Tag Archives: champions league

Mourinho out? Here we go again…

Immediately following last night’s defeat to Sevilla I turned my phone off. Not because I was a sore loser. Not because I was sulking. I knew we got what we deserved. The two legs were terrible, devoid of anything resembling the so-called United way. No, I turned my phone off because I knew I would be tempted to go on Twitter, see the usual ‘Mourinho out’ brigade and end up in an argument I didn’t want to be in.

Even after watching that performance last night, the thought of Mourinho leaving Old Trafford is one that wasn’t even close to entering my mind. To jump on that bandwagon would see me as a hypocrite, as a man who has constantly backed our manager. Unless things drastically change, you will not see me calling for Mourinho’s head. Why? Because I’m a realist.

My thoughts on those calling for his head are simple. Are their memories so short-sighted that they do not remember the dross that was served up under David Moyes and Louis Van Gaal? Do they not remember that LVG famously stated how he had guided us back into the Champions League after Moyes’ failure, only to see us crash out of the competition at the group stage? I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, Mourinho inherited the worst Manchester United squad of recent times.

Fixing this squad was never going to be a quick fix. Before anyone jumps on the hundreds of millions that have been spent, it was always going to take more. In a market where strikers now cost £150 million and defenders cost £75 million, the amount of money spent is almost irrelevant. £80 million for a player these days is what £30 million would have bought you less than five years ago.

The Manchester City comparison is always going to be at the forefront, particularly because of the dominant nature in which they will storm to the Premier League title this season. Guardiola has also spent an astronomical amount of money but it is true that he inherited a better squad than what Mourinho did at United. However, what scrutinises Mourinho’s position further is that, whether we care to admit it or not, Guardiola has City playing in the way in which us fans want to see our club play.

 

 

Whichever way Mourinho is criticised, there is no getting away from the fact that United under him have improved. Sixth last season, five points clear in second this. Try and disguise it all you want, but progress is progress. The former Chelsea manager stated he wanted to win the Premier League within three seasons. That target is still more than achievable, and his record at other clubs, for me, confirms that he is still the best man in the job to do this.

Some are saying that his comments after the defeat last night were unacceptable. Listen to them back now that the adrenaline has subsided. Was it that bad? What he said was factual. United are used to crashing out of the Champions League. Fergie ‘only’ won it twice. The great man himself will be the first to admit that he should have won it many more times. Mourinho did knock us out twice, and losing to that Porto side was unacceptable, whether they went on to win the competition or not.

Last night was horrific, but it was under Fergie at times. Many will point to those classic nights in Barcelona and Moscow but who remembers going out at the Group Stage in a group that contained Benfica, FC Basel and Otelul Galati in 2011. Did we call for his head then? Of course we didn’t.

Guardiola represented our chance to grab a manager who would play in the way the fans want to see. We didn’t take it, opting instead for blind faith in LVG. Mourinho was the next best option, still perhaps the best option given his track record in the Premier League with Chelsea.

Ashley Young watches on as Sevilla take the lead (pic: gettyimages)

My response to the Mourinho out comments every time I see them is always the same. If not Mourinho, who?

Usually this argument lands at the feet of either Mauricio Pochettino or Carlo Ancelotti. Ancelotti I can kind of understand. Premier League winning experience, various trophy-laden seasons across the continent, including three unrivalled Champions League wins, and currently out of work. However, would it be anymore of an upgrade to a manager that also has Premier League winning experience and multiple trophies across Europe.

The Pochettino argument I really struggle with. Yes, he is a manager which plays an exciting brand of football, but at what cost? Mourinho is being rightly chastised for his team selection against Sevilla and how wrong he got it tactically. Rewind one week when the exact same scenario panned out at Wembley. Tottenham 3-2 up on aggregate three quarters of the way through a two-legged tie against Juventus. Instead of shutting shop, the Argentine manager pressed for a fourth, instead conceded two and lost the tie.

Mourinho gets it wrong and crashes out of Europe…sack him. Pochettino does the same…hire him. Get your heads around that one. And, remember, Pochittino famously guided Spurs to a third place Premier League position when they were in a two horse race for the title.

My suggestion for the Mourinho out brigade, be very careful what you wish for. Slowly but surely, he is starting to rebuild our club. It isn’t pretty, but rebuilding it he is. 65 points last season at this stage would have had us in a title race, and then who would be complaining?

Mourinho’s BIG Obsession Continues To Fail

Jose Mourinho has an obsession with height. In Matic, Fellaini and McTominay he boasts the three tallest midfielders in the Premier League at 6 foot 4. And it doesn’t end there. Paul Pogba is 6 foot three, Michael Carrick 6 foot 2, and Ander Herrera is no shrinking violet at 6 foot. So why is Mourinho so obsessed with height and is it one of his biggest – pardon the pun – weaknesses?

The short answer – done it again – is yes. Such a strange height obsession is a weakness when the tactics implemented are for a club with the traditions of Manchester United. Manchester United are a club intrinsically linked with fast attacking football and whilst it may be stereotypical, tall players tend to be slow and not as good on the ball as their smaller counterparts.

In fairness, Paul Pogba is an exception to that rule. At 6 foot 3 he’s fast, athletic and displays brilliant close ball control that allows him to dribble and move the ball very quickly. In Paul Pogba, Mourinho has the perfect example of height and the required ability to implement whatever system he’s trying to inflict on Manchester United at the moment. A system that is still up for debate and confusion.

However, in Fellaini, Matic and McTominay, the three tallest midfielders in the league, Mourinho doesn’t have players who are fast or good on the ball. Good players in their own right, they don’t obviously fit the mantra of fast flowing football United fans want to see. Time and time again this season they are bypassed by smaller quicker players who can move the ball, and themselves, quickly between the midfield lines. Time and time again the ball from midfield to attack has been so pedestrian that by the time flair players like Martial and Sanchez get the ball they’re facing an opposition that isn’t stretched and has themselves well organised.

So why does Mourinho stick with this approach? What is the advantage of playing giant midfielders who slow down the play?

Physicality for one. Mourinho likes his team to be physical and there can be no doubting that Fellaini and Matic especially are more than capable of facing up to a physical contest. But what else do they bring? Aerial dominance? You’d think being the tallest midfielders in the league this would be their biggest asset and the sole reason Mourinho loves height so much. Weirdly it’s a false dawn.

Aerial dominance is what Mourinho appears to be going for with his midfielders but the areas this is utilised isn’t where Manchester United fans would even consider warming to this long ball approach – the oppositions penalty box. Manchester United rarely score from corners for one. So this height advantage Fellaini and Matic bring is redundant. Not to mention Pogba, Lukaku at 6 foot 3 and Chris Smalling at 6 foot 4. It’s bordering on inept that Manchester United have such a massive – done it again – height advantage yet they’re so poor at scoring headers.

So if Mourinho is picking all this height and it’s not for scoring goals what’s it for? You got it! Defence.

Mourinho loves the defensive side of football. And with tall midfielders stood in front of his tall centre backs he knows that any team that wants to throw longs balls in to his box is going to struggle to make an impact. Which in theory totally nullifies a way the opposition can attack his team. Of course it totally blunts Manchester United’s midfield as a fast dynamic midfield but when your focus is on not conceding goals fast attacking footballing isn’t the priority.

So there you have it! Mourinho’s height obsession explained. Is it one you agree with? Is it actually that effective? Join the discussion on our YouTube channel where we discuss more about United’s current style of play and whether Mourinho will ever change

Mourinho Pressure Increases After Champions League Nightmare

The pressure on Jose Mourinho to bring a more entertaining brand of football to Manchester United has increased dramatically over the last few days, despite Mourinho’s Man United not even playing.

Impressive results from Tottenham against Turin, Man City against Basel and Liverpool vs Porto, wouldn’t normally be anything more than a minor annoyance to Manchester United fans. However, the method in which those three sides obtained those results has left many Man United fans frustrated. Seeing your rivals win is one thing, seeing them win and playing infinitely better than your side is another.

The reality is, like last season, Manchester United have hit the business end of the season and the football has suddenly become lethargic, slow and results orientated. There has been glimpses of fast flowing football under Mourinho this season but all that seems a distant memory as Mourinho bunkers down to grind out the results in the way only Mourinho can.

As stated above, this should not come as a surprise to those who have monitored Jose Mourinho’s career. More progressive football up until Christmas traditionally makes way for a defensive focused second half of the season where Mourinho looks to conserve energy and grind out those one nil wins. Exactly the same thing happened in the second half of the season Mourinho’s Chelsea won the league and it’s happened numerous times throughout his illustrious career.

The question is can Manchester United fans stomach that sort of playing style when their big rivals Liverpool and Man City are playing such an entertaining and fast brand of football? The answer is an emphatic no!

It’s one thing to be grinding out boring results when you’re challenging for the Premier League title but when you’re 16 points adrift of the scintillating football Man City are playing Mourinho’s dogged football becomes even more irritating. Can he change it? Yes. Will he change it? Probably not. One of Mourinho’s great strengths and weaknesses is his stubbornness in the face of popular opinion. And in the past it was the success he had by going against the grain that afforded him the well earned title of “The Special One”. But in recent times those controversial decisions have gone a little wayward but the stubbornness remains.

Manchester United fans may well demand more entertaining football, the press may continue to undermine Mourinho and say his brand of football belongs in the past, the pressure may increase on Mourinho. But he won’t change. Because Mourinho is the man who motivates himself by proving people wrong.

Can he do it? If the results improve and he wins more trophies he can.

Whatever happens it’s going to be an interesting few months between now and May finding out.

Mourinho Reveals Summer Transfer Targets

Jose Mourinho has indicated he will sign two midfielders this summer, as he looks to strengthen an area that currently looks bereft of ideas and cohesion.

With Michael Carrick retiring Mourinho already knew he’d need to bring in at least one midfield replacement this summer. However, with Marouane Fellaini yet to sign a new contract and free to leave in the summer that would force Mourinho in to making two midfielder signings.

With Paul Pogba, Nemanja Matic, Ander Herrera and Scott McTominay Mourinho’s only midfield options if Carrick and Fellaini leave, it’s not hard to see why United will need strengthen. Even with Fellaini and Carrick Manchester United currently look decidedly lightweight in the midfield, and many United fans feel that Mourinho should already have been prioritising the midfield area regardless of departures.

With the January transfer window shut Mourinho will have to wait until the summer to remedy the issue and that at least gives him a few months to assess his options and scout the possibilities.

So who might be on Mourinho’s scouting list? Milinković-Savić of Lazio, Jorginho of Napoli, Seri of Nice, and Fabinho of Monaco are four names that instantly spring to mind and with the current state of Manchester United’s midfield any two from that four would certainly improve Mourinho’s options. Although it shouldn’t be forgotten that Mourinho likes players who are established in the premier league and there are some suggestions that he’ll go back for Eric Dier from Tottenham if as many expect, Tottenham fail to qualify for the Champions League and a mass exodus ensues.

Mata reveals he is fully committed to United

Manchester United playmaker Juan Mata has revealed that he is fully committed to the club and has rubbished talks about him potentially leaving the Red Devils, according to a report on GOAL.

With the addition of Alexis Sanchez to the United squad, it looks like Mata will be the one to be dropped to the bench by manager Jose Mourinho for the remainder of the season.

Juan Mata's contract is expiring at the end of the season. (picture: manutd.com)
Juan Mata’s contract is expiring at the end of the season. (picture: manutd.com)

However, the Spaniard can still expect to be heavily involved with United still challenging in the Premier League, UEFA Champions League and the FA Cup and he himself is remaining positive about the remainder of the season.

He said:

Being part of this club is something very special and I can assure you that I keep enjoying every single game like I did with my debut against Cardiff. I’ll never stop thanking you for your support day after day. Thanks to you, being part of this club is really special.

Mata has been linked with a move back to the Spanish La Liga and with his contract expiring in the summer, his future seems uncertain.

United are yet to offer him a 12-month extension option which is in his contract and could lose him for free but the player himself is eager to continue playing for the club.

Mata has hit form in recent months and has been linking up well alongside Jesse Lingard and Romelu Lukaku, which has been pleasing to see for the United fans.

Moreover, Mata will be itching to play as much as possible to ensure he plays a role for the Spain national team in the upcoming World Cup in Russia.

Anthony Martial set to finally secure a regular starting spot?

When Jose Mourinho became manager of Manchester United, many predicted that Anthony Martial would flourish under his guidance. However, after a stunning first season which saw the French striker score 11 league goals and a last-minute winner against Everton in the FA Cup semi-final, Martial has struggled to become a regular starter for Mourinho.

There seemed to be more indication that the 21 year old wouldn’t be in Jose’s plans when he was left out of the starting line-up on United’s first game of the Premier League season. With Manchester United 2-0 up thanks Lukaku’s debut brace, Martial was subbed on. The young forward just had little over ten minutes to try and impress Mourinho, but he only needed eight. Played through by Mkhitaryan, Martial slotted the ball past Hart. Then, a few moments later, Martial provides an assist for Pogba’s goal.

Over the course of pre-season the player has finally been showing signs of consistency. The only way he can truly show Jose that he can help build towards Premier League glory for United, is if he is picked to start by Mourinho. This is the only way that he can now prove he can provide quality consistently.

If Manchester United’s Frenchman can provide consistency on the pitch, along with other players, then United should have a real chance of securing the Premier League title this season. Fans will be hoping the forward will start the Swansea game this weekend and that he has impressed Mourinho with his latest chance.

Do you think Martial can replicate his debut season for Manchester United? Will he be a regular starter throughout the season? Leave you thoughts in the comments below or with The United Stand on Twitter!

 

Reasons for United fans to be optimistic this season

Exciting times are ahead for Manchester United. With the Premier League’s most successful club rightfully back into the Champions League, this season could be the beginning of United re-establishing themselves as one of the dominant forces in English and European football. Fans will now look forward to Tuesday nights against the most elite teams in Europe and with the world class talent that the club have available, it seems that United are back where they belong and are ready to return with a bang!

Another place where United belong is at the top of the Premier League. Since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson, Manchester United have struggled to genuinely challenging for the title. This could all change this season though if Jose’s second season statistics are anything to go by. During the manager’s second season at Porto, Inter Milan, Chelsea, and Real Madrid he has won the domestic title each time. This impressive record also includes both times he had his second season at Chelsea. So will Jose Mourinho follow his career pattern and win the Premier League with Manchester United this season? Only time will tell.

Mourinho with Europa League trophy (Picture: dailymail.co.uk)
Jose Mourinho holds the Europa League trophy (Picture: dailymail.co.uk)

A huge boost towards completing United’s jump from the sixth place finish of last year to becoming the champions of England is the signing of Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku. One of the main problems from last season was Man United’s inability to finish off countless scoring opportunities. So, Mourinho’s purchase of a proven Premier League striker that scored 25 league goals last season isn’t a bad way to solve this problem.

Furthermore, with Manchester United strengthening by signing Lindelof, Lukaku and Matic, United look a much more dangerous side already. It is not just the new signings that could help make the difference though. Pogba now looks a lot more comfortable expressing himself in the final third of the pitch due to the defensive cover that Nemanja Matic now brings to the team. The recent world-record transfer of Neymar to PSG could also help Paul Pogba impress more this season as the weight of being the world’s most expensive footballer has now been relieved from his shoulders.

Manchester United look set for great things this season and it is definitely an exciting time to be a United fan. Nothing is for certain in football, but the club are surely heading in the right direction. So lets look forward to another entertaining season at the Theatre of Dreams.

What are you most excited about heading into the new season? Will Lukaku and Pogba shine in the Premier League this season? Share your thoughts with The United Stand!

EUROPA TRIUMPH IS ONLY THE BEGINNING: The Mourinho Era Begins

EUROPA TRIUMPH IS ONLY THE BEGINNING: The Mourinho Era Begins

After a turbulent season that included over 60 games, 15 draws and endless amounts of frustration, Manchester United went out on a high, winning the Uefa Europa League trophy and securing Champions League football for next season.

The win also sees the Red Devil’s manager Jose Mourinho secure his third trophy in his first season at the club.

Many pundits and fans alike have had a say on what constitutes a successful season for Manchester United. It was anticipated that United could win the league title given the acquisitions of Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and transfer-record signing Paul Pogba.

However, the 6th place finish in the league, while poor, does not speak of the foundation Jose Mourinho has established.

United had the highest missed chances count in the Premier league with 50 and had the 8th lowest return on goals. However,  Mourinho’s men proved very difficult to break down, conceding a mere 29 goals, only Tottenham had less, and the equal most clean sheets.  This suggests while the Portugese manager has faced challenges with injuries and form, he has instilled a resiliency within Old Trafford that appeared to leave when Sir Alex pulled the curtain on his glitter-filled tenure.

The ‘Special one’ also has instilled some accountability in the squad, shown with rotations of Anthony Martial, Luke Shaw and Henrikh Mkhitaryan. While media outlets suggests this puts players on the outer, it appears to be a challenge from the manager to install a work-ethic and desire for winning, shown in his praise for Marcus Rashford who the Portugese states does not finish training when the rest of the squad does.

Mainstream media outlets will have you believe Paul Pogba has been a ‘flop’ this season, however, the Frenchman was ranked 9th in the league for chances created while hitting the woodwork more than any other player in the league with 9. If half of those attempts at goal go in, his statistics would read differently, however, he did open the scoring for United in the Europa league final which lead to an eventual victory.

Wednesday’s triumph secures United’s pathway into the Uefa Champions League, a minimum target set by the club which allows the Red Devils maximum potential in financial gains but more crucially, the best chance of attracting the high calibre players the club needs.

If United can be condemned and ridden-off as failures while winning three trophies, two of which were difficult cup competitions in the midst of being juggled with other games, what will a squad with Jose Mourinho a year forward with further class players coming in, be able to achieve?

The scene of the Europa league trophy being held high closes the season on a high, but for Manchester United and Jose Mourinho, this is only the beginning.

Your Aussie Red Devil,
Larry (@thelarrytaylor)

Captain Crimson

In my formative years growing up I spent a great deal of time, like many a boy, searching desperately for an idol to emulate, or people from whom to gain guidance on how to behave and act in certain situations. One of my heroes was a fictional one, a superhero “Captain Crimson” who came to life from a comic book writer’s strip and who embodied the ideals of heroism in an altogether educational form as BBC’s Look and Read was at the time. Another was our very own Captain Crimson superhero, Roy Keane, for me, still the best captain that Manchester United have ever had, in my lifetime. As a youth, I watched him and adored the way that he led the team, he was tenacious, fearless and incredibly talented. As I grew older, I grew to appreciate and love Keane more as I saw that no one embodied desire and passion better than he did. Keane had a multitude of impressive skills amongst which tremendous tackling, fearsome shooting and excellent passing were his most renowned assets.

Keane had an unremitting fire in his belly; he wanted to fight everybody who stood in the way of him winning. He is the most successful Manchester United Captain of all time for good reason; his drive carried the others forward. Perhaps the greatest example of Keane’s self-sacrifice was the infamous 1999 Champions League Semi Final against Juventus. In the match, which I watched live at the tender age of 8, Keane was absolutely peerless, it was a stunningly exceptional performance especially given the circumstances that his yellow meant being suspended for the Champions League Final. The entire team were on their game, so razor sharp; willing to fight for every ball and Keane was at the heart of it, cajoling the players, making interceptions, threading intricate passes. In short doing what Roy Keane does, leading by example and competing to win every ball and working harder than anybody to win the game. You can see him harrying the Juventus players like a terrier and winning the ball through sheer grit, determination and hard work. The Juventus star studded line up couldn’t get anywhere near Keane, as the UEFA.com official website describes it in their match report:

“Such was the Republic of Ireland midfielder’s influence in Turin, United may as well have had an extra player; there was one Keane to supplement their attack, and another Keane to stifle Juve. He was immense.”

Sir Alex Ferguson is a legendary figure with the club but there are certain things which he has said or done which seem illogical or erroneous. When he listed his four world class players he omitted Roy Keane which immediately raised the eyebrows of the majority of the football community. So the player who possessed every conceivable asset you would want in a midfielder is not world class? The player who exuded confidence, leadership, passion, dedication isn’t world class? Quite frankly, in my book, that is absolutely laughable. When you’re world class you turn up in the big games and Roy Keane made sure he turned up, even in the 1999 UCL semi final when he knew he wasn’t going to make the final, for Roy the team came first and he was incredibly professional and resolute in ensuring United’s safe passage. As Sir Alex Ferguson commented on that performance:

“It was the most emphatic display of selflessness I have seen on a football field. Pounding over every blade of grass, competing as if he would rather die of exhaustion than lose, he inspired all around him. I felt it was an honour to be associated with such a player.”

I still get the shivers as I watch Roy Keane’s goal against Juventus and the commentary fills my ears, it is the pure brilliance of Keane.  As the commentator says about Keane’s textbook header “Roy Keane with a Captain’s goal”. My brother and I will often use this line to one another when a captain scores an important goal for his team in a match. It is in homage to Roy Keane, the Captain who scored the most important Captain’s goal of our lifetimes, as Manchester United fans.

Keane captained Manchester United to nine major honours, which makes him the most successful captain in the club’s history. He also won, overall, 7 Premier League Titles, 4 FA Cups, 4 Community Shields, 1 Champions League and 1 Intercontinental Cup, the last of these won by his winning goal. He was also named in the PFA Team of The Year 5 Times, the PFA Team of the Century (1907-2007) and was the Football Writers and Players’ Player of the Year, both in 2000.  These are just a smattering of the team and personal prizes which Keane picked up for Manchester United during a time of unparalleled glory in our club’s history. Furthermore, Keane scored 51 goals in his Manchester United career, the majority of which were extremely important and were at times where Manchester United needed him to step up and finish when the strikers couldn’t. Amazingly, in all of the matches in which Keane scored, Manchester United never lost, showing how his goals were always integral in winning games for the club.  The players knew how much Keane meant to the team, in particular summed up amongst the myriad of glowing quotes from team mates, I felt, by this:

“If I could pick one player in my team, I would always pick Roy Keane, in front of any other players I’ve played with. Keano had everything; he was a leader, a great player, and probably the best I ever played with.” — Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

Manchester United, during Keane’s time, were serial winners. Driven on by Keane and Sir Alex’s mirroring insatiable thirst for silverware, United plundered trophy after trophy. During Keane’s time at United, we often defended our Premier League title, or quickly snatched it back if Blackburn or Arsenal managed to secure one.  It is testament to Keane’s winning influence and how difficult it is to retain the Premier League that only one side (United apart) have managed to retain the Premier league, Chelsea in 04/05 and 05/06, which coincides nicely with Keane’s departure from United. In fact, at the height of Keane’s powers at the turn of the Millennium, United won three league titles in a row, a feat only achieved thrice since World War 2. In the year, Keane picked up his individual Player awards, Manchester United also secured the biggest title winning margin of the Premier League (18 points) which remains a record to this day. All of these statistics reinforce the assertion that Keane was absolutely vital to United’s extraordinary performances over his playing years for them.

One of the aspects of Roy Keane’s character that defined him was his inability to accept slights. It was to be perhaps the worst and most inglorious moment, which epitomised this, when he flew in with a completely unacceptable and outrageous tackle on Manchester City’s Alfe-Inge Haaland. In Keane’s autobiography he revealed that it had been premeditated and was a consequence of Haaland mocking Keane for feigning injury in an earlier encounter. For someone like Keane, a man who prided himself on honour and integrity, this seemed a grievous barb which demanded requisite retribution.  A significant proportion of the best footballers’ share this side to them, a characteristic which is best summed up by the one word which Keane uses to describe Sir Alex Ferguson, “ruthless”. In another interview with Kevin Kilbane, Keane admitted that this reputation and persona was something of an “act” and that he felt footballers, like other sports people, had to go into a zone to perform at their best. As with a lot of what the fiercely intelligent and articulate Keane says, there is more than a grain of truth in that admission.

Another fascinating nugget of Keane’s character and his football career at Manchester United can be found in how he confronted injuries, head on and like a man. However, as he often points out he could have been more careful and conscientious in how he dealt with these kinds of physical setbacks.  The hip injury that he had and which still affects him, is further confirmation that Keane never accepted lower standards and of the tremendous strain that his constant, relentless, over exertion in pursuit of victory took on his body.

One of the incidents which occurred late in Keane’s United career was that of the infamous Highbury Tunnel incident of 2005. When Gary Neville seemed to be under attack, Keane emerged from the back of the tunnel, as the fiercely protective leader he had so often been, vehemently defending Neville and insisting assertively “We’ll see you out there” to the Arsenal ringleaders. United ran out 4-2 winners confirming that Arsenal were beginning to lose some of the edge and lustre that they had had at the turn of the millennium. This was further reinforced by the 2005 FA Cup Final, a match that having watched myself, I still remain flabbergasted that United failed to win such was our overall dominance over the 120 minutes before we lost the shootout to the Gunners.

Possibly, the primary reason why Roy Keane doesn’t get as much respect or love as he might have done was the nature of his departure from the club.  The impossibly high regard that Sir Alex Ferguson is held in by the Manchester United fan base means that anyone who dares to question or contest him is fighting a losing battle. Keane, typically, doesn’t know a battle he can’t win and won’t concede defeat whatever the cost to his reputation with the United fans. The catalyst for Keane’s departure was his interview with MUTV where he was asked his thoughts and feedback after a 4-1 loss. Ever the pragmatist Keane outlined exactly where he felt that United players could have improved and that certain aspects of their performance had been unacceptable.

All in all, the way Keane portrays his exit from Old Trafford, paints the Manchester United hierarchy in a pretty unflattering light. Even on the prepared statement for his exit, the wording of the eleven and a half years tenure was a year short of the actual length of service given. Keane points this out as a particular flaring point, as we know with the Republic of Ireland in World Cup 2002, another issue which really infuriates Keane is unprofessionalism. Understandably, Keane was incredibly emotional at leaving the club into which he had poured so much of his heart and soul, the club where he had realised so many of his dreams and spearheaded so many indelible successes. He admits to crying in the car following the decision but resolutely retaining the belief that the club had lost respect for him, forcing his decision to accept their concerted efforts to eject him from the club.

It’s obvious that Keane doesn’t bear too much of a simmering grudge towards his treatment and that Manchester United still remains firmly ensconced in the Irishman’s heart. He goes on in his book to say that he “loved everything about United”.

However fabulous Roy Keane was as a footballer, it was his honest, down to earth character which got him into trouble and made him an indefatigable driving force in Manchester United’s engine room as Captain. As Roy Keane said of Sir Alex’s particular praise over his incredible performance against Juventus to him “it’s like praising the postman for delivering letters”. It is a line that reminds me of my other childhood hero Captain Crimson who used to say “It’s all in a day’s work” after whichever act of heroism and courage that he performed.  Keane, like Captain Crimson, was a superhero who epitomised so many values of bravery and tenacity, yet never took the credit he deserved. Of course, like Captain Crimson, that doesn’t stop him being idolised and venerated for the inspirational leader and hero that he was. As when Captain Crimson was sent back to the comic world and Keane retired, their names and deeds will never be forgotten nor the legendary status that they richly and fully deserve.

“Roy’s obsession with winning and the demands he put on others made him the most influential player in the dressing room. He became a great captain through that and, to my mind; he is the best player I have had in all of my time here. Over the years when they start picking the best teams of all time, he will be in there.” — Sir Alex Ferguson (on Keane’s retirement in 2006)

Why Louis Van Gaal was GOOD for Man United

By Larry Taylor (larrytee0)

“This club has big ambitions. I too have big ambitions. Together I’m sure we will make history.” – Louis Van Gaal.

Just over two years later, The Dutchman has left his post as Manchester United manager a year earlier than expected due to the lack of ‘huge ambitions’ being fulfilled. There’s no doubting Louis Van Gaal underperformed in his tenure, however his rein was not fruitless. They say hindsight is a beautiful thing, so with the ink barely dry on the 65 year-old’s compensation package, let’s reflect on the good work of Louis Van Gaal that leaves United in a strong position.

It is easy to forget the circumstances in which the former Netherland’s manager took over the club. Arrival after a 7th place finish under David Moyes, Van Gaal’s minimum expectation was to get the club back into the top four, and ultimately, the champions league.

Although United had an indifferent start to the season with 2 draws and a loss, you still had a feeling things were starting to change at Old Trafford for the better. After the Moyes season, the locker room lacked belief. The ability to look around you and believe in the personnel around you was virtually gone. Van Gaal responded by purchasing Rademal Falcao, at the time, considered one of Europe’s lethal strikers, and Angel Di Maria. The club ultimately finished in 4th place.
The argument here is how does Falcao, a man who scored 4 goals, and Di Maria, who was largely out-of-form, impact the conclusion of the season. The simple fact of the matter is both players came to the club with their names associated with ‘world class’ and ‘winners’. United, for all the dour football, still ended the season in a champions league place. It is not always what a player does on the field, but off it, that generates success. In form or not, if Di Maria or Falcao are playing next to you on the field, you want to be a better player.

Chris Smalling celebrates scoring in United's 4-2 win over City (Picture: mirror.co.uk)
Chris Smalling celebrates scoring in United’s 4-2 win over City (Picture: mirror.co.uk)
For all the inconsistencies, Van Gaal also performed against the bigger clubs. When United really needed to rally towards the end of the season, Manchester United came out and defeated Tottenham 3-0 in arguably their best display of the season. Later in the month, United also defeated Liverpool at Anfield to complete the double over the scousers and a resounding and entertaining 4-2 victory against Manchester City. Criticise the man all you want, victories against our two biggest rivals and making the Champions League at Liverpool’s expense earns praise.

This season has been more disappointing, but I have to praise the Dutchman’s promotion of the youth. Say what you will about Van Gaal being ‘forced’ to play the youth, but ultimately, he left his squad smaller to promote the younger players.

Van Gaal stated: “It is the way I lead this club. I don’t want a big selection because when you have a big selection it doesn’t give any chance to the young players,”

The former Bayern Munich man went into the season with 21 outfield players. To add support to the argument, the former Ajax manager did in fact send many players on loan and despite many questionable decisions, it would be difficult to prove Van Gaal did not expect injuries to occur throughout the season.

Anthony Martial is arguably the most promising teenager in world football. He has scored 17 goals this season, by far the most goals in the Manchester United squad, and whether purchased for Giggs or not, ‘LVG’ still approved the go-ahead.

The find of the season is definitely Marcus Rashford. He had a stunning debut against Midtjylland, scoring a double but he really announced himself just two days later with a stunning set of goals against Arsenal.

Marcus Rashford scores v Midjtylland
Marcus Rashford scores v Midjtylland (Picture: skysports.com)
The circumstances that lead to Rashford’s debut, granted, may have been unavoidable. But the Dutchman did not have to continuously play the academy product. He had deployed Memphis at striker earlier in the season and had Januzaj, who he claimed could be a striker, available. He chose to stick with Rashford.

The Dutchman also brought Timothy Fosu-Mensah, who was nothing short of outstanding in his few appearances, to the club from Ajax last season who the Old Trafford faithful are happy to praise.

Finally, the maligned manager secured the club the F.A Cup, the clubs first trophy in the post Sir Alex Ferguson era and the club’s first trophy in 3 years. An extra-time goal by a Manchester United academy product in Jesse Lingard was celebrated by many as he lived out our dreams: To score a decisive goal in a big game for the club we love.

I will not defend Louis Van Gaal’s failures. On a broader scale, he failed to reach expectations, made confusing decisions in his squad management and had the club playing a very negative brand of football, returning the worst goal return in the club’s time in the premier league. He also failed to make the top 4, and he has paid for it with his job.

All-in-all, it is worth remembering Manchester City beat United to 4th place on goal difference. When you look at the squad of City, and all the faults of United, it is evident the red side of Manchester really is not in as bad a shape as the English press would have you believe.

But the enormity of his job needs to be acknowledged. Lots of players needed to be moved on and lots of promising players needed to be unearthed. Regardless of how it has come about, this part of the task has been completed. There’s no doubting that Manchester United has a squad to build on for the future.

Your Aussie Correspondent,

Larry – The United Stand.

See some of Van Gaal’s funniest moments below or by clicking here: