Category Archives: News

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the baby faced assassin

When Sir Alex Ferguson opted to sign the then unknown Norwegian forward Ole Gunnar Solskjaer ahead of Alan Shearer back in 1996, you could have forgiven the united faithful for having their doubts. He was untested in the Premier League, was fairly Young and hand on heart we really hadn’t heard too much about him. However Solskjaer quickly went on to become arguably Sir Alex Ferguson’s finest ever bargain in his managerial career.

Having signed Solskjaer for a mere £1.5 Million pounds, Ole quickly established himself in the Manchester United side, becoming an instant fan favourite amongst the united supporter’s. His knack of popping up at the right times in the box was becoming a real trade mark for Ole and one that would save United on countless occasions, from his famous injury time goal vs Bayern Munich in the 1999 European Cup Final, to his last gasp winner against Aston Villa in the FA Cup third round at Old Trafford in 2007. When the big occasions came calling Ole didn’t go missing, he delivered.

It didn’t take Ole long to get off the mark for the club, 6 minutes to be exact. After seeing his initial effort saved the keeper, Ole neatly slotted the ball home on the rebound and into the bottom corner opening up his united account. This would be only a sign of things to come, as Solskjaer continued to cause opposition defence’s havoc. Ole ended his debut campaign for the club scoring in all a total of 19 goals, helping United secure yet another League Title.

The following season may not have quite hit the heights of the previous year with the club missing out on the Premier League title to arch rivals Arsenal, but Ole’s ever growing importance to the Manchester United side was becoming ever more undeniable. His late late equaliser against Chelsea at Old Trafford, followed up by his double against Blackburn Rovers, kept United well and truly in the race. Even though he only managed 9 goals, you could see the development he was making as a footballer, we knew we had something really special in Solskjaer.

What was to follow in the 1998/1999 campaign was beyond the stuff even dreams are made of! As United completed an historic treble. This would arguably be Solskjaer’s finest ever season in a Manchester United shirt, on paper the 2001/02 campaign could be classed as his personal best, as he scored more goals. However throughout treble winning campaign Ole’s goals and performance’s was just that little bit more special. He showed not just us, but the entire footballing world just how important he was to our side, when a chance fell to Solskjaer in the box, you could almost bet your house on him scoring, he was just that good.

We had to wait until January in the FA Cup clash with Liverpool at Old Trafford, to witness the first real bit of Magic arrive that season, but boy was it worth the wait! With United trailing 1-0 and all but a matter of minutes to go, Dwight Yorke looked to have rescued a draw for the reds with a late equaliser, but that was only to be half the story. Almost out of nowhere Ole dramatically appeared in the box, edging the ball to the left before then placing it past the keeper and giving United the victory, however the best was still yet to come. Picture the scene, last minute of a European cup final, 100,000 + supporters in the ground; probably will be the last kick of the game when the ball comes in from the corner, would the pressure be too much? No, Not for Ole, as he dramatically flicked the ball into the top right hand corner, winning the European Cup for Manchester United. The Treble was complete and so was Solskjaers’ legendary status at the club.

Of course it would be almost impossible to top or even for that matter match the standards set by the Treble winning campaign, it was a 1 in a million season. Despite the following seasons bringing more success, failure in Europe left us with a bitter taste in our mouths, the feeling that we could and should have won so much more, however from Solskjaer it was business as usual. A combined total of 28 goals over the next 2 seasons, (1999/2000/ 2000/2001) proved essential, as United eased their way to another 2 Premier League Titles.

The arrival of Dutch forward Ruud Van Nistelrooy would see Ole been given a more regular starting place in the Manchester United side, rather than appearing off the substitutes bench. Right from the off it was clear the pair had the makings of a fantastic partnership. In both Ruud and Ole you had two out and out goal scoring machines, they didn’t need 3 or 4 chances to find the back of the net, they only needed 1. The pair’s unreal striking partnership netted a combined total of a whopping 61 goals, as United narrowly missed out the League Title to Arsenal.

Sir Alex Ferguson’s persistence to playing Van Nistelrooy as the lone striker throughout the 2002/03 campaign did somewhat limit Ole’s opportunities to play in a more advanced role up front for the cub, but did see the Norwegian play in a unfamiliar position on the right wing. It was something we hadn’t really seen from Solskjaer before, but it was a role he did effectively with in particularly his standout moment coming against Newcastle United at Old Trafford, where he beautifully glided past Newcastle’s full back, before then giving it to Paul Scholes who empathically blasted the ball home helping United on their way to an 8th Premier League title. Ole was even selected to play on the Right hand side for the majority of United’s bigger games that season, including against the likes of Real Madrid and Arsenal where again he blossomed.

As we headed into Ole’s final few years at Old Trafford, injuries would become an unfortunate regular occurrence. A knee injury suffered against Panathinakios in September 2003 would limit the forwards appearance’s that campaign to a mere 19. An intensive Knee operation in August 2004 kept Solskjaer out on the side-lines for the next 2 years as he began his recovery process.

He finally made his long anticipated return from injury in August 2006 down at the Valley at Charlton Athletic, where in typical Solskjaer fashion coolly slid the ball home, adding United’s third and final goal of the game, It was almost like he had never been away. With it likely to be his last season, you just knew with Solskjaer he would leave us with just a few more injury time winners! And that is exactly what happened. Firstly it would be Celtic who would be on the end of one of Solskjaers late late shows, who after seeing Louis Saha’s effort saved by the keeper, tucked away the ball home, giving United a 3-2 victory, next it would be Aston Villa in the FA Cup. With the game seemingly all but certain to end 1-1, Ole from the edge of the area placed the ball under the keeper handing the club a 2-1 victory and a place in the next round of the FA Cup. Fittingly his last goal for the club came against Blackburn Rovers (where it all started off) scoring United’s fourth and final goal of the game in a vital 4-1 victory.

His retirement from the game was officially announced on 28th August 2007, which brought to an end an 11 year stay at the theatre if Dreams. His playing days may be long over but the memories he left still live ever present in the minds of every single Manchester United fan.

 

Young and Borthwick-Jackson Could Feature Against Liverpool

Louis Van Gaal has been handed a boost ahead of tomorrow nights make-or-break Europa League tie against Liverpool as it has been reported that Ashley Young and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson could feature in some capacity, as seen in The Guardian

Coincidentally, Young last featured for United in the victory over Liverpool on January 17th, where he suffered a groin injury, and the 30-year-old joined in training with the first team squad this morning. 19-year-old defender Borthwick-Jackson also rejoins the first team squad having not featured since the FA Cup victory over Shrewsbury Town in February.

Borthwick-Jackson has been one of the success stories this season since making his debut against West Bromich Albion as a substitute in Novemeber last year. He has since made 11 appearances for the club in all competitions and has earned many plaudits for his attack-minded displays reminiscent of those displayed during the Sir Alex Ferguson era.

With United trailing 2-0 to bitter rivals Liverpool after defeat in the first leg at Anfield, the return at Old Trafford is seen as crucial to the clubs hopes of reaching the Champions League through the back door as a top four finish remains in the hands of other teams. The return of Young and Borthwick-Jackson could prove to be pivotal as United look to qualify for the Champions League through the back door with hopes of a top four finish in the Premier League currently out of their hands.

Ryan Giggs can be United’s Guardiola – says Bryan Robson

Ryan Giggs can be come Manchester United’s next manager at the end of the season, according to former United captain Bryan Robson.

Despite Jose Mourinho being tipped to succeed van Gaal, Robson believes Giggs, who has been van Gaal’s assistant, would be a perfect choice.

Robson had this to say:

The thing for me is that Van Gaal was always going to be a three-year contract with Ryan working under him so that they could see whether he was ready to step in.

Ryan was a great player for this club, he loves playing football the United way, he’s done all his badges and for me he’s in the right place at the right time.

People say it’s too big a challenge, too big a jump. But I don’t agree. Look at Pep Guardiola, he came through the ranks at Barcelona as a player and then as a young coach and then they trusted him and he stepped up. He was tremendously successful.

It’s the same with Ryan. He knows what this club is all about and the fans would be totally behind the club if they made that decision and totally behind Ryan.

Read the full article on the Daily Mail website by clicking here.

Do you think Ryan Giggs would succeed as manager of United? Let us know in the comments below.

Rooney set to return after International break

Rooney has been out with a knee ligament injury since the middle of February and is set to return after England’s friendly matches against Germany and Holland.

The Manchester United and England captain expects to feature in United’s final run-in in the Premier League and any potential Europa League and FA Cup matches.

Rooney will also then have three warm up games with England at the end of May/beginning of June, so he is confident he will be ready and fit.

Rooney is quoted by The Sun:

I am hoping if I am back when I am expected to be back, depending on the two cups we are still in, then there could be 10 games left for United plus the England games so I don’t think that would be a worry.

It is going as planned. It is going how we first thought. It is going well so hopefully it won’t be too long now. I don’t know for definite but after the international break. Obviously I will miss the England games, but it shouldn’t be too long after that.

It is not too bad. We are being a bit cautious. It is a difficult one to try and push back. If I try and push and be involved now it could cause more damage. So we are being cautious.

You can read the full article on the Guardian website by clicking here.

Ousmane Dembele watched by United and Barcelona

French wonderkid Ousmane Dembele, 18, was scouted by five Premier League clubs on Sunday during Rennes’ match with Lyon. The clubs present included Manchester United, Arsenal, West Ham, Southampton and Stoke City.

Dembele is being labelled as the best talent to emerge from France in years. He has scored 9 goals this season and set up Rennes’ first goal on Sunday.

Ousmane Dembele was also watched by Spanish giants, Barcelona and German champions Bayern Munich, both of which are considered front runners to sign the youngster.

France coach Didier Deschamps has said that Dembele can play across the pitch in all attacking positions and can use both of his feet.

You can read the full article on the Daily Mail website by clicking here.

Watch Dembele in action below:

Man United 1-1 West Ham | Match review

United come from behind at Old Trafford to secure replay at Upton Park.

West Ham started the game bright, pushing forward and creating chances. In the first 10 minutes they had three attempts on goal to United’s none, despite the home team pressing very well off the ball.

United eventually settled into the game and began creating their own chances although, none of which really put the West Ham keeper under any pressure.

The start of the second half was somewhat scrappy with very little being created by either team and this continued until the hour mark when West Ham stepped up a gear.

On the 68th minute the visitors took the lead through a fantastically taken, long range Payet free kick. Even David de Gea was unable to stop it.

United reacted well and with the introduction of Schweinsteiger and Memphis in the 75th minute, chances were being created. In the space of ten minutes United had created about 7 or 8 chances and it was during this spell that United found their equaliser.

In the 83rd minute, Ander Herrera played a good cross from the right hand side to the back post where Martial was able to get on the end of it and tuck the ball into the back of the net.

Anthony Martial celebrates his equaliser against West Ham (Picture: mirror.co.uk)
Anthony Martial celebrates his equaliser against West Ham (Picture: mirror.co.uk)

West Ham did fight back in the last ten minutes but United held them off to secure a replay at Upton Park.

The game was a scrappy one and again saw United’s defence perform better than their attack. Michael Carrick was United’s stand out player. The midfield veteran played several passes into the forwards, putting United onto the front foot and he also made as many defensive interceptions and tackles as our defenders did.

Michael Carrick winning the ball from Payet (Picture: mirror.co.uk)
Michael Carrick winning the ball from Payet (Picture: mirror.co.uk)

There really isn’t much to be said about this game other than it was underwhelming. But that’s something that has become commonplace at United in recent seasons so you could go as far as saying it was a typical United performance. I hate to say it but, post-Alex Ferguson this is very typical.

Our next game is the home leg of the Europa League last 16 tie against Liverpool. We are 2-0 down on aggregate so need three goals to win. If Liverpool score, we need four. It will be a very tough task against Liverpool under Klopp as they have, by far, been the better team against us since he’s been their manager.

What did you think of today’s game? Did we deserve the draw? Did West Ham deserve to go through to the Semi Final? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Paul’s player ratings – Man United V West Ham

David de Gea (6) Kept United in the game with a late save.
Guillermo Varela (6) Made some important interceptions but almost ineffective going forward.
Chris Smalling (6) Did his job in the air and made a couple of important tackles.
Daley Blind (7) Made several interceptions and tackles and his distribution was an improvement on his last game.
Marcos Rojo (7) Had a good game in defence and going forward, making interceptions and playing some good forward passes and crosses.
Michael Carrick (8) A MOTM performance. Dictated the play from midfield playing many key forward passes and contributed to the defence with plenty of interceptions and tackles.
Marouane Fellaini (5) Gave the ball away too often and committed a couple of unnecessary fouls.
Jesse Lingard (6) Had an average performance and played his part in the build up to Martial’s goal.
Ander Herrera (7) Sparked to life late in the game with a series of crosses into the box, one of which was an assist to Martial’s goal.
Anthony Martial (6) Only manged a couple of successful take-on’s and lost possession a number of times, but did get the equaliser.
Marcus Rashford (5) Didn’t get too many chances but when in possession did give the ball away too often when under pressure.

Bastian Schweinsteiger (7) Despite only being on the pitch for 15 minutes he sparked life into United by hunting the ball down and getting it forward.
Memphis Depay (6) A couple of unsuccessful take-on’s due to poor decision making but he did contribute to United’s late surge with a couple of good passes and crosses.

For additional analysis, please watch The United Stand’s live match reaction by clicking here or watching below:

Louis van Gaal: 3 year plan is working

Speaking after the embarrassing defeat to Liverpool on Thursday, United boss, Louis van Gaal, claimed that his three year plan is still working as his team are still fighting on three fronts: top four, Europa League and FA Cup.

We are in three different competitions, and at this stage of the season a lot of other teams and managers cannot say that. We still have the chance to win something.

When asked about United’s inconsistency this season, he had this to say:

I have to always keep changing the team. I have been unable to play the same lineup in many matches because of injuries or tired players. When you are in three competitions and you don’t have too many players it is difficult.

You can read the full article on the Guardian website by clicking here.

As a United fan, and I’m sure the same goes for most of you, listening to Louis van Gaal’s excuses just makes me want to push my fingers into my eyes.

So, your three year plan is still working is it, Louis? If your three year plan was to have us struggling for top four, getting eliminated from a winnable Champions League group stage and possibly guiding us toward another Champions League-less season, then yes. Your plan is working.

And don’t blame injuries and tiredness of players as an excuse for our poor season. You’ve had millions of pounds and several transfer windows to prevent that from happening. And didn’t you recently say that NOT buying players was intentional so that you could give youth a chance?

You’re making it up as you go, Louis. You’re making up excuses to suit the situation. Well, you’re just making a fool of yourself.

Manchester United sign Matthew Olosunde

Manchester United have signed highly rated American youth prospect Matthew Olosunde. The 18 year old defender/midfielder has been signed straight from college, although he has spent time with the New York Red Bulls.

United received international clearance for Olusande this week and he has already made his first appearance as a United player during the Red Devils youngsters U18’s 3-2 loss at the hands of Brighton and Hove Albion U18’s on Friday (11 March).

Olusande had been drafted in from Duke University by New York Red Bulls as one of their six new recruits for the upcoming MLS season. However, United made their move and the exciting American has now made the move to Manchester over New York.

Duke’s University head coach John Kerr said, as quoted by the Manchester Evening News, said “Matthew is a fantastic player who is comfortable playing in the back or in midfield. He has wicked pace and has incredible defensive recovery speed. He has great one vs one instincts on both sides of the ball and will help us right away in a number of positions,”.

Matthew Olusande
Manchester United signing Matthew Olusande

He’ll now be helping the Manchester United youth side, and hopefully the Manchester United first team in years to come.

Welcome to Manchester Matthew!

By Mark Goldbridge

Louis van Gaal: ‘Stop living in the past and embrace the Europa League’

In his latest press conference, Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal, has suggested that United fans must stop living in the past and dwelling on past successes and instead, embrace the Europa League.

Although the Dutchman acknowledged that the Europa League is not particularly popular in England, he would not accept that it was ‘unsatisfactory’ for a club like Manchester United to be competing in it.

Speaking about the negative view that United supporters have of the Europa League, he said that 58,000 fans came out to watch United against Midtjylland at Old Trafford and that shows that the fans do appreciate the competition. He added that he also believes there will be a full house at Old Trafford when Liverpool visit for the 2nd leg.

Yes, I have noticed that you have a negative view, but you have noticed against Midtjylland there were 58,000 fans at Old Trafford, so the fans of Manchester United are appreciating it. How many fans do you think there will be against Liverpool? I think 75,000. And I also think Liverpool will be sold out. That is what I have to say – it is very important for both teams.

You can read the full article on the Guardian website by clicking here.

A club of Manchester United’s stature should always be aiming for the very best and it doesn’t come better than the UEFA Champions League. United are considered one of Europe’s elite clubs and Europe’s elite clubs ply their trade in the Champions League.

So it frustrates me to hear Louis van Gaal saying that we should embrace the Europa League. Okay, this season we really have no choice and it’s looking increasingly unlikely that we will qualify for next year’s Champions League with top 4 slipping away and if we progress to the last 8 of the Europa League, there are several difficult teams we could face.

Louis van Gaal knows that Manchester United belong in the Champions League. So why is he ‘bigging-up’ the Europa League, trying to make it seem acceptable for Manchester United to compete in it?

It’s because he is failing to secure a top four spot and he is worried that he may also fail to guide United to a Europa League triumph. The best he can aim for then is to finish the Premier League season in a Europa League spot. So it makes sense for him to be urging us fans to ’embrace’ it.

Well, I’m sorry Louis, but we belong in the Champions League.

Darren Fletcher – a look back at his 12 years with United

Let’s be honest here, when Darren Fletcher first stepped onto the Old Trafford turf against FC Basel back in March 2003, you couldn’t have foreseen the then Young Scot going on to become a first team regular at the club, he just didn’t look like he had it in him to become a United player. However in a career that spanned 12 years at Old Trafford, Fletcher went on to become an essential part of the Manchester United team, fast becoming Sir Alex Fergusons’ first name on the team sheet when the big games came calling.

He may not have many tricks or the flicks in his locker, but in what he lacked, he more than made up for in work rate. It didn’t matter whether it was the 1st minute or the 90th minute, we could always rely on Fletch to hunt down the opposition and win the ball back. He may not have been a player who necessarily grabbed the headlines every week, but his importance to the side should never be under estimated.

Cameo’s in the 2002/03 campaign eventually led to Fletcher been handed a regular first team spot in the Manchester United side as the following season got underway. Despite playing somewhat out of position on occasions on the wing, the early signs were promising for the Young Scot. He might not have set the world alight, but he was doing a job for the side and that’s what mattered. He rounded off what was a fine debut season by starting against Millwall in the FA Cup Final in Cardiff, helping United secure a 3-0 victory.

Despite a slow start to the 2004/05 season, Fletcher yet again found himself back in amongst the United first team, scoring his first goal for the club in a 2-0 win against Middlesbrough. He followed that up by scoring goals against Charlton Athletic and Southampton, as Fletcher ended the season making in all 30 appearances netting 3 goals.  It may not have been as impressive as his debut campaign, but you could clearly see the development Fletcher was making as a player. His all round game passing, tackling and decision making was slowly but surely improving.

Darren Fletcher left United for West Brom in January 2015 (Picture: theguardian.com)
Darren Fletcher left United for West Brom in January 2015 (Picture: theguardian.com)

Playing alongside the likes of Paul Scholes and Roy Keane in the centre of the midfield at such a young age turned out to be a crucial experience for Fletch and one he would no doubt learn and benefit from, with arguably the standout moment coming back in October 2005, where after suffering a nightmare 4-1 defeat to Middlesbrough at the Riverside Stadium, Fletcher received harsh criticism from then United skipper Roy Keane. This was arguably a pivotal moment in Fletcher’s Old Trafford career. Would he respond to his critics and prove the doubters wrong or would he take the easy way out and leave the club. The answer would be of course he would stay prove the doubters wrong, and what better way to respond to your critics by than scoring the winner against Chelsea at Old Trafford. His clever looping header at the back post drifted over Peter Cech giving United a crucial 1-0 victory.

Throughout the following seasons, Fletcher again played his role in the club’s success on the field as United went on to win back to back Premier League titles and the European Cup in Moscow. The arrivals of Michael Carrick, Owen Hargreaves and Anderson in the centre of midfield made regular first team opportunities for the Scot hard to come by, but he still managed an impressive 64 appearances over the 2 campaigns, (2006/07, 2007/08) however It wouldn’t be till next year where we would finally start to see the very best of Fletcher.

It couldn’t really have started much better for the Scot as we began the 2008/09 campaign,  scoring United’s first league goal of the new season against Newcastle United at Old Trafford with a delightful finish and scoring the all-important winner down at Fratton Park handing United a crucial 1-0 victory. Goals then followed against Everton at Goodsion Park and Gamba Osaka in the Club World Cup. Yes technically on the ball he may not have been that great, but his work rate for the side and winning the key midfield battles was essential for United. Every football side needs a player like Fletch in it if they are going to be successful.

If anyone doubted just how important Darren Fletcher had become to Manchester United, then the UEFA Champions League final against Barcelona in 2009 would be the moment were we realised just how important he actually was. After been shown a red card against Arsenal in the previous round, it meant Fletcher would have to sit out the clubs biggest game of the season. To say we missed him would be something of an understatement; we just didn’t look the same side without him. Many put the loss down to the magic of Messi, but it was Barcelona’s midfield pairing of Xavi and Iniesta who were the real trouble makers pulling the strings in the centre of midfield. You couldn’t help but feel if Fletcher was in the side that night, it could have been a different story and we would have retained the European Cup.

Darren Fletcher and Wayne Rooney lift the International Champions Cup (Picture: ibtimes.co.uk)
Darren Fletcher and Wayne Rooney lift the International Champions Cup (Picture: ibtimes.co.uk)

Despite the loss of Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez the following summer, the 2009/10 would arguably turn out to be Fletch’s finest season ever in a Manchester United shirt, as the club remained challenging on all 4 fronts. In a much hyped and tempered Manchester Derby Fletcher again stood up and delivered when it mattered most, scoring 2 headers as United went on to famously win 4-3. Goals then followed with a stunning half volley against Everton and a cheeky header at the back post against AC Milan in the European cup. His consistent and superb performances that season eventually led to Fletch been handed the captains armband for the first time in his united career against West Ham United at Old Trafford, and was even named in the PFA Team of the year.

Unfortunately his appearances became limited after Fletch suffered with ulcerative colitis which would see the Scot take a break from the game as he recovered.  He made his long anticipated return to the united side in December 2013 coming off the bench, in the club’s 3-0 victory over Aston Villa. Just to see Fletcher back in a Manchester United shirt again was fantastic to see, it didn’t even matter how he even preformed, it was just brilliant to see him come back.

His time at the club was finally brought to an end on the 3rd February 2015, where Fletch joined West Brom on a free transfer. His stay at the club may be over, but his contribution will never be forgotten amongst the united faithful.