All posts by Paul Gardiner

Webmaster, Writer, Editor and Podcast host for The United Stand. An avid Manchester United supporter since I can remember.

Memphis: ‘I am on the right track’

United number 7, Memphis Depay, believes he is on the right track after his highly applauded performance in the 2nd leg Europa League tie against Midtjylland.

The winger, who signed from PSV Eindhoven in the summer, scored United’s 5th goal and won a penalty which was converted by Herrera in their most recent game, against Midtjylland.

However, we have seen brilliance from him already this season when he scored two goals against FC Brugge in the Champions League qualifying round. Since then he has failed to live up to his price tag only scoring a handful of goals and struggling to maintain a spot in the starting eleven.

However, Memphis has shown steady progress in his last two games for United. Against Shrewsbury Town he struggled in the first half but in the second half he was much more focused. His take-on’s were more successful with shots that we’re actually on target. And he also linked up well with players around him with some neat one touch passing. You could see he was growing into the game and finding some rhythm.

The positive second half performance against Shrewsbury Town clearly restored some self-confidence and self-belief as he gave a man of the match worthy performance in the following game (and United’s most recent game) against Midtjylland. He oozed confidence as he ran at defenders, beat them, played in some decent crosses, hit shots that were on target and we even saw flashes of skill. The goal he scored at the end of the game capped off a fine performance.

Memphis recently spoke with Fox Sports and had this to say:

I am very happy with my goal and I am on the right track. I am still working very hard to improve each day.

This is a great feeling. We had to make amends for last week’s defeat.

We knew what we had to do and it is always a good feeling to be able to look at the scoreboard at the end and see we set the record straight.

I think that we were clearly enjoying ourselves on the pitch. We all worked hard for each other and that is the most important thing for me then we can also shine individually.

You can read the article in full on the Daily Mail website by clicking here.

Smalling and de Gea could return for Arsenal game

United centre back Chris Smalling could feature against Arsenal on Sunday.

Chris Smalling has been one of United’s most consistent players this season along with goal keeper David de Gea, who could also return for the clash against Arsenal.

Smalling picked up a shoulder injury in the FA Cup game against Shrewsbury Town on Monday night and missed only his 2nd game this season when United played Midtjylland on Thursday evening.

The 26 year old has made good progress on the recovery and when asked about his recent form, he had this to say:

Touch wood, that carries on.

I was disappointed to miss the other night, but I’m hoping to be okay to play this game.

I’ve not really done anything differently to the other lads but, probably from about halfway through last season, I got on a good run in the team and I’ve just tried to carry that on from there. Long may it continue.

Arsenal are Smalling’s boyhood club and when asked about the fixture he said:

I always look forward to these games.

It’s no secret that I was an Arsenal supporter growing up, so this fixture is even bigger for me and especially given it involves two of the biggest teams in the country.

I hope I can step out onto the field.

In other injury news, United boss Louis van Gaal is expecting David de Gea to be fit for the Arsenal match:

I expect (David can return) because I saw the way he was today.

You can read the article on the Daily Mail website by clicking here.

LVG: Mourinho links ‘an absolute scandal’

Under fire United boss, Louis van Gaal, has blasted reports of Mourinho taking over in the summer as ‘an absolute scandal’.

Pressure has eased slightly on the Dutchman since securing a place in the FA Cup Quarter Final after beating Shrewsbury Town and progressing to the last 16 in the Europa League after beating Midtjylland 6-3 on aggregate.

Despite this, van Gaal is still the bookies favourite as the next Premier League manager to leave his job with Mourinho still a hot favourite to replace him.

The United manager had this to say to dutch TV channel RTL7:

Mourinho has said things a number of times with a lot of words, but he does not have to tell me anything. I find the whole thing ridiculous.

No, I don’t want United to do something either. I don’t even want them to react to things which I read in the media or which are being created.

We, the club and I, are not going to help the media right now by denying things.

I think what is happening is an absolute scandal.

Read the article in full on the Daily Mail website by clicking here.

Martial set to miss Arsenal game

Anthony Martial was pulled out of the starting line up shortly before the Midtjylland game after pulling up with a hamstring injury.

The young Frenchman was replaced by debutant Marcus Rashford who went on to score two goals helping United into the last 16 of the Europa League.

While the injury is not considered ‘heavy’ by boss, Lois van Gaal, Martial will be rested to prevent doing any further damage to his injury.

This could prove to be a huge loss for United if the likes of Memphis and Rashford don’t put in the same performance they did against Midtjylland. Although, the burden cannot rest too heavily on Rashford’s shoulders.

Read more on the injury here.

Man United 5-1 Midtjylland | Match review

After going a goal down against the run of play early on, United rallied together to brush Midtjylland aside with 5 goals of their own.

Very few people would have predicted this scoreline, particularly with the long list of injuries the team has and with Anthony Martial being added to the list just before kickoff with a hamstring problem. But the team pulled together knowing that a loss at home to Midtjylland would be unacceptable.

It was the visitors who found the back of the net first, in the 28th minute. Against the run of play, Sisto found himself with a bit of space on the edge of the box and easily skipped past Carrick and Blind then slotted the ball past Romero into the bottom left corner. United were now 3-1 down on aggregate and pressure was increasing. But, they reacted very well by dominating possession, getting forward and moving the ball around quickly, as they were before the Midtjylland opener.

It only took a few minutes for United to find an equaliser. On the 32nd minute Memphis ran the ball past the Midtjylland defence to the byline and hit a driven cross along the ground which was met by the boot of Bodurov who directed the ball into his own net. Just before half time, Mata had a chance to put United ahead and level on aggregate from the spot after Herrera was brought down just inside the area but Mata’s penalty was saved by Andersen.

Sisto celebrates scoring Midtjylland's opener (Picture: mirror.co.uk)
Sisto celebrates scoring Midtjylland’s opener (Picture: mirror.co.uk)

United did take the lead in the 63rd minute thanks to a goal from youngster Marcus Rashford. The move started with Herrera who floated a cross over to the back post. Mata got on the end of it with a first time cross back across goal. Using his pace, Rashford beat the Midtjylland defenders to the ball and buried the ball into the back of the net. United were now 2-1 up and 3-3 on aggregate.

The game was being played almost entirely in the Midtylland half with United controlling the play and creating lots of chances. On the 75th minute young boy Marcus Rashford got himself on the score sheet again. This time it was Guillermo Varela with the assist. Following some quick, yet patient build up play, Varela hit a cross from the right hand side which dropped to the back post. Rashford found himself in a yard of space and allowed the ball to drop and then slotted the ball under the keeper, putting United 3-1 up and 4-3 ahead on aggregate.

United weren’t ready to stop just yet and on the 88th minute, United were awarded another penalty after a Memphis shot was handled by a Midtjylland defender. This time it was Ander Herrera who stepped up and he made no mistake by rifling the ball into the top left corner. United were now 4-1 up in the game and had a two goal lead on aggregate. It was the breathing space they had been hoping for and I’m sure Louis van Gaal would have zipped up his note pad at this point.

As the fourth official announced the amount of additional time there would be, there was a sense that the game was already finished. United were as good as through and Midtjylland didn’t look like they had the legs to score two goals in as many minutes. But, Memphis wasn’t done yet and he capped off a great performance with a equally great solo goal in the 91st minute. The former PSV player ran at the Midtjylland defence forcing them backwards and when he created a gap he arrowed the ball into the bottom left corner. And that was it. United won 5-1 on the night and 6-3 on aggregate to progress to the next round.

Memphis celebrates his late goal with Herrera (Picture: mirror.co.uk)
Memphis celebrates his late goal with Herrera (Picture: mirror.co.uk)

There were a few stand out players in this match and one of those was the young Marcus Rashford. He continuously proved a nuisance for the defenders with his ability to leave them standing with his quick change of pace. His positioning an ability to read the game were also proven with the two goals he scored. No better way to cap off a fine performance than scoring a couple of goals to help secure a place in the next round of the Europa League.

Juan Mata also deserves a mention. Throughout the whole game he put in 110% popping up in all areas of the pitch, linking the play between defenders and attackers, dictating play, winning back possession and getting an assist for Rashford’s first goal.

And we cannot leave out Memphis. He was poor in the first leg and against Shrewsbury Town on Monday he showed signs of improvement and a growing confidence. I said in the Shrewsbury review that he now has a great opportunity to prove himself over the coming weeks with several players out injured and he took his chance very well tonight. He had a very high success rate with take-ons, beating the defenders and getting plenty of shots in. But he wasn’t greedy by just taking shots, he also looked up to see what was going on around him and played a few key passes into the path of runners. We even saw flashes of skill from him which just indicates that his confidence is slowly returning and the goal he scored in injury time was the icing on the cake.

All in all it was a good performance from United. The team played well as a unit and as fans we can be proud of them. They are all under a lot of pressure and together with all the injuries, they need our support.

United’s next game is against Arsenal, on Sunday, at Old Trafford. This will be a real test for Memphis and United as Shrewsbury Town and Midtjylland can’t really be considered as tough opponents, but both games have done the team and Memphis some good in terms of morale and confidence. Hopefully both will carry into the game against Arsenal and we can get a result.

Paul’s Player Ratings – United V Midtjylland:

Romero (6) Was a little flaky with the ball at his feet but was rarely called upon.
Varela (7) Was good getting forward, linking up with Herrera and Lingard and provided an assist for Rashford’s second goal.
Carrick (6) Could have done more to prevent the Midtjylland goal.
Blind (6) Also could have done more to prevent the Midtjylland goal.
Riley (6) Was good going forward, linking up with Memphis.
Schneiderlin (7) A stalwart in the midfield with plenty of interceptions and winning tackles.
Herrera (7) Put in a good shift and scored a penalty.
Lingard (6) Was good going forward but lacked a killer end product often choosing to come backwards.
Mata (8) Dictated play, very high work rate, pressed well winning possession and provided the assist for Rashford’s first goal.
Memphis (9) Used his strength, pace and skill to beat defenders throughout the game, created chances for others and scored a great solo goal.
Rashford (9) Also showed great pace and strength when in possession and scored two strikers goals.

So what did you think of tonight’s game? Are there any players that you thought stood out? Would you rate any of the players differently? Let me know in the comments below.

You can watch the United Stand’s live match reaction with Mark Goldbridge by clicking here or watching below:

Shrewsbury Town 0-3 Man United | Match Review

United cruise comfortably past Shrewsbury Town with a 3-0 victory to set up a quarter final tie, at home, against West Ham United.

This was the first time in the clubs history that United have played Shrewsbury Town and the home team, including their fans, were excited for the occasion. They even fancied their chances of causing an upset based on United’s recent form and who can blame them? But it wasn’t to be thanks to goals from Chris Smalling (right footed volley), Juan Mata (cleverley worked free kick where three United players looked to have been offside) and Jesse Lingard (getting on the end of an Ander Herrera cross).

The win itself is of course something to be happy about as it sends United into the quarter final of the FA Cup, but it’s nothing to write home about considering the opposition. Typically, of a United under van Gaal, they controlled the game from start to finish having an 80% share of the possession in the first half and 75% possession overall. Also, United were reduced to long shots for most of the first half as they failed to find a way to break down a resilient Shrewsbury defence. Something else we have become accustomed to during the van Gaal reign. United did, however, finally make a break through late in the first half when Chris Smalling, staying up front when a cleared corner was played back toward the box, hit a right footed volley past the Shrewsbury keeper. Shortly afterwards, on the stroke of half time, Juan Mata doubled United’s lead from a free Kick that was awarded after Anthony Martial was brought down on the edge of the box when he was through on goal.

Mata scores United's second from a Free Kick (Picture: mirror.co.uk)
Mata scores United’s second from a Free Kick (Picture: mirror.co.uk)

For the second half Shrewsbury altered their approach and played further up the pitch. This allowed United to play their game, bringing the attacking players into the fold with some much quicker football. And it didn’t take long for United to get their third goal to seal the win. The goal came from a counter attack that started with Romero. The United keeper released the ball quickly, picking out Herrera who touched the ball on to Mata on the left. At the edge of the box, Mata played the ball back into Herrera who hit a cross to the back post finding Lingard who hit it first time into the back of the net. United then took their foot off the pedal and played possession football very effectively to see the game out.

Despite the 3-0 scoreline it was a very average team performance. I’m finding it difficult to pick out any player who had a particularly impressive game. In my match review for the Midtjylland game on Thursday, I was very critical of Memphis. Today, however, despite a shaky start, he grew into the game and gained confidence; particularly in the second half. He showed glimpses of what he did at PSV by running at defenders, cutting in and getting shots at goal. An extra yard of pace and he will become dangerous again. He also linked up with players very well during attacking moves with some neat one-touch passing. What’s important now is that he carries that into the next game. He has a great opportunity, with Rooney out, to prove himself and build on today’s performance.

Daley Blind in action for United at Shrewsbury (Picture: mirror.co.uk)
Daley Blind in action for United at Shrewsbury (Picture: mirror.co.uk)

Another player I enjoyed watching was Daley Blind. He makes things happen. Plenty of times tonight he was able to pick out a pass from deep, finding the forward players and at the same time taking several Shrewsbury players out of the game.

Andreas Pereira also made a positive impact coming on as a substitute just after the hour mark. His positioning was on point, making sure he found space off the ball to receive a pass. When he was in possession he moved the ball quickly. He proves a nightmare for defenders with his pass-and-move football which is something United need more of.

So, United did what was expected of them and have progressed to the quarter final of the FA Cup. But the pressure is still on Louis van Gaal with the focus now on the second leg of the Europa League tie at home to Midtylland. The danish team bring to Old Trafford a 2-1 advantage, but United could progress with 1-0 victory having scored an away goal in the first leg. As with tonight’s game, United will be fully expected to win this 2nd leg with the real test being the game against Arsenal at Old Trafford on Sunday.

What did you make of tonight’s game? Did any players stand out to you? Was the performance good enough? Let me know in the comments below!

Paul’s player ratings – Shrewsbury V United

Romero (6) Kept a clean sheet but was rarely called upon.
Borthwick-Jackson (6) Played the long ball that led to Chris Smalling’s goal but was generally quiet.
Smalling (7) Scored the opening goal and won the majority of aerial battles.
Blind (7) Showed great vision picking out long ground passes into the forward players.
Varela (6) Fairly quiet for most of the game.
Herrera (7) Helped to control the united midfield and provided an assist for Lingard’s goal.
Schneiderlin (6) Helped protect the defense on the rare occasion he needed to.
Lingard (6) Was quiet for most of the game despite scoring.
Mata (7) Scored the free kick and played his part in the build up to Lingard’s goal.
Memphis (6) Poor start to game but grew in confidence in the 2nd half linking up well with other players.
Martial (6) Was isolated as a lone striker with several defenders around him.

Riley (6) Made his debut as a sub an wasn’t afraid to run at defenders.
Keane (6) Came on for Martial, hit the post, then left the field after just 4 minutes after picking up a groin injury.
Pereira (7) Proved a nuisance for the Shrewsbury defenders with his quick movement.

You can also watch The United Stand’s live match reaction with Mark Goldbridge by clicking here or watching below:

Midtjylland 2-1 Man United | Match review

When the draw was made for the first knock out stage of the Europa League, the question on everyone’s mind was, “Who on earth are Midtjylland?”

Well, I’m sure you would have done your research but, for the sake of this blog post, let me give you a very brief reminder.

Midtylland are a Danish club who play in the Danish Superliga and have a stadium capacity of just 12,000. They have played in European cups on several occassions but rarely passed the qualifying or play-off rounds. This season however, they made it to the group stages and despite losing 9-1 over two games against Napoli, they still progressed to the knock out stages.

With that said, you can forgive the majority of people, myself included, for thinking that even with the lengthy injury list, we should still be beating this team comfortably. Oh how wrong I was. How very wrong.

It has been said many times that this is a tournament that United never wanted to be a part of and it really was evident when looking at the players on the pitch tonight. Throughout the whole game none of the players looked like they were interested. There was no fight, no desire, no will to just go and grab the game by the scruff of the neck and sweep Midtjylland aside.

Far too many times there were gaping holes in the middle where you would expect to see Mata or Herrera. Or even Carrick. Anyone with an ounce of awareness! But nothing. No movement, no forward thinking; just stale, uninspired, dribble. And I feel like a scratched record having said this many times already this season.

There were periods in the game where Midtjylland were dominating. Not many, but there were. There was even a period where they were just toying with us. It was embarrassing to watch. Apart from Memphis’ goal – which he was lucky to score – We struggled to create any real chances. Lingard came close near the hour mark when he hit a volley against the cross bar but that was it. Midtjylland on the other hand, forced a few fantastic saves out of Romero. We could have lost that game 3 or 4-1.

Memphis and co celebrate his equaliser (Picture: mirror.co.uk)
Memphis and co celebrate his equaliser (Picture: mirror.co.uk)

With Rooney being out injured and Martial moving into the number 9 role, it was a big chance for Memphis to shine and gain some much needed confidence. I was full of hope for him. He has really struggled this season and I was praying that tonight would be his night. But again he was well below par. His decision making was poor; running into defenders, taking too many touches. I’m not going to write him off just yet though. I think that would be unfair. I believe under a new manager next season (assuming LVG won’t be here) he will be given a new lease of life. You never know, maybe we’ll start seeing the Memphis of PSV.

I have singled out Memphis because he is the player I was most excited about when the season started and he is the player who, for me, has the most to prove with his price tag and reputation for scoring goals and giving defenders a nightmare.

The rest of the team cannot get off lightly. Tonight they were all equally as poor. They all worked together to lose this game and they should all take a good long look at themselves. They may not agree with the manager’s philosophy but to show no desire to win is unforgivable. Especially when fans have traveled hundreds of miles and spent hundreds of pounds on tickets, travel and most likely accommodation.

Now, although I openly criticise the players – and I must say this criticism applies not just to tonight’s game but for many, many others – the manager, Louis van Gaal does not help the situation. His “philosophy” on and off the pitch is completely lost on the players. We can all see it and I’m sure he can too. He should now do the decent thing and walk away. Because it sure as hell does not look as though the board are sacking him anytime soon.

An emotionless van Gaal looks detached from the game (Picture: mirror.co.uk)
An emotionless van Gaal looks detached from the game (Picture: mirror.co.uk)

Next up for United is Shrewsbury Town in the FA Cup and I will not be making the same mistake in thinking we should win comfortably. In fact, in thinking that we will win at all. Never before has my confidence in United been so low and it’s horrible.

I’ll be interested to hear how you guys are feeling right now. Are you just as fed up, frustrated and as disillusioned as I am? Or have you learned to accept such mediocrity and are now just waiting for it to be over so we can start afresh with a new manager and new philosophy? Please comment below.

Also, if you want to hear what Mark Goldbridge thought of the game, watch his match reaction right here, or by watching below.

Thanks for reading!

Sunderland 2-1 Man United | Match report

Sunderland pile more misery on United with a 2-1 win at the Stadium of Light.

United have had many games this season where they have under-performed and this was one of those games.

No one player was particularly poor. It was a team effort to lose that game. There was no focus, no concentration and no will to win.

The football was scrappy for the majority and the players didn’t look like they wanted it. It was disgusting to watch. Louis van Gaal will be pleased that this game was not being played at Old Trafford as you can bet your bottom dollar that the fans would have been booing him down the tunnel.

During the course of the game, United had approximately 8 attempts at goal in total. Comparing that to Sunderland, who had approximately 15, jut shows which team wanted the victory more.

Sunderland opened the scoring in the 3rd minute with a Khazri free kick bouncing through the United defence and trickling over the line in bottom far corner. David de Gea saw it late and couldn’t get to it. But you can’t blame him for the goal or even say he should of done better. When you have 20 bodies in front of you, you expect one of your team mates to get something on it.

Man United managed to get an equaliser late in the first half when Mata’s rebounded shot fell to Martial who delicately chipped the ball over the floored Sunderland keeper from a tight angle. Before the goal and the saved shot that came before it, United had only one shot at goal.

The second half saw Sunderland dominate the game, creating lots of chances and having several shots at goal. During this period United grew frustrated and careless, picking up a handful of bookings.

Sunderland took advantage of United’s lack of intent and went on to score the winner in the 82nd minute with a goal from new boy Kone, who got his head on the end of a Sunderland corner.

The loss means that United remain in 5th but could drop to 6th today if West Ham win away at Norwich. The gap could also increase on the top four with all of them in action on Sunday.

Premier League
United remain in 5th but could drop to 6th if West Ham win at Norwich

There isn’t really anything more to say that hasn’t been said already in terms of United’s performances and the current situation we find ourselves in. We just have to ride it out for the rest of the season and hope some personnel changes are made during the summer. I think you all know who I am referring to.

What did you make of the game? Are you fed up to the point where you no longer have any expectations and you are just going through the motions as a fan? Let us know in the comments below.

You can watch the United Stand match reaction by clicking here or watching below:

United in £40m swoop for Ighalo

Despite the January transfer window being closed and the summer window a long way off, the rumours refuse to give in and the latest rumour sees United being linked with Watford’s Odion Ighalo.

But is he worth the reported £40m fee? The Nigerian attacking midfielder/centre forward has scored 14 goals in 24 appearances so far this season; more than any United player. And Last season he achieved his best goal tally to date, scoring 20 goals in 35 appearances in the Championship, helping Watford to promotion to the Premier League. So there is no doubting his scoring ability.

Ighalo has also recently admitted to being a United fan. Perhaps that is what sparked the rumours.

Were not reading too much into this at the United Stand. Like yourselves, we are growing tired of all the rumours! But we wouldn’t be doing our job if we didn’t share the rumours with you!

Do you think Ighalo would be a good fit at United? Let us know what you think below.

See Ighalo in action by clicking here or watching below:

Chelsea 1-1 Man United | Match report

Despite their efforts, United were unable to hold their 1-goal lead, as Chelsea score a late equaliser to take a point.

United started the game brightly, dominating possession, getting the ball forward and forcing Chelsea to defend. This continued for 30 minutes before Chelsea settled and got into the game.

Once they did, the home side looked more dangerous on the attack and created the better chances.

In the 29th minute Nemanja Matic got his head on the end of a corner forcing David de Gea to make save a full stretch.

A few minutes later, Oscar almost punished United’s sleeping defence when he it a volley over from 6 yards out.

And then on the stroke of half time, John Terry volleyed at goal but Daley Blind managed to block his shot. There were shouts for handball from the Chelsea players.

United’s only real chance in the first half came from Anthony Martial in the 18th minute. The United winger picked up the ball just outside the box on the left and rifled a shot at goal but, Courtois, at full stretch, tipped the ball round the post.

Anthony Martial rues missed chance (Picture: mirror.co.uk)
Anthony Martial rues missed chance (Picture: mirror.co.uk)

United started the second half similar to first. On the front foot, searching for the opening goal.

It almost came in the 50th minute when Anthony Martial skipped past Ivanovic and hit right footed shot at goal, only it went just wide of the near post.

United continued to press in search for that first goal and they eventually got it on the hour mark. Cameron Borthwick-Jackson whipped in a left footed cross with plenty of pace in the direction of Wayne Rooney. The captain touched the ball into the path of Jesse Lingard who controlled with his back to goal, turned and volleyed into the top right corner.

Chelsea reacted positively to the goal by applying some of their own pressure on the United defence.

Chelsea probed and probed for an equaliser but United’s defence held strong, kepping the likes of Hazard, Pedro, Willian and Costa at bay. David de Gea also made two fantastic reaction saves from close range shots by Ivanovic (left footed volley from 6 yards out) and Fabregas (right footed driven shot from 6 yards out).

United looked like they were going to leave Stamford Bridge with all three points but Chelsea did not give up and in the 91st minute Cesc Fabregas played a pass straight through the middle of a packed United defence finding Diego Costa who then only had David de Gea to beat. He hit a shot but Cameron Borthwick-Jackson slid into to block. Costa then hit the rebound into the back of de Gea’s net for the equaliser.

The draw means that United stay 5th but see the gap to fourth increase to 7 points as the teams above win their games over the weekend.

premier league

The question on everyone’s mind now is “Have United still got a chance of reaching top four?”

Let us know what you think in the comments below.

You can watch the United Stand match reaction by clicking here or watching below: