Category Archives: Guest Blog

GUEST BLOG: Learning to trust the (Man)ager I once resented

May 27, 2016. The day José Mourinho was announced as the new manager of Manchester United. This was the day he was entrusted with the responsibility to breathe air, into a distraught bunch of players and fans alike.

For the life of me I could not get my head around this! We were signing, Jose; a Manager who had effectively been booted out by Chelsea, our rivals, after publicly falling out with the team with whom, the “Special One” had won the Premiership just a year previous.

Jose Mourinho celebrated winning the Premier League with Chelsea in 2015 (Picture: Eurosport.com)

To me, the world was not making sense anymore and so it took me a while to swallow this pill. After all, I was suddenly at the receiving end, and all my previous critiques about this manager were being smashed right back at me.

The thing that further annoyed me was at that point we were an open wound, the stab left by SAF’s departure was still deep & the disaster called Moyes, along with the preposterous reign of LVG had just rubbed salt on it and now we were again placing our faith in another boisterous personality. I did not have much hope and such was the beginning of a tempestuous journey.

Jose Mourinho and Sir Alex Ferguson (Picture: thesun.co.uk)
Many believe that Mourinho should have succeeded Sir Alex (Picture: thesun.co.uk)

Not that his previous laurels were insufficient, but to be fair our manager started out with a bang, winning over most of the naysayers with the conquests in his first transfer window with the club. He couldn’t have made a better statement, bagging the likes of Mkhitaryan, Pogba & Zlatan, that too without a berth in Champions League.

A force had arrived at Old Trafford, something that definitely had not been felt in a long time and I would have been a fool to not sit up and take notice, but I still had my reservations.

Paul Pogba (Picture: e-spaces.eu)
Mourinho played a big part in the re-signing of Pogba (Picture: e-spaces.eu)

The first few games were exciting & we were actually playing well, something that was a sight for sore eyes. But then came the inevitable hiccups, the Schweinsteiger episode left a bad taste in the mouth of many and I for one was certainly not happy to see a player, whom I had loved growing up, being treated the way he was.

These setbacks were perhaps inevitable, not so because of the Manager himself, but probably more because of the arsenal at his disposal. The lack of depth and quality of our squad was something that was clearly being exposed, and this reality was slowly dawning upon me.

Bastian Schweinsteiger comes on for United (Picture: thescore.com)
Fans were unhappy at the lack of game time Schweinsteiger was afforded (Picture: thescore.com)

As the season progressed, it was a sine-wave of a journey, with many a high’s and equally woeful lows. The second half of the premiership season was probably as bad as it could get, with the Chelsea Master class perhaps the only thing I would want to look back at.

The rumblings had begun, but it was impossible to dismiss the fact, that our Manager was trying his best, with a limited set of resources to salvage whatever was left of our season and more importantly end it on a high.

Meanwhile, though still not extremely happy to place all our eggs in the UEFA Cup basket, I was slowly coming around to #InJoseWeTrust. The trust did pay off and we went on to lift the UEFA Europa Cup! However this season was not yet over and a final chapter was being simultaneously written. A Chapter called Farewell Wayne Rooney.

https://www.footballtransfertavern.com/premiership/rooney-to-everton-the-potential-new-look-toffees-attack-next-season/
Mourinho allowed Wayne Rooney to leave for boyhood club Everton (Picture: footballtransfertavern.com)

Perhaps a chapter for which Jose would always be fondly remembered for. One of the icons of a generation that was perhaps a final reminder of Sir Alex Fergusson’s era was finally leaving. We all knew it was inevitable, we had all seen it coming, but we never knew it would be so classy!!! Those last minutes given to Wayne Rooney in the finals of UEFA Europa League was a send-off befitting the player he had been for us!

Jose had managed to pull off something incredible. He had silently over a season, transitioned a player of Rooney’s stature out of the playing XI, making it one of the smoothest exits we as a club had ever witnessed.

With that our Manager left no doubt in my mind that he had indeed been the best man for the job, all along. He had proved that he was ready to take tough decisions, he was more than prepared to fight, and more than anything else that he had a voracious appetite to win!!

Jose Mourinho holding a Manchester United scarf ahead of the new season (Picture: skysports.com)
#InJoseWeTrust (Picture: skysports.com)

For me our new season begins now with us turning over a new leaf. We still have a long way to go, and these are uncharted waters, but the addition of players like Lindelof, Lukaku, Matic, the exuberance of young players like J & A Pereira, Tunazebe, Fosu-Mensah & the return of players like Luke Shaw and Rojo to our squad will only make it stronger.

As far as I am concerned, I may not still always agree with all the decisions our manager takes but now In Jose I truly Trust!!! Now more than ever am packed with optimism and am eagerly looking forward to our next season as we set forth again to make history!! Glory Glory Man United!!

By Aishwarya Kala
Twitter Handle: @aishwaryakala13
Blog: aishwaryakala.wordpress.com

GUEST BLOG: Why Paul Pogba has been a success this season

Back in August 2016, the now most expensive football player Paul Pogba, 24, signed for English giants Manchester United penning a five-year deal.

The transfer reached record numbers of £89 million surpassing the numbers of the former most expensive football player Gareth Bale who signed for Real Madrid.

Paul Pogba was described as “one of the best players in the world” by his current coach Jose Mourinho and he had expectations of Pogba being a “key part of the United team”.

With Manchester United being one of the most hated clubs in the Premier League, Pogba was bound to get A LOT of stick for any little mistake he made, rightly so, right? Well, not necessarily.

This season was the season where the club began to build a foundation, bringing in players for the future, we knew it’d take some time for the players to gel.

Paul finished the season with nine goals and five assists in all competitions. He scored five in the Premier League, three in the Europa League and one in the League Cup. Four of his five assists came in the Premier League, the other being in the Europa League.

Now those stats don’t look impressive for the world’s most expensive football player, do they? No, no they don’t. However, let me show you why Paul Pogba has been more beneficial than most people think.

In the past two seasons not counting the one just passed, United have been lacklustre in an attacking sense creating just 391 chances in the first season of the Louis Van Gaal era and only 312 chances in the second season.

It’s a different story for Mourinho’s men, they created 447 chances with Pogba being the most influential player creating 54 chances, the most from any Manchester United Player.

Manchester United have created more but scored less this season than the past two seasons. A huge amount of chances created by Pogba were wasted and this resulted in a small number of assists for him.

Paul created more chances this season than he did his previous season but Dybala was more prolific and could convert more often than the Manchester United Strikers.

Pogba scored more goals in the Serie A last season than in the Premier League this season, this was due to him playing a deeper role and not being given the freedom in a more advanced role. It also wouldn’t have helped that he hit the woodwork 9 times in all competitions by April.

When the winter season came along, Paul spoke to SFR SPORT and said that his role as a midfielder is “not to score” and that he has “a lot of work” such as “winning back possession” and to “dictate play” which he done to an acceptable standard.

He won 41 tackles and completed 1812 successful passes, that’s 413 more successful passes than last season where he played 410 minutes more which results to roughly 5 games.

Pogba was able to help United defensively making 44 clearances and 42 interceptions. This contributed to United having a strong defence all season and having 17 clean sheets, joint most with second in the table Tottenham Hotspur, much better than the first season in the LVG era where we only had 11 clean sheets.

Although we had more clean sheets in the second season with LVG we conceded 35 goals. This is when you notice the positive impact Pogba had on United this season and performed better than most thought.

Whatever you may think of Pogba, he will always be a world-class player who will continue to prove many people wrong. His haircuts, dabs, celebrations and banter will continue and so will his playing ability, it’s time people stopped being so critical all the time and started to appreciate the talent.

Tweet me on twitter and tell me your opinions regarding Paul Pogba this season. @nerual80

GUEST BLOG: David De Gea Would Have Started the Europa League Final, if it happened in America

[Note: Most of this was written before the Final was played, and has been edited to reflect the past tense nature of the game being over, and thankfully won.]

Watching all the coverage as we headed towards the Europa League final, with the knowledge that Sergio Romero was starting over David De Gea, I was struck with the realization that this would never happen in the United States. Maybe we just do things differently here. After all, we grew up playing sports, influenced by Vince Lombardi’s “Winning is Everything,” and Leo Durocher’s “Nice Guys finish Last.” In modern times Herm Edwards became immortal with “YOU PLAY TO WIN THE GAME!”

This is all so foreign. There is no reality where the New England Patriots decide to start the backup quarterback over Tom Brady in a playoff game. There is no reality where the San Francisco Giants chose someone other than Madison Bumgarner to start a one game playoff. LeBron James isn’t going to sit out a playoff game, even if heavily fatigued. You go with your best players. Even players who are going to leave the team in the offseason.

Maybe what bothered me most was Mourinho’s assertion that De Gea understood the situation. Why didn’t De Gea fight for that spot? Why weren’t the other players fighting for De Gea to start? Where were the owners? This is worth millions of whatever currency you choose.

How secure must Jose be? There is not a coach or manager in America that would even consider such a thing. Because a loss in that situation is a ticket out of town. ESPN would melt down and the internet would explode in a fiery mass of unadulterated rage. You just couldn’t do it here.

I sit here having loved soccer (sorry, that’s what it’s called here…) since I started playing it 45 years ago. I love football (‘Merican football that is) and basketball, and baseball is my undying passion, but I am drawn to soccer. Yet I wonder if it is situations such as this that causes my entire country to balk at the sport. Things like this happen all the time. Player doesn’t like his contract, team stops playing him until transfer window.

The FIFA video game franchise has this locked down. Ever have this scenario? 1) E-mail from certain player who wants to discuss wages… 2) You offer a new contract… 3) Player turns down contract because he wants to leave at end of contract. Wait – I thought you wanted more money? 4) Player sends message saying, ‘Don’t think you can’t play me, I’ll still try hard.’

How is this even a valid thought? In America, there’s never a thought given that a guy might not play hard because he’s unhappy with where he’s at – YOU PLAY TO WIN THE GAME! – and truth be told, in the four major American sports, football, basketball, baseball and hockey, 97% of the players playing these sports had no choice where they began their careers.

So maybe we’re used to maybe not being where we want to be and still giving it all. As an example, 5 of the New England Patriots starting 22 players, and 17 players on the 50ish man squad were to become Free Agents the next day. The Chicago Cubs placed all their eggs in the Aroldis Chapman basket in the 7th game of the World Series, knowing he was a Free Agent the next day. Maybe he even knew he was going straight back to the New York Yankees… there was no hesitation on anybody’s part to use someone else. He is the best they had. And YOU PLAY TO WIN THE GAME.

This filled me with trepidation as the final began. Every ball into the box. And I even feel Romero is probably a good enough Goal Keeper to win the Premier League given a better all-around squad. Not that it worried me as much as Fellaini starting, given that I was certain he would turn Harpo Marx at the worst moment, as he did twice versus Everton this year. It is in his nature. It is in his hair.

David De Gea has silly hair too, but he should have started the Europa League final. In America he would, 1000% of the time. Hands down. It wouldn’t even be a hint of a discussion.

By Paul Morrison

GUEST BLOG: ‘Last chance saloon’ for Luke Shaw?

Whether it sits morally right with you or not, Jose Mourinho has made his issues with left back Luke Shaw very public and for all to see.

Jose has not pulled any punches when it comes to criticising Shaw. Often complaining about his “lack of effort”, something about Luke clearly doesn’t sit right with Jose, it was even stated that Shaw was behind Matteo Darmian in the team pecking order.

After previously been criticised early on in the season, it seemed that the two had possibly put things aside despite the fact that Shaw wasn’t starting, but things have recently reignited.

But does the problem stick with Luke Shaw? No. I believe that there is more to it than that. Manchester United have not pulled up their socks this season in general, and despite being unbeaten in the Premier League since October (at this point in time) United have been failing to rack up the points which has clearly frustrated Mourinho.

Considering that Shaw signed with United back in 2014 for £30 million, many questions started surfacing as to why he wasn’t playing and I believe that Luke Shaw is a prime example of what Manchester United have been as an entirety this season, expensive yet not putting in enough work.

We can argue whether or not Shaw has been putting in a good enough shift but we don’t see a lot of what goes on in training and behind the scenes at United, so it would be unfair to make a judgement purely based on that.

So, if you look at Shaw’s on pitch record since his painful double leg break back in 2015 has appeared little over 10 times with nothing particularly concrete to take away from it, and that is part of what is frustrating to United fans and Jose Mourinho alike.

This can easily be linked in similarity to United’s overall performances, despite being given chances, not delivering. I can see what Jose is trying to do, with most of the bigger players such as Ibrahimovic, De Gea and Mata consistently delivering, the background players have to take more responsibility and it seems that Shaw epitomises the lack of effort from those players?

Is Mourinho going too harsh on Shaw? The general consensus between many United fans (myself included) is that in part, yes he has. The issue of his “lack of effort” didn’t need to become a public matter, as it will of course knock the confidence of Shaw which could cause a domino effect with other players constantly looking over their shoulders.

The latter would make sense as when you watch United’s more recent matches, each player seems more panicky and less accurate when passing the ball.

Things do seem to be picking up though, Jose recently praised Shaw for his performance against Sunderland after a 3-0 victory. Saying to Sky Sports “It was a very solid performance.” and that Shaw “Was confident on the ball.” So whatever happens, it appears that the Shaw/Mourinho problem may be heading into the right direction.

By James Babington
Follow me: @BabingtonJames

GUEST BLOG: Mourinho brings cool heads but plenty of heart to United

As we come to the halfway point of the season, the English Premier League takes a brief sojourn to accommodate two of our older footballing institutions – the F.A. and EFL Cup competitions. A brutal 4-0 dispatching of Reading on Saturday brought about United’s eighth successive win (including six in the EPL), our best run since 2009.

If all goes accordingly, Tuesday’s EFL cup match against Hull should be number nine. It’s easy to lose ourselves in the definitive nature of facts, especially when what they actually represent may not be significant or representative of the real picture. That being said; this is our best run in eight years, and I don’t think there’s a fan out there who can deny that we’re seeing is the return of confidence, positive play and swagger.

It may be tempting fate to ponder what might be heading our way in 2017/18. Yes, this season may have come too soon for tangible success, but the blueprints are being laid every week. The nature of the recent wins over Middlesbrough and West Ham are testaments to the new (old?) spirit this side has dragged from within itself.

Quite simply, this squad would have dropped points in both of those games last season. To their credit, previously inconsistent performers have stepped up massively so far this season, and it is hard to look beyond Van Gaal’s departure as the instigation. Suddenly, a squad so devoid of leadership and motivation last season finds itself being consistently marshalled and harried by the likes of Herrera, Ibrahimovic, Pogba, Carrick and a rejuvenated Wayne Rooney.

Without a doubt we are reaping the benefits of a more relaxed dressing-room culture promoted by the manager, providing a total U-turn from the last two seasons. The squad’s big personalities have reinstated their positions and seem bursting with passion for our team again. That, for me, is the most noticeable change. Our players look up for every challenge, and throughout our draw-spell in October/November it was a question of when, not if the performances would yield reward.

The desire to win was there, but individual errors and plain bad luck denied us the point tally we arguably deserve. It’s easy to overlook and underrate our season so far, but if we’d have held out in the aforementioned draws (an arguable ten point swing), 49 points puts us level with Chelsea.

As an initial (only slight) sceptic of Mourinho taking the reins at our club, I’m delighted to say that my doubts were, as of yet, entirely misplaced. He’s delivering dynamic football (more clinical in both boxes than free-flowing in the middle); his signings have so far all been qualified successes by addressing problem areas in the squad. My only discrepancy would be how seemingly unwilling he is to implement talented youngsters such as Fosu-Mensah and Tuanzebe.

It’s arguable that both of these players would do better jobs than some of the senior ‘deadwood’ we have floating around the squad. Ashley Young makes consistently decent showings at right-back and his devotion to the cause should be commended, but surely against Reading Fosu-Mensah could have been trusted for the 90 minutes? As I said earlier though, this remains a minor criticism – Mourinho might simply be ensuring results in this most crucial of seasons; the long game can wait until solid foundations have been laid.

As per the manager earlier in the season: “I knew when I took over that periods of domination belong to the past.” His forecast is undoubtedly right. The wealth of talent and finances available to the top clubs ensures that the EPL will become an even more staggeringly competitive league – already the most in world football.

Opening up a healthy first-leg lead against Hull this Tuesday could all but ensure an EFL cup final, which although won’t be high on most United fan’s list of priorities, it represents the rising tide of momentum we’ve developed. A win on Sunday against Liverpool at the Theatre of Dreams would put earlier dismissals of a title challenge well and firmly to bed. The match-up is delicately poised; United are gelling at just the right time, but Liverpool’s impressive forward line might just represent the toughest test of the season for Phil Jones and co. A win against the Scousers would be a surging display of intent from United, firmly planting a yardstick for our progress.

Win, and who knows what this season could actually hold – top four minimum would be made to seem unambitious. The alternative? I’m not even considering it – we have exactly what it takes and more to deal with Liverpool. Hopefully come Sunday, the hugs will all come courtesy of one J. Mourinho.

By Zak Wilkinson.

GUEST BLOG: Deadwood the biggest problem at United

I am sitting here, trying to reflect on an incredibly disappointing result against Everton and distinguish the defining characteristic of Manchester United’s repeated inability to close the gap toward the top four Champions League births. How did we manage to capitulate for the umpteenth time this season? Put simply, it’s because as many of us have realised there is a lot of Deadwood on our televisions and I don’t mean we’re seeing a great deal of Timothy Olyphant and the TV Show on repeat. No instead of Olyphant we are treated to the Elephant or Marouane Fellaini as his given name would have us refer to him as.

Mourinho has proven once and for all that he is not a miracle worker. Calls for him to be sacked are premature to say the least, as he has not had the luxury of the numerous transfer windows to bring in the top quality replacements we are so obviously crying out for. However, the decision to prevent young, eager saplings (youth products, such as Fosu Mensah) flourishing whilst retaining faith in the termite infested oaks such as Fellaini is absolutely stupefying. In football terms, Jose was attempting to weather the storm as the tremendous wind of Everton’s attack came crashing repeatedly against us. Instead of heading for the safe harbour of dependable beeches (Blind or Bailly), Jose opted to utilise the creaking oak (Fellaini) and paid the price for this most awry assessment of the situation.

Fellaini, by no means, is the only player who can attract criticism and accusations of not being of sufficient quality to merit his United squad place. If anything, the two centre backs Jones and Rojo are among the primary candidates to be shipped out by the club in the next couple of transfer windows. Perhaps now as I write this with a calmer and more retrospective viewpoint, a draw was a rather fortuitous result given that the latter somehow escaped a straight red for his horrific, two footed lunge in the 17th minute. Similarly Jones, despite being a tall and physically imposing centre half seems to get out jumped far too easily, most notably by Olivier Giroud and Enner Valencia in recent matches.

Starting with two centre backs that always appear to have a mistake in them is symptomatic of Manchester United’s problems with true squad depth and quality if injuries surmount. For his part, there were rumours that Jose had realised the defensive frailty he had inherited in the summer and that the acquisition of Jose Fonte of Southampton was one he was attempting to secure in the latter stages of the summer’s transfer window. Sadly, the intended transfer didn’t materialise and despite assertions to the contrary, a plethora of injuries have ravaged the defensive line leaving us tremendously exposed at the back. It should be noted that, the lack of clean sheets this season means that even against the most average of attacking teams, who can string together barely a couple of chances, we look likely to haemorrhage goals and points at any moment.

Looking further forward, the reliance on several key elder statesmen seems extremely myopic and replacing Michael Carrick and Wayne Rooney in the near future seems an essential component of securing a more vivacious, youthful side. Although Jose has revitalised Wayne Rooney, shown through a couple of excellent performances over the last month, the team should not have to rely on these older players, and cannot, should we hope to retain our place as England’s biggest and most successful club. Furthermore, our key players need to retain their discipline as the suspensions for Ibrahimovic, Pogba and Rooney over the last month or so have severely hampered our chances of finding a successful formula to winning successive games with some of their deadwood replacements.

A key example of this type of replacement is Jesse Lingard. He is a player who is all effort and willing running but lacks the productivity and skill to perform at the highest level. His record, as of the moment of writing this article, for Manchester United, reads as 33 appearances and 4 goals in the Premier League. Although a significant amount would have been substitute appearances it is indicative of a wider endemic of deadwood at United that Lingard is often selected from the start, a damning indictment of the squad’s shallow pool of genuine top quality.

A further example of this is Memphis Depay, who only a year ago ranked first on France Football’s top 50 best young players in the world, whose potential seems to have evaporated. Depay’s record for Manchester United in Premier League performances, the mitigating circumstances of substitute appearances withstanding, reads as 33 appearances and 2 goals. The cries for his inclusion from a significant amount of United fans would seem fallacy when presented with this statistic; where his return is worse than that of Lingard, for whom there is no similar clamour to reinstate him in the first team.

The jury seems to still be out on a handful of other players not yet mentioned in this article that have yet to prove their worth. Of these, Morgan Schneiderlin seems a primary culprit as someone who has failed to live up to their perceived quality who should be ashamed at not being able to force his way into the team. Although Carrick has been a regularly outstanding performer for Manchester United over the last decade, Schneiderlin at over 8 years his junior should have made the central defensive anchoring position his.

Even the much maligned Marouane Fellaini was preferred in this position at the start of the season which shows how far his star has fallen from his final season at Southampton. As Jose increasingly experiments with finding players who can provide the winning mentality he has even brought in Bastian Schweinsteiger, who he repeatedly tried to oust during the summer transfer window.

Carrick’s merits are in such stark contrast to the other players because of his ability to provide classy contributions wherever he is placed in the team. As Xavi Hernandez noted “Carrick gives United balance and can play defensively too. He passes well, has a good shot and is a complete player”. Were Xavi still playing for Barcelona could he honestly praise a Manchester United central midfielder with such platitudes as he did here or for Scholes as he famously did? Paul Pogba apart, this department looks worryingly lightweight along with the defensive cover aforementioned.

In this respect, we probably move to the last area of deadwood to tackle, at full back, with certain players being forced to play roles that are not their natural position without recognised specialists to perform them. Antonio Valencia has performed admirably it must be said at right back, aided by his redoubtable physical attributes of lightning speed and muscular form to out strength his opponents. However, his positional sense and defensive decision making have been called into question on occasion, for example, in standing off Dmitri Payet and allowing him to turn toward goal against West Ham for their equalizer in the EFL Cup.

At left back, the struggles intensify as Luke Shaw has struggled to reassert himself coming back from his length injury lay off. Some United fans feel that Matteo Darmian’s decidedly underwhelming performances here have gone under the radar somewhat. In 2012-13 Darmian made the most tackles per game (5.3) across any of Europe’s top 5 leagues. So where has this full back gone that was our player of the month of August last year and who has elicited comparisons with legendary AC Milan defender Paolo Maldini?

It should be pointed out that the players Jose has brought in are top quality to try and rectify the dearth of class. I, for one, believed a title push at the start of the season was not beyond the realms of possibility, buoyed by the marvellous, mouth-watering prospect of the magisterial Paul Pogba, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Henrikh Mkhitaryan. Even Eric Bailly, of whom I had only caught small highlights of, excited me as a strong, powerful defender who could become a rock like, overdue Nemanja Vidic replacement.

At first, the signs were positive that the Manchester United garden was rosy and in full bloom with a 100% perfect start to the first few league games. We thought Jose’s green fingers had somehow managed to conduct a miraculous repair of some desperately declining trees (players) and that the evergreen success of the Alex Ferguson era (titles and trophies) had returned.

Sadly, now as I reflect on those heady days of three months ago, the garden,as the winter has drawn in, has well and truly frozen over with the leaves of our title and top four hopes lying in tatters on the floor. Has this process of eradicating the deadwood, through trial and error, had an irreversible effect on our current season? As we look forward at the beginning of December to the remainder of an increasingly barren looking season in the league, it’s tempting to say that the deadwood, if anything, is not some of these players but Manchester United’s season itself.

By George Kyle

GUEST BLOG: Wingless ‘wonders’

With the downturn in the fortunes of England’s biggest club many fans argue over the main reasons for the abject failure of the team to sustain a title challenge this season.

Arsene Wenger has stated that any team which is 10 points or more adrift is out of the title race and, although it could be argued that he is out of touch in terms of knowing what it takes to win a title, the point remains that Manchester United are staring into the abyss.

Even the most ardently positive fan would be hard pushed to retain the belief we can still challenge this year. When running through the plethora of reasons I believe that we have struggled recently, the lack of width and true wingers, ranks highly amongst them so that is the issue I will be tackling in this article.

Some readers will be fortunate enough to remember the great wingers of the last 30 years or so whom we had to count on (Beckham, Giggs, Ronaldo and Kanchelskis) to name but a few. These players have added quality in the wide position which has produced many incredible crosses and goals from these areas.

Is there anybody currently at the club who could produce anything like the dazzling, jinking run and goal that Giggs scored in the 1999 FA Cup Semi Final against Arsenal? Is there anybody that can put the ball on a plate for strikers the way Beckham used to do innumerable times? Is there anybody that can score a tonne of goals for us and win us titles like Ronaldo did? The answer to these questions is indubitably a resounding no.

At the club currently the dearth of true wing talent is having a negative impact on our season for many reasons. Firstly, we are pigeonholing players into foreign positions such as Marcus Rashford, who looks petrified, like the chubby kid in school who has been told to play in goal.

Rashford is not the player, Rooney was at the same age, in my opinion, he is not as technically gifted so cannot perform the wing role as well as Rooney did on occasion for Ronaldo. His crossing ability is minimal and he looks leaden footed when asked to perform this role.

Secondly, players such as Jesse Lingard are tasked with performing this job as it is supposedly their natural position. Whilst many people will clamour that he is a youth product and deserves his chance to play the fact remains that he is not United quality as a winger. His end product is simply not good enough, against West Ham; he had more space and time than other players in dangerous positions more often simply because West Ham knew that he would offer so little actual dangerous or productive play.

Thirdly, players who were bought for large sums of money have yet to perform in these areas. A key example of this is Memphis Depay, who looks disinterested and disenfranchised with the aspect of working his way into the team, preferring instead to add to his pocket rather than trying to force a look in.

Barcelona don’t play with true wingers, Real Madrid don’t play with true wingers, you may be thinking so why should we? The answer is twofold.

Firstly, that we have Zlatan Ibrahimovic up front. The big Swede is 6ft 5 inches and unlike another tall footballer, Peter Crouch, who can’t head to save his life, has a great aerial presence as shown through his header for example against Leicester where he towered above Wes Morgan to smash it home with his dome. Yes, Zlatan is also fantastic with his feet, an extremely skilful, cultured and classy footballer but his lack of pace means he cannot run in behind a defence the way a Marcus Rashford or Anthony Martial can.

Secondly, as was evidenced over the last few home games we are dominating possession and teams are defending resolutely with many men behind the ball. Against West Ham, Pogba produced a sumptuous cross for Zlatan’s head and a superb goal was scored. Yet did any winger try and deliver any crosses of this ilk to recreate this successful formula? No they didn’t, in some cases through lack of skill required and others, more damningly, through lack of effort, passion and desire.

If a team pack the middle of the park and make it difficult to break through the answer is to use the flanks to get the defence turned and facing their own goal. This is always the trickiest position for a defender knowing that the situation is more dangerous, particularly if a winger can place the ball in the corridor of uncertainty between the goalkeeper and his back line.

As I have already alluded to the answer to this problem is not one that presents itself as an easily rectifiable one. Throwing money at the problem hasn’t always worked as evidenced through Memphis Depay, whom I mentioned earlier and more pertinently Angel Di Maria. Until this summer with Pogba, Di Maria was our most expensive signing as a club and many of us thought the answer to our prayers with his tricky and incisive wing play, and ability to cross the ball correctly.

Anybody who watched his Man of the Match performance in the 2013-14 Champions League Final against Atletico Madrid can testify that we thought we were getting an incredible “Galactico” player.

Sadly, despite an amazing individual goal against Leicester in the early part of the season, Di Maria was phased out and left the following year to join Paris St Germain where his goal, assist and play level has gone up again considerably.

Who then in world football to buy who would not seem a risk and would most likely replace the current square pegs we have in the wing position round holes?

Another point to consider is also what top player would leave his side for another team who can’t even be certain of Champions League qualification at the end of this season. I will now outline two plausible candidates who beg consideration.

Firstly, we have the venerable Marco Reus of Borussia Dortmund who is rumoured to be the next Borussia star player to leave next summer. Reus can play on both wings and is lethal on both, and if Henrikh Mkhitaryan is on the other wing they will already have a great understanding from their playing days together.

He is my own pick for someone who I feel is obtainable and top quality. Another candidate who we might obtain is Willian who has been frozen out of Chelsea by Conte. He is a top quality winger who at 28 is at his peak, quick and effective at dribbling and crossing he can also take an excellent free kick.

It is worth remembering that Chelsea sold us Mata, who has been a revelation, so the transfer possibilities are there if the fee and package is right. You, dear reader, probably have your own idea on a possible transfer you would like to see happen to ameliorate our winger quandary but is this best way to deal with the issue?

In conclusion, there is clearly food for thought on the best way to turn Manchester United back into the vibrant, free scoring side that we once were.

As I have outlined today there needs to be some culpability from the wingers already in the squad and some improvement in this area needs to be a priority, whether this is from somehow motivating talents such as Depay or trawling the transfer market to pick up acquisitions like Reus.

It is worth remembering that players may have the best of intentions but their talent is not up to it such as Lingard.

As Nani said when Ronaldo left that he would step up to the plate and try and fill the void created by his absence, it is sometimes a case of, with the current United squad, that we have replaced Ferrari wingers with push bike wingers.

By George Kyle

GUEST BLOG: My tribute to George Best

Georgie, Georgie, they call you the Belfast Boy
Georgie, Georgie, they call you the Belfast Boy
Georgie, Georgie, keep your feet on the ground
Georgie, Georgie, when you listen to the sound
Georgie, Georgie, put a light on your name

April 1970

My mums annual road trip to Harrods in fancy-schmancy Knightsbridge to buy peanut butter, brandy snaps and assorted crap was a bloody long drive all the way from Mevagissey, Cornwall but we were well on the way at last. Her metallic gun metal grey Sunbeam Rapier Fastback was belting up the old A38 sometimes touching 65 m.p.h. Ironically at the same time I would be touching a turtle’s head due to her erratic driving :-O

While it’s quite true that she was a member of the Advanced School of Motoring, and accordingly the Sunbeams’ front grill was adorned with a shiny yellow badge to prove membership, back in those days a ‘Roadcraft’ practical test and basic exam wasn’t too close to a guarantee of an excrement-free road trip. I am jesting, though. As I recall, Mumsy was quite a decent driver, although she did frequently exhibit an early type of road-rage to fellow road users. Up until the age of 12, as far as I knew, the most popular car on the road was the Vauxhall Stupid Bastard.

This year, though, I couldn’t have cared less about her driving, nor any other road users and not even did I care about Harrods’ seemingly endless toy department goodies or the smorgasbord of indescribable Swedish foodstuffs in the food hall. This year I was going to see my idol, Georgie Best. THE George Best. The Belfast Boy. El Beatle. This was the man that Bob Bishop referred to in a telegram sent to Matt Busy which read, “I think I’ve found you a genius”. And to hell with stopping at Stonehenge, I was on the way to London to see a proper legend!

Oh sweet Jesus, can you imagine what Bob Bishop must have seen and thought on that lumpy and muddy Glentoran pitch? I reckon Mr Bishop went home that night and his Mrs was on the end of some sweet Bobby Bishop lovin’!

THE man himself (not Bob) was in London to open a sports shop (I think somewhere near the Kings Road) I knew this because Georgie’s fan club told me so some weeks before in the most exciting letter I had ever received. And then, for an eternity leading up to the long drive to the smoke of Londinium, I was incredibly excited. Mum had definitely, absolutely definitely positively said we could go – she had given me life 11 years before and now she said I could go and see Georgie so her angelic status in my eyes reached new heights.

Unfortunately, the majority of local kids hated me because my parents had a bit of money. That wasn’t my fault, of course. But kids, especially mean kids don’t know that. All they see is a new car in town, a posh house and good school shoes. Also, unknowingly exacerbating my problem, I would also sport a pair of bright white ‘green flash’ plimsolls on the weekend and was soundly thrashed for doing so by a boy named Septimus Shitface (name changed for legal reasons).

If I only knew where he lived now; in my dream, I would knock on his door, he would open it and fail to recognise me 46 years on and I would bitch-slap his ugly fat face. Then my alarm would go off!

As a young lad living in a tiny fishing village, post 1966, while all the locals followed either Leed$, We$t H@m, Chel$ea or Totteringham (instead of Exeter City, Plymouth Argyle or Mevagissey Town), when you supported United it was very much frowned upon; particularly by the bullies. I suppose they were an early version of today’s ABU crowd. To$$ers then; to$$ers now.

My Manchester United wristwatch did me no favours, either. I soon learned that I had to wear long sleeves to cover my timepiece if I was not to risk having it removed by Septimus and his mates. As well as this, my George Best purple and black football boots were magnificent and people were very jealous. The boots were laced up the sides in a never-before-seen state of the art design; during games I had to endure several dozen foot stamps from the other boys, the absolute $hits!

In my other dream I would see all of them in one place, perhaps tightly packed in an old-school GPO red phone box. I would open the door to them, throw in 2 gallons of thick, meaty gravy and promptly add 27 angry, rabid rats and quickly barricade the door. That would be too good for them, though. I mean, who doesn’t hate a bully?

Meanwhile, back in the Kings Road: Mum parked the car a few streets away from the sports shop and we walked to the entrance. I was already uber-excited and soon I could hear an obvious kerfuffle from over a hundred yards away; as we approached I saw the front and sides of the premises were cordoned off by lots of metal barriers. There was probably around 200 people outside the shop, many spilling into the road but to me it seemed like thousands –mostly girls of course- and unbeknown to me at my tender age, they would all be gloriously moist with the anticipation of seeing Georgie in the flesh.

Little did I know, but a couple of years later I would be sitting with Miss Wendy W***t in the back row of the St. Austell picture house on a Saturday morning and while the Lone Ranger was rescuing Tonto from the bad guys I would touch her most inappropriately – well, it was very appropriate for me at the time, but probably not for Wendy’s dad; I suppose it may not have been that appropriate for Wendy, but she never said a word indicating that might be the case. Bless her. And FYI for the record, there was moisture. After Wendy I moved onto to Mary Pink**. Now THAT was some serious moisture! Major moisture! Blimey! There wasn’t enough Kleenex in all of Cornwall J

Back to Georgie. We hung around the front of the shop for what seemed like hours; the throng of girls in mini-skirts and the accompanying pungent whiff of Mary Quant lippy and eyeliner. Next thing I knew there were screams piercing through my lugholes like when I saw Slade at the Brighton dome a few years later. A fabulous white Lotus Europa pulled up to the kerb and out stepped my idol. In my head I’m sure I heard angels sing. My ears were ringing from the screaming but my eyes told me that George stood right there, about 30 feet in front of me, on the kerb, smiling and waving looking very much like the fifth Beatle I had read about and seen on tv.

From the passenger side – I think it was Susan George -but it might have been the reigning Miss World- exiting the car -the other was probably at home waiting- and the young lady walked around and took his arm. She was also smiling and posing and wearing a white shirt and good God almighty, no brassiere! The glorious sixties might have passed but some statements lived on and for a nano-second my gaze was caught up in some serious nipplage :-O

They both stood there for just a few minutes while the local press took dozens of photos; a handful of policemen a few feet apart held back all the collective moisture. There was no warning of flash photography in those days and for all we knew, epileptics dropped left, right and centre. A million flash bulbs popped. It was intensely exciting; I had never experienced anything like this in my young life. Sadly, though, It was all over very quickly. My quest to get nearer to him or into the shop for an autograph was completely futile. The bitches were too numerous, there was too much damp and it was all due to Georgie, his impossible handsome-ness clearly meant that the Ho’s came before the young Bro’s.

It didn’t matter too much to me though; I had at least seen him in the flesh. It was only a few weeks before that he had scored 6 in an 8-2 victory over Northampton Town in the 5th round of the F.A. cup. This was the legend that was Georgie Best.

When you’re under 10 and from a tiny Cornish village, and you see George Best in the headlines and on the telly – I think that was the year ITV ran the hour-long documentary ‘Belfast Boy’ – and you see that Lotus, and you see that house in Manchester with the glass frontage; when you see the fuss surrounding him and his club your head is totally turned. You’re not interested in other footballers like Billy Bremner, or John Bond or Ron Harris.

We all recall Beckham scoring against Wimbledon; at the time he was stepping out every night with Mrs P. Spice wearing God knows what and attending the opening of envelopes all over the U.K. –so it seemed- and there was a right bloody fuss almost every day. In the nineties people were used to fuss.

But, in the late sixties it was almost unheard of – especially in football. A lot of kids became United fans back then and that’s partly why the fan base is unmatched in this country and across the world.

We miss you Georgie.

By Dave Cleaver

GUEST BLOG: The world is against Jose, he needs our support

As a devoted fan of football, I know first-hand how easy it is to react badly to what may be regarded as a poor performance. It is also understandable to share ones frustrations with fellow fans, after witnessing what could be considered as inept finishing in front of goal against Burnley.

A fact that goes some way to quell such frustrations; there were thirty seven attempts on goal, this was United’s best performance this season. These facts go some way to ease the pain. I am passionate and want to see my team win, of course. I also want to see my team play well. What I don’t want, especially at this stage of the year, is to be a part of the anti Mourinho band wagon.

Mourinho’s task was never going to be that simple. The board dithered when seeking to resolve Louis Van Gaal’s tenure. Even with the FA Cup win against his name, supporters were unified on one thing; Van Gaal’s time had run its course.

We needed a new manager who would remove the deadwood from the club; deadwood which had arrived towards the end of Sir Alex’s tenure, and under the clouded judgement of David Moyes; restoring it to better times in fortune and in style.

I am aghast at the negative press that, our manager, Mourinho is currently receiving. But he is in good company because things were not always rosy for Sir Alex. There were times when teams under Sir Alex didn’t get the win, didn’t always perform. We must remember the good with the bad and with that be measured on what it actually takes to manage and be successful in football and especially a club the size of Manchester United.

I, for one, will whole heartedly support Jose Mourinho. He is at the start of his time at the club as a manager, and according to some it has been a difficult start.

But let us look at him not just as a manager but also as a husband and father; he must miss his family as they still reside in London. In our daily lives we take these things for granted from our loved ones: a smile, a hug, a kind word when things aren’t right, or when we doubt our own ability.

If as a manager you place these things as being important for the players, or the staff, under your care, then as fans we can take the same stance and place his happiness and wellbeing as an important element in the clubs success now and in the future.

I would only hope that those in charge of the club; directors, chief executive officers and shareholders give him the same consideration. I have often wondered if Mourinho were a player would the club have not gone above and beyond to source a home for him and his family, as a measure of their respect for him and his wellbeing.

The point I am trying to make, again with references to being a player first, you need to be fit and good, in body and mind. This comes about in many ways; the support of friends and family.

However, Mourinho he does not have immediate access to this level of support. Despite having the self-imposed title of the special one, it is important that we do not treat him any differently to our fellow man. If your friend needed support and a kind word, would you not be there for them?

We are United, are we not?

I am not suggesting that this is the fix needed to bring about the changes in the club position or fortune. It is however, an important element. For all of the brash attitude and bravado, he is an employee of our club as well as being the manager.

The press may not like him; and certain other managers may not like him, but I like him and I will back him. This isn’t to say that he won’t get things wrong, every manager gets things wrong: people get things wrong. I will not, however, be a part of the current harking back to his time at Chelsea, where players just downed tools.

In relation to his previous clubs where things may not have gone well at times; I will just simply ignore and offer him my support. I am only interested in what he will do now and in the future as manager of our club.

I am only interested in supporting him now and in the future. I simply want Jose Mourinho to be a success at Manchester United, because if he isn’t, then who will be? What do you want?

By Rodney Reid
Follow Rodney: @RAVR68

GUEST BLOG: Could the ‘Serge’ of Aurier solve the Right Back Conundrum?

There’s been a lot of transfer talk around Man Utd since Mourinho took the helm. He knew what United needed and wasted no time in securing the players to transform this team, and take us out of the dark days we have all experienced over the last three years.

One position he did not strengthen however, was right back. We currently have the positivity of Valencia going forward and throwing in crosses, but has not got much in terms of defensive positioning. We have Darmian, who is almost the opposite; good and relatively reliable at the back, but not got the skills required in the modern English game to support the wide players upfront.

Should we have strengthened Right Back?

Well, it’s not too difficult to spot that it’s one of the area’s we could do with improving. United were close to signing Fabinho over the summer from Monaco, however he has just sign a two year contract extension with the French Club. There aren’t many other known players on the scene to choose from. Ladies and Gentleman, let me introduce Serge Aurier.

Serge Aurier is a very exciting right back and currently plays for PSG. The 23 year old Ivorian is very strong, quick, aggressive, skilful, brilliant dribbler and can find his man with a range of passing. The lad has it all, he tackles like Bailly, dribbles like Shaw and is fast as Valencia.

Aurier would intimidate opposition strikers and be nuisance going forward linking up with the likes of Mkhitaryan or Rashford; any team would have trouble playing against him.

Could this transfer actually happen?

He signed for PSG from Toulouse in July 2015 for £8.5mil and is currently estimated to be a very valuable £15mil. Considering PSG already have Maquinhos and have just signed Belgium’s Thomas Meunier, they already have cover for Right Back.

For a player of 23, already a rising star, Aurier would be a real coup and tailor made for the Premier League.

Never heard of him? Two words, Eric Bailly.

By Jason Bowditch