Van Persie – Should He Stay or Should He Go?

Robin Van Persie
When you make a video at the start of the season backing Robin Van Persie, there’s nowhere to hide when it all comes crashing down – for those of you who take pleasure in my misfortune I’ll save you the time searching for the video – the links here if you want a laugh.

So with that very public record of my Van Persie stance there isn’t much room for me to move in this article, even if I wanted to. We pride ourselves on being consistent on The United Stand – anyone doubting that refer to my thoughts on Fellaini – and as much I accept Robin has been very disappointing again this season, I still believe he has it in him to be a major asset for United.

So what’s the future for RVP? Is his time at United coming to an end or is there one last curtain call in the Theatre of Dreams?

Recent straw polls suggest most Manchester United fans have run out of patience and want Van Persie to move on in the summer, with the likes of Cavani or Benzema preferred options. The polls are far from cut and dry though. There’s still strong support for the man who single handedly won Sir Alex his and United’s last title two years ago – while a certain Mr Rooney underperformed and sulked his way through the campaign. And let’s not forget Van Persie scored the World cup’s best goal only last summer. So why shouldn’t he have the support of the Old Trafford faithful? He’s surely done more than enough in his short tenure at the club to earn at least one more drink in the last chance saloon? If this season’s taught us one thing it’s this, if Fellaini can do it anyone can.

Yes, there’s been an alarming drop off in his United form over the last eighteen months – albeit, last season he had the universally accepted excuse of Moyes. This season he’s been playing under his self-confessed football Dad in LVG though and yet we’ve still seen the worst performances from RVP in a decade. When searching for reasons why the common excuse is age and injury have caught up with him but I’m not entirely convinced. There’s no denying that time catches up with all players but let’s consider the bigger picture for a moment. We’re all currently revelling in the sexy football United have played in the last three games but don’t forget the previous twenty eight. The football was dire, we weren’t creating anything and it’s no surprise that all of our forwards were struggling for form. In come Mata, Herrera and Carrick, the possession and pressing game clicks in to place, and from creating hardly anything we’re dominating sides from start to finish. Give Van Persie a couple of run outs in this side, or Falcao for that matter, and I guarantee you’d see a very different RVP to the one that’s struggled this season. Few forwards perform well without service and Van Persie has always been a striker who relies on quality.

Stick him in the Chelsea side with his old pal Fabregas to pick out his runs and he’d still score twenty goals a season. Give him a run in this United side with Herrera and Mata behind him and I’m convinced he’ll do the same. Yes, he’s had a bad season, there’s no escaping that fact. But he’s played all of that season in a poor side starved of service. Within this new exciting United setup he still has a lot to offer.

Whether he has anything to offer beyond the summer is the big question. Over to you.

Manchester United Player Ratings v Aston Villa

Manchester United Player ratingsManchester United v Aston Villa Match Review & Player Ratings

If the home win against Spurs was steak and chips and the destruction of Liverpool at Anfield was a a fine Sunday roast dinner, yesterday’s win at Old Trafford against Aston Villa was very definitely beans on toast. United lacked the urgency and panache of their fine dining previous wins but ultimately they beat the villa and everyone left feeling satisfied.

It wasn’t uneasy on the eye, there were sprinkles of class within the performance – like some grated cheese and a dash of worcestershire sauce on those beans – but the game had a feel of getting the job done about it and the United boys should be commended for that. This was a game where only a win would do and they won the game. With Man City up next yesterday’s win was the perfect audition. The foot was slightly off the accelerator compared to the Anfield game but we had more than enough power to achieve what we needed to achieve and have plenty in reserve for next week.

So let’s look at the match ratings

David De Gea – Probably his worst game of the season – although he’s deserved at least a couple of these after his heroics so far. Very quiet game with little to do but then made a big mistake on the Villa goal, when he should have saved comfortably – 5

Antonio Valencia – Industrious, hardworking and powerful down that right side but wasteful in the cross and didn’t have his best game. Many felt this was the sort of game to reintroduce Rafael for some quality delivery in to the box but that ship seems to have sailed with Van Gaal – 6

Daley Blind – Like his mentor Carrick, Blind is settling in to the unsung hero role perfectly. Statistically he was immense, with near perfect passing, tackling and involvement in two of the three goals. Luke Shaw would be a worried man – if he wasn’t sat on his backside earning such massive amounts of money – because on this form our first choice left back is Daley Blind – 8

Phil Jones – Didn’t have much to do, other than share the role of keeping Benteke quiet with Marcus Rojo. A steady performance – 6

Marcus Rojo – Great to see him back playing and fit again. Offers so much versatility from the back with that deadly left foot and could have scored from distance in the first half. Clumsy in the tackle on a couple of occasions but Rojo has the potential to be another great United centre back – 7

Michael Carrick – Typically unassuming to the casual observer but to those fans who understand how United tick, Carrick is the man from which the team’s momentum starts. A couple of passes went astray but he dictated the tempo and play for ninety minutes and never gave Villa a chance to compose themselves – 8

Ander Herrera – Man of the Match with two clinical finishes. Goals from midfield have been an issue for United since the days of Scholes. With Mata and Herrera zipping around the box that’s not a problem anymore. A firm fan favorite and at last getting the recognition from Van Gaal he deserves – 9

Juan Mata – Out of the goals today but worked tirelessly in pressing the opposition and retaining possession. Set up the killer third goal and surely a nailed on started going forward from here on in – 7.5

Ashley Young – Head and shoulders the man of the match in the first half. Offers pace and a killer ball in the final third but works tirelessly in his defensive role – Di Maria take note. Unlucky to be withdrawn for Di Maria – 8

Wayne Rooney Goal Aston Villa

Marouane Fellaini – Not his best game. Missed an easy chance to make it two nil in the second half and struggled to get in to the game. Possibly a game too far for him after a busy few weeks. Will be needed back to his best for the Derby – 6

Wayne Rooney – Led by example with determination and tenacity – see the hotley contested dropball that led to the third goal. Struggled a bit to get to grips with the game but the goal was sensational and that’s what Rooney brings to the side. A moment of magic when it’s needed – 7.5


Angel Di Maria – Came on for Young and like last week against Liverpool, the opposition immediately came more in to the game as United lost their defensive balance down the left. Provided another assist – although it was a poor cross to Rooney – 6

Radamel Falcao – Brought on for Fellaini. Didn’t have the time to make an impact. Should have been brought on ten minutes earlier – 6

Give us YOUR thoughts below and don’t miss our LIVE post match review on our YouTube Channel Manchester United v Aston Villa Video Review

Nothing to Fear in Mark’s Manchester United v Aston Villa Preview

Manchester United v Aston Villa PreviewThere’s no escaping the fact that Manchester United’s last two games have been convincing wins. The anti-United pundits can spout their usual nonsense about Liverpool and Spurs failing to turn up but we know the truth. Neither side was allowed to turn up because Van Gaal implemented a strategy that nullified the opposition from the very first minute. No side goes to Anfield and plays them off the park like we did in that first half – especially not United in what is, let’s be honest, Liverpool’s annual cup final. To do what we did should not be underestimated. It was sensational.

So with Aston Villa visiting Old Trafford this weekend the game has taken on the air of a foregone conclusion. And why shouldn’t it? Sandwiched between games against Spurs, Liverpool, Man City and Chelsea, this home tie against lowly Villa has long been identified as three points we must take. Must being the operative word. Have no illusions, United have to win this game. Ideally we want to see a repeat of the performances in the last two games but if the choice is between a swashbuckling great advert for football five all draw and a last minute winner off the referee’s backside in a game Villa deserved to win. I’ll be celebrating the referee’s rear end. Yes we want good football from United but we need three points.

Have no doubts, like a can of baked beans at a firing range Villa are there to be blown away. United need to go out from minute one like we have in our last two games and dominate them. Press them from the start and Villa will crumble. We’ve already dropped 2 points to them this season – playing the last half an hour at Villa Park against ten men and nearly losing – so it’s payback time. And for all Tim Sherwood’s bravado about coming to Old Trafford and giving us a game, if Villa come to Manchester and try to play they’ll end up getting a slap and a firm warning about their future behaviour at the theatre of dreams.

I’ve seen Aston Villa a few times this season and there really is nothing to fear.  In years gone by Villa could be a threat away from home, building their performances on a strong defence, an industrious and hardworking midfield, and hitting the channels of the opposition with pace on the flanks. Those days are gone. Two years of Paul Lambert’s negativity has stifled Villa’s ability to effectively attack sides and although the appointment of Sherwood will see a more progressive style of play they are in the midst of a relegation battle where points are more important than performance. Destroying a poor Sunderland side away doesn’t make them any more of a threat than a green salad at Christmas.

Man for man Villa just don’t have the players to concern United. It’s not arrogance but not one of the Aston Villa squad would make it anywhere near our subs bench, let alone the first team. Fabian Delph is a hardworking midfielder who, whilst a decent player, will never be top four standard. The same goes for Agbonlahor, a decent player who on his day can cause problems but has never been better than the club he’s spent all his career at. Then there’s Benteke, who looks about as interested in his Villa career as a vegetarian in a butchers. And that’s it. The rest of the Villa squad is made up of mediocrity who to be frank are best suited to sides battling it out in the bottom half of the Premier League.

Sherwood will say they’re coming to win but the facts don’t lie. Aston Villa are three points off the relegation zone with a slightly better goal difference than those below them. A comprehensive beating by United could see them consigned to the bottom three come Easter Sunday. Not many teams come back from that. They also have QPR at home on Tuesday evening. A game they must win. So in many ways the United game is a hindrance. Villa simply can’t afford to use up valuable energy on a game they have a very slim chance of getting anything out of. Their only option is to sit deep, conserve energy for the six pointer against QPR, and look to hit United on the break.

The only thing United have to fear is their own complacency. Villa will park the bus and gift United the possession. We need to show the desire and patience to keep probing away until we get that breakthrough. And with Fellaini in the side we can mix things up a bit and throw the odd high ball in to the box if needs be.

And if it is approaching the ninetieth minute and it’s still nil nil don’t panic. Aston Villa’s last two losses have come from late goals from the opposition. And there’s always the referee’s backside….

Who will win the top 4 race?

Battle for top 4

Four international breaks in a season is four too many for many fans but as we approach the final phase of the season it gives us the opportunity to take a step back and truly assess Manchester United’s top four chances against our closest rivals.

United’s next few fixtures have long been highlighted as the games that will define our season and even the exceptional wins over Spurs and Liverpool shouldn’t cloud the importance of these next four games. Anything less than six points from Aston Villa (h), Man City (h), Chelsea (a) and Everton (a) and the initiative gained from the most perfect of wins at Anfield will be firmly handed back to Liverpool. For Stevie G to mess it up again.

So who are our main rivals for a top four position and what can we expect over the closing weeks of the season?

Chelsea are champions. Give Mourinho a lead and you won’t see him again until he returns from his package holiday to Tenerife for pre season training. Which leaves second, third and fourth spot up grabs. For those three spots I see only four realistic candidates – Manchester United, Man City, Arsenal and Liverpool. People may say it’s arrogant to dismiss Spurs and Southampton but history shows otherwise. And as much as I’d love to see Tottenham or the Saints join United in the top four at the expense of City, Arsenal and the scousers you have to be realistic when looking at their remaining fixtures – one of which involves playing each other – and say they will drop more points than the rest. In fact I don’t believe either side will get within 2 points of the seventy required to have a slim chance of top four.

It’s between United, City, Arsenal and Liverpool for the three remaining Champions league spots and below is a week by week summary of how we see it panning out.

Week 31 – City 61 pts | Arsenal 60pts | United 59pts | Liverpool 54pts

United entertain Aston Villa and three points is a minimum – a sarcastic way of saying we have to win. There’s little point in beating about the bush with this one, if United can’t beat Villa at Old Trafford with the form and players we have then we’re in serious trouble.

Looking at our rivals, City play Crystal Palace away, and whilst I’d like to see them drop points again I can see City winning comfortably. City are bang out of form and playing like a group of millionaire’s who are only interested in the money – odd that for a mercenary club whose entire success is based on throwing vast amounts of money at things – but they have the easier run in and I can’t see where they’re going to drop enough points to ever be in danger of finishing outside the top two.

Then Arsenal entertain Liverpool. United fans have mixed opinions on what result they want from this game but to be honest, as long as United beat Villa it doesn’t really matter. Personally, I always want Liverpool to lose and I think when you look at the remaining fixtures a Liverpool win would be a concern.

Week 32 – City 64 pts | Arsenal 63pts | United 62pts | Liverpool 54pts

The Manchester Derby and another week where two of the four contenders go head to head. Liverpool entertain Newcastle and with the roll over kings already save from relegation it’s guaranteed that the scousers will boost their confidence and goal difference with a comfortable home win. Whereas Arsenal make the trip north to Burnley. Burnley are fighting for their lives and could cause an upset but Arsenal are much improved away – where are Bolton when you need them – and I’d expect them to pick up maximum points.

Which leaves us with the Derby. If it was being played this weekend I’d go for a United a win, City are poor and United are buzzing. But a week’s a long time in football and boosted by a good win over Palace I think City will come to Old Trafford with a point to prove. And funnily enough, come away with a point.

Week 33 – City 65 pts | Arsenal 66pts | United 63pts | Liverpool 57pts

Another difficult game week for United as we visit Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. With City entertaining West Ham at the Emptihad, Arsenal hosting Sunderland and Liverpool away to Hull I predict three wins for our rivals so anything we can come away with against Chelsea will be a bonus.

I expect Van Gaal to have United well drilled and if we go down there and perform like we did at Anfield we can beat anyone. The problem is United have a terrible record against Chelsea and as much as I think we have the players to go toe to toe with what will be the league champions I can see a bad decision or two going against us and Chelsea taking all three points.

Week 34 – City 68 pts | Arsenal 69pts | United 63pts | Liverpool 60pts

If results have gone as I’ve predicted, Arsenal and City will have more or less secured their top four status by now leaving it a straight fight between us and Liverpool. To further evidence why I don’t think City were ever seriously part of the race for top four, they entertain Aston Villa at home this week and will collect another easy three points at home. Arsenal host Chelsea at the Emirates, and whilst it goes against the grain I actually expect Arsenal to win this and all but secure the top four cup for another year – expect lots of excited Arsenal fans taunting Fabregas because they’ve secured Champions League football again. This despite the fact Fabregas will win be lifting the Premier League trophy in a couple of weeks time.

Liverpool travel to West Brom and United face Everton this week and I think this could be THE defining week in our two way battle for fourth place. If either side wins then it could be a crucial advantage with only four games left so from a United point of view the important thing is to at least match the Liverpool score. I’d hope that West Brom will be well drilled by Tony Pulis so I’m going for a draw for Liverpool in their game leaving United more than capable of getting a point at Goodison Park.

Week 34 – City 71 pts | Arsenal 72pts | United 64pts | Liverpool 61pts

Liverpool play QPR at home and whilst it’s guaranteed that QPR will be in desperate need of the points to stay up, if you’re a gambler get your money on a Liverpool home win by at least two clear goals. United host West Brom at Old Trafford and whilst anything is possible in football this is a game we will have to win and I’m confident we will win – again cancelling out the scousers result.

Man City go to Spurs, where I think they’ll win. A lot of United fans think City will get dragged in to the battle for the top four but I think they’ll finish strongly – which is a good thing because it should mean them keeping the inept Pellegrini for another year. Arsenal are away to Hull, who like QPR should be fighting for their lives and willing to lay their bodies on the line for every point they can get. Which is why I think Arsenal will win comfortably…

Week 35 – City 74 pts | Arsenal 75pts | United 67pts | Liverpool 64pts

This is the week where if results go to plan United can secure their top four spot. Much will depend on Chelsea’s predicament so the hope will be that they haven’t secured the title yet as they entertain Liverpool at Stamford Bridge. If they need to win I have no doubt Chelsea will brush Liverpool aside and do us a massive favour. If they’ve already won the title by this point then that’s where it becomes an issue. Anyone who remembers 2010 when Chelsea went to Anfield and Liverpool let them win to stop United winning the league will be aware how this could play out if Chelsea don’t need the points. I’m going to be positive though and predict a Chelsea win.

Arsenal and City have home bankers against Swansea and QPR respectively, leaving United with an away game against Crystal Palace. Palace will be safely on the beach by the time this game comes around, so with nothing more than pride to play for – there shouldn’t be much of that about from Palace players who will be far more focussed on a few weeks in Barbados – United should have the drive and quality to get the win they need.

Week 36 – City 77 pts | Arsenal 78pts | United 70pts | Liverpool 64pts

With two games to go it should all be over barring two miraculous results from Liverpool and two major losses by United swinging goal difference in the scousers favour. Liverpool play Crystal Palace at home so a cricket score is possible, however United entertain Arsenal at Old Trafford and I’d fully expect both teams to do the decent thing and play out an exhibition style draw that suits both sides. If for some reason Arsenal get ahead of themselves and decide to go for it to secure second place they’ll find out what happens when you stick your hand in a bee’s nest. Because United will sting them hard. The only issue we’ll face after this game is that at the end of it we’ll have secured our fourth place spot. With Arsenal in town I really hope there’s no formal handing over of the fourth place cup. Let’s show some class please. Fourth place is what we wanted but it’s a stepping stone to better things. We’re not Arsenal!

City face a trip to Swansea and again I’d expect them to win.

Week 37 – City 80 pts | Arsenal 79pts | United 71pts | Liverpool 67pts

The final game of the season and everything should be done and dusted by this point. Fingers crossed Van Gaal will be able to play some of the kids like McNair, Blackett, Januzaj and Perreira for our trip to Hull and we may even be able to help Brucey out if he needs a point. Liverpool go to Stoke and although I’d expect Stoke to get something out of the game, the fact that it won’t matter if Liverpool win ten nil means I’m going to be generous and let them have the three points.

Arsenal and Man City finish off with games against West Brom and Southampton and with the typical last day of the season, sun shining, party atmosphere both should get all three points.

Week 38 – City 83 pts | Arsenal 82pts | United 72pts | Liverpool 70pts

The final standings then and as predicted it’s as it is now. United fans not happy with that really needs to take a couple of minutes out and think about the amount of bad games we’ve had this season. Fourth place is all that matters and if we get it then we’re back in the Champions League where we belong.

Like I say, I’d take it now. Enjoy the ride!

David De Gea Leaving? You Decide

David De Gea
David De Gea Leaving? You decide

To an outsider the passion with which Manchester United fans oppose the sale of David De Gea may be seen as a little strange. Trading a goalkeeper, no matter how good he is, and forty million pounds for Gareth Bale or Cristiano Ronaldo would be seen as a no brainer in many eyes. A decent goalkeeper can be replaced but the impact a Bale or Ronaldo would have on a Premier League side more or less guarantees you the Premier League title.

The thing is, United fans know their football. They’ve monitored the development of De Gea, from the young keeper who was unfairly ridiculed by the media due to an understandable issue with crosses – anti football teams like Bolton and Stoke are extinct on the continent – to the domineering sweeper keeper of today. Yes goalkeepers can be replaced.  But when you’re dealing with the best in the world the task isn’t so easy.

De Gea’s been so good, he wrapped up the Manchester United player of the season award before Christmas. It’s embarrassing for a club built on goals and entertaining football to be so reliant on their goalkeeper but the fact remains, without De Gea this season United’s top four aspirations would be all but over. United fans are fully aware of the true value of David. Without him we’d be screwed this season.

And is it so easy to replace a goalkeeper? Like any position there are differing standards of player and with the way De Gea has performed this season unless United are planning on signing Manuel Neuer anyone they bring in will be a definite step down. Victor Valdes is already on United’s books and there’s no doubting his quality. He also has the added advantage of being an excellent sweeper keeper like De Gea and Neuer, which is so important to the way United play under Van Gaal. But is Valdes in the same category as De Gea? Barcelona’s success certainly wasn’t built on a solid defence so the jury is out on just how effective Valdes would be in the physical and fast paced Premier League. One thing seems certain, if De Gea does leave it will be Valdes who steps in to the void.

From a business point of view I can see the money men at Manchester United licking the lips at the prospect of a De Gea sale. Any deal with Madrid is highly likely to bring in Ronaldo or Bale for approximately 40 million pounds. The footballing advantage one of those two world stars would bring on the pitch is one thing but the marketing value is on a different planet to what De Gea offers. Goalkeepers don’t sell anywhere near the shirts and merchandise a Bale or Ronaldo does. And with Valdes already signed up on a free contract the package as a business decision looks sound.

Which is why we shouldn’t put De Gea’s Manchester United future squarely on his shoulders. He may well be pining for a move back to Spain, he may be waiting to see if United secure Champion’s League football before signing a new contract? Or, the club could be the one driving the deal. In which case you can’t blame De Gea for assessing his options. But if the club are the catalyst to any deal with Madrid they’d do well to have a look back through our archives to 1999 and the departure of a certain Mr Schmeichel.

When Peter Schmeichel left United in 1999 he was the best keeper in the world and commander of the United backline. Like De Gea he quite literally saved United in countless matches and provided a solid base for the rest of the team to express themselves. When he left it took United six years to sign a suitable replacement in Van Der Sar. If anyone within Old Trafford thinks selling De Gea is a good deal they’d do well to research this warning from the past. Changing goalkeepers means at least one season of transition whilst the new man builds an understanding with his colleagues. Can Manchester United afford another year of transition? And that’s assuming the replacement is the right man. Get it wrong and it could be another six years before they find the right one.

And why should Manchester United be looking to do sound business deals with Real Madrid anyway? With the recent sponsorship and TV deals United will be arguably the richest club in world football. We shouldn’t be selling the best goalkeeper in the world to bring in another world star like Ronaldo, we should be keeping De Gea and buying the world star. Gone are the days where we need to bow down to Madrid’s wealth. It’s time to throw a few financial punches of our own. And what a strike it would be to keep De Gea AND bring back Ronaldo. United fans may think that’s unlikely but the money is there for United to make such a statement.

So will De Gea go? Despite all of the above, the answer is we don’t know? For every reason for him to stay there’s a valid reason why he may want to leave. Can De Gea establish himself as Spain’s number one whilst playing in England? If he’s been told he needs to be playing in Spain to accomplish that honour then who can blame him wanting a move back? On the other hand, something that doesn’t get much airtime is why would he want to go to Real Madrid? He spent ten years at his boyhood club Atletico and with such a fierce rivalry with Real Madrid a move there might not be very appealing? If Barcelona were in the race then perhaps we should be more concerned but with their transfer ban they’re out too.

There’s certainly reasons to be optimistic. As long as it’s not the club driving the deal.

Why I won’t change my mind on Fellaini

Marouane Fellaini
Marouane Fellaini

If I had a pound for every tweet I’d been tagged in to lately telling me I was wrong about Fellaini, I’d probably have about ninety two pounds fifty. But you’ll get where I’m going with this. A player has a good couple of games and the bandwagon rolls in to town.

I’d like to say that Fellaini divides opinion but the truth is there’s been such a change in United fans since Sir Alex left that it’s actually very hard to pin an opinion down. It’s almost like what some fans think depends on which way the wind’s blowing. For example,  in January many were writing Michael Carrick’s eulogy and championing the cause of Daley Blind, a month later you can’t move for pro Carrick tweets and blog articles. Likewise with Falcao, at the start of the season there was a unanimous feeling that signing him on loan and selling Welbeck was like exchanging a Ford Fiesta for a pimped up Land Rover Sport. Six months later the majority want to return the Land Rover and bring back the Fiesta – all I’ll say is the Fiesta still has the same design flaws and the Land Rover is all about knowing how to drive it.

Which is why I take these fans who insist those who question Fellaini should apologise with a very large pinch of salt . I’ll gladly hold my hands up and admit I’ve not been his biggest fan – I openly stated at the start of the season that the sight of Fellaini in a United shirt made me heave. But like many United fans out there, when I make my mind up about something it’s not motivated by the latest piece of nonsense being spouted by sensationalist newspaper chains or football blogs looking for popularity. I make my mind up based on numerous factors and experience and actually watching players play football before forming an opinion. So there’ll be no apology to Marouane from me. My opinion on him hasn’t changed.

Most importantly, I don’t see him as a United player. I applaud Van Gaal for getting the most out of him and I’m not blind to the fact that in the last couple of games he’s been exceptional. However, for thirty million pounds I think it’s fair to assume we should be getting at least a handful of good games out of him a season and I actually find it insulting to Fellaini the way fans shout his name from the rooftops because he has a good game. He’s a professional footballer, not a milkman throw in at the deep end in a United shirt. He gets paid a lot of money to play football well, so it shouldn’t be back page news when he does just that. Some fans go in to giddy elation when he scores a couple of goals for Belgium because they think it proves them right and anyone who questions him wrong. Like I say, he’s a professional footballer and within a certain team at a certain level he’s a definite asset. My argument is that talent and style is not one we want to see in a Manchester United first team long term.

So why has Fellaini blossomed under Van Gaal? Well United have massively under achieved this year when compared to the high standards set over the last three decades. As things stand we’re in a fight for fourth place, we’ve played two decent games out of thirty and we’ve consistently struggled to stamp – pardon the pun Slippy G – our authority on games. Van Gaal desperately required someone who could offer a much needed physical presence in and round the midfield and when you search through the current United setup the choice was limited to one. Step forward Mr Fellaini. The bottom line is United are woefully understaffed in the midfield, a point not lost on United fans for many years and a legacy of Sir Alex’s failure to invest in this area in his final years in charge – don’t mention Pogba. So for all his limitations Fellaini has found himself in the favourable position of being Van Gaal’s only option many times this season. Fellaini fans will state it’s because Van Gaal likes Fellaini and sees him as a fundamental part of his plans, all I’d say to that is study Van Gaal’s philosophy and nowhere in his last thirty years as a coach will you find the need for a tall lumbering midfielder with no pace and average passing skills. And to kill that argument off completely, Fellaini was one hundred per cent being sold to Napoli last August if he hadn’t got injured.

The cold truth is this season has been about necessity. Achieving top four by whatever means possible, making it to the summer and then being able to bring in the players Van Gaal really needs. At which point the need for Fellaini will diminish when the likes of Pogba, Strootman, Bale and others become very realistic targets. Personally I’ve always said that as a bench option in the last twenty minutes of a game Fellaini’s a great asset to have if we want to mix things up and throw some balls in to the box. Whether Van Gaal will want to waste a spot on his bench for that next season is questionable but I certainly wouldn’t be opposed to it because in the Premier League especially it can prove invaluable. However, if Van Gaal decides as he did back in August, that Fellaini is surplus to requirements then the way he’s been playing lately means we can at least expect a decent price for him and we can reinvest that money in players who are going to take us back to the top again, instead of battling for fourth place.

So to all those fans who keep saying “I told you so” about Fellaini my reply is consistent, as it has been all season. Fellaini is an asset higher up the pitch but a liability as a defensive or central midfielder – which is where he was being played until January. He’s not a starting eleven player in a United team that wants to win things because he doesn’t befit what a successful United team should be. And most important of all, whilst Fellaini is playing very well at the moment and demonstrating the sort of passion I’d expect to see in anyone who pulls on our famous shirt we need to be realistic. We’re Manchester United and two games ago we were looking at the very realistic proposition of missing out on the top 4 due to our own consistently poor performances. If we want to win the league and challenge again in Europe then we need better players. Rooney, Mata, Herrera, Carrick, Di Maria are players I’d consider good enough on their day to make us challengers again. Fellaini, RVP and Falcao aren’t.

Football is all about opinion though and the above is mine. I’d love to hear a coherent view on why anyone thinks Fellaini is the man to make us challengers again. Because the top teams won’t ever be lining up for his signature. He’s done a decent job for us this season but for the majority of that time our football has been far from decent.

United Season Review So Far

With the March international break an unnecessary inconvenience we take a look back at Manchester United’s season so far.

Who is your player of the season so far? Who have been the most improved player? What has been your favorite performance and why? What’s been the goal of the season so far? We ask this and more as our regular panelists Mark, Rich, Martin and Alex take questions from our guest presenter Anna.

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Wayne Rooney – Not the season it could have been

Wayne Rooney

An average season for Wayne Rooney so far?

With more pressing needs, such as tactics, team selections and an overall lack of cohesion in United’s play, Wayne Rooney has quite rightly slipped under the radar of many United fans over the last few months. Played out of position, the only realistic candidate to captain the side and unquestionable effort and desire week in week out in a United shirt are three major get out of jail cards in Rooney’s favour in what has been a pretty mundane season so far. But are these reasons enough to absolve Rooney of any blame or should we expect more from Manchester United’s captain?

Dealing with the issue of captaincy first, there were those fans – me included – who anticipated the appointment of Robin Van Persie as captain last August. An experienced captain from his Arsenal days and a close ally of Van Gaal, it seemed a logical choice to make and one that wouldn’t have been met with too much dissatisfaction. Van Persie had just come off the back of a successful World Cup campaign, in contrast to Rooney, who yet again had failed to deliver on the world stage. There is also a general consensus that Rooney and Van Persie don’t perform well as a pair and although it’s easy to pick Rooney now, if it was a straight choice between the two last summer the majority would have swayed towards the Dutchman. Hindsight is a wonderful thing though and looking back you’d be hard pushed to find a United fan who didn’t accept that the appointment of Rooney was the right one. Van Persie has endured an inexplicably poor season so far at United and if fans are concerned by some of our play this season then the expectation would be that it would have been far worse with an underperforming leader.

So if Rooney is the right man to lead the team, how has he performed in the role? There’s definitely been some questionable moments, publicly berating a young Tyler Blackett in the Leicester game for a mistake Rooney had made wasn’t his finest hour and the sending off against West Ham was typical petulance that cannot be afforded to the figurehead of the team. However, if Van Gaal deserves time to mould his team then surely Rooney deserves time to come to terms with what is arguably the pinnacle of any footballers career? The Blackett incident was unsavoury but can easily be dismissed as frustration on Rooney’s part. As for the West Ham sending off, hopefully Rooney can learn from that incident so that it doesn’t happen again but remember a certain Mr Roy Keane? United’s most successful captain of all time was known to lose his cool throughout his entire career. The jury is still out on Rooney as a captain but as a work in progress he’s doing a fair if not decent job, which hasn’t been helped by the positions the manager has utilised him in.

Which brings us nicely on to Rooney’s performances this season. To be a successful captain it’s a given that you’ve got to be performing on the pitch. Think Vidic, the rock solid leader at the back, Robson, captain marvel from the midfield, or Cantona, the maestro conducting things from the attack. If a captain is to lead they must first perform. Too many times this season Rooney hasn’t performed. In his defence, there’s only been one or two bad performances and any player can be afforded that in a season. The worrying thing is the far too many average performances and severe lack of stand out games. David De Gea has consistently been United’s shining light this season, normally followed by a good defensive performance or a strong game from a Blind or Carrick. Rarely has an attacking player shone and that reflects badly on captain Rooney. Of course, Rooney has spent a number of games playing out of position and for this he should be commended. He hasn’t performed well as a midfielder but as captain of the side he’s took on the instruction from the manager and tried his best without making a fuss. We reappear at the root of the problem though, a captain must be performing well to lead. Playing Rooney in midfield blunts not only his ability to perform but also to lead.

The solution is to put Rooney where he’s most impactive, higher up the pitch. Rooney is simply not a midfielder. Or to clarify, Rooney is not a midfielder of the quality Manchester United require. Comparisons to Scholes are fantasy and whilst I’m sure Rooney could chisel out a career as a midfielder at lesser club such as Hull City or Aston Villa, why is Van Gaal trying to mould a 29 year old top class forward in his prime in to a mediocre midfielder? Not only that, why is he doing it to our captain and effectively blunting his performance and impact? The fact is Rooney is our best forward, he’s our captain and he should not only be the first name on the pitch it should also be an absolute priority that he’s played in his preferred position. Up there with the persistence with the destined to fail 532 formation and the ignoring of Herrera, the playing of Rooney in midfield is another Van Gaal stance that needs to change quickly. The result of this change will see Rooney back playing where he’s happiest, where he performs best and where he can do what he does naturally. This will release him from the burden of having to learn a new role as a player whilst also learning the trade as a captain.

The message is clear, let Rooney truly lead the team from the front. And as a footnote for those who spout myths of Rooney losing his legs and that a move in to midfield is natural to prolong his career? When has Rooney ever relied on explosive pace or skill to beat a man? Not for nearly a decade is the answer. The truth is there’s no requirement for Rooney to ever move away from the front line. As long as he wants to play football he’ll be a threat as a forward and if by some odd turn of events it’s Rooney himself who is driving this move to the midfield there’s a simple solution. Rooney is sold to Aston Villa and United go out and buy a top class midfielder who isn’t playing out of position for three hundred thousand a week.

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