Month October 2012

Month October 2012

Patient Welbeck garners praise, but not always matches

October 15, 2012 Tags: Opinion 18 comments

“I am a massive fan of Danny’s,” gushed Michael Carrick ahead of England’s World Cup fixture with Poland in Warsaw on Tuesday night. The man in question: Manchester United striker Danny Welbeck, who is fresh from scoring an international double against San Marino at Wembley last week. Welbeck, who has started six times in 10 international matches under England manager Roy Hodgson, scored a wonderfully improvised back-heel against Sweden at Euro 2012, followed by Friday night’s brace to launch an international career into the mainstream.

Indeed, the international break has offered the Longsight-born forward some welcome minutes on the pitch, with Welbeck having slipped behind £24 million Robin van Persie in United’s striking pecking order this season. Five starts, and as many from the bench, have brought WElbeck no goals for Sir Alex Ferguson’s first team, following a dozen in the previous campaign.

It leaves the striker respected by colleagues, wanted by his national manager, but partly marginalised at club level, in what had promised to be a strong second full season in Ferguson’s outfit.

“He has been terrific,” adds Carrick, who has been brought back into the international fold, and could start in Warsaw at club-mate Tom Cleverley’s expense.

“Ever since I first saw him I have expected big things of him. He has had a terrific couple of years. People were looking at him when we signed van Persie saying, ‘Where is his position, where is he going to fit in?’ But he showed he is still a major part of it and he was terrific against San Marino.

“If he keeps performing like that he is only going to get better. He can create and score goals. He can play different positions, he can play wide, he can play up top – he is a real talent. He is modest too, what you’d expect coming through the ranks at United. The manager sets standards for the young lads and Danny doesn’t get carried away and this won’t change him at all. He just gets back and starts working hard again and that is what he does best – that is one of his biggest assets.”

That work rate will be tested in the weeks ahead, with van Persie having scored seven times in nine games this season and Wayne Rooney back to full fitness. Moreover, with Ferguson having switched to a ‘wingless’ diamond midfield in recent matches, Welbeck’s chances have also been limited in wide areas for club, if not country.

Baring further injury to Rooney, who missed a month of the season with a serious gash, or van Persie, then Welbeck is likely to remain on Ferguson’s bench for the time being – at least for many of United’s most prominent matches this season.

It is a situation that leaves Welbeck’s flourishing England career somewhat incongruent, although the forward’s double last week is not guaranteed to keep the 21-year-old striker in Hodgson’s side, with Tottenham Hotspur’s Jermain Defoe available. Demotion to the bench, if it comes at all, will surelyreflect less on the United youngster’s talents than the need for experience in a testing away fixture.

Welbeck’s strikes against San Marino brings his total to four in 12 matches for England, while Defoe now has 17 in half a century of caps over close to a decade of international football. Indeed, if Defoe’s international career is now into its autumn years, with the striker having turned 30 earlier this month, then Welbeck’s is just beginning.

It is a marginal call for the often conservative Hodgson, although Welbeck’s relationship with Rooney, which flourished at club level last season, may tip the balance in favour of the Mancunian on Tuesday, especially with England’s manager looking two years hence to the World Cup in Brazil.

“I’m used to playing with Wazza up front at United,” pitched Welbeck on Monday. “I’m really relishing the chance to play with him for England. Once we get into positions in and around the box, we know different styles of combinations to play.”

The striker has also formed a strong bond with club team-mate Cleverley, who provided assists for both Welbeck’s goals at Wembley. Welbeck, like, Cleverley, has been with the United academy since childhood; both coming through into the national set-up during Hodgson’s reign.

“We have known each other for many years now,” said Cleverley.

“I’ve been there since I was 11. He’s been there since he was nine. So we’ve built up a relationship over the years, on and off the pitch. I feel comfortable playing with him and he’s a good lad as well. His movement, his touch, finishing, pace and power are top class. He’s got everything.”

The lavish praise is far removed from Welbeck’s early years with United; a gangling kid, often deployed on the wing, unsure of movement or first touch. And Welbeck will need to demonstrate that his physical attributes are matched by those of a technical nature, especially in front of goal, if the striker is to further flourish for club and country.

After all, criticism of the forward’s strike-rate is prominent – four in 12 for England is mirrored by 17 in 73 at club level for United.

Neither statistic can, for example, match van Persie’s strike rate for United this season, nor at Arsenal in the campaign just concluded, although it is instructive that the Dutchman struck just 21 times in all competitions for the norther Londoners in his first two full seasons.

In that there remains a positive role model for the younger man, even if Ferguson is loath to proffer Welbeck more minutes while van Persie and Rooney remain fit. And if games at Old Trafford are rare it is Welbeck’s patience, and perhaps his international credentials, that will come under the microscope for the time being.

Poll: is Tom Cleverley worth it?

October 14, 2012 Tags: , Polls 31 comments

The Mirror reports ;that Tom Cleverley is negotiations with the club over a new five-year contract that will net the midfielder up to £80,000 per week. If signed, the new deal will be the second contract offered to the 23-year-old in little more than a year, earning Cleverley around £20 million over the deal’s lifetime. It represents an eight-fold increase in wages in around 18 months; by any stretch, spectacular financial progress.

Cleverley has become a regular in Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United side over the past two seasons – injury permitting – and scored a spectacular goal at St. James’ Park last weekend. The midfielder has also become a fixture in Roy Hodgson’s England team, starting against Sam Marino at Wembley on Friday night.

Yet, with just 21 games played for the club – 15 starts – ;and two goals scored, the England international is still in the very early stages of his Old Trafford career. Farmed out to Leicester City, Watford and then Wigan Athletic, Cleverley still has much to prove at the highest level. ;In reality the ;Basingstoke-born player still has much to prove too, being, for example, just two year’s younger than Lionel Messi and vastly less experienced.

Is Tom Cleverley worth £80,000 per week?

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Media Digest: Pélé, diamonds and match fixing

October 14, 2012 Tags: Opinion 2 comments

For many, Sunday is a day spent in the company of the family and friends, reading that unfinished book, or watching a new episode of a favourite show. Over at United Rant it’s a day spent catching up on the beautiful game. Join us, in Rant’s weekly round-up of United-related news and blogs – Media Digest.

BLOGS

International football or not, Manchester United blogs still have something for you as they catch with the popular issues from the past month.

By Far The Greatest Team – “Rebuilding Manchester United, Almost Conquering the World and Turning Down Pele”

Fortunately, though, there were atypical yet brilliant posts this week. One of them is Matthew Harrison’s article on Jimmy Murphy. No need to waste time on the quotes though: go read it.

The death that supposedly hit Murphy hardest was that of his good friend Bert Whalley, the man who was sitting in the seat next to Matt Busby on the flight – the seat that should have been Jimmy Murphy’s. It is great testament to the man himself that Murphy made a huge effort to attend every funeral of every person that was tragically killed in the disaster; the only funerals he missed were those which were at the same time as another funeral. more

By Far The Greatest Team – “When Arsenal beat Manchester United 5-2 in 1960, was the match fixed?”

Another amazing article on By Far The Greatest Team that touches on the history of United. The author is Giles Oakley…

I always loved the thrill of anticipation when emerging from the Arsenal station to find the narrow streets and terraced houses blocking the view of Highbury until it suddenly loomed into view in all its refined Art Deco glory. On the day of that United match in April 1960 I was determined to see the haughty ‘ Marble Halls’ in the East Stand official entrance foyer, and I sneaked in nervously, expecting some uniformed commissionaire to toss me out on my ear like some grubby street urchin. I wanted to see the famous bust of former manager Herbert Chapman which sat on view in an illuminated niche… more

Red Mancunian – “My worst footballing moment is yet to come…”

Chris McCluskey savours every second while Sir Alex Ferguson is in charge.

At the end of last year, Kim Jong-il played his last round of golf. If you thought the scenes of hordes of North Koreans sobbing uncontrollably, beating their fists on the ground and wailing at the tops of their lungs were uncomfortably hilarious to watch, just wait until Alex Ferguson decides to call time on his managerial career. Okay, perhaps the comparison is a little bit excessive, what with one being a sadistic, genius dictator who is known for ruling his evil fiefdom with an iron fist, and the other being Kim Jong-il; however, for the purpose of dramatic effect, I think it’s a valid point. more

The Busby Boys – “Is the diamond forever for Manchester United?”

Another week, another blogger wonders what is happening to United’s midfield.

Put simply, a top class number ten player is the most crucial to any team’s success in the final third.This player is required to do more than being in the right place at the right time (which takes some talent and work in and of itself). The number ten has to not only be in the right place, he has to be in the right places at the right times. Not many players are capable of doing that. Rooney is. And for all of the talk of how van Persie makes Rooney more expendable, I would argue that van Persie if nothing else makes Rooney more essential to United’s success. more

Can They Score – “Rooney and Central Midfield: A Match Made in Heaven”

Tom Pattison thinks that United’s diamond formation “might just be the system in which [Rooney] finally establishes himself as a truly world-class performer”.

Everything about Rooney’s style is of a player at his best when at the core of the action. In view of our abundance of options further forward, and steel deficiency in central midfield, it is entirely sensible for Rooney to concentrate his efforts on playing central midfield. One moment on Sunday underlined this for me – Rooney received the ball into feet in a tight space on the edge of the centre circle, as you would expect Tiote was instantly on him niggling away, yet the body strength of one time boxing prospect comfortably held off the Ivorian before laying the ball to Kagawa in space. more

7Cantonas – “A Robin Van Soliloquy”

Gareth Evans shares his thoughts on Robin van Plasma Screen.

I was a doubter, but I’m beginning to think it was worth it. If Dimitar Berbatov was a brilliant arthouse actor – a cultish, tormented soul – then Van Persie is box-office; a disgracefully talented scene-stealing star whose games are often scripted by Hollywood’s finest. At times during last term, Arsenal’s season read like a Van Persie soliloquy – a wonderfully cultured goal-pocked monologue, where he masked many an Arsenal shortcoming. more

Stretford-End – “Joshua King – will another Norwegian player leave United?”

Doron Salomon writes about another young Norwegian that might leave United for good.

Joshua looks fitter, stronger, faster and more mature. His reward has been a debut and place in the Norwegian national team as well as inclusion in a few United first team squads. Having joined up with the national team this week though, he’s once again reiterated that the exit may not be far away. His goal is to be a professional footballer at United but he can’t wait forever. There is a glimmer of hope though – he commented that he sees the left side of the United team as an area he could expose given his new found role. An opportunity may arise there. In fact, he himself thinks that his prospects and chances are much better now than they were a few months ago. more

More…

The Peoples Person has a video of Ashley Young supporting United in the away end at St. James Park. Five beautiful Paul Scholes moments can be found on Beautifully Red – the site’s September Player of the Month.

PRESS

Unibet – “Fergie’s Wingless Wonders Look The Real Deal”

Alexander Netherton thinks that United’s midfield diamond might just win the Reds the league.

Most surprising, though, is that Alex Ferguson has decided that his best team doesn’t include a winger. It’s early to label it, of course, but what started at Cluj continued at Newcastle, where the team used a remarkably narrow line up. It’s at odds with Manchester United’s history, but given their deficeincies, gives them a chance of producing the required consistency to win the league this term. more

GQ – “Sir Alex Ferguson on managing Manchester United”

Yes, it is GQ we are talking about here. Yes, the interview is from 2008. Yes, you had still better read it.

“No, you’re right. I have spoken to Bobby many times on that subject. But he told me the one thing he found hardest was…” Sir Alex Ferguson pauses. “He explained how he was doing this exercise with the players which involved switching the direction of play. And they couldn’t understand what he was talking about. To Charlton, who was such a beautiful, graceful player, it was a skill that came instinctively. But he discovered that his players not only couldn’t do what he was asking, they couldn’t even understand it. He told me it was at that moment that he decided this job was possibly not for him. So I don’t believe that football management comes down simply to temperament.” more

Manchester Evening News – “Dazzling Sir Bobby Charlton still a shining light”

Manchester Evening News pays tribute to Sir Bobby Charlton as he celebrates his 75th birthday.

He may have played in an era of grainy black and white footage but his exploits were writ large in technicolour and are still handed down the generations. more

Mirror – “Ravel’s unravelling: Birmingham want rid of the former Man United starlet”

Ravel: what a waste of talent.

Even though Birmingham are struggling just three points above the relegation zone, Clark is refusing to even include the 19-year-old in his squad. Sources close to the Midlands club claim Morrison’s attitude in training and around the club has been unacceptable and they want to terminate the loan agreement immediately. more

Manchester Evening News – “Andrew Cole: Chicharito can rediscover his red-hot form by following treble hero Solskjaer’s lead”

Andrew Cole gives United’s Mexican striker a word of advice.

“Chicharito has to accept the challenge and be patient because that is the only way forward, just as Ole showed. It is a challenge for everyone in the United squad. Everyone has their own battles when you have so much competition. I was the fortunate one in that era because I was first-choice with Dwight Yorke and we were scoring a lot of goals together. But Ole got his head down and worked and it came right. I know what Chicharito is going through because something similar happened to me. After joining Newcastle from Bristol City I scored goals and then we were promoted to the Premier League. In my first season at that level I scored 34 league goals and 41 in all competitions. After that season people were saying watch out for second-season syndrome and all that and I just shrugged and said, ‘Yeah whatever!’ But then you realise they were talking sense and were dead right.” more

More…

Spain U21 coach Julen Lopetegu backs David De Gea to become a world star, SkySports reports. SambaFoot quotes Anderson on Fergie, although the Brazilian might be a few sandwiches short in believing he’ll still be at the club when Fergie leaves.  Mancunian Matters reports that Shinji Kagawa has to face the goal or he will not be a threat. The Japanese is definitely not a threat to beatboxers out there, as evidenced by the new Adidas ad in Daily Mail. The same outlet also reports that Ryan Tunnicliffe was arrested on suspicion of drink-driving after crash. Finally, Sport Witness features a heart warming story about Nemanja Vidic.

Rooney seeks to emulate King Eric’s inspiration

October 11, 2012 Tags: , Opinion 14 comments

For those Reds able to tolerate the international game – there are, Rant is told, a few – Wayne Rooney’s England début may still be remembered as the sparkling entrance of a 17-year-old wunderkind. Nearly a decade on from that substitute appearance against Australia at Upton Park, Rooney has become a senior member of Roy Hodgson’s dysfunctional side. Not the star of the international scene many had hoped, but a player who has found a new maturity – at least according to the Croxteth-born striker.

Indeed, Rooney now hopes to emulate a latter-day Manchester United hero, Eric Cantona, and become an inspiration to a new generation. It is a role for which Rooney has long seemed unsuited, but one which may define the second half of his career.

Now a senior player for club and country, Rooney has appeared 370 times for United and earned 76 England caps. It eclipses Cantona’s tally both for the Reds and at international level. In that the former Evertonian has become an experienced campaigner; a player far removed from the scruffy youth fresh off the Liverpool streets who broke onto the world scene.

But seasoning is where the comparison ends; Rooney’s brilliance has too often been tempered by frequent injuries and inconsistencies in a career that has hit many heights, but perhaps never of the world’s élite. Nor, crucially, has Rooney become the role model Cantona would eventually become at Old Trafford, inspiring the ‘Class of 92’ to a generation of unprecedented silverware, long after the Frenchman had retired.

Cantona did not always excel. In spells with seven clubs before arriving at Old Trafford in December 1992 the errant Frenchman fell foul of Fédération Française de Football, club coaches, team-mates, the national manager and the media. Banned, dropped, castigated and frozen out, Cantona’s career was every bit as controversial as Rooney’s and far more.

Not until Cantona was 26-years-old, as Rooney is today, did L’Enfant Terrible find peace and the comforts of home at Old Trafford. Transformed from the player no manager could trust, to Ferguson’s lieutenant in a crusade for success and home and abroad. In that there is also a lesson for Rooney, and the hope that fortune favours a player who could remain at the top for another decade.

“I hope it is time for me to show I am a senior player and that I can lead the team,” claimed Rooney ahead of England’s match with San Marino on Friday.

“I understand the scrutiny I’m under and I have no problems with that. Hopefully in the near future we will be coming out of a tournament and you will all be praising me because we have won a trophy. That would be great for everyone.

“It’s especially important now, when we have a lot of young players in the squad. I always try to speak to them and offer advice. I always remember what Sir Alex Ferguson says about how Eric Cantona was such a big help to the younger players at United.”

In that Rooney must now take responsibility not only on the pitch, but off it where injuries and concerns over fitness have too often disrupted a career blessed by unlimited natural talent. Nor has the former Everton forward found Cantona’s consistent brilliance, or iconic status – the ability to inspire a generation and lead a team to greater glories.

If Rooney is yet to match Cantona’s legend, he is increasing mirroring the Frenchman’s role on the pitch, becoming the creative focal point in Sir Alex Ferguson’s team. On Saturday Rooney shadowed Robin van Persie at St. James’ Park, drifting between the lines as United’s iconic number seven did in 185 games for the club.

This is a role Rooney is likely to replicate for the national side this week, with expectations of an English victory high and Rooney determined to finally excel on the international stage. Manager Hodgon says Rooney’s time is now.

“Every time Wayne Rooney goes on the field people expect him to be magnificent,” said Hodgson.

“We all know he is a magnificent player but football doesn’t give you the opportunity to be magnificent every time you step onto a football field. I’m looking forward very much to the next couple of years with Wayne, he’s going to be an important person as each team needs that person up front who can make a difference, who scores the goals or sets them up.”

United’s number 10 is also likely to reprise Cantona’s role as an international captain, by taking the arm-band against San Marino at Wembley on Friday night. With Frank Lampard injured, Steven Gerrard suspended, and Rio Ferdinand not considered, Rooney will lead the Three Lions in his 77th international.

In form, fit and set to be a father once again, Rooney has few excuses left for failure. Whether the player can make a step forward and inspire a generation is cause for debate. Indeed, Rooney now has every opportunity to drive a new Old Trafford generation to glory, not simply as part of the whole, but its leading figure.

Long after Cantona’s retirement the Frenchman is revered – an iconoclast now lionised for his performances on the pitch and his unremitting aura off it. So much so that a chance meeting with the 46-year-old recently turned this ageing hack into a groupie, briefly reminded of a teenage crush.

“I’m so proud the fans still sing my name, but I fear tomorrow they will stop,” Cantona once said. “I fear it because I love it. And everything you love, you fear you will lose.”

In setting lofty goals the Englishman has much to gain, and little love to lose. Rooney has earned none of that. Not just yet.

Media Digest: Chico and Rooney

October 8, 2012 Tags: Opinion 1 comment

For many, Sunday is a day spent in the company of the family and friends, reading that unfinished book, or watching a new episode of a favourite show. Over at United Rant it’s a day spent catching up on the beautiful game. Join us, in Rant’s weekly round-up of United-related news and blogs – Media Digest.

BLOGS

The common theme this week is the wind of change, with many blogs running stories on the need to drop some players or staff, and never look back. Another popular topic is whether or not Manchester United should persevere with the diamond in the midfield.

The Republik of Mancunia – “The Gaping Hole Left From 2008 Departure”

In this brilliant article, Scott argues that Sir Alex Ferguson needs a strong right-hand – like Carlos Queiroz.

Whilst there was no shame in losing to Barcelona in the 2009 and 2011 finals, I’ll always wonder what we might have produced if it had been Queiroz sitting on the bench next to Ferguson and not Mike Phelan. However much the manager may try to fight it, he is a sentimental bugger and sometimes he could do with someone who has a clearer view of the players and their capabilities. Don’t forget, Ferguson had John O’Shea ready to come on for the last minute of extra time in Moscow, only before Queiroz sensibly pointed out we would be better off bringing on someone who could take a penalty instead. O’Shea returned to the bench, Anderson came on and scored in the shoot out. more

The Busby Babe – “An examination of Manchester United’s recent use of a midfield diamond”

Do you like to argue about tactics? Well, here you go.

If all goes well, this midfield diamond system gains a side control of the center of the park. At the base, the holding-player provides stability to the team’s shape and at the tip, the No.10 links the transition from midfield to attack. The weaknesses though are somewhat obvious — a possible lack of width in attack and the vulnerability against sides that have full-backs or wing-backs that are dangerous when they surge forward. The attacking width is hugely dependent on your own full-backs getting forward and the general hope is that your holding-player is mobile enough to break up counterattacks when these full-backs are high up the pitch. Because a midfield diamond offers no natural foils to the opposition’s full-backs or wing-backs, the hope here is that those free players are not dangerous when they get forward to attack. more

The Faithful – “Chicharito Out Lewandowski In? – Is The Mexican Surplus To Requirements At United?”

Rob Blanchette explains why United’s new formation is the principle, but hardly the only obstacle that Javier Hernández has to overcome this season.

Twenty four months on, and the honeymoon period is over. Chico is very much fourth choice striker, as United traded a mercurial Bulgarian for a prolific Dutchman. It’s the same fight the Mexican was fighting in his first couple of seasons, but the departure of Berbatov has led to a change of tactical conscience at United…only a slight one…but maybe enough to see the tangible end to Chicharito’s chances of starting many games in the foreseeable future. The biggest debate currently raging between United aficionados is: How do we fit Rooney, Kagawa and RvP into the same team? Many Reds can’t see past the end of their tactical noses, and feel anything other than 4-4-2 is both ‘dirty and vile’…it falls outside the traditions of the club in their opinions. I understand this warm glowing feeling this classic United formation gives supporters, but history never dictates the future…the present does. more

Red Rants – “There’s no smoke without fire, Sir Alex”

In this article Ian debates Sir Alex’s decision making.

I’m sure I speak for all Manchester United fans when I say there’s no one who isn’t grateful for what he’s given them and for the legacy we all hope he leaves behind. But does this gratitude come at a price? Does his success buy the right to silence his critics? Are we really supposed to ignore any possible failings despite the magnitude of feeling? Are we not entitled to an opinion? more

Red Flag Flying High – “Could this midfield trio hold the key to United’s season?”

Jay from Red Flag Flying High wonders whether a trio of Tom Cleverley, Anderson and Darren Fletcher could rise to every occasion.

With Paul Scholes approaching his seventieth birthday, Ryan Giggs seemingly no longer able to start against the top teams United need other players to step up to the midfield mark. Michael Carrick is beyond reproach of late and will always do the job asked of him but certain games need a different type of player. The trip to Newcastle last season badly exposed United’s midfield frailties and this season could offer the perfect chance for the trio of Anderson Cleverley and Fletcher to show what they’re made of and that United aren’t as ‘weak in midfield’ as everyone thinks. more

The Peoples Person – “David de Gea or Anders Lindegaard – A Red-Devilish dilemma”

United has two great keepers, but how can Sir Alex choose one wisely? The Peoples Person try’s to figure it out.

While the Dane looks a better physical presence and a solid goalkeeper, the feeling remains that de Gea has the ability to pull out a special save that earns you a point or three when the team might not deserve it, as he did against Chelsea last season. That ability marks out all the world’s top goalkeepers; Casillas, Buffon, Neuer and Hart all possess this but they all also do the basics so well that it gets taken for granted. more

Meanwhile, The Busby Way quotes Fergie on the goalkeeping situation.

The Republik of Mancunia – “Rio Is Better Than Them… But We Should Welcome Snub”

Statistics demonstrate that Rio Ferdinand is better than any other England defender, but Scott argues that the player’s omission from England squad is United’s gain.

Of course stats aren’t the be all and end all when deciding who the best players are and I’m not suggesting that a manager should pick a squad entirely on the basis of their stats, (particularly not a manager like Hodgson, who bizarrely claimed: “I don’t regard statistics, especially possession statistics, as being particularly important.”) but Manchester United finished on the same points as the champions last season and Carrick and Scholes had a big say in that… Still, whilst from an England perspective we can see that Hodgson is wrongly keeping Rio out of his squad, just as he did Carrick (and Scholes), from our perspective, the one that really matters, it is great. Not only do we have players in great form, we have players who are better rested thanks to the International absence. It is obvious that Rio doesn’t really want to give up on his England career and it’s a shame for him that it’s being cut short, but for us, it’s definitely a positive thing. Last season he was one of the few United players who didn’t suffer with injuries, but he’s got a dodgy back and it won’t do him any harm having the International break to put his feet up. more

ManUtd24 – “Retrospective #25: The joy of Denis Irwin”

Greg Johnson loves Denis Irwin. As the song goes ‘If you don’t know what to make of this, then we will not relate’.

Had Irwin, so often trusted to take penalties in a team that featured the likes of Steve Bruce and Eric Cantona, interceded on Pepsi’s dustbowl shootout, he would have ridden in as if portrayed by Eastwood: a quiet yet formidable character whose unassuming, humble demeanour belies a lethal, quick-draw ability in a dead ball situation. more

Red Flag Flying High – “Duncan Edwards: A Tribute”

On October 1, 1936 Duncan Edwards was born. Duncan was probably the brightest youth prospect United ever had, destined to be the greatest footballer until his life was cut short by Munich air disaster. Red Flag Flying High published a tribute.

Manchester United is the greatest team in the world. I’d give anything to play for you.” Edwards told Matt Busby, who’d made a personal visit to Duncan’s house on 31 May 1952. Busby had just signed one gem of a player… He was bigger than any of his team mates in the United youth ranks, and became a first team regular for the reds and for England as barely a kid. He won two league titles, and 18 England caps, scoring five goals. more

More…

The Busby Way quotes Scott Wootton on why he celebrated van Persie’s goal against Liverpool. Red Flag Flying High are on loan watch. Stretty News reports on Hodgson’s embarrassment. Brian Greenhoff writes about United’s struggle to find the player who “will sort it out” in his column on 7Cantonas. Meanwhile, Red Mancunian features photos from Carrington, as United keep to improve its training facility. In his article for Can They Score, Kevin Levingston has the best closing quote.

 

PRESS

Daily Mail – “Rooney is in the same mould as Robson, Adams and Keane”

Gary Neville argues that Wayne Rooney is one of a dying breed of footballers and that his unexpected injury coupled with the arrival of Robin van Persie and Shinji Kagawa might be just what the Scouser needs.

Questions have been asked of him in the last few weeks. Is he quite the player he was? Is he threatened by the arrival of Robin van Persie and Shinji Kagawa at United? Will he perform for England in a major tournament after receiving a large amount of criticism for his World Cup performance in 2010 and going into Euro 2012 without a great deal of football? I can remember periods of my own career when there were moments of insecurity, when people doubt you. But it’s going to happen if you spend a number of years at the top level. And sometimes you need a period out of the spotlight to recover your fitness and for your focus to revive. more

The Guardian – “Sir Alex Ferguson was right to complain about Tottenham’s time-wasting”

Daniel Harris wants time-keeping to be taken out of the officials’ hands.

That is not to denigrate Spurs, who were understandably trying to kill time – ticking away, the moments that make up a great football match, Pink Floyd might (not) have sung – but it’s the duty of the officials to account for it. Similarly so at Anfield last week: three goals, two substitutions and a long injury break should not equate to five minutes… The amount of time considered lost is at the sole discretion of the referee. Or, in other words, there’s no stipulation as to what referees must do, meaning that application is arbitrary, random and unpredictable. more

Graham Poll echoes Daniel’s thoughts in his Daily Mail column and adds some of his own.

The Telegraph – “Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini can right his defensive wrongs faster than Sir Alex Ferguson at United”

Alan Smith thinks that, although defensive problems at both United and City originate from different sources, it is City that stands in a better position to solve them.

Because while Roberto Mancini has enough quality players to do much better, Sir Alex Ferguson must worry that injuries and declining form make his job a little more difficult in the short term… United, of course, have been extraordinarily unlucky to lose Nemanja Vidic at a time when Phil Jones and Chris Smalling are also missing. On top of that, Rio Ferdinand is showing signs of age that have proved costly of late. When you can’t get about the pitch as quickly and nimbly as you once did, confidence is bound to suffer as hesitancy creeps in. That also applies to Patrice Evra, whose struggles at left-back further weaken a back four that should be seriously tested again at Newcastle on Sunday. more

BBC – “Manchester United miss Phil Jones, says Ron Atkinson”

Former United manager Ron Atkinson believes that fit Phil Jones is key to solving Manchester United’s defensive problems.

“They’ve had injuries in defensive areas but I think they’ve missed Phil Jones. If he can get himself fit, he might solve a big problem for them. I think he’s an excellent right-back and is probably going to end up at centre-half. But in some of the games I saw him play in midfield last year, he was strong, he could run, he got behind people and he put himself about.” more

Bleacher Report – “Why Kevin Strootman Is the Answer to Manchester United’s Midfield Woes”

Kevin Strootman is good, Strootman is available, Strootman is what United needs, argues Max Towle.

In terms of ability, he is certainly not lacking. A box-to-box midfielder in the vein of a young Roy Keane or Yaya Toure, Strootman is a formerly attacking player now developed into a more versatile force in the middle of the park. His ball control and short passing are exemplary, displaying the type of vision all players in his position require. A strong, motivated leader too, Strootman is a possible future captain in the making, further increasing comparisons with Keane. He is also a tough, ball-winning tackler—he would automatically become the most durable player in the United midfield if he did come to Old Trafford. more

Daily Mail – “Rio has to adapt his game to prolong his Man United career”

Martin Keown thinks that his experience could help Rio Ferdinand’s career.

And Ferdinand must become the organiser. He can also make some adjustments to his game to help with losing his pace. John Terry, who is slower than Ferdinand, goes to ground earlier and deals with danger quickly as he knows he can’t win a race against many strikers. Ferdinand might need to do that more often. I had to be more aggressive as I lost my pace because I had to deal with things quicker. By making the same adjustments, Ferdinand can extend his career. more

Mancunian Matters – “Stop using defensive injury crisis cop out… Manchester United deserved to feel Spurs’ wrath”

Andrew Bardsley doesn’t look for excuses.

Manchester United have daydreamed their way to third in the table after six Premier League games. After an opening defeat to Everton, where they were thoroughly outplayed, the Reds won six consecutive matches in all competitions, until Saturday. But don’t let the impressive record fool you, United were outclassed in most of those wins too… Some have attributed this problem to the defensive injury crisis that the club have recently faced… However this argument is no more than a cop out. Exclude Vidic, the defence that played on Saturday would be Sir Alex’s first choice line up and was so for much of last season. more

Daily Mail – “Sir Bobby makes Manchester United sales drive at Ryder Cup”

Daily Mail reports on  United’s global commercial growth.

Charlton and former United stars Andy Cole, Denis Irwin and Lee Sharpe were  representing the club at the first Manchester United Business Network event to take place in America. The gathering of a number of United sponsors to share ideas and experiences as well as  interact with Sir Bobby and the other Old Trafford ambassadors took place in shirt  sponsors Aon’s exclusive facility at Medinah. more

Mancunian Matters – “Funeral to be held for boy killed in horror crash, as family overwhelmed by Manchester United boss’ condolence”

On behalf of the club, Sir Alex wrote a letter to the family of United fan Cameron Cash, who lost his life after being hit by a car on 22 September.

“On behalf of everyone here at Manchester United I would like to express our sincere condolences. The pain of losing someone so dear to you is hard, but no one can take away the wonderful memories that you will have of your time together. I know that words seem of little help, but trust that these words of comfort and the knowledge that you are in our thoughts and prayers will help sustain you in your sorrow.” more

More…

SkySports reports that Robbie Brady has been added to the Republic of Ireland squad, while Mancunian Matters reports that Nick Powell earned England U-21 call. The Guardian quotes Sir Alex on his challenge for Robin to beat last season’s goal tally of 37. Daily Mail reports that Roy Keane has rejected a £4.5m offer from Kasimpasa. SkySports  publishes Adriano Galliani’s thoughts on Fergie’s interest in El Shaarawy. Manchester Evening News writes that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is linked with Blackburn Rovers job (by them?). Mancunian Matters quotes Gary Neville as he praises England’s St George’s Park. Finally, Bleacher Report wonders what happened to Federico Macheda.

Preview: Newcastle United v United

October 5, 2012 Tags: , Matches 142 comments

When Manchester United last visited St James’ Park in January, heavy defeat told only part of the story that week. Demba Ba’s volley and a fine free-kick from Johan Cabaye helped to inflict a 3-0 loss on Sir Alex Ferguson’s men – it came just four days after relegation bound Blackburn Rovers’ New Year’s Eve victory at Old Trafford. Five months out from the season’s dénouement and United’s domestic challenge appeared every bit as forlorn as that in Europe.

Yet, defeat on Tyneside marked a sea change in United’s fortunes, with Ferguson’s men first challenging and then overtaking Manchester City in the Premier League title race in the Spring. History concludes that United’s challenge was unsuccessful, but that 4 January defeat to Newcastle seemingly sparked the Reds’ campaign into life.

The new season brings new challenges, of course, but just a week after defeat to Tottenham Hotspur at Old Trafford, Ferguson can only hope that a modicum of history does not repeat at St. James’ Park on Sunday.

However, United’s inconsistent performances to date have already brought two Premier League defeats in six games; it’s a loss ratio that cannot be maintained as the season progresses if Ferguson wants his team to challenge. In Europe narrow victories over opposition bodes well for European qualification at least, although performances have been far from stellar either.

Indeed, defeat to Spurs last weekend came amid one of the worst 45 minutes performance during Sir Alex’ Old Trafford reign; that first half followed, at least, by a hugely impressive attacking effort in the second that only just failed to bring Ferguson’s men a result.

Newcastle United v Manchester United - Premier League, St. James' Park - Sunday 7 October 2012, 4pmStill, United’s form in the first nine games of the season leaves supporters wondering if, and when, the Reds’ season will spark into life. Few hope the kindling required  is another defeat on Tyneside.

“In the second half of the season we had to do something, when you lose a game you have to do something,” said Ferguson of last January’s defeat at St. James’.

“We lost a game to Tottenham and we have to recover again. Hopefully we can get the result on Sunday. It won’t be easy, it is always a difficult place to go, Newcastle. I think under Alan Pardew they have become a really committed team. But after what happened in the game against Tottenham we need to get on the road in terms of recovery.”

“I watched Newcastle last night and they played a few of their squad and left a few others out. But they still won convincingly. It was a good performance and a good result for them.

“Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse both have good scoring records. They rested Ba last night and played Shola Ameobi. I’m not sure what combination it will be on Sunday. Ba and Ameobi are both strong, while Cisse has scored some fantastic goals for them. The third goal last night was excellent.”

If United is to get a result at St. James’ then Ferguson’s men will do so without a plethora of injured players. Nemanja Vidic, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones will again be absent from the back-four, while Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia sit out another fixture. However, Ferguson will welcome back Paul Scholes, Michael Carrick and Ryan Giggs to the travelling party after the midfield trio missed United’s trip to Cluj in midweek.

Ferugson will retain Rio Ferdinand and Jonny Evans at the heart of United’s defence after the Ulsterman overcame a dead leg picked up against CFR Cluj on Tuesday night. Meanwhile, Chris Smalling is one step nearer full fitness after the

“It was just a dead leg he picked up last Saturday against Tottenham,” said Sir Alex.

“I took him off towards the end [of the Cluj game]. Smalling has started training on the football side. That helps us, particularly as we have a problem at centre-back. Ashley will start training while the internationals are on, particularly during the second week. He could, at a stretch, be back for the Stoke game.”

Wayne Rooney should start alongside Robin van Persie at Newcastle, although Ferguson faces a difficult choice where to deploy the former Evertonian with Shinji Kagawa waiting to return. The Japanese midfielder sat out United’s narrow victory in Romania on Tuesday night, and may have to settle for a role on the left side of midfield.

Meanwhile, Newcastle manager Alan Pardew can point to some improved for after the Magpies dispatched Bordeaux 3-0 in the Europa League on Thursday night. Underwhelming results, including a succession of draws, has seen Newcastle slip to 10th in the Premier League. Yet the Magpies have hit top form at just the right time, with former Red Gabriel Obertan imperssing on Thursday.

“You can bet your life this place is going to be rocking on Sunday after that performance,” said Pardew after Newcastle’s victory on Thursday night. “It is going to be a tough game for us and a tough game for Manchester United for sure.” (AM)

Of that there is little doubt.

Match Details
Newcastle United v Manchester United – Premier League, St. James’ Park – Sunday 7 October 2012, 4pm

Possible Teams
Newcastle (4-3-3): Harper; Perch, Williamson, S Taylor, Santon; Bigirimana, Gutierrez; Ben Arfa, Cisse, Ba. Subs from: Elliot, Ferguson, Tavernier, Anita, Cabaye, Tiote, Obertan, Sh Ameobi, Sa Ameobi

United (4-2-3-1): Lindegaard; Rafael, Ferdinand, Evans, Evra; Scholes, Carrick; Nani, Rooney, Kagawa; Van Persie. Subs from: De Gea, Büttner, Wootton, Powell, Giggs, Anderson, Cleverley, Fletcher, Macheda, Hernández, Welbeck.

Officials
Referee: H Webb
Assistants: M Mullarkey, D Cann
Fourth Official: K Friend

Form
Newcastle: DDDWLD
United: WWWWLW

Head-to-Head
Last 10: Newcastle, United, Draw
Overall: Newcastle, United, Draw

Stats

  • Newcastle fans were spared defeat last week with talismanic frontman Demba Ba scoring twice in the second half against Reading to ensure a point returned north with the Magpies;
  • Jonas Gutierrez turned in a typically hard-running performance against, covering 5.37 miles, the most of any Newcastle player;
  • French midfielder Hatem Ben Arfa continues to trouble defences this season, making nine dribbles to date – he is joint second on the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index;
  • Papiss Cisse’s performances this season have been aided by the player’s speed – the striker clocked 20.26mph, the quickest of any player on the park last weekend;
  • Defender Mike Williamson has gone quietly about some solid defensive work so far this season, making 31 interceptions and 5 blocks;
  • Michael Carrick covered 6.67 miles against Spurs last weekend, in a team total of 64.46 miles – a season high;
  • Carrick has also received the ball more than any other United player, having been passed to 420 times by his teammates this season;
  • At 37 Paul Scholes’ enduring influence remains – no other player in the United squad has completed more passes in the opponent’s half than the midfielder – 189;
  • Jonny Evans was United’s quickest player against Spurs – recorded at 19.96mph;
  • Bought for his creativity, Shinji Kagawa’s defnesive work has been surprising – the former Borussia Dortmund has successfully won 86 per cent of tackles attempted so far this season.

Prediction
1-1

Rant Cast 125 – Pundit-tastic

October 5, 2012 Tags: Rant Cast 2 comments

On this week’s Rant Cast we look back at Manchester United’s defeat to Tottenham Hotspur at Old Trafford; the Reds’ second Premier League loss of the campaign to date. We ask why United can’t seem to stop shipping cheap goals this season, and whether it’s the defence, midfield, Sir Alex Ferguson, or all three that’s to blame.

We review United’s away victory at CFR 1907 Cluj in the Champions League – a game in which Ferguson’s men came from behind to secure three points with a fine double from Robin van Persie. Just four more points in as many games should ensure that the Reds reach this season’s knock-out rounds.

Also on the pod this week – your questions, the Ashley Grimes scarf competition winner, our view on the best and worst TV pundits.

Finally, we look ahead to United’s trip to Tyneside to face Newcastle United this weekend. Can Ferguson’s side avenge the 3-0 loss at St. James’ Park last season?

Hit us up with any feedback below or follow the pod on Twitter: Paul – @UtdRantCast, Ed – @UnitedRant.

And if you really love the show, you can always help cover our bandwidth and equipment costs by making a small donation!

Stream this episode using the player below or listen on iTunes and leave us a review! The podcast RSS feed is available here.

van Persie ‘on the way’ to United super-stardom

October 4, 2012 Tags: , Opinion 14 comments

“I think I’m on the way,” said an understated Robin van Persie after the striker bagged his sixth and seventh goals in a Manchester United against Romanians CFR Cluj on Tuesday night. Indeed, such has been the Dutchman’s immediate impact since a £24 million transfer from Arsenal during the summer that neither player, nor club, could have hoped for a better start to the striker’s time at Old Trafford.

Expensive luxury perhaps, especially with United is such desperate need in other areas of the squad, but van Persie’s goals have already contributed nine points in the Premier League alone. The striker’s double secured Champions League victory this week, with United seeking to qualify with games to spare.

Such has United’s reliance been on the 29-year-old’s goals that the somewhat ironic cry of ‘one man team’ now rumbles amid disaffected opposition supporters – particularly those from north London.

Leading the line in Wayne Rooney’s absence this season, van Persie scored his first in United’s victory over Fulham at Old Trafford in late August, hooking home a left-footed volley. Then came a hat-trick in a dramatic 3-2 win over Southampton at St Mary’s, with van Persie scoring twice as United came from behind to snatch a winner in injury time.

The variety of strikes has been stunning too; headers, those with the right, and that devastating left so honed at the Emirates over the past eight seasons. Frequently it is the quality of strike that has left the United support, home and away, breathless. Van Persie’s second against Cluj – latching onto a lofted Rooney pass – and steering home with a stunning finish is so typical of the man.

“The second one was maybe my best for United,” admitted van Persie.

“I have to look at it again, but it felt good when it came off. Everything starts with a good pass so I have to thank Wayne, because not many players can give a pass like that.

“It was good build-up play before the goal and, when it came to him, I knew he could see that pass and actually give it exactly the way I wanted, so credit to Wayne. I think it’s the first time we both started together and we’re both very pleased with that, but we’re all in it together.”

Even if van Persie’s quality has shone through at the business end of the pitch, there has been criticism of the Dutchman’s all-round contribution. Sir Alex Ferguson’s decision to deploy the striker at the head of a 4-2-3-1 formation has limited the former Feyenoord striker to that of goal-getter and not provider.

The goal-a-game tally renders the debate moot, of course, although van Persie’s determination has always been prevalent.

“I’d like to make more assists,” adds the striker. “I have seven goals but for me, as I’ve said many times, it’s not only about goals. Of course it’s about winning, but I want to make more assists. Until now, I gave only one so I want that to improve a bit. I’m on a good run but I can always do better.”

While there is no question about van Persie’s permanence in Ferguson’s side, the 70-year-old must juggle up to nine attacking players into, at best, four roles. If van Persie retains the senior striking role for United’s most important games then Rooney, as on Tuesday in Romania, is likely to deployed in a far deeper position. Much as the former Evertonian performed last season.

This may suit the Englishman’s understanding of space and subtlety of pass, but others will now be deployed as square pegs in round holes, or not at all. Indeed, Shinji Kagawa – so impressive earlier this season – may increasingly be limited to the left side of midfield or, as on Tuesday, Ferguson’s bench.

Danny Welbeck, Javier Hernandez, Antonio Valencia, Nani and Ashley Young command no guarantees either – likely competing for just one place in Ferguson’s side for the biggest games.

Yet, for all the talk of van Persie’s contribution it is easy to understate Rooney’s continued  importance to United’s cause. If not in terms of absolute goals – the striker bagged 34 in all competitions last year – then at least continuity of attacking play.

“A lot of people were talking when Robin was playing on his own, but people mustn’t forget what Wayne Rooney has done for this club,” said Patrice Evra.

“He showed that when he came on against Tottenham and he showed that against Cluj. Wayne is working very hard and he is showing that he loves the club, that he is prepared to fight. Like everyone at the club you have to fight to play every game.

“I am happy for Manchester United, Wayne and Robin. When a new player comes then everyone is talking about that. But the players who were already at the club have to show they will never die.

“When someone new comes, everyone is excited and forgets the old things. It’s why Wazza has to show everyone. Me too, and everyone has to play their best to play for this team now.

“Robin’s an amazing player and that’s good but everyone will want to show they can play with Robin or replace Robin. The star is the team not one player.”

In this Evra is, of course, right. And the Frenchman hits on Ferguson’s strategy this season in retaining so many attacking players. Where paucity of options limits the Scot’s choices in midfield, and injuries have hampered United’s back-four, Ferguson can have no such complaints up-front. In fact early season injury to Rooney, Valencia and Young has impacted little on Ferguson’s plethora of attacking options to date.

But it is luxury not the commodity Ferguson sought in his new Dutchman; the subtlety of finish that will bring goals against the very best at home and abroad. van Persie may never offer value, at least not in the Glazernomic sense, but the 29-year-0ld is already vitally important to the United cause.

On his way to super-stardom? van Persie may already be there.

Preview: CFR 1907 Cluj v United

October 1, 2012 Tags: , Matches 60 comments

Sir Alex Ferguson left a rash of players at home as Manchester United chase a second win in this season’s Champions League group stage. Fresh from defeat to Tottenham Hotspur at the weekend, and a drab victory over Galatasary on match-day one, Ferguson flew with a stripped-down squad to Romania’s third largest city on Tuesday. Victory over CFR 1907 Cluj will bring the Reds to within four points of likely qualification for the knock-out stages of this season’s competition.

It promises to be a testing fixture against the Romanian champions, who knocked out FC Basel in the Champions League preliminary round this season. Basel’s victory over United in Switzerland last season consigned the Reds to the Europa League for the first time since 2005.

Ferguson will be without midfielders Antonio Valencia, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and Michael Carrick, together with a trio of defenders for the tie at the atmospheric Stadionul Dr. Constantin Rădulescu. Valencia is out with a bruised ankle, while Giggs and Carrick are each suffering from a virus.

Scholes has been rested after playing 90 minutes against Spurs on Saturday and should return for United’s Premier League trip to Newcastle United next weekend.

However, Ferguson will at least be able to field two fit centre-halves after Jonny Evans recovered from a dead leg sustained against Spurs at the weekend. The Northern Irishman will partner Rio Ferdinand in central defence, with captain Nemanja Vidić, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones all on the sidelines.

Despite – or perhaps because of – the threadbare squad Ferguson says United will show The Railwaymen every respect on Tuesday night. United beat compatriots Oțelul Galați home and away last season.

“They’ve beaten Basel twice and Basel knocked us out so we need to give them every respect,” said Ferguson of Tuesday’s opponents.

“CFR are a team who defend quickly and get plenty of bodies behind the ball. Their main strength is the counterattack, as they showed against Braga. Counterattacking is very important in European football these days. Their strongest point is they have got three points. They play us tomorrow and then two games against Galatasaray. They need seven more points from five games and they will qualify.”

CFR 1907 Cluj v Manchester United, Champions League, 2 October 2012Ferguson kept his squad back at Carrington a day longer than is usual prior to Champions League fixtures after the Reds lost 3-2 at home to Spurs at the weekend. United’s performance in the first half of the reverse was arguably the worst of the campaign to date. United rallied in the second period, but failed to turn the match around for a second Premier League defeat of the season.

Indeed, in conceding three against Andre Villas-Boas’ north Londoners United has now shipped twice or more for the third time this season. It is a defensive record that will again be tested in Cluj-Napoca – the unofficial capital of Transylvania.

“We made the decision to train at home because most of the time when you train abroad you can’t do anything because everyone is watching,” added Sir Alex.

“Training at Carrington this morning allowed us to do things around picking the team and tactics. Our second half against Spurs on Saturday was probably our best performance of the season, but you have to be concerned with the way we lost the goals. We were well off the pace of the game.”

Ferguson is likely to recall Wayne Rooney for the clash, with the Scouser central to a dominant attacking performance in the second period against Tottenham. The fixture may also offer Darren Fletcher a second start of the campaign, especially given Ferguson’s need to juggle limited resources in central midfield. At least one of Tom Cleverley and Anderson should also feature.

Meanwhile, Cluj coach Ioan Andone has Vasile Maftei available after the defender served a one-game suspension on match-day one. However, Ciprian Deac, Adam Vass, Bakary Sare, and Ronny all miss out with injury.

Much traveled Andone is with his 13th club as a manager in a career that has taken the former international defender from Romania, to Saudi Arabia, Bulgaria and Cyprus. Once considered one of Romania’s best defenders, Andone played in Netherlands and Spain before taking up coaching as a 33-year-old.

In seven seasons as a player with Dinamo, Andone won two league titles and three Romanian Cups as well as reaching the European Cup Winners’ Cup semi-finals. Andone joined CFR for a second spell as manager in April 2012, claiming the league title a month later.

“I met United when I was coach of Dinamo Bucureşti, but that was two different teams, two different scenarios,” said Andone of the 2004 preliminary round fixture that United won 5-1 on aggregate.

“Now CFR have a few players with experience in the Champions League, and we have the whole of Romania behind us. I hope our enthusiasm will make a difference. If we manage to score, we will have a chance. I don’t think you can speak about fear against United.”

Indeed, after Galatasaray ran United so close at Old Trafford on match-day one there should be little to fear from Ferguson’s men, who have failed to excel in Europe’s premier competition for more than a year.

Yet, Cluj has shown mixed form in the campaign to date, beating Basel twice in the preliminary round and then SC Braga on match-day one, but slipping to sixth in Liga I Bergenbier. Cluj beat Gloria Bistriţa 5-1 on Saturday, but has suffered two domestic defeats to date this season.

Match Details
CFR 1907 Cluj v Manchester United – Champions League, Stadionul Dr. Constantin Rădulescu – Wednesday 2 October 2012, 7.45pm

Possible Teams
Cluj (4-5-1): Felguerias; Pinto, Cadu, Rada, Sepsi; Mureşan, Alberto, Sougou, Bastos, Camora; Kapetanos. Subs from: Mincă, Maftei, Alberto, Sepsi, Bjelanović, Piccolo, Valente, Godemèche, Pedro, Aguirregaray, Nicoară, Buş, Sougou

United (4-2-3-1): De Gea; Rafael, Ferdinand, Evans, Evra; Fletcher, Cleverley; Nani, Rooney, Kagawa; Van Persie. Subs from: Lindegaard, Büttner, Wootton, Keane, Powell, Anderson, Macheda, Welbeck, Hernández.

Officials (all Spain)
Referee: Alberto Undiano Mallenco
Assistant referees: Roberto Díaz Pérez del Palomar, Jesús Calvo Guadamuro
Additional assistant referees: Carlos Gómez, Javier Estrada Fernandez

Form
Cluj: DWWLWW
United: WWWWWL

Head-to-Head
This is the first meeting between the sides

Prediction
0-2