Archive for the 'Youngstars' Category

01
Dec
10

A Tale of Two United’s –Unbeaten run ends with a whimper in E13

"You can stick your fooking England..." not what the 2018 committee would want to hear

"You can stick your fooking England..." not what the 2018 committee would want to hear

When Dickens wrote “It was the best of times it was the worst of times” it’s blindingly obvious he must have been a Manchester United fan.

The last five days have been the strangest of times in recent memory for many United fans, myself included.

From dancing out of Old Trafford having seen Blackburn well and truly put to the sword, to trudging through the snow in East London having been demolished by relegation certainties West Ham, the life of a United fan is anything but predictable.

While I refrained from getting carried away with the emphatic win over Big Sam’s Blackburn, at least in print, there can be no denying that the thought of United sweeping all before them from now until the end of the season did briefly enter my mind.

Thank god then for those footballing colossuses Jonathon Spector and Carlton Cole for reminding me not to get carried away with the fickle mistress that is football.

While the win over Blackburn highlighted just how good some of United’s best players can be on their day, the Carling Cup loss to West Ham merely underlined the faults some of the supporting act need to work on if they’re going to be of any use in a title challenge or big Champions League game.,

It wasn’t the fact that United failed to mount any real shots on of note on Robert Green’s more than fragile goal for much of the game, or that 36 year-old Ryan Giggs was the most determined and enthusiastic player on the pitch that was the real disappointment of last night’s game.

No the real disappointment was the same old questions rearing their ugly head that have already been asked and not really answered for some time now.

John O’Shea. Need I really say any more? Just what does the man have to do for Sir Alex Ferguson to realise he’s nowhere near United-class and has gradually got worse over the past few seasons. The fact that O’Shea’s been recently rewarded with an 80k a week long-term contract is the biggest example of rewarding ineptitude since the Americans voted in Dubya Bush for a second term.

Speaking of Americans, when a player of the calbre of Jonathon Spector more than doubles his tally for the past 12 seasons-probably- in a game against you, then something is desperately wrong with your choice of personnel.

While there’s no need to suddenly start screaming and panicking at what is almost a reserve side getting beaten by a Premier League team away from home .there are certain factors that cannot or should not be ignored.

The form of Jonny Evans is now so worrying, I can’t believe there isn’t something deeper behind it. I’m not talking evil spirits or a secret drinking problem- although if it makes him play like Paul McGrath it might be an idea. No, what I mean is how can the player that you could rely on to boss and stamp on Didier Drogba, who once made me actually write the words: “If Rio Ferdinand cannot be relied upon regularly maybe its time to make Evans first choice”, how can he be so consistently worrying?

Even against Blackburn I felt he could have made it a bit harder for Christopher Samba to score, but against West Ham he was quite frankly awful. Evans looks as though he’s totally out of his depth against players that a year or so ago would have been lucky to get a touch of the ball let alone grab a brace.

Carlton Cole was shockingly bad for much of the game and showed why he’s not even always managed to hold down a first team place at West Ham this season. At times, watching Cole lose the ball or fluff a shot was laughable and actually made me forget the fact that I could no longer feel my feet.

it all seemed to start so well for United with Gabriel Obertan very nearly opening the scoring after only a few minutes. Yet it proved to be a false dawn. Even with Mark Clattenburg doing his party piece of consulting with the linesman to rule in United’s favour- thereby disallowing a West Ham goal that had already been announced over the Upton Park tannoy, United couldn’t seize the initiative.

Too many players just didn’t perform, with Darren Fletcher being one of the main culprits. The reason I single out Fletcher -who to be fair was by no means the worst player on the pitch, is that his performance seemed to sum United’s night up. If the man who dealt with the likes of Rafael Van Der Vaart and Luka Modric only a few games earlier cannot cope with a player of the calibre of Victor Obinna then there’s something seriously wrong. I only hope that Fletcher does his usual job of playing not so well against poor opposition and gets back to his best for his other usual job of keeping Cesc Fabregas firmly in his pocket for the upcoming visit of Arsenal.

United fans wonder why we ever let Jonathon Spector leave

United fans wonder why we ever let Jonathon Spector leave

Even Tomasz Kuszczak who’s required to play a maximum of eight games a season, seemed a little out of sorts and other than one good save in the first half looked a little indecisive and dare I say less than bothered.

While you can hardly judge players on one game in the snow it’s obvious that Bebe and even Obertan cannot be called upon in big games just yet. I just hope Nani and Giggs stay fit and Antonio Valencia can make a full recovery because I can’t imagine the top teams having too much difficulty in dealing with either.

The full back merry-go-round only underlined the problems United had in dealing with a West Ham side playing for their only chance of success this season. O’Shea swapped flanks with Fabio who replaced the Irishman in performance as well as position and neither of them looked anything other than dodgy. Poor Rafael was subsequently thrown on for his brother only to suffer the indignity of getting the p*ss took out of him by the now rampant Obinna.

The biggest shame for me came in the fact that Carlton Cole who’s touch reminded me of Emile Heskey on an off day, managed to turn Jonny Evans with such ease. Cole’s second which came from a cross by the now Ronaldo-esque Obinna was the final insult. My biggest sympathies lay with Ryan Giggs, who battled for every ball and seemed to remember what shirt he was wearing  and my fellow travelling fans. As I’m working in London for the week, I only had a trip to Tooting to contend with but I can only imagine how sh*t the drive back up the M6 must’ve been for many.

My only real comfort from such a dire evening is the memory of how a League Cup quarter final loss at White Hart Lane over ten seasons ago led to not too bad a season……



25
Nov
10

Is Berbatov becoming a cause for concern?

Berbatov- desperately wanted for past crimes

Berbatov- desperately wanted for past crimes

” Dimitar Berbatov, one look at City and he said…..” well, you know the rest. Manchester United’s number nine has enjoyed the sort of Old Trafford career you’d associate with Andy Cole- before the treble.

Almost every United fan was pleased with his signing, especially after City tried to hijack the deal at the 11th hour, but some have since doubted the wisdom of it. The Bulgarian’s first season was a success- at least for the team- as United lifted an 18th League title and reached the final of the Champion’s League.

However even from early on in his United career, Berbatov had his detractors, his first season may have been successful in terms of what the team achieved but there were question marks raised as to whether he did enough personally. Part of the reason behind these doubts was his goalscoring record, Berbatov managed 14 goals in all competitions for United, which was seen a something of a disappointment especially as it was less than he’d managed the previous season with Spurs.

Another issue some United fans had with the new number 9 was his languid playing style, which in comparison to Wayne Rooney and a certain Argentinean gentleman, looked rather lazy.

These voices were in the minority though, as most United fans appreciated the different qualities Berbatov brought to the United side, his number of assists- nine in that first season- and the fact that the team achieved success which was the most important thing. There were also the flashes of brilliance the Bulgarian showed that only underlined what a special talent he was. A piece of skill against West Ham at Old Trafford was spoken about for months and I remember watching the game at Old Trafford against Hull, where Berbatov absolutely dominated the game, laying on chance after chance for his strike partners.

The real critics of Berbatov found their voices last season as with the departure of Carlos Tevez- go on then I’ll say his name, but only once- not to mention Cristiano Ronaldo, many hoped Berbatov would step it up a gear and form a successful partnership with Rooney. While Rooney went from strength to strength, Berbatov at times struggled, so much so that he was left out of the majority of big games as Sir Alex Ferguson preferred to use Rooney as a lone striker.

Part of the problem for Berbatov came from four main points:

1. A certain Argentinean couldn’t stop scoring at City and many saw the arrival of Berbatov as having led to his departure.

2. Rooney was a lot more energetic in every game, sometimes even running past Berbatov to chase balls the Bulgarian had lost.

3. Berbatov was seen by some as having not stepped up to the plate, to use an Americanism I promise never to use again, when Rooney was out injured at the end of the season.

4. United failed to win the League or emulate the previous two seasons successes in Europe.

For each of these points though, there’s a case to be made in defence of Berbatov.

1. Berbatov’s arrival had nothing to do with anyone leaving, if you don’t want to fight for your place then you shouldn’t be playing for United anyway. It was nonsense created to try and gain a modicum of sympathy from United fans, who were more than a tad disappointed someone would leave the club to got to ‘bitter’ rivals, for more money.

2. Wayne Rooney is a lot more energetic than almost any other striker on the planet and Berbatov has never been that sort of player anyway, you can’t expect a 28 year-old to suddenly change the entire way he plays football.

3. Berbatov did score twelve goals last season- a ratio of one in every two starts not a bad return and for some of them games Rooney was absent.

4. There were many reasons you could pin point on why United failed to win the League last season- seven defenders being out for Fulham away, poor decision by the linesman for the Chelsea home game, Burnley’s goalkeeper having the game of his life. To blame Berbatov would be shortsighted and unfair, it also doesn’t help  a striker when he’s in and out of the side and expected to single-handedly win League titles at the end of the season.

In the Summer it was widely expected that Berbatov would leave, but Fergie stuck with him and not only did he retire from International football to concentrate on his United career but he also looked good in pre-season, giving fans a bit of hope that he may finally have the sort if season no one can really criticise.

Following the 3-2 home win against Liverpool it seemed that Fergie’s faith had been more than well rewarded, in fact you’d be amazed that how many boys born the next few days in Manchester were called Dimitar. Berbtov’s hat-trick meant that he could join the likes of Diego Forlan of being guaranteed a place in the hearts of all of the Old Trafford faithful- no matter what he did from then on.

The problem is that since that game Berbatov hasn’t done much at all, in fact he’s put in, on one or two occasions, performances that have been almost shockingly bad. Again though, it must be noted that for every bad thing the Bulgarian does, there’s usually something good that follows it. Take the Spurs game for example, for me that was his worst performance in a United shirt arguably ever, yet only a few days later against City I thought he was excellent and didn’t get the credit he deserved.

People will always use Berbatov’s goalscoring record as proof of how he’s not been good enough at United, however he often brings more to the team than just scoring goals. His link up play with Nani this season has at times been mesmerising and he can keep hold of the ball and bring other players into the game as well as anyone at Old Trafford.

Although a striker’s job should always be primarily to score goals, the fact that no less than 17 United players have scored this season, should indicate just how much the goals are being spread around the team and Berbatov is part of the reason for this. One of the reason’s United failed to win the main honours last season was an over-reliance on Wayne Rooney and this seems to have more than been addressed.

However despite the obvious positives Berbatov has of late, there are certain things which can not be ignored. No goals in ten games is not good enough despite the fact others are scoring. The main problem seems to be Berbatov’s attitude and demeanour, for the game against Rangers he at times looked frustrated and at other times almost disinterested.

One of my main criticisms of Berbatov since he arrived at Old Trafford is the way he can snap at some of the younger players. I remember him berating Kiko Macheda last season for an errant pass and feeling a  bit disappointed. After all shouting at 19 year-old’s is hardly going to help them. Last night against Rangers Berbatov was at it again waving his arms about and shouting at others, when maybe he should have been looking a little closer to home at why he was getting no real joy.

I’m still a big fan of the Bulgarian and think United do need him if they are to achieve success, but he needs to regain his form sooner rather than later if he doesn’t want to be forced into a supporting role. With Rooney back from injury and Chicharito already proving he’s not going to take time to find his feet, Berbatov may struggle to find a regular place in the first team.

With Michael Carrick seemingly back in Fergie’s good graces, then it wouldn’t be too surprising if the United manager reverted back to the 4-5-1/4-3-3 formation he preferred for the big games last season, and that could leave Berbatov warming the bench.

If Berbatov really is to be considered a success at United, now’s the time for the number 9 to truly prove his worth.

01
Nov
10

Five things we learnt from Manchester United v Spurs.

Even from this view it was obvious the ref had not signalled a free kick

Even from this view it was obvious the ref had not signalled a free kick

Prior to Saturday’s game a Spurs fan I know called his team’s visit to Old Trafford, a ‘trip to the theatre of refs.’ While Mark Clattenburg may have helped cement that moniker in the minds of the Spurs faithful, there was a lot more to grasp from Saturday’s game than just Nani’s bizarre goal.

Before the game there was a lot of speculation surrounding which United right back would be given the unenviable task of marking Gareth Bale, who is now universally accepted as the greatest left winger in the history of world football.

Sir Alex Ferguson, who seems to love throwing Rafael Da Silva in at the deep end, chose the young Brazilian, and also gave former Spurs midfielder Michael Carrick a rare Premier League start.

With Chicharito starting alongside every Spurs fans favourite Bulgarian up front, the omens looked good for  an exciting and attacking game. With the likes of Rafael Van Der Vaart, who many United fans feel should have been wearing a Red shirt on Saturday and Luka Modric lining up for Spurs, then this game definitely did not have nil nil written anywhere near it.

So what did we learn from Saturday’s late kick off other than Rio Ferdinand is already suffering from the preferential treatment which seems obligatory for all England captains?

1. Ji-Sung Park is going nowhere. There’s been a lot of rumours that the South Korean Captain would be heading out of the Old Trafford door come the summer, or even January depending on who you believe. Park’s not had the best start to a season and with all this talk of a summer spending spree to placate Wayne Rooney’s need for bigger names at his next birthday party, many believed Park may sold.

However on Saturday Park showed what many United fans have known for a long time- that he’s one of the best squad players you could wish to have. He may not have the skill of a Nani or the pace of an Antonio Valencia, but he has the determination and energy of a fully fit Owen Hargreaves and was simply awesome on Saturday. Always willing to track back and get in a tackle, and carrying the ball forward and attacking the space with gusto, Park played like a man possessed. With Darren Fletcher- who I’ll get to later and Chicharito also seeming to think any loose ball was property of Manchester United, the Spurs players had their work cut out all afternoon.

Throw in a great run and shot that hit the post early on in the game and you can call it one of Park’s best performances for some time.

2.  Michael Carrick, where have you been? A few days ago on this very site, I labelled Carrick, along with Park, one of the most underrated United players of all-time. At the time of writing I had to acknowledge it may have seemed an unpopular choice as Carrick had been going through arguably his worst spell at Old Trafford and still hadn’t seemed to recover from the Bayern Munich game. Saturday’s performance however was exactly what Carrick is capable of and should be doing week in week out. Carrick seemed to grow in confidence as the game wore on and benefited from having a Scottish terrier alongside him who was willing to do a lot of the running. Carrick’s never been the sort of high octane player like a Fletcher, Hargreaves or a Roy Keane and sometimes he gets unfairly judged because of that.

It was his sloppiness that had been the reason for most of his criticism at the back end of last season and probably cost him his chance of replacing Gareth Barry in the England side for the Word Cup.

Saturday’s game was an example of what Carrick can do, quietly going about his job, passing the ball about nicely and always giving his team mates an option. Carrick remained fairly disciplined as well knowing when to venture forward and when to sit back knowing the dangers that the Spurs midfield possessed. It may not have been the sort of performance that has you drooling and screaming his name- hopefully not at the same time, but if Carrick can do it consistently then like Park, talk of a summer transfer may be premature.

3. Dimitar Berbatov is entitled to an off day. The same fixture last season saw many in the crowd at Old Trafford on Berbatov’s back almost before he touched the ball. This time round Berbatov had arguably his worst performance of the season but everyone seemed to accept this is going to happen. While his touch may have let him down and he seemed to spend more time arguing with Nani than linking up with him, Berbatov is not considered the lazy waste of money and space, he was at times last season and there’s no doubt that he’ll put this off day behind him and be back on song soon.

The fact the supporters are now forever in love with him thanks to a hat trick against the relegation battlers from down the M62 means that unlike last season, one or two mistakes, or even one or two off days won’t have everyone calling for his head.

4. Darren Fletcher could be the difference. If United are to win the title then they’re going to need more performances like this from the Scottish skipper. Fletcher was awesome, with the sort of energised display that Bryan Robson or Roy Keane would have been proud of. Fletcher played as though it was a cup final, battling for every ball, chasing seemingly lost causes and never shying away from tackles. Everyone knows that Fletcher is capable of this type of performance- just ask Cesc Fabregas- but he seems to only save it for the special occasions.

If Fletcher can emulate this showing week in week, then United would have a far better chance of regaining the title. Too many times this season Fletcher’s seemed subdued slightly and not always managed to get to grips with certain games. As he showed on Saturday  Fletcher’s one of the best midfielders in Europe on his day and if he pulls out the ‘barnstorming displays’ more regularly then United could be going one better than last season.

5. ‘Running down the pitch don’t know which one’s which viva Da Silva’. Rafael could have been forgiven if he’d have struggled to get to grips with Bale, after all he’s not exactly been United’s first choice right back this season. However no one bothered to tell Rafael how amazing, awe-inspiringly wonderful Bale was, as the young defender did an admirable job of marking the ‘Welsh wonder’, Ryan Giggs should have trademarked that name when he had the chance, out of the game. Although Bale did have one good run and shot, which was more down the middle than down the left wing, he was nowhere near as dangerous as he has been at times this season.

Rafael even had the audacity to get forward now and again causing Bale to have to track back and help deal with him- the cheek. Rafael is far from the finished article and was subbed after an hour for Wes Brown- who got a massive cheer when he went through Peter Crouch. But as Saturday showed, he’s got a bright future ahead of him and is not afraid of taking on the world’s best wingers.

28
Oct
10

who will be United’s next goalkeeper?

reina couldn't resist a smile when he heard he may be leaving the dippers

reina couldn't resist a smile when he heard he may be leaving the dippers

The number one jersey at United has been one fraught with difficulties over the past forty years.  For every Alex Stepney, there’s been a Jim Leighton, for every Peter Schmeichel a Massimo Taibi. In fact if you look a the list of ‘keepers that have played for United, just in Sir Alex Ferguson’s reign you’ll realise that it’s not always been the easiest position for the United manager to fill.

Proven Premier League stars- Mark Bosnich, World Cup winners- Fabien Barthez, up and coming potentially world class stoppers- Tim Howard, and future England number ones –Ben Foster have all failed when it’s come to minding the space between the sticks at Old Trafford.

Edwin Van Der Sar’s arrival at United, finally gave the fans and no doubt Fergie, the chance to breathe a huge sigh of relief. After all United fans had seen more than one or two duffers don the goalkeeping gloves for the Reds and there’d been a few horror stories along the way- Porto at home, Arsenal away, the 3-3 with Southampton,- you know what I’m talking about.

Replacing VDS should not be underestimated, it’s one of the most difficult tasks Fergie will ever face as, as previous ‘keepers have shown, just because you’re good doesn’t mean you can handle the pressure at United. Many keepers who’ve struggled at United have gone on to be reliable, dare I say even world class stoppers somewhere else, just look at Tim Howard for example.

With so much importance being, rightly, placed on VDS’s successor the rumour mill has been going into overdrive with stories of the nest ‘keeper ‘destined’ to be heading towards Old Trafford.

The latest nugget suggests that Spain’s second choice and beach ball lover Pepe Reina could be a new target for Fergie to set his sights on. Roy Hodgson has already wubbished such claims insisting that his number one, who signed a new deal in April is going nowhere- especially to the arch rivals down the M62.  So who is coming to United as the next number one? There’s been so many rumours it’s difficult to keep track so I’ve tried to narrow it down to five who could have the unenviable job of filling VDS’s gloves.

5. Pepe Reina. Liverpool. It’s a far-fetched rumour but it’s still doing the rounds so I’ll give it some credence, although not much. Could Reina really come to United? It’s highly unlikely, after all having signed a new contract only months ago, it would be up to Liverpool to sell him and that’s never going to happen.

The recent takeover by ‘good’ American owners, means that the Anfield outfit will probably not have to sell any players to balance the books, least of all one of their best ones to United. Could Reina do a job at Old Trafford? Probably. Although he is highly thought of and no doubt a very good stopper, he does like the occasional blunder and with any United keeper having large parts of the game where he’s not called upon, his concentration may be a slight worry.  Personally, I’d prefer it if United went for someone a little but more reliable and a little less scouse-infected.

4.  Shay Given. Manchester City. This may seem equally as far-fetched as the idea of Reina joining the Red and White Army, however there is a part of it that makes sense. Given is highly unlikely to want to stick around seeing the twilight of his career off by keeping Roque Santa Cruz warm on the City bench. He’s a proven world class keeper who has shown, not least in the 4-3 that he can produce stunning saves at the drop of a hat. The only problem to any such move would of course be City themselves who are about as likely to sell any player to United as they are to sign Wayne Rooney- but you never know. At 34, Given wouldn’t be a long-term signing but he could arguably do a job for at least two seasons if the unthinkable happened.

3. Igor Akinfeev. CSKA Moscow. Akinfeev is Russia’s international keeper and at only 24 years of age already has an impressive 34 caps. Fergie’s long meant to have been an admirer of the Russian and there’s little doubt that a significant bid could tempt CSKA to sell him. The only question mark would be could he handle the pressure of life at Old Trafford? That’s pretty impossible to tell unless he actually signed but there’s every reason to believe a player who’s stock is constantly rising could well be the man to take over from VDS.  There’s been talk of Russian team mate and part time agony uncle- check out his blog it’s hilarious- Andrei Arshavin trying to convince him to go to the Emirates. Whether Arshavin is successful remains to be seen, but if Akinfeev did end up at Old Trafford, I for one wouldn’t be complaining.

2. Maarten Stekelenburg. Ajax.  The Dutch stopper was one of the few players to emerge from the Holland team with his reputation enhanced following the world cup- despite their run to the final. Stekelenburg has taken over from VDS in the Dutch goal so replacing him for United may seem like a logical step- after all Ajax is also a former club of the United keeper. Standing around 6 foot 6 Stekelenburg is certainly one of the tallest keepers in world football but like VDS is pretty adept at getting down quick and as he proved in the World Cup final the big stage doesn’t faze him.

If Edwin has a quiet word in his ear then Stekelenburg may well be Fergie’s big summer signing, he has already ruled out a move to Arsenal- who seem to be in the hunt for every goalkeeper who’s currently playing.

1.  Anders Lindegaad. Aalesunds FK. Lindegaad has apparently caught Fergie’s eye recently after an impressive display for the Danish national side against Portugal. Although, he only played an hour, replacing the injured Thomas Sorensen, Lindegaad made some world class saves, including a stunning one to prevent Nani. United’s goalkeeping coach Eric Steele was despatched to Norway, where Lindegaad ply his trade obviously otherwise that would be just pointless, to give the keeper the once over and was apparently very impressed. With Fulham and Spurs  supposedly in the hunt, it’s highly likely if Fergie does want him, he may have to move in the summer regardless of whether VDS is retiring or not. One advantage that Lindegaad may have over some of the others on this list is his relative small price- plus the fact that barely-known Danish keepers are pretty well thought of at Old Trafford.

21
Oct
10

Deconstructing Rooney’s Statement

Rooney writes out another statement regarding the need for lower carbon emissions

Rooney writes out another statement regarding the need for lower carbon emissions

Wayne Rooney’s statement was delivered to the world’s press yesterday with the sort of fanfare usually reserved for general election results or the announcement of who’s been voted off the Xfactor. Within minutes of Rooney releasing his excuse, sorry, reason for wanting to leave Manchester United, millions of United fans around the world were analysing every word, sentence and nuance to see what exactly was going on in the mind of the player formerly known as a fan’s favourite.

While it’s quite obvious Rooney didn’t sit down in front of his Macbook and write the statement himself before emailing it to the press, it’s obviously the crux of why he wants to leave- at least in public.

So what did Rooney’s statement tell us? Well he wants to leave that much is certain but are the reasons for him leaving valid? Looking over the statement fully, it seems as though Rooney’s memory and argument is just a tad selective to say the least.

It begins…..

 
 “I met with David Gill last week and he did not give me any of the assurances I was seeking about the future squad.
I then told him that I would not be signing a new contract.
I was interested to hear what Sir Alex had to say yesterday and surprised by some of it.
It is absolutely true, as he said, that my agent and I have had a number of meetings with the club about a new contract. During those meetings in August I asked for assurances about the continued ability of the club to attract the top players in the world.
   Here seems to be the main argument, in fact you could say it’s the only argument Rooney is making, that United cannot continue to attract the top players. Well that would indicate that in the past United have attracted the world’s top players, yet is this the case?

Looking back over the past six years, since Rooney joined United, the players who’ve come to Old Trafford have not always been the best in the World, but have more often than not grown into that bracket. Some of United’s best signings during this period have not necessarily been ‘stars’ as such-although they certainly are now.

Fergie’s most astute signings in the period since Rooney joined United were arguably Edwin Van Der Sar, Patrice Evra and Nemanja Vidic who went to Old Trafford for a combined fee of around £14.5 million and United had little competition for their signatures.
United have spent big money on the likes of Anderson, Nani, Michael Carrick, Owen Hargreaves and of course Dimitar Berbatov and there’s no denying that these players were all sought after but were they considered among the ‘top players in the world’?

Anderson and Nani were seen as potential future stars, while Carrick was a highly thought of England fringe type midfielder whose £18.6 million fee left many feeling United had overpaid slightly. As for Hargreaves, he certainly was considered a top midfielder but even before he went to United, his injury problems were well documented. As for Berbatov, he was a shining star in the Premier League and the noisy neighbours were certainly interested, but it’s questionable as to whether he was really considered one of the world’s top strikers. He was probably a rung below the likes of Rooney, David Villa, Samuel Eto’o and Fernando Torres as being one of the truly top strikers in world football. Of course there was also a certain gentleman from Argentina who arrived, but the fact he was signed on a loan deal from West Ham or whoever the fook owned him, speaks volumes as to his standing in world football at the time.

The point I’m making is that since Rooney’s arrival United’s signings have often been ones that will grow in time, or players who aren’t quite attracting the rest of Europe’s elite but are still capable of doing a good job. Rooney’s argument that he wants to leave Old Trafford because he doesn’t feel the club will ‘continue to attract the ‘top players in the world’ is slightly flawed as United often don’t really go for the very top players.

Fergie has been bitten once with Juan Sebastian Veron who was considered one of the world’s best midfielders and came with a price tag that seemed to underline that fact to the tune of £29.1 million. However Veron’s time at Old Trafford was something of a disaster and he ended up leaving for just over half that fee, mainly due to Chelsea’s reckless spending in the early phase of the Abramovich era.

When Rooney claims its anxieties over the ability of the club to attract the world’s top players which is making him leave, it’s as though he wants Fergie to change his whole transfer policy and suddenly start bidding for big name players. Let’s not forget even a certain Cristiano Ronaldo was not a real star when he arrived at United- in fact I along with more than a few other fans were disappointed when we learnt it wasn’t the man now known as ‘Fat Ronaldo’ that was signing.

If Fergie had gone out last summer and spent £40 million on the likes of Joleon Lescott and Emannuel Adebayor would that have convinced Rooney of United’s ambition? Perhaps a £45 million bid for Zlatan Imbrahimovic would have made the scouse striker stay. The only problem with any of those signings is they’d arguably not improve United’s team one iota and been a complete waste of money, but hey at least it shows ambition.

To be fair to Rooney he’s actually not the first talismanic striker to leave Old Trafford due to a percieved lack of ambition by the club in regards to transfers.
Believe it or not Eric “The King” Cantona actually cited the same reason as part of his decision to retire. This is an extract from Fergie’s book Managing My Life:

 
 
“He [Cantona] was totally straightforward with me. He did want to finish….When I asked him again why he felt that way, he was not as vague as he had been previously and specified two recent trends at Old Trafford that had left him disillusioned. He said he felt he had become a pawn of Manchester United’s merchandising department and that he was not going to accept such treatment any longer. His second complaint was that United were not ambitious enough in the purchase of players. I had a lot of sympathy with him on both counts.” 
Of course there’s a world of difference between Eric’s retirement and Rooney’s desire to leave for greener pastures. After all Cantona wasn’t seeking more money elsewhere, or a club with more ambition, he’d more or less had enough of football and the lack of signing top players was simply one of his reasons. The fact Fergie sympathised said it all, at that time -1997- United hadn’t been ambitious enough in the transfer market. However the signings of Jaap Stam and Dwight Yorke, less than a year later would certainly address that issue.

The reason I mention Cantona’s comment is because it’s worth noting that Rooney hasn’t been the only one who’s had thoughts like that while being United’s star player. However, Cantona was leaving football altogether and was at a club that hadn’t won the CL twice in the past 11 years not to mention the league 11 times out of 18. There’s similarities between the two statements but there’s also a lot of differences, especially in the context of the times they were made.

The final part of Rooney’s statement, arguably is the most contradictory.

 
 I have never had anything but complete respect for MUFC. How could I not have done, given its fantastic history and especially the last six years in which I have been lucky to play a part?
For me it’s all about winning trophies – as the club has always done under Sir Alex. Because of that I think the questions I was asking were justified.
Despite recent difficulties, I know I will always owe Sir Alex Ferguson a huge debt. He is a great manager and mentor who has helped and supported me from the day he signed me from Everton when I was only 18.
For Manchester United’s sake I wish he could go on forever because he’s a one-off and a genius.”
  

If Fergie’s a genius and United have always won trophies under him, then why does Rooney want to leave? Fergie shows no signs of retiring for at least the next few years and as he’s stated himself his health is fine. Had Fergie announced he was retiring at the end of this season or even the next one, Rooney’s statement would make sense, but he hasn’t so it doesn’t.

Rooney’s statement has been seen by some as simply yet another reason why the Glazer family have to be removed, after all, it’s surely the debt they saddled the club with that’s caused Rooney to believe the club can no longer compete. However, while the debt and the interest are a joke, Rooney seems to have forgotten that United are not usually ones for making record-breaking bids for the world’s top stars.
Although, Fergie has been willing to splash that sort of cash on occasion- Rio Ferdinand, Rooney himself, it’s been extremely rare and not happened at all of late.

Whether more will come to light as to how much wages and signing-on fee have dictated remains to be seen but Rooney’s argument that United lack the ability to attract top players, seems a little hollow.
United lacking ambition? As Fergie succinctly put it last night following United Champion’s League win:

“Have I not won 30 trophies?”

 

 

 
14
Aug
10

United’s new signing raises a few questions

Bebe- his Nani will be looking after him

Bebe- his Nani will be looking after him

Sir Alex Ferguson is no stranger to pulling the odd surprise from up his sleeve when it comes to some of signings. Not even the bookies have seen the United’s managers shock signings coming over the past twenty years. Eric Cantona, Andy, sorry Andrew, Cole, Henirk Larrsson and Michael Owen have left both United’s opponents and even fans dumfounded as nearly everyone was oblivious to their prospective arrival.

The United manager’s latest acquisition has left everyone reaching for the nearest search engine to find out just who on earth Tiago Manuel Dias Correia.

While I won’t waste anyone’s time regurgitating the biography I’m sure anyone who’s remotely interested in Bebe has already read, I will simply state that this signing while not likely to be the final piece of the jigsaw for European domination does raise a few questions that have yet to be addressed.

For starters are United really skint? According to reports, Bebe cost around 7.4 million quid, now while that is hardly in the stratosphere and less than what Stoke City have just forked out for Kenwyn Jones, it’s still a fairly large amount of money. It’s not loads but it ain’t peanuts. If United are penniless then spending over £7 million on a player who’ll be lucky if he makes the bench for the Carling Cup this season is foolish to say the least. Say what you may about Sir Alex, as many often do, but foolish is not something you’d associate with him – unlike angry or moody. Both David Gill and Fergie himself have claimed that despite the protests of many and the debt the club are in, there is still money available for transfers. While most people have been sceptical of this to say the least, I’ve often though there may be some truth to it, simply because if there wasn’t I can’t imagine Fergie lying on behalf of the Glazers. Yes they pay his wages but that doesn’t mean he has to be their puppet- unlike Gill who I trust slightly less- and if he were to state there is no money, could they sack him? No one is bigger than the club but Fergie is pretty much untouchable, if the Glazers think they’ve got problems with the green and gold campaign getting rid of the manager would start a Mancunian Armageddon.

Secondly if money is not the Mesut Ozil issue then what is? The young playmaker has been the most spoke about German since the Queen got married to that Greek fella. It seems there isn’t a club in world football that hasn’t been linked with the scary eye-browed one of late. Money has been mentioned as an obstacle to him joining the ranks at Old Trafford however with the asking price thought to have been anything from £13 to £20 million, if United can afford over £7 mill for a sixth choice striker- or a fifth choice winger depending on where he’s preferred, then surely they club could have spent a few more on one of the brightest young stars in the game. The reason for Ozil not signing- unless he does as part of a conspiracy to leave me with egg on my face – must be either a choice by the player himself or Fergie. Whether Ozil has let the powers that be know he has no intention of playing for United is unknown but also highly unlikely as no formal bid has been made. The likelihood is that Fergie has decided not to pursue him, the question is why? Well if it’s not money that leaves for me two likely reasons- faith in the current squad including Darron Gibson and Tom Cleverly or an unwillingness to remove a potential squad member at Ozil’s expense.

With Premier League clubs having to submit a 25-man squad to the FA by the end of August, and with only players under 21 years old being exempt, every squad place is precious. If United’s squad consisted of- VDS, Kuszczak, Neville, Brown, O’Shea, Vidic, Rio, Evra, Evans, Scholes, Park, Giggs Carrick Obertan ,De Laet , Fletcher, Gibson, Nani, Anderson, Valencia, Rooney, Berbatov, Hernandez and Owen then that would leave one space. Owen Hargreaves is –yet again- currently recovering with no real return date- yet again- in sight. If Fergie did buy Ozil then the door would surely be shut on Hargreaves making the squad. Although it still seems unlikely the Canadian-born England midfielder will make the squad at least he does have a slight chance. Hargreaves has retained his squad number the question is will we be seeing at Old Trafford again anytime soon.

Another question is should Fergie trust the judgement of Carlos Queiroz? The former United number two has been instrumental in convincing Fergie to buy a player yet to play a competitive match in the Portuguese top flight. Normally such a gamble would never have been entertained, after all even Chris Smalling had played several Premier League games before United signed him .Yet the word ‘untested’ would be something of a compliment to Bebe who has only played 26 games in the Portuguese third –tier. I’m not about to get on the lad’s case before he’s even kicked a ball in a United shirt and he may well be the real deal, it just seems a little strange, with all the striking options at Old Trafford- including five under the age of 25, Fergie saw fit to add another. Quieroz may have overseen one of United’s most successful periods but his judgement has been called into question on occasion and I just hope Fergie’s faith isn’t misplaced.

The final question I’ve been left to ponder is whether we’re seeing a drastic shift in United transfer policy? The signing of Chris Smalling after only a handful of games for Fulham last season was a surprise to many United fans as it’s not something that happens very often at Old Trafford. Most players that arrive via a transfer are usually already established, it is very rare for a relative unknown to be bought- or at least it was. While United have bought young players in the past, Da Silva twins for example, it now seems to becoming a little bit more commonplace and the prices the club are willing to spend on somewhat unproven players is increasing. Admittedly in the case of Hernandez, sorry I mean Chicharito, it was a move that already looks like paying off, but with an outlay of over £24 million for three players who are- or at least were- fairly unproven, is this a drastic change in transfer policy for United? Spending large amounts on unknown players has never been the norm at Old Trafford but with clubs like Real Madrid, Chelsea not to mention some ‘noisy neighbours’ able to outbid United, the club may feel the way forward is to take a bit of a gamble on promising stars. Fergie has lamented the over-inflated prices of the transfer market and he may feel this is the only way around it.

12
Aug
10

Ten Things United Must Do To Win Back ‘Our Trophy’

Will we be seeing scenes like this at OT come May?

Will we be seeing scenes like this at OT come May?

With last season’s title race going right down to the wire with Chelsea edging it over Manchester United by a single point every game counted towards the title. This summer has seen a distinct lack of major transfer activity from either club with Chelsea having something if a mini-exodus and bringing in only Yossi Banayoun, while United have made two additions, in Chris Smalling and a certain diminutive Mexican who’s already grabbed a few headlines with the most bizarre Wembley goal since Emile Heskey’s last one. The question is are the new signings enough to bring the trophy back to Old Trafford, just what do United need to do to wrestle the title back from West London and is Dimitar Berbatov ever going to revert back to his headband? Here’s a list of ten things which need to happen for Sir Alex Ferguson’s men to overtake Liverpool in the title winning stakes.

1. More goals from midfield. While many a United fan is quick to point out the deficiencies of Berbatov and even Ferguson has lamented the injury to Michael Owen that robbed United of his services for the business end of the season, the fact remains the midfield did not score nearly enough goals last season. Michael Carrick, Darren Fletcher, Antonio Valencia, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and Nani managed 24 league goals between them, the same amount that Frank Lampard scored. While certain players –Fletcher for example- are not in the side to score goals, while Giggs and Scholes can hardly be expected to hit double figures at their age- it is still obvious United need more goals coming from the midfield department. If Rooney continues to operate as a lone striker –as he did for much of last season- then someone behind him needs to step up. Personally I’d like to see Nani and Valencia weighing in with a few more this time round.

2. A bit more stability in the starting XI. I fully understand that with United chasing honours on four fronts, the need for a large squad and a bit of rotation but surely it’s time for a little moderation. It seems every week there’s a new right back, its 4-5-1 then it’s 4-4-2, Berbatov starts, grabs a goal, then is dropped for the next game, Anderson’s in, then he’s out again, ditto Ji Sung Park. Admittedly injuries and the ages of certain players have to dictate Fergie’s thinking and the days of the man on the street naming the Saturday’s starting XI are long gone. However it could be time to give some players more than just one game in every three, and try and get a bit more cohesion going between certain ones. I’ve said it before and it may sound crazy but unless Rio Ferdinand can get back to proper full fitness, I’d make Jonny Evans and Nemanja Vidic my starting centre backs for every game. Stability has often been the key to United’s success and maybe a bit more is needed.

3. Give youth a chance. With Tom Cleverly not going out on loan, and the Da Silva twins and Macheda getting a chance both at the end of last season and in this pre-season then could we now see a few youngsters starting more than just the Carling Cup games? Hopefully yes. If United are not going to buy Mesut Ozil- to be honest I don’t think they will- then why not give either Darron Gibson or Cleverly the chance to have a run in the side. After all despite what a certain Scottish pundit may have claimed you can win things with kids. United have bags of experience in every department so throwing one or two youngsters into the mix shouldn’t lead to disaster and what better way for a developing player to learn than to play alongside the likes of Scholes, Giggs or Rooney.

4. Darren Fletcher to raise his game. At first this may seem blasphemous, after all ‘super Daz’ was one of United’s best performers last season, putting in the sort of barnstorming displays you’d associate with Roy Keane. However the reason I think he should raise his game is simple- because he can. While there’s no denying against the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool, Fletcher bosses the midfield so much he even had Arsene Wenger complaining of his ‘anti-football’- so basically tackling people then- but against lesser opposition Fletcher can occasionally be a little less influential. I know it seems harsh to criticise such a dedicated player but let’s be brutally honest, there are times when his passing can go awry a little too often, and despite what I said earlier about him not being in the side to score goals that doesn’t mean he can’t. His brace against City and his superb volley – or should that be superlative strike- in the home game against Everton show that Fletcher knows where the goal is. I know he’s quality I just feel that if he were to perform against the likes of Sunderland as he does against the top teams, he could well be the difference between second and first.

5. Michael Carrick. This one doesn’t need a Fletcher-type apology or explanation, it’s shockingly simple. He’s got to start performing consistently. Carrick’s been at Old Trafford for four seasons now yet amazingly the jury still seems to be out on him. Three title winning campaigns would be enough to put most players in the pantheon of club legends but Carrick has a knack for going missing when he’s needed most and sometimes making costly errors. The games against Wolves away and Liverpool and Bayern Munich at home were cases in point. While Carrick’s mistakes in the first two may have been academic his failure to deal with the danger in the Champion’s League, then getting caught dilly-dallying on the ball, cost United two goals, and to some critics the tie. While I think there was more to it than just Carrick, the fact that he was dropped from the United side after his similar blunder gifted Liverpool an early Old Trafford lead, may mean that Fergie is running out of patience with a player who should now be hitting his peak not going backwards. If he doesn’t perform well at the beginning of the campaign, I feel it’s time to give someone else a chance.

6. Beat their title rivals. Ok this may sound like the sort of obvious statement you would associate with David Pleat but it’s true. The past two seasons have seen United lose home and away to their nearest rivals. In 2008-09 they got away with it mainly due the fact that by the time Liverpool came to Old Trafford and won 4-1, the title race was all but over. Last season however, even a draw in either game against Chelsea would have been enough to see United win the title for a record breaking nineteenth time but it wasn’t to be. United have usually performed well against their title rivals and there’s no doubt that a man has proud as Ferguson will be looking to regain that tradition this season. Winning against your rivals doesn’t just give you a points advantage it can often help psychologically convince you that you’re the better team and it’s time United took the edge on both counts.

7. Believe the hype and give Chicharito a proper run. I’ve tried not to get over excited about Javier Hernandez, but it’s been about as difficult as liking Ashley Cole as the ‘Little Pea’ shone in both the World Cup and United’s pre-season. Whether he’s banging in screamers against Argentina or using his teeth in the Community Shield, it’s obvious that he’s class and rather than wrapping him up in cotton wool or saving him for special occasions like the nice china, Fergie should unleash him and let him stake a claim for a regular starting place. He’s been compared to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, which is a bit unfair, but if he is going to be another ‘baby-faced assassin’ then he should at the very least be an obligatory substitute coming on after 60 minutes in every game.

8. Improve the atmosphere at Old Trafford. Whether United have money or not chanting and singing is still free- mind you give it time and they’ll probably charge us- so there’s no excuses for having a lack of noise at Old Trafford. United still have the highest attendance in the League, yet at times away fans of a mere few thousand are out-singing 70-odd thousand Reds. ‘We want Glazers out’ is one chant that seems to be heard without any problems but it’s hardly likely to motivate the team. While I’m not saying that shouldn’t be sung, I’m merely stating that the fact remains personally I’ve been a bit embarrassed by the lack of atmosphere at OT at times and think a bit more noise wouldn’t go amiss. United may have only dropped eight home points last season, but if they can get the sort of atmosphere you hear against City going every week, then there’s every reason to feel they won’t drop any. This isn’t something the club should be culpable for, it’s up to the fans and don’t worry I’ve brought plenty of vuvuzelas back from South Africa so message me and I’ll send you one.

9. Take the burden off Wayne Rooney. Sounds simple doesn’t it? It’s a bit like saying score more goals than the opposition or win more games than your nearest rivals, but the fact is, United cannot win the title with Rooney alone. When Cristiano Ronaldo was scoring goals like they were going out of fashion, a large part of that was down to Rooney. Last season Didier Drogba had Lampard to help him out, Arsenal will no doubt have Robin Van Persie and Cesc Fabregas this time round. Rooney needs someone to weigh in with not just their fair share of goals but also assists and being another option that players look for when United are attacking. Berbatov, Hernandez or one of the midfield, it doesn’t matter but when Rooney’s fit and playing it shouldn’t mean that if he has a quiet game so do United. When Rooney’s out, it’s time for someone else to perform; no doubt all eyes will be on Berbatov who came up short against Chelsea and Blackburn last season. Whether or not this will be the Bulgarian’s season remains to be seen, but someone needs to give ‘r Wazza a hand.

10. Play Edwin Van Der Sar in every league game. VDS performance in the Community Shield was yet another in a long list of exemplary shifts between the sticks at Old Trafford. The Dutchman was injured for the beginning of last season and Ben Foster was preferred to Tomas Kuszczak and all but ended both his United and England career with a series of inept displays. A loss away to Burnley and a disappointing home draw to Sunderland came on Foster’s watch, while Kuszczak oversaw the home loss to Aston Villa and the away loss to Fulham- although to be fair the entire defence was injured for that one. Van Der Sar may be 40 but if he can manage the league games and Fergie rests him for the cup ones, he may just be the difference between another near-miss or making United the most successful ever team-at least domestically- in England.

28
Jul
10

United’s Pre-season Given Added Edge By Fergie’s Comments

Fergie - lots to consider in the next few weeks

Fergie - lots to consider in the next few weeks

Staying up late most nights this week to watch my beloved Manchester United take on various ‘soccer’teams from the US -and Celtic- hasn’t been the most exciting of times if I’m perfectly honest. While the game against Celtic was entertaining the subsequent ones against Philadelphia Union and those other footballing titans Kansas City Wizards have been fairly dull and raised a few questions that a week ago I neither felt the need nor the inclination to address.

With Dimitar Berbatov producing the sort of performance everyone knows he’s more than capable of against Celtic, there were already murmurs of whether Sir Alex Ferguson may start him next season in a return to the old 4-4-2 formation that was once United’s perennial modus operandi. Then there was the game against Philadelphia Union, where despite playing well below-par United still managed to triumph- if you can call a friendly win in the US a ‘triumph’- mainly due to the poor quality of the opposition. Sunday night’s game against the Wizards of Kansas City was even more dissapointing than the one against Philadelphia as United succumbed to a side that had only ten men for half of the game. Of course this wasn’t a full-strength United side, mind you unless Wayne Rooney is on the pitch it never is, this was a team made up of reserves and youngsters. However despite this, a few questions have already been raised by certain sections of the press, in this game and the previous two.

Chris Smalling’s penchant for costly errors, which seemed to afflict him as soon as he signed for United, raised its ugly head against Celtic, which was quickly seized upon by the media as another example of a catalogue of mistakes the youngster has made in the past six months. Roy Hodgson joked that Smalling was “getting hismistakes out of the way” at Fulham, let’s hope from a United perspective he’s merely doing the same in pre-season. Although he’s hardly shone, certain apsects of Smalling’s game have impressed me, not least his aerial ability and his obvious pace.

Kiko Macheda’s anonymous performance against Union-or is ‘the Union’, raised a few question marks as to just how much United can rely on him next season, while Rafael Da Silva’s and Mame Diouf’s, not to mention Darron Gibson’s, lacklustre displays against the Wizards- or is it just Wizards-had certain Fleet Street members doubting their ability to be first-team players this season.

There’s already a bit of semi-hype about Javier Hernandez’s debut and how important it will be. Now I for one don’t think you can garner too much insight into any players ability from a friendly game in a different climate, against barely professional standard opposition- no offence Celtic fans. Yes, you can judge a player’s fitness and see how well certain partnerships are developing but by and large I think their fairly pointless in terms of player assessment.

Two seasons ago in pre-season both Frazier Campbell and Chris Eagles looked great, scoring goals and giving the defences of Kaizer Chiefs, Portsmouth and Espanyol no end of trouble. Fergie rewarded both youngsters by showing them the Old Trafford exit not long after.

Last year’s pre-season saw some at Old Trafford arguing the case for Anderson to be given free-kick taking duties following a cracker against Boca Juniors- I know, it seems unthinkable now.

With news that Fergie’s undecided as whether to include Anderson and Owen Hargreaves in the squad he submits to the Premier League though, it gives the pre-season friendlies an added edge as it could well be a chance for one of the youngsters on the fringes of the squad to stake a real claim.

With each game being something of a subsitute merry-go-round not to mention some shocking refereeing its seems a bit harsh to try and judge whether someone is ready for the United first-team based on these outings. However with the clock ticking as to when Fergie has to make a decision on his 25-man Premier League squad and it still being uncertain as to whether Hargreaves and Anderson will be fit enough to be included, the previously ‘pointless’ friendlies could actually go some way to dictating United’s season.

While that may seem a tad melodramatic, whoever is chosen for the squad will no doubt play some part in the upcoming months. With Fergie’s preference of constantly changing his starting XI as well as United’s ridiculously bad luck with injuries- though not as bad as Arsenal‘s before any of you Gooners start- it’s obvious every member of the squad will have an important role. Last season’s two-point title costing deficit had many United fans- myself included, lamenting every dropped point and wondering how failing against the likes of Burnley and Blackburn could have cost The Reds the title.

With two more friendlies, plus the Charity, sorry ‘Community Shield’- am I alone in dreading a trip to Wembley to see Chelsea bragging about winning both trophies?- before the season starts then four Premier League games before the squads need to be submitted, the next two games could prove vital to Fergie’s thinking. After all he may be reluctant to try and assess young players in the opening few league games, with every point being vital and weakened United sides failing to deliver in the past.

I just hope that with the heat, the added pressure, the poor refereeing and the brevity of some of their time on the pitch, some of the young United players out in the US manage to do themselves justice.

30
May
10

United’s youngsters end of season reports

Welbeck and Macheda- in happier times

With the season now well and truly done and dusted, there’s already been the post-mortem/transfer rumours/endless advice for Sir Alex Ferguson as everyone and his wife tries to see where it went wrong for United.

One idea that’s not been given as much credence as others is the notion that Ferguson should turn to his youngsters next season as United attempt to ‘win their trophy back.’
The problem is, as a happy-go-lucky MOTD pundit once prophesised ‘you don’t win anything with kids.’ That may have been the most infamously erroneous statement in football history but can we expect to see youth be given a chance next season at Old Trafford?
While its unlikely that Fergie will put the sort of trust in his younger players that he did in 1995/96 there are a few who’ve made genuine claims to become members of the first-team.
Let’s have a look at how some of them have fared and just what are their chances of actually making the grade.

Rafael Da Silva- At 19 years of age, Rafael has already shown enough potential to have many pundits claiming he may just be the heir-apparent to Gary Neville’s right back slot. With injuries plaguing both Wes Brown- who was mainly used as a centre back anyway and John O’shea Rafael found himself making sixteen appearances for United last season. While that is actually less than the previous season he has been plunged in at the deep end with mixed results. It’s in the Champion’s League that the Brazilian came under more pressure and scrutiny and many will cite his sending off against Bayern Munich as the turning point in United’s entire campaign. While he is still guilty of occasional rash challenges- City 1st leg at Eastlands- he is still obviously an extremely talented player. Better at going forward than he is at defending, there are signs that he is improving in both departments and if he can stop getting himself and United needlessly into trouble he looks as though he could make the grade and give the team an Evra-type at right back.
Rafael is progressing unlike his twin Fabio who’s despatched with the Keiron Richardson type hair do- and has only made three appearances for United this season as injuries have blighted his chances.
Grade- B minus – Tries hard, and has obviously got potential, just needs to channel his aggression in the right way on occasion.
Another future Patrice Evra- only at right back of course- a heavy mantle to lay on anyone but skilful quick and confident, if he works on his defensive shortcomings he could be the Brazilian Patrice.

Jonny Evans- It seems a bit daft labelling Evans a youngster seeing as he’s been a semi-regular fixture in United’s defence for two seasons now. At 22 though he is still fairly young and has arguably been United’s best youth product of the past decade. With 31 appearances last season- eight more than Rio Ferdinand, Evans has had to play more games than he really should have as Nemanja Vidic has also suffered with his share of injuries. Evans has been immense for United in many games and although he can occasionally be guilty of the odd lapse- erm just as Rio can really- he’s looking more and more like a magnificent defender. His stamp on Didier Drogba which inexplicably saw the Ivorian booked at Stamford Bridge also gave us one of the season’s funniest moments. If I were to be overly fussy then perhaps using his height at the other end of the pitch and threatening from corners would be a useful addition to his locker of talents but it’s a minor quibble in what’s been a great season for ‘the boy’ as Fergie calls him- along with every other United player regardless of age.
Grade- A minus – Fulfilling his early promise and becoming an integral part of the team.
Another future- Gary Pallister – well timed tackles and looking comfortable on the ball with a slight nit-picking criticism that a man of his height could grab at least the odd goal from a corner.

Darron Gibson – With 26 appearances and five goals to his name, it would appear that Gibson is settling into the first-team at United quite well. The same age as Evans the Republic of Ireland midfielder has found himself in the starting line up for some big games lately in both Europe and the Premiership. With a fierce shot and the confidence to use it, the best Gibson to ever play for United- Colin and Terry were sh*te- is putting forward a decent -ish claim to be Paul Scholes’s rightful heir. Then why am I not totally convinced? The thing that strikes me about Gibson is that sometimes, other than his shooting ability which is impressive rather than awesome he doesn’t always seem to influence games enough. Again, I may be being overly critical but there’s still a niggling doubt in my mind as to whether he is quite a Manchester United player. I hope I’m wrong as if Gibson does improve he could well do for United what Frank Lampard does for Chelsea. Next season is probably make-or-break for him.
Grade- B – Decent goal return and does seem to be going in the right direction, just a few nagging doubts over whether he is capable of moving up a gear.
Another future- Brian McClair- post 1992- could be accused of looking a bit slow at times but tries hard and chips in with goals.

Anderson – Everyone’s favourite Predator impersonator has had a mixed season to say the least. Sterling early season performances against the likes of Chelsea and Tottenham- where he finally broke his league goal scoring duck seemed to indicate Anderson was becoming the player we knew he could when he made Black Lace fashionable again – sort of.
However the United wheels looked like coming off for the man who’d never looked like missing his 2008 CL final penalty, after a supposed bust-up with Fergie. Apparently Fergie had dished out the hairdryer treatment to the youngster following his inept display against Manchester City in the Carling Cup first leg. This act of playful Scottish banter didn’t go down too well with ‘r Andy who supposedly did what is compulsory for all Brazilian footballers and disappeared back to his homeland without so much as goodbye note. While rumours of his imminent sale did the rounds, Anderson returned to Old Trafford and was back in the first-team for all of twenty minutes before a season-ending injury. Like Gibson next season could well be his make-or-break one as its time for him to step up and fulfil his early promise.
Grade C minus- Must try harder as it may be time for him to go elsewhere regardless of his potential.
Another future – Nicky Butt- good at tackling and getting stuck in, probably not a United-career type but hopefully will provide a good few seasons worth.

Gabriel Obertan – With only ten appearances for the first team it does seem a little premature to be giving the Frenchman any form of appraisal but I feel we’ve seen enough to expect him to figure a lot more next season so why not? Obertan is one of the few United players who’s been talked about for what he’s done for the reserves- including a cracker against Liverpool, as his performances for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men have often prompted Fergie to promote him. When in the first team Obertan has shown that he has skill in abundance and an energy that could well be utilised next season- most probably as a substitute. The pacy winger may well be given more than a season to prove himself as with Nani, Antonio Valencia not to mention Ryan Giggs and Ji Sung Park all ahead of him, he may have to make do with cameos to show his worth. While hardly setting Old Trafford alight, Obertan has made a decent start to his United career and looks very promising. If he can survive the rigours of English football, the Clairefontaine graduate may be the surprise package for Fergie next season.
Grade C plus- A solid start, and shows a willingness to try and get involved which will stand him in good stead at Old Trafford.
Another future- Nani or David Bellion only time will tell whether he can be the sort of livewire that his Portuguese colleague is- I’m a big fan, or he goes the way of Bellion and simply doesn’t have what it takes.

Danny Welbeck – Two seasons ago Welbeck appeared to be one of the few youth team strikers who’ve gone on to make it in United’s first team. Impressive displays earned him a start in the 2009 Carling Cup final, as the confident youngster made his case for being a valuable squad member. However fast forward to recent times, and things aren’t going quite as well for the Longsight-born lad. After being loaned out to Preston as Darren Ferguson’s first signing- nepotism? Never- Welbeck seemed to be making progress as he grabbed a couple of goals in his first few games. However a knee injury scuppered his chances of making further progress ending his season eight games in. When it comes to his performances for United, I can’t shake the feeling that he’s just not quite good enough, even though to be fair he has been used inexplicably as a winger for the first team on more than one occasion. Welbeck also has a problem with greediness, which while you’d expect it from a nineteen year-old striker, can at times frustrate. Whether Welbeck will be given more first-team chances next season remains to be seen, but he may find himself out on loan again.
Grade C minus- Seemed to have stagnated slightly after successful first season and injury prevented him proving his worth.
Another future -Frazier Campbell- sneaky feeling he may end up loaned-out until it becomes permanent.

Frederico Macheda – Despite an injury ravaged season that’s seen the Italian make only a handful of first team appearances, it’s still obvious he’s got a lot to offer. A perfectly legitimate goal against Chelsea -unlike the previous one scored in that game which was a disgraceful exhibition of linesman-ing incompetence – is all Macheda’s got to show for his efforts but its still at least something. While he’s not really improved on the previous season- to be fair though he did practically win United the league with his winner against Aston Villa so it was a tough act to follow, Kiko’s still shown glimpses of his class and I for one truly believe he’s got what it takes to make it at Old Trafford. At the age of 18 time is well and truly on his side. Fergie may use him sparingly next season but the potential is there for everyone to see.
Grade- C plus- Despite all his injury problems, the impact he made against Chelsea is enough to show that he’s still the real deal.
Another future – Ruud Van Nistelrooy- may not be at Old Trafford forever but I expect a lot of goals before he leaves.

16
Apr
10

Could Jovetic be the new Scholes?

Jovetic waited patiently at the hairdressers for his refund.

Almost six months ago, Fiorentina midfielder Jovetic was linked with a move to Manchester United, following a series of dazzling displays.
Two goals against everyone’s favourite granny robbers from up the M62 meant, as Diego Forlan will testify, that he was more than welcome to ply his trade at Old Trafford.
The 20 year-old Montenegrin played down talk of a move away from Florence, insisting that although, United’s interest was flattering he was perfectly happy where he is.

Jovetic stated:

“I read about the transfer stories around me and am honoured by Manchester United’s interest but I am very happy in Florence.
At Fiorentina I have everything I need to grow and improve as a player. I have a contract with the Viola for another five years and I have no intention of leaving.”

While that may seem to spell the end of the chance of a summer transfer to sunny Manchester, there’s always the possibility that Jovetic may have been telling his club what they wanted to hear.
After all no official bid had been launched so the transfer talk was just that. Talk.
The first question should be would United even want to sign one of Serie A’s most exciting players, after all that same moniker was attached to a certain Argentinean midfielder almost a decade ago.
Juan Sebastian Veron’s signing for United was one of the few times a real sort-after foreign player near the peak of his powers made the decision to go to Old Trafford. What should have been the icing on the cake for an already successful team turned out to be a near-disaster, I say near because Chelsea had the decency to save United half their loss- oh and Veron played well in the Champions League- occasionally.
Veron was that much of a disappointment Sir Alex Ferguson could be forgiven for never wanting another midfielder from Serie A ever again.
The fact is though, one of United’s biggest problems on the pitch isn’t going to simply go away and if it’s not addressed by next season then a title challenge may not materialise.

Paul Scholes has ceased to be the attacking force he once was for almost five years now, yes he can still pick out a pass and score the odd goal but he’s not someone you can rely on week in week out to produce goals.

Some have touted Darron Gibson as a possible successor and while this would save United a lot of money and bother, I’m not sure he’s anywhere near world-class despite a good goal against Bayern Munich.
United need someone who’s capable of carrying the ball, scoring goals and being a genuine threat against any team and for me Gibson just isn’t quite good enough.

United have an abundance of the same type of player- the holding midfielder. Both Michael Carrick and Darren Fletcher can perform in the role, while Owen Hargreaves- if he ever does come back from injury- is one of the best players in that position in the world. What United need is someone to play in-front of the holding midfielder and give Wayne Rooney some much needed support- both in the goal scoring and the genuine-attacking-threat-through-the-middle department as well.
With Nani and Antonio Valencia on the wings United have players that can cause any full-backs a problem but in Carrick, Fletcher, Hargreaves, Scholes Anderson and Gibson there isn’t really a stand-out attacking force who would trouble a lot of defences.

Following the Bayern Munich defeat I claimed United were not that badly off in terms of the squad and that’s an opinion I stand by. However if there is one area where the team does seems to be missing something it is from an attacking central midfielder.

People may say a striker should be Fergie’s priority especially if as seems to be expected at the moment everyone’s favourite headband wearing Bulgarian has finally run out of time at Old Trafford.
The fact is though, if Rooney’s fit then 4-5-1 may well be the formation Fergie favours next season so signing a striker could well be pointless. Also as I’ve said before Kiko Macheda has impressed me immensely and I feel next season he may well prove he is a genuine United player.

What Chelsea- and even Arsenal have had over United this season is a goalscoring midfielder who can get well into double figures. Cesc Fabregas has stepped up when the Gunners needed him after Robin Van Persie’s injury and if he stays at the Emirates, those two together next season could be title winning attacking force. At Chelsea Frank Lampard still finds himself pointing to the heavens on a regular basis, so much so that Didier Drogba can afford to be rested occasionally and Nicolas Anelka can afford not to turn up now and again.
If United had someone who grabbed as many goals as the aforementioned midfielders then the ribbons currently on the Premier League trophy would be staying on it next month.

Jovetic’s goalscoring record is impressive with 11 goals for his club in all competitions which if he was at Old Trafford would make him the club’s joint- third top scorer – with own goals.

Of course the other question after whether United need him, is would he go there. Well as usual I’ve got an insightful revelatory answer of: I’ve no idea. Sorry but let’s be honest no-one knows what goes on in the mind of youngsters nowadays let alone Montenegrin youngsters who’ve had a storming season in Serie A. The only way to find out of course is to try and buy him, otherwise he’s never going to simply turn up at Carrington wearing a bib and demanding to be given the chance to play. The fact that Fiorentina are out of contention for a Champion’s League place may be enough to make Jovetic consider his future.

Although he may look a bit like the Neville brother’s ugly sister his goal scoring ability, plus his youth and attacking flair could make him just the sort of player to give United an edge that’s been missing for a few years now, and take just a little bit of the burden off PFA player of the year Wayne Rooney- let’s face it, it’s a foregone conclusion.
Whether Fergie would fork out what would no doubt be a fairly large sum to prize him away from Italy remains doubtful to say the least but I for one, wouldn’t be complaining if he did.