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.

That Boy Ronaldo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Guardiola Joins City – What Next For United?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Man United 3-0 Stoke City

United score two rare first half goals in their 3-0 victory over Stoke City.

As United fans we have been treated to some fantastic football over the last few days with a 3-1 victory at Derby and tonight, a 3-0 victory against Stoke City. After the let down that was the January transfer window, United fans deserved something to be positive about and the game tonight provided just that.

United started the game at a quick tempo and created several chances in the opening minutes of the game. Rooney came close in just the 6th minute, forcing a diving save from Jack Butland but, it was academy graduate, Jesse Lingard, who opened the scoring in the 14th minute. The assist came from another academy graduate in Cameron Borthwick-Jackson. The 19-year old hit a drive low cross across the face of goal finding Lingard who finished with a low diving header to put United ahead.

Summer signing Anthony Martial also caused problems for Stoke with his predator-like runs, weaving gracefully past defenders leaving them dazed and confused. He came close to doubling United’s lead just a couple of minutes after Lingard’s opener after skipping past two Stoke defenders and powering a shot towards goal. It missed, but not by much.

Martial continued to give Stoke a hard time and in the 23rd minute doubled United’s lead with a spectacular goal. Rooney, on the right hand side of the pitch, spotted Martial unmarked out on the left just outside the box, so he played a square ball across to him. Martial controlled the ball, looked up, shaped himself and struck the ball with power curling over and around Jack Butland into the far corner of the net.

United were cruising and the crowd were loving it.

Jesse Lingard celebrates his goal against Stoke (Picture:
Jesse Lingard celebrates his goal against Stoke (Picture:

Stoke City did, however, have a brief spell late in the first half where they had a few attempts at goal but United’s defence stood firm preventing Stoke from causing David de Gea any real problems.

The second half saw United come out looking for more as they continued to push forward searching for the third goal that would surely kill the game off and it only took 4 minutes. Only the goal was disallowed as Rooney was penalised for a push on Glen Johnson before rocketing the ball between Butland at his near post.

But that didn’t deter United. Three minutes later, Daley Blind played a ball into Mata, who turned and spotted Martial to his left. Mata played the ball out to Martial who struck a left foot cross across the face of goal finding Wayne Rooney who simply tapped the ball into the net. 3-0. Game over.

With United 3-0 up and the game won, Louis van Gaal gave some game time to Memphis, Herrera and Pereira. Memphis looked sharp, hungry and full of fight so hopefully we will see him regain some form in the not too distant future.

After the win, United remain in 5th, still 5 points behind 4th. Spurs’ win carries them up to 3rd as Arsenal slip to 4th after they only manage a draw against Southampton.

United remain in 5th but keep the pressure on the top four
United remain in 5th but keep the pressure on the top four

So United have had a good few days in terms of both performance and results. Are we about to see a turn in fortunes? Will United go on a run and power back in to the top four? Have your say below in the comments box. We would love to hear what people think.

Also, don’t miss The United Stand’s live match reaction with Mark Goldbridge. Watch by clicking here or watching below:

Man United Team Sheet

de Gea
Fellaini Substituted for Herrera at 80′ minutes
Mata Substituted for Pereira at 88′ minutes
Martial Substituted for Depay at 79′ minutes



Stoke City Team Sheet

Wollscheid Substituted for Bardsley at 30’minutes
Krkic Substituted for Ireland at 60’minutes



Should youth be brought through instead of big money signings?

As kids, we all had kick-abouts in the park, whether it was in a team or for fun. You all dream of scouts watching your thirty yard screamers, Hat-tricks or even a super save. Manchester United recruit many players every year from Grassroots football, into their sacred academy.

My question is how many make the first team? The answer in reality, not many. Current players include: Paddy McNair, Jesse Lingard and most recently Cameron Borthwick-Jackson. But, if we look at the likes of Barcelona’s academy, United’s doesn’t compare to it in terms of bringing players through.

England are failing in international tournaments and is it because Premier League teams are bringing in far too many average foreign players and not giving English kids a chance. Jamie Vardy quoted “I have played against better midfielders and defenders in Non-League than the Premier League”.

Dele Alli has appeared on the scene for Tottenham this season at a mere age of nineteen and has blown the Premier League away with some sensational performances. Do United need someone like this? In my opinion, yes. It wouldn’t just get Manchester United supporters excited, the whole country would be excited.

United have a superb reputation of bringing players in, just look at the class of ’92. David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt and the two Neville brothers Gary and Phillip are arguably the best to ever emerge from the academy. I would like to see players such as Donald Love, Matty Willock, Joe Rothwell and Sean Goss all given a chance in the first team.

Todays FA Cup last sixteen draw paired Louis van Gaal’s side with League One opposition in Shrewsbury Town and I think this match would be a perfect opportunity to give some of those young lads a chance. Grassroots football is an essential part of the game, so many kids play football so why are they not getting recognized by the big clubs? Is it something to do with coaching?

Jamie Vardy is setting up his own academy for younger players called V9. This is to get Non-League players spotted by professional clubs and give them that chance to live that ultimate dream. United are not just one of the biggest clubs in England, they are one of the biggest in the world and you would expect youth players who have fight, passion and a desire to play football to be promoted to the first team.

In some occasions big money signings dont want to come to your club in the first place and just want to suck the money out of the club. Angel Di Maria comes to mind for many reds fans. I think we should be focusing on bringing Youth players through instead of spending this ridiculous money.

As always thank you for reading my articles.

Josh Bunting
distillerymad on Twitter

Dimitar Berbatov, The Flawed Genius

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for the Memories Dimitar

Derby County 1-3 Man United | Match review

United see off Derby County in the FA Cup 4th round with a 3-1 victory.

In a much improved performance, United played some decent football, attacked and scored three goals, including a first half goal!

Captain Wayne Rooney opened the scoring in the 16th minute with a curled shot from outside the box. It came from a good move that came from Daley Blind playing a long ground pass into Martial, who knocked the ball into Rooney. Rooney looked up and from outside the box curled a shot across and around the keeper leaving him with no chance. It was a great finish that he will be happy with.

20 minutes later Derby found an equaliser with a goal from Thorne. Thorne exposed a gap left by Smalling and he controlled a ball over the top perfectly setting himself to tap it past David de Gea.

United regained the lead in the second half thanks to a goal from Daley Blind. Lingard had possession out on the right and played in a pacey cross across the ground and Blind was quickest to it arrowing the ball into the bottom right.

By this point Derby were looking tired and United took advantage of this when Martial made easy work of beating the Derby right back and pulling the ball back into the path of Mata who slotted the ball across the keeper and into the back of the net sealing the win for United.

Derby can take some pride from their performance as they did have a go at United for the majority of the game and created a few chances of their own.

The win sends United into the 5th round of the FA Cup. A tournament they haven’t won in 12 years. Could this be their year?

Watch the United Stands live match reaction below or by clicking here:

United linked with move for Ever Banega

According to reports from the English tabloids, United could be set to make a move for Sevilla midfielder Ever Banega.

The reports from both The Sun and Metro suggest Louis Van Gaal is keen to add Banega to his squad before the January transfer window slams shut next week.

Banega, 27 has been hugely impressive for Sevilla this season, so far making 16 appearance’s for the club and has scored a reasonable 6 goals. With Sevilla currently languishing in 7th place in La Liga and some way off the Champions League places, Banega is thought to be wanting an move away.

However United may face competition for his signature, with Barcelona said to be highly interested in taking the Argentinian on board.

So far its been a very quiet transfer window at Old Trafford, with thus far only Victor Valdes leaving the club to join Standard Liege on loan. Injuries to key players this season have left United short in numbers and you cant help feel the club need to recruit 2 or 3 new faces before the transfer window closes,  if United are to have any hope of finishing in the top 4 at the end of the season.


Mata “We share your unhappiness”

Juan Mata has stressed the frustration within the Manchester United squad is just the same as that of the United supporters, after the club fell to a 1-0 home defeat to Southampton last Saturday.

United’s latest setback was arguably the clubs worst performance of the season so far leading to boos at the final whistle. The defeat left leaves Louis Van Gaal’s men now 5 points adrift of Tottenham Hotspur and 10 points behind leaders Leicester City.

Speaking via his own personal blog, Mata spoke of his frustration,  in which he said.

“Once again I’m writing with a bad taste. After several games without being defeated, we lost 1-0 to Southampton at Old Trafford. And it hurts, it really does. It was the perfect time to get the three points and stretch the good streak in 2016 but we couldn’t make it.”

It wasn’t a good game from any of the teams, a draw would have been a fair result, but a late goal from Austin after a free kick took the points away from us.” It’s another tough moment, for you and for us, but we must get through this. I understand your frustration, because we feel the same way, but we have to carry on.”

Mata no doubt knows results have to improve and fast, starting with Fridays trip to Derby County in the FA Cup, in what looks to be a must win for head coach Louis Van Gaal.

“Football doesn’t stop and now its time for the FA Cup and we want to fight for this trophy for you.” I thank you for the support in the bad times, and I assure you that our only goal is to do things much better to move up the table in the Premier League and try and lift the FA Cup.”

“Thanks to all of you. I’m sure better moments will come sooner rather than later, and we will enjoy them much more, aware of how tough it is to get there.”




Victor Valdes Departs Club On Loan

Today, the club confirmed what everybody already knew as Spanish goalkeeper Victor Valdes headed to Belgium after agreeing a loan move with Standard Liege until the end of the current campaign. It has been a case of ‘not if, but when’ Valdes would leave the club after his well documented fall-out with Louis Van Gaal, although the destination has been unknown until now, with the likes of Liverpool, Newcastle United and Fenerbahce all rumoured to have been in the running for his signature.

Louis Van Gaal confirmed the spat between the pair had become irreparable during the pre-season campaign after the manager claimed that Valdes had refused to play for the under 21’s last season, something furiously denied by the goalkeeper. Of course, we all know that Valdes did indeed feature for the under 21’s, a fact backed up on his personal Instagram account, leading to speculation that there may be more than meets the eye.

Van Gaal, of course, is no stranger to fall-outs, having clashed with the likes of Rivaldo, Johan Cruyff, Mark Van Bommel, Robin Van Persie and Zlatan Ibrahimovic to name just a small few. All of come with an interesting back story but, from the outside certainly, the Victor Valdes fall-out has been handled in an atrocious way. Forced to train on his own, the 34-year-old wasn’t even allocated a squad number this season, let alone a club suit, as Van Gaal continually ostracised the World Cup winner. Rumours that the club’s Spanish players were becoming increasingly frustrated with the situation began to circulate, with Juan Mata and Ander Herrera allegedly at the forefront of expressing their anger.

A fact that cannot also be ignored is that, despite his alleged refusal to appear for the under 21 side, Valdes did indeed end the last campaign as the number one following an injury to David De Gea, despite the fact the Anders Lindegaard was available to play, and did start the game against Hull City on the final game of the season on the bench. If Valdes had indeed refused to play for the under 21 side, surely Lindegaard would have been the preferred option in that game.

Anyhow, Valdes has become another high profile name to leave the club under Louis Van Gaal, even if all he was ever supposed to be was an understudy to David De Gea. His heartfelt goodbye, posted again on his Instagram account, shows a level of professionalism and respect that maybe a certain manager could learn from.

Goodbye Victor Valdes, and good luck!

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