Category Archives: Blog

Injection Of Youth Breathes Life Into Soulless United

Even the most avid Louis Van Gaal fan would struggle to reel off a list of things he has got right during his time in charge. It is no secret that his near two years in charge, this season in particular, has been dire to say the least but, if there is one thing that he certainly is not guilty of, it is sticking to the club tradition of blooding youngsters into the first team squad.

The more skeptical of us may believe that this is due to the squad being unnecessarily thin whilst LVG himself claims that he deliberately scaled down the squad in order to bring in youth players. Whatever the truth is, recent weeks have seen some much improved performances on the pitch, with the recent emergence of Marcus Rashford proving to be the real highlight.

In truth, the writing was on the wall from the very beginning of LVG’s tenure, having included Jesse Lingard and Tyler Blackett in his very first matchday squad in 2014. Since then, a further 12 academy players have made their debuts for the club, with some of those beginning to become a regular presence around the squad.

Cameron Borthwick-Jackson, at 19-years-old, looks like he has massive potential and has recorded some steady performances within the back four this season. Tim Fosu-Mensah made his debut as a substitute in the recent win over Arsenal, before starting the subsequent game against Watford where he put in a decent shift. And then there is the aforementioned Marcus Rashford. In only three games for United, the youngster has already been sounded out for an England call-up and been touted as ‘the next big thing’.

Granted, it is far too early to claim that Rashford will indeed turn out to be a top player, we have been here before after all (Macheda anyone?), but the early indications are positive, with the well-documented doubles against FC Midtjylland and Arsenal propelling him from the unknown to household name.

The most frustrating aspect of the youngsters utilised to date by LVG is the under-use of Andreas Pereira. The 20-year-old is seen by many as the crown jewel of United’s academy but has seemingly been overlooked on occasion by Van Gaal. What is more frustrating is that the Brazilian is being overlooked by Jesse Lingard who, as another academy graduate given his debut under the Dutchman, has produced moments of brilliance and mediocrity in equal measure. It is widely known around Old Trafford that many fans would like to see Pereira given more of an opportunity over the coming months, with many sensing he could prove to be as big a loss as Paul Pogba if he was to decide his future lay away from the club.

Louis Van Gaal has always stated that when he leaves the club he will leave it in a better state than when he arrived. As recent as three weeks ago that was hard to believe. However, these claims are now becoming easier to understand. Of course, any manager could have come in and spent what the Dutchman has, and more than likely delivered some silverware, but what LVG is achieving is a squad which could be able to compete for the next 10 years. It is far too early to launch any ‘class of 92’ comparisons but the latest class could be one that helps the club begin to reach the levels that we are all used to and expect.

Rio Ferdinand – Forever a Red

When Sir Alex Ferguson splashed out £29.1 Million in the summer of 2002 to make Rio Ferdinand the then most expensive defender of all time, doubts where inevitably raised. Was a defender really worth all that money?  The answer was an emphatic ‘Yes!’, as Rio went on to become one of Sir Alex Ferguson’s finest ever signings during his managerial career at Old Trafford.

In a stay that spanned 12 years at the Theatre of Dreams, Rio won almost everything there was to win in the game. 6 Premier League Titles,  1 European Cup,  3 League Cup’s,  1 Club World Cup and a bundle of Charity shields,  with only an FA Cup winners medal missing on the centre back’s mantel piece.

His partnership with Nemanja Vidic became an essential part of United’s success in the late 2000’s. They were our very own Morecambe and Wise, without one we were just not the same team.  The likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney may have grabbed the headlines, but Rio and Vida’s contribution was just as important to Manchester United, if not more.

However it wasn’t all plain sailing, far from it in fact. United’s slow start to the 2002/03 campaign was having an effect on the centre back’s performances and confidence. He just didn’t seem the same player we had previously witnessed blossom at Leeds. By no means was he poor, we just expected a lot more. It wouldn’t be till after the New Year where the Real Rio Ferdinand would stand up.

Maybe it was his confidence, maybe it just took him a little extra time to settle down, maybe it was even the whopping price tag on his shoulders. Whatever it was, Rio looked a complete different animal after the new year, as United hunted down Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal side. Key results followed against Newcastle United (6-2) Chelsea (2-1) and Liverpool (4-0) as the club regained the Premier League Title for an historic 8th time.

If anyone was to doubt just how important Rio Ferdinand was to Manchester United, then the following season (2003/04) would be the season where we would find out just how vital he actually was. After reportedly missing a drugs test in September 2003, the defender was banned from football for 8 months.  Let’s be honest here, I don’t think any one of us out there actually thought his absence would have such an enormous effect on the side, we didn’t just drop away a touch, we completely collapsed.  Goals started to be conceded left right and centre, 2 against Southampton, 3 against Everton, 3 against Middlesbrough, 4 against Manchester City. Even goalkeeper Tim Howard who had previously looked magnificent, was now all of a sudden looking a nervous wreck. United may have ended the season positively by defeating Millwall 3-0 in the FA Cup Final, but it could have been so much more and you can’t help but think if Rio hadn’t of been banned we probably would have won the league that season.

He finally made his long anticipated return to football on 20th September 2004 and what better fixture to announce your return in,  than against arch rivals Liverpool at Old Trafford helping the club secure a 2-1 victory.  Just to see Rio back in a United shirt again was good enough for me, but what was even more impressive was the fact it looked like he had never been away, the Rio Ferdinand we all knew and loved was back.

Despite Rio’s return to the United side, the club’s struggle’s on the pitch remained a major problem, as the club fell short of Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea side. However in what was admittedly a couple of disappointing campaigns (2004/05, 2005/06) there was light at the end of the tunnel, and in that light came Neamnja Vidic and Patrice Evra. This would prove to be a real turning point for not just Rio, but for the club as a whole.

Prior to the start of the 2006/07 season, you could almost sense something special was going to happen, you just had that feeling this would be the season where the real Manchester United would return.  What was to follow was nothing short of magnificent as the club finally reclaimed the Premier League Title from Chelsea. The introduction of Nemanja Vidic in the centre of defence made Rio even better as a footballer, He was already World Class, now he was near immortal. He even found himself on the score sheet, scoring the all-important 2nd goal against Liverpool at Old Trafford with a wonderful strike into top corner. His magnificent efforts on the field for United were to be rewarded personally, as he was named in the PFA Team of the year along with the rest of the United back 4.

Things for not just Rio but for the club as a whole, where about to be taken up a whole other level as the 2007/08 campaign loomed. It would be the season where United didn’t just reach the peak of English football, but reached the peak of European football by defeating Chelsea in the European Cup final on that unforgettable night in Moscow. Rio’s ever blossoming partnership with Nemanja Vidic wasn’t just becoming one of the finest centre back partnerships of that time period, it was fast becoming one of the best centre back pairings football had ever seen, no forward in the land nor Europe could get the better of them.  Once again his efforts on the field were rewarded as the defender was again named in the PFA Team of the year for the 2nd year running.

The following season brought yet more success to the club, as United won the Premier League Title for a 3rd consecutive season and brought the League Cup back to Old Trafford after defeating Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley.  Despite Rio edging ever closer to the merry old age of 30 his performances remained as consistent and superb,  as the club went an astonishing 21 hours without conceding a goal. It was getting to the point where we would be shocked if the opposition even had a shot on goal. We were just that good and we knew it!

Of course just like anything good it does have to end eventually and as the 2009/10 season got underway, flaws into Rio’s game were starting to creep in, that yard or so of pace he once had was now starting to fade, most notably against arch rivals Manchester City at Old Trafford, where after giving the ball on the way on the halfway line, he failed to catch up then City forward Craig Bellamy who then levelled the game up at 3-3. It something we were just not used to seeing with Rio, we even had confirm it amongst ourselves that it had actually happened, that we hadn’t imagined it. In all it was disappointing season for Rio with in all, managing only a mere 21 appearances due to injuries.

The following seasons brought something of a mixed bag for the defender.  He was still as ever present in the heart Manchester United defence, but you couldn’t help but feel he just wasn’t the same player any more. The standards he had previously set was so ridiculously high, that now with him entering his 30s, it was near impossible that Rio could reach those standards again.  However it wasn’t all doom and gloom with arguably the stand out moment coming in Sir Alex Ferguson’s final game as Manchester United manager against Swansea City, where he emphatically volleyed the ball home from inside the penalty area, handing United a 2-1 victory.

His time at the club was officially brought to an end on 12th May 2014, where after much discussion the club decided against offering Rio a new contract brining to an end his 12 year stay at the club. His time at the club may be up, but his legacy will live on forever in the hearts of the Manchester United faithful.

Javier Hernandez, United’s fox in the box

When Sir Alex Ferguson agreed to sign then unknown Mexican forward Javier Hernandez in the spring of 2010, you could hardly blame some of the United faithful for having their doubts. Untested in the Premier League, only 21 years old and was relatively unheard of. However the little Mexican turned out to be a real clever piece of business by Sir Alex Ferguson, as Hernandez aka Chicharito, went on to play a key role in the clubs historic 19th and 20th Premier League title winning campaigns.

Going into the 2010 World Cup, quite honestly we didn’t know what to expect from Hernandez. Yes we had seen glimpse of him on YouTube, but this would be our first real chance to actually see him up close and live and what better occasion to show your talent than the biggest stage of all, the World Cup. What was to follow exceeded even some of the most optimistic United supporters expectations as Hernandez showed us exactly why Sir Alex had brought him to the club. His finishing for a player so relatively young wasn’t just good, it was outstanding.

It didn’t take long for Hernandez to get off the mark, as he opened up his United account against Chelsea in the Community Shield at Wembley albeit in rather unusual circumstances, as his shot deflected off his face and into the back of the net. He then followed that up, by netting the all important winner against Valencia in Europe with a superb finish into the bottom corner. Goals then continued to flow against West Brom and Stoke City where he again grabbed the headlines scoring an outrageous backwards header.

It wouldn’t be till early Spring where Hernandez would finally find himself a regular starting place in the Manchester United team ,taking the place of then top scorer Dimitar Berbatov in the side. Doubts at the time were raised given Berbatov was having such a fine season, however Sir Alex’s reasoning for choosing the Mexican over the Bulgarian was more than justified as the forward went on to score crucial goals for the club, from scoring the all important winner at home to Everton, to netting the opener against Chelsea at Old Trafford in May inside the opening minute, as United closed in on another League Title. When the big occasions came calling, Hernandez didn’t go missing, he delivered.

His efforts on the field were rewarded, as Chicartio was named in the running for the PFA Young players of the year award, and was even named in the starting eleven in the European Cup Final against Barcelona. His 20 goals that season made him the first player since Ruud Van Nistelrooy to score 20 goals in a debut season for the club.

His knack of popping up at the right time in the box was becoming a real trade mark for the Mexican. , if you had to pick one player, who you would want the ball to fall to in the box It would be Hernandez. Yes he may not have been technically that great of a player, in fact technically he was awful! but when it came to putting the ball into the back of the net he was sensational, there were few better. It would only be a crying shame that his career faded away here like it did under the reigns of David Moyes and Louis Van Gaal.

The following seasons may not have quite hit the heights of his debut campaign ,but his contribution was just as important never the less. Despite narrowly missing out on the Premier League title from arch rivals Manchester City, Hernandez still found himself in amongst the goals scoring 12 in all, popping up when United needed him most, with in particular the stand out moment coming against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge where he headed the ball in from close range rescuing a point for United in a  3-3 draw.

With the introduction of Robin Van Persie in the summer of 2012, it made first team opportunities for the Mexican hard to come by with more often than not finding himself sitting on the substitutes bench, rather than actually starting games from the off. Despite not starting week in week out, Hernandez sill managed to score a mighty impressive 18 goals in all competitions.  including winners against the likes of Newcastle United  and Chelsea as United steamed their way to a record breaking 20th League Title.

The introduction of David Moyes for the 2013/14 campaign, began not only the start of the strikers downfall at the club, but brought the start of the wholes club’s downfall too.  Despite suffering a somewhat nightmare season, the Mexican still managed 9 goals in all competitions. The following campaign under new management in Louis Van Gaal, seen the forward sent on loan to Real Madrid for the remainder of the season before it was finally announced last summer that he would be joining Bayern Leverkusen on a permanent deal.

He may not have been a great, he may not even be remembered by some supporters in years to come, but his contribution to the club should never go unnoticed.

Will Keane – Is It Time He Got A Chance?

It may or may not have slipped under your radar but, last night, United Under-21s thumped Norwich City 7-0. In an attacking performance which fans have been crying out for the senior side to produce, Andreas Pereira tucked away a penalty whilst young defender Tim Fosu-Mensah also found the back of the net. How about the other five? Well, they were all scored by Will Keane, taking his tally for the Under-21s this season to 10 since he was recalled from his loan spell at Preston North End in January. After an impressive run of form for the second team, is it time that the 23-year-old finally gets his chance in the first team?

Since making his debut for the club in late 2011, Keane has found himself shipped out on loan to no fewer than four different clubs in a bid to ready himself for the vigours of the first team. A short stint at Wigan Athletic was ended prematurely to injury before a six-month loan deal to Queens Park Rangers proved to be equally unsuccessful. Hillsborough was to be his next destination in early 2015, where he found the net on three occasions for Sheffield Wednesday before heading to Preston North End at the beginning of this campaign on a season-long loan deal. His time at Deepdale hardly proved to be prolific, finding the net on two occasions in 22 appearances for the club.

When it was announced that Keane was to have his loan spell at Preston cut short to provide extra cover to Wayne Rooney and Anthony Martial in the wake of James Wilson’s loan move to Brighton, it smacked of desperation. In fact, with Adnan Januzaj returning to the club shortly afterwards, the conclusion that many reached was that manager Louis Van Gaal would not be trusted with any money during the January transfer window, a statement that has intensified since the closure of the window after United failed to sign a single player. However, Keane’s form for the Under-21s has done nothing but raise his stock and he could well find himself amongst the substitutes for this weekends game against Sunderland.

Whilst scoring five goals is impressive at any level, it was the nature of the goals which should not go unnoticed. His third goal, assisted by one Memphis Depay, was probably the neatest tap-in you are likely to see, whilst his fourth goal was nothing more than a thing of beauty, chipping the goalkeeper from the edge of the box after some sublime skill.

It is easy to get excited about a prospect from the Under-21s. The level of football down there is nothing compared to the Premier League, and his time away on loan has shown us nothing in terms of his progress. However, perhaps Keane is now willing to knock on the door and show LVG exactly what he has to offer. Keane cannot be judged on his loan spells. After all, one Harry Kane failed to pull up any trees during his temporary time away from Tottenham Hotspur, and it is probably fair to say that he is something of a success now…

Rafael: The highs and lows

You know you must have something special about you when at just age 17 Manchester United come calling. This wasn’t a dream, it was in fact a reality for Rafael Da Silva along with twin brother Fabio, who after impressing at Fluminense joined the biggest football club in the world.

Given Rafael was Brazilian, it was hard not to get excited upon his arrival, flashes of Roberto Carlos and the likes instantly came into my head as the anticipation built ahead of his debut against Peterborough United. You couldn’t blame anyone for being maybe a touch nervous on your United debut, but not Rafael he stole the show, at times making the opposition look almost like school boys. It may have been only have been a friendly against lower league opposition but he looked every bit a real Manchester United player right from the off.

The Brazilian had to wait until the 23rd September against Middleborough in the League Cup for his first senior start for the club, where again he impressed as United cruised to a 3-1 victory. This was a sign of things to come for Rafael as he quickly became a first team regular in the Manchester United starting eleven. It got even better for Rafael as he scored one of the goals of the season against Arsenal at the Emirates, volleying the ball home at an angle into the left hand corner.

His efforts on the field didn’t go unnoticed as Rafael was named in the running for the PFA Young player of the year award only to be beaten by then Aston Villa midfielder Ashley Young and was rewarded with a 2 year contract extension for his magnificent season,  it couldn’t really have gone much better for the Brazilian.

It wasn’t particularly his defensive attributes which stood out, it was his work rate and ability to go forward on the ball which was so eye catching. When he received the ball you expected things to happen and it was only a real crying shame he didn’t build on his superb debut season and become a legend here.

Maybe the expectations were too high, maybe we put too much pressure on him but following season it just wasn’t the same Rafael we had seen flourish so well previously. By no means did he have a bad campaign, but it just didn’t meet the heights of his debut season, we were left wanting more from him. Flaws in Rafael’s game too were starting to creep in. With in particular the stand out moment coming against Bayern Munich at Old Trafford in the quarter finals of the UEFA Champions League where in a moment of madness Rafael received two bookings either side of half time and was sent off as United crashed out the Champions league. Many to this day rightly or wrongly still blame for the Brazilian for the clubs exit from the Champions League that season, it was a moment that proved a real turning point in the Brazilians Old Trafford career.

As the following seasons went by Rafael continued to be in and out of the clubs starting eleven with again the same old problems reoccurring. Despite how well Rafael went forward, his defending the other way remained questionable. If you where to ask any United fan hand on heart do you trust Rafael defensively, it would be an unfortunate No, you just couldn’t trust him, especially in the bigger games.

However it wasn’t all doom and gloom, far from it in fact. Rafael went on to play a significant role in the clubs historic 20th league title (2012/13) where he again became a first team regular in the side, with arguably the stand out moment coming against arch rivals Liverpool at Anfield, where he delightfully curled the ball into the far left hand corner giving the goalkeeper all but no chance levelling the game up at 1-1 as United went on to grab a vital 2-1 victory, he followed that up months later and delivered another contender for goal of the season against Queens Park Rangers where he emphatically smashed the ball home. It could be argued that this was just as impressive, if not better than his debut season for the club, he was Brilliant from start to finish.

The Brazilians final seasons at Old Trafford if truth be told turned to be a bit of a non event, much similar to team on the field under the reigns of David Moyes and Louis Van Gaal, with Rafael more often than not finding himself on the substitutes bench.

The curtain was finally brought down on his Old Trafford career last summer, where after much speculation it was announced he would be would joining Lyon. It marked the end of an era between the Brazilian and the United faithful.

You cant help but feel given all of his ability and talent he could have been our first choice full back for many years to come, Its only a crying shame that this didn’t happen because we all know deep down it probably should have done.

 

That Boy Ronaldo

It seems almost a lifetime ago since Cristiano Ronaldo first burst onto the scene,  I am sure many of you will be familiar with the story. Manchester United played Sporting Lisbon in a pre season friendly back in August 2003, when a certain Portuguese teenager announced himself to the footballing world.

Its not often you embarrass the whole Manchester United defence, but Ronaldo did exactly that. It was clear he had something special in those football boots and it wasn’t too long later, when Sir Alex Ferguson signed up Ronaldo in a 12 .24 Million pound deal.

Right from the off Ronaldo looked at home, yes he wasn’t the finished article far from it in fact, but there was little doubt Ronaldo would go on and become one of the worlds best, it was just a matter time. His debut against Bolton Wanderers is still highly remembered amongst the United faithful , as he lit up Old Trafford with his dribbling and trickery on the ball .Even when simply receiving the ball at his feet, the crowd were up in anticipation off there seats waiting for something special to happen.

As his early seasons at the club wore on, inconsistency and his decision making in the final third remained an issue, with more often than not Ronaldo opting for the for the fancy step overs instead of a pass. The trickery was fascinating to watch, but it had to be at the right times in games not just for the sake of it. The clubs struggle on the field too probably didn’t help Ronaldo, as United fell short of Mourinho’s Chelsea side in 2005 and 2006. It wouldn’t be till the summer of 2006 where the real transition of Ronaldo would take place.

His incident with then team mate Wayne Rooney during the World Cup of 2006 will live long in the memory for really all the wrong reasons really. Ronaldo seemed to play a key role in Wayne Rooney getting sent off. This was arguably one of the most crucial moments in his career. The abuse aimed at the Portuguese star was shades if not just as intense as David Beckham back at the 1998 World Cup after getting sent off vs Argentina. Would he stay and prove the doubters wrong at Old Trafford or should he take the cowardly option out and leave the club to seek a move abroad, fortunately for Ronaldo he stayed and well, the rest is history.

The following season we witnessed the complete transition of Cristiano Ronaldo, the waiting was over. The season 2006/07 was the season Ronaldo established himself as one of the worlds best. After starting emphatically against Fulham at Old Trafford he didn’t look back. No defender in the land or Europe could handle him. If I had to pick one moment which defined him that season, it would be his sensational solo goal vs Fulham which all but clinched the Premier League for Manchester United. Everything he touched turned to gold, opposition defenders just couldn’t handle him. He ended the campaign scoring a total of 23 goals, his personal best so far.

If the season 2006/07 was the stuff dreams are made of, then the 2007/08 campaign would be something out of this world. Ronaldo reigned supreme, scoring in all a whopping total of 42 goals in all competitions helping Manchester United win the Premier League and the UEFA Champions League. It was like something I had never witnessed before, almost like we had our very own Hollywood superstar at the club, he became more than just a football player, As Viva Ronaldo echoed around Old Trafford it became a privilege to go Old Trafford each week. This isn’t to say the others players played there role, as without any doubt United had one, if not the strongest squad in Europe that season, but Ronaldo was that special one, the one you would just pay to watch him play by himself.

Its hard to narrow down particular moments throughout the campaign as there are so many to choose from, but if I had to pick just one it would have to be that stunning free kick against Portsmouth at Old Trafford. The game itself may not go down as one of the most memorable games at Old Trafford but his free kick almost certainly will. After placing the ball down and seemingly just about close to enough to have an attempt on goal, what was to come next I doubt many would have expected coming. Ronaldo managed to emphatically provide not just power but a particular on the ball as it flew into the top right hand corner, almost perfectly. It wasn’t just a contender for goal of the season, it was a contender for goal of the century.

After having a slow start the following campaign it was much again the same from Ronaldo and Manchester United as they led the way to another Premier League.  From April onwards Ronaldo took it upon himself to almost single handed win United games on his own. Much similar to the previous seasons when the big games came Ronaldo didn’t disappoint. From moments such as his stunning 40 yard long range goal vs Porto in the 2nd leg of the Champions League quarter finals, to his superb display against Tottenham Hotspur at Old Trafford helping United score 5 goals in one entire half ,It was only a crying shame that it ended with a defeat to Barcelona in the Champions league Final, this was to be the last time we witnessed Ronaldo in a Manchester United shirt.

It was almost inevitable Real Madrid would come calling for Ronaldo when finally news came through on June 11th 2009, that the club had accepted a world record fee of £80 Million pounds for the Portuguese star.

It marked the end of an era, a love affair if you like between the United faithful and Ronaldo who had taken him in like one of our own, yes have may have left nearly 7 years ago but the memories remain as ever present in the hearts of Manchester United fans.

Guardiola Joins City – What Next For United?

So Manchester City have finally confirmed the world’s worst kept secret and announced that outgoing Bayern Munich manager Pep Guardiola will take over the reigns at The Ethiad from next season. The question is, with Manchester City now going for broke, how can Manchester United counteract what could effectively prove to be checkmate?

My initial reaction to the news that Guardiola had made Manchester City his next venture was one of anger. As I let it sink it, it was still anger. How could Manchester United, the biggest club in the world lose out on the most sought-after coach in world football? Worse still, how could they lose out to the ‘noisy neighbours’? Whichever way one looks at it, this could prove to be the biggest and most fatal error made by Ed Woodward. Manchester City have everything in place to dominate European football for years to come whilst Woodward’s blind faith in Louis Van Gaal could leave United playing catch up.

Manchester City have been ruthless. Nobody agreed with the sacking of Mark Hughes and the treatment of Pelligrini has echoes of that that Sparky endured at the beginning of their takeover. However, what City have recognised is that the capture of Guardiola is a significant one. Pellegrini has, without doubt, been a success at City and could still end this season with four trophies. It would seem, at first glance certainly, that outing the Chilean is incredibly harsh and winning at least one of those trophies would back that fact up. However, Guardiola is worth taking that risk. United, and Woodward in particular, have once again failed by failing to act quickly.

Pellegrini has won two trophies in two seasons at City, whilst over at Old Trafford Louis Van Gaal can’t get a win over Bournemouth. The truth of the matter is that, with Louis Van Gaal in charge, United cannot expect to get anywhere near a Manchester City side with Guardiola at the helm. In truth, with Van Gaal in charge, United can’t get anywhere near a Leicester side with Claudio Ranieri in charge.

The way I see it is that United are now left with no choice. United now need to follow their neighbours lead and chase the next best thing…Jose Mourinho. I get the reasons not to appoint him, I really do. His lack of use of youth players is a real worry, and the one reason I would have picked Guardiola over him. The other reason, the one many United fans have voiced concern over, is one that I cannot get my head around. Negative football. Ok, yes, Mourinho plays a brand of football that is not particularly pleasing on the eye. However, is it any worse than what we are witnessing right now? The answer is of course no. The difference is that it is effective. LVG currently plays negative football, we all know that by now, but the end result is not one that Mourinho will achieve.

And then there is the one big fact, the one that cannot be ignored under any circumstance. Who is the only manager to stop Pep Guardiola winning a league title? You guessed it…Jose Mourinho.

Dimitar Berbatov, The Flawed Genius

As the clock ticked towards midnight on transfer deadline day back in the Summer of 2008, emotions amongst the United faithful were running high. Would we be signing Dimitar Berbatov from Tottenham Hotspur? That was the question on everyone’s lips.

Finally with only hours to spare footage of the Bulgarian appeared at Old Trafford which appeared to show the forward walking across the Old Trafford corridor with David Gill and Sir Alex Ferguson. It looked like after months of speculation that we had finally got our man and it wasn’t too long later before it was officially announced,” Manchester United have completed the signing of Dimitar Berbatov for a club record fee of £30.75 Million pounds.”

There can be no doubt Berbatov divided opinion during his stay at Old Trafford, he was one of those players you either loved or hated, there didn’t seem no middle ground. From moments such as scoring a sensational hat trick vs Liverpool Old Trafford to missing a crucial Semi Final spot kick vs Everton at Wembley. Consistency remained an issue throughout the Bulgarians stay at Old Trafford, however one cannot deny that when at his full flowing best, there have been few better technical players than Berbatov to have ever graced the Old Trafford turf.

Comparisons to Eric Cantona and having the whopping price tag on his shoulders may have in my opinion had held Berbatov back somewhat in his early days at United and could be the reason why we never really seen his true colours until his third season at the club where he finally looked settled. By no means am I saying he was flopping at the club, we just expected more from him.

His debut season wasn’t all bad after all, from it in fact. After setting up then United forward Carlos Tevez’s goal at Anfield, Berbatov continued his impressive form netting 4 in Europe ( against Aalborg and Celtic) and provided us with a touch of Magic against West Ham United at Old Trafford with a stunning spin/ turn down the by-line. Crucial Winners followed against Middlesbrough, Bolton, and Newcastle in the league keeping United top of the chasing pack. Assists became a plenty as Berbatov finished the campaign with the Legaue’s most assists (11) and in all scored a total of 14 goals, as United won yet another Premier League title.

The departure of Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez before the start of the 2009/10 season hit the club hard and it was always going to be a difficult campaign for not just Berbatov but for the club in general, as United adapted to life without their former Superstar in Ronaldo. This for me was his most disappointing out of the 4 seasons he gave us. Despite promising glimpses scoring against Wigan Athletic and a wonderful solo goal vs Portsmouth, the Bulgarian’s confidences looked down and more often than not found himself on the substitutes bench when the big games came calling, as Wayne Rooney flourished playing in the lone striker role. His disappointing season was rounded off at Ewood Park where Berbatov failed to deliver as United drew 0-0 against Blackburn Rovers handing the Title to Chelsea.

Berbatov’s 3rd season would be the one where we would finally get to see the Real Dimitar Berbatov, the Berbatov that we all know and love. It couldn’t have started any better scoring against Chelsea in the community shield with a delightful lob over the goal keeper, then scoring against Newcastle United at Old Trafford on the opening day before again netting against West Ham with a beautiful bicycle lick, however the best was yet to come. Berbatov became the first United player in 64 years to score a hat trick against arch rivals Liverpool including scoring one of the goals of the season with an outrageous overhead kick, it was the stuff dreams are made of. He followed that up a few months later with a unbelievable display against Blackburn Rovers where the Bulgarian ran the show netting 5 goals and really should have scored 6 if it wasn’t for Paul Robinson, Berbatov was just brilliant. It may have only been Blackburn but that performance remains one of the finest individual performances I have ever seen. Another hat trick came against Birmingham City, followed by another  2 crucial goals as United’s defeated Blackpool 3-2.

The emergence of Javier Hernandez towards the end of the season, limited the Bulgarian’s playing time, but when given the chance Berbatov didn’t disappoint and took his opportunity with both hands scoring the winner against Bolton Wanderers at Old Trafford and netting against Fulham, finishing the season as the clubs top goal scorer in all competitions (21) and shared the Premier League Golden Boot with Manchester City forward Carlos Tevez (20) as United won their 19th Premier League title.

Berbatov’s 4th and final season at the club never really got going, with more often than not the Bulgarian finding himself sitting on the substitutes bench as Sir Alex Ferguson opted for a more youthful approach. Still when called upon he delivered and in particular flourished overt he festive period netting a hat trick against Wigan Athletic and scoring 2 in United’s 3-2 defeat to Blackburn Rovers. His final goal came with a penalty kick against Stoke City at the Theatre of dreams.

His time at Manchester United finally came to an end on the 31st August 2012, where after much speculation, he finally joined Fulham for an undisclosed fee.

He may not have lived up to expectations during his stay at Old Trafford, but he left us with many magical moments that will live on for years to come in the hearts of Manchester United fans.

Thanks for the Memories Dimitar

Nemanja Vidic, Skipper, Leader, Legend

When Sir Alex Ferguson brought then unknown Serbian Centre back Nemanja Vidic to Old Trafford during the January transfer window of 2006, you could have forgiven Sir Alex for thinking he may have made a mistake in signing the Serbian, after witnessing his new centre back get off a shaky start to his Manchester United career.

The doubts raised were not just around Vidic, but too for fellow team mate Patrice Evra as the club looked to win back the league title from then Champions Chelsea. What was to follow was nothing short of incredible as Vidic became arguably one of Sir Alex Fergusons finest signings during his managerial career at Old Trafford, going on to play a crucial role from the back , as Manchester United climbed to the peak of not just English football but World Football.

During Vidic’s time at the club, he won virtually everything there was to win in the game both on the pitch and off the pitch. On the pitch he won 5 Premier League titles, (2007,2008,2009,2011,2013)  One European Cup (2008), 3 League Cups (2006,2009,2010) and to top it off One Club World Cup back in 2008. Off the pitch his efforts were recognised as he on many occasions was named Manchester United’s player of the season and was named Premier League player of the season.

His Partnership formed with team mate Rio Ferdinand in particular was sensational. The pair became a solid rock at the back stopping everything that got in their path and with Edwin Van De Sar in goal, it was easy to recognize why United were at the peak of World Football. Yes the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney, Carlos Tevez may have grabbed the headline’s but Vidic and Ferdinand’s contribution was just as important if not more.

He wasn’t just noted for his defending either, he became a real nuisance for the opposition at the 0ther end of the pitch.  Not many centre backs out there can boast a record of scoring 21 goals in their career. Moments such as scoring the winner against Everton at Goodsion Park to scoring a vital header in the Champions League against Inter Milan, when the big occasion came Vidic didn’t go missing.

If I had to pick the years where Vidic was the peak of his powers it would be between 2007-2011. There was no defender on the planet who could touch him, week in week out he delivered outstanding performance’s on a regular basis. When you seen his name on the team sheet you just couldn’t see Manchester United conceding a goal, he was that good!

Vidic’s consistent performances for Manchester United eventually led to him been given the captains armband, which was handed over to him back in 2010. This was a responsibility Vidic excelled at where under his leadership United went on to win 2 Premier League Titles (2011,2013) In many respects he didn’t really need the captains armband, his leadership on the field was always ever present, but for Sir Alex to hand over the armband to him just shows how highly he recognised him.

Of course just like anything good it has to come to an end eventually and when Sir Alex Ferguson left Old Trafford for the last time back in May 2013, so in reality did Vidic. He may have been ever present under then new Manager David Moyes but he just wasn’t the same player, The Vidic we all knew had gone and he wasn’t coming back as the club went into transition.

Despite leaving the club in somewhat negative circumstances, his legacy at the club will live on forever amongst the Old Trafford faithful. He quite easily ranks as one of the finest Centre backs I have ever witnessed in football and I am sure even people 30,40 even 50 years older than myself, would say the exact same thing, he really was something special.

vidic

Adnan Januzaj – Could He Be The Man To Answer LVG’s SOS?

Adnan Januzaj…remember him? You know, the 20-year-old Belgian wonderkid. Yes, of course you do. Well, he’s back, and ready to answer Louis Van Gaal’s SOS (Save Our Season).

It’s been a bit of a roller-coaster ride for Adnan Januzaj since he broke into the first team squad in 2013. An unused substitute in Sir Alex Ferguson’s final game for the club, the youngster became the one major plus point of David Moyes’ ill-fated reign the season following, with some even claiming that he could be the new Cristiano Ronaldo (well, that was me). However, it is fair to say that since Louis Van Gaal took over at the club his progress has been, well, mooted at best.

Used sparingly during Van Gaal’s first season in charge, Januzaj actually began this campaign by starting four of the opening five fixtures, scoring the winner against Aston Villa in the second game of the season. However, after a disappointing 45 minutes against Club Brugge in the Champions League Second Leg Qualifier, LVG decided to let the club’s new number 11 leave on loan and he headed to Germany to join Borussia Dortmund (despite much Premier League interest). Later, Van Gaal admitted that he would have preferred it if Januzaj had stayed in England, hinting that had he joined a ‘lesser club’, his opportunities may have been more frequent. As it turns out, on this occasion, he was right.

It is fair to say that Januzaj’s time in Dortmund has been a disaster. With only three starts, all of which came in the Europa League, United have made a collective decision that recalling the attacker would be the best option, and it could prove to be a timely addition. After all, Januzaj is a favourite amongst the fans having risen through the ranks and it is no secret that the club likes to see ‘one of their own’ go on to achieve success.

Januzaj can be one of those frustrating figures. It is plain to see that he has bags of potential, potential that could see him turn into a truly great player if he is nurtured right. Arguably, LVG halted that progress last season with his reluctance to utilise him. However, it is no secret that attacking options are at an all-time low right now, with Anthony Martial and Wayne Rooney the only experienced attackers in the squad. Currently, Juan Mata is the man preferred on the right wing, with Martial on the left and Rooney playing down the middle. Mata, in my humble opinion, is wasted on the right with a lack of pace and a natural instinct that often sees him drift towards the middle. Januzaj, however, on the right wing, coupled with Marital on the left, would offer pace on both flanks.

Currently, United have scored only 24 league goals in 20 games. Januzaj may not score bags of goals (although he can certainly chip in), but he can create. I, for one, applaud the decision to bring him back to the club. I only hope that he is given the opportunity to elevate himself and this weekends game against Sheffield United could be the perfect stepping stone.