Tag Archives: manchester united news

Why Ander Herrera is Man United’s Forgotten Man

Voted Manchester United’s player of the year last season, the fall from grace of Ander Herrera this season has been one that some Man United fans have found hard to fathom? Herrera has endured a mixed career at United, criminally underused by Van Gaal, to first name on the sheet for Mourinho last season, to forgotten man this season. So what’s gone wrong with Herrera? And why is he suddenly such a divisive figure amongst United fans?

The big positive with Herrera is he gets the importance of wearing a Manchester United shirt. In a sentence he gets what Manchester United is all about. Passion, intensity, drive and an appetite to win and play fast football. Herrera at his best is quick across the ground, hard in to the tackle, and has an eye for a defence splitting pass from deep. Not to mention a very good cross when he finds himself out wide on the right. Reading that back, he’s exactly what Manchester United currently need to complete a balanced midfield three with Pogba and Matic.

Jose Mourinho has been reluctant to use Herrera this season though. An ever present last season many predicted that the arrival of Matic would see United move to a more dynamic midfield three, with Pogba free to express his game on the left hand side, Matic holding things centrally from deep, and Herrera the tenacious box to box midfielder on the right with a bit of everything to his game. It’s a combination, that sat here in mid February with Mourinho’s midfield a laughing stock, makes total sense. The question is why has Mourinho ignored it for six months? Or more to the point, why has he ignored Herrera?

Amazingly, Herrera didn’t make his first Premier league start until mid September. Benched throughout the start of the campaign in August, Herrera went from Mourinho’s most trusted player to a bit part bench player. Mourinho wanted to utilise the now exposed and defunct 4231 formation and Matic and Pogba were the 2 Mourinho wanted to use. By the time Mourinho did turn to Herrera it was evident to everyone that Herrera was no longer the player of last season. The dynamism had given way to sluggishness and an odd reluctance to play a forward pass. In short Ander Herrera was no longer the player United fans loved.

With that came the usual, but somewhat unexpected and shortsighted, criticism of Herrera. “Sell him” “He’s useless” were just some of the comments flying around the United fan community, and a player that only a few short months ago had been fundamental to United’s season was suddenly on the scrapheap.

The question still remains why? What has caused Herrera to go from that exciting wears his heart on the sleeve player to one that looks lost on a football pitch? When you look back over the season, even when Pogba was out injured Mourinho regularly opted for Fellaini over Herrera. Limited Fellaini over Herrera who at his best optimises what United should be about! With Mourinho ignoring Herrera’s talents so consistently there can only be one conclusion. Over the summer something happened between Mourinho and Herrera that destroyed their great relationship of last season.

Some say Herrera wanted a move and Mourinho refused it. Others say it’s because Herrera won’t commit to a long term contract and is running it down so he can go for nothing. Both points would lean towards Mourinho being right and refusing to use a player who isn’t committed to the club. The only issue with that is that whenever Herrera has played for United it’s very clear that he loves the place and is totally committed. So what else could be the issue? Could it be as simple as Mourinho decided he wanted to go down a different direction? That he didn’t like the speed and dynamism of Herrera’s midfield play and he wanted taller more simple players like Matic and Fellaini in there? His selections over the season and introduction of another of those types of players in McTominay would add credence to that theory.

Whatever the reason, Herrera is no longer the player he was and that’s a big shame for Manchester United. A midfield three of Pogba, Matic and Herrera at his best would provide United with the perfect balance as they approach the most important part of their season.

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.

Tahith Chong Debut Against Huddersfield?

Tahith Chong, a name Manchester United fans may not have heard of a few months ago, is suddenly the man, or boy, many fans want to be the next youth player given a run out for the first team. With Huddersfield up next in the cup, is it the perfect time for Chong to be given his chance?

For someone so young – Chong only turned 18 in December – Tahith Chong is already making up for lost time. A serious knee injury kept him out for most of 2017 so it’s credit to him and his talent that we’re only two months in to 2018 and he’s already banging on the door of the first team.

Fast, skillful and a competent finisher, Chong has the look of accomplished United wingers from years gone by. Ryan Giggs is an obvious comparison and Chong does possess that ability to glide along with the ball at speed and beat a man. But for anyone who’s seen Chong and old clips of George Best in his younger days there’s definitely a resemblance in the way Chong keeps the ball close, can ride a tackle, and never looks in any trouble despite the number of players around him.

Of course comparing an 18 year old youth player to one of the world’s “Best” ever players is at this stage fanciful. Chong’s first challenge is to force his way in to Jose Mourinho’s plans before he can even begin to think about how good he can be.

So how close to a first team call up is Chong and is he likely to be involved against Huddersfield?

In answer to the first question, he should be very close. He’s recently featured and performed well for the U23’s, which is effectively the reserves, and with Mourinho monitoring those performances a first team call up should be imminent. However, I’d be very surprised if Mourinho calls him up any time soon. Mourinho isn’t Sir Alex Ferguson. If he was then Chong would be involved against Huddersfield. Sir Alex was never shy in promoting youth, especially young talented flair players, and Chong fits that particular statement like a glove.

Mourinho is different though. His record with bringing through youth, despite his protestations, isn’t good. He’s also already stated that he wants to bring through one youth player a season and this season it’s McTominay. Others have been given a few minutes here and there but Mourinho doesn’t appear to be the sort of manager that would consider Chong’s involvement any time in the next month or so a priority.

The more realistic hope for Chong is that the first team find some sort of consistent form between now and April and tie up Champions League football so that Mourinho has the option of blooding some youth in the remaining dead rubber league games. But with the way United are playing at the moment it could be be that every game counts between now and the end of the season. Which is likely to mean no debut for Chong any time soon.

Mourinho Hands Klopp Manager of the Month

Jose Mourinho was nailed on to be January’s manager of the month. Premier League wins over Everton, Stoke and Burnley meant that a draw or better against Spurs would have guaranteed Mourinho a first manager of the month award of the season and broken his big rival Pep Guardiola’s unprecedented four in a row winning streak.

And whilst Guardiola is still highly unlikely to win the award for January, Mourinho’s tactical nightmare at Spurs looks to have handed the award to another rival in Jurgen Klopp.

Of all the premier league managers Klopp, Mourinho and Guardiola have the best record in January with three wins and one loss. However, with Guardiola’s one loss coming against Liverpool that surely counts Guardiola out as a contender? To give the award to Pep over a manager who beat him would be extremely dubious. So with Guardiola out of the running it’s a straight race between Mourinho and Klopp.

Klopp’s record reads wins over Burnley away, City home, Huddersfield away and then a loss to Swansea away with 9 goals scored and 5 conceded.
Mourinho’s record reads wins over Everton away, Stoke home, Burnley away and then a loss to Spurs away with 6 goals scored and 2 conceded.

When analysing the above a fair conclusion would be that Mourinho should still be awarded his first manager of the month award for the season. United and Liverpool mirrored each other’s results against Burnley and when you look at the fixtures United’s are definitely the tougher run of games with a more even spread of goals that highlight a strong defence and decent attack. Liverpool have scored more goals but with five goals conceded the stats show a side that is very imbalanced.

Don’t expect logic or fairness to win out when the award is handed out tomorrow though. The focus the Premier League panel will undoubtedly put on Liverpool beating City and ending their unbeaten run will not be ignored and will ultimately hand Klopp the award.

It’s an extremely close call but Mourinho only has himself to blame. A perfect January was destroyed by some suspect tactical decisions against Spurs that United should have comfortably expected at least a draw from. Oh well, there’s always next month.

Manchester United sign Matthew Olosunde

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

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

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

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

Matthew Olusande
Manchester United signing Matthew Olusande

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

Welcome to Manchester Matthew!

By Mark Goldbridge

Give Roy Keane & Paul Scholes a Break!

Give Keane & Scholes a Break

I love Roy Keane. Yes he’s prone to mindless outbursts that are hard to defend – my personal favourite being the recent one where he said that the tackle on Luke Shaw was a fair one. Quite rightly this immediately earned Roy a one week ban from my United Stand desk. But it’s impossible to stay mad at him for long. Why? Because he gets what Manchester United is. He understands the football we should aspire to and expects every player fortunate enough to wear the red of Manchester United to play with the same passion and desire he did.

He’s also without question the best Manchester United captain of my lifetime, and arguably, any other lifetime. The day he left Old Trafford he left behind a hole so big when you look down it you can see the Sydney opera house. And that hole has never been filled. Regular watchers of The United Stand will know I don’t think the captaincy suits Rooney but comparing Wayne as a captain to Roy is like sending a rusty old tesco trolley to war instead of a Sherman Tank. The truth being there’s no comparison. In fact, when I think about Keane and his leadership qualities one line sums him up “Win. Or die trying”.

So it saddens me that more and more United fans feel the need to take a pop at him and ridicule his opinion. Keane has always been opinionated, it’s nothing new. He’s the same man now he was when he was at United it’s just some fans don’t feel the need to defend him or feel he’s part of our club any more. They’re wrong. Keane is intrinsically etched in to our history and The United Way. He understood it, he was part of it and he continues to preach it. If fans choose not to listen then that’s their loss. Even if LVG gets us playing the United Way – which is possible but many doubt – he’ll never scratch the surface of Keane’s achievements. Roy Keane conducted and led the United way for over a decade.

That’s not to say we should hang on his every word. No one is right 100% of the time and Roy knows a controversial opinion will sell papers. But when it’s United related I listen. Because if anyone knows the way our great club should play and should act it’s Roy Keane.

The same goes with Scholesy. He’s come out in the last few weeks with some negative comments about the current United set up . In short Scholesy wants to see United blast teams away with football that gets you on the edge of your seat and he isn’t seeing that. A view shared by many a fan at the moment but also a view that some fans think isn’t helpful. Van Gaal has certainly allowed Scholesy to get under his skin and he’s publicly criticised Scholes on a two occasions now. But why do fans have to take sides?

Paul Scholes and Roy Keane are United legends. They’ve made their contribution – and what a contribution it was – and they’ve earned the right to pass comment on the club just like any fan has. As a manager Van Gaal should ignore it and do what he’s paid to do, manage Manchester United and make them successful. Arguing with ex players and turning fans against them isn’t and shouldn’t be part of the job description. The bottom line is LVG and some fans are happy with the way things are going and some fans like Scholes are concerned by the football we’re playing. Ultimately surely that’s a good thing? Both sides have one clear aim – Manchester United back on top – and debating the merits of how we’ll get there is the best way forward.

Whatever happens we are Manchester United. The United Way matters and we should never forget that.

By Mark Goldbridge

Van Gaal on the Rocks? The Goldbridge Blog

Van Gaal on the Rocks?

It’s always easy to sensationalise events at Manchester United, especially when the media get involved. A run of the mill home game against Swansea can be hyped up to epic proportions with the right headline – I’m thinking “Shelvey plans to urinate on pitch if Swans beat United”. Feeling pumped up? That’s how the media works and it’s why Sky has been so successful over the years. They can make an end of season dead rubber game between Stoke & West Ham sound like a title deciding El Classico with a well constructed musical montage and the right voiceover – although they quite rightly draw the line at trying to turn Michael Owen in to a credible and interesting presenter. Definitely dodged a tin of grey paint throwing BT Sports under the bus with Owen there.

Back to United though and Manchester United v West Brom on Saturday afternoon is a season defining game and one that really does need building up. In normal circumstances it would be a home banker where three points would be as routine as Arsenal getting embarrassed in Europe. But this year’s it’s different. This year there’s an air of uncertainty round Old Trafford that us fans are finding extremely hard to come to terms with. And Saturday’s performance will go a long way to deciding where that uncertainty ends.

In the Autumn of 2013 David Moyes lost his first league game at Old Trafford two one to West Brom and the scene was set for what would lead to Moyes departure the following April. On Saturday Van Gaal faces a West Brom side that is well organised under Tony Pulis. But more importantly they face a West Brom side that will park the bus far more effectively than CSKA Moscow and offer a very real threat on the counter and from set pieces. In short, United will be tested and any win would be a huge positive.

But like Anderson at an all you can eat buffet, one plate of food isn’t enough. We need more on Saturday. There’s no escaping the fact that the United faithful, especially the home and away support are growing restless. They’re tired of the uninspiring football. They’re embarrassed that we sit bottom of the league when it comes to chances to created. And they want football played the United Way.

What is the United Way? One follower on Twitter actually accused me in the week of being obsessed with Sir Alex’s reign and stated “The United Way? Don’t you mean the Sir Alex way?” No we don’t. We mean the United Way. It wasn’t a concept born during the reign of Sir Alex, it dates back decades right through our history and exciting football is the key.

So on Saturday afternoon United must entertain. To be precise, LVG must entertain us, Rooney must continue his improvement and United must win. Yes you could argue that if we play well and lose by the odd goal in unfortunate circumstances they deserve a let off. But let’s be honest. If our current Manchester United side play well West Brom won’t get close.

United fans expect Louis. And I for one can’t wait. Come on United!

By Mark Goldbridge