Reports surfaced today that Jose Mourinho is keen to sign Gonzalo Higuain from Napoli this summer if he is to take over the reigns at Old Trafford. With Chelsea and Arsenal, amongst others, apparently waiting in the wings, Mourinho is reportedly willing to part with up to £74 million of United’s cash to land the Argentine superstar.
Higuain was part of the Mourinho’s La Liga winning Real Madrid side in 2012 and finished the season with 22 goals, the second highest for the club that season behind only Cristiano Ronaldo (who, granted, did score an incredible 46 league goals that season).
Deemed surplus to requirements at the Bernabeu at the end of the 2012/13 season, the 28-year-old moved to Napoli where he has thrived in Serie A. Having hit an incredible 29 goals in 30 appearances to date this season, Higuain sits top of the goalscorers list by an incredible 15 goals, with Carlos Bacca of Milan and Paulo Dybala of Juventus tied in second place with 14 goals.
The Argentine international is widely regarded as a world-class striker, something that United have been lacking this season and Mourinho has made that position his top priority this summer. Signing a player such as Higuain would show a huge signal of intent as United look to catapult themselves back to the summit of English football.
United have reportedly long been admirers of the striker but, with a host of clubs looking to secure his signature this summer, it could force the clubs hand.
28 September 2004: A fresh-faced 18 year old Wayne Rooney marked his debut for Manchester United against Fenerbahce, scoring a stunning hattrick to send Old Trafford rocking. Another star was born, much to the envy of other sides in the Premiership.
Fast forward to 30 March 2016: The Express are reporting Wayne Rooney is seeking a meeting with Jose Mourinho, the man expected to be appointed United manager, to have assurances provided over his place in the first team from next season and beyond.
The problem there is within itself. If Wayne Rooney, the Manchester United and English captain, needs to seek assurances over his spot, then Rooney must know his form is not where it needs to be. Can you imagine Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Zlatan Ibrahimovic or Robert Lewandowski, requiring guarantees over their position? These men prove themselves every time they play for their club and country; they demand selection.
Why would I compare Rooney to these players? The United captain is one of the highest earners in world football, allegedly earning up to £300,000 a week and from what he has achieved at the club, rightfully so. But if you want to demand big money, you need to display great performances on a consistent basis.
Wayne Rooney is a legend. He has 244 goals, just 5 short of Sir Bobby Charlton’s goal scoring record for United, and has been a major part of United’s 5 Premier League and the 2008 Champions League triumphs and as recently as the turbulent season under Moyes, displayed real leadership in being a constantly good player in what was United’s worst season in over two decades.
The Englishman has also given us many wonderful memories. As previously mentioned, his phenomenal debut, his volley against Newcastle, his toiler-like efforts, The Beckam-like bomb against West ham.. and who will ever forget THAT bicycle against our cross-town neighbours? (Still stings, doesn’t it, City?)
But he is declining. In Season 2011-12, Rooney scored 27 goals and had 10 assists in the Premier league. One season later, with Robin Van Persie joining the Englishman up front, Rooney returned a solid 12 goals and 11 assists.
To Rooney’s own detriment, he is versatile and has had to play deeper at times to the benefit of the team; however, this season, Rooney was finally given the opportunity in his preferred role at centre-forward.
22 appearances later, a disappointing 7 goals and 4 assists. Let’s get something straight, this is not all Rooney’s doing. United’s attack as a whole has been much-maligned this season; but the flip-side of that is United arguably play with more pace and precision with Rashford and Martial in the front 3.
Normally, Rooney would walk back into the team; however, the emergence of youngster Marcus Rashford is coincidentally, doing a Rooney on Rooney. He is making the same noises and getting the United fans something to cheer about in what has been a disappointing season.
For someone of Wayne’s ability, he will occasionally hit a patch of form as we saw in January when Rooney had his best run of form, but these performances have become the exception rather than the norm.
As Sir Alex Ferguson famously announced, when Wayne scores, he scores many; but when he doesn’t score, he goes a fair while without scoring.
United are likely to appoint Jose Mourinho in the summer – and there’s a feeling that, as hard as it is, United need to let go of the ‘Ferguson era’ and establish a new kind of dominance. The shadow of Ferguson will loom while ever the club is unsuccessful, and Rooney is a major part of that. He has been a part of the clubs years of dominance, but the form he had in those days have long passed.
Rooney’s days of running past people are gone; his ability to grab a game by the scruff of the neck have finished.
Selfishly, he will be hesitant to leave; he wants to break Charlton’s record. But given the performances we have produced in his absence, a part of him must know the end is near. As each game passes that his form deserts him, the whispers of his decline will become roars.
Rooney will always be a great and he deserves to be remembered in a good light. Come back from injury, secure the club a top 4 finish, and progress into the sunset.
Mourinho needs to make a big call when he arrives, and that call should result in Wayne leaving to China or the States for one final pay-day.
We love you Wayne, but it’s time to go.
Your Aussie Correspondent,
Larry – The United Stand.
This season has seen many of United’s youngsters given plenty of opportunities and game time as a result of injuries to United’s senior players. But one of United’s hottest prospects, Andreas Pereira, is continuously overlooked by Louis van Gaal.
The young Brazilian was in action for Brazil’s under-23 team yesterday against Bafana Bafana. A game in which he scored with a composed finish. Pereira hopes that he can continue to perform for Brazil and take part in the Olympics.
Despite his lack of minutes at club level under van Gaal, Pereira still believes that United is the place that he can become a great player. In an interview with ManUtd.com he had this to say:
“It’s a dream to play in the Olympics so hopefully I can do that. I am working hard to get there and hope I can. It’s an Under-23 team and obviously I’m 20 now.
“It is very special because Brazil have never won a gold medal in the Olympics for football. It would be nice if we can win it for the first time. Argentina have won it before so we want to catch up with them!
“My ultimate dream is to play for the first team of Brazil and win a World Cup. That’s my biggest dream. I know United can help me a lot with that dream and hopefully we can help out each other.”
You can read the full article on the Daily Mail website by clicking here.
International friendlies –An opportunity to get a dose of patriotism as teams tinker with their squads for the upcoming Euro 2016 tournament– or an opportunity to derail your clubs top four hopes in the case of Manchester United.
As players left their clubs to push their claims for international duty, United duo Daley Blind and Bastian Schweinsteiger have succumbed to injury.
In positive news, Blind’s injury appears to be minor and looks set to play against England on Tuesday night. Unfortunately, Schweinsteiger was not afforded the same luxury, ruled out for the remainder of the 2015/16 season with a knee injury that’s plagued him for the best part of two seasons.
This has caused unrest in the football world, particular among Manchester United fans, who have begun to question whether the signing of Schweinsteiger has been a success or a flop. Let’s assess the German’s season and assess our position on Bastian.
The signing of the German was met with great excitement and praise among the United faithful. It was believed this was the greatest signing since Roy Keane – a box-to-box midfielder who can protect the defence and score wonder goals, freeing Wayne Rooney to be an out-and-out centre forward. In hindsight, this has not happened, with form and injury disallowing Schweinsteiger from any consistent game time to see the full potential of the legend’s offering.
But he was never going to be that Roy Keane. As Schweinsteiger approaches his 32nd Birthday, it is time for both management and player to consider how the German can provide to be most effective to this United side – if he can be effective, period.
Positives: What has been evident is the leadership qualities the German captain provides. We have heard Ryan Giggs’ praise of the German on many occasions, stating that no one has brought into ‘the United way’ quicker. As a man who has achieved so much in football, this quality can be used to help the younger players like Martial, Rashford, Memphis and Andreas Peirera as they continue to learn about dealing with the expectations of playing for a club with a large stature.
In football, we have seen that some players just have an aura about them – the man you see beside you in the dressing room where you look in his eyes and knew that as long as he was by your side, you were winning the game. This is how Schweinsteiger can be Roy Keane-like. Make no mistake about it, Schweinsteiger is a winner and although the cameras portray a happy, exuberant character, he will not be taking United’s current position lightly.
Negatives: For all of Schweinsteiger’s achievements, his performances in the red of Manchester have been underwhelming. In his 26 appearances in the Premier league and Champions league, Schweinsteiger’s return reads 1 goal and 1 assist. Not exactly the stats you expect from a world-class midfielder.
The biggest concern for the German international has to be his troublesome knee. It is approaching 2 years since the 2014 World Cup where Schweinster’s knee has become problematic and continues to plague him. For the United manager, whoever it may be, this has to enter the thought process as to whether he can make an effective contribution to Manchester United.
Consider this: Who has performed well this season? All the creative players in the side are not returning great numbers. In terms of midfielders, Herrera has the greatest return with 29 appearances, totalling 5 goals and 5 assists.
For all the disappointments of Schweinster’s inaugural season in England, it is worth remembering he was signed for a mere £6.5 million; toiletry expenses for a club the stature of Manchester United.
Final decision: He is worth another season. He has too much class, physically and intellectually, to be written off this early into the piece.
The time has come to assess the way the central midfielder is used. In recent times, we have seen Paul Scholes, Xavi and Steven Gerrard drop deeper into a ‘dictator’ role and be effective. A player of Schweinsteiger’s intellect could adopt a similar position, leaving him to control the pace of the game and play balls forward when an opportunity presents itself, while preserving his knee from large amounts of running.
Your Aussie Correspondent,
Larry – The United Stand
Passion, rivalry, aggression – things that used to be the norm rather than the exception in the red vs blue from Manchester, but this clash provided in the former. It can be argued that this was down to 18 year old Mancunian Marcus Rashford, who scored in the winning goal in the 16th minute to keep United’s top 4 hopes within one point from their cross-town neighbors, but this was not the only moment for United’s young light of hope. Rashford was menacing all game, much to the torture of Dimechellis who had a terrible game, allowing Rashford to skip past him for the initial goal and quite blatantly committing a foul in the box that was somehow not called a penalty. To make matters worse for the former Bayern Munich defender, he was arguably responsible for Joe Hart coming off with an unnecessary backward pass that caused Hart to clear his line urgently close attention coming from Anthony Martial.
Usually, we would say such a win should see United kick-on and go on a run that sees them secure a top 4 finish; however, their recent inconsistencies makes one a very brave judge to make such a prediction. We need only to look at the second half where after a counter-attacking and promising first half, United spent the rest of the game in their own end. Being a goal down, Manchester City add a midfielder into the mix as they chase a goal to get back into the game which had United on the back foot; however, United looked comfortable to settle for as much.
City built pressure and had opportunities to get back into the game and had it not been for the poor form that Manchester City themselves are currently having, they may have punished United. United in the past would have gone for the game and secured the 2nd goal to put the result beyond doubt; however, Van Gaal with his questionable substitutions of Valencia, Schweinsteiger and Fosu-Mensah, looked to settle for the narrow win. Nonetheless, the red side of Manchester hung on to survive the on-slaught. So the question beckons, can Manchester United FINALLY mount some momentum to secure a top four finish?
It’s achievable — but the next three weeks are crucial. After the break, United face Everton at Old Trafford followed by Tottenham away with a West Ham replay for the FA Cup in between. These are very hard games and no doubt will test the mental toughness of this Manchester United side
With Manchester City struggling, United hold their own fate. For all of Louis Van Gaal’s struggles, he can save some dignity by securing a top 4 place and possibly an FA Cup before leaving the club. In order for United to do this, LVG needs to get his much maligned player selection spot on.
It is no coincidence that United displayed precision when Maroune Fellaini was left out of the game. This allowed Schneiderlin to protect the defence which freed Carrick to dictate play and look to push the ball forward. For all of Fellaini’s critics, I feel Van Gaal misuses him and opens him for criticism. Fellani’s best performances for Everton were in an attacking mid role behind the striker where he could get amongst defenders and use his frame to create opportunities for others, if not score himself. This is how United should deploy him if need be: late in the 2nd half when we need a physical presence to create a goal. Otherwise, he should be nowhere near this team. Simple.
As Schweinsteiger builds fitness, I think we will see United revert back to Schmidfield (Schneidlerlin and Schweinsteiger) which arguably has been our best combination. If United can maintain the current side as is and have Rooney to return, I think United can definitely achieve top 4. It also helps that United have five of their last eight fixtures at Old Trafford.
For now, let’s enjoy what was a great victory and the emergence of the next Mancunian star. It was a great win but there’s no doubt that top 4 is a must for a club of this stature, of this loyal and patient fan-base. This great club deserves to be great and the fans deserve a great club. Manchester is Red…let’s make the top 4 red as well.
Let’s stay strong, back the boys and stay United!
Your Aussie Correspondent,
Larry – The United Stand.
Juan Mata has said he would welcome the arrival of Zlatan Ibrahimovic at Manchester United.
The Paris Saint-Germain striker’s contract is due to expire in the summer and the 34-year old has been heavily-linked with a move Old Trafford.
The Spaniard told Sky Sports: “I don’t know what he is going to do, whether he is going to stay there or not, maybe he will try a new chapter in his long career.
Ibrahimovic has won trophies with the likes of Inter Milan, Ajax, AC Milan, PSG and Barcelona but is yet to play for an English club.
“He is probably the best in Sweden’s history for what he represents. He has played in so many countries and leagues and won trophies everywhere. That speaks about his quality as a player and his importance for PSG and in the national team where he is a captain.
“He is a very good player and I like to play with very good players. Every player would be happy to play with him.”
Manchester United have joined Bayern Munich in a race to sign Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly.
Koulibaly, 24, has played a vital part in Napoli’s fantastic season where they currently sit within three points of Serie A leaders Juventus. Napoli also boast the second best defensive record in the league.
The Napoli defender signed for the Italian club from Genk in 2014 and is currently in talks to extend his contract. Napoli want to secure the player for the long term before big clubs try to sign him. His agent had this to say:
There’s no hurry, but Napoli want to keep him for the long-term, and settle things before the massive clubs come in.
We’ve spoken calmly, but the president will decide if he wants to offer a renewal. We have contact with everyone, but he’s not for sale.
After the win, the 34-year-old was quoted as saying “I am not sure yet to be honest. I haven’t heard anything just at the moment, no. Hopefully some time soon. I have been here a long time, I have had some great times here and I love the club. It’s a great place to play. Playing games like against City keeps you having that buzz and enthusiasm to play for longer.
“I am not making a big deal of it, to be honest. I will just have to wait and see what happens. I am quite relaxed about it.”
If Carrick was to sign a new contract, it would coincide with a tenth year at the club having signed from Tottenham Hotspur in July 2006 by Sir Alex Ferguson for a reported £14 million. The England international has been pivotal in the club’s success ever since, the highlight being a starting berth in the Champions League victory in 2008 over Chelsea.
Manchester United fans have long admired the attributes that Carrick brings to the squad, having been a stalwart at the heart of the midfield during some of the club’s most successful years. He was a key member of the squad which won three successive Premier League titles between 2007 and 2009 and, with over 400 games for the club to date, sits within the top 25 appearance makers for Manchester United. His 34 caps for England to date show no reflection on his talent and it could easily be argued that Carrick has been vastly underused at international level.
Voted Players Player of the Year in 2013, Carrick has won five Premier League titles, one League Cup, one Champions League, one World Club Cup and five Community Shields in his time in Manchester. Whilst clearly in the twilight years of his career, a one year extension to his current deal would represent a huge positive for the club.
It was a big week for United last week which turned out to be a mixed week in terms of results and performances. We took on Liverpool in the second leg of the Europa League round of 16, in which we needed to turn around a 2-0 deficit and then of course there was the highly anticipated Manchester Derby at the “Emptyhad” – although it was pretty full for this game.
It was a week that was important and a week that had the potential to either keep United’s season alive or totally destroy it and I have to be honest, I wasn’t particularly psyched for either game and that is purely down to the football we have been subjected to and the managers team selections. All season we have seen unfathomable team selections and severely mundane football, so you can forgive me for not being enthusiastic, despite who our opponents were and our recent record against the better teams.
The result against Liverpool came as no surprise to me, especially after seeing Fellaini had been picked and that Schweinsteiger and Schneiderlin in particular, were left on the bench. I knew that with the Belgian playing that it would be like playing with 10 men and that we would struggle.
The game itself didn’t turn out as bad as I thought it would be though, however we did lack the desire and passion that you would expect from a Manchester United V Liverpool match. The performance was toothless and I failed to see any real passion or fight on the pitch. This was not acceptable in such a huge game on the Football calendar.
Then of course there were the defensive substitutions; two full backs and a defensive midfielder. In a game where you are chasing three goals, you make attacking changes, right? I know I’m no manager, but come on. Memphis was on the bench so why was he not used? As we have witnessed recently, he is that player who can produce something special. At the very least, he would have added some pace and strength in our attack.
Following the draw against Liverpool at Old Trafford came the victory in the Manchester derby at the Etihad. Again, I could not get excited during the few days building up to this match like I normally would for such a big game. Sure, City were also on a run of substandard form, but United have been so much worse. My hope was lifted a little, however, when I saw that Fellaini wasn’t starting. I liked the prospect of Carrick and Schneiderlin starting with Mata in the number 10 role. Mata hasn’t really been a standout player in recent weeks with goals and assists, but more often than not he is involved in the build up to goals… when we actually score them!
The team selection without Fellaini paid off. It felt like we had another option in midfield. I can’t help but believe that if Fellaini had played it would have been Schneiderlin who would have been left on the bench and Schneiderlin played a role in the build up to the only goal of the game. He and Mata linked up in the midfield then Mata threaded the ball through to Marcus Rashford. The youngster then skipped past an ageing Demichelis and slotted the ball past the England number 1, Joe Hart.
Winning this game gave United yet another glimmer of hope in finishing in the top four, with City – who currently sit fourth – now only one point ahead, although the remaining games each of the top 5/6 teams has tends to suggest that we may struggle to get that top four spot.
What can we take from the two matches?
If we are to take any positives from this week is has to be that with Marcus Rashford in the team our attack looks so much better with added pace, strength and of course, goals! All we need now is for Memphis to start firing and we can be a lethal attacking force again.
Michael Carrick also had two great games this week. His defensive contribution has been vital and his passing ability to instigate attacking moves has been admirable. And let’s not forget Smalling, Blind and de Gea. This trio have been excellent not just in the last week, but all season and are without doubt the reason we are not flirting around mid-table.
Paul’s final thought
We may all be happy that we have beaten City at the Etihad but we simply cannot forget the horror show we were subjected to over the two legs against Liverpool in the Europa League. The performance was disgusting and completely unacceptable against such big rivals. We must not allow ourselves to use the odd victory, like the one over City, to paper over the cracks of our poor season. As fans, some of us are slipping into that frame of mind where we are beginning to accept mediocrity. I have seen it on social media and I am guilty of it myself. This simply cannot happen.
Thank you for reading and enjoy the international break… Who am I kidding? No one enjoys it!