 August 2018

Mourinho finds an unlikely ally in his hour of need

Man Utd boss Jose Mourinho has found an unlikely ally in his hour of need - just as he did at Chelsea in 2015.
On that occasion it was Willian, this time it comes in the form of a player with a relationship with his manager that many thought damaged beyond repair. A player most of us thought had a one way ticket out of here.
 Hands firmly on hips, Luke Shaw stared at the Stretford End. Dejected. 3-0. It was only when he was slapped on the back by a familiar face that the left-back awoke from his trance. It was Mourinho.
"You could not play better than you did," the Manchester United boss told him as he put an arm around him.
And he was not wrong. While he may have left a couple of gaps in behind as he battled cramp at the death, this was as bittersweet a defeat as they come for Shaw after an individual performance like that. He has been the one ray of light amid the storm clouds gathering above Old Trafford in United's bleak start to the 2018-19 season. He was the team's most impressive performer on a night in which none of his team mates exactly covered themselves in glory.
For the first time in two years, the 23-year-old started a game against a top-six rival and he barely put a foot wrong in front of England boss Gareth Southgate and assistant Steve Holland. Even Ashley Young, who has barely got a look in, will have been impressed on the bench.
Following a barrage of criticism over his holiday habits, Shaw has bucked up his ideas and it has been a remarkable month in his roller coaster United career as he looks to earn a new contract.
Just last month he was getting skinned by San Jose Earthquakes full-back Nick Lima; now, he is one of the first names on Mourinho's teamsheet after three impressive displays against Leicester, Brighton and Spurs.
Mourinho may be chopping and changing at will at the moment - Eric Bailly, Matteo Darmian, Andreas Pereira and Juan Mata all played a full 90 minutes in the season opener against Leicester, and we've seen much-changed line ups in the two games since - but Shaw has been the one constant.
It says it all that Shaw has shone in these games when, at various points, United have been poor and Mourinho, who has repeatedly criticised him in the past, has not been shy in praising him in a dramatic reversal of fortunes.
“Of course, the kid has to be upset with the result, but the kid has to know that he has had three very good matches in the Premier League and against Tottenham he was very, very good. I am very, very happy with him," he said.
The last time Mourinho was in a situation like this, it was Willian who stepped up in his hour of need at Chelsea. As Mourinho battled to save his job, the Brazilian chipped in with seven goals and a series of commendable performances.
Willian was one of the few positives from the final months of Mourinho's reign at Stamford Bridge and repaid the faith his manager showed in him.
In the United boss's hour of need with the Portuguese under intense pressure and increasing scrutiny, Shaw is following suit.

Tuesday 28 August 2018

Fragile De Gea looks bereft of confidence

It's often been said that without the breathtaking brilliance and gravity defying intervention of David de Gea United would have finished in mid table in the last four seasons. The Spaniard - widely regarded as the best in the business - has constantly leapt, dived, sprawled and stretched every sinew to come to the Reds rescue on countless occasions - a lone beacon of calm, consistency and hope in these turbulent post-Sir Alex times.
In the 2016-17 season - Jose Mourinho's first at the helm - United conceded 29 goals from 38 league games, only conceding three or more in two of those. Last season, we had an even better record - letting in one less and never more than two in any game. A large part of that defensive fortitude was down to De Gea, not through any improvement in the hapless pair of Chris Smalling and Phil Jones. De Gea would often have to bail them out and made our defence look a lot better than what it actually was, and remains. Despite the dearth in quality, the fact that United still proved difficult to score against looked to have stood us in good stead.

Amidst the carnage of a rapidly sinking season - albeit one only three games in -  even De Gea now looks a man at odds with himself, floundering against a tide that he seems unable to stem. Our one genuine world class player is a nervous shadow of the player we've witnessed grown from a boy into the best exponent of his craft on the planet. In a poor Spain side, De Gea had a poor World Cup. Six of the seven shots he faced ended up in his net, the worst record of any goalkeeper anywhere in 52 years. Despite the fact that his team-mates spent two hours passing sideways against Russia, Dave was unfairly made a scapegoat as the catalyst for his country's tamer than expected exit. Perhaps scarred by that negativity and with United's defence imploding before his eyes, De Gea has followed suit. He looks bereft of confidence, he's being beaten by shots he should be saving and has become a fragile figure between the sticks. Since the start of World Cup up until this point, De Gea has faced 16 shots on target for club and country and conceded 12.
 I can't remember the last time we conceded three goals in two consecutive fixtures - but I suspect it was during the ten months of David Moyes infamous and ill-fated tenure. But it's happened in the last two games, a very un-Mourinho like statistic in a team that is looking less and less Mourinho like with every passing week.
Brighton had three shots on his goal last week and scored from all of them. De Gea should have done better with Glenn Murray's opener and probably should also have saved Pascal Gross's spot-kick. Last night, Tottenham had four efforts on target, three of which - once more - ended up as goals. He was outmuscled for the opener and Lucas Moura's second two minutes later went straight through him. Even against Leicester, he was deceived too easily by the cross-shot which caught him out of position and at fault for Jamie Vardy's consolation. None of the saves he's made have been anything out of the ordinary and he's not commanding his area like we've seen so often.

Of course, I'm not for one minute suggesting he's finished or that I'd have anyone else in goal for Manchester United. I don't know where we'd be without this guy's single handed heroics over the past few seasons and he remains one of the best in the world easily. But by his own high standards, he has becoem as vulnerable as the rest of the shoddy players that punctuate the squad. He seemed to be the one player we could rely upon to come up with the goods week in week out. But now something doesn't seem right, and we better hope this dip in form proves only temporary.

No manager in world football could sort out this absolute mess

The pressure and criticism on Jose Mourinho will rachet up further in the wake of our 3-0 defeat to Tottenham - a result which condemned the club to our second defeat in three and our worst start to a season since 1992.
It's easy to pin all the blame on a man that everyone seemingly loves to hate, and of course as manager the buck stops with him and he has to take responsbility. But the fact is, Manchester United, as a club, are anything but and at the minute we're United in name only. A squad that isn't good enough, a manager that doesn't want to be there, a useless board only interested in making money, and a toxic and unhappy fanbase that do not know where to turn to or who's to blame for the mess we find ourselves in. There would probably even be arguments over the shade of red we play in such is the unpleasant atmosphere at United now.
The problems certainly do not begin, or end, with Mourinho. When the time comes and he does go - whether that be through resignation or his sacking - all will still not be rosy in the Old Trafford garden. Only the sensationally deluded would think that he is the only problem here. He is merely the sounding board - masking the wider, far more toxic and rotten issues that are permeating through this club, from top to bottom. It's easy to blame the manager for everything and anything, but it's not that simple.

If the Portuguese - unquestionably one of the best, if not THE best - bosses of his generation - cannot turn this situation around - then it begs the question, who on earth can? This is Jose Mourinho we're talking about.  I believe that no manager in world football could do anything with this team, under this regime, or the fix the absolute mess we're in right now. Not even the name on everyone's lips, the favourite to step in the hotseat should the seemingly inevitable happens and all this ends in tears.
That brings us neatly to the elephant in the room. A man who seems the obvious, and only available, candidate to come in should Mourinho - as appears increasingly likely - fail to see the season out. Zinedine Zidane. He may have won three successive Champions League titles in an unprecented and historic achievement that's impossible to ignore and one of the few legendary players to be just as good in the dugout, but he did so in a set of circumstances that were very favourable. He had arguably the finest centre-back pairing anywhere on the planet in Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane -  an efficient, slick and well oiled Madrid machine and not to mention the best player in the world in Cristiano Ronaldo. He inherited a wonderful team with wonderful players. What do people really expect him to be able to do with the likes of Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and the shambolic shithousery that comprise the rest of United's banter defence. You can't polish a turd. At Real Madrid, Zidane couldn't fail but at United he couldn't succeed. Not unless there's a vast and major overhaul in both playing staff and those that ply their trade above him in the corridors of power.

Better performance but United pay for individual and collective errors

To look at the scoreline, you would think that this was as bad as anything United served up at the AMEX last weekend - a 3-0 home defeat at the hands of a Spurs team who rarely do anything at Old Trafford, Jose Mourinho's worst home loss and our worst start to a season since 1992.
But actually, the score doesn't even tell half the story. United were very good in the first half - better, indeed, than anything we've seen in the first three games of this campaign. I can't be the only one to think United played very well up until the moment of Spurs quickfire double that turned the game on its head and totally knocked the stuffing out of us.
 Not since the second half at the Etihad in April have the team torn into opponents with pace, power, energy and intensity. It was, arguably, the best we have been since that stunning opening blitz right at the start of last season when we were winning 4-0 for fun.

We wanted a reaction from the Brighton game and certainly got one. Had Romelu Lukaku put away two of the three presentable chances that came his way - one in particular was gift-wrapped - then this would have been a very different story. United could, probably should, have been 2-0 ahead at the break. This was certainly not a side not playing for their manager, and certainly not a side lacking effort, industry or application - but in the end Spurs proved that we are just not good enough. Despite another disappointing night at the office, there's no anger this time - more just bemusement at how, once again, things went so horribly wrong.
To their credit, Tottenham recovered from their first half quandary and brutally, clinically and emphatically exposed the gaping holes offered up by another defensive horror show. It's hard to blame Mourinho for this one - he set up to attack, certainly did not park the bus or go defensive, but it was again a tale of missed opportunities and individual errors. Two elements, two match-deciding factors that a manager can have little control over. You can feel empathy with Mourinho - it's not his fault the players cannot carry out the simplest of defensive duties.
United's defence was, again, quite simply, atrocious. Mourinho won a deserved reputation as the master of defensive organisation amid the stellar successes of his career at Porto, Inter, Chelsea and Real Madrid.
They were different times, different teams and a world away from this mess. He cannot have presided over a defence as close to catastrophe as the pathetic excuse for one he now has at Old Trafford.
 United were all over the place once Spurs found their rhythm, the desperate measure of utilising midfield man Ander Herrera alongside Phil Jones and Chris Smalling swiftly ditched once they went behind.
Mourinho's desire for a central defender has been well chronicled but it does not reflect well on his own buying policy that Victor Lindelof and Eric Bailly - bought at a cost in excess of £60m - were jettisoned following their embarrassment at Brighton. Lindelof, who came on for the injured Jones in the second half, again looked like a man scared of his own shadow.
To add insult to injury, at the other end, Toby Alderweireld - Mourinho's primary central defensive target in the summer - was calm, composed and authoritative. With every passing minute, United's failure to sign surely one of the best centre backs in world football at the moment looks more and more criminal. The Belgian's performance saw some United fans make their displeasure known to the sullen and distant figure of CEO Ed Woodward in the directors box. It summed up another night of immense frustration.

Match report: United 0-3 Tottenham

Spurs hit three second half goals to maintain their 100% start to the season and condemn United to a second successive defeat despite a much improved performance.
In a strange tie in which the scoreline doesn't tell even half the story, the Reds had looked strong in a first half in which we were sparky, lively, determined and confident. Romelu Lukaku's bad miss from a gilt-edged chance turned the game on its head, and a quickfire double from Harry Kane and then Lucas Moura in the space of two second half minutes knocked the stuffing out of the team.
Its our worst start to a season since 1992 but few could have predicted the carnage that was to follow after an opening burst that saw United send out a message of intent. Spurs had arrived at Old Trafford having won both of their opening matches against Newcastle and Fulham, but the visitors were pegged back as the Reds tore into Mauricio Pochettino's side with pace, power and energy.

Fred went close with an early sighter, but the best chance fell to Lukaku on the half hour mark. Danny Rose's underhit backpass was seized upon by the Belgian, and he looked to have the hard work when he rounded the onrushing Hugo Lloris. Although he evaded the keeper's dive, he rolled his shot wide of the post from a tight angle ten yards out. He had two further, more difficult, openings, and Paul Pogba then went close from distance only to be denied by a sprawling save from Lloris. At the other end, Tottenham threatened for the first time through Dele Alli, who robbed the returning Nemanja Matic and advanced on goal, only to be thwarted by Chris Smalling's lunging intervention.
David de Gea saved from Christian Eriksen before one final chance went United's way in the final moments of the half through Fred, who curled a shot wide with a 20-yarder. We continued this intensity after the break as Pogba went close again from distance, but if you don't take you chances you will be punished and so it proved.
Spurs goals at OT have been as rare as wins but Kane put them ahead after 50 minutes when he outjumped Jones and planted a header beyond the flat-footed De Gea. With the Reds still reeling from the shock, Tottenham struck again through Lucas Moura two minutes later, when Eriksen picked out the Brazilian winger and he finished well in front of a stunned Stretford End.

United had suddenly gone from solid and organised to shambolic and disjointed at the back. Even sub Victor Lindelof was hit with the infectious spread of the defensive disease, as his woeful backpass released Alli, but De Gea rescued his Swedish colleague as he blocked the effort with his foot.
United were fading fast as the first half optimism gave way to a chastening night with the team chasing shadows. Things got worse six minutes from the end when the whippet speed of Moura saw him skip past Smalling and fire in the third.

Overall team performance: 6/10
United Faithful Man of the Match: Luke Shaw

Sunday 26 August 2018

Match preview: United v Tottenham

The Premier League season is only three weeks old, but United have already entered must-win territory as Mauricio Pochettino's side arrive at Old Trafford having not won there since 2014. United are in danger of slipping behind early pacesetters Liverpool and Manchester City, and another poor result and performance here will do little to silence the doubts surrounding Jose Mourinho's future.
Despite our atrocious showing at Brighton last time out, United have reason to be confident ahead of this one. Tottenham haven't won at Old Trafford since 2014 - and only twice away from home against us in the Premier League era - whilst Mourinho will look to his and the side's impressive recent form over the league's other top five heavyweights to alleviate the mounting pressure both on himself and everyone at our club. For all their praise and plaudits, United finished four points above the north London side last term, and beat them twice by a single goal, 1-0 in the league and home and 2-1 in the cup semi final at Wembley.

The Reds have been handed a double injury boost ahead of this Monday night tie, captain Antonio Valencia and Nemanja Matic could both return to the side, having twice taken part in full training this week. Marouane Fellaini may start if Matic is not yet deemed fit enough, and Jesse Lingard is also expected to feature in United's 4-3-3 system. Alexis Sanchez missed the trip to the AMEX and remains a doubt with the "little issue" that ruled him out on the south coast.
Victor Wanyama is Tottenham's only absentee and Pochettino has an otherwise fully fit squad to pick from. Despite being the first team in Premier League history not to sign a single player in the summer, this talented and technically gifted Spurs team are dangerous and once more expected to provide a strong and sustained challenge at the upper echelons of the league. They've been efficient rather than exciting so far but have won both games, 2-1 at Newcastle in the opening day before a 3-1 victory over Fulham last week - a match in which star man Harry Kane finally broke his August goalscoring drought.
Jose's pre-match press conference in fact wasn't much of a press conference at all. In a move surely designed to catch the media on the hop, the boss turned up early for his weekly press briefing - so early that many missed it. In a 4 minute, 19 second exchange with reporters - much shorter than normal - he said: "I don't know 10% of what you write, so I cannot answer
"I feel we played well against Leicester and won, we played bad against Brighton and lost - against Spurs I would like to play well and win."
On his relationship with the owners and Ed Woodward, Jose added: "It is fine, no problem", in a tense stand off. Even when asked his views on the challenge posed by Tottenham, Mourinho batted away the question, "I'm not going to comment" he said.

United's home match with Spurs is the MNF fixture and kicks off at 8pm live on Sky Sports.

Form guide: United W L  Spurs W W
Match odds: United 11/5 Draw 23/10 Spurs 5/7
Referee: Craig Pawson

Tuesday 21 August 2018

Man Utd are doomed to fail under the current regime

As the dust settles on United's shoddy showing at the AMEX on Sunday, on the pitch the team looked exactly like they have been off it for the last five years - lost, leaderless and without a plan or a direction.
As well as underperforming players, who disgracefully seemed to just give up, plenty of blame must be shouldered by Jose Mourinho - a man who was never really the right fit for Manchester United, a man that many Manchester United fans never wanted in the first place.
Yet while Mourinho was, and remains, a poor fit for the club and everything we stand for, United's problems do not begin and end with him. This mess is far more deep rooted than that. Since the double departures of Messrs Ferguson and - perhaps more pivotally - David Gill - the club has meandered aimlessly into the territory of an expensive farce, a badly run business model operating under the guise of an equally poorly operated football club. The two men, who acted as bulwark against the regime of an ownership that they helped to bring in, abandoned ship and handed the tiller to disinterested, corporate leeches who know nothing about football.

That brings us neatly to the Old Trafford elephants in the room - United's owners, the Glazer family. They couldn't give a f**k about our plight, unless they are unable to continue using the club as a cash cow for their own personal gain, like the parasites they are. Decent owners - owners that had even a modicum of genuine interest in the long term stability of the club - would have moved to remodernise and restructure the club in the immediate aftermath of Ferguson and Gill's departures. Instead, they left things in the not-so-capable hands of their puppet, Ol' Dick'Ed himself, Mr Woodward - a man with a fork in a world of soup. Woodward could not be trusted to strike a deal on a market stall.
He's made three awful managerial appointments and frittered away ludicrous amounts on an endless parade of big-name commercial signings: a collection of could-have-beens, has-beens and never-good-enoughs - all with the single intention of making United money and continuing to plunder growth as a global business and a commercial entity. The guy even publicly admitted that United don't need to win trophies to be successful.
Handing a lucrative contract to a manager notorious for never staying at any club for longer than three years is the kind of nonsensical decision you expect when you've got a clueless, out of his depth idiot with no football knowledge or experience in charge. The refusal to employ a director of football when nearly every top club in Europe has one, the lack of any plan, strategy or vision - the refusal to consider a women's team until only absolutely necessary, and not urgently overhauling the entire club's facilities and infrastructure. Thanks for absolutely nothing. Proof, if it were needed, that the owners are only interested in the pound signs.

As long as this club continues to prioritse commercial growth over on-pitch success, we're doomed to fail, no matter who the manager is. Success requires vigilance, remodelling and renewal - something that a family dynasty of debt billionaires, hiding in Florida with a string of failed businesses, just do not understand. Without continued guidance and leadership - with the club being run the way it is under the current regime - United will continue to wander aimlessly from one catastrophe to another.

Monday 20 August 2018

Match report: United Women 1-0 Liverpool Women

As the men's team were battered by Brighton, United's Women began their exciting new era with a 1-0 win over their Merseyside counterparts thank a late Lizzie Arnot goal. The Reds sealed a historic victory in the FA Women's League Cup at Prenton Park in our first tie for 13 years. The knockout cup competition, comprising of four groups of five or six clubs split geographically, saw Casey Stoney's United side of the FA Women's Championship take on Neil Redfearn's FA Women's Super League team.
An open, end-to-encounter looked set to end all square but eventually culminated in a memorable victory for the Reds through Arnot's 83rd-minute winner. Alex Greenwood, a thorn in Liverpool's side throughout, put a cross on a plate for someone to score with and Arnot duly obliged from close range.

Arnot fired an early effort wide and Jess Sigsworth also went close, but despite Liverpool's high pressing game, their former keeper Siobhan Chamberlain - now in the red of United - was relatively untroubled. Amy Turner failed to get a toe on Katie Zelem's whipped-in set piece, and an unmarked Sigsworth headed just wide from a Greenwood corner. The England full-back then stung the palms of debutant Liverpool keeper Anke Preuss shortly before the break.
Half time substitute Courtney Sweetman - Kirk lashed a shot over the bar from distance for the Merseysiders, but at the other end Leah Galton - returning to England after a spell in the US and Germany -  replaced Kirsty Hanson and almost broke the deadlock. Good work from Sigsworth released her one-on-one, but Preuss did well to smother the striker with a smart low save.
Chamberlain was soon called into action for the first time to deny Sweetman - Kirk, before Arnot's winner that came against the run of play after a sustained spell of Liverpool pressure.
Redfearn's side reacted instantly and almost equalised with five minutes to play when Christie Murray's 20-yarder beat Chamberlain but rattled the post, rolled across the line and bounced away.

United held on for a historic victory, and manager Stoney was delighted with the character shown by the team: 
"I'm really pleased with the three points but at the same time we know we can play better. These girls have put an absolute shift in for six weeks after being thrown together.
"To go out there and dig deep against a quality side, to show a bit of character, was very pleasing.
"When it was backs against the wall, we stayed calm, we created some really good opportunities, we just need to finish them.
"It was a great ball in from Alex and when you get numbers in the box you'll get goals."

United: Chamberlain; Smith, A.Turner, M.Turner, Greenwood; Green (Toone 45), Zelem, James (Devlin 89), Arnot; Sigsworth, Hanson (Galton 59).

These players are a fucking disgrace to the name of this club (RANT)

United's 3-2 defeat at Brighton was painful, but what made it worse was the fact that only five players had the guts to acknowledge the travelling support, many of whom had made a round trip of over 500 miles to watch a disgusting performance.
The rest of the team couldn't get off the field quick enough - they are a disgrace, an absolutely shameful and embarrasing disgrace to everything this club represents. Do they not care about us fans, the same fans that go every week to cheer them on, in all weathers, to all corners of the country at great personal expense. To watch performances such as this. Hiding at the full-time whistle, those players should be ashamed. The least they can do is go and say thank you. Thank you to the fans that had to sit through that. Thank you to those fans who continue to get behind every single one of them through thick and thin. Fans whom never stopped singing from minute one to 90. Maybe they were scared of getting abuse. They'd have deserved it. Stop being cowards and show your faces. Take responsibility, do something about it. But no, they won't will they - these has beens, could-have-beens and never weres will just post on social media about practicing their goal celebrations and how many followers they have before picking up their fat pay checks at the end of the week - over-rated, over paid, useless, pampered, piles of dross with overinflated egos, most of them not fit to wear the shirt and a stain on the good name of Manchester United.
How dare they, how very dare they, not even put effort in. It's the bare minimum you can ask for from your team. If you lose, but the players have given 100%, we wouldn't mind so much. Sometimes you have to accept that the better team won, and Brighton were the better team, but we just let them dominate. Most of the United team were walking, walking around the pitch without a care in the world - attitude and character is half the battle on the field, it’s amazing what can be achieved with unity, perspiration and effort. These are the bare minimum expectations when your team steps onto the field, if you have quality too that’s even better. Fact is, Brighton had spades more character, effort and desire than United, they wanted to win the game and got what they just deserved. The Albion players gave every last drop of energy and spirit for the shirt, United did not - anyone, anyone who doesn't give their all should not be here. I don't care who you are, whether you're the star first team player or the young Academy graduate - play for the shirt or find the nearest exit and go. I'll give you a hand to get out of our club.

Paul Pogba seemed to be the only player who kept going, kept trying things and would not be cowed. He was poor, but at least he didn't hide. Why were the rest of them even there? Why is Jose Mourinho even there any more? Please, please just go, take Dick'Ed with you and leave our club alone.
 Our approach in the second half whilst two goals behind was just as damning as the football we played before the break. It was unacceptable and the fans have every right to be angered by such a display. I was one of those fans in the away end at Brighton yesterday and I felt humiliated, embarrased and angry - angry at the pathetic, diabolical excuse of a performance, angry at the attitude of the players, angry at the state of our club and the incoherent mess we've become. Embarrased by the mocking of the Brighton fans as they sang: "Can we play you every week." Brighton, folks, sang that to us. Bloody Brighton. It was the final nail in the coffin and the final straw. I'm fuming, as I'm sure many of you are. This is the first debacle of many this season, I'm dreading it and let's brace ourselves everyone - this is going to get worse before it gets better.

Bailly and Lindelof collapse after promising start

After telling his centre-backs all summer that they aren't good enough, Jose Mourinho merely stood and watched with a face like thunder as Brighton's veteran workhorse of a centre forward gave Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelof an afternoon they'll want to forget in a hurry. The win over Leicester saw Bailly and Lindelof - the Iceman himself - start together competitively for the first time, and the signs were promising, Bailly and Lindelof looked to complement each other well and the banter era of Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo looked to have finally been laid to rest, with the grit-and-guile potential of Bailly and Lindelof finally coming to fruition as the next great legion of United centre halves.
Lindelof endured a difficult start to life at Old Trafford, but a number of commanding performances at the end of last season appeared to suggest that he was finally starting to settle in and grow into the role of becoming a dependable Manchester United centre back. The Swede impressed throughout Sweden's unlikely run to the World Cup quarter-finals.
Against Brighton, however, that all came crashing down as the pair put in one of the worst defensive performances I can remember. For all the criticism of the much-maligned Smalling and Jones, this was no better than anything we've seen from them, and these two are not only Jose Mourinho signings - expensive ones at that with a combined cost of £61m - but also, on paper at least, our best two defenders.
It would be churlish to pin all the blame on the pair as United were not good enough collectively from David de Gea to Romelu Lukaku, but Bailly conceded the corner that led to Shane Duffy's goal and then gave away a penalty for Brighton's third. Lindelof was outpaced and outmanouevred by Glenn Murray - a man who despite being ten years the Swede's senior gave him a torrid time throughout. Murray is 35 next month but you'd never know it, he played with the zest and exuberance of a player in his 20s and never stopped running. Murray epitomised Brighton's performance whilst Lindelof summed up ours - sluggish, slow and completely inept. Bailly wasn't his usual confident self, instead reduced to a nervous and quivering wreck as Brighton swarmed forward and never let him gets to grips with the pace of the game.
 He was at fault for the opener, being caught flat-footed as Murray nipped in to score. Lindelof looked every bit of the centre-back who had such a horrible debut at Huddersfield last October. As for Bailly, this was probably his worst display in the red of United. It was simply a horror show - and a damning indictment of Mourinho's recruitment. I still think the Ivorian is United's best centre half and one shocking performance won't change that view, but Bailly has two major flaws - he's injury prone and far too rash. He carries a tendency to lunge in, as we saw when he scythed down Pascal Gross for the penalty that led to Brighton's third goal. If he can iron out that major flaw and become more streetwise, he has all the attributes to become a fine defender for Manchester United - every bit as good as Nemanja Vidic was. Until then, the jury is very much out on both and, therefore by default, also the man whom signed them.

Jose Mourinho unable to inspire as ruthless Brighton expose United's frailties

Jose Mourinho's downbeat demeanour was almost as incoherent as his woeful United side - deservedly beaten by a ruthless and rampant Brighton team who simply, damningly, and emphatically out-played and out-fought them. United were ragged and reeling, wilting in the face of an unrelenting Brighton onslaught that the team were unable to resist.
The scoreline flattered United on the south coast as Glenn Murray - the veteran 34-year-old workhorse - epitomised his team's performance and bullied Mourinho's £61m central defensive pairing that he clearly has so little faith in. On this evidence, United are joyless, listless and will struggle to finish in the top four - never mind to wrestle the Premier League title away from City who put six past Huddersfield Town. Two games into the season and it has come to this already, no fizz, no spark, no inspiration. From him or the team. Of course, there is plenty of time and Mourinho said we cannot be judged until December, but by then City, Liverpool and a few others may be too far ahead if this carries on. The central defensive argument remains an anomaly, Mourinho may want more but the two men he has brought in - Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelof - both played and were shocking. Murray stole ahead of Lindelof for the opening goal, a corner - needlessly conceded by Bailly - wasn't cleared for the second and the Ivorian's reckless lunge led to the penalty from which Pascal Gross scored the third.
Alarmingly Mourinho, tense and angry on the touchline, did not seem to have an answer until afterwards, when he pinned the defeat on "incredible mistakes" and aimed another thinly veiled dig that he had not been backed in the transfer market.

The injured Alexis Sanchez did not travel but there were big problems - David de Gea was a curiously nervy shadow of himself, Luke Shaw was solid but Ashley Young was dominated, there was a lack of creativity and control in midfield and a leaden legged forward line. Paul Pogba was given a rough ride by his metronomic opposite number Davy Propper but he at least kept trying to make things happen and he didn't hide unlike many of his team-mates. Why Anthony Martial - a player who wants to leave - started over Marcus Rashford is beyond me. What message does it send out when a player the manager doesn't want is still getting a start.
 Brighton were better than United in every department, as they pressed and harried the lacklustre, lethargic Reds into submission - for all their desire, organisation and skill, they were helped hugely by a United side that lacked all the basic elements Brighton showed. This was a performance in keeping with so many from last season and proved that nothing has changed during United's summer of discontent. The chants of "just like Brighton, your city is blue" were hard to take  and hurt almost as much as this result and this performance. It was humilating for a team of United's ambitions and resources and for a manager of Mourinho's ability.

20 years on from our greatest triumph, I'm broken, battered and disillusioned

20 years ago this season United enjoyed the greatest year in our history - the greatest achievement by an English club anywhere in history as we completed an unprecedented and unrepeatable Treble. As a Reds mad eight-year-old, my memories of that campaign are vague but I've watched countless times the footage of when Ole Solskjaer flicked the winner into the Bayern Munich net on a night that Manchester United defied all redefined logic and made the impossible possible. Now, two decades on, I'm battered, broken and disillusioned with the club that has been my life. Disillusioned with the way the club is being run, disillusioned with a seemingly endless string of shambolic and bullshit performances and a fanbase that is more divided and toxic than I've ever seen. Watching United gives me no joy anymore - I do it because it's a compulsive need, a rite of passage, and the innate sense of hope that this time, it might - just might - be different. It tells you all you need to know that watching Manchester United is now soul-destroying, spirit crushing, and 90 minutes of perjury.
How did it come to this? How did it come to me feeling like this - the 2018-19 season is not even two weeks old, but yet I'm dreading the next nine months and can't wait for it to finish. As this current crop of over-rated, over-paid and underachieving Manchester United players lurch from one abysmal performance to the next - Manchester City are already bashing teams up in the wake of an unstoppable march to the title - with the nightmare scenario of Liverpool being the only team equipped in any way to stop them. I can't take this anymore.
I thought the infamous and inglorious Champions League KO at the hands of Spanish outsiders Sevilla would be the nadir of Jose Mourinho's unfulfilling United tenure so far. I didn't think things could get any worse. I was wrong on both counts. What we saw at the AMEX on Sunday was worse than that - again United were brutal, embarrasing and a jumbled, shambolic mess of individual talents who don't play as a team and one that somehow remains in an even worse state than it was three years ago. This despite having spent in excess of 300 million under the tutelage of a manager who was once regarded as the best in the business. He now looks like a man without a plan and a man whose own reputation looks to have crashing to earth amid a crumbling cacophony of discontent. Not for the first time, I felt embarrased to be a Manchester United fan. Embarrased not just by a performance that was so far removed from what I perceive our club to be, but also that the exultant Brighton fans were taunting and tormenting us with chants of "your city is blue" and doing oles as our atrocious players showed nothing. It said it all that at 3-1 down, United never looked like scoring. Never once looked like we could get back in the game. Too many players didn't give their all - the collective performance was totally unacceptable, a wretched and unwatchable car crash from minute one to 90.
It was a defensive horror show, a mess and a shambles from start to finish, epitomised by the dreadful performances of two Jose Mourinho centre-backs - centre-backs he spent a combined fee of £61m on last summer, in Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelof. United's body language was shockingly bad and our tactical set-up even worse. What even were the tactics and why was Anthony Martial even there? He doesn't want to be at the club but yet he's still starting for us. It was completely unacceptable and I've just had enough - had enough of the manager emanating negativity, had enough of the useless board, the players that don't even look bothered and had enough of seeing a seemingly endless run of atrocious, terrible, dire performances season in season out.

Credit to Brighton, they absolutely deserved to win and beat us on heart, desire, passion and effort alone. The minimum you expect from your team is effort - I can't help but feel that if Mourinho spent more time creating desire and passion in this squad than he does moaning about everything and nothing, then things would at least be a little bit better.

New season, same old United

The 2018-19 season is not even two weeks old and yet I can't wait for it to finish. Watching us against Brighton, you'd never know this was a new campaign - this was a dire performance in keeping with so many of those that we saw last season - from Huddersfield to Brighton, via Sevilla, Newcastle and West Bromwich Albion. New season, same old United - nothing has changed. The most surprising element about Manchester United’s pathetic capitulation in Brighton was that any of us are surprised at all.
I know that Jose Mourinho did not get the players he wanted in the summer, but the job of a manager is to get the best out of what you've got at your disposal and he simply isn't doing that. Three years into the job, and Jose's United are no better - indeed we seem to be going backwards, despite having spent in excess of 300 million on the squad. There's no identity, no blueprint and no Plan A - let alone a Plan B or C - we don't play as a team, more as a ragtag collection of individuals that play for themselves. It feels like we're further away than ever. Mourinho spent all summer chasing a centre-half, he didn't get one, but yet the two centre-halves - centre halves that he signed himself - were largely at fault for the shambolic defensive mess that we witnessed at the AMEX. Is it any wonder that the board didn't trust him to buy reinforcements when the man who used to buy brilliantly can't even get that right. With the exceptions of Romelu Lukaku and Nemanja Matic, none of Mourinho's additions have improved us or indeed even looked anything like a Manchester United player should be. This was a performance synonymous of David Moyes and Louis van Gaal. Showings like this were supposed to be the exception and not the norm when Mourinho was appointed as the man who was supposed to herald a new, exciting and progressive era. If only.

Right from the start of pre-season, the manager has looked a man at odds with himself - joyless, negative and out of touch. This team are a mirror image of that right now. The abysmal showing at Brighton was an embarrasing horror show from start to finish  - the contrast between the two sides couldn't have been starker. The Seagulls were vibrant, energetic, well organised and looked like they were willing to run through a brick wall for their under-rated manager who quietly gets on with the job of turning an unheralded team into a Premier League force to be reckoned with.
Brighton were sent out with a clear game plan - to get in our faces, hassle and harry the Reds into submission, not give an inch and look to use their pace and width on the counter attack. United's performance couldn't have been more different. There was no clear plan, no clarity, no cohesion, a jumbled mess in which any discernible tactics were impossible to detect. United played with no passion, no desire and no clue. From start to finish, it was a mess. A mess of Mourinho's makings. I will continue to back him all the time he is manager of the club and team that I love, but I can't help but feel that he's a man that hasn't moved with the times. Something happened between his first spell at Chelsea and his second that has damaged him forever. Would someone else get the best out of a squad that isn't of title winning quality, but certainly better than we're showing right now. I'm not sure, but something has to change.

Match report: Brighton 3-2 United

Chris Hughton's Brighton ran out fully deserved winners as lacklustre United suffered an embarrasing defeat in our first away game of the season. It was Albion's second successive win over the Reds, having beaten United to secure their Premier League survival in the corresponding fixture back in May.

Glenn Murray and Shane Duffy scored twice in as many minutes, and although Romelu Lukaku halved the deficit, a Pascal Gross penalty re-established Albion's two-goal lead. Paul Pogba's spot-kick with virtually the last kick of the game gave the scoreline a flattering look that the Reds did not deserve. A chastening day was made worse by the performances of Jose Mourinho's £61m centre-back pairing of Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelof, at fault for all three of the Seagulls goals during an inept and woeful showing in keeping with the performance of the team as a collective.

United had actually had the first opening of the game inside ten minutes when Pogba collected the ball, drove forwards, and picked out Lukaku with a wonderfully weighted pass, but the Belgian - on his first start of the campaign - put the ball narrowly wide.
Despite that early chance, the south coast side began to seize the upper hand as Anthony Knockaert dragged a shot wide on 20 minutes. Five minutes later, Albion moved in front when local lad Solly March picked out Murray and he touched the ball home beyond the wrong-footed David de Gea.
With United still reeling, the AMEX erupted again two minutes later when Bailly's sliced clearance went out for a corner, the Reds failed to clear the resultant flag-kick and Duffy capitalised from close range.

In a frantic first half, United were thrown a lifeline through Lukaku, who untidily headed home from a Luke Shaw cross to give us hope.
However, that hope was soon extinguished as the Reds fell 3-1 behind, and again proved architects of their own downfall as Bailly's reckless lunge scythed down Gross, and he dusted himself down, made no mistake from the spot and restored the Seagulls two-goal advantage at the interval.

Pogba flicked a header wide and substitute defender Leon Balogun cleared well under pressure from Lukaku, but Brighton were comfortable as United failed to make inroads despite having more of the ball. Murray went close on the counter-attack, and Mat Ryan saved superbly at the other end as he tipped wide to keep out Pogba's dipping effort from distance.
The Albion keeper proved powerless prevent the World Cup winner's injury-time penalty - after Marouane Fellaini had been brought down - but it proved too little, too late. Brighton were worthy winners, United were terrible and we go again with the visit of Tottenham next Monday.

Overall team performance: 2/10
United Faithful Man of the Match: No one. They were all as bad as each other.

Thursday 16 August 2018

Match preview: Brighton&Hove Albion v United

United’s first away game of the season is also our longest of the campaign, as we make the 518-mile round trip to the south coast and the AMEX Stadium, looking to avenge last term’s loss at the hands of the south coast side.
Chris Hughton’s Seagulls sealed Premier League survival in their debut season with a 1-0 win over Jose Mourinho’s United in the corresponding fixture last May. Both of the other two games - in the league and the FA Cup at Old Trafford - ended in a United win.
Both sides endured and enjoyed contrasting fortunes on the opening day. United’s 2-1 win over Leicester saw us get off to a solid start.  Brighton, meanwhile, slipped to a disappointing 2-0 away defeat to a Watford team widely tipped to struggle.

Although none of United’s six injured men - Sergio Romero, Antonio Valencia, Diogo Dalot, Marcos Rojo, Ander Herrera and Nemanja Matic - are expected to return against Brighton&Hove Albion, Mourinho believes his Reds should be much stronger after an extra week of training. Jesse Lingard  - who spent the 2013-14 season on loan at Albion - could make his first appearance since the World Cup, and the returning Ashley Young could also dislodge Luke Shaw from the left-back spot despite the latter’s heroics against Leicester. Mourinho hinted that Romelu Lukaku could also feature after his appearance off the bench in the win over the Foxes. The hosts will be without captain Bruno Saltor, as the veteran right-back was forced off early at Vicarage Road. Mali midfielder Yves Bissouma could make his full debut after coming off the bench last weekend.
Mourinho said: “I think the injured players aren’t going to be back for Brighton, but these boys were in a difficult situation against Leicester, they are ready to give a bit more. More from Romelu (Lukaku), more Rashford, Lingard coming back, more Fellaini. I think normally now we’re going to have more. I think we will have the same players as against Leicester, but of course they will be in better condition.”

United’s second ever visit to the AMEX Stadium kicks off at 4pm on Sunday and is live on Sky Sports.
Although they stayed up in relative comfort with 40 points and a 15th-placed finish, goals were hard to come by for Brighton, their tally of 34 the third lowest in the division. In a bid to rectify that, Hughton has signed three new strikers in the summer - Iranian World Cup man Alireza Jahanbahskh, South African Percy Tau and Romanian international Florin Andone.

Form guide: Brighton L United W
Match odds: Brighton 10/1 Draw 5/1 United 7/2
Referee: Kevin Friend

Predicted MUFC XI: De Gea; Darmian, Bailly, Lindelof, Shaw; A.Pereira, Fred, Pogba; Rashford, Lukaku, Alexis Sanchez.

Monday 13 August 2018

United set to appoint first ever director of football

For the first time in our club's 140-year history, United are set to appoint our first ever director of football as soon as the current restructuring and expansion of facilities is complete. It's a much needed change at the top - one good piece of news to have come from a turbulent and catastrophic summer, a summer of discontent that has appeared to act as a catalyst to bring a football man on to our board. The move will allow United a more strategic and streamlined transfer policy, a continuity of ethos and to fall in line with most other top European clubs, recognition by the hierarchy of the need to modernise in an era where managers are effectively head coaches seem to have less power - something alluded to by Jose Mourinho after the Leicester win.

United suffered disjointed recruitment and a situation where the manager and those above him aren't on the same page. Mourinho wanted a frontline, top class centre-back to strengthen the squad, and while the board - spearheaded by Ed Woodward - were supportive, they were not prepared to spend over the odds on short-term transfer targets in their 30s. Woodward is still expected to have a role at the club when the director of football comes in, but Mourinho and the new man will be primarily responsible for player recruitment. In the summer, the manager identified Leicester's Harry Maguire, Bayern Munich's Jerome Boateng, Tottenham's Toby Alderweireld and Atletico Madrid's Diego Godin as possible reinforcements. Yet none were acquired as it was felt that they would not markedly improve on the central defenders already at the club - Eric Bailly, Victor Lindelof, Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo - much to Mourinho's bemusement.

A director of football would provide an intermediary between the Glazers, Woodward and the boss  with the extra layer of expertise designed to maintain United’s style and ethos. This will allow an instantly recognisable blueprint to identify players and any fresh manager appointment - a forward thinking and a vision to carry the club into a longer term future, rather than operating in the short term as we appear to have done.
An example of how a director of football can work is available nearby. At Manchester City, the champions have Txiki Begiristain, under the job title of sporting director. A fundamental part of the Spaniard’s role is to identify suitable managerial candidates, as was the case with Pep Guardiola, appointed in 2016.  United have previously adhered to a long-term managerial model and while this remains the ideal, the demands of the position have become more relentless, often making a tenure at an elite club a two or three-year cycle.
Who exactly the new man will be remains unclear, with United expected to cast our net wide in the search for our debutant director of football. At the moment, there appear to be four main candidates - Roma's Monchi, Novara's Domenico Teti, Juve's Fabio Parratici and, intruigingly, former United keeper Edwin van der Sar.


New season but same old United on opening day

It's difficult to judge the team after one game, especially when we still have several key men missing, but our edgy opening victory was a case of new season, same old United. There was a feeling of resigned familiarity that followed our pragmatic and functional victory over Leicester. As much as can be taken from one game, the first match of Jose Mourinho's third season at Old Trafford was his United career in microcosm. Depending on your viewpoint, this was either an encouraging, grind it out victory earned through strong game management with depleted resources - or another example that this is a United side far less than the sum of its parts. In short, this match summed us up - getting the job done but not convincingly.

We're still on the opening page of the new chapter of the 2018-19 season, but I didn't see anything to suggest we can push Manchester City and Pep Guardiola any closer in the race for the Premier League title. This wasn't a victory to fill us with any sense of renewed optimism, rather one that what we served up against the Foxes was nothing new. We looked no worse that our what-might-have-been Jekyll and Hyde season in 2017-18, but not markedly better either. It merely felt like we carried on where we had left off - an underwhelming sense of deja vu.
 The Reds in theory may have been our noisy neighbours closest challenger last term, but in reality there was - and still is - a gaping chasm between the two. Liverpool also impressed in their opening day 4-0 win over West Ham, suggesting that, as much as it pains me to say it, if anyone is going to keep pace with Guardiola's all conquering juggernaut, then the Scousers will be that team. A horrible, nightmare situation for us United fans but one we're just going to have to accept. The battle for the remaining two Champions League qualification spots will be up for grabs in a four way scrap between us and the London triumvirate of Spurs, Chelsea and Arsenal.
The Reds started on the front foot, playing with a spark and with a purpose, pinning Leicester back during an opening ten minutes in which Old Trafford was rocking to the beat of a United side that appeared to have refound our mojo. But the game soon lapsed into a familiar pattern as Leicester proved more than a match for Mourinho's side for long periods. We may have won, but the visitors can count themselves unlucky not to have stolen a point. It was too close for comfort.
We played some nice stuff at times, but United lack fluency and the constant attacking flair that City and Liverpool possess in abundance, but yet still finished above everyone bar the former last season.
You feel the cast for the campaign has already been set, with a solid but unspectacular United's best chance of success coming in one of the domestic cups.

Impressive Pereira forces his way into Mourinho's thinking

Andreas Pereira had seemingly become another United player forever synonymous with one of the darkest hours in the proud and illustrious history of our club. Of the 14 players involved in the infamous 0-4 defeat to then League One side MK Dons almost four years ago to the day, only two remain. The rest, with their United careers battered and broken beyond repair, drifted into oblivion.

Pereira - the Belgian born Brazilian who has been at the club since he was 14 - came on at half time in that League Cup tie and looked set to go the same way. He made only five appearances in the following two seasons (scoring his first United goal, a free-kick in a cup win over Ipswich) and was shipped out for successive loan spells at La Liga sides Granada and Valencia. With the appointment of Jose Mourinho, whose refusal to develop young players was one of many accusations levelled at the Portuguese, Pereira's days at Old Trafford seemed numbered.
But that's far from the case - having returned from his season-long loan spell at the Mestalla, Pereira was one of the few bright spots in an otherwise difficult pre-season for United. One of many Academy players and fringe squad members to be given a chance on Tour, Pereira featured in every game and caught the eye with his range of passing, set piece prowess and his intuitive movement. He scored against Liverpool, albeit a goal rendered academic as they hit four without further reply.

With Nemanja Matic injured for the start of the Premier League, Pereira - our new number 15 - was given the nod against Leicester and started as part of a midfield trio alongside Paul Pogba and debutant countryman Fred. Composed throughout, Pereira is a naturally attacking and forward thinking player. The young Brazilian was one of the main positives of United's opening night win and continued his fine pre-season form, operating in a deep-lying midfield role in the absence of elder Serbian statesman Matic. It was perhaps a more defensive job than he's used to, but the 22-year-old did his long term prospects no harm at all, with a mature and intelligent performance that featured a strong range of passing, clever movement and positional awareness. He was quietly impressive, particularly off the ball, almost positioned between the two centre-backs and the way he stepped out confidently to thwart impeding danger was encouraging and rare for a young player.
When Matic returns to fitness following abdominal surgery, Pereira will face stiff competition from a player regarded as an archetypal Mourinho identikit. But nonetheless, Pereira will have given the manager a selection headache he won't mind having.
It's difficult to see Pereira keeping his place throughout the campaign, as Paul Pogba, Fred and Matic will form United's regular first choice midfield triumvirate, but he can provide competition from the bench and as a rotation player. He provides something different, some variety and a mix of assets that will bolster our midfield - certainly not a bad back up option to rely upon.

Sunday 12 August 2018

Paul Pogba has staked a claim to be United's permanent captain

Paul Pogba was a surprise name on the team sheet for United, only four days after returning to the club having won the World Cup. The Frenchman didn't play a single minute in pre-season and was expected to miss the start of the campaign proper as a result of his heroics with Les Bleus that saw him and his country impressively cut a swathe to a second World Cup win.

 Pogba donned the armband for our season opener against Leicester and carried on where he left off for France in Russia in a dominant performance vs the Foxes where he ran the show with his power, vision and array of passing. During his impressive 80 minutes on the field, he was the Reds man of the match and earned a standing ovation after being taken off in the closing stages.  Given the captaincy in a show of faith by Jose Mourinho, Pogba stepped up where others may have baulked. With many World Cup players not starting for their respective clubs, Pogba showed the dedication and the desire to lead the team exemplary well, this despite no pre-season minutes and only one training session. That's the attitude I, and many others, want from a Manchester United player - a player willing to stand up and be counted, to give his all and inspire the team to a hard fought victory despite the backdrop of an unsettled summer that has seen his long-term future at our club called into question. It was a performance that epitomised his discipline and selflessness.

During the World Cup, many of the victorious France squad told of our number 6 as the voice of the dressing room, and many images and videos emerged of Pogba giving the team-talk during his side's win in both the semi and the final. His leadership appeared to play a key role in their victory. If you can inspire your country - a country blessed with an embarrasment of riches - to World Cup glory, then you must be doing something right. You can feel a certain degree of empathy for Jose as ours is a squad lacking in natural leaders and captains but Pogba is the closest we have. For a player still relatively young with world class ability, for a club that he has come to call his spiritual home, it's a perfect fit.
On more than one occasion, not least here on opening night, Pogba has shown that he should be captain of this club. Antonio Valencia has the armband merely because he's our longest serving player but has been plying his trade here for over a decade and still can't speak English. A great servant and a superb right-back in his peak but not a skipper. With the Ecuadorian injured, Paul's elevation to United captain in Valencia's absence was only temporary but it should be permanent.

Barcelona offered £45m in a player-plus-cash deal to bring him to the Nou Camp, and notorious agent Mino Raiola has stoked the fire in a bid to bring prise his player away from Old Trafford. Having fallen out of favour under Mourinho last term, plenty has been spoken and written about - Pogba is supposedly unhappy, there has been unrest, he wanted to leave. What the full extent of the issues were we may never know, but despite all this Pogba responded in the best possible way - by playing well and winning the game for the Reds. We should not let Pogba leave at any cost. Instead, he should be the man we build our team around as the permanent captain of our young side.

Saturday 11 August 2018

Shawshank redemption as Luke shoots down Foxes

 Take a bow Luke Shaw. Given a chance in the absence of Jose Mourinho favourite Ashley Young, Shaw marked his and United's first game of the season with a special personal moment. After eight years as a professional, Shaw capped his excellent individual performance with a first goal in senior football, in front of the Stretford End to put the win over Leicester beyond doubt, and under the watchful eye of a man who has so often criticised and pilloried him. Heck, such was the magnitude of the occasion that there was the flicker of what might just have been the faintest glimpse of a smile etched upon the sullen face of Jose Mourinho.
For a long while, it felt like Shaw has been on his last chance at United - to make Mourinho even remotely happy is one thing, to get back in his good books after he's lost faith in you is quite another. Quite how permanent this reversal of fortunes might be remains to be seen. I don't think I've ever more pleased for a United player when he's scored and I can't think of anyone who deserves this more.

 It takes tremendous courage and character to hit back in the face of adversity when everything has seemingly been thrown straight into the face of a footballer, let alone when that player is a young man playing for a club the size and stature of Manchester United. Shaw seemed to have the world on his shoulders when he signed for us from Southampton to become the most expensive teenager in world football at that point, under Louis van Gaal. Widely regarded as one of the hottest prospects in the game and a player tipped to be a future star of the world game, Shaw's injury-hit first season at the club largely set the tone for what was to follow. Since then, he's struggled for form and fitness and slipped to the role of third-choice understudy behind a 33-year-old former winger.  Put on a personal weight loss  regime by LVG, made to train on his own away from his senior colleagues and then publicly slammed seemingly at every turn by Mourinho - a manager who has never seemed convinced by his true ability and talent -  and there you have it: Shaw's time at United has been one of unfulfillment so far. Still only 23, I can't think of a young player who has had to deal with as much negative publicity as Shaw has. Some of his problems have admittedly been of his own making, but the criticism and over analysis has been nothing short of disgusting.
One swallow does not make a summer of course, and he has a long way to go before we can say that Shaw is, finally, starting to fulfill his burgeoning potential and make that left-back spot his own. But his performance against Leicester felt like the first steps on a road to a new chapter at the club, and a shot at redemption for a player who has found genuine praise and affection hard to come by. Shaw should be starting as Manchester United's regular first choice left-back week in week out and this was a performance that proved it.

Match report: United 2-1 Leicester

A Paul Pogba penalty and Luke Shaw's first ever senior goal saw Jose Mourinho's United start the 2018-19 season with a solid win over Claude Puel's Leicester on opening night. After a turbulent summer, the Reds got off the mark for the new campaign with a hard-fought win in a match in which both sides were missing several key men.
 Pogba, a surprise starter having won the World Cup with France barely a month ago, was captain for the night in the absence of Antonio Valencia and made a mockery over reports that he's unhappy at Old Trafford with a dominant, man of the match performance.United came flying out of the blocks and were handed - quite literally - the chance to move ahead after only 75 seconds. An Alexis Sanchez shot deflected off Wes Morgan and was flicked away by the arm of the wrong-footed Daniel Amartey. After a short delay, referee Andre Marriner rightly awarded the penalty and Pogba made no mistake with a composed and nonchalant spot-kick, only 26 days after leading France to World Cup glory in Russia. This has the makings of an huge season for our midfield maestro, off the back of that second world title for Les Bleus and with Barcelona having come knocking during the summer.

Kelechi Iheanacho flashed a shot wide, Pogba cleared well under pressure from the impressive Demarai Gray before David de Gea was soon called into action. As Puel's side pressed for a leveller, DDG denied debutant James Maddison when he tipped his low effort around the post. Fred, on his United bow, caught the eye with an impressive array of passing, one of which found Shaw in behind, but Kasper Schmeichel did well to smother. Eric Bailly, one of the few Reds to have a summer off, thwarted Iheanacho before Juan Mata went close on the counter attack at the other end in an increasingly end to end encounter.
Substitute Jamie Vardy forced a mistake from Shaw, but De Gea saved well once more when he picked out former City man Iheanacho, and the Reds own replacement, World Cup semi finalist Romelu Lukaku, then had a one on one effort deflected over by the sprawling Schmeichel. The burly Belgian possibly should have done better on that occasion, but it did not matter as Shaw put the result beyond any lingering doubt with a clinical finish across Ricardo Pereira and beyond the advancing keeper eight minutes from time. The young full-back, much maligned and oft-criticised by his manager, reeled away in celebration after his first ever goal in senior football, eight years since his Southampton debut.

In a flurry of late drama, Vardy bundled in an untidy consolation with his head after Pereira's deflected cross rebounded off a post in the second minute of added on time. But still there was time for almost a late feat of Leicester escapology, when Schmeichel - up for a last-gasp corner - won the header but could only put it wide. Old Trafford let out a collective intake of breath and the game was won. 

The Premier League is back and United begin win victory. COYR!

United Faithful Man of the Match: Paul Pogba. Special mention to Shaw who pushed him close
Overall team performance: 6/10

Friday 10 August 2018

Let's forget the summer, be united and get behind our boys and manager

None of us have been happy with the summer - it was a poor pre-season fractured by fan unrest, a lack of much needed signings and a miserable manager. Much has been spoken and written about the situation at our club, to the point where it's been said we're in crisis. As usual, it's a media agenda making a mountain out of a molehill. There are issues, but not as bad as many would have you believe. Fred has signed, Alexis Sanchez will have the benefit of a first pre-season under his belt, and we saw several young Reds staking a claim on the summer tour.
Second only to the most dominant Premier League champions the land has ever seen, despite the fact we failed to win a trophy, last season was ultimately one of progress, a season of 81 points our best league placing since 2013. Not great, but not too bad.
2018-19 marks a new chapter, one which starts with the visit of Claude Puel's Leicester in the opening match of the new season. Then we head to the south coast and a return to Brighton, aiming to avenge last season's loss at the AMEX. For the first time in a long, long while there is little expectation at our club this season, but I believe this could help us. There's hope - you always have to hope - but little tangible belief that we're going to do anything, both from inside the club and out. Wouldn't that be a classic Jose Mourinho masterpiece - to turn attention and pressure away from the boys and onto himself, to leave the vultures circling around the off the pitch circus and away from what's happening on the pitch. Expectations can weight heavily on the shoulders of even the biggest of superstars at the biggest of clubs, and when there is none, a previously inhibited player can throws off the shackles and flourish.
 Less expectations means there will less discontent and less discontent means a more united fanbase. Right now, that's certainly not the case but it's in the very name of this great club to come together, to get behind our boys, to triumph over adversity and above all, to be united.

Mourinho has thrived in the role as underdog, the outsider, the "little horse" throughout his career and this could be what he's trying to do. To lower expectations to such an extent that if we hit the ground running and set the early Premier League  pace, it will catch everyone by surprise and prove once and for all that Manchester United should never be totally written off. I'd love nothing better than to prove every single one of our doubters wrong.
A new football season is synonymous with hope, belief, and the romantic - if slightly delusional - notion that just about anything should be possible. As we have already penned on these pages, that's not the case with us this season. It's not all doom and gloom, but the negative overtones that hang like a spectre over the club are difficult to shake off. Nothing changes the mood of a football club and its fans more than a run of results, and if United can hit the ground running and get on an early roll as 2018-19 gets underway, then this frustrating and underwhelming summer will soon be forgotten.

Match preview: United v Leicester City

The Premier League is back! 83 days since our last competitive game, pre-season is over and the serious stuff starts again with Friday night football under the lights at Old Trafford as we welcome Claude Puel's Foxes in the first tie of the 2018-19 Premier League season. Set against the backdrop of a far from ideal preparation, the usual air of belief and optimism that accompanies a new football season has been conspicuous by its absence, replaced instead by a nagging feeling that all is not well at our club. I'm sure I'm not the only one not excited by the prospect of the next ten months. Indeed, I can't remember the last time I was less excited by the return to action of our beloved Reds, but perhaps having no expectations whatsoever and being written off by all and sundry could be exactly what we need. Mourinho rarely smiled last season and that expression hasn't changed after a summer of frustration. Several transfer targets were identified but failed to materialise, and it seems the United boss doesn't fancy our chances of challenging City and the expected threat of Liverpool with what he's got at the club.

£47m summer signing Fred, United's new Brazilian midfielder  signed from Shakhtar Donetsk and our only noteworthy adddition, is expected to make his debut. Several other players are missing though, and United will be without Antonio Valencia, Diogo Dalot, Ander Herrera and Nemanja Matic whilst Mourinho will consider to fitness of all our World Cup stars, Romelu Lukaku and Paul Pogba among them. Sergio Romero is also unavailable. Similarly, opposite number Puel, whose long-term future is still uncertain, must decide whether to include Jamie Vardy and summer United target Harry Maguire, Riyad Mahrez has been sold, but new signings James Maddison and ex-Red Jonny Evans are available afte injury. Demarai Gray is expected to feature, along with Ricardo Pereira and Rachid Ghezzal. If Vardy does not play, Kelechi Iheanacho will likely do so instead. The Reds picked up four points against the visitors last season, as we won 2-0 at Old Trafford and then drew at the King Power in December. The Foxes were solid last time out in a ninth placed finish but clouds were cast over the French manager's future after a poor end of season run.

Jose said: "It is our first match, an important match, we would have preferred to have a couple more days but decision was to be the first to play and that's it. We are ready. I'm not even thinking about the list of players that we don't have, Matic, Valencia and so on. I focus just on what I have and we go with everything to win the first match. Any point can be crucial, you don't know what is going to happen at the end of the season. You have to try your best to get points and even with the difficulties that we had in our pre-season I don't think now is the time to be speaking about this."

Dim the lights, raise the curtains and give a cheer -2018/19 is here. Let's do this!

Referee: Andre Marriner
Match odds: United 5/1 Draw 4/1 Leicester City 6/1

Wednesday 8 August 2018

This club's incompetent board dragging us backwards (RANT)

After a torrid pre-season that provided more questions than answers - there's one issue above all else that needs urgently addressing. Pin the blame on Jose Mourinho all you want, and he certainly doesn't help himself, but there are deep-rooted problems at this club that go far beyond the control of the Portuguese. I've never known a situation like this in my 21 years as a United fan. A snarling, whinging and constantly downbeat manager, a divided and disillusioned fanbase that have lost all faith and belief in our beloved team, three months of woefully weak transfer inactivity, trailing some way behind our fiercest and most hated rivals, a dreadful recruitment process that has become more desperate by the day, and arguably our best outfield player wants out of the club that is supposed to be his home. Worst of all, an elusive and silent group of suited and booted corporate business men who know nothing about football and haven't got the faintest clue what they are doing. No vision, no ambition, no plan and no viable forward thinking blueprint.
Manchester United, the biggest club in the world, are less than 48 hours from our first competitive game of the season, we're chronically underprepared and going into it more in hope than any tangible expectation.
I'm certainly not exonerating Mourinho, but with many calling for his head, you can feel a certain degree of empathy for the best boss this club has had since Sir Alex. No, this mess needs to be placed firmly of the shoulders of stakeholding owners the Glazer family and chief executive Ed Woodward. Thanks for nothing. Thanks for completely ruining our summer. Thanks for pissing into the wind whilst our major rivals have been busy strengthening ahead of the season. Thanks for running our club upside down and making us an absolutely embarrasing laughing stock. Thanks for showing absolutely no interest in our fortunes as a football club. Thanks for doing absolutely nothing to redress the balance of power that has slowly and painfully seeped out of Old Trafford over the last few seasons.  No doubt you're busy congratulating yourselves on United's annual rise in revenue.

As the hours tick down on our most important transfer window in years, Woodward is probably shut away playing Fortnite or working on his latest money making sphiel, no doubt lining up an announcement for Thursday that United have agreed a new sponsor with a pet food firm. After all, it seems that's all he's interested in and the only thing he's remotely good at. He's only spoken to and seen Mourinho once all summer long - this at a time that's most crucial to managers and the men above them they're working with. Jose purportedly gave Woodward a list of five players he wanted to strengthen with, yet here we are on the day of the transfer window having got only one.
He's got a lot to answer for - just another yes man from the string-pulling puppets who are determined to penny pinch and bleed this club dry.
 United have signed as many commercial partners (Kohler, MoPlay and Chivas) this summer as we have players (Fred, Lee Grant and Diogo Dalot). That shows where this board's priorities lie. This proves beyond all doubt that they're only interested in making money rather than spending it. It seems that finishing in the top four is what these cretins consider to be a successful season. It seems that we're the new Arsenal. The difference in prize money between winning the league and coming second, third or fourth is no great disparity - therefore the Glazers are merely content with continntal qualification season upon season. They'll only react when we start to slip out of that coveted top four place - that's when they started spending big and that's why David Moyes and Louis van Gaal were sacked. United can continue to attract the best players in the world and the best managers in the world but all the time the club is being run the way it is - with the money driven Yanks and a dithering, half witted CEO in the corridors of power - nothing is going to change.

Monday 6 August 2018

I've completely written our season off and it hasn't even started yet

This club, honestly. On and off the field, we're a mess, a shambles, a club and an organisation with no plan, no thought process, no forward thinking and no vision for the future. I don't know who's in charge of this jumbled, upside down mess of a transfer window, but whoever they are is out of their depth and hasn't a clue. Manchester United are being run by business people who have no idea of how to run a football club, never mind the biggest one in the world.
United's search for a centre-back has lurched from Yerry Mina to Harry Maguire, to Toby Alderweireld and back to Maguire again. On Monday, it was a new name supposedly at the top of the hit list - with United having reportedly approached Bayern's Jerome Boateng. Before the World Cup, no one had heard of Harry Maguire, yet suddenly now United are prepared to bid a world record for him. When a move for Mina breaks down, suddenly Boateng pops up out of nowhere as a player we want. It's almost as if CEO Ed Woodward is pulling random names out of a hat in hope on a cuckoo land fantasy whim rather than any realistic expectations of getting our man. Muddled, confused, chaotic, scattergun and lacking identity - United's transfer policy in a nutshell. No clear strategy, and no idea of where we want to be as a club or indeed how we get there. In short, we haven't got a clue what we're doing. We need a change at the very top, above even the manager, if we're to re-establish the identity that has seemed to desert us since the twin 2013 departures of not only Sir Alex but also the now FA vice-chairman David Gill. Although officially a CEO, Gill was a director of football style operator, acting as intermediary between the board and Sir Alex. Gill was a master in the transfer market, recruiting shrewdly but without breaking the bank to ensure we stayed competitive and ahead of our rivals. He was smart, understood the game and knew how to work effectively in the market within the club's means. Those were the days. The role of a director of football often acts as a go between, answerable to the board but there to assist the manager in targets and transfers, often to help less experienced people in the football side of things. I believe we need this at our club.  A set up like this, often used by many top European clubs - Bayern, Barca, City and Arsenal to name but four, would work well at Old Trafford to apply a firm hand on the tiller, steady the ship and give us a flexible and forward thinking blueprint for the future.

 I wouldn't be surprised if we end up signing no one and start the season with the calamitous and dead wood partnership of Chris Smalling and Phil Jones yet again. Even if by some miracle we do sign a centre-back in the last few days of this transfer window, we remained underequipped and undermanned. We still need a left-back and two wingers. The start of a new season should arrive with hope, belief and optimism, but instead there's a permeating feeling of negativity that is impossible to shake off. I can't remember the last time I, and many others, went into a season on such a low ebb and with such a total lack of faith and expectation in United. I'm completely dreading it, so much so, that I've written off our season before it's even started. A damning indictment but one that has been borne out of watching the club floundering and dithering in pursuit of our main targets, whilst our rivals - notably Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool - have acted swiftly and decisively.
It's symptomatic of United's muddled thinking, a club out of touch with fans and one
being run upside down by executives for whom driving our commercial conveyor belt is the number one priority.