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Ruthless Ruud

During my time watching Manchester United, there has been one goal machine that stands above all others, a man who had a finishing style unmatched by others who have worn a Red Devils’ shirt. When he first arrived in a United shirt, he wondered why fans were booing him whenever he scored before he was informed that there were merely acclaiming him through his first name. This was to be a sound that would punctuate United matches with an alarming regularity and alacrity. The man, of whom I speak, is indubitably, Ruud Van Nistelrooy. The Dutch striker was simply a phenomenal finisher, a man who was born to score goals, who knew how to garner an extra yard of space at the key time to arrive precisely when he needed to, in order to supply a deft finishing touch to a move.  When you listen to him talk you are aware that he is a clever man and that it is perhaps this quality married with his astonishing finishing ability which led rise to his iconic and legendary status at Manchester United. Van Nistelrooy scored 150 goals in only 219 games for United, which is quite simply extraordinary, demonstrating how easily and repeatedly he found the net and how difficult it was for opponents to prevent him scoring. This goals per game ratio of 0.68 is superior to any of the top ten all time United scorers currently, showing his efficiency and effectiveness as a goal scorer.  As Louis Saha articulates Van Nistelrooy was an unbelievable striker with a wide arsenal of skills:

 “He has the ultimate mentality of a striker. He’s always concentrating so he can be in the right position to anticipate a pass or be in the right place to receive it. That’s what makes him so effective. There is nobody in the world like him. David Trezeguet is a similar player but he doesn’t have the same quality, control and technique. Ruud keeps control of the ball with three players trying to get it off him. He is the complete forward.”

 

Van Nistelrooy was first rumoured to come to United in 2000 however injury difficulties made the move impossible at that juncture and he made the transfer a year later, for a then hefty sum of 19 million pounds. His scoring form at PSV Eindhoven, albeit in the Dutch league, had already gained him a fearsome reputation, having bagged 62 goals in 67 appearances for the side.  In his first season for United in 2001-2 he enjoyed incredible success, scoring in his debuts in the Charity Shield and the League and scoring 23 goals in 32 league games, form of such a high calibre which earned him the PFA Players’ Player of the Year accolade on the back of his sterling efforts in his maiden season. He was always looking to improve, as Van Nistelrooy admits it was important for him to visualize where he wanted to go and what he wanted to achieve and this would have helped to spur him onto greater heights in the following seasons. Often, he would look at his abilities and achievements in a self critical way as only the top players will do and he particularly admires those players who had this kind of authentic, down to earth mentality. Players who did not get too hung up on the materialistic riches which football had to offer but instead conducted themselves in a professional and considered manner, with the game their primary focus. To this end, the player Van Nistelrooy mentions to exemplify these traits is Paul Scholes, someone who didn’t conduct interviews and whose stylistic approach was a simple hoodie and jeans for training, yet a player whom Ruud describes as one of the best the world has ever seen.

The following season, he won the Golden Boot, one strike ahead of his erstwhile rival for the award Thierry Henry and won the Player of the Season, as he appeared to be going from strength to strength. In particular it was his passion, desire, drive and determination to score as many as possible which further outlined his appetite for goals, scoring three hat tricks in the League that year. When we contemplate our current predicament, that it is now four and a half years since someone in a United shirt scored a league hat trick, you truly begin to appreciate what a remarkable and skilled striker Van Nistelrooy truly was. His goal against Fulham where he ran from the halfway line from this season is a moment Van Nistelrooy himself admits was the most exceptional point of his career, as a footballer he says you had to know what you were good at and what your limitations are and focus on those strengths, that was why he concentrated on scoring inside the box, where he was at his most dangerous and ruthless. Van Nistelrooy opines that the best player he played with was Brazilian Ronaldo at Real Madrid, as those types of goals were more of his standard and that Ronaldo had a far more natural ability in those types of situations that he did. Another noteworthy aspect of Van Nistelrooy’s scoring efforts was his Continental strike rate, in other words how predatory he was in Europe. He had further improved upon his ten Champions league goals the season prior with another twelve which earned him UEFA’s seal of approval with the epithet of the best striker in Europe.

By scoring in the first couple of matches of the 2003-04 season Van Nistelrooy had scored in ten consecutive league matches, a record which was to stand for over a decade before Vardy overtook it. At the time, Van Nistelrooy couldn’t have been more gracious in ceding the record to the Leicester front man publicly saying that records were there to be broken. This shows what a classy, considerate and thoughtful gentleman Van Nistelrooy truly is, in how he portrays himself through his intelligent words and actions.  Of course, Van Nistelrooy was also at the centre of the Battle of Old Trafford, missing a last minute penalty which would have won United the game; he was then attacked by Martin Keown as tempers bubbled up and players were caught up in the cavalcade of emotions of the fierce rivalry between Red Devils and Gunners. Vieira, who had been sent off earlier for a second bookable offence on Van Nistelrooy accused him of cheating and many players received censure for their part in the proceedings. Van Nistelrooy recounted later that he was scarcely aware of what was happening around him so devastated and surprised at missing the penalty.  Roy Keane sums up the respect and standards to which Van Nistelrooy held himself to and the esteem in which he held him:

“I would never have expected Ruud Van Nistelrooy to miss a penalty. Because Ruud Van Nistelrooy was brilliant. Ruud was the best finisher, ever, but especially in one on one situations, just the keeper to beat. When Ruud was going through one on one, I never doubted him. Some players would be going, “******* hell – hard and low? Or dink it over?”, but when Ruud was through there might as well have been no goalkeeper.

The season ended in FA Cup glory with Van Nistelrooy bagging a brace, once more showcasing further proof of his big game mentality and temperament.

Although the 2004-5 was one hampered by injury problems for Van Nistelrooy which were to dog him through the remainder of his career, he still continued scoring regularly and there can have been fewer goals sweeter than the penalty he scored against Arsenal at Old Trafford which ended the Invincibles’ unbeaten run.  Redemption of the highest quality had been rendered and the misery of the previous year had been replaced with the sweet joy of victory over the bitterest of rivals. As he recounts later when he reviewed his celebration it was slightly embarrassingly vociferous but in taking the penalty Van Nistelrooy provided further firm substantiation that he had a superb mentality, resilience and fortitude in the most important moments. Van Nistelrooy was retrospectively suspended for three games due to a foul on Ashley Cole which the officials had missed but the feeling of accomplishment could not have been dampened by such trivialities. The season was a disappointing one in terms of trophies accumulated, with a rare year where none were gained due to United somehow contriving to lose an FA Cup Final against Arsenal which we absolutely dominated in every aspect until the penalty shootout.

In the final season, 2005-06, of Van Nistelrooy’s time at United despite considerable time on the bench, he finished second highest scorer in the league to Henry. He was being punished for a falling out with Cristiano Ronaldo where had told the Portuguese to “Go crying to your daddy”. This had been a thinly veiled jibe at the closeness of Ronaldo’s bond with assistant coach Carlos Queiroz, but Ronaldo having lost his father a mere 8 months earlier mistakenly assumed it was in reference to his and, understandably, burst into floods of tears.  That summer, Van Nistelrooy made the move to Real Madrid to the despair and disappointment of his team mates, notably Rio Ferdinand who had this to say regarding the Dutchman when picking his all time United eleven:

“[Van Nistelrooy] was the most devastating finisher I have ever played with. We could win a game by three or four goals but, if he hadn’t scored, he would sulk. But in order to become a world-beating striker like Ruud, you need to have that attitude. He lived and breathed goals. I tried to make him stay through speaking to his agent but it was too late. One of the big disappointments in my time at Manchester United was seeing the club let him go.

When asked directly about whether he regrets moving to Real Madrid at the time he did, given the incredible success United were to enjoy in the years directly following this, Van Nistelrooy is quite honest in saying that he wouldn’t have missed out on the opportunity that Real Madrid presented him with. This he says was a new, fresh challenge, an opportunity to test himself once again, since he had fallen into a comfort zone at United. His levels he believes were 1 or 2% lower than they had been, particularly in his final season and for a footballer even such small increments are vital at the highest level of the professional game. What is obvious when he talks of United is his understanding of how we are meant to play, with an attacking adventure and verve that was characteristic of time at United, when players were allowed to express themselves and there is a clear understanding of the United way of playing and how much he reveled in how this particular style allowed him so much service to supplement his incredible goal tally for the Red Devils.

Ruud Van Nistelrooy was a hero for many fans during his time at the club, not least my brother who purchased his shirt. He was so intelligent, so reliable, composed and unique, a special talent whom United were incredibly lucky to have.  He epitomized everything that you could want in a striker, someone who’s myriad of abilities and attributes were coupled with an understanding of a forward’s role in terms of runs and spaces which was simply outstanding. Not just that but Van Nistelrooy helped fire United to success during a relatively lean period, between Champions League successes, with Premier League, League Cup and FA Cups won, whilst Sir Alex was in the middle of a rebuilding process centred around the two prodigious young talents of Rooney and Ronaldo.  Sir Alex Ferguson himself thought Van Nistelrooy was in a class of his own and it seems fitting to allow our legendary manager the final words on the greatest goal machine United have ever had:

“Ruud van Nistelrooy has been the best – without doubt the best finisher we have ever had at this club. We have had some brilliant centre forwards at United…….But van Nistelrooy has been the best, absolutely the best finisher. If I had played alongside Ruud the problem would have been getting a chance ahead of him.”

 

Mourinho to Rest Star Player against Stoke?

Has Jose Mourinho already given a big hint about his team selection for Stoke City at the weekend?

Stoke are well known for their physicality and United fans have spent the international break discussing whether the side that has done so well so far this season is the right one to go and get three points at Stoke? Specifically are Juan Mata and Henrikh Mkhitaryan the right sort of players for a battle at Stoke?

With that in mind many United fans feel this is the ideal game to go with a three in midfield. Matic and Pogba are sure starters and paired with either Ander Herrera or Marouane Fellaini, United’s midfield suddenly looks far stronger and able to deal with anything Stoke want to throw at them. Couple this preference with Jose Mourinho’s comments about Mkhitaryan needing to prove himself against the top sides despite his great start to the season and is Mkhitaryan likely to be the fall guy at Stoke?

Whether it’s Mata or Mkhitaryan that drops out it only goes to prove the current strength in depth Mourinho possesses at United. Rashford and Martial vying for one spot on the left and with a midfield three Jose would have Mkhitaryan, Mata and Lingard competing for the spot on the right.

However United approach this game and whatever lineup Mourinho goes for, United will be strong favourites and if they come away with three points on Saturday evening there won’t be many United fans complaining about the formation or who started. It’s a long season ahead and Jose will be fully prepared to utilise his whole squad.

Man United win thrilling EFL Cup final

Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored an 87th minute winner as Manchester United overcame a spirited Southampton side at Wembley in an entertaining EFL Cup final.

United took the lead through a powerful Ibrahimovic free-kick which flew past the diving Fraser Forster.

Jesse Lingard added a second with a composed finish from 12 yards as United looked to cruise to a comfortable victory.

But Southampton roared back in added time of the first half as Gabbiadini pulled one back with a cheeky finish through the legs of De Gea from point blank range.

Southampton started the second half on the front foot and got the equaliser through a fantastic on the turn finish by Gabbiadini again.

United were on the back foot as Southampton looked the most likely to snatch victory. Romeu came closest for the Saints as his header cannoned off the post.

But it was Zlatan who stole the show at Wembley as he powered in a header to seal the victory for United. Ander Herrera delivered an enticing cross and Zlatan converted the chance expertly beyond Forster to break Southampton hearts.

Wayne Rooney lifts the EFL Cup for Manchester United (Picture: guardian.com)
Wayne Rooney lifts the EFL Cup for Manchester United (Picture: guardian.com)

Southampton will feel angry after Gabbiadini had a goal ruled out wrongly for offside when the game was scoreless.

The win secures Jose Mourinho’s first major trophy in his first season as manager of United, a record which no other United manager has achieved.

This silverware is proof of the apparent improvement under Mourinho who has instilled the will to win into the squad, who also have the ability to grind out victories.

The absence of Mkhitaryan meant the fluidity in attack was removed, with Juan Mata being ineffective in the first half. Mourinho hauled off the Spaniard at half-time and introduced Michael Carrick for his calming presence in midfield.

Southampton created all sorts of problems for United, and can feel proud of how hard they fought against a very strong United side, but ultimately the difference in class showed as Zlatan powered in the winner.

Match winner Ibrahimovic said, “This is a team effort. This is what I came for – to win and I am winning. The more I win the more satisfied I get.”

United boss Jose Mourinho commented, “I’m a bit emotional yes. It’s not easy to win titles and so many times. Winning is always special. The day I don’t get emotional when I win is the day to go home.”

This victory will give the players a massive confidence boost to push on in our charge for a top 4 finish. I seriously think that we will finish second in the league, and of course we’re still well in contention in the FA Cup and Europa League.

How do you think this Cup final victory will impact our league form? Is a second place finish in the league too far fetched?

Leave your thoughts below!

Premier League 2 Review: United 3-2 Derby

Man United V Derby County 19/09/16

Goals
United: McTominay 17, 85 Harrop 67 (pen)
Derby: Vernam 35, 74

After a short hiatus where I’ve been held kidnapped in a basement by a Mexican man named Guillermo I am back with my coverage of Manchester United’s Reserve team.

During my absence United have ground out a 1-1 draw against local rivals Man City thanks to a goal by Matty Willock and beaten the reigning European champions Villarreal 1-0 in the Premier League International Cup. It’s good to see that whilst Guillermo fed me on a diet of stale bread and rain water the youngsters have started putting together some impressive performances. Harrop, Poole, Tuanzebe and McTominay have all started to show promise and are benefiting from regular games. Harrop in particular growing in statue with an assured performance against European opposition.

Last season’s Premier League 2 winners Derby, who have so far failed to register a single point this season provided the opposition under the lights of Old Trafford. The rare chance to play on the hallowed turf of Old Trafford often lifts the performance of young players and United were quickly in an attacking mood with Riley flashing a shot at the Derby goal in the 6th minute.

With Riley proving to be an attacking threat as he powered down the left wing and Harrop orchestrating and dictating, it didn’t take long for United to open their account for the night. The opener came in the 17th minute when some good play by Harrop resulted in a teasing cross being headed home with aplomb by Scott McTominay. McTominay is proving to be Mr Versatile having played in a defensive midfielder role but at 6ft 4 the lad offers us a real presence up front.

As the first half progressed it was all United and Derby rarely threatened although it was clear that their striker Vernam would be a threat in the air.

McTominay was unlucky not to double the lead in the 30th minute when he saw his sliding effort clip the outside of Derby’s post and go wide. Just 60 seconds later McTominay again was unfortunate when he failed to capitalise on a Hamilton pass, this time firing hire over the bar when he really should have done better. United were dominant!!!

Derby equalised against the run of play in the 35th minute Vernam nodded a header that just crossed the line before Redmond could clear. United disputed the decision but replays show the ball was well over the line. 1-1 at half time in a game United had dominated with possession and chances.

As the second half began slowly United found it increasingly hard to create opportunities and Derby could have stolen the lead when Vernam headed narrowly wide. Warren Joyce shuffled his tactics in the 58th minute when he introduced the tricky American Olosunde who replaced a tired looking Redmond.

A fit again Ro-Shaun Williams slotted into the defence alongside Tuanzebe when he replaced Scott in the 64th minute with Regan Poole moving to left back and Riley pushed forward. The changes freshened up the team and injected some much needed pace into the United team.

It soon paid dividends when sub Matthew Olosunde was clumsily tripped inside the Derby box in the 67th minute and up stepped an assured Harrop to drill home a well taken penalty (Demi Mitchell take note!!) 2-1

You have to credit the response from the Rams as they looked to get back into the match. They refused to give up and were rewarded for their fight and sustained period of attacking play in the 74th when that man Vernam flung himself onto the end of a brilliant cross by Santos to power home the equaliser. 2-2 What a game!!

15 minutes to go and it was all set up for a grandstand finish. United flooded forward in waves as they searched for a winning goal. With just 5 minutes left on the clock the reward came when a Riley cross fell to Olosunde who nudged it towards the waiting McTominay. With an instant swivel and turn McTominay smashed home a low drive past the despairing Derby keeper Navas. 3-2

O’Hara made two vital late saves to ensure the points were United’s in what turned out to be an exciting thrilling game. Its early days in the league but the result see’s United move into 8th with 8 points from 5 games.

Up next is a short trip to Liverpool on Monday 26th September where we face an inform table topping Everton team.

United Line Up:

O Hara, Riley, Tuanzebe, Poole, El Fitouri, McTominay Redmond*, Harrop, Willock, Scott*, Hamilton.

Subs: Olosunde for Redmond 58mins, Williams for Scott 64mins.

Make sure you join me RedInBed for more reserve match reports and news.

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Note: At no time has RedInBed actually been held kidnapped by a Mexican called Guillermo!!!!!

Feyenoord vs Manchester United – Player ratings

A dull and lackluster performance was on display in Rotterdam after Mourinho named a strong and experienced line up in his first Europa League clash against Feyenoord, ultimately seeing The Red Devils lose 1-0.

The disappointing shift in form by the United players will pose many questions, i.e. who will start against Watford this Sunday?

De Gea – 6.5/10
Not much work to do for the United keeper, but an unorganized defense allowed one to get past him.

Bailly – 6.5/10
Solid and confident as usual, took a worrying knock to the knee early in the 1st half but managed the full game.

Smalling 6/10
A reliable performance, but nervous at times, his lack of game time showed. Was caught out of position during Feyenoord’s goal.

Rojo 5/10
Showed good energy and enthusiasm but poor decision making going forward, left exposed at the back.

Darmian 5/10
Positive 1st half but didn’t offer much going forward, his crosses weren’t effective and made too many defensive errors. It’s clear why Mourinho pick’s Valencia over Darmian.

Schneiderlin 5/10
Was no where to be found, played too deep, didn’t offer the rest of the midfield much support and often passed in to crowded areas. Showed little effort to get involved.

Pogba 6.5/10
Worked hard and got stuck in but often left frustrated. Saw a lot of the ball but his performance didn’t match his talent.

Herrera 7.5/10
United’s best performing player. Worked hard on and off the ball, maintained possession and passed well. His performance grants another start.

Mata 6.5/10
Had a good 1st half, showed signs of creativity and spark, distributed well but just couldn’t make something happen. Subbed in 2nd half.

Martial 6/10
It didn’t look Martial’s usual style and performance, got into good positions and found the right spaces but not enough to find a shot. Subbed in 2nd half.

Rashford 5.5/10
Didn’t get enough of the ball Didn’t find the spaces or the room to move. Was kept tight by the defence. Subbed in 2nd half.

Substitutes:

Young 6/10
Soft on the ball, but offered a little more flair than Mata. Skied a sitter from 6 yards.

Zlatan Ibrahimovich 6/10
Not enough time to find the net, inspired the team slightly, linked up nicely with Pogba.

Memphis Depay 6/10
Good spark of much needed pace and creativity, got into some decent shooting positions but couldn’t get it right with the boot.

Premier League 2 review | Southampton 2-0 United

Southampton v Man Utd 22/08/16

After last week’s smash and grab against an experienced Leicester team, Warren Joyce and his young reds travelled to the South coast for our first away game of the Premier League 2 season versus Southampton.

Joyce was again forced into shuffling the team due to injury concerns and the recent departures out on loan of left back Borthwick-Jackson to Wolves and striker Wilson to Derby. Sam Johnston who has been carrying an injury was replaced in goal by Henderson. Ex Man City trialist Sadiq El Fitouri came into the team at right back as Riley moved to left back in the absence of the departed Borthwick-Jackson. The versatile Scott McTominay was bought back into the starting eleven replacing Olosunde as Joyce went for a 4-1-4-1 formation as he looked to add more of a cutting edge to the team that struggled to create any chance of note in our last game.

The opening exchanges were dominated by Southampton as they forced two corners in the initial five minutes. The first clear cut chance of the game for United came when good link up play from McTominay in midfield carved open the Saints defence, the resulting opportunity was wasted though as our captain James Weir who is usually composed when in possession blasted the ball high and wide.

Although the young reds were showing great passing ability in the middle of the pitch it was again obvious that without anyone to finish the good build-up play, it was going to be another drab affair.

The Southampton strikers, in particular Olomola, were causing more and more problems for the United defence and would have taken the lead on the 27th minute were it not for an excellent reaction stop from Henderson. United were being forced to weather the storm.

Another glorious chance fell at Weir’s feet two minutes before half time when the Southampton keeper fumbled a corner from Harrop, as the ball dropped to Weir 2 yards out he could only scuff the ball wide with the goal at his mercy.

As the second half started manager Warren Joyce made some tactical changes by moving Weir back into midfield and pushing Harrop up front. The changes failed to improve the team as Southampton looked to convert their dominance into goals.

The first goal of the game inevitably fell to Southampton when Kehinde failed to track his opposing player and the resulting cross was headed out by Tuanzebe only for it to fall at the feet of Sims and his deflected shot rifled past Henderson.

United tried to respond but without any sort of threat up front were left to try and score from long range shots. This game was crying out for a Rashford or Pereira type player and with Jose bemoaning the lack of first team games to play this should have been a game to give young players minutes on the pitch.

Southampton killed the game of when they scored their second of the game in the 62nd minute. United’s defence was again culpable when a lack of marking from a Saints corner allowed Stephens to head home unchallenged.

Joyce instantly responded to the second goal by sending on last week’s hero Demi Mitchell for El Fitouri but it failed to improve the performance of a lack lustre team on a sunny August evening. The impressive Olomola should have made it more but a couple of bad misses kept the score respectable as Southampton saw out the remainder of the game.

A disappointing result coupled with a below average performance had Warren Joyce visibly deflated in his after match interview. He will surely be looking for an instant response when we face a much sterner test on Sunday versus a strong Chelsea side. (Hopefully we find a striker before then!!!)

United Line Up:

Henderson, Riley, Tuanzebe, Poole, El Fitouri, McTominay Redmond, Harrop, Willock, Weir, Kehinde

Subs: Mitchell for El Fitouri 63mins

Please like, share and comment and look out for future reserves articles.

Premier League 2 review | United V Leicester

Man United V Leicester 15/08/16

After the disappointment of losing in last week’s cup semi final it was at last time to kick off the season with our first Premier League 2 game. United were the hosts versus an experienced Leicester team that included ex reds Matty James, Tom Lawrence and Ritchie De Laet in their team.

Yet again United lined up without a recognised striker in the team and you have to wonder why if players like Borthwick-Jackson are afforded a run out why others such as Wilson, Pereira and Fosu-Mensah are left kicking their heels in the stands.

Surely a game like this would have helped them gain more match experience and help increase fitness as well as highlighting their abilities to potential suitors. You could also argue that senior players who have not had much pre season action such as Schneiderlin, Darmian and Rashford could have been afforded a short cameo as they challenge for a place in the first team eleven.

Perhaps this year Joyce will be afforded a settled team without having to contend with the disruption of loosing players out on loan. This can only benefit the team although the lack of a quality striker may prove to be telling as the season unfolds.

The first half was dominated by a hungry Leicester team who clearly hadn’t travelled just to make up the numbers. We had to wait until Borthwick-Jackson had a tame shot saved in the 34th minute before United registered a shot on target.

Midfielder and Captain James Weir toiled upfront as a makeshift striker as United struggled to create any clear cut opportunities. Weir did manage to get the ball in the net but the goal was denied when the linesmen judged Borthwick-Jackson to be in an offside position.

The impressive Axel Tuanzebe again held the defence together with another assured performance and with Sam Johnston pulling of a number of saves United were lucky to head into half time with a clean sheet.

Things didn’t improve after the break for the young reds and it was nearly on the hour mark before they managed to force their first corner of the game. This was nearly as bad as watching an LVG game!!!

Warren Joyce turned to his bench for inspiration and with twenty minutes left threw on Demi Mitchell for the American Olosunde in the hope of injecting some creativity. Mitchell made an immediate impact when within two minutes of coming on he danced down the left and fizzed in a dangerous cross into the middle.

It was going to take a moment of genius to swing this game United’s way as Leicester continued knocking on the door of United’s goal.

As the game drifted into its final 5 minutes it looked like a draw was on the cards until a long punt downfield from keeper Johnston fell at the feet of substitute Demi Mitchell. Mitchell instantly controlled the ball with his left foot and spotting the opposing keeper of his line expertly lobbed the ball into the empty net.

It was redemption for the young forward who had been the fall guy after last week’s penalty shoot out defeat to Oldham, when his ridiculous penalty attempt/miss had cost United a place in the final.

Yes it wasn’t a pretty game, yes the team needs work but United had won the match in a smash and grab with a long ball goal in the dying minutes. 3 points is 3 points and the team move on to their next game away to Southampton on the 22nd of August. Hopefully before then Joyce will figure out the dilemma as to who fills the striker’s role.

United Line Up:

Johnston, Riley, Tuanzebe, Poole, Borthwick-Jackson, Olosunde, Redmond, Harrop, Willock, Weir, Kehinde

Subs: Mitchell 68 for Olosunde

Goals: Mitchell – 88

Stay tuned for more reserve match reports and news from Premier League 2.

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GUEST BLOG: Wigan friendly match review

Well the long wait is at last over and on a bright summer’s day in Lancashire fans gathered to watch Jose Mourinho’s first game as manager of Manchester United.

It was our chance to witness a Mourinho team for the first time. The start of our bright new dawn. The squad that travelled to the DW Stadium was absent of the players that had taken part in the Euro’s and later stages of the Copa America Cup. This was a golden chance for the fringe players to send a message to the new manager that they were worth a chance on the upcoming tour of China. Likewise it was the chance for the new backroom staff to evaluate players up close in a semi competitive game.

As the starting line ups were revealed the travelling fans were encouraged by starts for new signings Bailly and Mkhitaryan, whilst the sight of Luke Shaw wearing a United shirt again after his 10 month absence due to his horrific leg break was as good as a new signing.

United started the match using Mourinho’s tried and tested 4-2-3-1 with Shaw and Timbo at fullbacks supporting a central defensive partnership of Blind and Bailly. The old head of Carrick partnered Herrera in central midfield with Depay on the left, Lingard on the right. Henrikh was given license to roam and create playing just behind United’s forgotten man James Wilson, and his dominant performance in the No.10 role will add extra pressure to both Mata and Rooney’s futures.

Mkhitaryan impressed during his first game in a United shirt (Picture: independent.co.uk)
Mkhitaryan impressed during his first game in a United shirt (Picture: independent.co.uk)

The early stages were tentative as is common in pre-season friendly’s and with Wigan offering very little attacking threat this game was always going to be about when the red tide would break any resistance put in front of them. The first 45 minutes saw only brief glimpses of real class with the majority of those touches coming mainly from our new signing from Dortmund.

My initial impressions of Henrikh Mkhitaryan are that he has great balance and vision; and at last we have someone who will run at players at speed whilst being able to control the ball. (Something badly missed for a number of seasons!)

Eric Bailly also impressed in his first outing in an United shirt bringing a calm calculated approach alongside Blind. Granted a pack of midgets would have posed more of a challenge than the Wigan forward line. Jose looked to his wingers Depay and Lingard to provide crosses into the middle for his lone striker James Wilson and would have been disappointed with their overall contribution with neither player able to get the better of their respective defenders.

Eric Bailly pleased the travelling fans with his contribution (Picture: reddevilarmada.com)
Eric Bailly pleased the travelling fans with his contribution (Picture: reddevilarmada.com)

Depay in particular again failed to impress and missed the best opportunity of a lack lustre first half when he failed to convert Mkhitaryan’s clever cross from only 6 yards out. The young Dutchman will surely have to do better to convince any United fan he is worthy of retaining the iconic No.7 shirt.

With an ineffective Depay and a lightweight Lingard struggling in front of them the chances for fullbacks Shaw and Timbo to get forward were limited as United struggled to carve open any real chances in front of goal. Wilson cut a forlorn figure up front and was forced to drop deep in search of the ball, it would have been nice to see Herrera impose himself more in midfield against lower quality footballers and push forward into the space opening up in front of him.

As half time approached you could sense the air of frustration growing among the loyal travelling fans. The fans to their credit never stopped singing and were boosted by only the blazing sun, Mkhitaryan’s performance and a piece of pure cheeky skill from Bailly. The new signing showing his composure when he calmly lifted the ball over an onrushing player before controlling it on his chest and then playing it forward (Yes forward! I had forgotten how it feels!).

Half time saw a raft of changes as Jose looked to give minutes to all available players in the squad. Depay and Lingard were replaced out wide by Januzaj on the left and Young on the right. Mata replaced Mkhitaryan as he looked to prove to his former boss that he is worthy of a place in next season’s squad. Will Keane was bought on as the focal point of the attack, giving us the added dimension of height. The young exciting Andres Pereira replaced Carrick in the centre and adapted instantly to a position that is unfamiliar to him. At the back Valencia was given a chance at right back replacing Timbo whilst a slightly overweight and off the pace looking Shaw was replaced by a white haired Phil Jones (I’m sure he was aiming for blonde but it looks more white than blonde!).

Within 2 minutes of the restart United went ahead when veteran Wigan keeper Jaaskerlainen’s clearance was blocked by an eager to impress Juan Mata, the Spaniard squaring the ball to an unmarked Will Keane for a simple tap in. It had begun, the first goal of Mourinho’s tenure sending the 7,000 United fans into raptures as cries of Mourinho’s Red Army rang out around the ground.

Juan Mata and Will Keane celebrate United's opener (Picture: telegraph.co.uk)
Juan Mata and Will Keane celebrate United’s opener (Picture: telegraph.co.uk)

The Wigan defence was now on the back foot as United probed for a decisive second goal. It came predictably on the 58th minute after Ashley Young was cynically brought down on the edge of the Wigan area. Mata took a short free kick to Herrera whose shot was blocked and as the ball fell loose inside the penalty box Pereira was on hand to swivel and finish with a rocket of a right footed shot into the top corner. It was a stunning finish from the young academy graduate and will go some way to help him get over the disappointment of not being included in the Brazilian Team for the upcoming Olympics.

Everything was going to plan for Jose’s boys, Blind was impressive in a left back role, offering us better distribution options down the channels. Valencia again proved that he just doesn’t offer any solutions going forward or defending and will surely be out the Old Trafford door. Jones & Bailly will need to be tested by better opposition than Wigan before a verdict can be returned.

As the game moved into its last 25 minutes Januzaj and Young seemed unable or unwilling to punish a team already two down, their lack of quality coupled with the first half performances of Depay and Lingard surely throws up the question as to the need for additional strengthening on the wings. I would gladly swap any of them for a player of Mahrez or James Rodriguez type quality (Heck I would swap Adnan for anyone who could actually cross the ball!).

Blind and Herrera were replaced on 73 minutes, giving way to Varela and Tyler Blackett, whilst Joel Pereira replaced virtual spectator Sam Johnstone with 10 minutes left. We were also given a chance to see another youth graduate Axel Tuanzebe when he replaced the impressive Eric Bailly, the young English defender showing his potential with his excellent positional play and reading of the game. Mourinho stating after the game how he was impressed by his short cameo.

Tuanzebe was also given a brief run out (Picture: 101greatgoals.com)
Tuanzebe was also given a brief run out (Picture: 101greatgoals.com)

A third goal never came and as the final whistle blew the fans celebrated what turned out to be a simple win over lower league opposition. Mission accomplished.

What did we learn?

Now it’s true LVG won his first friendly 7-0 in a display of fast flowing attacking football but his mentality changed after the league defeat to Leicester. He opted to be more defensive from that point onwards and we all know the rest of the story. 18 months of tedium later and the bounce was back. Jose will not make the same mistakes.

The fans are buzzing again the club is alive again, it’s almost as if Mourinho’s confidence is seeping through to the fans. Throw in the fact that we have bought in the best players from the German and French leagues with a record breaking transfer on the horizon all looks sweet.

The squad flies out to the Far East for games against tougher opposition in Dortmund and our local rivals Man City, the squad will be reinforced with players like Rashford, Martial, Rooney and De Gea returning to strengthen the squad whilst Ibra and potential incoming signings wait in the wings.

The squad will need further trimming with players sure to be exiting down Sir Matt Busby Way and youth players sent out on loan to give them the valuable playing time needed to develop.

Players such as Rooney, Mata, Young and Fellini futures will be in doubt as Jose looks to mould a team capable of challenging on all fronts next season.

But one thing is sure the arrogance is back and together we are United.

By Red in Bed

Twitter: @mufcRedInBed

Facebook: Red in Bed

Youthful Stars | Who has the brightest future at Manchester United?

By Larry Taylor

“I always wanted to know about what the pipeline of players looked like for the team we would like to select in three years’ time” – Sir Alex Ferguson.

This season has been a frustrating one; but one positive is the emergence of young talent from Manchester United.

With the emergence of young players, whether purchased or academy grown, there’s no doubt the Red Devils have abundance of youthful talent at the club.

Memphis, Martial, Periera, Rashford, Timothy Fosu-Mensah, Cameron Borthwick Jackson,  Jesse Lingard — the list goes on.

With the expectation of established players coming in, which youngsters can make the cut? Who can keep a position in the United first team? And how far can each player go at the club?
Over two articles, I will investigate what the future holds for each player

Part one:

Jesse Lingard

He’s well-travelled, but the 23 year-old has made the most of his opportunities this season. Direct and pacey, Lingard has provided an outlet of attack predominantly in a wide area and through the middle.

Pros: Lingard has the ability to beat a player which is unfortunately a talent lacking in this current United squad. Lingard was rained upon with praise when he initially broke into the team when he played direct at players and attempting to go past them, usually with great effect. In what has been a struggling attack at times, it has been refreshing to see.

The Englishman also isn’t afraid to get dirty and defend. For what the Mancuncian lacks in natural talent, he makes up with it in effort.

Cons: Although he has broken into the side this season, he is 23 years old which is late in the traditional sense for a footballer to crack the first team. Given his inconsistencies, you have to wonder if Lingard can get much better than what he currently offers.

He has also been used in the middle which this journalist doesn’t like. He has been most effective in wide areas. Play him there, LVG!

Future at United? Squad player. Lingard is talented and enthusiastic but he does have a lack of quality and consistency that should be expected of a United first-team player. As a back up substitution or a player to bring in while first teamers are rested, the academy product definitely provides a very solid option.

Andreas Pereira

We haven’t seen a lot of the Brasilian but rest assured, the boy can play. For whatever reason, he has not been provided a great number of opportunities under Louis Van Gaal but he has a very large range of skills and is a player of high potential.

Pros: Pereira has an abundance of talent that most footballers would dream of. He’s a great dribbler, has a great passing range; has an effective cross and can score goals from close range or from distance. For anyone who has watched this boy in the u21’s, you know he’s too good for that level.

Cons: For all of LVG’s faults, there has to be a reason why the 22 year-old has not been given an opportunity. There was recent reports that Periera and Januzaj had a little competition with each other to see who could score a goal from a corner. If true, that is a poor attitude to have in a team sport, particularly when you are trying to crack the first team.

We also haven’t seen Pereira truly tested in the premier league. He is slight in stature and this may be a problem for the predominantly central attacker. Until he gets a genuine opportunity, we cannot judge how he will go. With expected signings in attacking areas, you have to wonder if he will get an opportunity.

Future at United?  First-team player or sold. Potentially, Pereira can be anything. If afforded the opportunity and belief, the 22 year-old will shine and show the football world what he is capable of. If Pereria doesn’t get the chance he desires soon,  the player could realistically leave the club this summer. Only time will tell!

Marcus Rashford

What a man! We haven’t had a lot to cheer about this season but the 18 year-old has dared to make the Old Trafford shadows fade into the sunlight. 7 goals since February, including a double against Arsenal, the winner against Manchester City and a goal to help United into the semi finals of the FA Cup suggests this Mancunian is just getting started.

Pros: Besides his wonderful pace and unpredictability, Rashford is a dogged attitude. Like Lingard, Rashford runs tirelessly in attack and defence and searches for the ball. For a young player in a huge team, it would be easy to get lazy but the striker has the attitude to match his talent.

Negatives: First touch can be poor at times and has shown a lack of consistency. There’s also a worry about the work he does in defence.

 

It is wonderful to see his desire but playing at a high intensity all game is reminiscent of Wayne Rooney who is now declining sooner than he should have.  This is knit-picking as he is 18 years old and these discrepancies can easily be corrected with experience and coaching.

Future at United? Crucial first-team player. When you play for a big club, it is about taking your chances. With Rooney, Martial, Wilson, Keane and Fellaini in front of him before the season started, Rashford has done very well to take his chance and grab it with both hands. He has been forced to play a lot of football games back-to-back due to a lack of options but with the expected acquisition of attacking options, I expect Rashford to have less game time as a rotational squad player to ease his development with the long-term objective to have him as a mainstay in the first team in 2-3 years time. The thought of Rashford and Martial together at their peak will be a night mare to our dreams. Bright future.

Stay tuned for Part 2 where we will look at:  Timothy Fosu-Mensah, Joe Riley, RoShaun Williams and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson and Memphis

 

Your Aussie Correspondant,
Larry – The United Stand.