Bonjour, et bienvenue à la deuxième Euro Cast! In this week’s show Ed & Paul look back on the first round of games from France, where the hosts beat Romania through a stunning Dimitri Payet goal, England drew with Russia and Bastian Schweinsteiger scored for Germany. It has been a week of fine goals, some good entertainment and the odd surprise. And two brothers going at it without compromise.
Euro 2016 has brought, in no particular order of importance, spectacular goals, a minor upset, violence on the streets, fireworks in the stands, and eight United players in action. While most of the games have been tight in the opening round of fixtures, there have already been some decisive performances from Reds in France… and a couple of ex-United stars that have caught the eye.
Bonjour, et bienvenue à Euro Cast! Over the next month Ed & Paul cover the European Championships in France, with 23 teams chasing glory at Stade de France on 10 July. And England. In the first edition a tournament preview. Yes, it’s every bit as detailed and deeply researched as you hoped…
… and breathe! It ended with Manchester United missing out on fourth place in the Premier League for the second time in three seasons, an FA Cup win, Louis van Gaal’s inevitable dismissal, and José Mourinho’s much-discussed arrival. There was drama at the last to follow an otherwise immensely forgettable season. Van Gaal’s second campaign in charge should have brought real progress. It didn’t, and anything less was always going to be viewed as failure after another summer of significant spending. After all, when Rant wrote that “few at Old Trafford should celebrate becoming England’s fourth best side” this time last year, it reflected an obvious reality – failure is just not United.
Each year Rant predicts the season ahead. Manchester United’s performance, the winners, the losers and the individual stars of the campaign. There have been mixed results over the years – check out everything from 2009 onwards here. The predictions are made without the mathematical models now so in vogues and are thus – what’s the word – are little more than (ill)-educated guesses! Correct predictions in green, incorrect in red.
So there it is. Manchester United’s long search for a major trophy after Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement finally came to a positive end. The Reds’ 2-1 FA Cup final victory over Crystal Palace at Wembley brought glory and silverware to the club – and Louis van Gaal the sack. It was the Van Gaal’s first taste of success in England, but was swiftly followed by an end to a period in which the Dutchman has increasingly alienated supporters and, critically, failed to deliver on his promises. Retirement beckons, José Mourinho beckons. Louis goes, but it is with a modicum of dignity restored. The same cannot be said for Ed Woodward.
The end – for Manchester United’s season and for Louis van Gaal’s time at United. At least the old boy went out with some silverware to show for it after one of the most miserable campaign’s in living memory ended with the Dutchman facing the sack. Van Gaal’s time at United has been a failure, even if it concluded with the veteran coach defiantly parading the FA Cup in front of the media on Saturday night. Plus ça change, Louis. Welcome, José.
So it came to pass – Manchester United failed to reach the Champions League for the second time in three years. Confirmation was delayed by 48 hours, but Manchester City’s draw at Swansea all but guaranteed the Blues a place at the top table of European football. Despite beating Bournemouth on Tuesday, Louis van Gaal’s side is out: of time, of the Champions League, of credibility.
Just when Louis van Gaal’s side has seemingly reached its nadir along comes a fresh blow. The FA Cup semi-final victory over Everton was a high, only partially puncture by a limp home draw against Champions Leicester. In fact, Manchester City’s home draw with Arsenal gave United real hope of making the Champions League and redeeming a season. Then came two dreadful performances on the road: in victory over Norwich City and defeat to West Ham United.
Men at some time are masters of their fates. The fault is not in our stars, but in ourselves. It was a performance to reflect a season. In keeping with too many of his colleagues, Memphis Depay was dreadful in Manchester United’s 1-0 victory over doomed Norwich City on Saturday. It was a fresh nadir in a hugely disappointing campaign; one that threatens to conclude the Dutchman’s United career after just one year in England. It shouldn’t. Memphis has not earned another chance at United, but neither was he always the master of his fate. With talent and time on his side, the club should accede him a second chance.