Category Archives: Guest Blog

GUEST BLOG: Is Wayne Rooney under too much pressure?

Speaking as one of Rooney’s biggest critics of the last few years, this is a little bit strange to write. Am I going to defend Rooney for his shambolic displays, no. Am I going to fanboy on him and explain why he should always start, certainly not. Am I going to try and shed some light on why Wayne Rooney is half the footballer he used to be, maybe.

So we have heard various different theories about why his performances have fallen further and quicker than a jet propelled rock thrown off the Eiffel tower. The “too many miles on the clock” theory, the “too much money to care” hypothesis, the idea that he doesn’t look after himself or eat well, smokes and drinks too much. And of course lets not forget the argument that his role as a captain is stifling his care free boy from the street attitude to football.

A dejected Wayne Rooney in action for United
A dejected Wayne Rooney in action for United

Well he is 30 soon to be 31, even with so many games under his clock I find it hard to believe he could be under so much pressure physically. For one we would see far more injuries with him as his body breaks down such as Vincent Company or Michael Owen. Secondly I don’t understand how his technical ability could suffer so much even without a yard of pace. We have all seen ex pros, or even retired players of 50 years of age or more, who played for good local clubs run rings around people in 5 aside. These veterans of the game still retain their technique, composure and poise, something which Rooney is void of at the moment. Also he posted one of the fastest in game sprints last year for the team. Too many miles on the clock? I don’t buy it.

As regards too much money to care, I also cant believe that this is the case. You can see his passion for the team hasn’t dwindled , you can see that he tracks back and barks orders to team mates. Every time he takes a bad touch or does something wrong he looks visibly disappointed and almost ashamed. Why feel shame if you don’t care? Once again i don’t buy it.

On to the suspicion that he doesn’t look after himself. I would find it incredibly hard to believe that 3 managers in succession would name a man captain who is so unprofessional as to not even do the very basic thing of looking after yourself in regards to nutrition and health. All the reports are that he is a top pro and although he will never be ripped with a 6 pack bulging I think this season he looks as trim as ever.

Wayne Rooney has adopted a midfield role for both club and country (Picture: blog.paddypower.com)
Wayne Rooney has adopted a midfield role for England (Picture: blog.paddypower.com)

The captain issue is one where I think could be having a detrimental affect, mental being the appropriate word. Is he thinking too much? Is he looking after everyone else before he looks after himself? Perhaps. If being captain is getting into his head and affecting his level of performance it shows a lack of mental strength. That’s not a criticism of him, that job is not for everyone. His managers should be held accountable for that.

However I put forward a different suggestion, a feeling I have that maybe his drastic dip in form is a mental pressure of another kind. Something that has been looming on the horizon for 3 years at least. Something that brings a type of pressure not seen for 40 years or more. Something that would elevate him above all United players no matter what criticism was thrown at him. The record. Could you imagine the pressure of that scoring record hanging around your neck dragging you down to the depths, unrelenting. England’s boy wonder, destined for greatness, he can do no wrong. Oh my god the pressure. Could this type of mental torture explain his performances for England at major tournaments? I think so. Could it explain his in-explainable, inexcusable lack of footballing ability? How can a top performer suddenly not execute even the basics like controlling the ball and shielding the ball.

I can only point to the pressure of living up to expectations. Like a younger sibling trying to live up to their older brothers achievements. Like a son trying to live up to the legend of his father. Good parents would shield their children from this type of pressure. Most children have mental frailties and simply would not cope or function to the best of their abilities under that type of burden. No, a good parent would protect them from that stress and let them shine. Only this time with Wayne Rooney the media and the public are the bad parents. Constantly berating the “child” and reminding them that if they don’t achieve that record, they have failed miserably. Im not suggesting Wayne Rooney is a child, far from it, this is just an analogy. I think its apt though.
A good agent, a good manager would and could have protected Rooney. Perhaps if the problem was diagnosed and approached correctly it wouldn’t be a problem at all. There are sports psychologists, there are hypnotists, there is help. Widely recognized scientifically proven help. Golfers use it, athletes use it. There’s no reason why superstars like Wayne Rooney shouldn’t use it.

Just another theory on how to solve and help the conundrum that is Wayne Rooney. Lets hope he breaks the record soon!

GUEST BLOG ENTRY SUBMITTED BY: Eoghan O’Neill.
FOLLOW Eoghan: @Darthschracker

GUEST BLOG: Who will partner Pogba in the middle?

We all know that Mourinho is aware of certain issues that our current squad suffers. These problems have caused him to dive head first into the transfer window yet trying not to ruin our reputation of promoting the youth.

We all know that as a club we are interested in pulling back one of our former youth products in Paul Pogba. As we are spending such a big fee on one central midfielder it is likely that Mourinho will chose a current squad member to partner alongside him; yes there are many possibilities but I would like to make note of the more realistic options.

I think it is only fair to take into account that most United fans would prefer Pogba to play in the number 10 role, but given our current squad, the likes of Rooney, Mkhitaryan and Mata would be the most likely favourites to take this role.

This therefore makes it seem wiser to stick Pogba behind the attackers and act as a more box-to-box midfielder, but not being too scared to express himself every now and then when it comes to banging in goals from outside the box!

I have lined up 5 candidates to take on this role and they will be mentioned chronologically in squad numbers.

Carrick

Straight away we can’t ignore the fact that he is a club legend, he is no Roy Keane or Paul Scholes in the midfield, but you have to credit him with what he has offered us for the past years at the club.

carrick (Picture: manutd.com)
Carrick has been an important player for United (Picture: manutd.com)

As I am sure you’ve gathered I do like Carrick, however does this mean he deserves to start? Quite simply, no. Many of you will disagree on me with this one but it is my opinion.

I love Carrick, he really is the beating heart of the locker room, but you can’t ignore the fact that he is on the decline (no disrespect intended).

This means that we need to find a way to shift him out of the starting line-up as soon as we can – he is incapable of controlling the midfield how he used to so we need to look deeper into our squad to find a suitable replacement; which I feel Van Gaal failed to achieve.

Just to make it clear. This doesn’t mean that I don’t want him to start; I believe Pogba could learn a lot from him, but I don’t think we can afford to start him as regularly like last season.

Herrera

What’s there to say? I don’t think anyone dislikes the guy, he’s always eager to get up the pitch and create chances and score goals.

Ander Herrera celebrates his winning goal against Arsenal (Picture: mirror.co.uk)
Ander Herrera still needs to prove himself (Picture: mirror.co.uk)

The trouble is that Herrera will struggle to find a place next to Pogba as they play very similar roles; if Pogba was at the number 10 spot then I’d have him in behind without hesitation. However, it isn’t quite that simple.

I am confident that we won’t offload him this summer as he can be a vital squad player for that midfield role, but Pogba will not budge for him no matter the circumstance.

Herrera was restrained by Van Gaal for a long time and is unlucky that we need a world class midfielder in our squad – I strongly believe that if he was given the proper chances under Van Gaal’s reign then Mourniho wouldn’t be looking to purchase a new player.

Fellaini

I hate his style of play! and his attitude on the pitch! He is not and won’t ever be a true Man Utd player! Glad I was able to get that out of my system.

Mirror.co.uk
Marouane Fellaini may survive a cull this summer (Picture: Mirror.co.uk)

Anyway, he is still a shocking player yet he’s still given game time. Mourinho might believe that Fellaini can be a useful tool for his midfield, with his height and excellent chest control of the ball; besides that though he offers nothing to the squad.

His involvement in the team thus so far under Mourinho could possibly mean a few things. One could be that he is being given game time to attract interest from other clubs. Another could be that Mourinho is just testing what he has available.

Although it seems the most likely is that Mourinho is actually considering keeping him as most likely a squad player – which saddens us all.

Realistically though, I think Mourinho will struggle to get him out even if he wanted to, due to the amount of money paid for him in the first place, the lack of skill he has and the simple fact that this could be the last big club Fellaini gets to play for, so he might insist to stay.

Ultimately though he is far from being the player we need to partner Pogba.

Schneiderlin

Unfortunately given last year’s circumstances, Schneiderlin was held back a considerable amount at Old Trafford. Beforehand he was sensational for Southampton which is why he was one of our best signings at the time.

It’s clear that the two would probably fit alongside each other perfectly like Yin and Yang. Both having their own individual roles but not being able to perform without the other’s effort. I think they will make the perfect duo and it helps that they share the same nationality.

However I am going to lay in a slight twist. Given the current size of our squad, we need to sell certain people and I think that Schneiderlin won’t be able to perform the same with this much competition, which is why I think he should go out on loan to a strong mid-table Premier League team, unless Mourinho can guarantee him decent game time.

Schweinsteiger

One of the all time greats of the game, in my opinion he is the perfect choice to be Pogba’s partner in crime.

Bastian Schweinsteiger celebrates his equaliser for Man United (Source: Daily Mail)
Schweinsteiger’s debut season for United was hampered by injuries (Source: Daily Mail)

Schweinsteiger is clearly still capable of pulling off superb performances as shown for Germany this summer. He is a true leader on and off the pitch.

Yes, we are all aware that he is on the decline and gets injured a lot; however he is getting older and something we lack is experience in our squad, which he can deliver.

He wasn’t actually that bad last season before he got injured, also when you take into account that he was playing under Van Gaal.

Mourinho is apparently treating him like he’s a burden according to reports, but he’s more like a gift. He deserves so much more at United which I think most will agree on.

He wouldn’t be a permanent solution to finding a partner for Pogba, but he should certainly be at the top of Mourinho’s list in my opinion.

Thank You for reading. I just wanted to open people’s eyes to viewpoints they may not have considered previously.

Please feel free to leave a comment below in the comment section.

By Evan Beviss

GUEST BLOG: Wigan friendly match review

Well the long wait is at last over and on a bright summer’s day in Lancashire fans gathered to watch Jose Mourinho’s first game as manager of Manchester United.

It was our chance to witness a Mourinho team for the first time. The start of our bright new dawn. The squad that travelled to the DW Stadium was absent of the players that had taken part in the Euro’s and later stages of the Copa America Cup. This was a golden chance for the fringe players to send a message to the new manager that they were worth a chance on the upcoming tour of China. Likewise it was the chance for the new backroom staff to evaluate players up close in a semi competitive game.

As the starting line ups were revealed the travelling fans were encouraged by starts for new signings Bailly and Mkhitaryan, whilst the sight of Luke Shaw wearing a United shirt again after his 10 month absence due to his horrific leg break was as good as a new signing.

United started the match using Mourinho’s tried and tested 4-2-3-1 with Shaw and Timbo at fullbacks supporting a central defensive partnership of Blind and Bailly. The old head of Carrick partnered Herrera in central midfield with Depay on the left, Lingard on the right. Henrikh was given license to roam and create playing just behind United’s forgotten man James Wilson, and his dominant performance in the No.10 role will add extra pressure to both Mata and Rooney’s futures.

Mkhitaryan impressed during his first game in a United shirt (Picture: independent.co.uk)
Mkhitaryan impressed during his first game in a United shirt (Picture: independent.co.uk)

The early stages were tentative as is common in pre-season friendly’s and with Wigan offering very little attacking threat this game was always going to be about when the red tide would break any resistance put in front of them. The first 45 minutes saw only brief glimpses of real class with the majority of those touches coming mainly from our new signing from Dortmund.

My initial impressions of Henrikh Mkhitaryan are that he has great balance and vision; and at last we have someone who will run at players at speed whilst being able to control the ball. (Something badly missed for a number of seasons!)

Eric Bailly also impressed in his first outing in an United shirt bringing a calm calculated approach alongside Blind. Granted a pack of midgets would have posed more of a challenge than the Wigan forward line. Jose looked to his wingers Depay and Lingard to provide crosses into the middle for his lone striker James Wilson and would have been disappointed with their overall contribution with neither player able to get the better of their respective defenders.

Eric Bailly pleased the travelling fans with his contribution (Picture: reddevilarmada.com)
Eric Bailly pleased the travelling fans with his contribution (Picture: reddevilarmada.com)

Depay in particular again failed to impress and missed the best opportunity of a lack lustre first half when he failed to convert Mkhitaryan’s clever cross from only 6 yards out. The young Dutchman will surely have to do better to convince any United fan he is worthy of retaining the iconic No.7 shirt.

With an ineffective Depay and a lightweight Lingard struggling in front of them the chances for fullbacks Shaw and Timbo to get forward were limited as United struggled to carve open any real chances in front of goal. Wilson cut a forlorn figure up front and was forced to drop deep in search of the ball, it would have been nice to see Herrera impose himself more in midfield against lower quality footballers and push forward into the space opening up in front of him.

As half time approached you could sense the air of frustration growing among the loyal travelling fans. The fans to their credit never stopped singing and were boosted by only the blazing sun, Mkhitaryan’s performance and a piece of pure cheeky skill from Bailly. The new signing showing his composure when he calmly lifted the ball over an onrushing player before controlling it on his chest and then playing it forward (Yes forward! I had forgotten how it feels!).

Half time saw a raft of changes as Jose looked to give minutes to all available players in the squad. Depay and Lingard were replaced out wide by Januzaj on the left and Young on the right. Mata replaced Mkhitaryan as he looked to prove to his former boss that he is worthy of a place in next season’s squad. Will Keane was bought on as the focal point of the attack, giving us the added dimension of height. The young exciting Andres Pereira replaced Carrick in the centre and adapted instantly to a position that is unfamiliar to him. At the back Valencia was given a chance at right back replacing Timbo whilst a slightly overweight and off the pace looking Shaw was replaced by a white haired Phil Jones (I’m sure he was aiming for blonde but it looks more white than blonde!).

Within 2 minutes of the restart United went ahead when veteran Wigan keeper Jaaskerlainen’s clearance was blocked by an eager to impress Juan Mata, the Spaniard squaring the ball to an unmarked Will Keane for a simple tap in. It had begun, the first goal of Mourinho’s tenure sending the 7,000 United fans into raptures as cries of Mourinho’s Red Army rang out around the ground.

Juan Mata and Will Keane celebrate United's opener (Picture: telegraph.co.uk)
Juan Mata and Will Keane celebrate United’s opener (Picture: telegraph.co.uk)

The Wigan defence was now on the back foot as United probed for a decisive second goal. It came predictably on the 58th minute after Ashley Young was cynically brought down on the edge of the Wigan area. Mata took a short free kick to Herrera whose shot was blocked and as the ball fell loose inside the penalty box Pereira was on hand to swivel and finish with a rocket of a right footed shot into the top corner. It was a stunning finish from the young academy graduate and will go some way to help him get over the disappointment of not being included in the Brazilian Team for the upcoming Olympics.

Everything was going to plan for Jose’s boys, Blind was impressive in a left back role, offering us better distribution options down the channels. Valencia again proved that he just doesn’t offer any solutions going forward or defending and will surely be out the Old Trafford door. Jones & Bailly will need to be tested by better opposition than Wigan before a verdict can be returned.

As the game moved into its last 25 minutes Januzaj and Young seemed unable or unwilling to punish a team already two down, their lack of quality coupled with the first half performances of Depay and Lingard surely throws up the question as to the need for additional strengthening on the wings. I would gladly swap any of them for a player of Mahrez or James Rodriguez type quality (Heck I would swap Adnan for anyone who could actually cross the ball!).

Blind and Herrera were replaced on 73 minutes, giving way to Varela and Tyler Blackett, whilst Joel Pereira replaced virtual spectator Sam Johnstone with 10 minutes left. We were also given a chance to see another youth graduate Axel Tuanzebe when he replaced the impressive Eric Bailly, the young English defender showing his potential with his excellent positional play and reading of the game. Mourinho stating after the game how he was impressed by his short cameo.

Tuanzebe was also given a brief run out (Picture: 101greatgoals.com)
Tuanzebe was also given a brief run out (Picture: 101greatgoals.com)

A third goal never came and as the final whistle blew the fans celebrated what turned out to be a simple win over lower league opposition. Mission accomplished.

What did we learn?

Now it’s true LVG won his first friendly 7-0 in a display of fast flowing attacking football but his mentality changed after the league defeat to Leicester. He opted to be more defensive from that point onwards and we all know the rest of the story. 18 months of tedium later and the bounce was back. Jose will not make the same mistakes.

The fans are buzzing again the club is alive again, it’s almost as if Mourinho’s confidence is seeping through to the fans. Throw in the fact that we have bought in the best players from the German and French leagues with a record breaking transfer on the horizon all looks sweet.

The squad flies out to the Far East for games against tougher opposition in Dortmund and our local rivals Man City, the squad will be reinforced with players like Rashford, Martial, Rooney and De Gea returning to strengthen the squad whilst Ibra and potential incoming signings wait in the wings.

The squad will need further trimming with players sure to be exiting down Sir Matt Busby Way and youth players sent out on loan to give them the valuable playing time needed to develop.

Players such as Rooney, Mata, Young and Fellini futures will be in doubt as Jose looks to mould a team capable of challenging on all fronts next season.

But one thing is sure the arrogance is back and together we are United.

By Red in Bed

Twitter: @mufcRedInBed

Facebook: Red in Bed

GUEST BLOG: Unrecognisable United

Be honest.

Can you remember the last time you got excited to watch Manchester United?

I know I can’t.

Do you remember the days when you knew, no matter what, United would put on an entertaining performance for the fans? The pride you would feel in knowing your club would always fight to the end. And the manager lived and breathed for the team as much as we did?

Now look at us. A shell of our former selves. Our former glory. ‘They always score.’ Not any more. ‘They never give up.’ We do now.

In all my time supporting Manchester United, through the happy times and sad moments, I’ve never been as fed up. Or felt as let down. This season I’ve been close to falling asleep at Old Trafford. The theatre of dreams. Where dreams are usually made, nightmares have been created.

Louis van Gaal proclaimed that we’re happy to be in the Europa League’ and being champions is in the past. You don’t speak for me. Or the majority of fiercely loyal fans. Your excuses will not wash with us. We will not accept what we have become because you tell us to. Like our team used to do, we will fight until the very end. Until we finally see a team that resembles the one we fell in love with.

Okay. It was never going to be easy replacing Sir Alex Ferguson. As David Moyes found out. It was never going to be simple to replicate the impossible dream Fergie created. I’m not expecting miracles here. And I understand patience is key. But in two years now, I see no improvement, ridiculous comments coming from the managers mouth and a shadow of the team we once were. This isn’t, and never will be acceptable.

We simply can’t settle for this anymore. Players out of position, arrogance with no merit and out of date tactics that have no place in modern football.

I respect that Louis has experienced success in the past. But it simply isn’t working anymore. He doesn’t get Manchester United. What the team means to us. Our pride in everything we’ve achieved. The football we expect to see.

LVG out

I can’t excuse the players because, currently, on a Thursday night, I’m watching a truly dismal performance. The board clearly only care about the money that lines their pockets because our voices don’t hold the same importance to them as our cash.

So, I’m not saying Louis van Gaal is the sole reason we’re in the position we’re in. But he’s certainly played a big part in it.

Ultimately, anyone who accepts what we’ve become are the ones living in the past. We want to create our future. Not conform to rigid ways and a manager who believes his way is the only way and change doesn’t exist.

We are Manchester United. We are better than this!

I can only hope by May the stubborn one shuts the door on his way out. Another year of this is simply unthinkable.

By Nicole
Follow Nicole on Twitter: @UnitedSheStands

Robin Van Persie, Fergie’s final throw of the dice

After losing the league title back at the end of the 2011/2012 campaign on goal difference to arch rivals Manchester City, Sir Alex Ferguson wasn’t about to fade into the sunset a loser. He was instead about to make his last major gamble as Manchester United manager. That gamble was of course on then Arsenal forward Robin Van Persie.

Its crazy to think at the time, many questioned why Sir Alex even went in for the Dutchman given the forward’s injury record and the fact he was edging closer to the merry old age of 30. However its safe to say the gamble more than paid, off as United stormed their way to yet another league title in some style with Van Persie leading the way.

His impact at Manchester United was nothing short of sensational, even if it was only for a season. Echoes of Ohhhhhhh Robin Van Persie still linger amongst me today despite the fact it nearly 3 years ago. He was the focal point of the team, the superstar if you will, the one we could rely to grab us the 3 points when it mattered most.

Throughout Sir Alex Ferguson’s managerial career at Manchester United there has certainly been there fair share of gambles that have paid off, from purchasing Eric Cantona from Leeds United in 1992 to brining a certain Portuguese winger from Sporting Lisbon back in 2003. The purchase of Robin Van Persie arguably too ranks up there amongst his finest.

He announced himself to the United faithful in a home game against Fulham were it didn’t took long for the Dutchman long to find his goal scoring touch as he scored an outrageous on the turn volley giving the opposition keeper all but no chance. He then followed  it up by a netting a stunning hat trick vs Southampton. Frighteningly for the opposition this was only a sign of things to come, as he continued to shine for United.

Everything he touched turned to gold. From key moments such as scoring the winner at Anfield to scoring the all important winner against Manchester City with a beautiful free kick. He wasn’t just scoring the 3rd or 4th goal of the games he was scoring important goals, match winning goals, which proved essential as United went on to win the League title.

If we had thought we had already seen the best of Van Persie, well we were wrong! He undoubtedly saved the best for last, scoring a stunning hat trick against Aston Villa at Old Trafford in April which fittingly secured Manchester United’s and Sir Alex Ferguson’s last league title for the cub.

The Dutchman’s second goal of the game was not just a contender for goal of the season, it was arguably a contender for goal of the century, as Van Persie emphatically volleyed home a superb long range Wayne Rooney pass from just outside the penalty area and into the bottom corner.

Sir Alex’s gamble and well and truly paid off.

Diego Forlan, A look back on his time at Old Trafford

You know the name, you know the chant, you probably remember his Hair Do, Diego Forlan’s stay at Manchester United certainly divided opinion, from famously scoring twice at Anfield against arch rivals Liverpool to missing sitters. Forlan’s failure to deliver on a consistent basis eventually led to the forwards exit from the club back in 2004. It may be 11 years ago since his departure, but the debate amongst Diego Forlan still rumbles on to this very day.

Prior to joining United back in 2002, Forlan’s impressive goal scoring display’s for Independiente led to many clubs from across Europe paying becoming interested in the forward, in particular English side Middlesbrough who reportedly came very close to signing the Uruguayan before United stepped and completed a deal worth up to £6.9 Million.

His start to life at Old Trafford was nothing short of a nightmare, lady luck was certainly not on Diego’s side as he failed to score a goal in any of his opening 27 games in all waiting 8 months, before he finally broke his duck against Maccabi Hafia scoring a penalty as United eventually cruised to a 5-2 victory. It wasn’t for his effort of trying it that he failed to find the back of the net, it just wasn’t going in for him!

After finding the back of the net for the first time Forlan didn’t really look back, it may have just been the sheer relief of finally scoring but confidence started to come into his game. Despite not scoring goals on a consistent basis he still played a key role that season (2002/03) as the club won back the Premier League Title from Arsenal, goals such as his late equaliser against Aston Villa, His late winner against Southampton, of course his famous 2 goals at Anfield  and a last gasp winner against Chelsea all turned out to be key moments in the season for United, without those goals it could have been a different story.

His efforts and ability to keep trying on the field did not go unnoticed as he became somewhat of a fan favourite at the club. Many other strikers out there when on a poor run of form would often opt to pass the ball rather than having a shot on goal. With Forlan this was never the case, you could not knock him for trying,  even if some of his shots did end up in row Z.

The following season was much more of a damp squid, not just for Forlan himself but for the club as a whole, as Arsenal led the way and never really looked like being over taken. However he still had his moments, with arguably the stand out moment coming in a UEFA Champions League group game against Rangers at Old Trafford where Forlan took centre stage and scored an outrageous beautiful volley. Much like the previous season his goals were not just the 3rd of fourth of games they were match winners, goals against Leeds United in the League cup and Panathinaikos away in Europe proved crucial as United progressed.

However With United pursuing then Everton teenage Wayne Rooney during the summer of 2004, his days at Old Trafford seemed numbered. First team opportunities were already hard enough to come by in the first place never mind having a talent like Rooney in amongst you in the striking ranks. His departure from the club was confirmed in August 2004 after Villarreal agreed a deal to sign the forward.

The love affair between himself and the United faithful was over but it certainly would not be forgotten.

dieo rolan

 

GUEST BLOG: January Transfer Window – Make or Break!

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

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

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

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

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

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

By David Ryan

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Honestly. He is not good enough.

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

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

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

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

    And don’t even get me started on Mata

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

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

    By Tyler Owusu

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    By Alexander Robert Brian
    Follow me on Twitter: @alex_brian92

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

    Manchester United Fans Are Tired

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

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

    Rooney Must Be Replaced

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Herrera!

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

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

    Being in Cups may be a good thing

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

    By Tyler Owusu