It took little more than four minutes. The spin, the leap, the goal. Zlatan Ibrahimovic as only Zlatan could, scoring on his non-competitive début, with a bicycle kick of sorts against Galatasaray in Gothenburg. The moment of Manchester United’s pre-season; a flash of brilliance to underline that the coming season should be very different from the three that have preceded it. Hope, then, for millions of United supporters, although questions still surround a squad that remains incomplete and a tactical plan that is far from firm.
It’s a simple equation: Manchester United needs Paul Pogba more than Paul Pogba needs to be with the Reds. Sign o’ the times. It’s little wonder that Juventus has backed Ed Woodward into a corner over the mooted £100 million transfer fee, with agent Mino Raiola battering the executive vice chairman into submission over his commission. Despite reports of a ‘stalled bid’ and renewed Real Madrid interest the Reds will probably end up paying all of it. It’ll still be a bargain if it helps bring the Premier League trophy back to Old Trafford.
Evolution is a part of life. Adapt, change or become obsolete. It is the gradual development of everything, including the natural change in a football squad. Manchester United was always heading this way once José Mourinho took charge at Old Trafford. The Portuguese has already begun moulding the squad in his own image. More is to come this summer.
Remember when Adnan Januzaj was hailed as the next big thing? It feels like an age ago when a coltish 18-year-old made his first full start for Manchester United against Sunderland at the Stadium of Light, illuminating the pitch with a match-winning performance. His future looked bright back then. Not so much now.
“Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” – Mike Tyson
So far, so splendidly José Mourinho. The Portuguese manager strolled into his first press conference at Old Trafford looking and sounding every inch a Manchester United boss. Gone was the wild-eyed stare of the perpetually out-of-his depth David Moyes. Banished too was Louis van Gaal’s now discredited talk of philosophy. It was always BS, you know. In its place, comes Mourinho’s bravado and clarity of thought – a trait already playing out in the transfer market. Yet, in the back of the mind is the sneaking suspicion that one day, it might go just a little pear-shaped.
Thomas Müller. Gareth Bale. Arturo Vidal. Sergio Ramos. Wesley Sneijder. Five very fine, world-class footballers. The common thread: each participated in transfer sagas that lasted an entire summer, or in some cases even longer. Long, played out dramas that resulted in little but reams of newspaper speculation, and wasted hopes and dreams. Despite the club’s power, money and global reach, Manchester United has become a laughing-stock in the transfer market in recent summers. No longer.
So Euro 2016 is over, with Portugal beating France 1-0 in Sunday night’s final. It was the longest European Championships ever, and sometimes felt like it. In keeping with the tournament the final offered less than it should have; Euro 2016 has been a mixed bag when it comes to quality. Seldom has the tournament set the pulses racing, though at least it was rarely predictable. Not least the final. The exception: England bombed out early, ’twas ever thus, although the Welsh made the semi-final in spectacular style. And what of the Manchester United players (current, former and future) that missed a summer on the beaches of Ayia Napa? There were, on balance, more flops than successes…
Twenty one – the number of minutes Marcus Rashford spent on the pitch during the 2016 European Championships in France. There’ll be no more this summer. England has failed in the round of 16 once again, humiliated by a country whose inhabitants number around 300,000 – only a little more populous than the City of Salford.
Ryan Giggs ended a 29-year professional relationship with Manchester United – choosing not to take a coaching position in José Mourinho’s regime. Having been ignored for the top job, Giggs’ departure came as little surprise, with the Welshman now keen to strike it out alone in the search of managerial honours. Rant looks back on a wonderful career… Read More
The discovery of Penicillin is popularly described as a happy accident, a serendipitous quirk of fate that led to the creation of one of history’s most important drugs. Indulge the parallel for a moment, and the same could be said for Marcus Rashford’s rise. Drafted in as a late starter against Midtjylland last season, the young striker made his mark immediately and has proved to be one of the few bright spots in a lackluster campaign.