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 obsession of filling the club with loyal ex players and dyed 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 recruit 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 brought 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 disinterested 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 expedition 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 can 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 intelligenceehas 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 us 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 imminent 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 embarrassing 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. Sack the board. I am sick of saying it now.

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 conspicuous 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, woeful, useless 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)