Friday, 14 June 2019

United to face fellow heavyweights on opening day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 12 June 2019

Daniel James signing bucks Man Utd trend

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

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

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

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

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

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

Confirmed: Daniel James is a Man Utd player

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, 8 June 2019

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to make first signing as United boss

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

Man Utd's jobs for the boys approach is ruinous and has to stop

The news that Darren Fletcher is the leading contender to become Manchester United's first ever technical director tells you everything you need to know about the abhorrent mess we find ourselves in. It should have left me scratching my head in bemusement, but then nothing surprises me with this club any more.  I've got nothing against Fletch, he made 342 appearances for us over 12 years and came through the ranks to win 13 major honours as a solid, reliable, versatile squad player. Very admirable, and I'm sure he's a top bloke but that's about as far as it goes.

But what on earth are the club thinking in possibly making him the main man in such an important role? What qualifications has he got - what does he know about scouting networks, player recruitment, communicating with agents or any technical aspect of the beautiful game? How on earth can a man with no experience in that field reasonably be expected to be the person tasked with driving a broken, dysfunctional, appallingly run and upside down club back on the straight and narrow? He knows the club, granted, but that doesn't mean he's the best person for the job. We need a world class, ready made candidate to come in from day one at set about the task at hand. There is simply no room for error and we're not in a position to have someone such as Fletcher to be learning on the job. Ed Woodward's seven years at the club have been plagued by erratic, fateful and ill-thought out decisions. In a catalogue of catastrophes, this looks set to be his most catastrophic one yet. 

United have spent almost a year on this, and whilst I'd rather that than the customary hurried, knee-jerk appointment, they don't seem to be any further forward. Tottenham's Paul Mitchell and Roma's Monchi were both targets but have disappeared off the wish lish without a trace. Edwin van de Sar is the ideal architect - if the board are looking for a former player, then look no further than our ex stopper. Edwin has received widespread praise for his part in Ajax's re-emergence as a European force, with their recruitment, vision and ideology a key element of the Amsterdam club's giant killing run to the Champions League last four. He has been open to an Old Trafford move, but one suspects that United's powers that be are unwilling to part with the club coffers and open the chequebook. Doing things on the cheap yet again.

There seems to be an obession of filling the club with loyal ex players and died in the wool Reds - it is a worry that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is becoming a yes man and so will the man who eventually gets the nod as technical director. That now seems to be the hierarchy's newly found raison d'etre. We're Manchester United, we can recuit anyone we want to with the financial clout and historic prestige at our disposal. We could have got any of the three men mentioned above but, instead, over the past month alone, we've flip flopped from G-Nev, to Rio Ferdinand to Pat Evra. All have been lined up as Ole's intermediary before pulling Fletcher's name from the Old Trafford hat. Nostalgia FC.

It is a jobs for the boys approach and a clever, strategic game the Glazers are playing, here. They know that the likes of Fletcher and Ole are popular, well-liked members of the former Reds alumni with a lifelong affinity to this great club. They're never going to get criticised or questioned in a way that an outsider would. If club legends hold the two most important jobs at the club, it will be impossible for us fans to protest against as to do so would mean disrespect. It would mean contempt and sacrilege against our own. Thereby the Glazers avoid accountability and cover their backsides. They're playing with fans emotions whilst an old cast list masquerade in the role of the puppet, the yes men, the people to run the club by their whims and fancies just as they want.

 By refusing to let go of the past, United are failing to embrace the future.

Monday, 13 May 2019

Manchester United's 2018-19: Reflections on a season in the Red

So another season comes to a sticky and unsavoury end. For us United fans, it has been another unpalatable one and could yet get worse if a certain other side in red end up with the greatest prize of all next month. City winning the league ahead of the Scousers is the smallest crumb of comfort but hardly a cause for celebration.
We haven't even got the pull of a major tournament - World Cup or a Euros - to help numb the pain amidst the wreckage of a car crash campaign that leaves us, again, stuck in the mud and wallowing in treacle at every turn.

 The dye was cast from day one when Jose Mourinho knocked on Ed Woodward's door with a list of five players, including at least top class centre-backs, on his shopping list. He ended up with a 35-year-old Stoke reject, a 19 year old kid from Portugal and £52m Brazilian you got the feeling he never even wanted. From that moment on, it was the beginning of the end - both for the manager and his players. Mourinho, justifiably so, had his critics, but he was the latest in a long line of United bosses to be let down by his board. He said upon his departure that finishing second with this side was the greatest achievement of his long, decorated and illustrious career but you know what, maybe, just maybe, he was right all along. We went into this season with no expectations and that's likely to be the case again in 2019/20.

This term will be instantly forgettable - with the storm clouds of seven soporific months only briefly punctuated by the longest managerial honeymoon in history. For 16 unforgettable games, United were unstoppable - off came the shackles as players, fans and pundits alike were thrown back to the romance of our halycon days of yesteryear as United could not stop winning with a series of performances that were as stunning and as swashbuckling as the next. The ghosts of the moribund Mourinho were laid to rest with his very anthithesis - a club legend by the name of Ole plucked from the Norwegian backwaters - at the wheel in spectacular style. He had us enthralled by the best run of form for many a year.  It could not last and sadly it didn't. How a team can go from the zenith of one of the best nights in our history in Paris to picking up two points from a possible 15 in the space of only 68 days is beyond me.

Having to witness what many will look back upon as the best title race in the history of the Premier League - one contested between the two teams we hate the most - it was almost as if the football deities joined in with the universal mocking of the mess that our club has become. We finished sixth on 66 points, an eye-popping 32 points behind City. Two seasons ago, we finished in the same position and three points better off but with the caveat of winning the Europa League and getting back into the European elite albeit via the back door. This time around, the Champions League campaign offered hope, with excellent wins against Juventus and the history making away goals progress against PSG. We perhaps got further than many expected, only to fall short against the same Barcelona side who were on the receiving end of Liverpool's climb off the canvas Mission Impossible.

Who's going to be our director of football? Which players are going? Who's coming in? Have the board got a strategy and a plan to take us forward? What about the transfer kitty? What about the tour and the Europa League? Where does all of this leave United? For what feels like the umpteenth time, there's more questions than answers and no one to provide them.

Spare a thought for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. The United boss faces a hectic summer, sleepless nights and not a moment's rest as he attempts the biggest rebuilding job since Romulus and Remus. Six seasons on from David Moyes avant garde inheritance from the greatest manager there ever was and ever will be, this is a far bigger job. Moyes only had subtle tweaking to do but Solskjaer has open heart surgery. We need ten players in and just as many out but that won't happen overnight. I have heard some fans calling for Ole's head already - that is, to put it subtly, frankly ludicrous. What can he be expected to do with this squad in such a short space of time? We need to give him time to build and put his own stamp on things, a la Jurgen Klopp and Mauricio Pochettino. These two men have been at their clubs for four and five years respectively and only now are we starting to see the fruits of their labour. It is a project but we have to be patient. It could well turn out to be that Solskjaer is not the right man for the job as we thought he was but it is simply too early to judge. Give the man a chance before casting judgement.

None of the players have covered themselves in glory, but Luke Shaw and Victor Lindelof emerge from a troubled campaign with credit, their reputations enhanced. Mason Greenwood and Tahith Chong have shown flashes of their frightening potential, Diogo Dalot has offered promise  and Scott McTominay has continued to come of age. As United embark on a summer of rebuilding, these players are safe in knowledge that their futures lie at Old Trafford.

As the Smiths once sang, there is a light that never goes out. As the sun sets on Manchester United's season, no matter how dark things get, we will always keep supporting. We've deserved better as fans, but we'll keep the faith and keep the red flag flying high. We'll never die!

Mason Greenwood offers hope for the future as United aim to rebuild

Manchester United's final day defeat to Cardiff brough down the curtain on a dreadful season at Old Trafford. The 2018-19 campaign ended as it began - with the club in a mess, the players not bothered and indisinterested and us fans feeling as disconnected from our club as ever. Granted we had nothing to play for and our 53rd match of the season resembled little more than a glorified expidition tie. That said, it would have been nice to give us something to cheer and to send us into the two-month hiatus on a high. We caan enjoy the break now and put the stresses of this season to one side. Only 89 days until we go again...

 If there's anything positive to come out of a shocking loss to the Championship-bound Bluebirds, it's that it will be the last time a good few of these players ever pull on the iconic red shirt. Ander Herrera and Antonio Valencia are definitely going, but more are sure to follow. Paul Pogba and David de Gea have probably had their United swansongs whilst the future of many others - the likes of Messrs Lukaku, Matic, Sanchez and Mata el al - remain shrouded in uncertainty. Speaking of the future, if there is any crumb of comfort to be taken from a season that started badly, peaked in Paris and then ended in chaos, it's that United's revered Academy looks in as good a shape as ever.

At 17 years and 223 days, Mason Greenwood became the youngest player to start a league game for United, and he more than showed his frightening promise as the sole ray of sunshine in a gloomy United performance. Together with Angel Gomes, one year his senior, the two homegrown talents outshone many of their more experienced and illustrious colleagues. Gomes only played the last quarter of the tie but did more in his brief cameo than most of this shower managed in the preceding 74 minutes. Players such as Greenwood, Gomes, Tahith Chong, Scott McTominay and James Garner should be central to our rebuild.

As the Reds collective form has plummeted, so has Marcus Rashford's. Devoid of any confidence, his decision making, composure and intelligencee has simply fallen off a cliff. But Rashford's loss is Greenwood's gain. He can be proud of his full debut having had a stunning season in the Reserve side, with 26 goals and eight assists in 30 games at second tier level. Thrown into the first-team fray in the midst of an injury crisis, he made his senior bow at the Parc des Princes and went down in the annals as our youngest ever player in the Champions League era, at 17 years and 156 days. A league debut off the bench at Arsenal quickly followed as his devastating form at youth level was rewarded with a long awaited senior breakthrough. Touted for a while now as our next big thing, this kid has all the attributes to be something special. He was responsible for most of our best moments against the Bluebirds, hitting the post and keeping Cardiff stopper Neil Etheridge busy.

If you want to be hyper critical, then he probably should have tucked one of his chances away but he was unlucky and was the best player on the pitch by a distance among those in Red.He's got to be promoted to the senior ranks for next season in the same way that Rashford was.

For one so young, Greenwood belies his tender years and can show his team-mates the way when it comes to playing for the shirt with pride, passion and unstinting honour.

Not for the first time, we're looking to United's next generation to take u
s forward.

Match report: Man Utd 0-2 Cardiff City

Nathaniel Mendez - Laing scored twice as relegated Cardiff won at Old Trafford and ended Man Utd's inglorious season in ignomonioua fashion. The winger scored either side of half-time to ensure Neil Warnock's side returned to the second tier off the back off a memorable last day win.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer looked to have turned our fortunes around as we went 12 games unbeaten after his arrival. But the side picked up two points from the last 15 to finish in sixth place and face a make or break summer of open heart surgery. 17-year-old Mason Greenwood, on his debut Premier League start, was the only bright spot for United as the teenager looked impressive throughout and was unlucky not to score.
The Reds fielded six Academy graduates and saw Antonio Valencia make his farewell appearance after a decade of loyal service to the club with a 15-minute cameo. The players stayed behind to embark on a "lap of honour" in front a sparsely populated Old Trafford at the end of a miserable campaign.

Cardiff travelled to Old Trafford just a week after confirmation of their relegation to the Championship and looked set to bid farewell to the top flight with a whimper as United dominated the opening exchanges.
But it was United who finished the match with their tails between their legs, unable to defy a resolute Bluebirds defence as they rained chance after chance on Neil Etheridge's goal.
Greenwood hit a post, Jesse Lingard was denied by the keeper and Andreas Pereira flashed a shot wide as the Bluebirds had to weather an early United surge.

Greenwood twice went close with headers, but Cardiff took a 23rd minute lead when Mendez - Laing was adjudged to have been felled by Diogo Dalot.  TV replays showed that the striker had swiped and missed his shot and started to fall before the Portuguese full back made contact. Arguments from the Reds camp came to nothing and Mendez-Laing stroked the spot-kick down the middle to make it 1-0.
David de Gea saved superbly from Josh Murphy shortly before half-time, when Anthony Martial came on for Phil Jones and Scott McTominay dropped to centre-half.

United soon fell further behind through a goal that was embarrasingly easy. A simple move down United's non existent left side saw Murphy waltz into space and cut the ball back for Mendez - Laing, who sidefooted in from close range.

Rashford had a header saved and Martial also went close but the Reds struggled to make inroads against an archetypal well-drilled, organised and resilient Cardiff side.  It almost got worse as Bobby Reid stole in behind the defence but lashed his shot wide.

Old Trafford was willing Greenwood to score and at least offer a crumb of comfort, but he was unable to convert Rashford's low cross on 87 minutes. Angel Gomes, another star in the making, also enjoyed an eye catching cameo as he was brought on with Valencia on 74 minutes.

This was an instantly forgettable denoument to a troubled season as we end with six defeats in nine ahead of a summer of reflection and rebuilding before 2019-20.

Overall team performance: 3/10
United Faithful Man of the Match: Mason Greenwood. The only bright spot on a dark last day of the season.

Saturday, 11 May 2019

Match preview: Man Utd v Cardiff City

Old Trafford will bid farewell to two departing United stalwarts as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer faces old side Cardiff City in our final game of 2018-19.
Neil Warnock's relegated Bluebirds provide the Reds final opponents of a troubled season, but the fixture is something of a subplot with Ander Herrera and Antonio Valencia set to leave the club after five and ten years at the club respectively. It could also see Paul Pogba, David de Gea and Juan Mata make their curtain calls with ongoing uncertainty over the future of all three men. Herrera has made 189 appearances for the club, and Valencia - who has not featured since 2 January - has played 338 times.

The club captain hopes to be fit enough to make a farewell appearance after a decade at United.
Jesse Lingard could return after injury but Romelu Lukaku, Alexis Sanchez and Anthony Martial are fitness doubts.
Cardiff are without loanees Harry Arter and Victor Camarasa because of a calf strain and dead leg respectively.

United boss Solskjaer has pledged to involve Academy youngsters such as Tahith Chong, Angel Gomes and Mason Greenwood against the south Wales side who return to the second tier after a single Premier League campaign. There may be nothing riding on the result but what happens over the summer and into next season is extremely important for both.

 A week of two incredible comebacks.
A weekend when an epic title tussle will reach its climax.
A season that will see four English clubs meet in European finals... but, for once, instead of writing such headlines, Manchester United are noticeable by their absence.
Second last season and seemingly back in the pack, we're miles off the pace again, faced with the unpalatable situation of being only spectators as our fiercest and most hated rivals compete for the most prestigious honours. 
With a summer of comings and goings predicted, this could represent an Old Trafford farewell for several donning the famous red jersey.
But will it be the denouement in the career of Cardiff manager Warnock?
After relegation at 70, retirement may yet beckon but he would miss football - and football would certainly miss him.

 Ole said: "Challenging for the title next year would be a miraculous season because we are so far behind at the moment, points-wise.
"It's not like when I used to play that it was us or Arsenal that were going to win the league, and then Chelsea came.
"Now it's a very, very competitive competition and we're challenging against the best teams in the world for these trophies. You have five, six, seven sides to get the better of. That tells us that it's going to be a great challenge. We want to get back to where we used to be."

 Form guide: Man Utd W L L L D D Cardiff City L L W L L L
Match odds: Man Utd 2/7 Draw 11/2 Cardiff City 17/2 (Skybet)
Referee: Jon Moss takes charge in game 38 of 38

Sack the board, I am sick of saying it now

Just when you thought the embarrasing, circus act clowns who pose as the Manchester United board couldn't get more inept.
As news broke on Saturday morning of Ander Herrera's immiment departure after five years and almost 200 games at Old Trafford, three thoughts occured to me. Sadness at the departure of a player I love, a player who gets this club and one of the few who has proved himself to be worthy of the Manchester United name. Anger at the way the board have allowed this to happen, and the manner in which they have treated one of our own who deserves better. Then came the wave of resentment towards this poisonous, toxic, clueless, upside down board who have played Russian roulette with our club and ripped its heart out like a banker's plaything. They're making financial, business decisions over the needs of a football club and have increasingly showed they can't even get that right. How else to explain indulging the hangers on Ashley Young, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones with new deals, paying Alexis Sanchez 500k a week for doing less than nothing and letting Herrera leave by allowing his contract to run down. When you take the risk on a decent player and a big club comes in, you've got nowhere to go and of course he's going to leave. It is a disgrace that this has been allowed to happen. Why are contracts allowed to run down?
 It's contradictory - trying to save money by dithering over deals, but then scrimping it away elsewhere trying to please players who shouldn't even be here. Another United manager being stabbed in the back by those above him. We are run so very, very badly, it's embarrasing and amateurish. Herrera clearly never wanted to go, he had it forced upon him by the board who left him with no option but to leave - the latest in a string of ill-fated decisions that lack any basic and tangible nous, knowledge and logic.

You can't blame Herrera for leaving - why wouldn't you when the employers you have served so well clearly don't value you and have done zero to try and keep hold of a good asset?

Allowing Herrera to leave is nonsensical. Even if you agree to the notion that there's better out there - ask yourself this: who, realistically, could we sign. United need many reinforcements but now we're going to have to fork out in upward of £50m to replace a player who didn't need replacing. Even if you feel that we can attract players of better calibre than the man from Bilbao, very few can give us the attributes Ander has done. A leader, he wore his heart on his sleeve, was the master of shithousery and epitomised everything a United player should be. People like that aren't easy to replace. Especially not in a squad full of spineless, gutless babies.This board have made us a laughing stock. Whoever the key person or people behind this decision were, all need to stop interfering and leave footballing matters to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

 I cannot accurately described the levels of risible resentment within me towards this regime. I will never turn my back on the team I love, but it's got to the point now where I feel I shouldn't put any more money into the club. They clearly don't care about us as fans, so why should we continue to fund their cash cow? Support the team not the regime.

Ole ole Ander Herrera.. Adios and gracias

After 189 games in the Red of United, Ander Herrera will run out at Old Trafford as a Manchester United player for the final time tomorrow. Herrera's deal is due to expire, the club have not offered him a new one and he looks set to sign for PSG on a free, having agreed terms with the Ligue 1 champions after five years as one of our club's best post Sir-Alex signings. Arriving from La Liga in 2014 for £29m as Louis van Gaal's first signing, Herrera was the string-pulling heartbeat of our engine room and developed into a key man in a United side that at times seems to be in a constant state of turbulence.
In an emotional farewell message posted on United's Twitter, Herrera made official what has looked likely for some time, after widespread speculation about his future.

So how will the man from Bilbao be remembered? The answer, certainly from my perspective, is with great affection.

Whilst there have certainly been more skillful, edge-of-
your-seat players to don the iconic Red, Herrera was a rare breed - a foreign import who quickly became a fans favourite for his combative, courageous, hard-working and all action style. He reminded me of a Roy Keane-esque identikit and held a love and affinity for our club that you don't very often see in an overseas player. He hated losing and epitomised everything a Manchester United player should be. As Tony Adams once said: "Play for the name on the front of the shirt and they will remember the name on the back."

  Every tackle, every act of bravery, every act of shithousery, every lung bursting rung and every single thing that proves that what Ander Herrera is, is something United currently lack.

Not forgetting that time he spat on the City badge at the swamp.

This United squad is a discombobulated rabble of half arsed players who don't give a shit, but  Herrera is one of the few who is both genuinely good enough and does actually care. Letting him leave looks a massive mistake and one that I hope we don't live to regret.

An expert of "the needle", Herrera was adept at boiling the collective piss of opposition players and fans alike simply through his no nonsense attitude and putting his body on the line. His man marking masterclass on Eden Hazard for Chelsea's visit in the April of 2017 will live long in the memory, and capped a wonderful season in which he was our skipper in all but name and ended up as winner of the Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year award. In a United squad where true leaders and out and out captains are conspicous in absentia, Herrera should have been that man. He will be sorely missed and I'm gutted that he won't be a part of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's plans to rebuild United. The mess Manchester United are in, the leadership and authority the club lacks, they are letting go of a proper leader. It might be tough to find another one soon.

A player who forever gave his all, Herrera wore his heart on his sleeve, never put in anything less than 100% and developed into one of the finest box to box midfielders in the land. He perhaps never got the credit he deserved from observers, fans and pundits, but he was crucial. During his five seasons under three different managers, Herrera won both domestic cups and was named man of the match in the Europa League final after he covered every blade of grass in that final against Ajax.

When times were dark, he gave his all to light the fire. When it seemed as though no one cared, he did care every single time. Because of that, he became a player every United fan could relate to and connect to. Someone we could identify with. He became a cult hero, a terrace icon, a fans favourite.

Antonio Valencia will also leave United on a free transfer this summer after the club opted not to trigger a one year extension in his contract, while Juan Mata is yet to agree terms on a new deal at Old Trafford.

Ole ole Ander Herrera. Gracias and adios Ander, good luck at PSG and all the best for your future.

Tuesday, 7 May 2019

Five Premier League stars that could make a difference for Man Utd.

It is no secret that Manchester United need a monumental overhaul and with the summer transfer window looming fast, it is sure to be a busy summer at Old Trafford. We need ten players in and ten players out, but it’s going to take more than just a few months for us to get what we need. It looks the mother of all rebuilding jobs for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and it should never have come to this.
As many as six players could leave United, with the club looking to bring in at least four. With that in mind, here we take a look at five Premier League based talents who could make a difference to us.

Toby Alderweireld (Tottenham)

The Belgian has been a mainstay of both his club and his country’s rise to prominence. Although he’s in the twilight of his career, he’s still got a good few years left in him yet. Alderweireld is one of the best centre-backs around and would be the perfect grit-and-guile foil alongside Victor Lindelof. A dearth of good centre-halves has been United’s Achilles heel for years, we still haven’t adequately replaced Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic. This man is perfect for that job.
He’s been linked with United in the past but the Spurs man won’t come cheap. Daniel Levy is notoriously hard-nosed when it comes to doing business with so we’ll have to be very astute to prise one of his top assets away from north London.

Ryan Fraser (Bournemouth)

We haven’t had a good wide man since Ronaldo left but I rate Bournemouth’s Ryan Fraser. 25 and at his peak, the Scot has had the season of his life for Eddie Howe’s Cherries. Deployed as a right-footed left winger, he can also cover both full-back positions if needed. Bournemouth’s creator-in-chief has plundered eight goals and 15 assists in tandem with Callum Wilson (who I’d also take at Old Trafford) during this impressively eye-catching campaign. If we were to sign him it would mean a revamping of style as well as personnel as we have no natural width and play narrow. United have a rich legacy when it comes to the free-wheeling winger, but the traditional type has become a dying Premier League breed. Bournemouth are one of the few sides to still play that way and Fraser is an integral part of this.

Ruben Neves (Wolves)

I’ve been an admirer of this lad for years even before his mightily impressive debut Premier League season. Part of a tenacious, brave and agile Wolves side, Neves was instrumental in their superb seventh-placed finish and has contributed to twelve goals this season. More than that, he is the archetypal ball-carrying flair player so conspicuous in absentia at United. We need an upgrade on Nemanja Matic who simply isn’t good enough and Neves, 22, would certainly give us that. His skill, vision and range of passing are among his best attributes and, whether we keep hold of Paul Pogba or not, Neves is a Man Utd player in all but name. He is too good for Wolves but they will be desperate not to sell him.

Declan Rice (West Ham)

Wan-Bissaka and Rice. It might sound like part of a takeaway order, but in fact, both are two of the finest young homegrown talents in the Premier League. Coming to the end of his second season at West Ham, the 20-year-old is the latest product of the Hammers famed Academy.
Superbly nicknamed the ‘Basmati Busquets’, he was impressive against United at Old Trafford a few weeks ago, linking the play with energy, guile and nous. Strong in the tackle and composed on the ball, he can also play as a ball playing centre-back and has become a big game player after impressing against the top six. It is surely a matter of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’ Rice gets a big money move elsewhere. He was rewarded for his sparkling form with a debut for Gareth Southgate’s England team after being the subject of a tug-of-war between the Three Lions and the Republic of Ireland (who he is eligible for through his grandparents). He would be a class addition to a United squad in need of open-heart surgery. Solskjaer is said to be a fan.

Aaron Wan-Bissaka (Crystal Palace)

The breakout star of 2018-19, Wan-Bissaka has been tipped to reach the very top. The most exciting talent to come through the Crystal Palace Academy in years, he’s burst on to the scene and has already attracted attention from the league’s leading lights.
United are in desperate need of a top class right-back and the 21-year-old ticks all the box: he’s a quick, fearless and dynamic young talent that we’re crying out for. Ashley Young, Antonio Valencia and Matteo Darmian aren’t up to standard and new blood is required. With the addition of Wan – Bissaka, and Diogo Dalot and Luke Shaw to provide competition, United’s full-back positions would be in their best state for ages.

Monday, 6 May 2019

Scott McTominay is Man Utd's one lone beacon of hope

Amid the wreckage of Manchester United's 2018-19 season, there is one survivor. One man who has shone like a beacon as United's only glimmer of hope during nine desperate months in which the storm clouds have enveloped Old Trafford in darkness.
Scott McTominay - like United - began the season in an ignominous manner. Guilty through no fault of his own with the trials and tribulations of the Jose Mourinho era, the jury was very much out on the latest member of the club's homegrown alumni to step off the conveyor belt of talent. I'll be the first to admit I had my doubts too. Tall and rangy but seemingly not much else, McTominay was both a blessing and a curse for Mourinho. 6ft 3 and strong in the tackle, he was the perfect exponent of Mourinho's raison d'etre, and the fact he's an Academy graduate allowed the pragmatic Portuguese to tick that box, too. Yet he was also hung out to dry by the man who rated him so highly he created an award for McTominay. Twice deployed in a back five during that defeat at West Ham and the draw at Southampton, it hardly did much to change opinion.

Scott came to symbolise everything that was wrong with the nadir of Mourinho's tenure.
When Jose departed Old Trafford in December, it seemed as though McTominay would follow too, somewhere into the lower echelons of the second tier.
Five months on, and the player known affectionately as McSauce has seen his stock risen so highly that he's being worshipped as our saviour. McTominay looks indispensable and it's him - not Paul Pogba - that we should be building our team around. The image shows him sitting dejectedly on the bench after the draw at Huddersfield. It's obvious how much this season has hurt him... if only the rest of this shitshow cared as much as he does. I'd rather have 11 McTominay's than 11 Pogba's - he might not be the most brilliantly skillfull player but he compensates for that by putting a shift in and giving 100% for the badge. He'd die for this club, and his unrelenting work rate makes him stand out like Andres Iniesta in a lazy team of statuesque bottle jobs.

It has been a coming of age season for the Lancaster-born Scot. United faced PSG and Barcelona in two Champions League knockout ties, and surrounded by a galaxy of stars, McTominay was inspired. His first senior goal at Wolves was quickly followed by his second one yesterday. In a startling season for Manchester United, another startling stat has emerged: McTominay now has more goals in the last eight games than Romelu Lukaku, Marcus Rashford, Jesse Lingard, Alexis Sanchez, Juan Mata and Anthony Martial have managed between them. Yet some continue to blame Ole for a mess not of his own making. Ashley Young couldn't lead a pack of ants to a picnic but McTominay has shown maturity and leadership beyond his tender years.

He is one of only four players - with Luke Shaw, Victor Lindelof and Marcus Rashford the others - to have shown he truly deserves to be here next year.

Sunday, 5 May 2019

Match report: Huddersfield 1-1 Man Utd

This pitiful bunch of Man Utd players were finally put out of their misery as our top four hopes were ended by one of the worst sides the Premier League has seen. It was only the Championship-bound Terriers 15th point of a woeful season, and mathematically ended United's already slim hopes of Champions League football in 2019-20, not that we deserve it anyway. In truth, the top four was not ended today - we have been utterly pathetic all season bar the three magic months when everything Ole Gunnar Solskjaer touched turned to gold. Spurs, Chelsea and Arsenal have barely been no better but with nothing to play for against Cardiff with one game left, I want to see youth now. Scott McTominay, the one shining light in a desperately dark season of gloom, was the only man in Red worthy of the name.

Jan Siewert's Huddersfield were relegated in March - the joint earliest demotion ever -  and on a run of eight successive losses, but with the club destined for the drop after a two-season stint at the top level, and chairman Dean Hoyle going with them, there was an emotional backdrop at the atmospheric John Smith's Stadium. Hoyle is selling the club to local businessman and another long-standing supporter in Phil Hodgkinson.

McTominay put United ahead when he fired in from the edge of the box beyond Jonas Lossl, but Isaac Mbenza's first goal for the club restored parity after the interval. In a frantic finish, young United substitute Tahith Chong had a shot saved and Paul Pogba hit the bar before David de Gea denied Karlan Grant a winner at the other end.

De Gea, under scrutiny after a string of disappointing mistakes, twice saved well from Grant, whilst Juan Mata was by far United's most creative player and almost set up an opportunity for Pogba to double United's lead.
Pogba hit the bar in each half with curling shots but he was another highly-paid member of the United squad whose overall impact failed to match his reputation.

 Home-grown McTominay, United's April player of the month, was again the visitors' outstanding performer.
There was more than an element of luck about the Scotland midfielder's goal as Huddersfield keeper  Lossl completely failed to deal with his eighth-minute shot from just inside the penalty area but there was an enterprising industry about McTominay's performance that his team-mates clearly lacked.

Hoyle even got something to celebrate as Mbenza scored his first goal in 23 Huddersfield appearances.
There was nothing subtle about his debut goal. The Terriers keeper punted the ball downfield, it was was not dealt with by Luke Shaw, allowing Mbenza to run clear of the United defence and slot past the advancing de Gea.

Phil Jones headed over from five yards having been picked out by Mata, and Marcus Rashford then also should have done better but miscued when well placed, epitomising his recent struggles. 

It was an another embarrasing footnote in another embarrasing season for United.

Overall team performance: No rating
United Faithful Man of the Match: Scott McTominay.

The worst Man Utd side in living memory have sleepwalked into this mess

Huddersfield had lost 23 of their last 25 games in all competitions. In their last six alone, they had conceded 21 goals. The Terriers, relegated since March and on course to record one of the lowest points totals in Premier League history, were sinking into the Championship without a trace.

Enter Manchester United.

Yet they were the team to mathematically end any lingering hopes of Champions League football for 2019-20. In a season when Tottenham, Chelsea, Arsenal and - albeit briefly - ourselves have played musical chairs and Russian roulette with the carrot of the top four, United came a distant sixth in a pathetic three horse race. I'm beyond ranting. I'm not upset and, most damningly of all, not in the least bit surprised. It's happened too many times that nothing surprises me any more with this football club. So bad was it at the John Smith's Stadium, you could make a case for all eleven of those pathetic, half-arsed, lazy, lethargic and lackadaisical players to be moved on. You could argue that every single one of those players could be upgraded. Every.Single.One. Ed Woodward has had seven summers at Old Trafford so surely he has to get this one right. The whole club needs a shake up from top to bottom. Whilst City and Liverpool continue to demand excellence and strive for perfection, our penny pinching puppeteers in the corridors of power are killing this club, running it into the ground and ripping its soul out. The zenith of their ambitions is to do the bare minimum required to get us competing for a top four place. In the era of the Big Six, two miss out and its looking increasingly likely that United are going to be one of them for the foreseeable future. Watford, Wolves, Everton and Leicester all could well have caught us if the season had been extended by a few more weeks. It is no co-incidence that all are well run clubs with good recruitment. United face an almighty fight to stay ahead of those four - as well as trying to close down the chasing pack - in the coming seasons. It's going to take a decade to fix this mess. Ole might be at the wheel, but there's no engine and the vehicle he's driving is smashed to smithereens, beyond any tangible repair.

Blame Ole Gunnar Solskjaer all you want but it shouldn't have mattered what the line up or the formation was. We should be beating the fodder of hopeless Huddersfield with nine men and our eyes closed. In fact, in a team containing Ashley Young - it is mind boggling how this man is our captain - Phil Jones - just why? - and Nemanja Matic - it was like playing with eight. When Scott McTominay put us ahead at Huddersfield, we were asking the question of 'how many'. At full time, 'how many' was still relevant. How many should we get rid of?  Solskjaer sat motionless and powerless for much of the last 30 minutes. On the rare occasion he stood, his hands were stuffed in his pockets, dumbstruck, demoralised and deflated. It appears he has given up on some of these pitiful players.

Luke Shaw is a contender for the Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year but yet made his third such mistake when he failed to get under a hoof down field and Isaac Mbenza raced through to score. As a professional footballer at a Premier League club, how is he not correcting these mistakes or, perhaps more pertinently, why has the coaching set up not picked up on it?

 This is the worst United side I have ever seen and we have sleepwalked into this situation. Five months ago, United had eleven players sitting on expiring contracts. Jose Mourinho fell out with a lot of players - Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba, our French connection, to name but two. When he left, they've continued to show no effort, no stomach for the fight and still look as though they don't want to be here. David de Gea has held this club to ransom not twice but three times. We show too much loyalty, overindulge our players and favouritism is rife.Half of these twats want more money but are doing the square root of zero to warrant it. Some fans are split over whether we should bend to their wishes or get rid.

How startling it is to see Ander Herrera, of all people, urgently rally his teammates. Herrera was the only one who showed any remote leadership in response to the setback and the club's failure to agree a new deal with him means he has agreed to join Paris Saint-Germain. If only Alexis Sanchez would join him. Yet we think nothing of keeping players who are nowhere near up to standard.
Sanchez began the game moaning at a teammate and ended it by disappearing down the tunnel unassisted and injured. You wouldn't blame Woodward, sat in the same aisle as Sir Bobby Charlton, if he hopes that was the last time their highest-earner appeared in a red shirt.
The 19-year-old Tahith Chong replaced Sanchez in what could be the unofficial changing of the guard. Chong did more with his first touches than Sanchez managed in 54 feckless minutes. Chong was close to firing in an 88th-minute winner. Whatever the understandable reasons behind United's pursuit of Sanchez 16 months ago, they signed him at exactly the wrong time.

Scott McTominay's resurgence - he was, again, the only bright spot, and Sanchez's demise, perhaps  underpin the recruitment reboot Solskjaer and Mike Phelan are overseeing. They want players genuinely enthralled by the prospect of playing for United and there is a reluctance to court marquee names. On the evidence at the John Smith's Stadium, it is easy to see why.

Saturday, 4 May 2019

Match preview: Huddersfield Town vs Man Utd

United's under-fire keeper David De Gea will keep his place between the sticks for our penultimate game of the season at relegated Huddersfield.
De Gea has endured the worst goalkeeper crisis of his career after a string of high profile errors in recent weeks, including Chelsea's damaging leveller last time out at Old Trafford. That had led many to question whether he should be dropped but, with back up Sergio Romero injured, manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will keep faith with Dave.

In terms of their gossamer thin top-four chances, all United can do is win and hope for the unexpected elsewhere.
As bizarre as it seems though, their own victory might be the part that lets them down - even at a ground where 14 others have won away this season. Huddersfield achieved what many thought nigh on impossible by surviving last season on their debut campaign at this level, but Jan Siewert's side have suffered a nasty bout of second-season syndrome to sink back into the second tier almost without trace - pilfering a second-lowest ever points tally of 14 in the process.
Their goals-for column is a joint record low of 20, equalled only by the Derby County side of 2007/08 that will be remembered as the Premier League's worst ever. Huddersfield's 2-0 defeat at Palace on 30 March also equalled yet
another unwanted record for the league's earliest relegation. In short, they have been terribly out of their depth and surely even we cannot mess this one up.

 Huddersfield, who have propped up the table since December, joined Derby County and Ipswich Town as the only teams in Premier League history to be relegated with six games left to play.
Their forward Laurent Depoitre is in contention for a first appearance in more than two months after recovering from a foot injury.
Mathias Jorgensen is out because of illness but Aaron Mooy and Ben Hamer are back in training.
Manchester United are missing Eric Bailly, whose season was ended by a knee injury sustained last weekend.
Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, Romelu Lukaku, Paul Pogba and Jesse Lingard are doubts, but Marcus Rashford is fit. Highly rated Academy starlet Mason Greenwood would have been involved if not for injury, but the likes of Academy graduates Tahith Chong, Angel Gomes and James Garner will be hoping to feature as Solskjaer looks set to shuffle his pack. This dead rubber could be a final chance to players who could leave in the summer, and allow Solskjaer to decide who he keeps and who must go against the fodder of Huddersfield and Cardiff - sides we should be beating no matter who plays.

Solskjaer said: "In long-term planning we have to think about being in the Champions League next year and the fact we might not be [in it].
"You would be surprised how many players' agents have been telling us their players would love to be a part of Manchester United in the future.
"That is the lure and the potential and size of the club, and we will get back to the good days."

Form guide: Huddersfield Town L L L L L L  Man Utd  L W L L L D
Match odds: Huddersfield Town 11/1 Draw 6/1 Man Utd 1/3
Referee: Lee Mason (Bolton)

Monday, 29 April 2019

Luke Shaw should be United's Player of the Season

It's that time of year again when the topic of discussion turns to contenders for a club's Player of the Season awards. United's annual end of year bash which sees the gongs given out will be held at Old Trafford on Thursday May 9.

David de Gea has been a shoe in for the Reds pick of the bunch in recent years, having won the award named in honour of Sir Matt Busby for four of the last seasons - only the soon to depart Ander Herrera has broken his compatriot's stranglehold on the crown. With an atrocious, error-strewn De Gea in the midst of the worst goalkeeping crisis of his career, and United's season potholed by inconsistency, there is no clear winner this time around.
It's fair to say that no one in Red has covered himself in glory, but there's one man who has been a picture of consistency, calm and composure, a steady hand on the tiller in the roughest of seas. Step forward, Luke Shaw. Our number 23 has enjoyed a stellar season having finally achieved what he threatened for so long and made that left-back spot his own. He has become the player we all hoped he one day would be. Notably leaner, meaner, fitter and faster, and still only 23, Shaw has come of age. Liverpool's Andy Robertson aside there have been few better full-backs in the country this season.

Shaw's troubles with form and fitness at United have been well documented, but Luke has emerged from the cocoon of the Jose Mourinho era to spread his wings and fly into a new era as one of the few to emerge from 2018-19 with any tangible credit. Victor Lindelof runs him close and Marcus Rashford would be right up there if not for the last two weeks, but for me, Shaw gets the nod as our Player of the Year. Winner of three player of the month awards, I struggle to think of an occasion where he's had a bad game or not performed well. You could argue he should have done better for City's second, decisive goal in last Wednesday's derby but in truth the fault was minimal.

He prepared better than ever, rearranging his diet and workout plan, and eventually became United’s best full-back. There is no longer uncertainty surrounding Shaw and he’s been consistent all season, hence why I’d give reward him with the Player of The Year award. Next season I expect him to kick on again.

It has been great to see Shaw develop into one of the league's best full-backs  and long may it continue. Kudos, Luke.

Sunday, 28 April 2019

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer faced with the mother of all rebuilding jobs

Perhaps missing out on the Champions League is a blessing in disguise for Manchester United. Not only to save us from future embarrasment at the hands of Europe's true elite, but to jolt the board - the poisonous, cancerous. leeching, penny pinching parasites who are supposedly running this club - into action. If moonlighting in the Europa League for the third time in five seasons doesn't make them act, then simply nothing ever will. Sack the board. I'm sick of saying it now. This is their mess, and theirs alone.

Maybe now, the elusive Glazers and the headless chicken Ed W******d will wake up, smell the coffee and set about restructuring this great club of ours. By scraping into the top four at the last, it would have merely papered over the multitude of cracks in the crumbling Old Trafford facade. That is the zenith of this regime's ambition and would have persuaded the merry band of men that all is rosy in the United garden despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. As long as we've got the Champions League to keep sponsors happy, revenue ticking over and the club coffers continuing to swell, they're happy.

It feels like we've said this every year for the last I don't know how long, but a crucial summer awaits for Manchester United. Faced with the mother of all monumental rebuilding jobs, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is the right man for us, but he needs time, money and help. If he doesn't, then he faces the prospect of the same fate that befell his illustrious predecessors - becoming just another victim of United's rancid and rotten regime.
Faced with the cold reality of Thursday night football in faraway Baku, there is nowhere else to turn. No longer is this side's inadequacies masked by the lure of PSG, Juve and Barcelona et al under the Old Trafford lights. There has to be a transfer kitty available in the summer. But the problem is, I don't trust the board to get rid of the deadwood and bring in good enough replacements. This is the same board that replaced Cristiano Ronaldo with Gabriel Obertan, Michael Owen and Antonio Valencia. The same board that thought we didn't need Toby Alderweireld or Harry Maguire because Chris Smalling and Phil Jones were good enough. They just won't spend the money needed, the likes of Jones, Smalling, Ashley Young, Valencia, Marcos Rojo, Alexis Sanchez and co will remain clogging up the wage bill and the same vicious circle will begin all over again. Deja vu. I don't want to compare United to our two most hated rivals City and Liverpool but can't help doing so. Not only are both cutting a swathe through the league, but the way they are run are poles apart. Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola went to their respective boards with transfer requests to make them competitive and lo and behold, they got what was needed with minimal fuss in a matter of weeks. If only - our board could learn a thing or two.

United - owned and exploited by the Glazer family and run by Woodward - are floundering in every department. Yet if we needed a model for how to do things much better in their challenge - albeit fraught - of restoring the equilibrium - they don't have to look far. United need a right-back, a right winger, two centre mids, a centre back, a left winger, a keeper and a striker. That's before we even get to the notion of a technical director and someone on the board who knows what they're doing from a football perspective. That should be the first priority and then, at least, we can avoid the kind of soporific summer that marked the beginning of the end for Jose Mourinho. Woodward refused to sanction signing another centre-half and instead brought in a 35-year-old Stoke City reject, a kid and a not good enough, overpriced Brazilian.

Solskjaer cannot have the same problems as he's faced with a task akin to fighting a forest fire with a water pistol.

Match report: Man Utd 1-1 Chelsea

Another howler from David de Gea gifted Chelsea a fortuitous equaliser and all but ended United's hopes of Champions League qualification. With United 1-0 up and on course for a priceless victory against direct top four rivals in a must win game, De Gea spilled Antonio Rudiger's speculative shot from distance and allowed Marcos Alonso to sweep home the leveller.

United went into the game three points behind Maurizio Sarri's west London side in a top four tussle that no one has taken charge of or, indeed, even seems to want. Things remained that way after a draw that was, in truth, probably a fair result. United have two games left against relegated Huddersfield and surely-gone Cardiff.

 With Tottenham losing at home to West Ham on Saturday and Arsenal's heavy loss at Leicester earlier on Sunday, this result means none of the teams placed between third and sixth won over the weekend.
Five points separate Tottenham, Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United with 180 minutes of the Premier League season remaining.

 Rudiger let fly from 30 yards with Chelsea's first shot on target two minutes before the interval.
It looked a routine save for a player of De Gea's ability and quality, but the ball spilled from his grasp and Alonso reacted quickly to tuck home his first Premier League goal since 18 August. It was the latest in a series of high profile blunders in recent weeks.
He was culpable for at least one of Manchester City's two goals in the derby loss at Old Trafford, having been at fault for Lionel Messi's second in the defeat at the Nou Camp in the Champions League on 16 April. That's before you throw in him getting stuck in the mud for Wolves winner in the league and Granit Xhaka's effort at the Emirates which should have been a straightforward stop.

It was a costly error by the desperate Spaniard, whose form has come under scrutiny in recent weeks, although De Gea did come to his side's rescue deep in stoppage time to deny Gonzalo Higuain a dramatic winner.
In a feisty, uncompromising tie, Rudiger was forced off through injury before Marcus Rashford and the luckless Eric Bailly - on his first start for six week - followed suit.
Continuing the recent trend, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side came flying out of the traps and started well. Romelu Lukaku had an early effort saved by Kepa, before the Belgian was involved in United's eleventh-minute opener. His flick over the top found the excellent Luke Shaw, who cut the ball back for the onrushing Juan Mata to score against his old side.
Bailly flashed a header wide and Kepa saved a Marcus Rashford set-piece, before Alonso's gift restored parity at the break.

Chances were at a premium after the break, although N'golo Kante flashed a shot wide and substitute Marcos Rojo had a header cleared off the line by fellow replacement Pedro.
Rojo was then fortunate to escape censure when he clattered into Gonzalo Higuain and then scythed down Willian with a two footed lunge.

Overall team performance: 6/10
United Faithful Man of the Match: Luke Shaw. My Player of the Season, superb again

Thursday, 25 April 2019

Manchester United simply do not deserve Champions League football

Here we go again. Emmerdale Cup. Thursday nights. Macedonia, Belarus, Azerbaijan. All hail the pitfalls of the Europa League. For that's surely now where, for the third time in six seasons, Manchester United are going to end up. True, we're not completely out of the running for a top four finish with three games left against Chelsea, Huddersfield and Cardiff, but that's mainly because the sides around us are just as bad as we are. Whoever is least s**t will get that fourth spot.

If we do, by some miracle, limp to fourth place, we could still miss out if should Arsenal or Chelsea win this year's Europa League which looks very likely. It is no more than we deserve. We have - barring three months from mid-December to early March, been absolutely woeful this season. We've spent only two weeks of the season in the top four after wins over Fulham and Southampton in the midst of our sensational, record breaking 15 match unbeaten run.

Jose Mourinho was merely a smokescreen masking the plethora of problems from top to bottom at United. Problems that transcend what goes on on the field and run far deeper than the manager. Let's look at the stats. We've conceded 50 goals (FIFTY!), a club record high in a single season. We've lost seven of our last nine and have gone over ten hours without a goal in open play. Paul Pogba's pair of penalties against West Ham aside, Scott McTominay's goal in the 13th minute at Wolves on April 2 was the last time we found the net.
 The players don't look bothered, the whole place is dilapidated, ageing and outdated and the playing side of the club needs major renovation, the mother of all overhauls and open heart surgery. Only Victor Lindelof and Luke Shaw have been consistently anywhere near good enough, and the likes of Fred and Paul Pogba have simply not been good enough for two expensive foreign imports. Pogba's inclusion in the PFA Team of the Year is controversial. Our coaching structure and squad are c**p, the stadium is leaking, results are at a 57 year low and the club is in freefall. The only ones that seem to care are us, the long suffering United fans.

Having won the Europa League during Jose Mourinho's first season in charge - an achievement that turned out to be as good as things got under him - I never wanted to be back in it. Once you've won it once, you're done with it. It's not like the Champions League where its magic, prestige and atmospheric goldfish bowl is unrivalled. You can't get enough of it. But in the Europa League, you stack up the air miles, play at ridiculous times on a Thursday against sides you've never even heard of. Oh joy.
You can also forget about any semblance of a title challenge next term - not that we're anywhere near close to competing for it, never mind winning. The schedule forced upon us will put paid to that. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer should use the competition as a springboard for the next generation of talent fresh off the Carrington conveyor belt. Tahith Chong, Mason Greenwood, Angel Gomes and James Garner to name but four. Solskjaer has, himself, already achieved a minor miracle to even get us into top four contention, but it seems like results and performances fell off a cliff as soon as there was a chance we might make it. It's hard to argue that anything other than the industrial backwaters of Europe's second tier competition being our level at this moment in time.

Match report: Man Utd 0-2 Man City

Manchester City took the derby honours and inflicted an important blow in their pursuit of back-to-back titles with victory at Old Trafford.
Pep Guardiola's side knew anything but a win would leave Liverpool at the top of the table and in charge of their own destiny with only three games left.
United matched their illustrious visitors in the first half and could even have counted themselves not to be ahead at half time, but City moved slickly through the gears after the interval with goals from Bernardo Silva and substitute Leroy Sane.

 Silva's low drive went inside United keeper David de Gea's near post after 54 minutes and the keeper was at fault again when Sane's drive went straight through him and in.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had demanded a response after the abhorrent capitulation at Goodison Park and he did, at least, get a much improved performance. 
There was a bite and confidence missing at Goodison as we flew into the opening exchanges with the Reds' intensity forcing the Blues into errors and the momentum also had City making unforced mistakes as well.
Vincent Kompany and Kyle Walker both looked unhinged and the City captain was given a 10th minute yellow card by referee Andre Marriner for a cynical body-check on Marcus Rashford as the striker threatened to speed past the Belgian defender.
Paul Pogba had the first telling effort on goal of a frantic opening as he sent a dipping shot just in front of City keeper Ederson but the keeper comfortably held the effort.
A deflected Raheem Sterling effort almost wrong footed De Gea, Fred flashed a shot narrowly over the bar at the other end and Jesse Lingard volleyed wide in a flurry of first half openings.

De Gea pushed out Silva's 20 yarder before Ederson bravely denied the impressive Marcus Rashford when one on one with the advancing striker.

City began to douse United’s fire as they got into their possession game and, as they continued with their control, they carved out their best chance of the match.
Quick passing in the home penalty area presented Sterling a chance to dance his way into some space and his low shot from close range was saved by De Gea as the Blues threatened to make a breakthrough under the noses of the Stretford End.

Guardiola's men upped the ante in search of a crucial win and, despite losing key enforcer Fernandinho to injury, made the breakthrough on 54 minutes. 

An Ilkay Gundogan pass got Bernardo Silva on the ball on the right flank and he took on Luke Shaw, cut inside and fired low into the net under De Gea at his near post. The Reds responded immediately and should have restored parity but Lingard completely miskicked five yards out with the goal gaping after Rashford had picked him out. 

Pogba had a free-kick chance square on goal from 20 yards out but could only batter his set-piece into City’s stoic wall.
City, though, were dangerously rising through the gears and United could ill afford errors but Fred gave away the ball to Kompany, the defender quickly set Sterling free and he raced at pace into the Reds' half and fed substitute Sane to thump in a finish that beat De Gea for City’s second after 66 minutes.

There was to be no comeback as Old Trafford emptied quickly with United left to lick wounds again after a better showing but another defeat. On the plus side, at least this means that Liverpool now look likely to miss out on the title.

Overall team performance: 5/10
United Faithful Man of the Match: Marcus Rashford 

Tuesday, 23 April 2019

Manchester derby preview: Man Utd vs Man City

The last thing Manchester United could do with right now is a meeting with Pep Guardiola’s title-chasing Manchester City. The men from across the road arrive at Old Trafford having won 14 of their last 15 in the league but still smarting from the death of their unprecedented quadruple. With Chelsea to come on Sunday in another heavyweight meeting, United need to quickly forget the traumatic events of the past week which has seen an unwelcome throwback to the nadir of Jose Mourinho's ill-fated tenure.

Form and fitness has dropped off the cliff since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer got the permanent job, leaving the United manager with an uphill battle to save a season that he had done so well to turn around. In stark contrast, City are in the finest of fettles despite the lingering heartache of their dramatic European exit. Guardiola's sky blue juggernaut have won ten league games in a row and make the four mile journey to Old Trafford locked toe to toe with Liverpool in the best title race the Premier League has seen for many a year. With the Carabao Cup already in the bag and an FA Cup final against Watford in which they will start as strong favourites, the domestic treble is very much still on. The two sides meet in a clash that looks decisive, but unfortunately United are only the envious bystanders watching on once more. With Ole at the wheel, can the Reds push Pep's juggernaut off the road and reignite our own ambitions with only three games to go? Here's the odd thing. I shouldn't be, it defies logic, the form book and my own senses, but I'm actually strangely confident. Having lost six in eight, United always perform when there's no pressure and put a performance in when you least expect one.

The 178th cross-town clash comes amid a benign backdrop because of that title picture. United need the points to get a fast faltering season back on track, but - in doing so - it would effectively hand the title to a certain team 30-odd miles down the road. That is itself is a prospect no one wants to ever dare consider, but the fact that we would have helped them do it makes the whole thing tinged with a bittersweet irony.
United will make changes in defence after Phil Jones was forced off through injury in the loss at Everton.
Paul Pogba produced a critic-silencing performance as United claimed a huge victory over their neighbours last April.
He and the rest of the United squad need to repeat that trick to not only keep their hopes of a top four finish alive, but to ease some of the considerable strain that has fallen under Solskjaer since he was appointed permanent manager.
But such have been the dismal nature of their performances in the last few weeks, it is difficult to envisage any sort of turnaround before Solskjaer has the chance to wield the axe this summer.
 Solskjaer’s has been glowing in his praise of 17-year-old Mason Greenwood again, a player he insists will be given the opportunity to shine while he is in charge.
Anthony Martial could be among the clutch of players at risk of losing their place after his anonymous performance against Everton – just days after his manager name-checked him among the group who simply must offer more. Antonio Valencia and Eric Bailly remained sidelined but Alexis Sanchez is in line to feature.
 Ander Herrera is expected to be available after four weeks out with a thigh injury, while Luke Shaw returns from a three-game suspension.
 Kevin de Bruyne will miss the derby after sustaining a muscular problem last weekend,  the latest setback in an injury ravaged season for Man City's midfield maestro. Keeper Claudio Bravo is the only other absentee through injury.

Solskjaer said: " I would like to say that I am what this club needs to move forward but it is not down to me to say that. Of course, I am confident in my team and myself. I am ready to take this challenge on. I know it is a big challenge. That is why I came. I don't like losing but it is a great challenge.
"But when you have bad results you have to be confident enough to say this is the way we are going to do it. We have to be brave and stick to what we believe in."

Form guide: Man Utd W L L W L L Man City W W W W W W 
Match odds: Man Utd 6/1 Draw 4/1 Man City 11/4
Referee: Andre Marriner

Predicted United line-up: De Gea; Dalot, Lindelof, Smalling, Shaw; McTominay, Matic, Pogba; Rashford, Lukaku, Sanchez.

There's no game quite like the Manchester derby

Ask any Manchester United fan and we’ll tell you that Liverpool is always the one we want to win the most. It’s the fixture you look for first when they come out in June. I’m sure they would say the same. But there’s nothing quite like a local cross-city derby to stir the senses, get juices flowing and conjure up emotions like no other game can.

Merseyside may be a tribal feud of mutual hatred and loathing, and a rivalry that transcends far beyond football, but the derby is about bragging rights, local pride and the chance to claim the city as your own. If anyone ever asks who you despise more, just remember this:  I hate Man City because I’m a Man Utd fan, I hate Liverpool because I’m a normal human being.

 As a former United legend once said, it’s like choosing which of two men gets to nick your missus. The two sides meet on Wednesday with the title up for grabs in a tie that looks decisive. Unfortunately, United are only the superfluous third wheel. The 178th all-Manchester meeting is one tinged with bittersweet irony.

By getting points from City, we’ll reignite our own ambitions, denting theirs in the process but go a long way to handing Liverpool a first Premier League title. An unpalatable Catch 22 situation that no one ever really wants. Welcome to life as a United fan in 2019.

The derby used to be irrelevant, in part due to City’s years in the industrial backwaters of the lower leagues and United’s all-conquering domestic dominance. City were merely a stepping stone, a footnote, an anomaly, an afterthought. Like the annoying younger brother who used to walk in your shadow at the playground because he had no one else to look up to. He never did anything to hurt or disrupt you, but he was always there clinging to your trouser leg, hoping to be thrown a few scraps of attention and affection every now and then. The Abu Dhabi takeover in 2008 marked a watershed moment in in the battle of power. United retained the initial early honours, but a new force was coming and it was here to stay.

Since that Aguero moment (my therapist says I’m not allowed to talk about it), our stranglehold has been on the wane. City have claimed three titles to our one and have a business model, a manager, a team and a boardroom structure we can only dream of. Times indeed, they are a changing. The noisy neighbours have become the biggest and best sports car money can buy, whilst United have been reduced to that ring rusty older model that used to be the envy of the world, but is now unreliable and past its best. But, like that trusty old Subaru, United can still occasionally rediscover their old magic when the two go head-to-head.

I suppose, in a strange way, we should be grateful. We need them as much as they need us. It’s good for the city and, after all, the two clubs are linked by triumph just as much as tragedy more than you might think. Matt Busby played more than 200 games for City before transforming United in a 24-year managerial tenure. One of City’s own, goalkeeper Frank Swift, was killed on a snowy runway at Munich in 1958. As painful as it might be, you’re hard pressed not to doff your proverbial cap in the direction of the Etihad.
Despite the undisputable fact that City now sit in the proverbial driving seat, and without wishing to tempt fate, they have not doubled United in the same league season since the David Moyes debacle in 2013/14. With Ole at the wheel, can United push Pep’s juggernaut off the road and stay on track for the destination marked “Champions League?” Even if the fans of a certain team 30-odd miles away would never let us forget that we helped them win the league…

Five things to watch out for in 178th cross town derby

The last thing Manchester United could do with right now is a meeting with Pep Guardiola’s title-chasing Manchester City. The men from across the road arrive at Old Trafford having won 14 of their last 15 in the league but still smarting from the death of their unprecedented quadruple. United often perform at their best when backs are pushed firmly against walls, so without further ado let us set the scene with what to look for at Old Trafford.

 Benign backdrop to high stakes derby

This promises to be one of the strangest nights Old Trafford has witnessed for years. Usually, the Theatre of Dreams would be rocking to the beat of an atmosphere baying for (sky blue) blood, but these are strange times. Guardiola’s side is neck and neck with Liverpool in the most exciting title tussle for years. By getting our own top four chances back on much-needed track and silencing the noisy neighbours, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side could well hand the league to the unthinkables. Than in itself is unpalatable, but imagine ‘them’ crowing that we helped them do it… Liverpool fans will be roaring us on, whilst there could well be a fair few of a United persuasion happy to take the ‘L’ for the first time ever in a derby if it means stopping the Scousers at all costs. It will be a weird night with no one quite sure who to support.

Problems mounting for United’s rookie boss

Just about everything that could have gone wrong has done in the last few weeks. Old wounds have reopened, form and fitness have fallen off a cliff and the dressing room is reportedly at war again. Since Solskjaer got the permanent job, United have reverted to type and it’s back to the nadir of the Mourinho tenure. In stark contrast, Manchester City are in fine fettle and a picture of serenity. It takes a huge leap of the imagination to see how Solskjaer and his side have the equipment to cut City down to size, but for some reason, I’m feeling oddly confident. If United play as we did at Everton – surely we can’t be any worse – then it will be brutal.

Man Utd’s Shaw-flank redemption

Luke Shaw has been widely tipped to get United’s Player of the Season award and the last three games have illustrated exactly why, even in absentia. Shaw has made the left-back spot his own but as United have lurched from Marcos Rojo and Ashley Young to Diogo Dalot, he has been a massive miss and will return to the fold on Wednesday, tasked with the significant hurdle of keeping tabs on one of Raheem Sterling, Leroy Sane or Bernardo Silva in Guardiola’s fluid and interchanging front three. Shaw is back after a three-game suspension. Here’s hoping he will give United the injection of energy and pace that has been sorely conspicuous by its absence. It has been wonderful to see this lad enjoy such a superbly stellar season.

A titanic tussle for top four and title

No matter the occasion or setting, the Manchester derby always matters. Liverpool may be the game above all others, but there’s nothing like a local showdown to stir the senses and get juices flowing. Not only that, but the two sides meet in the midst of separate need for bragging rights. City to keep on course for a second successive title, United for a top four spot that no one seems to really want. Arsenal, Chelsea and ourselves are taking it in turns to drop points meaning that somehow, despite six defeats in eight games, we’re still only three points off third spot. The high profile fixtures continue to come thick and fast with Chelsea next after this one.

Can United restore some pride?

There is always an over-reaction when United are beaten, but it was nothing less than justified following the 4-0 Easter crucifixion on Sunday. United were a mess, as bad as we have been, and showed no response at all from the Champions League KO. At the very least, the players have to put a performance in against City. Despite their apparent superiority, City haven’t won both league games in a season against the Reds since 2013-14 but, having taken the honours in the return fixture, they will look to inflict further woe on a United side in turn bidding to avoid drawing a third successive blank. Solskjaer will have learned a lot about his threadbare, inadequate squad in the past few weeks and to be fair to him he has not made excuses or shied away. Ole has told it like it is and you admire his honesty. He has great pride in this job and now it’s time for his players to follow suit. If you can’t even play with pride in a derby that defines the very name, then you have no future at Man United.