All posts by Ben Parsons

Sports Writer- The United Stand

United interested in Lewandowski

Manchester United are set to pursue interest in Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski according to reports, with Chelsea also keen on the Polish striker.

Both Man Utd and Chelsea have held preliminary talks with Lewandowski’s representatives as they attempt to bring the striker to England.  Lewandowski, 28, has grown frustrated at his lack of support from his team mates and their attitudes towards him. He is disappointed not to have won the Bundesliga golden boot, losing out to Dortmund striker Aubameyang despite scoring 30 goals in the 2016/17 campaign as Bayern strolled to the Bundesliga title.

Lewandowski was talking about his season the Polish Super-Express: “I was not really happy with how my team helped me. I was annoyed and disappointed with the team’s attitude.”

Also, his agent Maik Barthel told  Kicker: “Robert told me that he got no support and that Carlo Ancelotti gave no call to help him win the top-scorer title in the last game.

“He was disappointed as I have ever seen him before.”

It remains unclear whether Lewandowski will make the move to the Premier League having been linked with United on numerous occasions in recent years, It is also thought that the Polish striker would prefer a move to London, putting Chelsea in pole position as they look to replace Diego Costa.

Any move for Lewandowski would put the signing of Real Madrid striker Alvaro Morata on hold , reportedly Mourinho’s top transfer target. Morata has been subject to bids from Manchester United who are still looking to agree a fee with Madrid to bring the Spaniard to Old Trafford. It is clear United need a striker after the departure of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Torino striker Andrea Belotti and Romelu Lukaku have also been linked as possible replacements.

 

Paul Pogba: Already the world’s best?

Steven Gerrard had this to say about 23 year old Paul Pogba’s recent Manchester United performances;

“hes one of the best midfielders now and he’s going to get better which is a scary thought as a Liverpool fan!”

The title evading ex Liverpool captain certainly has reason to be concerned. The French international has made a fantastic start in his return to Old Trafford following the sensational world record transfer in the summer. His performances instrumental in United’s recent upturn in form. His winning goal against against Middlesbrough and man of the match performance against Crystal Palace keeping United in the hunt for the Champions League places.

However, many were not convinced at the start and rival fans were quick to jump on the ‘flop’ tag for the worlds most expensive player. The ‘dabbing vine merchant’ was just one big waste of money. It cannot be underestimated how important Pogba is to Mourinho’s United side.He is the linchpin United’s midfield has been missing for years. You will not see a midfielder in the Premier League linking defence to attack with the same poise, tempo and intensity as Pogba. His driving runs get United forward when nothing seems to be on. A spectacular 50 yard cross field ball to Antonio Valenica a common occurrence, both fantastic to look at and effective in United’s attacks. Perhaps most impressively, Pogba’s strength is crucial in United’s favoured midfield three also including Ander Herrera and Michael Carrick. His shielding of the ball and quick feet can take two defenders out of the game, giving United space to attack an exposed defence.

It is definitely hard to find a midfielder that possesses such an abundance of assets as the Frenchman. He seems to have it all. He may not have the precision passing ability of Andreas Iniesta or the outstanding tackling and intercepting ability of N’golo Kante but Pogba has everything you could ask for in a midfielder.

Whether he is the world’s best is for you to decide, but I am almost certain he will undoubtedly be in the future. Perhaps United did pay over the odds in the current market for a player who has only proved himself in the Italian league. However, his influence is priceless and will give United a great chance of catching their top 4 rivals.

Manchester United review 2016 – The good, the bad and the ugly

2016, perhaps the most unforgettable year in my short life-time of being a Manchester United supporter. Jubilation, anticipation, frustration, hope, disbelief. United have put their supporters through the mill in 2016, however 2017 promises to be a year to remember for all the right reasons.

Louis van Gaal had guided United to 6th in the table by the turn of 2016 and January included highly unconvincing wins against Swansea, Sheffield United and the scousers, made sweeter as it was one of the worst performances I had seen from a United side at Anfield. These results were marred by a 1-0 home defeat by Southampton, a reality check which made most united fans question whether or not Louis Van Gaal was the right man to take forward. Whispers of the “Special One” were already being heard among the Old Trafford faithful after Jose Mourinho had been given his marching orders by Roman Abramovich.

United began February in 5th, still 5 points off the Champions League places. Crushing away defeats to Sunderland and FC Mitjylland in the Europa League left United fans in despair with a popular chant about the famous European Cup win in 99 being changed to “freezing cold on a Thursday night and. we’re playing f****** s****”.  It seemed all faith  in King Louis had been destroyed. Enter Marcus Rashford. The teenager was a late injury replacement for Anthony Martial in the return Europa League fixture against Mitjylland, scoring two opportunist goals reminiscent of when a young Wayne Rooney broke onto the scene. He followed that up even more impressiely with a brace against ‘title contenders’ Arsenal and the kids were digging Van Gaal out of a rather large hole.

March was bitter sweet, with United crashing out of the Europa League to Liverpool, not a just a tough one to swallow as it was against the old enemy, but also meant a chance of qualifying for the Champions League was gone. Whispers of Mourinho had turned into desperate cries of help, as United continued to play slow, pedestrian football. A 1-0 win away to rivals City was the highlight of the month, with an indiviual piece of brilliance from Rashford the difference between the two sides in a low quality game.

April, with United’s focus clawing the gap on top 4 and their only chance of silverware, the FA Cup. Narrow wins against Everton, Aston Villa and Crystal Palace kept United’s top 4 hopes alive and a Wembley final trip was booked after Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford were the match winners against Everton and West Ham respectively. Would an FA Cup victory be enough for Louis to keep his job?

It had reached the climax of an underwhelming season and any hope of Top 4 had gone with a devastating loss away to West Ham on the Irons’ last game at Upton Park. The season’s last home game being postponed due to a bomb scare, a sad end to a shocking league campaign.

 

Attention turned to the FA Cup final against Crystal Palace. A chance for United to finally get their hands on a trophy they had not won for over a decade. Jason Puncheons goal cancelled out by a Juan Mata and an excellent extra-time winner by unlikely source Jesse Lingard. King Louis had won silverware, but it was not enough to keep his job and his United career was brought to a sour ending after it was revealed he had been sacked just as the FA Cup celebrations had begun. Many United fans had got their wish. Jose Mourinho was appointed Manchester United manager. Mourinho was a proven winner, securing titles within 2 years at whichever club he has been at.

Jose’s reign begins

Despite the disastrous pre- season tour of China, this was the most exciting build up to a season United fans could imagine. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Eric Bailly and Henrikh Mkhitaryan had been brought in, improving United hugely in both attacking and defensive areas. Zlatan’s goal scoring record something quite special, Bailly, relatively unknown, but had hit the ground running straight away. Mkhitaryan was named Bundesliga player of the year and was undoubtedly one of the best attacking talents in all of Europe. United had promised Mourinho a huge war chest to take United back to the top and only £60 was spent on the 3 new signings combined with Zlatan Ibrahimovic signed on a free transfer.  Rumours of a return of Paul Pogba were rife after the 23 year old had been named in the team of the year and was widely regarded as one of, if not the best midfield player in the world. United had done it, signed the most promising player in the world, smashing the world record transfer fee in the process. Mourinho’s army was coming together and United finally looked to have a squad capable of challenging for the title once again.

The season was upon us and United had begun the season in fantastic style, winning the community shield and following it up with three consecutive league wins against Bournemouth, Southampton and Hull City. However, 3 defeats including a home defeat to Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City gave me and many other fans a reality check. We were not there yet.  United were hammered on Mourinho’s return to Stamford Bridge and were frustrated in home draws to West Ham, Arsenal, Stoke and Burnley. Despite disappointing results , performances were improving and attacking football was back at Old Trafford. I, like many was less than impressed with Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s outcast from the team, his return was sensational with goals against Tottenham and Sunderland, the latter a contender for goal of the season, putting United back in the top 4 hunt in 2017.

It is still unclear whether Man Utd will become ‘great’ again under Mourinho, but I for one am confident that no other man would be better for the role and i think the team Jose has put together is seriously capable of challenging for all of football’s major honours.

Bring on 2017.

 

 

United target Bailey could leave in January

Jamaican forward Leon Bailey has admitted he could leave his side Genk in the January window with United rumoured to be suitors for the pacey 19 year old.

Bailey recently talked to RTBF and had this to say on his future:

“To be honest, I don’t yet know what’s going to happen to me during the next transfer window”

We’ll have to talk again with the staff at Genk and my management. At this stage, nothing is decided.

“I want the best for my career, and I’ll need time to reflect on it.”

Bailey has impressed at Genk since making his debut in August 2015 and is now regarded as one of Europe’s hottest prospects. Naturally left footed, the winger can play on either flank and is known for his flair and skill. He has scored seven goals in 12 Europa League matches this season and was named in UEFA’s team of the group stage.

It has been revealed that Belgium manager Roberto Martinez has also been in touch regarding his international future, however it is not yet clear which nationality Bailey has chosen.

The youngster would not come cheap, however, with Genk technical director Dimitri De Conde indicating a fee of £20m would be required for any deal to take place. Champions Leicester City are also thought to be interested in Bailey.

 

Mourinho wants long United stay

Jose Mourinho has insisted that he is loving life at Old Trafford an would be ready to sign a new deal at the club without hesitation, if the club were to offer him an extension on his three year contract.

The 2 time European Cup winner has endured an up and down start to his Manchester United career with United currently sat in 6th place, 4 points of the Champions league spots. The season has been largely inconsistent with United following a fantastic early start with a series of poor results, with dropped home points against Burnley, Arsenal, Stoke, and West Ham causing huge frustation amongst United fans.

However, on the back of 3 consecutive wins, Mourinho has full backing of the club’s board, with the Portuguese being boss in their long term plans.

This is what Jose had to say regarding a new contract:

“They didn’t [offer it yet] and I’m not expecting them to do because they gave me a three-year contract. They were being super supportive with me. They always gave me the feeling that three years is not the time I’m going to stay.

“I always had the feeling I am going to stay for longer. They know that I’m loving it at every level, they know I’m loving my job at Manchester United, and I know that if one day they bring a new contract I sign it. I will sign it because I’m loving it.”

Mourinho has also dismissed any rumours of a move to China in a lucrative money deal. He admits that the money in the Chinese Super League is very attractive however he is “too young” and his football is at “the highest level”.

Mourinho targets summer move for Griezmann

Jose Mourinho has identified Athletico Madrid French sensation Antoine Griezmann as his priority summer transfer target as he continues his spending at Old Trafford.

Griezmann, 25, was 3rd place in the Fifa Balon Dor behind just Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, having been the leading scorer in the European Championships with hosts France.

The Frenchman has connections which could help United in getting this huge deal over the line. Griezmann is a known admirer of United , wearing long sleeve shirts due to his admiration of ex United great David Beckham. He his also very close friends with United midfielder Paul Pogba, who United broke the transfer record fee just in the past summer.

It is thought a similar fee would be required for United to sign Griezmann from Athletico. United would have to meet the €100 million (£84 million) release clause in Griezmann’s contract which was increased from €80 million when the forward signed a new deal in June. However, a possible advantage of United in any deal is the pending departure of successful boss Diego Simeone, who is to leave the club next summer.

It would be unclear where Griezmann would fit into Mourinho’s plans, however it would be another world class player among United’s ranks. The Frenchman could operate anywhere in the front 3 or even behind the number 9. His arrival would provide stiff competition for players who play in similar positions, with exits likely either in January or the summer.

A deal for Griezmann would continue the spending after the inevitable signing of Victor Lindelof, the young Swedish centre- half who plays for Benfica. A £30 million is expected to be concluded at the beginning of the January window with new signing Eric Bailly in African Cup of Nations action for Ivory Coast. The Victor Lindelof deal excites many United fans, however lots would also like to see youth such as RoShaun Williams and Axel Tuanzebe introduced to the first-team set up and the signing of another young centre back could hinder their development.

United scout ‘Next Ronaldo’, Goncalo Guedes

Manchester United scouts were sent to watch 19 year old Portuguese attacker Goncalo Guedes, touted as the “new Ronaldo” as well as left back Alex Grimadlo in Benfica’s 4-0 win over Feirense on Sunday night.

Guedes is represented by Jorge Mendes, the same agent as that of Jose Mourinho. The shared agent and Portuguese connection between the two could give United the upper-hand in any future negotations between the two clubs. Other admirers of the teenager are thought to be Juventus, Valencia and Osasuna.

Guedes recently signed a new deal at Benfica, however the Portuguese club have been known to let  talent depart for the right price with Renato Sanches, a United target who went on to sign for Bundesliga winners Bayern Munich and Nicolas Gaitin in a move to Athletico Madrid, having been linked with United in previous windows. It is thought Benfica would be ready to sell the player in the coming summer if they were offered a substantial offer.

Guedes has been deployed in a central role this season by coach Rui Vitoria and has impressed, despite only scoring 1 goal in 8 games.

United target Grimaldo move

Manchester United are weighing up a  move for Benfica and former Barcelona left-back Alex Grimaldo. United’s scouts watched the 21 year old star in a 4-0 thrashing over Feirnese on Sunday night.

Grimaldo scored a stoppage-time free-kick and impressed in the game at the Estadio da Luz with scouts from Valenica, Juventus, and Middelsbrough also thought to be in attendance.

A £51million buy out clause is in the Spaniard’s contract, however it is thought United or any other suitor got negotiate a much cheaper deal for the highly rated full back who can also play in a more advanced role.

Grimaldo recently joined Benfica in just a £1.25million deal from Barcelona and has made 9 appearances for the Portuguese outfit this season. He struggled for first team opportunites at the Nou Camp due to the left-back position being filled with highly regarded Spanish international Jordi Alba.

It is unclear whether Grimaldo would fit into United’s first team side having already got Luke Shaw among their ranks. However, there is interest in a move with any deal likely to be having to be fought out with rivals Man City, who worked under Pep Guardiola during the managers time at the club.

Zlatan Pushed Raiola in Pogba Deal

Zlatan Ibrahimovic jokingly said he would “break his legs” to agent Mino Raiola if he let Pogba sign for anyone but Man Utd in the summer. Despite rumoured interest from rivals such as Man City and Real Madrid, the deal to bring Pogba back to Old Trafford was eventually agreed at a world-record fee of around £87m.

“Zlatan told me, ‘Do not transfer Pogba elsewhere or I will break your legs’,” Raiola told Dutch newspaper Volkskrant.nl.

Raiola, agent of fellow United new signing Henrikh Mkhitaryan, also had claimed previously he was unhappy at boss Jose Mourinho’s usage of his world record player arguing that he was sitting too deep.

However, the France international was much more effective playing in a more advanced role in Utd’s first half blitz of Leicester City on Saturday.

Pogba was at the forefront of most of United’s good attacking play, scoring a header, and was rewarded with man of the match after a display that reminded many United fans how potent and influential he can be.

Pogba had made a quiet start to his Utd career despite having an impressive debut at home to Southampton. Many believe he is best utilized in a more attacking role and his performances have been hindered by Wayne Rooney’s inevitable inclusion.

However, with captain Rooney dropped on Saturday in the 4-1 victory over Leicester, this means Pogba may be allowed to roam freely more often, and be allowed to show why United broke the world-record fee for him.

Napoli and Roma interested in Darmian.

Italian clubs Roma and Napoli are both interested in the signing of 26 year-old United right-back Matteo Darmian after it appears the Italian international has failed to make new manager Jose Mourinho’s first team plans.

Darmian signed for United from Torino last summer and had stand out performances at both left back and right back under Louis Van Gaal in his first few months at Old Trafford.

However, his form dipped and he has since fallen out of favour at Old Trafford with Antonio Valenica and Timothy Fosu-Mensah being prefered alternatives.

Jamie Vardy beats Man United's Darmian and de Gea to put Leicester city ahead (Source: Daily Mail)
Matteo Darmian in action for Manchester United (Source: Daily Mail)

With Mourinho unlikely to have three right-backs in his squad for the season, it is hard to see a future for Darmian at Old Trafford, after being left out of the first team squad in United’s opening game of the Premier League season, a 3-1 victory over Bournemouth.

The Italian would be great coups for both Serie A sides having made 26 international appearances and also having experience in that league.

Napoli, having just sold Gonzalo Higuian to Juventus are said to be favourites for the 26 year-old’s signature, however Roma are also thought to be interested.