Paul Pogba’s tough start to life at Manchester United is reflective of the struggle the club has faced in turning record acquisitions into real success since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement. In fact United has failed to extract the most from its last three record purchases: Pogba, Angel di Maria, and Juan Mata. While the players’ performances, attitude and commitment can sometimes be called into question, it also clear that the United has made precious few plans for what to do with the club’s shiny new toys.
No preview of a fixture against Fenerbahçe is complete without dutiful reference to a brace of pivotal games in Manchester United’s recent history. First, the Turkish side secured a famous victory at Old Trafford in October 1996, the first home loss by United in European competition, some 40 years after the Reds first took to continental football. Then, and certainly more memorable, came that début in 2004, when teenage sensation Wayne Rooney scored at hat-trick at Old Trafford in United’s 6-2 victory.
No games this week – well none of note – with international week getting in the way of Rant Cast’s main weekly content: Manchester United! Plenty of football to look forward to though, with United travelling to face a resurgent Liverpool at Anfield and then hosting Fenerbache in the Europa League at Old Trafford. As ever, there’s plenty listener questions and for Patreons there’s a long discussion about podcasts (other than Rant Cast)!
You know the drill. Skip England’s latest embarrassment, bolster hipster credentials by catching American Samoa versus Cook Islands at the Loto-Tonga Soka, wait a fortnight for United’s next game. International week: too often football’s equivalent to watching paint dry. Except, of course, for the diverse collection of Reds in action this week, leaving the kids, the retired and Bastian Schweinsteiger to train at Carrington ahead of United’s fixture with Liverpool next Monday night.
There is something about Ander Herrera’s style that feels intrinsically Mourinho-esq. The sharp eye for a pass and sharper appetite for the tackle; the high-energy modern approach and speed across the ground. Yet, the Spaniard has featured in just eight Manchester United matches this season, and only three in the Premier League as a starter. It is incongruous. That pattern might be about to change though, with the 27-year-old having successfully claimed a role as José Mourinho’s first-choice defensive midfielder.
It’s the hope that kills you, right? Yet, the frustration in scoring just once from 24 shots at goal is not that Manchester United failed to beat Stoke City at Old Trafford, but that José Mourinho’s side should have won by a cricket score. United created “no sustained pressure,” claimed Stoke manager Mark Hughes. Who was he kidding; this was the Reds’ best performance of the season to date. Read More
The headlines, save for Sam Allardyce’s indiscretions, have been about Manchester United and England captain Wayne Rooney for a week or more. It probably couldn’t be any other way. Yet, lost amid José Mourinho’s decision to ditch a player who once enjoyed the “special privileges” at Old Trafford, has been United’s return to form, of sorts. Three defeats in succession derailed what early season momentum Mourinho’s side had built up. Victories over Leicester City and Zorya Luhansk in the past week have restored a more natural order to proceedings. Both without Rooney.
Picture the scene. Sir Alex Ferguson at his masterful best. Bracketed by journalists anticipating Manchester United’s October 2010 Champions League encounter with Bursaspor, the Scot feigned shock and disgust at Wayne Rooney’s overnight accusation that United, then 132-years-strong, 18-times English league champions, and three times kings of Europe, lacked the ambition to house Rooney’s talents. Ferguson was pitch-perfect in the rejoinder; Rooney’s agent, Paul Stretford, held firm that it was time to move on. Manchester City called with the big bucks Rooney had always craved. In the end the Reds bowed to Rooney’s demands and the former Evertonian was awarded the first of two massive contracts in the past six years. But what if the Scouser had moved on…
Could it be the day that José Mourinho finally makes the big selection decision on everybody’s mind? The one involving captain Wayne Rooney and the bench. After all, Rooney’s performances this season, for the last three, have suggested a once great player on the wane. That burst of speed, surety of touch, and goalscoring prowess: all gone. His value to the team: vastly diminished.
Three defeats in succession and the talk of “crisis” now hangs over Old Trafford. How quickly José Mourinho’s Manchester United honeymoon has ended. The warm glow of a successful summer transfer window and solid start to the new campaign is now obliterated after losses to Manchester City, Feyenoord and Watford in the past week. It is as if the last three seasons hadn’t been enough; the circus is now once again in full swing. Yet, the fundamentals that had United supporters feeling confident back in August remain – and Rant has 10 actions that could help Mourinho turn around the slump…