Category Archives: Blog

It should still be Poch…no, Ole…no, Poch

Prior to the Tottenham game this past weekend, I had decided that, whatever the result, I would upload a post claiming that Mauricio Pochettino should still be the next manager of Manchester United. However, the game, and victory, threw a huge spanner in the works…

I think we can all agree that nobody expected us to walk away from Wembley with three points. It has been widely publicised that Solskjaer’s first five games as caretaker manager of Manchester United were all games that he was expected to win. Hell, even Paul Ince claims he could have equalled Solskjaer’s start. However, delving deeper into the aftermath of Sunday’s 1-0 win has enhanced the United legends stock when it comes to taking over the reigns permanently.

Let’s be honest, the five games prior to the Spurs game didn’t really tell us a lot in regards to what Solskjaer’s style would be for the rest of the season. Sure, the attacking flair was back but we were rarely in a position where a ‘Plan B’ was needed. Tottenham was always going to be the game where we gained a measure on what could be achieved during the remainder of the season.

Billed as an audition between Ole and Poch, it is certainly the former that has edged ahead based on Sunday’s showing. United were ahead just before half time courtesy of a cool Marcus Rashford finish off the back of a sublime Paul Pogba pass and few could argue that we were not good for the lead. In fact, the first half was just like the games prior. The real test would be the second half when the inevitable Tottenham backlash began.

Tactically, Solskjaer got the second half down to a tee. Sure, we were under the cosh for long periods and, yes, De Gea was a brick wall but it is already forgotten that Hugo Lloris himself pulled off three decent saves to prevent United extending their lead. In short, Solskjaer had a Plan B. Pochettino, however, didn’t.

Tottenham switched formation at the beginning of the second half, a move immediately mirrored by Solskjaer to alleviate the threat posed by Ben Davies and Keiran Trippier. The enforced Erik Lamela change just before half time proved to be disastrous as Poch then stuck Christian Eriksen out on the wing to accommodate the more centrally-minded Lamela.

The Tottenham manager refused to make any more changes until the 81st minute, removing Harry Winks for Fernando Llorente, in what looked like a desperate final roll of the dice. Admittedly, at this stage it looked as if Tottenham were good value for a goal. However, with United tiring, the change should have come at least 10 minutes sooner. Solskjaer responded immediately by withdrawing Jesse Lingard for Diego Dalot to reinforce the defence.

Pochettino failed to make a third substitution as he, quite simply, ran out of ideas. Tottenham’s fail safe ‘Plan A’ just wasn’t working and he had no idea how to change it, despite only making two substitutions and leaving Danny Rose on the bench. Introducing Rose and his pace into the game could seriously have hurt a tiring United defence. Poch, simply, got it wrong.

David De Gea has quite rightly earned the plaudits for his Wembley heroics but Solskjaer should take just as much of the glory. He won’t, because he isn’t Jose Mourinho, but he deserves every iota of praise he has received. Not only did he out think Pochettino, he got the better of him tactically and wasn’t afraid to react instantly to what was panning out in front of him.

At this point I would say my preference would still be for Pochettino to be the next permanent manager of the club. However, not for one second would I be disappointed to see Ole be retained beyond this season.

Are We About To See Rashford Re-born?

Marcus Rashford made his name in a Manchester United shirt during a Europa League match against FC Midtjylland on February 25th, 2016.

Rashford was named on the bench for the tie. However, during the match warm-up, an injury to Anthony Martial meant the 18-year old was to make his debut in the starting XI. Continue reading Are We About To See Rashford Re-born?

Have Manchester United Hit The ‘Reset’ Button?

When the news broke that club legend, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, was to become interim manager at Manchester United for the remainder of the season, I felt a mixture of excitement and confusion.

Excited, for obvious reasons. As stated above, he is a club legend. He has always been open about his love for the club and his dream to manage it.  Continue reading Have Manchester United Hit The ‘Reset’ Button?

It’s only Fulham…

“It’s only Fulham”

It was inevitable really. Lose and further fuel would’ve been added to the rumblings to remove Mourinho from the post of Manchester United manager. A draw would’ve returned the same result. Scrape a win and it would’ve been unacceptable. Batter them and ‘it’s only Fulham’. Continue reading It’s only Fulham…

What is going on??

Those of you that follow me (not many I know) will know that I have been very much in the ‘Mourinho-In’ camp for some time. Whilst many, including our very own Mark Goldbridge, have pitched up tents over in the ‘out’ camp, I have remained across in my field, like an old man at Glastonbury a week after the festival has finished. Continue reading What is going on??

Is a Zlatan return a good thing?

“To some at United, it is not a coincidence that disharmony within the squad has become an issue since Ibrahimovic moved away.”

The above quote, published by Mark Ogden, will no doubt attract criticism and ridicule on social media but is it really that far wide of the mark? Continue reading Is a Zlatan return a good thing?

Manchester United Handed Tough Group!

Manchester United have been handed a very tough group in this years Champions League Draw.

Having been in Pot 2 for the draw the three time champions are placed alongside: Juventus, Valencia and BSC Young Boys.

Going off current form Man United may struggle to gain qualification from this group and they need to use this International break wisely and regroup and focus as their league form so far has been embarrassing. The Champions League is a stage for the big stars to shine and perform something that the United players so far have not been doing; players such as Paul Pogba, Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez need to improve and find form quickly if they want their club to progress within this illustrious tournament.

The draw also signals the return of the fan favourite Cristiano Ronaldo as his new side Juventus will travel to Old Trafford once more. Ronaldo, whom only this season moved to the Italian champions for just under £100 million will undoubtedly be excited about the prospect about returning to the club where his global domination began in front of the fans who still hold him close to their heart.

These fixtures could prove vital in the outcome of Jose Mourinho’s job and he will hope they will be a springboard for success and a catalyst of change for the Manchester club.

(Picture:www.skysports.com)

Jose Mourinho To Enter His Third Season At Manchester United: Is It Now Or Never?

In America right now Jose Mourinho and Manchester United are playing friendly games and slowly building up to the start of the 2018/2019 Premier League season.

United, Mourinho and their opponents, Leicester City, have the honour (if that is the right term because of television demands) to kick off the new season a day before all the other Premiership teams, on Friday 10th August 8: 00 pm at Old Trafford. Mourinho, however, does not come across at the moment as someone happy in his job and it could be argued there are extenuating circumstances for this.

Firstly for the first two friendly matches in America, the United squad was a mix of first team, reserves and youth players on the fringe of their careers. With some of Mourinho’s major players/ stars having extended late holidays after their excursions in the FIFA World Cup.

Secondly, with the transfer season in the UK closing the day before the Premiership season kicks-off, Thursday 9th August, there is a sense of urgency around strengthening the present United squad. However having already added three new recruits to the United roster you might think Mourinho would be happy. The new recruits it could be argued are hardly marquee signings destined to get the supporters pulses racing.

Of the three new men the Brazilian ‘Fred’ is the most high profile, but as he was an unused substitute for Brazil in the World Cup, his signing seems hardly overwhelming. He may in time fulfil the Michael Carrick role but as yet the jury must be out. Rumours persist of specific new signings destined to come to the club, the most interesting being the approaches for England’s centre-back Harry McGuire and Chelsea’s Willian, but as yet there is nothing concrete with either of these speculations. Given then the situation, in one sense Mourinho”s demeanour is very understandable, however, there is also the personal ‘X-factor’ to throw into the current situation.

On joining United from being sacked from Chelsea, Mourinho signed a three-year contract. As he enters his third season in charge he must be aware that there has to be a significant improvement in his results if he is to be around for the start the fourth season.

While finishing second last season, a marked improvement on his first season in the Premiership, United were still so far behind Manchester City it was little short of embarrassing. Add to that an inept display in the FA CUP Final at Wembley last May resulting in losing to his former club Chelsea, and it all meant a season of discontent and discomfort.

It must be argued that when Mourinho took over from Louise VanGaal the club was in a mess. Both Van Gall and the manager before him David Moyes had collaborated to knock the heart of the clubs attacking philosophy, known by many as the ‘United Way’.

Under Mourinho, there has been an undoubted improvement in style and results however United are still short in particular areas. Mourinho’s outbursts and criticisms about some United players have also not gone down well with lots of clubs supporters.

The stakes then for Mourinho, United and the coming Premiership challenge could not be higher, and to an extent are very much tied up to the next few days. If there are no new recruits then Mourinho will have to get more out of the squad than he did last season. If there are new recruits then Mourinho’s job will be to blend them into a more productive unit and hope that as far as the Premiership is concerned, United will be able to challenge Manchester City or the team which sits at the Premiership summit in a more exciting and consistent way.

jim@1211plussubs

Brilliant Beckham

Beckham has an enduring place in my heart, as he was a truly magnificent player whose quality at United and contribution during our period of success cannot be undervalued. He was a quite superb dead ball specialist whose corners and free kicks created havoc for opposing defenders and goalkeepers alike. He was the sort of winger that strikers thrive off, who had an unerring accuracy in knowing the position to place the ball so that they had maximum potential to be able to supply the finishing touch. He was a member of the Class of 92, one of the elite youngsters who when combined with more seasoned professionals would sweep all before them during a period of domestic dominance which culminated in the Holy Grail of the Champions League trophy in 1999. During that famous night Beckham was the key ingredient which first salvaged and then secured a trophy which had been on the brink of escaping, the final piece in the magical Unprecedented Treble. Firstly a whipped delivery into the middle of the crowded box for his initial corner where Schmeichel’s green jersey lurked and could cause the most havoc, from which the result was a prodded Sheringham finish. Secondly, a near post corner which found Sheringham to flick toward goal which Solskjaer rammed home to spark raucous celebration. Had we the current crop of United players, these corners would more than likely have been wasted, the delivery either overshot or failing to evade the first man. Beckham’s potency gave an edge that almost seemed like cheating, in a time where we were festooned with strikers who would score all types of goals if given such a cavalcade of ammunition to utilise. This is summed up aptly here by goalkeeping legend Peter Schmeichel:

“You only have to go on MUTV and watch programmes like ‘Ruud van Nistelrooy: all the goals’, ‘Andy Cole: All the goals’ and so on, and see how many goals they scored came from his crosses. A cross from him is as good as a goal. His crossing was unbelievable. ”

Beckham’s early life was typical of that of a precocious boy who dreamed of playing football, whose soul ambition was to secure a playing role in the beautiful game. When asked the arch old question of what career he wished to pursue, Beckham remained obstinate beyond castigation that he would indeed fulfil this dream. Fortuitously for him, as all United fans know, he had the talent in abundance in order to make this dream a reality and was signed up for United after impressing particularly as a youth who had come to prominence whilst attending one of Sir Bobby Charlton’s football schools. As Neville remarked during his own recollection of Beckham’s arrival into the group of fledgling prodigies that were to become later known as the Class of 92, there was a real sense that Beckham’s presence acted as catalyst for the others who were envious of the sheer natural football talent that he (Beckham) had at his disposal even at such a young age.

He was the final member of the greatest midfield quartet to grace the Premier League, providing the width and demanding the pressure of the Number 7 shirt. In Keane’s autobiography, Keane recounts that Sir Alex wanted to give Keane the shirt but that the Irishman thought that Beckham better befitted that jersey. It proved to be an inspirational choice, particularly as Beckham was charged with filling the shoes of the King, Eric Cantona. On the first day of the 96-97 season Beckham scored a goal from the halfway line against Wimbledon, it was a goal which propelled the youngster straight into the nation’s consciousness. It was the season where Beckham cemented his place as a first choice starter for United and was voted to be PFA Young Player of the Year by his peers. Though the following season was disappointing, it was during the Treble season that Beckham came alive; this flying in the face of the widespread condemnation Beckham had received for the infamous petulant kick which many felt was the direct contributing factor to England’s early exit in the previous summer’s World Cup. It was here that Beckham demonstrated his endeavour and bravery by succeeding when many prayed for his failure. He finished the season, as arguably United’s most valuable asset, an assertion given credence by him finishing runner up to Rivaldo in both the European and World Player of the Year award.

As Ryan Giggs pointed out, the remainder of the United squad knew Beckham’s value to the team and the squad pouring the following praise upon his team mate:

“The best crosser of the ball I have ever seen. You would make a run and he would put the ball into your path without having to break stride. A brilliant footballer.”

His fine form was carried into the next season as United won the Premier League by a handsome 18 points in the 99-2000 season. In particular though it was Beckham’s extracurricular activities which were giving Sir Alex the biggest headache, the fact that in 2000 he was given permission to miss out on training in order to take care of his son, Brooklyn who had gastroenteritis. However, Victoria was then spotted at the London Fashion Week Night that day which meant that she could have looked after the sick child. As Ferguson was quick to admonish:

“He was never a problem until he got married. He used to go into work with the academy coaches at night time; he was a fantastic young lad. Getting married into that entertainment scene was a difficult thing – from that moment, his life was never going to be the same. He is such a big celebrity; football is only a small part.”

United though were still in a period of great dominance and this was reflected when they secured their third successive league title in 2000-1. He scored nine goals that season, all of which came in the Premier League. In the following season Beckham scored 16 goals in 42 games in all competitions which was the best of his career, it demonstrated a player whose capabilities were at an all time high in terms of end product. However, Beckham lost his place the next year, following an early season injury, to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and struggled to get back into the team. In February 2003 following an FA Cup defeat to Arsenal Beckham was infamously then the victim of Sir Alex Ferguson’s ire receiving a football boot to the head which really sparked the beginning of the end for the winger. All in all, Beckham made 265 league appearances for Manchester United and scored 61 goals. He also made 81 Champions League appearances and scored 15 goals. His medal total was quite remarkable accruing 6 Premier League Titles, 2 FA Cups, 1 UCL, 1 Intercontinental Cup and 1 Youth Cup in a 12 year period with the club.

When Beckham left he moved to Real Madrid, his dream of continuing to play for United was in tatters. As he has said before, he couldn’t bear to watch United for two years following the swap. He had a heartfelt connection to his boyhood club and ultimately didn’t want to leave, though he then enjoyed the remainder of his career sequentially with Real Madrid, LA Galaxy, AC Milan and Paris St Germain which amounted to quite an illustrious spell of globetrotting. There are those including Sir Alex who felt that Beckham could have made more of himself had he really applied his full talent to his craft rather than what some might refer to as his brand and the celebrity where he really excelled, becoming a global phenomenon in how he marketed himself. However, it is hard to forget how much Beckham had worked to get to where he was and also that he was a quite incredible footballer first and foremost. He had a natural engine which few could match, often covering great distances and was very much an athlete which gave him the extra longevity that only the footballers who take the greatest care of themselves can hope to achieve. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, himself an undisputed legend of the game was quick to praise Beckham’s personality and ethics with regard to how he handled himself even at a mature age, when he went to play for Paris St Germain:

“As a footballer it is important to be yourself and live your life – not to live in a bubble, not enjoying your life. That is what I admire about Beckham. The attention that follows him is not easy to live out your life. But he does it. I even told him that I admired him because he brings his children to surfing, to the park. I felt sometimes I would stay at home, because I want to be left alone. But after I saw him, he brought me off the couch and he motivated me to take my family out and do these things. If he can do it, then me, someone with 10% of his attention, can do it.”

For me David Beckham is a United legend, a man who won many trophies with us and contributed sublimely at many key times. He will forever belong to the greatest exclusive club in football, those who have worn the hallowed United Number 7 shirt and his football prowess justifies that he is within that pantheon, a player who played with grit, style, determination and panache in equal measure. Without Beckham’s efforts United fans would not have so many enduring memories with which to comfort our souls during this barren period of true domestic success. Beckham will remain interwoven in the rich tapestry of United’s history, the member of the Class of 92 with abilities so unique and special; they even made a movie about one of them. Indeed, nobody could bend it like Beckham and precious few in United’s history have been as good as he was, a legendary player, never forgotten.