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 United-related news and blogs – Media Digest.
The common theme this week is the wind of change, with many blogs running stories on the need to drop some players or staff, and never look back. Another popular topic is whether or not Manchester United should persevere with the diamond in the midfield.
The Republik of Mancunia – “The Gaping Hole Left From 2008 Departure”
In this brilliant article, Scott argues that Sir Alex Ferguson needs a strong right-hand – like Carlos Queiroz.
Whilst there was no shame in losing to Barcelona in the 2009 and 2011 finals, I’ll always wonder what we might have produced if it had been Queiroz sitting on the bench next to Ferguson and not Mike Phelan. However much the manager may try to fight it, he is a sentimental bugger and sometimes he could do with someone who has a clearer view of the players and their capabilities. Don’t forget, Ferguson had John O’Shea ready to come on for the last minute of extra time in Moscow, only before Queiroz sensibly pointed out we would be better off bringing on someone who could take a penalty instead. O’Shea returned to the bench, Anderson came on and scored in the shoot out. more
The Busby Babe – “An examination of Manchester United’s recent use of a midfield diamond”
Do you like to argue about tactics? Well, here you go.
If all goes well, this midfield diamond system gains a side control of the center of the park. At the base, the holding-player provides stability to the team’s shape and at the tip, the No.10 links the transition from midfield to attack. The weaknesses though are somewhat obvious — a possible lack of width in attack and the vulnerability against sides that have full-backs or wing-backs that are dangerous when they surge forward. The attacking width is hugely dependent on your own full-backs getting forward and the general hope is that your holding-player is mobile enough to break up counterattacks when these full-backs are high up the pitch. Because a midfield diamond offers no natural foils to the opposition’s full-backs or wing-backs, the hope here is that those free players are not dangerous when they get forward to attack. more
The Faithful – “Chicharito Out Lewandowski In? – Is The Mexican Surplus To Requirements At United?”
Rob Blanchette explains why United’s new formation is the principle, but hardly the only obstacle that Javier Hernández has to overcome this season.
Twenty four months on, and the honeymoon period is over. Chico is very much fourth choice striker, as United traded a mercurial Bulgarian for a prolific Dutchman. It’s the same fight the Mexican was fighting in his first couple of seasons, but the departure of Berbatov has led to a change of tactical conscience at United…only a slight one…but maybe enough to see the tangible end to Chicharito’s chances of starting many games in the foreseeable future. The biggest debate currently raging between United aficionados is: How do we fit Rooney, Kagawa and RvP into the same team? Many Reds can’t see past the end of their tactical noses, and feel anything other than 4-4-2 is both ‘dirty and vile’…it falls outside the traditions of the club in their opinions. I understand this warm glowing feeling this classic United formation gives supporters, but history never dictates the future…the present does. more
Red Rants – “There’s no smoke without fire, Sir Alex”
In this article Ian debates Sir Alex’s decision making.
I’m sure I speak for all Manchester United fans when I say there’s no one who isn’t grateful for what he’s given them and for the legacy we all hope he leaves behind. But does this gratitude come at a price? Does his success buy the right to silence his critics? Are we really supposed to ignore any possible failings despite the magnitude of feeling? Are we not entitled to an opinion? more
Red Flag Flying High – “Could this midfield trio hold the key to United’s season?”
Jay from Red Flag Flying High wonders whether a trio of Tom Cleverley, Anderson and Darren Fletcher could rise to every occasion.
With Paul Scholes approaching his seventieth birthday, Ryan Giggs seemingly no longer able to start against the top teams United need other players to step up to the midfield mark. Michael Carrick is beyond reproach of late and will always do the job asked of him but certain games need a different type of player. The trip to Newcastle last season badly exposed United’s midfield frailties and this season could offer the perfect chance for the trio of Anderson Cleverley and Fletcher to show what they’re made of and that United aren’t as ‘weak in midfield’ as everyone thinks. more
The Peoples Person – “David de Gea or Anders Lindegaard – A Red-Devilish dilemma”
United has two great keepers, but how can Sir Alex choose one wisely? The Peoples Person try’s to figure it out.
While the Dane looks a better physical presence and a solid goalkeeper, the feeling remains that de Gea has the ability to pull out a special save that earns you a point or three when the team might not deserve it, as he did against Chelsea last season. That ability marks out all the world’s top goalkeepers; Casillas, Buffon, Neuer and Hart all possess this but they all also do the basics so well that it gets taken for granted. more
Meanwhile, The Busby Way quotes Fergie on the goalkeeping situation.
The Republik of Mancunia – “Rio Is Better Than Them… But We Should Welcome Snub”
Statistics demonstrate that Rio Ferdinand is better than any other England defender, but Scott argues that the player’s omission from England squad is United’s gain.
Of course stats aren’t the be all and end all when deciding who the best players are and I’m not suggesting that a manager should pick a squad entirely on the basis of their stats, (particularly not a manager like Hodgson, who bizarrely claimed: “I don’t regard statistics, especially possession statistics, as being particularly important.”) but Manchester United finished on the same points as the champions last season and Carrick and Scholes had a big say in that… Still, whilst from an England perspective we can see that Hodgson is wrongly keeping Rio out of his squad, just as he did Carrick (and Scholes), from our perspective, the one that really matters, it is great. Not only do we have players in great form, we have players who are better rested thanks to the International absence. It is obvious that Rio doesn’t really want to give up on his England career and it’s a shame for him that it’s being cut short, but for us, it’s definitely a positive thing. Last season he was one of the few United players who didn’t suffer with injuries, but he’s got a dodgy back and it won’t do him any harm having the International break to put his feet up. more
ManUtd24 – “Retrospective #25: The joy of Denis Irwin”
Greg Johnson loves Denis Irwin. As the song goes ‘If you don’t know what to make of this, then we will not relate’.
Had Irwin, so often trusted to take penalties in a team that featured the likes of Steve Bruce and Eric Cantona, interceded on Pepsi’s dustbowl shootout, he would have ridden in as if portrayed by Eastwood: a quiet yet formidable character whose unassuming, humble demeanour belies a lethal, quick-draw ability in a dead ball situation. more
Red Flag Flying High – “Duncan Edwards: A Tribute”
On October 1, 1936 Duncan Edwards was born. Duncan was probably the brightest youth prospect United ever had, destined to be the greatest footballer until his life was cut short by Munich air disaster. Red Flag Flying High published a tribute.
Manchester United is the greatest team in the world. I’d give anything to play for you.” Edwards told Matt Busby, who’d made a personal visit to Duncan’s house on 31 May 1952. Busby had just signed one gem of a player… He was bigger than any of his team mates in the United youth ranks, and became a first team regular for the reds and for England as barely a kid. He won two league titles, and 18 England caps, scoring five goals. more
The Busby Way quotes Scott Wootton on why he celebrated van Persie’s goal against Liverpool. Red Flag Flying High are on loan watch. Stretty News reports on Hodgson’s embarrassment. Brian Greenhoff writes about United’s struggle to find the player who “will sort it out” in his column on 7Cantonas. Meanwhile, Red Mancunian features photos from Carrington, as United keep to improve its training facility. In his article for Can They Score, Kevin Levingston has the best closing quote.
Daily Mail – “Rooney is in the same mould as Robson, Adams and Keane”
Gary Neville argues that Wayne Rooney is one of a dying breed of footballers and that his unexpected injury coupled with the arrival of Robin van Persie and Shinji Kagawa might be just what the Scouser needs.
Questions have been asked of him in the last few weeks. Is he quite the player he was? Is he threatened by the arrival of Robin van Persie and Shinji Kagawa at United? Will he perform for England in a major tournament after receiving a large amount of criticism for his World Cup performance in 2010 and going into Euro 2012 without a great deal of football? I can remember periods of my own career when there were moments of insecurity, when people doubt you. But it’s going to happen if you spend a number of years at the top level. And sometimes you need a period out of the spotlight to recover your fitness and for your focus to revive. more
The Guardian – “Sir Alex Ferguson was right to complain about Tottenham’s time-wasting”
Daniel Harris wants time-keeping to be taken out of the officials’ hands.
That is not to denigrate Spurs, who were understandably trying to kill time – ticking away, the moments that make up a great football match, Pink Floyd might (not) have sung – but it’s the duty of the officials to account for it. Similarly so at Anfield last week: three goals, two substitutions and a long injury break should not equate to five minutes… The amount of time considered lost is at the sole discretion of the referee. Or, in other words, there’s no stipulation as to what referees must do, meaning that application is arbitrary, random and unpredictable. more
Graham Poll echoes Daniel’s thoughts in his Daily Mail column and adds some of his own.
The Telegraph – “Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini can right his defensive wrongs faster than Sir Alex Ferguson at United”
Alan Smith thinks that, although defensive problems at both United and City originate from different sources, it is City that stands in a better position to solve them.
Because while Roberto Mancini has enough quality players to do much better, Sir Alex Ferguson must worry that injuries and declining form make his job a little more difficult in the short term… United, of course, have been extraordinarily unlucky to lose Nemanja Vidic at a time when Phil Jones and Chris Smalling are also missing. On top of that, Rio Ferdinand is showing signs of age that have proved costly of late. When you can’t get about the pitch as quickly and nimbly as you once did, confidence is bound to suffer as hesitancy creeps in. That also applies to Patrice Evra, whose struggles at left-back further weaken a back four that should be seriously tested again at Newcastle on Sunday. more
BBC – “Manchester United miss Phil Jones, says Ron Atkinson”
Former United manager Ron Atkinson believes that fit Phil Jones is key to solving Manchester United’s defensive problems.
“They’ve had injuries in defensive areas but I think they’ve missed Phil Jones. If he can get himself fit, he might solve a big problem for them. I think he’s an excellent right-back and is probably going to end up at centre-half. But in some of the games I saw him play in midfield last year, he was strong, he could run, he got behind people and he put himself about.” more
Bleacher Report – “Why Kevin Strootman Is the Answer to Manchester United’s Midfield Woes”
Kevin Strootman is good, Strootman is available, Strootman is what United needs, argues Max Towle.
In terms of ability, he is certainly not lacking. A box-to-box midfielder in the vein of a young Roy Keane or Yaya Toure, Strootman is a formerly attacking player now developed into a more versatile force in the middle of the park. His ball control and short passing are exemplary, displaying the type of vision all players in his position require. A strong, motivated leader too, Strootman is a possible future captain in the making, further increasing comparisons with Keane. He is also a tough, ball-winning tackler—he would automatically become the most durable player in the United midfield if he did come to Old Trafford. more
Daily Mail – “Rio has to adapt his game to prolong his Man United career”
Martin Keown thinks that his experience could help Rio Ferdinand’s career.
And Ferdinand must become the organiser. He can also make some adjustments to his game to help with losing his pace. John Terry, who is slower than Ferdinand, goes to ground earlier and deals with danger quickly as he knows he can’t win a race against many strikers. Ferdinand might need to do that more often. I had to be more aggressive as I lost my pace because I had to deal with things quicker. By making the same adjustments, Ferdinand can extend his career. more
Mancunian Matters – “Stop using defensive injury crisis cop out… Manchester United deserved to feel Spurs’ wrath”
Andrew Bardsley doesn’t look for excuses.
Manchester United have daydreamed their way to third in the table after six Premier League games. After an opening defeat to Everton, where they were thoroughly outplayed, the Reds won six consecutive matches in all competitions, until Saturday. But don’t let the impressive record fool you, United were outclassed in most of those wins too… Some have attributed this problem to the defensive injury crisis that the club have recently faced… However this argument is no more than a cop out. Exclude Vidic, the defence that played on Saturday would be Sir Alex’s first choice line up and was so for much of last season. more
Daily Mail – “Sir Bobby makes Manchester United sales drive at Ryder Cup”
Daily Mail reports on United’s global commercial growth.
Charlton and former United stars Andy Cole, Denis Irwin and Lee Sharpe were representing the club at the first Manchester United Business Network event to take place in America. The gathering of a number of United sponsors to share ideas and experiences as well as interact with Sir Bobby and the other Old Trafford ambassadors took place in shirt sponsors Aon’s exclusive facility at Medinah. more
Mancunian Matters – “Funeral to be held for boy killed in horror crash, as family overwhelmed by Manchester United boss’ condolence”
On behalf of the club, Sir Alex wrote a letter to the family of United fan Cameron Cash, who lost his life after being hit by a car on 22 September.
“On behalf of everyone here at Manchester United I would like to express our sincere condolences. The pain of losing someone so dear to you is hard, but no one can take away the wonderful memories that you will have of your time together. I know that words seem of little help, but trust that these words of comfort and the knowledge that you are in our thoughts and prayers will help sustain you in your sorrow.” more
SkySports reports that Robbie Brady has been added to the Republic of Ireland squad, while Mancunian Matters reports that Nick Powell earned England U-21 call. The Guardian quotes Sir Alex on his challenge for Robin to beat last season’s goal tally of 37. Daily Mail reports that Roy Keane has rejected a £4.5m offer from Kasimpasa. SkySports publishes Adriano Galliani’s thoughts on Fergie’s interest in El Shaarawy. Manchester Evening News writes that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is linked with Blackburn Rovers job (by them?). Mancunian Matters quotes Gary Neville as he praises England’s St George’s Park. Finally, Bleacher Report wonders what happened to Federico Macheda.