Author Denys.Koval

Author Denys.Koval

Rant writers on the year ahead

, , and January 1, 2015 Tags: , , Opinion 24 comments
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Say goodbye to 2014. It was a year that started horribly for Manchester United with a home defeat to Tottenham Hotspur and ended with the club on the up, albeit with a draw against the same opposition. Hello, then, to 2015: a year in which United will, well, we’re not quite sure… but United Rant’s writers peaked into the crystal ball and had a guess…

In the end United will be short – well short – of the title contenders this season, although the improvement in results has been really good since November. By May United might be 10 points adrift of the title winners, which will probably be Chelsea, although José Mourinho’s side could suffer for lack of squad depth.

It’s been so long since United put together a decent FA Cup run. Surely this is the year for United to have a real crack at it, although the loss to MK Dons demonstrates that United’s trip to Yeovil Town next week is going to be no easy ride.

The summer market is critical, although it’s hard to see the Glazers signing off on another £150 million spend. That said few predicted last summer’s splurge either. Louis van Gaal could really do with a couple of high-quality defenders: a right-back as cover or replacement for the perennially injured Rafael da Silva, and an experienced central defender who is not prone to injury!

United could do with another combative midfielder. Marouane Fellaini was supposed to be it, but he’ll never be good enough at Champions League level. Kevin Strootman is the obvious name, of course, although Arturo Vidal would be the ‘gold-medal’ level signing. Then there’s the question of what happens with Radamel Falcao and Robin van Persie. It’s hard to see both at the club beyond the summer.

There will be some departures too. None of United’s defenders, bar Luke Shaw and Marcos Rojo, are safe. Neither is Antonio Valencia or, sadly, Ander Herrera and Juan Mata. It’ll be a very bleak day if David de Gea leaves for Real Madrid, but it’s not unlikely.

In the end Van Gaal’s philosophy will be attacking, possession-based football in which United dominate matches. The Dutchman simply doesn’t have the personnel for it to be fully implemented just yet. If that’s still the case after next summer the club will have let Van Gaal down.

United will push City and Chelsea much harder for the title in 2015/15. Expect United to be very close to the top by this time next year.

Second half of the season XI: De Gea; Rafael, Jones, Rojo, Shaw; Herrera, Carrick, Di Maria; Mata; Falcao, Rooney
Next season’s XI: De Gea; Aurier, Jones, Hummels, Shaw; Herrera, Vidal; Di Maria, Mata, Januzaj; Falcao

By May 2015 United will probably have secured third spot. Even though United has overtaken some pretty serious point differences in the second half of the season over the years the team will finish a dozen points behind City and Chelsea. A nice FA Cup run is overdue and it would be great to win it and break a good record for a change.

Next summer’s transfer market will bring one or two solid defenders. If the Dutchman delivers results this season United won’t return to Glazeronomics just yet, even though, sadly, it looks inevitable in the long run. There won’t be another Angel Di Maria/Radamel Falcao “holy s**t, that’s actually happening!” moment this summer, but it’s always welcome.

Some players will leave too and that’s looooong overdue. It’s not good to call United’s players ‘dead wood,’ but, unfortunately, that’s what some of them have become. Let’s hope Van Gaal shows strength of character and good judgement here. Whether David De Gea stays is more important though. Don’t break our hearts, Dave. Please, pretty please? It would even be worth paying Anderson to stay and be the fool to your king. Perhaps that was the plan all along!

In 2015 we will discover what Van Gaal’s philosophy really is… or not. The Dutchman can be quite pragmatic if necessary. Maybe there’s no philosophy as such; just pragmatism and some common sense. The greatest trick that our Devil has ever pulled was to convince everyone that the philosophy exists. The hope is that Van Gaal sorts out the defence – the transfer window should help – sticks with a specific formation, and gets some luck with injuries. And then “let it flyyyy.”

After all that next season United will finally become a title contender again – at least, that’s the plan. Of course, football can be cruel sometimes. As Liverpool demonstrated ‘up’ is not the only way after a good season. Fans should remain wary until the league is United’s again. It’s hard to believe that it has been only been two seasons since the last title, but so far Van Gaal looks like a man who can bring the “not arrogant, just better” attitude back. Here’s to that!

Second half of the season XI: De Gea; Carrick, Jones, Rojo; Rafael , Blind, Herrera, Young; ;Di Maria; Falcao, Rooney
Next season’s XI: De Gea; Rafael, Hummels, Jones, Shaw; Bale, Blind, Herrera, Di Maria; Rooney, Falcao

United will have made the Champions League by the end of the season. City will probably win the Premier League after fatigue catches up with Chelsea given the Londoners’ lack of rotation so far. The winter transfer window might bring United a solid right-back, which may help a push for the title, though probably not enough. United has produced in big games this season and other ‘big’ clubs are either in a free fall or still in Europe. Van Gaal has historically done well in cup competitions and an FA Cup victory is definitely possible this season.

Next summer’s transfer market will bring a classy right-back and a world-class winger. All that Gareth Bale talk is indicative of something and Borussia Dortmund’s Marco Reus is also available. Herrera may end up in jail and Fellaini is no long-term option – expect Van Gaal’s golden boy Kevin Strootman to come to Old Trafford. Despite popular opinion a new central defender is not priority next summer. United will defend with organisation and not personnel and there are few established defenders to suit van Gaal’s high line anyway.

Anderson and probably Chris Smalling will leave the club – the Brazilian’s contract is up anyway. Jonny Evans will probably survive given his ‘left-footedness.’ Up front Ramadel Falcao will leave – James Wilson is promising. United will have to cut back what has become one of the biggest wage bills in Europe to clear for new arrivals. Falcao simply hasn’t performed. Antonio Valencia will be free to leave as well, though his high wages will be a stumbling block. Ashley Young will probably survive since he can fill in at any position on either flank.

In the next year Van Gaal’s philosophy will emerge and it’ll look something like Bayern Munich’s when he was manager there: a 4-2-3-1 with a focus on the flanks. It is indicative that Van Gaal has heavily relied on width despite playing winger-less systems, with Young and Valencia used as wing-backs. Wayne Rooney is very much like Thomas Muller. The German isn’t all that gifted technically. Van Gaal may even start playing a Bayern style 4-2-3-1 this season if Adnan Januzaj can find some form.

Next season United will win the Premier League. There will be no screwing about when the 2015/16 season begins. That extra 10 points in first 10 games of 2015/16 will bring the trophy back to Old Trafford. United probably won’t have the defence to hold off Barcelona or Real Madrid, but a new world-class winger may see the Reds sneak into semi-finals of the Champions League.

Counterattacking is in vogue and van Gaal is one of ‘counter-counter’ pioneers. Van Gaal will certainly relish the challenge.

Second half of this season XI: De Gea; Coleman, Jones, Rojo, Shaw; Blind, Fellaini; Januzaj, Rooney, Di Maria; Van Persie
Next season’s XI: De Gea; Coleman, Jones, Rojo, Shaw; Strootman, Blind; Januzaj, Rooney, Di Maria; Van Persie

United will finish the season, probably, in third place. Maybe second. As Ed said on the podcast last week, expectations have been reset and finishing fourth from here would be kind of disappointing. We’ll have seen a number of much better performances, and won the derby at Old Trafford. The FA Cup tie with Yeovil is slightly worrying – we might lose in the third round!

Next summer’s transfer market will be a slight anti-climax after last season’s. There won’t be a marquee signing to rival Di Maria or Falcao, but United will add sensibly in defence and midfield. Right-back is the position that most needs to be addressed with Rafael injured all the time. At least the injured centre backs have cover.

Some will leave too, including, sadly, Falcao. I have rarely wanted a player to work out as much as Falcao at United, but it seems not to going that way. He’s got four months to save the dream. One of Smalling, Phil Jones or Jonny Evans will leave — each good enough for United, none fit enough for United.

In 2015 we will discover what Van Gaal’s philosophy really is … and it’s that Christmas really is the most wonderful time of the year. Grinning from ear to ear when lighting the tree, giving the players the day off on Christmas, handing out presents. He loves it. Seriously though, his philosophy has changed over the years, and the best short hand for where it currently sits is something along the lines of ‘play the best, most attractive, football you can with the players at your disposal.’

After all that, next season, United will win the league. AGAIN!

Second half of this season XI: De Gea; Rafael, Jones, Rojo, Shaw; Herrera, Carrick, Di Maria; Rooney; Falcao, Van Persie
Next season’s XI: De Gea; Rafael, Godin, Jones, Shaw; Strootman, Herrera, Rooney; Di Maria, Falcao, Bale

Media Digest – Attack! Defend! BlackLab!

October 24, 2014 Tags: Opinion No comments
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Over at United Rant we spend the week spent catching up on the beautiful game so you don’t have to. News, opinion, blogs and nonsense – join us, in Rant’s weekly round-up of Manchester United press – Media Digest.

“I know I’m not forgiven, but I hope that I’ll be given some peace”

Whilst defence remains United’s biggest concern this season, United’s forwards – bar the brilliant Angel Di Maria and, to some extent, Falcao – have not performed to the level expected. Whether it is Wayne Rooney’s leadership qualities, Juan Mata’s inability to orchestrate the game, or, of course, the curious case of missing Robin van Persie, United’s attacking unit appears dysfunctional.

A lot has been written about Rooney and this week is no exception – as usual, there are different takes on his persona. An article on Bleacher Report compares Rooney to Carmelo Anthony of the New York Knicks, always putting up numbers but never leading his team to glory. Another, on Red Mancunian, suggests that supporters finally judge Wayne by his ‘footballing’ contributions, and nothing else. Many agree, though, that Rooney’s contribution is diminishing – as one commentator put it, the Scouser is a Rolls Royce with too many miles on the clock.

United fans have already read all the arguments for and against, so perhaps it’s time to move on. Take Red Rants, for example, which takes look at how things are going so far for two forwards signed by United and Liverpool this summer:

“It really is spectacular how positive many Liverpool fans were regarding the signing of a player who had the lowest shot conversion rate of any player in the top tiers in Europe last year for AC Milan. The same player that in all of his 54 premier league appearances only managed two assists… Though Falcao has so far failed to be a regular feature on the score sheet, he has two assists and a goal to his name within considerably less playing time. Currently there is one player who’s more likely to be at the top of the brightly coloured Sky Sports info graphics and he isn’t named after a plumber… But of course Liverpool fans aren’t bothered by the sale of Luis Suarez as like anyone who dares to leave them, they never liked him anyway.”

Meanwhile, Bleacher Report ponders Mata’s recent form:

“Look at his record at United last year… His 14 starts and six goals (as well as four assists) was a very decent return, and he played an impressive role for United in the second half of last season. This season is different though; with Mata struggling to find his place in this team, his performances have ultimately suffered. And glancing even further down his career record, you begin to see a similar path unfold during his time at Chelsea… It is a story not too dissimilar to Shinji Kagawa and his relationship with David Moyes… If Van Gaal is keen on Mata and wants to work with him during his tenure as United manager, he must alter things to ensure Mata is in a role that suits him on the ground.”

But even if fans are concerned with United’s current forward line many have performed admirably over the years. Rooney, van Persie, and former United players Cristiano Ronaldo and Dimitar Berbatov were all included in Opta’s top 10 forwards of the past decade, as reported by The Peoples Person.

“After the fall, nobody knows, nobody helps… Surrender.”

Elsewhere, the rule ‘the less said about it, the better’ could be applied to United’s defence. There is no chance fans can ignore the issue of late, but rather than focus on the negative, some have chosen to look on the bright side. Rob Dawson, in his article for Bleacher Report, hopes that Tyler Blackett and Paddy McNair are the future of Manchester United

“[Van Gaal] didn’t envisage giving first-team debuts to Tyler Blackett and Paddy McNair this season. But that’s what has happened… There have been flashes of naivety, but that’s to be expected. What perhaps wasn’t expected was McNair keeping Everton’s Romelu Lukaku unusually quiet in just his second senior game. Blackett, 20, and McNair, 19, need to fill out physically. And they’ve both got more to learn about what can only be called the art of defending… But young players do not get many chances in top-level senior football. And it’s a credit to United’s academy that two youngsters have been able to make the most of theirs.”

Meanwhile, Stretty News suggests fans finally stop looking for the new Roy Keane, who has been much in the news of late:

“If another Keano is going to be found then it won’t be done by simply buying him in as many have suggested with Vidal. It will be crafted from a raw, raging diamond at United as Keane was and as Ronaldo was… Vidal, brilliant as he is, is not United’s next Keane. Can anyone imagine Roy teasing a move all summer via his agent, social media and the newspapers throughout a summer? Not a chance… It won’t be Daley Blind either, he’s the ice to Keane’s fire but still a quality and clever footballer who massively improves us nonetheless. It could be Herrera, he has Keane’s combative nature and relishes the physical side of PL [but] seems abit too boyish and happy-go-lucky. It definitely is not United’s current captain, he shares some of that rage but it’s toned down these days and when it does show it’s petulant and counterproductive…

Maybe the conclusion is to stop this never ending quest for a man to fill the boots of, as Rob Smyth once described him, the Tony Soprano of football… Just be happy be happy with a new team of damn fine players giving some optimism to Old Trafford again.”

As for Keano? He is, well, funny. At least that’s what Jim White thinks as he profiles Keane in an article for The Telegraph:

“A man who has a reputation as being, well, frankly psychotic, latterly seen on television terrifying the living daylights out of Adrian Chiles or scowling on the Aston Villa bench while wearing a beard of biblical scale, turns out to have the timing of a stand-up comedian. He is also hugely self-deprecating, relaxed and indiscreet. Against all preconception, an evening in his company provides a wholly unexpected opportunity to roar with laughter.”

United Rant recently reviewed Keane’s latest book for those who haven’t yet read it.

“You are out of promises that you can’t keep”

Meanwhile, Keane’s best friend and biggest foe, Alex Ferguson (Keane is reluctant to use “Sir”), is trying his best to argue that the David Moyesdisaster wasn’t his faultThe Guardian, is not buying it:

“For the most part, the general tone is one of sympathy for Moyes. Yet there is a killer passage about the way his successor slowed down United’s playing style, along with the other observations that it was a “massive jump from Everton” and “he hadn’t realised just how big United is as a club.”

“Surely people don’t really believe the Glazer family would allow the new manager to be chosen by one person?” writes Ferguson in his updated biography. Well, actually, yes they do. Unless, of course, we are expected to believe that it was Joel, Bryan, or Avi perhaps, who decided the best candidate was the manager from Everton, with next to no Champions League experience, no previous trophies, and no form when it comes to working with a major budget.

“It would be intriguing to know if Moyes was aware of [conversations with Ferdinand and Evra], because if not, this is straying dangerously close to Sir Matt Busby and Frank O’Farrell territory – exactly what Ferguson said would never happen,” conclused Taylor. Well, quite.

And, in case you were wondering, Moyes is ready to manage again, says the BBC.

More reading…

Daily Mail reports that Di Maria will play against Chelsea
Retro United rolled out its United History subsite
Sky Sports quotes Bryan Robson, who criticizes Roy Keane
Bleacher Report has a story about a father, who auctions his son’s loyalty to either United or City on Ebay, all for a good cause

Media Digest: ugly, pretty and Birdy

October 6, 2014 Tags: Opinion 3 comments
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For many, Sunday is a day spent in the company of family and friends, reading that unfinished book, or watching a new episode of a favourite show. Over at United Rant it’s spent catching up on the beautiful game. Join us, in Rant’s weekly round-up of Manchester United-related news and blogs – Media Digest.

“God knows what is hiding in those weak and drunken hearts”

Former United player Rio Ferdinand has had much to say about Kick It Out in recent days. “We are in a better place now, but there is still work to be done,” said Herman Ouseley, chairman of Kick It Out, reflecting on the past twenty years of the campaign. But as Jonathan Allsop writes in his blog, there is still a long way to go before racism, sexism and homophobia is kicked out of football.

“It’s clear that we can’t rely on the so-called role models who play, manage, administer and commentate on our national game to set an example when it comes to fighting discrimination in all its forms. Malky Mackay and the League Managers’ Association are the latest in a long line of those whose bigoted views have disgraced the game including the likes of John Terry, Richard Scudamore, Ron Atkinson and Alan Green. And typically the BBC were only too happy to include the fascist Paolo di Canio as a talking head in its recent smugfest celebrating fifty years of Match of the Day. ‘Haha, look at the daft fascist pushing the referee over…’”

“Can’t help myself but count the flaws”

A lot has been written about Wayne Rooney: the brilliant, the stupid, the beautiful, and the ugly. He is the loved one, the hated one, the captain, and the embarrassment all at the same time. The debate stops only until Rooney produces the next best or the worst thing – and then it starts all over again. This time it’s the latter; Rooney’s red card against West Ham United and his perceived lack of leadership qualities – at least those beyond yelling.

Unsurprisingly, it looks like recent events failed to sway any of the camps, either pro- or anti-Rooney. Consider the titles: the Daily Mail leads with “Wayne Rooney is a success story and the haters can’t handle it.” Stretty News strongly responds with “Wayne Rooney: Petulant, pathetic, past his best!” The (anti)hero thinks his best years are yet to come, even if some wish they’d come elsewhere; after all, as that Daily Mail’s article states, once he becomes United’s all-time top goalscorer, he can laugh at all of us.

On the other hand, Jeremy Wilson put it perfectly when he said on Sky Sports’ panel dedicated to Rooney: “I always feel that there’s a simmering frustration that what has been a very, very good career has not quite gone to the stratosphere that you would hope.”

But should that make him a scapegoat? Sam Pilger, writing for Bleacher Report, does not think so, concluding that Rooney deserves more love at United.

“So Rooney didn’t become Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi? Deal with it. No other player in the last decade has either, so why single out Rooney?

“Denis Law demanded a pay rise from Sir Matt Busby in the 1960s and was transfer listed, and Eric Cantona, while serving an eight-month ban for kicking a Crystal Palace fan (now that was recklessness on a grand scale), also asked to leave in 1995. George Best didn’t even ask to leave; he simply walked out of Old Trafford without a backward glance in May 1972 by announcing his retirement the day before he turned 26 and fleeing to a beach in Spain. He returned 12 days later.”

However, there’s still a question of leadership – or lack of it. Jim White, in his column for The Telegraph, thinks that United need a new Keane:

“[Keane] was United’s conscience, providing purpose on the pitch, quick to remind colleagues of their responsibilities in the dressing room. For more than a decade his glowering brow epitomised the team’s relentless determination to win… This was a man whose very presence issued constant notice of the standard expected, the merest glance prompting memories of his own unyielding performance against Juventus at the Stadio delle Alpi in 1999. When Keane was around, nobody dared shirk. Where Keane went, everybody was obliged to follow. Such leadership qualities have become only more obvious since they have been no longer available. It is a vacuum which, according to Louis van Gaal, was particularly stark when the new manager arrived in Manchester at the start of this season.”

Oh, and that red card? Could Rooney’s stupidity might lead to something good? Red Mancunian’s Mark Nevin thinks it’s a blessing in disguise:

“It hands an opportunity to Juan Mata to prove that he can be a more effective option than the United skipper in the hole behind the two main strikers. It also moves Adnan Januzaj up the pecking order. We don’t want to see him burnt out, but with so many quality attacking players there’s a real danger of him not getting the game time he needs to continue his development. It also means someone else picking up the captaincy. I suspect, however, that after the three games there’ll be an even bigger question mark over his position as a regular starter and that Van Gaal may be forced to reassess his view of his leadership qualities.”

“I’ll be here giving it my best shot”

Forced by circumstances or not, Van Gaal has already given an opportunity to so many youngsters that it is almost possible to field a team of kids. Tyler Blackett has not only started a few games, but performed impressively too. In the Daily Mail Adam Crafton profiles the youngster, touching on the roots of the player’s dedication, United’s youth policy and Tyler’s professionalism:

“On Tuesday, United players were granted a day off but still Blackett came in, determined to push himself, picking over his performances and organising an extra session in the gym… It is not only his attitude that has struck Van Gaal and his close-knit team of advisers. For a defender, the goals against column is the ultimate measure of success, but coaches have been lifted by Blackett’s distribution. At home to QPR, 97.9 per cent of Blackett’s 97 passes were successful, a better record than any other United player on the day… The defender’s level-headed approach is admirable. His parents must take much of the credit. So too must the United academy, where Blackett first trained at the age of seven.”

Meanwhile, Red Mancunian’s Leo Nieboer contemplates what comes next for Blackett.

“Everything he does just evokes the persona of a really calm chap, you’d trust him to cut your hair during an earthquake. There’s certainly some further development that needs to happen… [but it] can only happen to certain extents depending on the players that surround you… Tyler Blackett is that unfortunate pupil, who has lots of potential and good qualities but can’t utilise it to a full extent because he is surrounded by a panicky and introverted weirdo, or in other words, Jonny Evans and Chris Smalling. The lack of leadership at the back makes life much harder for someone who is finding their feet in the Premier League. If pressure were alleviated more competently in defence then Blackett would be able to acclimatize and improve at a much faster rate.”

“Come make a mess of it. Shine!”

When Van Gaal first came to the club, the Dutchman made a promise to turn things around in three months. Even though he later changed the self-imposed deadline to a full year, it’s interesting to see just where the club is three months into Dutchman’s reign.

Ian Ladyman is not entirely convinced with van Gaal’s achievements thus far. In his article for Daily Mail he writes:

“United can look a completely different team within the space one match, never mind one week, and the reasons for this go deeper than an injury crisis… For all the technical quality of United’s offensive players – Herrera in particular looks a fine footballer – United continue to have difficulties retaining possession for long periods. Ferguson used to talk about suffocating opponents with possession but that trait began to slip away during his later years and it’s problem that went on to afflict Moyes’ United and is now causing difficulties for Van Gaal… A team that can look as devastating as any when it moves forward still spends too much time without the ball, despite the endless passing drills that Van Gaal asks his coaches to organise on a daily basis during first ream training.”

More reading…
The Daily Mail reports that Eric Cantona will be whipped in a film based around an orgy.
Daniel Taylor writes about the possibility of Cristiano Ronaldo’s return to United for The Guardian.
The Republik of Mancunia raised £1,605 for local charity.
The Peoples Person features a clip from Sir Alex’s playing days.

Media Digest – lost and found and Hank Moody

September 23, 2014 Tags: Opinion No comments
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For many, Sunday is a day spent in the company of family and friends, reading that unfinished book, or watching a new episode of a favourite show. Over at United Rant it’s spent catching up on the beautiful game. Join us, in Rant’s weekly round-up of Manchester United-related news and blogs – Media Digest, which in this issue covers not one, but the past two weeks.


The season has started! United has been four dull games late to the party, but after the international break fans finally got a chance to see a re-energized side in action. Even as the Reds were burning against Leicester City, one couldn’t escape the thought that this was somehow a small measure of progress. Slowly, United is getting there.

“Happy endings may get a bad rep, but they do happen.”

Few doubt that David Moyes’ time at United was a failure and he had mostly himself to blame. But did anything good come from the period? Paul Gunning suggests in his article for Republik of Mancunia that supporters should be at the very least thankful for the reality check the Scot provided:

“Sometimes, a period of illness can almost seem worth it as you begin to recover. You step back out into the world with fresh eyes and a greater appreciation for the beauty that surrounds you. It has always been there, but you had stopped noticing it; taken it for granted. Suddenly the future looks bright and you know that, even when things take a turn for the worse, you can draw strength from the memory of dark times in your past that you have negotiated.”

But even so, it wasn’t pretty. While fans are yet to hear many details, some are slowly surfacing. Rio Ferdinand provided the most recent in his autobiography. While Red Mancunian’s Mark Nevin was not fond of the revelations, he also notes:

“One of the first principles of effective man-management is not to allow yourself to get dragged into disagreements over issues that are at best peripheral: in other words, if you’re going to upset your employees, only do it over something important… Banning the eating of low-fat chips falls into the same category. Its impact on performance is almost certainly negligible: all it achieves is to annoy those at the receiving end of the dictum. ‘Win the person not the argument’ is another common management slogan… We may, in time, find similar criticisms levelled at Van Gaal… His control, however, is aimed squarely at those areas that impact on performance and team bonding and which will unquestionably make sense to the players under his charge..”

Things have definitely moved on since last April (for a memory refresh Beautifully Red reviewed United’s summer in .gif format.)  For one, the club finally spent some money. Does it mean United lost its identity and abandoned the ‘way of youthful?’ Almost every blog touched on this topic in recent times and the universal agreement is that the club’s identity is just fine.

The Peoples Person features a thorough look at the topic by Doc Joshi, who argues:

“The Class of ’92 played alongside the likes of Peter Schmeichel, Eric Cantona, Gary Pallister, Steve Bruce, Brian McClair and Denis Irwin – all seasoned professionals at the peak of their powers. They had players like Roy Keane and Andy Cole proven at the highest level who were yet to hit their peak years. It was a team filled with quality as well as promise. The point is not that we are abandoning our faith in youth but we are concentrating on elevating the first team to the standard expected of a Manchester United side… It is easier to bring in young players when you are in a position of strength.”

As Richard Cann notes in his article for Stretty News, “when it’s United different rules apply, for they are eternally damned if they do and damned if they don’t”. Cann then smashes critics’ doublethink:

“However, criticism of Woodward, Van Gaal et al since the early editions were printed on the morning of September 2nd has not only centred on the failure to recruit in certain areas. Instead, commentators aimed their arrows at the very overspending that many had insisted would be necessary weeks before and…actions considered to be betrayal of United’s fabled faith in youth and home-grown talent… Perhaps what is most remarkable about the claims that United have broken from their history and ushered in a new Galactico era is that it totally ignores Sir Alex’s time at the club prior to the Glazer takeover, when his United regularly broke the British transfer record and paid out what were vast sums for both young talents and proven quality.”

After all several young players have featured for United this season and quite a few are expected to follow the lead.

“You really have to want to quit. You gotta hit rock bottom.”

Late on 1 September Danny Welbeck left the club for Arsenal, breaking a few hearts and igniting an identity-lost-or-found-debate along the way. Whilst it was a good move for all parties concerned, many fans were disappointed to see the striker go: Manchester born and bred, saying goodbye to his boyhood club, dreams shattered. The scenes.

In his Hemingwayesque article for Red Mancunian (“write drunk, edit sober”), Joel Downings waxes lyrical:

“Our club’s identity is shaped by those who embody it. Players who ‘get it’, Danny Welbeck is a prime example of that… “When the ball went in, that feeling… if that feeling was a drug I would be dead!” Welbeck said of his first United goal.”

He then, soberly, adds:

“I write with a heavy heart but it’s for purely sentimental reasons I wish the transfer hadn’t happened. I trust in our manager’s vision and if it is felt that a youth product isn’t good enough for our first-team then I accept that.”

In the end, though, as William Dawson argues in his piece for Red Rants:

“The jokes hide the pain but it must be said that there is no sarcasm when wishing Danny the best of luck and saying he will be sorely missed… Hopefully one day after he’s developed into the world-class striker he has the potential to be, he might be back at Old Trafford. Danny Welbeck. Forever a Manchester Lad from Longsight. Our Danny.”


“All those things that weren’t supposed to happen? They happened. What happens next is up to you.”

Just like fans, journalists were concerned with United’s identity in the past fortnight. Unfortunately, for the most part, the fourth estate fell victim to the urge for sensationalism, with few offering a more honest assessment. One such author is Danny Taylor, who writes in his article for The Guardian:

“Check the history, Gill used to say, and it would show United had never gone in for buying superstars for huge sums when they could develop their own for nothing. If only that were true. Twenty-one different clubs have broken the British transfer record since Aston Villa made a Scottish inside-forward by the name of Willie Groves the first £100 player in 1893. United, however, are the only one to have done it eight times… United are not losing their soul. They are simply playing catch-up. It is probably their only way back and, if anything, the most legitimate criticism about them returning to the highest end of the market is that they should have done it long before now.”

Among those who insisted that United’s way will never change is Ryan Giggs. In his interview for The Telegraph he talks about Falcao, management, confidence, and what it’s like to work with Louis van Gaal.

“Obviously the manager – sorry, Sir Alex – had his ways of working, basically his man-management was brilliant, his knowledge was brilliant, but he left the day-to-day stuff to Steve McClaren, Brian Kidd, Carlos Queiroz, Rene and Mick. Louis is more hands-on regarding what we’re doing day to day, he takes the sessions. It’s all very precise. He’s very vocal during training, very keen to communicate exactly what it is he wants and expects. He is calm… Louis prefers to work on the training ground.”

The same outlet is also full of praise for United’s new signing Daily Blind. Alan Smith suggests that Blind brings game intelligence to United’s midfield and goes on to say:

“…it was clear right away how well Blind reads the game. Adept at offering the right angle to the man in possession, he kept the play moving smoothly with his one‑touch passing… Lacking the athleticism of Bryan Robson, the power of Roy Keane or the long-range vision of Paul Scholes, the new man compares more closely to Michael Carrick, who, when fit, might experience some problems finding a place in this side. Like Carrick, Blind is a continuity player also responsible for sniffing out danger and blocking off avenues. Not so much of a strong tackler, he goes about that defensive side leaning more on anticipation and interceptions.”

“You keep rolling with the marital discord, and I see you across from Oprah on a big yellow couch”

By the time Wayne Rooney retires he might have scored the most goals and submitted the most transfer requests in United’s history – and the joke will be on the fans. Should this be allowed this to happen?

Paul Parker thinks not. In his column for Yahoo! Sport he writes:

“That’ll leave Van Gaal with a big call to make: dropping Wayne Rooney… A few weeks ago, I read Jamie Redknapp’s column saying more or less the exact opposite – saying (ahead of the arrival of Di Maria and Falcao) that Rooney would be the only United player who’d get into the side at Chelsea or Manchester City. I actually laughed out loud when I read it, because it’s just total rubbish… He’s not a patch on the likes of Diego Costa or Sergio Aguero – and as we’ve seen in the past, rather than react by upping his game and sharpening up his act, he’s more likely to down tools and start sulking about his treatment. In retrospect he should probably have been sold to Chelsea last summer…”

Barney Ronay echoes Parker’s sentiment in the article for The Guardian:

“Enter: the Wazza Paradox. Here is a footballer who has been elevated to the pinnacle of what he could reasonably hope to achieve – captain of club and country – at precisely the stage in his career when he is no longer able to fulfil with genuine distinction either function… Above all he has lost that sense of absolute joyful certainty in his own powers, reduced instead at times to whirling about fretfully between the lines like a dying crab, eyes fogged with grit, gargling brine and scurf, pincers snapping at empty air.”

“Who gives diamonds to the homeless?”

What did the past two games, against QPR and Leicester City, have in common? The correct answer is: formation. United employed a midfield diamond, but to rather different outcomes. After a victory over QPR, Stretty News’ John Deehan was straightforward:

“Surely there can’t be many United fans out there, especially in the wake of the QPR game, who are gunning for a return to [3-5-2] which seemed so alien to the players it may as well have come under Chapter 2 in the David Moyes’ Big Book of Tactics – Chapter 1 being The Art of Crossing.”

Unfortunately, when it comes to properly defending with a diamond, United still has a lot of work to do. Pearson admitted: “We had done our research this week and their attacking options are frightening but the diamond formation they play leaves a lot of space behind the full backs and we looked to exploit that.” The press, led by Redknapp and Carragher, destroyed United’s defending much like their namesake Jamie Vardy did. while Gary Neville simply called United soft-centred.

Meanwhile former Liverpool midfielder Danny Murphy provided an interesting analysis of the game for BBC:

“The game should still have been in their control. Instead, they were nervous. When you are in that situation, leadership matters…In the past, Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic have been that voice, but they have gone and not been replaced. Instead, against Leicester, United had 20-year-old Tyler Blackett at the heart of their defence… The Leicester players were given far too much space. Blind got lots of praise this week for the way he shielded the defence against QPR and set the tempo with his passing – but that was a completely different game…This time, with the pace and energy of Leicester, plus the number of players they pushed forward, the game by-passed him a little bit… if United want to challenge against the top sides then they have to look at changing their system or their personnel…You could really only argue that Luke Shaw should be given a chance now, and that Phil Jones would play if he is fit. But that is it. So a change in system is probably more realistic.”

More reading…

Andy Mitten tells a great story for Scandinavia Supporters Club’s site.

Cristiano Ronaldo is a jealous of the attention United’s new signings are receiving, so claims The Telegraph.

Meanwhile, Daily Mail reports that Van Gaal ordered players, including Antonio Valencia, once Cristiano’s, ahem, replacement, to take English lessons. It is also reported that he ruled that players hand in their mobile phones the night before matches.

The Telegraph reveals how United attracts their superstars even without Champions League football.

Daily Mail reports on the termination clause in Radamel Falcao’s loan agreement if the Colombian’s knee injury returns.

“Nobody likes you. You’re ugly and your mother dresses you funny. Now smile, you fucking douche.” Did Hank describe a football agent? The Telegraph reports on Jorge Mendes’  big coup, while Sky Sports quotes Sporting Lisbon president’s rage over third-party ownership of players.

P.S. Sandy Busby passed away earlier this week. Rest in Peace.

Media Digest: departures, arrivals and the Kings of Leon

September 3, 2014 Tags: Opinion 1 comment
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Media Digest is United Rant’s weekly round-up of Manchester United-related news and blogs. This time, with the transfer deadline coming on Monday, we cover a little bit more than a week – including reaction to what was surprisingly the busiest day of a busy week.

Blogs resemble airport lounges at the moment – it’s all about departures and arrivals, at least for the past – and, certainly, next – nine days.

“Sex on Fire”

“United is not a big club anymore,” they said. “You can’t get big players without the Champions League,” their manager said. Well, look at that: here’s Angel Di Maria in the flesh at Carr… sorry, the Aon Training Complex. But, taking the mickey out of Scousers aside,  is Di Maria a luxury or, rather, a necessity? That’s the question that Leo Nieboer investigates in his article for Red Mancunian. He emphasizes that the Argentinean “provides 3 things that [our] midfield has sorely missed; speed, stamina and the conviction to go and beat players,” before straightforwardly concluding with “at the end of the day if you’re not happy about this guy joining the club then there is something seriously wrong with you.”

And if you keep dialing Drew Carey to ask whether the price is right, Republik of Mancunia has some interesting stats on Angel, as well as Gareth Bale, Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar, Luis Suarez, and James Rodriguez.

“This could be the end ’cause I ain’t got a home”

While United has finally spent big in a single transfer window, actually breaking a few British records by spending close to £150 million, another burning question remains: what do you do with all the underperforming players? Wayne Barton tackled the difficult task of defending a few of them or, at least, bringing some justice into the picture, in his article for the Talk of the Devils called “Defending the Dross Bros at United”. In it, Barton touches on the popular idea of Sir Alex Ferguson sabotaging the club:

“Ferguson won the league in his last season in charge so were these players really average? This is a very different question to asking if, in August 2014, they deserve to be at the club. Can we really be expected to believe that Phil Jones, David De Gea, Shinji Kagawa and Robin van Persie are players that the manager felt were average and that he was ‘pissing away’ money?.. Similarly, are United to blame for the escalation in wages? Perhaps they have contributed to the problem but are not solely responsible.”

And the dross bros? “They just weren’t good enough for United to build their next title winning squad around. And that’s not a crime.”

Indeed, but can you say that about some players’ lack of effort? Meanwhile, Doron Solomon looks into the curious case of Tom Cleverley for Stretford-End. Fourteen years into his relationship with United, Tom has left for yet another loan spell, which will be his last before he leaves the club for good. The hope, the brand, the scapegoat. “To many, the player built up unfairly as the next great central midfielder came to symbolise United’s demise in central midfield.” It seems like the right, but never perfect, time to say goodbye:

“Clearly, for both Manchester United and Tom Cleverley himself this is the right decision; his confidence is shot and United need a different type of player in midfield, especially as in the current plight they cannot afford any passengers. However, what has become of him was to some extent not his own doing… He is a good, hard-working professional who can at least leave having captained United; even though it was on a pre-season tour, this was something he was incredibly proud of… I hope he isn’t damaged beyond repair… Finally, those rejoicing at his departure have lost sight of what their football club represents. For all United’s success, it is the ability to bring players through from the academy to first team that is the most long-standing.”


“I see a storm bubbling up from the sea – and it’s coming closer”

The enigma that is Anderson Luis de Abreu Oliveira! Tipped to become bigger than Rooney – as was noted on Twitter, he did, in a way – he’s now the outcast at United with zero resale value. Describing Anderson’s fall for Daily Mail, Adam Shergold writes:

“Over the course of the last seven years, Anderson has spiralled from one of the hottest properties in world football to an overweight laughing stock. It is one of the biggest falls from grace the English game has ever seen.”

A sad story indeed.

Contrary pessimistic predictions just a few weeks ago it’s not all doom and gloom around Old Trafford on 2 September. Probably due to its unexpected nature, United’s deal for Ramadel Falcao’s became a cherry on top of our unusually busy transfer window cake. Henry Winter of The Telegraph thinks that even though United did not really need another striker, the deal makes sense in every possible way. He clearly admires the player:

“This is the real beauty of Falcao. Goals. Just ask his victims.”

The question is, how will United line-up now? In his column for The Guardian Jonathan Wilson thinks that Louis van Gaal will persevere with a 3-5-2 system:

“It was not thoughtless idealism, sticking to a philosophy come what may; above all else, he is a pragmatist, and, besides, 3-5-2 only became his preferred shape in March.”

Wilson also claims that United’s recent signings, such as Di Maria, support this theory – even though van Gaal has said that he might change the system to build the team around the Argentinean.

More reading…

You can’t lose with United: a  4-0 humiliation brought £1,250 to an absent-minded United fan – as reported by the Daily Mail.

The same outlet also reports on Borussia Dortmund selling 5,000 Shinji Kagawa’s shirts in one day, as the Japanese returns back to his former club. To put this into perspective, recent reports suggest that United sells on average nearly 1.5 million replica shirts per year – second only to Real Madrid.

Stretford End Flags seeks ideas for a new banner.

The Salford Star features a thought-provoking piece on the Class of ‘92 vs Salford City FC.

The beginning is the end is the beginning

August 30, 2014 Tags: Opinion 10 comments
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It is the metaphorical morning after Manchester United’s humiliating defeat to Milton Keynes Dons in the League Cup. Probably, one of the club’s worst performances in recent memory; right down there with any from the David Moyes era. Even considering that Louis van Gaal’s team was comprised mostly of youngsters, too few grabbed their chance and delivered. Least of all the experienced players. End of an era – quite possibly the last game in United’s shirt for many, including Javier Hernández and Shinji Kagawa, who desperately need a change of scenery. No happy endings there.

If supporters did wake up to welcome in a new era at United then it’s still five in the morning. With so many false starts fresh in memory the fear of the dark remains. The hope is that, at the second attempt, the dawn is finally here. The real question is: will it get darker yet?

How to describe this August? Probably, with what feels different: new faces. First, two of the club’s transfers this summer were long in the making, with both Ander Herrera and Luke Shaw targets under Moyes. In the case of the former, he came with a rather embarrassing history of negotiations. Both have proved to be popular with the fans though and are welcome additions to the squad, albeit not players to cure a chronically broken team alone. Between this and Manchester City appointing Moyes’ scout as a ‘European talent spotter,’ one might say that Scotsman’s short tenure was not without it’s bright spots. Granted, the same scout might lend to a ‘glass-half-full’ conclusion too.

Unfortunately expectations were set high from the start. Van Gaal’s results at the World Cup and those on tour – namely against Real and Liverpool – meant an overhyped beginning to the new season. Fans have waited too long for something to cheer and perhaps the excitement clouded everybody’s judgment. The collective should have known better than to believe all is back to normal in an instant, especially with so many experienced players leaving. It’s not as if there weren’t signs in pre-season, such as the dismal first half against Liverpool.

This squad needs major surgery though, both figuratively and literally, with so many players injured at the start of the campaign. Combine that observation with chronic underinvestment since 2005 and a last-minute approach to transfers, which is beginning to look habitual under Ed Woodward, and it’s no wonder that, once the competitive games started, United gave Moyesian performances: confused, lacking in pace, and weak at the back.

Indeed, Van Gaal has frequently argued that he needs time in a manner not unlike Moyes, albeit far more cocky. The Dutchman first predicted that it’s going to take three months to rebuild this team; he then changed it to a “maybe, more than a year.” Van Gaal has a bank of credit but fans might be more suspicious in time – he dared some to dream before realiszing the full complexity of the task at hand.

Of course, things change. New faces have arrived since the MK circus followed an unimpressive draw and opening defeat in the Premier League. Marcos Rojo wasn’t anybody’s first choice to strengthen the defence, but he might turn out a good buy. Meanwhile, with Ángel Di Maria’s acquisition, the pitiful excuse for owners and Woodward finally delivered on their many promises, bringing in a world-class player with the size of cheque required. Rumours persist – solidifying by the hour – that Daley Blind and perhaps Arturo Vidal are coming next. If the pair joins then it will bring to around £200 million the amount spent this summer and, more importantly, guarantee United boasts its strongest squad in years. Vidal, unlikely as it seems, might even replace Roy Keane almost 10 years after the Irishman left the club. It would bring many a tear to the eye.

And this is where this summer feels different. For all Moyes’ resentful musings in that Daily Mail interview, including the surreal boast that he wanted to bring Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo to the club, the Scot never looked like a man who could make things happen where it mattered. Just maybe, most of all, in the heads of United’s greedy American owners. Van Gaal, on the other hand, brings confidence, even a cockiness to the table. While this means something in itself considering the state of the team he has inherited, the Dutchman was also bold enough to publicly declare that he needed not just more players, but those of a high quality. One couldn’t escape the notion that if his bosses failed to deliver, Van Gaal could always just leave – a PR-blow that would cost more to the Tampa family than actually stumping up the sums required.

Ignoring for the moment that the Glazers have bled United dry for so many years – and will keep doing so for the foreseeable future – the ball is in Van Gaal’s court now. It is his turn to deliver. And United needs that now more than ever. If pre-season affected expectations, imagine if you will what Di Maria and, perhaps, Vidal in United’s midfield might do to the collective confidence! The thinking goes: if United wanted a Champions League spot before, shouldn’t the spending make the Reds genuine title-contenders?

Is it ridiculous to demand the title or, at the very least, a fight to the end? This time a year ago supporters were wary of that ambition; many would have been pleased with a good cup run and a Champions League place. Much has happened since. This is a club and a team still in transition, but now with a better manager, probably a better squad, and without the burden of Europe.

Those signatures remain an IF, although Blind is seemingly on the brink, so caution remains the word. Underpromise and overachieve and all that. Everything is so different and yet similar to a year ago.

Except, maybe, there’s one more thing required. Van Gaal strong-arming the Glazers into spending the club’s own money was a good start, but now it’s his team, his responsibility, and his time to deliver. By the end of this season we need to see the real United. Van Gaal’s United. The team is long due a new-found identity. Guarantee that and a Champions League place and, for now, anything else will be a pleasant bonus.

Van Gaal’s shaky start will be forgiven as part of the a process in finding the club’s new identity. This summer the Glazers finally walked the talk and, admit it, it feels nice. Confidence is up again. This is going to be, well, a year; a good one. It should be.

The Dutchman loves a challenge. Sir Alex Ferguson did too; his successor not so much. So now we wait. It’s five in the morning, but the day is almost here. As Gary Neville says: let’s attack it.

Media Digest: owners, captains and Arctic Monkeys

August 24, 2014 Tags: Opinion No comments
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For many, Sunday is a day spent in the company of family and friends, reading that unfinished book, or watching a new episode of a favourite show. Over at United Rant it’s spent catching up on the beautiful game. Join us, in Rant’s weekly round-up of Manchester United-related news and blogs – Media Digest.


This week, supporters were mostly concerned with the captain’s position, club owners and some of the players. That’s, of course, when they weren’t discussing transfer rumours – but this is Rant, so let’s not go there.

“Do me a favour, stop asking questions!”

Roy Keane, Cristiano Ronaldo, Paul Scholes – none of them was properly replaced. Despite all the talk, United has not been in the business of making big signings – Robin van Persie an exception to the rule in recent years. Now that Ferguson’s genius has gone too the truth that United fans knew long ago is plain – this squad needs a major surgery. This summer has again been one of disappointments, even though the club has already signed three players – with one more on the way next week, it seems. And the fans know whom to blame for that.

In a long list of articles on the topic a few stand out. In one of them, Doc Joshi reflects on transfer embarrassments for The Peoples Person:

Talks of “showdown” talks between Van Gaal and Woodward are not surprising and this United fan would love to be a fly on the wall of that meeting! I can just imagine King Louis tea-bagging Ed Woodward before handing in his resignation in the form of a #GlazersOut tattoo imprinted onto Woodward’s forehead. Van Gaal has nothing to prove and if the board don’t give him the tools he requires to succeed then he is likely to seek a final swansong elsewhere. And I for one wouldn’t blame him. At 63, he’s not likely to want a five year re-building project.

Dan from Red Rants wonders, furiously, whether Woodward is making promises he can’t keep:

“In the late 1970s… Bruce Springsteen used to add a verse to one of his signature songs… “You lied,” sang Springsteen, initially in a melancholic, matter of fact voice, before following the music’s crescendo to utter those words in a mixture of ferocious anger and disgust. Ed Woodward is nobody’s idea of a lost love, but, bar major surprises, United fans could soon be uttering those words soon… United have tolerated mediocrity for far too long and if the club is serious about ensuring last season was only a blip rather than the beginning of a new era, then Woodward must walk the walk instead of just talking the talk.”

Red Rants also has a suggestion on how to make fans’ feelings known to the Glazers.

“Then you would agree that there ain’t no romance around there”

So, Rooney is United’s new captain. If you are as psyched as we are, you’re not psyched at all. That’s the view also shared by Scott at The Republik of Mancunia, who writes:

“Maybe it’s silly of me to want someone who is properly committed to the club and doesn’t talk shit to be our captain. We can listen to Rooney talk of his pride and happiness at being captain of “this great club” and pretend he didn’t ask to leave twice within the space of three years to join our rivals. We can watch him kiss the badge after scoring and kid ourselves that this is a player who really loves Manchester United.”

He also notes that:

“But then maybe that’s just the way football works though. Whilst Nemanja Vidic didn’t behave like Rooney and his agent always denied transfer rumours, it was almost certain he was leaving us for Italy a few years ago. Then out of nowhere he signed a new contract and leapfrogged Patrice Evra, Rio Ferdinand and Ryan Giggs, who’d always worn the armband ahead of him in Gary Neville’s absence, to be named captain…”

That’s the opinion shared by many. Supporters might not always be very fond of all the things Rooney, but isn’t it time to move on? Darren from The Talk of the Devils certainly thinks so:

“When Roy Keane did it back in the 90′s and very publicly stated he wanted £100,000 a week or he was off the fans backed him. You can argue about whether you feel Keane is a better or more important player to United then than Rooney is now but they are just semantics. The key here is that the issue is exactly the same… Have you ever thought that Van Gaal has come in with a cold heart and cold eyes and simply looked at who is the most suitable candidate and chosen Rooney?.. Fans have to understand that players don’t love clubs like we do.”

Or to paraphrase the Arctic Monkeys: a kiss would be too much to ask.

“This House Is A Circus”

The enigma that is Nani will be missed at United – at least that’s what Old Trafford Faithful’s Fabby thinks. “He doesn’t deserve to be remembered by his last two seasons for the club. He deserves to be remembered by his two best seasons,” Fabby reminisces before wrapping up by noting:

“So he’s off. Off to a league for which he is most certainly too good. Off to play for his boyhood club Sporting Lisbon. A quiet exit for a player who could be world-class the first minute, and play like he had never played football before the next. Somewhere between genius and insanity, Nani will be missed. Perhaps more than we can imagine.”

Well, as far as Nani’s Sporting (re)debut goes maybe not so much: he missed a penalty and earned a yellow card before being substituted. Supporters will always cherish his penalty in Moscow though.

Meanwhile, Red Mancunian looks into the curious case of Nick Powell. The youngster’s absence on the US tour raised a few eyebrows and it was something of a strange relief to find out it was due to an injury and not having already fallen out of grace with the new manager.

“Powell’s loan spell at Wigan last season was very successful and he ended up top goal scorer at the Latics with 11 goals and got some great European experience playing in the Europa League. Though now the rumours have started to circulate that Powell was ready to go back to the Championship on loan… But considering United’s squad and lack of midfielders there isn’t really a reason why Powell shouldn’t get a decent go in the side unless new players are signed.”

Still, a new player has been signed, albeit not a midfielder. The Peoples Person comes up with reasons United fans will love Marcos Rojo. The Argentinian has a unique way to clear corners alright; made Robben look stupid once – this is a good one! – but then again, van Gaal loves Robben, so that’s kinda confusing too.

Also confusing: do the Glazers really think all is good now?


United’s poor start to the new season was a blessing for the mainstream press, giving birth to myriad speculation.

“Oh there’s a very pleasant side to you, a side I much prefer…”

There has been plenty written about United’s new manager, but in case you’ve missed something, the Guardian features The Van Gaal Dossier, which contains some interesting infographics and some very specific fonts.

Meanwhile, it’s finally happened. David Moyes offered an “EXCLUSIVE!!!” interview on the subject of his time at United – to Daily Mail. Undoubtedly the first of many to come. Of course, getting there first meant a good deal of drama for Mail’s reporters: “Inside, however, he is suffering. Not least because it is not in the nature of a proud, working-class Scotsman to be idle. He wants to work. He needs to work…”

“Do you want me crawling back to you?”

The state of affairs at United, with the apparent shortcomings in the transfer market – and, lately, the trophy cabinet too – pushed some outlets to dedicated space to the real source of United’s problems. The Guardian’s David Conn looks at how Glazers continue to thrive while “Manchester United flounder.” There should be more articles like this.

Former players are none too comfortable with the situation at United either. Unfortunately, while being honest and straightforward in his column for The Independent, Paul Scholes failed to mention Glazers once. Noted, Paul.

“I am scared for United. Genuinely scared that they could go into the wilderness in the same way that Liverpool did in the 1990s.”

More reading…

The Talk of the Devils features extract from John Ludden’s book “From the Stars” on United’s decline in 1968-74.

Darren Fletcher’s return to football is covered by Daily Mail.

Manchester Evening News looks at how United’s defeat to Swansea was reported by their colleagues.

Visually pleasing moments from the first game of the season can be found in gif form on Beautifully Red.

Daily Mail reports on City appointing Moyes’ scout as European talent spotter.

How Fergie stole Mancini’s Christmas

December 24, 2012 Tags: , Opinion 36 comments

“Whoever controls the media, controls the mind.”
Jim Morrison

When referee Michael Oliver blew the final whistle to confirm Manchester United’s first draw of the season, it was not hard to imagine Roberto Mancini gleefully rubbing his hands. Manchester City’s last-minute winner the day previous proved to be even more valuable after United, in a forgiving Christmas spirit, failed to score a much-needed second goal in Swansea.

Despite Mancini’s rivals sitting comfortably on the top of the Premier League table as the weekend kicked off, the Italian was just one of many cheering United’s result, waiting for the pressure to increase on Sir Alex Ferguson’s team as the packed festive season began.

However, much of the post-mortem ado had little to do with game itself, or even the narrowing gap in the title race. United’s missed chances, questionable individual performances or the timing of Sir Alex’ substitutions are lost amid the ridicule and outrage caused by the United manager’s post-match interview. Even United’s dropped points have been lost amid the hysteria.

“Robin van Persie is lucky to be alive,” blasted the Glaswegian in his post-match interview. “It was a disgraceful act from their player and he should be banned by the FA. Robin could have had a broken neck.”

On the surface it looked like Ashley Williams intentionally slammed the ball into van Persie’s head from just yards away, although few people were as concerned about the Dutchman’s life as Sir Alex. Fan’s take on Ferguson’s interview differed, but whether supporters considered the manager’s words strange, funny or embarrassing, it takes a drama queen to second the manager’s fears.

Indeed, van Persie proved to be very much alive seconds after the ball struck the 29-year-old; a case could even be made that the striker is lucky a slip of the foot came between him, Williams and a certain lengthy ban. The avoidance of death seemed a very long way from the action in that moment.

While many have taken on board a glorious opportunity to ridicule Sir Alex, it is not difficult to spot the great Scot’s true intentions. It is, after all, Sir Alex all over – what he always does after a bad result. And what do you know, the great British press have gladly taken the bait.

The Daily Mail featured a match report and one, two, three articles connected with the van Persie incident and Ferguson’s reaction to it – each has attracted more than twice as many comments as the actual match review. SkySports went further, leading with four pieces on the controversy to date.

Meanwhile, many other outlets – ESPN, the Guardian, BBC included –  feature at least two articles dedicated to the affair, often simply commentary on the FA’s inaction. Cheap copy – after all, who really wants to see Williams banned? It’s what stands for a mainstream media article these days, diverting attention from far more important issues, in football and the wider world.

That is to say nothing of the legion of wannabe experts for whom Sir Alex has brought an opportunity at their fifteen minutes this Christmas – a river of anger, hate and and retweets only an army of ABUs can deliver.

Flash forward to Wednesday; another day, another game and whatever some supporters may claim, Ferguson can’t buy games. But the legendary manager is always able to buy himself time. As for the critics? Ferguson can take the slings and arrows. To keep the team out of the dramedy is result enough.

The irony is that our nation’s media, and the fans that read, revels in a swathe of “Fergie’s lost the plot!” headlines. Few can deny themselves the pleasure of composing yet another list of supposedly outrageous actions by United players, simply because the opportunity is present. “In your face, Sir!” comes the cry.

Yet, as opposition supporters indulge in a game of hate the real winner, as always, is Ferguson. Those who have cried the loudest since Saturday provide the most compelling evidence that Ferguson still owns the plot. And unlike the Scot’s method of dealing with media at his weekly press conferences, this time fans can make jokes without that feeling of embarrassment.

Ferguson’s media theatre won’t make United defend better, but it is nonetheless impressive. Press drowning self-righteousness; ABUs going wild; Piers Morgan outraged.

But of course the only plot that really matters has United four points clear on Christmas Day. Despite the hysteria, life for United’s supporters is good. Roll on Wednesday and Newcastle United at Old Trafford.

Media Digest: derby drama, the fans and the Avengers

December 18, 2012 Tags: Opinion No 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 Manchester United-related news and blogs – Media Digest.


As bloggers sober from the derby win, after examining every moment in microscopic detail, rewatching Robin van Persie’s goal for the hundredth time, and wondering how lucky Rio Ferdinand is to retain two functioning eyes, Rant takes a look at the best articles of the week. (Hey, City, “There’s one more guy you pissed off… His name is Phil.“)

“I still believe in heroes”

Wow, just wow. More than a week has passed, but United fans are still pretty excited: the noisy neighbours are silent once again and the Reds go marching on (on, on!) The last 10 minutes prior to van Persie’s winner were pure agony, with Sir Alex Ferguson’s men first trying to not lose an advantage, then fighting to stay in the game.

But Sir Alex’ bold move, noted on this week’s Rant Cast, paid off big time. What seemed destined to become a story of injustice and despair turned out to be one with a fairy-tale ending. Victory is not revenge for the last season’s drama – nothing will, bar securing the Premier League –  but fans will settle for a derby win. For now.

And the moment when van Persie’s strike hit the net?

Steve Rogers: Stark, are you seeing any of this?
Tony Stark: Seeing, still working on believing.

There was fullsome praise for United in general, and van Persie in particular this week, with fans voicing respect for Fergie’s approach to the game.  Dan from Red Rants argues that “United might have taken a much-needed step towards the future”, echoing Colin Millar’s optimistic views expressed in “Tactical Adaptation Shows Ferguson Is Far From Extinct”, Can They Score?:

For all the top teams, it’s important to get squad rotation right. Having already alluded to the exceptions – goalkeeper rotation and overuse of older generation – Ferguson has proved year after year that he is the master of this. Rarely do you hear of United’s players discontent. Javier Hernandez is positively beaming when he comes off the bench to score a winner, in stark contrast to the moody Edin Dzeko at City.

Steve Rogers: Stark, we need a plan of attack!
Tony Stark: I have a plan: attack!

Sometimes it works! Meanwhile, Darren Richman enjoyed watching the game at Eastlands and described the experience in “Oh Robin van Persie – A view from the stands”, Stretford-End:

Then we got the free kick. Despite myself, I had a sixth sense it would go in. It seemed to happen in slow motion. There was only the tiniest gap between Hart’s hand and the post. The ball span towards us and into the goal. The rest is noise.

To wrap it up, Red Mancunian offers a chance to re-live the moment as if you were right there!

“That’s my secret, Cap: I’m always angry”

There’s a nice line in The Avengers: “You know, when you say ‘peace’, I kind of think you mean the other thing.” And so it is when fourth estate echoes authorities, in demanding fans should be hoarded behind nets and that players should be forbidden from celebrating in front of their own supporters.

Whoever threw the two pence coin at Ferdinand is, of course, an idiot but one imbecile doesn’t justify a dozen moronic suggestions from the powers that be. More importantly, actors from the both sides of divide are too quick to jump on the blame bandwagon. Darren Jennings is furious, as he articulates in The Blame Game”, 7Cantonas:

I believe too many fans are simply spoilt. We think we have a divine right to see our team win, especially at home. On our patch we can call opposing players every name under the sun and they should take it like automatons. God forbid they should ever score against us. However should they then celebrate that goal right in front of us by doing a crap little dance that even the gangnam-style bloke would think was uncool, well thats licence for us to attack them isn’t it. After all we only suggested that they sexually abuse children and animals or hoped that their own offspring died of cancer. Fans really do have to get a sense of perspective and realise that you cannot constantly dish it out and not expect to never receive any back. Football doesn’t work like that, just as life does not work like that.

However, Jennings isn’t the only blogger surprised with fans’ reactions. In the article Players Shouldn’t Celebrate With Their Own Fans! Ever!”, The Republik of Mancunia Scott argues the reaction of some is nothing short of ridiculous:

Are we seriously saying that if your team scores a last minute winner against your title and local rivals you shouldn’t be allowed to celebrate with your fans? And that if you do celebrate with your fans and are in throwing distance of opposition fans you deserve everything that’s coming to you? Do me a favour. On Radio 5 Live, these moronic people text and called in to try and lay blame at Rio’s door. Thankfully, Paddy Crerand was on the case, and put these idiots straight.

Stretty News carries audio with a full transcript of Crerand’s hillarious interview on the subject.

Tony Stark: I thought we were having a moment. 
Pepper Potts: I was having twelve percent of a moment.

It seems like fans must take a long look at themselves if those precious little moments are not to become extinct.

You put those people together, you can’t expect what’s going to happen

If Michael Carrick cares what fans think of him, the midfielder may be a proud man this week. Often a past scapegoat, Carrick is now praised by many, including some of his more stubborn critics. But has the midfielder filled a Roy Keane-shaped hole in United’s midfield?

Doron Salomon, amazed that it has taken so long for United fans to ‘get’ Carrick, doesn’t answer the question, but believes the Reds will soon face a new task: replacing a Carrick-shaped hole in the midfield. Salomon shares some thoughts on United’s metronome in “Michael Carrick and Roy Keane: so dissimilar and yet so alike”, Stretty Rant:

Actually, a comparison with the great Roy Keane is probably as apt as it ever has been. Not because of their style or in the sense of leadership. Rather, Carrick’s made himself invaluable to the side through his intelligence and sheer repetitiveness of every single thing he does – his role in the team makes him a guaranteed starter almost every game. Whether it’s a pass or tackle you can be sure that it’s almost always perfectly executed to the highest level. His perfect partner is arguably yet to be found but putting energy and dynamism around him appears to be the best route for a generally underwhelming midfield. In fact, Keane in his pomp would probably thrive playing with the Carrick of today.

Carrick’s partner is in for some praise too. Tom Cleverley, whose “brand” is the butt the many jokes, emerged as one of the team’s key players in the past week. Sam Peoples briefly reviews Tom’s current performances in his blog The Peoples Person.

While press speculation about Nani’s move to Arsenal was just that, many can’t help but wonder how long it is before the Portuguese winger leaves the club. As Stark said: “I thought I didn’t qualify. I was considered, what was it? Volatile, self-obsessed, and I don’t play well with others.” Can Nani can overcome a similar problem or does the winger’s future lie somewhere else? Red Flag Flying High wonders.


The Busby Way takes  a look at Vidic’s return and finds an elephant in the room.

Kagawa sings “Gangnam style”, thanks to Stretty News. Fortunately, Robin’s got a better taste.

The most brilliant moment(s) of November can be found in GIF format on Beautifully Red.

For those of you who still dream of Cristiano – ‘they’ say, his agent is looking for an option to bring the player back to England, so you never know –  The Busby Way has a video from Anton Alfy on Ronaldo’s United years.

Media Digest: the love story, heroes of the past and Regina Spektor

November 30, 2012 Tags: Opinion 3 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 Manchester United-related news and blogs – Media Digest.


Another week, another comeback: fitting not only to the season so far, but to the occasion, as United unveiled Sir Alex Ferguson’s statue. A lot of praise mixed with some disapproval in this week’s digest, as the heroes of the past returned. Although she once sang that “blue [is] the most human color”, our hostess this week is Regina Spektor.

“The sculptor’s marble sends regards, They made a statue of us”

There are times fans may disagree with Ferguson, and even feel ashamed of his behaviour at times, but the manager means a world to United fans. “Love” would be too strong a word for some, as they quite simply do not forgive and forget when it comes to Glazers, but the chant of “Every single one of us loves Alex Ferguson” is still sung loud and clear during games.

Indeed, whatever your views are on how Fergie handles the press or whom he supports, there is a sense of gratitude for what Sir Alex has done for United.

The Busby Way quotes Sir Bobby Charlton: “we didn’t in our wildest dreams think that it would last as long as this. He’s just a sensational manager, I keep repeating it, [but] others must look on in envy.”

Last Friday marked a special occasion, as many United legends and greats – including Bryan Robson, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Eric Cantona – came to Old Trafford as special guests for the unveiling of  Ferguson’s statue.

“Normally people die before they see their statue. I’m outliving death!” the boss jokes, with a humor both light-hearted and dark.  The fire is still burning despite being just a month short of 71-years-old.  Certainly, as Republik of Mancunia reports, Ferguson didn’t need a second invitation to fire a first shot at newly appointed Chelsea manager Rafa Benitez this week.

Obviously, many blogs reported on the statue unveiling, featuring pictures and videos, but The Peoples Person offered some of the best content. Apart from an excellent multimedia-heavy post, the blog also featured a nice tribute to “The man who made Manchester United”, The Peoples Person:

While other teams have sometimes been much more pleasing on the eye, Manchester United were often called “the worst United side to win the league”. It is this ability to constantly defy critics and bring the best out of the players brought in that truly make Sir Alex the greatest manager of all times.

Meanwhile, The Busby Babe looked at Fergie’s time at the club from a different angle, asking readers to vote on the greatest United player of the Sir Alex era. King Eric might be on the article’s featured photo, but he’s not leading the poll!

“They’ll… later say it’s all our fault, Then they’ll give us a talking to”

Howver, life wasn’t all unicorns and rainbows for fans. Once again, United failed to impress in the first 60 or so minutes of the game against Queens Park Ranger, owing the positive result to QPR’s mediocrity. With United topping the league table, and in the knockout stage of the Champions League, there’s no need to panic, but with so many bad signs, nervous are many fans.

At Daniele puts it in “Will the real Manchester United please show up?”, Red Rants:

While in the end the result rewarded United, their tendency to forget tempo and pressure in the dressing room is a problem that a world class team can’t afford, let alone a team like United whose shortcomings appear with alarming regularity. Fans must be wondering which one is the real United – the shockingly bad one of the first 58 minutes or the blood and thunder one that scored three times in 10 minutes?

There is no doubt players under-performed against the Hammers, but it’s the manager who’s often held responsible for team’s failures. Has Fergie become too sentimental to let some players go? That’s what a number of bloggers argued.

Indeed, Shane looks for answers in “Going Through the Motions – Is Fergie Going Soft?”:

Whatever Fergie and Gill claim publicly  the tightening purse strings have denied us the opportunity to make the changes clearly needed. The gaping hole in the centre of our midfield would be visible to my partially-sighted grandmother, looking through a telescope from the moon. Fergie is one of the best managers in the history of the game. A glaringly obvious lack of quality in the centre of the pitch is not something that is likely to have just passed him by. He just can’t do anything about it. Or is it that he just feels obliged not to, out of loyalty to a couple of his most trusted lieutenants? Has Fergie simply got a bit softer with age?

Meanwhile, Jon Wilmot echoes some of the thoughts, as he tries to find the right formation and players for the rest of the season.

“Ne Me Quitte Pas, Mon Chere”

Remember how this song goes? “And think about how things were right, / When they were young and veins were tight, / And if you are the ghost of Christmas Past / then won’t you stay the night?”

Well, for United fans Christmas comes a little earlier this year. In “Celebrate The King, CANTONA”, Stretford End Flags reports on #cantonaweek:

Manchester United supporters will be showing their affection for Eric, with a special week of tributes to pay homage to the great man. #cantonaweek kicks off with a supporters charity evening in honour of Eric, at The Bishops Blaize pub on the Friday night (23rd Nov). Hosted by Pete Boyle, tickets are £2 and are available from The Bishops. A special tribute message from Eric himself will be played on the screen during the night… Prior to the West Ham game, a supporters Cantona march will take place before the game.

The latest issues of popular fanzines Red News and United We Stand also featured Cantona related stories and both have the Frenchman on the cover.

“Hey, open wide, here comes original sin”

The brilliant “Deadly Sins” series continues on ManUtd24, as Gluttony takes stage in “Manchester United’s Seven Deadly Sins: #3 – Gluttony”, ManUtd24featuring Fergie, Juan Sebastian Veron, Laurent Blanc, Darron Gibson, Roy Keane – and drinking:

The refreshingly blunt Keane would remind this group of Liverpool players that they were indeed underachievers, going at them like the wooden targets in a shooting range, one by one for verbal practice. Phil Babb would get it. John Scales, too: “You’re rubbish as well, with your England B cap, you’re nowt, rubbish.” And then Redknapp who, like Scales, tried to make peace and failed. “What the hell have you done in the game?” Keane would ask, most likely rhetorically.

Meanwhile, Devils of Manchester notes an interesting example of hatred. In his book My Premier League Diary, Swansea City defender Ashley Williams writes that he’d love to knock Suarez out. Amazingly, as if the Being Liverpool television series wasn’t embarrassing enough for the club and Brendan Rogers… [the book] “was actually sanctioned by Brendan Rogers during his time as Swansea City manager.”


With United already through to the knockout phase of the Champions League, The Busby Babe offers a breakdown of the Reds’ possible opponents.

Sam from The Peoples Person is concern about Joshua King’s loan deal, which is potentially a permanent one, and laments that United is selling the wrong striker.

An early Manchester derby took place at the Manchester Arena on Saturday, as Vyacheslav Senchenko, Ukrainian boxer and United fan (Daily Star), defeated Ricky Hatton, a huge City fan. The Busby Way has a photo of Senchenko with a United shirt near Old Trafford.

Red Flag Flying High reports that Ferdinand and Evra made the FIFA FIFPro World XI shortlist and are among the top 20 defenders to be considered for the final eleven.

Finally, Scott from Republik of Mancunia is enraged by United ripping the fans off. Apparently, the club thinks it’s okay to give away City away tickets to random businesses, rather then ensure fans get them.


Mancunian Matters – quotes Jose Mourinho, who calls Sir Alex “incredible, amazing, unique”; features a video depicting ugly scenes in Istanbul airport prior to United’s arrival earlier this month; and offers a Kenny Morgans obituary.

BBC – this week the“Fergie time” myth is analysed through statistics and Graham Poll. The outlet also boasts a nice video from the statue unveiling ceremony and Dave Sexton’s obituary.

The Guardian – praises Nick Powell, although the author notes that “there are currently no truly outstanding teenagers in the United academy ranks”. The paper also runs a nice career-in-video article on Eric Cantona. Finally, The Guardian reports that “United stand accused over a low level of corporation tax paid”.

The Telegraph – becomes yet another outlet reminiscing over Cristiano Ronaldo, featuring a gallery dedicated to former United player. It also reports on graduates of the Ferguson school of management.

Daily Mail – another week, another brilliant article from Gary Neville, this time on Ronaldo. The outlet also quotes Tony Pulis, with the Stoke boss claiming Berbatov is the signing of the summer.