All posts by Paul Gardiner

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

GUEST BLOG: January Transfer Window – Make or Break!

Christmas can be the making or breaking of a team. The turning point for a team who may be struggling against relegation or on the brink of pushing into the top four, where a couple of wins can build the momentum needed for clubs to push on and have a strong second half of the season. For those who don’t build that momentum, the January Transfer window can provide a club with the perfect opportunity to improve their squads.

Traditionally, since the current Premier League transfer format was introduced in the 2002/3 season, Manchester United have not been the most active of clubs in the January transfer market. To mind, the only players of real impact in the past 10 years brought in by the club in January, are Nemanja Vidic, Patrice Evra and Juan Mata, with the latter, arguably having not quite reached the potential or quality he showed at Chelsea. Now it has to be said that the majority of his time has been on the right wing, where his talent tends to be restricted somewhat and his lack of outright pace being exposed. However short lived, his move into the central position just behind the main striker, proved fruitful in the Champions League game versus Wolfsburg, where he played a beautiful through ball for Anthony Martial to put us one up, and throughout he looked much more comfortable and composed. It’s just a shame that our defence didn’t show quite the same composure at the other end that night.

Where Mata has often failed to impress, the quality of Vidic and Evra during their times in the club cannot be argued. They enjoyed enormous success at the club, in a period which marked the end of the tenure of Sir Alex Ferguson. Both players were stalwarts in the United defence for a period of just over 8 years. However, both players struggled initially to cope with the physicality and tempo of the league. This was especially evident in the 2005/06 Manchester Derby, where Patrice Evra was given the run around by an experienced and battle hardened Trevor Sinclair. Manchester City focused the majority of their attacks down his side of the pitch, whether it is via long ball using Sinclair’s height advantage, or via an overlap by City right back Sun Jihai. It resulted in his substitution at half time in a debut which truly was a baptism of fire.

The history of Manchester United signings at this time of year would suggest that any player that Manchester United sign will need time to settle in and adapt to the way in which the club plays. An immediate impact can’t be expected. Fans make point and say it happens at other clubs, where a player can arrive and completely transform a club’s fortunes after only a handful of games… but other clubs aren’t Manchester United, where excellence and top performances are expected week in, week out. That kind of pressure is tough to deal with and it would take a truly exceptional player to have that type of impact, and exceptional players are generally not sold in January.

This considered, as well as the fact that the January transfer window tends to add a large chunk to the value a club places on its prospective transferees as they smell the desperation of other clubs failing to deceive, then maybe there is an argument to be made for Manchester United to keep the cheque book in the pocket and wait until the summer.

Then again, maybe the issue isn’t necessarily the quality of player at the club, but the manager in place? But that’s another day’s work….

By David Ryan

Liverpool 0-1 Man United | Match report

Wayne Rooney strikes again scoring the only goal of the game to sink the Scousers!

It wasn’t all smiles and laughter for United as in the first half Liverpool dominated and made it difficult for them to play; limiting them to just one attempt at goal.

Liverpool, on the other hand, had many attempts but lacked the quality to finish.

Their best chance came in the 30th minute when some intricate one touch passing fell to Henderson. The Liverpool captain hit a shot from an angle but dragged his shot wide.

Liverpool also came close to taking the lead earlier in the game. In the 10th minute Firmino hit a first time shot after collecting a loose ball but his shot went just past the post. David de Gea looked to have it covered.

The second half started much the same with Liverpool coming out on the front foot.

Early in the second half, Emre Can and Kolo Toure both had shots at goal saved by in-form United keeper David de Gea.

Man United appeared to be sleeping; not challenging loose balls and allowing Liverpool to win the first ball on most occasions.

The introduction of Juan Mata in the 66th minute saw the dynamics of the game change and United began to see more of the ball and start playing forward.

And in the 77th minute, Juan Mata played in a left-footed cross from the left onto the head of Fellaini. The Belgian’s header bounced off the crossbar and fell to Wayne Rooney who shaped up and smashed a volley into the roof of the net to put United ahead.

Wayne Rooney celebrates his winner at Liverpool (Picture: mirror.co.uk)
Wayne Rooney celebrates his winner at Liverpool (Picture: mirror.co.uk)

It would be fair to say that United didn’t deserve the win and it could be said that they were saved by the fact Liverpool were without a recognised striker on the pitch for the majority of the game.

Regardless, the win lifts United up into 5th in the league, 2 points behind 4th placed Spurs.

United move up to 5th after win at Liverpool (Picture: bbc.co.uk)
United move up to 5th after win at Liverpool (Picture: bbc.co.uk)

What did you think about the game? Do you think the win was deserved? Does it even matter if it was deserved? We would love to know your thoughts. Please, feel free to leave a comment below.

You can also watch the Liverpool V Man United match reaction on The United Stand’s YouTube channel by clicking here. Or by watching below.

Liverpool Team Sheet

22 Mignolet
02 Clyne
04 K Touré (Benteke – 81′)
17 Sakho
18 Moreno
14 Henderson
21 Lucas
23 Can
07 Milner (Caulker – 90′)
11 Firmino
20 Lallana (Ibe – 76′)

Substitutes

09 Benteke
19 Caulker
24 Allen
33 Ibe
44 Smith
52 Ward
53 J. Teixeira

Man United Team Sheet

01 de Gea
18 Young (Borthwick-Jackson – 42′)
12 Smalling Booked
17 Blind
36 Darmian
28 Schneiderlin
27 Fellaini
35 Lingard (Mata – 66′)
21 Herrera (Depay – 72′)
09 Martial
10 Rooney

Substitutes

07 Depay
08 Mata
20 Romero
30 Varela
33 McNair
43 Borthwick-Jackson
44 Pereira

GUEST BLOG: Newcastle V Man United | 5 Things We Learned

  • Man United must attack with intent
  • We’ve seen glimpses of attacking football this season, notably against Newcastle, Chelsea and Wolfsburg. Not only does this invigorate the fans but it also gives the players a genuine reason to commit and show the fans that they care. The lackadaisical passing football we see week in week out often to fruitless, forgettable results… Even Louis Van Gaal is getting bored of it.

    Against Newcastle our best chances came when we distributed the ball quickly and charged into the oppositions half – not when we were trying to play tiki taka with Marouane Fellaini.

    The likes of Ander Herrera have the ability to spread Scholes-esque balls across the pitch, and the likes of Memphis Depay have the ability to make darting runs into the box. And arguably, Wayne Rooney still has the ability to put chances away… So what’s the problem?

  • Marouane Fellaini isn’t good enough
  • There was a brief period of time when Fellaini was our only real outlet, the go-to player that we knew would test other teams. That was last season. Since then, we’ve added players to ranks that can replace Fellaini as a barbaric midfielder (Bastian Schweinsteiger!) & also as an outlet up front (Tony Martial)

    Against Newcastle however, Fellaini’s incompetence was on display, he: Assisted the other team, missed a sitter, wasn’t strong in his tackles, constantly lost the ball and was a liability with his reckless challenges.

    Honestly. He is not good enough.

  • We should accept Rooney as a different footballer
  • Rooney is no longer the pitbull terrier that he once was; terrorising defences with his tenacity and running rampant around the pitch.

    He’s developed a sense of calamity in his football. He doesn’t scream, he dictates play. He doesn’t run rampant, he picks his position wisely. He doesn’t go at it himself, he brings other into play. In the fixture against Newcastle we saw Wayne’s ability to run the show, we saw the ‘new’ Wayne Rooney

  • Players should play in their natural positions
  • Too many times this season we’ve had started line ups with players playing in foreign positions. Positions they’ve had to grow into for the greater good of the team. But against Newcastle and many other teams this season there have been times when the Manchester United have lacked fluidity and instinct. Players often get caught out and or just don’t know what to do; often looking around… Searching for Eric. And this may largely be because we’re playing our players out of position. Players are in places they’re not accustomed to, places that they can’t play their natural football.

    Take for example, Anthony Martial. He’s played as a striker, left winger and right winger. Firstly, the amount of game time he gets is brilliant. However, the fact that he plays a different position almost every week will hinder his development and understanding of the game. Ander Herrera, is another. Arguably, Ander’s best performances have come when he’s played in a two man midfield role where he can dictate and have a real impact on play… Not when he’s playing a Luka Modric-type position behind the striker.

    And don’t even get me started on Mata

  • We might need to ride our luck
  • Many fans would’ve left the Newcastle match feeling disappointed that we didn’t grab the win. And there’ll also be some fans that will say we’re fortunate to concede a few more goals, either way, we rode our luck!

    Man United have shown that they can’t run rampant against anyone, even bottom league Newcastle. And that’s not what we want when we’re trying to secure our place in the top four. So we’ll have to hope we can rekindle the brief run of winning form we touched upon last season, or just grind out 1-0 wins 13/14 Chelsea style. Either way, with the lack of intent the squad currently has, we can only hope some good fortune comes our way.

    By Tyler Owusu

    GUEST BLOG: Edwin van der Sar – United’s safe hands

    When Peter Schmeichel left Manchester United all the way back in 1999, Sir Alex Ferguson always knew it was always going to be a tough battle to find his successor. From the likes of Barthez, to Tim Howard, nobody it seemed was ready to finally step up and becomes United’s new number one goalkeeper. Then came, Edwin Van Der Sar.

    His sheer presence alone made him such an intimidating keeper for the opposition, standing at a whopping 6 feet 6 inches in between the goalposts. It was clear right from the off that this is where van der Sar belonged and what was to follow was nothing short of sensational as United went on to rule not just European but World Football with van der Sar leading from the back.

    However it wasn’t all plain sailing at the start, far from it in fact. With the club still looking to find a solid left back and a defensive partner for Rio Ferdinand, United found themselves shipping goals left right and centre. There was no stability or consistency at the back leaving van der Sar little else to do but pick the ball out of the back of the net. Throughout the first half of the 2005/06 campaign the club were falling seriously short on all fronts before the arrivals of Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra in the January transfer window, this would be where it all started.

    The following season United looked a different animal, they meant business, with the club finally having a solid back 4 in place van der Sar looked more at home, more at ease, as the confidence started to come into his game. As the season wore on van der Sar played a significant role as the club won the Premier League Title back from rivals Chelsea. Moments from crucial saves against Fulham at Craven cottage to a decisive penalty save at the City of Manchester Stadium. The goalkeeper we had waited for to finally replace Peter Schmeichel was here.

    The joys of last season were about to be piped up another level as United won not just the Premier League but went on to famously win the UEFA Champions League in Moscow against Chelsea with van der Sar saving the all important spot kick. When the big games came calling van der Sar didn’t go hiding. Without van der Sar in between the sticks there may have been no Double.

    As mentioned above, the importance of having a solid defence is crucial if not just as crucial as the goalkeeper position. No matter how good of a goalkeeper you are if you haven’t got a top defence in front of you then you are in real trouble. Fortunately for van der Sar he had Vidic and Ferdinand. Both centre backs became vital for Edwin, it was evident at times if one were missing then things didn’t go as smoothly. Having all 3 of van der Sar, Vidic and Ferdinand fully fit and available week in week out was one of the reasons why United were able to go on to rule world football, they may not have got the headlines like Cristiano Ronaldo or Wayne Rooney but they were just as important.

    Nothing it seemed could go wrong for the Dutchman, he was in the form of his life whilst sitting at the peak of world football with Manchester United. He even went on to set a new clean sheet record going an outstanding 14 games without conceding a goal. It was almost like we had our very own Super Man in goal and his name was Edwin van der Sar.

    Of course just like anything good it does have to come to an end eventually, as the club were brought back down to earth by Barcelona as they were defeated 2-0 in the UEFA Champions League final; the feeling of invincibility gone, so too had Ronaldo.

    In no means am I saying United were poor after this, as lets be real they were still successful the following season after but in between 2006-2009 I felt United were right at the peak of World football and had arguably one of their greatest sides of all time, it was a special time.

    After persuasion from Sir Alex Ferguson, van der Sar penned a new contract at the club in 2010 where he would then finish his career at Old Trafford at the end of the following season. The invincibility that hanged around the club may have gone but van der Sar’s form didn’t as he continued to impress again stepping up to the plate when it most mattered.

    His final outing came in the UEFA Champions League final against the mighty Barcelona, where the club could do little else but stand back and applaud as they were defeated 3-1.

    His time at the club may have come to an end but his legacy left at the club will live on.

    By Alexander Robert Brian
    Follow me on Twitter: @alex_brian92

    Newcastle United 3-3 Man United | Match report

    Newcastle and Man United share the points as six-goal thriller ends 3-3 at the Sports Direct Arena.

    Most fans and pundits alike would have predicted this game to finish 0-0 but both teams showed great determination and fight to provide an entertaining goal feat.

    It was Man United who drew first blood when Wayne Rooney put away a penalty in the 9th minute after Newcastle’s Mbemba was adjudged to have handled the ball in the area by referee, Mike Dean.

    United doubled their lead in the 38th minute with a goal from Jesse Lingard. Rooney found himself of the edge of the Newcastle box with no other United player around him. He held the ball up well, awaiting the run of Lingard behind him down the left. Rooney slipped the ball through to the youngster who slotted the ball through the keepers legs.

    Newcastle fought back and a few minutes before half time managed to pull a goal back. Collocini played a looping ball over the top from deep, Mitrovic headed the ball down into Winjaldum’s path and he coolly volleyed the ball into the bottom right corner, giving de Gea no chance.

    The Magpies came out fighting in the second half and in the 67th minute were awarded a penalty when Chris Smalling bundled Mitrovic to the ground. Mitrovic stepped up to take the penalty and slotted it home into the bottom right, sending de Gea the other way.

    Now questions would be asked of Man United’s character and the questions were answered when in the 79th minute, Wayne Rooney scored a fantastic goal from outside the box. The move started with Memphis who ran at the Newcastle defence and cut in, bringing the ball onto his right foot. He found space to shoot but his shot was blocked and the loose ball rolled outside the box. Rooney was quickest to react hit a first time shot which curled up into the left hand corner.

    But the drama didn’t stop there and Newcastle were not ready to give up. In the 90th minute, left back Dummett rifled home a long range left footed shot into the top corner to bring Newcastle level and prevent Man United from taking the three points.

    Man United had chances earlier to see the game off. In the 56th minute, Martial played a square ball into the box from the right hand side finding Herrera on the penalty spot. Herrera, knowing Lingard was unmarked behind him, played the ball backwards. All Lingard had to do was beat the keeper but, instead he over hit his shot and put it over.

    Fellaini also had a chance to seal the victory in the 84th minute. Memphis took the ball down the wing beating his defender. Gaining a yard he put in a perfectly hit and placed crossed right on Fellaini’s head in the 6 yard box, but the Belgian could not direct his header either side of the keeper.

    The draw means that Man United again drop down to 6th in the league.

    United slip to 6th after draw at Newcastle (Picture: bbc.co.uk)
    United slip to 6th after draw at Newcastle (Picture: bbc.co.uk)

    What did you think about the game? Are you happy with the teams performance? We would love to know your thoughts. Please, feel free to leave a comment below.

    You can also watch the Newcastle V Man United match reaction on The United Stand’s YouTube channel by clicking here. Or by watching below.

    Newcastle United Team Sheet

    21 Elliot
    22 Janmaat
    18 Mbemba
    02 Coloccini
    03 Dummett
    24 Tioté (Toney – 85′)
    04 Colback (Gouffran – 81′)
    07 Sissoko
    05 Wijnaldum
    17 Pérez (de Jong – 92′)
    45 Mitrovic

    Substitutes

    10 de Jong
    11 Gouffran
    15 Lascelles
    26 Darlow
    31 Marveaux
    36 Toney
    42 Sterry

    Man United Team Sheet

    01 de Gea
    18 Young
    12 Smalling
    17 Blind
    36 Darmian
    28 Schneiderlin
    27 Fellaini
    09 Martial
    21 Herrera (Mata – 75′)
    35 Lingard (Depay – 64′)
    10 Rooney

    Substitutes

    07 Depay
    08 Mata
    20 Romero
    33 McNair
    43 Borthwick-Jackson
    44 Pereira
    47 Weir

    Atletico Madrid’s Saul Niguez on brink of United move

    UPDATE: According to Spanish journalist, Guillem Ballague, Manchester United have tabled a £15.3m for Saul Niguez but the player has no desire to leave Madrid and the club are not willing to sell. Source: Telegraph

    It is understood that Manchester United have sent officials to Spain to begin negotiations for the transfer of Saul Niguez.

    Saul has been identified as a long term replacement for Michael Carrick and could be brought to Old Trafford for £15million.

    Atletico Madrid manager Diego Simeone promoted Saul Niguez to the first team this season and has played a big part in the teams success so far this season.

    The midfielder has been capped for the Spanish under-21’s and has scored 5 times in 35 appearances for his club.

    But with great talent comes great interest and United are to face competition from Arsenal and Liverpool for the star’s signature.

    If you would like to read the full article on the Express website, please click here.

    What do you think of United chasing the signature of another central midfielder? Would you prefer to see the clubs signing someone else? Let us know in the comments below.

    Watch Saul in action below or by clicking here.

    GUEST BLOG: Man Utd V Sheffield Utd – 5 things we learned

    Manchester United Fans Are Tired

    The ironic cheers encompass the feelings of Manchester United fans worldwide. Yet another abysmal performance was on display at Old Trafford. Performances as such have become commonplace. Commonplace at a ground that deserves to be seeing fast edge-of-your-seat football, trickery, momentum, and goals.

    The amount of goal’s we’ve scored at Old Trafford is a number not even worth considering. The Theatre of Dreams has lost it’s magic, and honestly, it’s just not fair – for the ticket holders, those watching at home and everyone with vested interest in the club.

    Rooney Must Be Replaced

    Wayne Rooney has become a scapegoat at times this season. Luckily, his successful penalty against Sheffield United and goal last week against Swansea has been saving his skin. But once again we saw Rooney off the pace, once again we didn’t see the player that we are yearning for. Once can only imagine Rooney being a player with the killer instincts of the likes of Suarez, Lewandowski etc., taking a sound first touch and putting the ball away. But we don’t have a player like that in our skipper.

    For Manchester United truly want to return to the pinnacle of English football, Wayne Rooney must be replaced. It’s a bitter pill to swallow, he’s provided valuable memories for the Old Trafford faithful, securing a place in our history. But for the last few seasons, Rooney has only provided sporadic moments of brilliance but it seems those moments have all dried up.

    The player to replace Rooney might be Martial or even James Wilson in years to come, but right now, we must let them grow. Players such as Aubameyang, Lewandowski, and Harry Kane would all be forwards any fan would love to add – but, even if they were to come, they’re influence would only come in it’s entirety at the disposable of Wayne Rooney.

    The Problem could be Van Gaal or it could be the players

    Louis Van Gaal’s second season has been a farce to say the least. After over 18 months in charge and £250 million spent, Manchester United are still struggling to defeat teams such as Sheffield United – a theme we thought had been eradicated after the addition of players such Memphis and Schneiderlin. But, to be honest, Van Gaal’s ‘philosophy’ hasn’t really changed since last season. In fact, it’s probably been geared more towards what the fans want as subtleties in interviews have suggested. Yet. Our performances have grown worst. No being able to defeat Sheffield United at home is an absolute joke! So what’s the problem?

    It could very well be our current squad of players. Last year, although we were substandard there was still a level of magic and good football. And one could argue this is because we had players such as Di Maria (Champions League Final MOTM), Robin Van Persie (20th League Title Hero), and Falcao (Formerly, A World Beater). Although these ‘Galacticos’ didn’t always provide, their very presence and inclusion led to some memorable moments and goal-scoring performances – all under Van Gaal’s philosophy. Those players have all been sold off… Van Gaal has loosened his philosophy and even admitted to the team producing bad performances… so perhaps, it’s the players that are holding us back.

    Wayne Rooney can’t find his shooting boots even against Sheffield United; he is arguably holding us back. Juan Mata who’s supposed to be the future of the Spanish National Team can’t keep it ticking against a League 1 side, and is arguably holding us back from buying a fast, deadly winger. Memphis and Martial, two players with such promise yet so long to go are stopping us from going all out for players like James Rodriguez and Aubemeyang and are arguably HOLDING US BACK.

    Herrera!

    Ander Herrera once again showed why he should be in the team every week. He’s been a player fans have been crying out for, for the last two seasons under Van Gaal. His sporadic inclusions consistently justify the yearning for him to solidify his place in the weekly starting 11. Despite the slow performance from our side, Ander showed glimpses of ability, playing a through a few net balls into our forwards. Andre has the capability to be the heartbeat of our midfield for years to come.

    Pulling strings, putting in tackles and performing for the crowd – that’s what we need from our midfielders, and hopefully, that’s what we’ll keep getting with Ander Herrera.

    Being in Cups may be a good thing

    Yes, it’s scrutinizing that once again we probably won’t be in the title race and also that we’ve been knocked out the Champions league. However, one could argue that being in the FA Cup/Europa League is a blessing in disguise. Such competitions will enable us to play against lesser opposition, allowing us to give a full 90 minutes to our Red Devils of tomorrow – our youth. Or perhaps we could just do what we did against Sheffield United and start a mixture of youth, the regular starters and the experienced. With top four or top three undoubtedly our main targets, playing our strongest squad in the League will be crucial to our success. And although we all might want to see the youth tearing it up in the League Cristiano-esque, maybe they just aren’t ready yet.

    By Tyler Owusu

    Man United 1-0 Sheffield United | Match report

    Man United scrape a narrow victory thanks to a late Wayne Rooney penalty against League One side Sheffield United in the FA Cup third round.

    Man United played hosts to Sheffield United who currently sit 9th in League one. Many would be forgiven for thinking that this game would be entertaining for the fans based on United’s last two performances where they looked to be finding their attacking threat once again. But it wasn’t to be. Instead, United appeared to have taken two steps back, returning to the dull, conserved, sideways football we had become so familiar with.

    During the first half Man United only managed three attempts on goal with two of them coming from set pieces. They dominated the possession but posed no attacking threat and created very little in the way of chances. Even half chances. In fact, the players themselves looked extremely frustrated; almost like they weren’t sure what the game plan was. The fans could see this and they made their voices heard with groans and jeers echoing around the stadium – something that is becoming commonplace at Old Trafford.

    The second half saw the introduction of Memphis and Lingard on the hour mark. This was Lingard’s first game since returning from injury.

    Since their inclusion into the game, there were more attempts at goal, be it only 6, with one of them being the winning penalty.

    The best chances came in the late stages of the game with the first falling to Anthony Martial in the 87th minute. A corner came in and a defensive header fell to the Frenchman on the edge of the six-yard box. He struck a left-footed half volley but Sheffield United defender, Brayford, reacted quickly to block the shot.

    United boss Louis van Gaal cuts a frustrated figure as his side struggle against Sheffield United (Picture: mirror.co.uk)
    United boss Louis van Gaal cuts a frustrated figure as his side struggle against Sheffield United (Picture: mirror.co.uk)

    Three minutes later, Memphis picked up the ball on the left wing and cut in onto his right foot. Once in a more central position, finding a yard of space, he hit a right-footed shot which narrowly missed the left hand post.

    In the 93rd minute, Memphis again found himself running at the defenders and into the box but was taken down by a rash challenge by Sheffield United’s, Hammond. The defender came sliding in with his studs up and caught Memphis on the shin. A penalty was awarded. Wayne Rooney stepped up and buried the ball into the bottom left corner, sending the keeper the other way.

    Louis van Gaal will certainly be breathing a sigh of relief as his job hangs by a thread. And a replay away from home is something else he will be pleased to avoid.

    You have to feel sorry for Sheffield United who defended very well throughout the whole game.

    What did you think about the game? Are you happy with the teams performance? Do you feel the team deserved the victory? We would love to know your thoughts. Please, feel free to leave a comment below.

    You can also watch the Man United V Swansea match reaction on The United Stand’s YouTube channel by clicking here. Or by watching below.

    Man United Team Sheet

    01 de Gea
    36 Darmian
    12 Smalling
    17 Blind
    43 Borthwick-Jackson
    27 Fellaini (Pereira – 78′)
    31 Schweinsteiger
    08 Mata (Depay – 60′)
    21 Herrera (Lingard – 60′)
    09 Martial
    10 Rooney

    Substitutes

    07 Depay
    20 Romero
    30 Varela
    33 McNair
    35 Lingard
    44 Pereira
    48 Keane

    Sheffield United Team Sheet

    25 Long
    05 Brayford
    34 Edgar
    15 Collins
    19 McEveley (Reed – 78′)
    08 Coutts
    35 Hammond
    06 Basham
    17 Woolford
    18 Sammon (Done – 91′)
    10 Sharp (Flynn – 64′)

    Substitutes

    01 Howard
    07 Flynn
    11 Baxter
    14 Done
    20 Campbell-Ryce
    22 Reed
    29 Adams

    GUEST BLOG: Park Ji Sung, United’s unsung hero

    When Sir Alex Ferguson brought South Korean midfielder Park Ji Sung in from PSV back in 2005, you could have forgiven Sir Alex for having his doubts about the then South Korean talent actually making the grade at Old Trafford. However those doubts were quickly squashed, as Park went on to become one of Sir Alex Ferguson’s greatest ever signings, going on to spend 7 glorious years at the Theatre of Dreams, before finally joining QPR Back in 2012.

    He may not technically have been the greatest footballer to have ever graced the Old Trafford turf, far from it in fact, but one thing he did have in his locker was work rate. No matter whether it was the 1st minute or the last, Park just never stopped running, giving every last breath he had left in the tank for the team, this would become his forte.

    When the big games came round, Park Ji Sung became one of the first names on Sir Alex Ferguson’s team sheet. This was merited as he went on to start 2 European Cup Finals in 2009 and 2011 against Barcelona keeping the likes of Carlos Tevez and Dimitar Berbatov out of the starting eleven. His work rate and desire to never give in became a key part of United’s success on the pitch between 2007-2011. Yes the attacking talent was fascinating to watch, but Park’s role in the side was just as important.

    I myself, admittedly, didn’t realise at the time, just how important Park was to this United side and only really realised how crucial he was when he left. I never really understood his role properly and instead wanted to see more attacking options on the pitch. I remember thinking “Oh why he is playing, why is Berbatov or Nani not playing, I don’t want Park on!” I couldn’t have been proven more wrong if I tried, as United won 4 leagues in 5 seasons and made it to 3 European Cup Finals between 2007-2011 and reached the peak of World Football. He was in the side for a reason.

    With Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney, Dimitar Berbatov and the likes on board, it would always be hard to grab the headlines, but Park Ji Sung’s consistent displays didn’t go unnoticed among the United faithful as he quickly become something of a fan favourite. It was particularly more impressive as it was fairly early when he became a fan favourite. Usually it takes time for the United faithful to be won over by a player, but with Park they made an exception.

    As he entered his final season at Old Trafford (2011/2012) it became clear his days at the club may be coming to an end. His appearance’s in the first team became really just cameos as the season wore on. It seemed Sir Alex Ferguson was opting for a more youthful look to his Midfield with Tom Cleverley becoming more of a first team regular leaving Park on the Substitutes bench.

    His time at the theatre of dreams had come to an end. However his legacy at Manchester United would not be tarnished, or for that matter, be forgotten by the United faithful. His mark at United had already been made.

    By Alexander Robert Brian
    Follow me on Twitter: @alex_brian92

    GUEST BLOG: Short & sweet but still a treat – Henrik Larsson

    Henrik Larsson will no doubt by best remembered among many, for his days at Scottish Giants, Celtic and rightly so; he was nothing short of sensational. However it would be his mere 3 month stay at Manchester United where I would finally get to the chance to see Henrik Larsson up close and on a regular basis. I wasn’t disappointed.

    Nowadays its almost like a common occurrence for a striker to score 40 plus goals a season, its not even talked about, Ronaldo, Messi, have done it for years since 2008, but back then it was a different story. Despite playing in an admittedly poorer league, his goal scoring became legendary throughout the world of football (which eventually led to Barcelona taking him on board). Scoring 50 goals plus a season didn’t really happen very often and when Larsson netted 53 goals in the 2000/2001 campaign it became worldwide news, he wasn’t human, he was a goal scoring machine!

    Rumours of a move to United had been whispered throughout the club as the club couldn’t count on Louis Saha playing week in week out. He finally got his move to Old Trafford in a shock loan deal on 1st January 2007. It didn’t take long for Larsson to feel at home, as he went on to score on his debut in an FA Cup encounter against Aston Villa with a trademark finish into the top right hand corner. You could clearly see how prolific of a forward he once as, he hadn’t lost that touch, some are just born with it I guess and Larsson was one of those. He followed up that goal, with a neat finish against Watford at Old Trafford before rounding things off against Lille in the UEFA Champions League scoring the winner with a sublime header into the bottom right hand corner. However his best goal for the club arguably came against Portsmouth in the FA Cup as he steamed home a beautiful volley only for it to be ruled out for offside.

    What stood out for me was his finishing, Bar Ruud Van Nistelrooy, he was the most lethal out and out goal scorer I have ever seen play at United, he was that good. When he got a chance, you would have bet your house on him scoring.

    Its only a crying shame that he didn’t stay for longer, one can only wonder if he did, United may have been successful on all 3 fronts that season, it was more than possible. He made his final appearance for the club in an FA Cup encounter against Middlesbrough, before finally waving goodbye to the United Faithful.

    He may have only been at the club a mere 3 months but boy did he make an impact, it was an honour Henrik.

    By Alexander Robert Brian
    Follow me on Twitter: @alex_brian92