Wednesday 5 February 1958. Manchester United played Red Star in the European Cup quarter-final, drawing 3-3 in Belgrade. Bobby Charlton scored twice and Dennis Violett another as Matt Busby’s “Babes” secured passaged through to the semi-finals on a 5-4 aggregate score. They were to play AC Milan next.
Over the last few weeks much has been discussed about implications of Alexis Sanchez’ dramatic arrival at Old Trafford. The debate surrounding United’s outlay was particularly misdirected, because the focus on what the Chilean can bring to the team is far more important. However José Mourinho chooses to utilise Alexis, Manchester United has gained an élite player and will become a more of potent attacking force as a result. Of his new teammates, Sanchez’ acquisition may prove most significant for Anthony Martial.
Friday night’s comfortable 4-0 win over Yeovil Town in the FA Cup completed a very good week for Manchester United. On Monday weeks of speculation ended when Chilean forward Alexis Sanchez was confirmed as a United player. Then came the news that manager José Mourinho had signed a contract extension keeping the Portuguese manager at the club until at least 2020, with an option for another year.
Monday night’s confirmation that Alexis Sanchez has put pen to paper on a four and a half year deal at Manchester United was met with an unsurprising deluge of hatred and vitriol towards the player and his new club. Par for the course some might say. The welcome addition of a world-class talent to United’s squad wasn’t easy to swallow for the rest of the football community though, especially with everybody expecting the Chilean forward to reunite with Pep Guardiola at one of Greater Manchester’s lesser clubs. United blew that out of the water and the now former Arsenal player should make his début at Yeovil on Friday night.
F ourFourTwo recently published a list of the 10 best right backs in the world today. Top 10 lists are always subjective, but nonetheless this one is a good indicator of the players who are currently excelling at right-back. Come the summer transfer window it wouldn’t be a surprise if José Mourinho looked to strengthen his options at full-back, but if he looks for a target from that list he’ll find that his options are limited.
Ashley Young was one of the last traditional English wingers. Much like Theo Walcott and Aaron Lennon, Young boasted an abundance of pace and loved to run fearlessly at opposition defences. Back in the mid noughties, when he broke through at Watford, managers were still clinging to formations that relied on fast wide players to whip crosses into a target-man. While inverted wingers and overlapping full-backs gradually became the prevailing mode of providing width, Young was once in his element.
Despite being a gargantuan 15 points behind likely champions Manchester City, José Mourinho’s team has been on an upward trajectory this season. The Reds are among the top scoring sides in the league, while also ranking near the top for total clean sheets. Mourinho’s men face an abundance of criticism and scrutiny, but it would be foolish to ignore the positives despite City’s lead. Yet, there are opportunities for improvement in each third of the pitch over the second half of the campaign.