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 Manchester United-related news and blogs – Media Digest.
This week few goalkeeper-related stories, apart from David De Gea’s dental problems. With goalkeeping sagas on hold, bloggers focused on every other position on the field, covering United’s attack, midfield, and defense in depth. As if some bloggers knew the outcome of the Norwich City match ahead of time, many worried about United’s tendency to not show up for large parts of matches.
Running on and out of luck
They say, United doesn’t lose, the team just runs out of time. Well, Sir Alex Ferguson’s side might well have run out of luck during the recent trip to Norwich – or was the side so busy running that it forgot to show up? Nonetheless, as United fans take time to digest the display against Norwich, the many comebacks in recent months have reminded supporters of one of the club’s key assets.
Stretford-End contains a nice list of the comebacks fans have seen this season, as well as some of the greatest over the years. Sheffield Wednesday: – “Bruce?! YES! Uuunbelievable!” – with Fergie and Brian Kidd celebrating in style. Juventus: – “Roy Keane with a captain’s goal for Manchester United, game on!.. It’s towards Yorke, it’s two-two!.. Cole will finish it off – full speed ahead Barcelona!”. Just one step from the Promised Land. And then to the final itself – sure the best of all.
Talking of that amazing treble-winning team, Red Army wonders if Fergie is going to successfully recreate the 1999 formula, with four brilliant strikers on his books. It’s certainly not going to be easy managing the quarter, with each trying desperate to play in Ferguson’s first XI. Nonetheless, it worked once, why shouldn’t Ferguson try again?
One striker did stand over the past few weeks – Javier Hernández. Even though the Mexican was a poor against Norwich, United’s ‘super-sub’ deserves praise he has gained in recent weeks. The 23-year-old’s second season wasn’t as good as his first, but the striker in great form now. Over at “The Summer of Javier Hernandez”, Can They Score? fans are genuinely excited about Hernández’ game this season:
But it’s so much more than that. His ability to move around the box and draw defenders who had previously looked like Maldini and Baresi out of position has no equal. Ron Vlaar, the Villa captain, had marshalled his defense to near perfection prior to Hernandez being bought on. The Little Pea’s intelligent movement, which took him to the wing, into the box, and saw him come deep into midfield left Villa’s defenders somewhere near lobotomized. Indeed, even Antonio Valencia began to run at and beat his marker, perhaps reminded by Chicharito that these were, after all, just men.
The never-ending story
So many great comebacks distracted fans from some of Ferguson’s problems, but for every point dropped there are seemingly three articles on United’s midfield troubles. Get into the mood by comparing midfield stats, courtesy of Republik of Mancunia.
To paraphrasing Sir Matt, “if they’re good enough, they’re young enough”. However, even when they are as good as Paul Scholes, the Reds# veterans are getting no younger – over-reliance on players who are now far from their best, like Ryan Giggs, can’t be a good sign.
Fans cringe at the thought of Giggs in the midfield now and, although few are fond of saying it, it might be the right time for the Welshman to consider retirement. In “The Toughest Decision Sir Alex May Ever Face”, Red Flag Flying High Jon Wilmot says that all good things must come to an end:
Scholes played well last season. He was a huge asset and without him it is likely we would have been more than just an Aguero away from winning the league. The summer, though, provided ample time for reflection. Maybe it was time to be bold. Maybe the presence (and wages) of Scholes and Giggs prevented the midfield additions that could elevate United to a level where they could compete more evenly in the higher echelons of the Champions League. However, if it was a thought for Ferguson, it was a fleeting one.
It’s not all doom and gloom though. United has plenty of young starlets in the team who could go to become Old Trafford legends. It may only be potential, yet fans can’t help but get excited. One of the youngsters is Nick Powell. In “Is Nick Powell The Answer To Our Midfield Problems?”, Old Trafford Faithful Jordan Street is rather optimistic about Nick’s future:
Sir Alex obviously sees a lot in him having already touting him to be ‘the next Paul Scholes’, and he obviously trusts him already by using him off the bench for the first team in league game as well as the epic Capital One Cup tie at Stamford Bridge last month. As we’ve already qualified I’d like to see him start in the Champions League games against Galatasaray and Cluj, there would be no pressure on him and he can go out there and play his natural game. I wouldn’t expect to see him go out on loan either, he can do a job already within the squad and if we were to have a midfield injury crisis he is more than capable of stepping in. He could well be a regular in the side within the next year or so.
In head-to-head articles, The People Person echoes Jordan’s thoughts. “His progress has been fantastic already in his short United career”, writes Jonny Escott.
When veterans go, other players have to take responsibility on their shoulders. Some see it as the opportunity to shine. For others it could be a burden, or should that be a burger? Nathon Woodhead, in a guest post on The Faithful MUFC, is rooting for Anderson to finally conquer United’s midfield.
Or will Phill Jones finally find one position and make it his own, wonders Paul Rowles in “Can Jones shake off the dreaded ‘utility man’ tag?”, Stretty News:
The manager experimented with Jones in there, and guess what? He excelled again. During the usual hectic nature of the festive football period, Jones was entrusted to provide energy and be a threatening box-to-box player. Incidentally, he scored his professional goal from midfield for United in a 1-0 away success against Aston Villa, and went on to be outstanding in later fixtures against Wolves and QPR in midfield. Ok, they are hardly the most stringent of tests, but you can only beat what is in front of you and Jones showed he had the potential to be a very dynamic central midfielder. This run of terrific form led to Capello selecting Jones in centre midfield for his England debut.
A midfield quartet of Shinji agawa, Jones, Tom Cleverley, and Anderson certainly sounds promising. For now though, it ends there.
Amit Mandora believes that he has a solution: while other “top teams in the world have Yaya Toure and David Silva, Ramires and Juan Mata, Busquets and Xavi, Alonso and Ozil”, all we need is “to find the someone and Rooney.” Mandora argues the case in his article “Why Manchester United should look closer to home”, By Far the Greatest Team:
Reading about Manchester United of late and their ‘over-reliance’ on Robin Van Persie doesn’t change anything at all. There isn’t a team on this planet that wouldn’t rely on such a clinical finisher. The problem here is not the ‘over-reliance’ on Van Persie but the option not to rely on a midfielder. Out of Carrick, Cleverley, Fletcher and Anderson it is pretty tough to think of them as the reason a game was won. The latter’s exerts in the League cup aside, it’s a mediocre foursome of players for a top of the table club; in England or in Europe… Wayne Rooney’s potential as an all-round midfielder far outweighs his exploits as a striker thus far.
When attacking is not enough
“I know what you’re thinking,” says Harry Callahan. in Dirty Harry. “‘Did he fire six shots or only five?’ Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement I kind of lost track myself. But being as this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you’ve got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?”
In the course of the season, almost every United fan has felt like that punk for a moment, afraid that the Reds’ opponents will have another trick up the sleeve. Yet, until Norwich’s victory last weekend, only against Tottenham Hotspur was ‘unlucky’ enough. Has all those wonderful comebacks hidden the truth? More often than not, United has been awful while defending.
In “We need a central defender more than a central midfielder”, Red Rants Ian argues that United’s troubles don’t end with the midfield:
That itself means Wanyama would now cost United far more than the quoted £7M from last summer, it looks likely that figure could inflate closer to £20M, and if that happens, regardless of whether we sign him or not, his name can be added to the ever growing list of players we hesitated to sign then jumped in feet first when it was too late to pay a reasonable fee or simply lost out on. Now though, with the possible pending departure of Rio Ferdinand next summer and the uncertainty surrounding Nemanja Vidic’s future fitness, I think our biggest most important vacancy is at the centre of defence.
Not so long ago fans were all excited about the club’s young defenders. Soon enough Jones, Chris Smalling et al. will have to fight on without Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic. In United’s Game of Thrones, winter is coming.
Fortunately, there is hope. The outstanding defender this season has been Rafael da Silva. In fact, the Brazilian has impressed fans so much that some even rate him as the second best player in the team. As “Rafael da Silva, the best of the second bests”, ManUtd24 argues, “after four years of enthusiastic bouncing around ‘There’ and ‘Not Quite There’, has finally made firm his place in the starting eleven.”
So it once was a ‘Football Club’
Despite signing an initiative that requires the club to speak to its fans United refuses to acknowledge IMUSA as long as the group supports anti-Glazer protests. The club believes it is not breaking any rules as the refusal is not with any individuals. The following is a fascinating excerpt from a larger interview - “How United talks to fans – a Reds Away investigation”, Reds Away:
Q. How did Mr Gill reply?
A: He wrote to IMUSA: “The club is aware of both Article 35…and the Premier League’s rule R1… The club is compliant with both… The club remains committed to improving supporter contact and has invested heavily in infrastructure, personnel and expertise to facilitate the two-way information flow between fans and the club… However, with regard to your own organisation, I see no reason to deviate from the position I set out to the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee in 2011 (when I said) ‘We do not communicate with certain fan groups, but they have an avowed aim to change the ownership… It would be slightly strange to enter into dialogue with those groups that have that intention or that objective.’”
Apparently, the board does what it wants too.
Meanwhile, Red Mancunian features some interesting articles written by United fans from abroad. In “Fan Stories: Why I support (a non-local) United”, Red Mancunian Jack Holt wonders:
“You should support your local club you glory hunter.” How on earth am I supposed to do that after all this time? Please, tell me. If you’ve been married for twenty+ years to a woman you love, and this woman truly loves you, could you go through with a divorce just because people say that you should? Just because they all say – with no proper or clear reasons why – that your marriage is wrong? Of course not. It’s bullshit. The people who find themselves able to do so didn’t care for the woman (/football club, do keep up with this tenuous metaphor) to begin with, anyway. ‘Till death do us part and all that.
Angelo Henriquez, United’s starlet, scored with a header in his first game for the senior Chile team, as La Roja lost 3-1 to Serbia. In September, Angelo also scored on his debut for United under-21s. United fans have plenty to be excited about . The goal can be found on The Busby Way.
Meanwhile, Beautifully Red announced the winner of the The October ‘GIF Moment’ of the Month. Check out the post to find out the winner and nominees.
Finally, The Devils of Manchester reports on the Fergie’s mind-games with his own players. Shaking your own players up by showing them the league table? Simple is genius.
Manchester Evening News - MEN was little short of ridiculous this week, arguing that Fergie should sign Steven Gerrard, calling Robin van Persie Sir Alex’ “most important” signing and praising “a wealth of options in midfield”. However, the outlet published a nice article on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, reveals details of the United-Nike negotiations and has Harry McShane’s obituary.
SkySports - echoed others in reporting Ferguson’s assertion that Cristiano Ronaldo is “unbuyable”. SkySports also reports on the praise Paul Pogba received from Antonio Conte right after the youngster was axed from the first team game for “bad time-keeping”, and that Fergie never worried that Hernández would become a ‘one-hit wonder‘.
The Telegraph - quotes Pogba on Fergie’s propensity to tell jokes than the hairdryer. The paper also compares four Premier League clubs’ chances of landing Pep Guardiola after the Spaniard’s sabbatical ends, remarking that “following Sir Alex Ferguson at Old Trafford is arguably the worst job in football.” Finally, The Telegraph reports on United’s finances and wage cap.
Mancunian Matters - quotes Alan Shearer on “the most frightening array of attacking talent Alex Ferguson has ever had” and Eric Cantona on his desire to take a hotseat at “special United”.
Daily Mail - fears that Ashley Young has turned into a one-trick pony, reports that United scouts have watched Porto’s Alex Rodriguez for the seventh time this season, and argues that a mega bid for Wilfried Zaha is on. Daily Mail also has a big article on Solskjaer’s second triumph with Molde.
More… A Fine Lung reminisces about that 5-0 win over Manchester City in 1994. Paul Wilson from The Telegraph looks back on this season so far for Chicharito and Luis Suarez, who have both contributed heavily to their clubs’ results. Finally, Kevin Keegan shares his thoughts on the ‘super-sub’ label and players who wore it in his column for ESPN.