Tag Darron Gibson

Tag Darron Gibson

Four left in United limbo

Ed September 3, 2011 Tags: , , , Opinion 10 comments

A quartet of fringe players, each included in Manchester United’s Premier and Champions League squads this week, may seek to move out of the club on loan once the window opens next week. Although the English summer transfer season closed at 11pm last Thursday night, with no dramatic last-minute deals brokered by Sir Alex Ferguson, players can move to the Championship and certain overseas markets from 8 September. Darron Gibson, Tomasz Kuszczak, Mame Biram Diouf and Federico Macheda may seek temporary opportunities elsewhere, having seen no action to date this season.

Indeed, of the quartet only Macheda is unavailable for permanent transfer, with some surprise that Gibson, Kuszazck and Diouf were unable to find new permanent homes this past summer. Gibson and Kuszazck spent pre-season with United’s reserves, while Diouf was afforded minimal opportunities with Ferguson’s first string on tour in the US. None of the quartet has featured in Ferguson’s squads for Premier League matches to date.

While an ankle injury suffered by Darron Gibson may have ended Aston Villa’s reported interest in the midfielder, the Irishman is unlikely to find a route to Ferguson’s first-team squad, let alone team in the coming weeks. Although the Scot failed to add a marquee signing to his central midfield resources over the summer, Tom Cleverley’s outstanding form so early this season has removed any requirement for Gibson to remain at Old Trafford. Quite why a £6 million move to Sunderland broke down in July remains a mystery, with Sunderland briefing journalists that the Irishman’s wage demands were too high but Ferguson claiming the Wearside club had changed its offer.

Meanwhile, Kuszazck’s inability to find a new club leaves the Pole third choice behind David de Gea and Anders Lindegaard. A mooted transfer to West Bromwich Albion ended when former United stopper Ben Foster joined the Midlanders. CSKA Moscow then failed to follow up a reported interest in the former Hertha Berlin ‘keeper with a concrete offer. The 29-year-old ‘keeper has made just 61 appearances in all competitions during five seasons at Old Trafford; it is almost inconceivable that Kuszazck will add a 62nd appearance to that total.

Then there is Diouf, whose loan spell at Blackburn Rovers last season yielded just three Premier League goals in 26 appearances for Steve Kean’s outfit. No wonder, perhaps, that there have been no takers this summer. Two goals against New York Cosmos during Paul Scholes testimonial appeared to offer the Senegalese striker a glimmer of hope but with seven strikers in Ferguson’s squad the £3.5 million January 2009 acquisition can only hope for sporadic opportunities in the Carling and FA Cups this season.

Macheda faces a different challenge of course, with Ferguson seeking to retain the striker in the long-term. But it is now three seasons since the Italian burst onto the scene with match changing goals against Villa and Sunderland and the youngster must surely now play to progress. Yet there appears to be little chance of the Rome-born player breaking into Ferguson’s first team plans as Danny Welbeck has done to such great effect this season. Indeed, it is a major surprise that United was seemingly unable to find the striker a loan move this summer, with Newcastle United reportedly interested. And while it is likely Ferguson prefers the player to move within England, the Premier League is no longer an option until 1 January 2012.

Each of the quartet was selected in United’s UEFA Champions League squad this week, which includes 24 of a possible 25 players on the ‘A’ list. Ferguson added a further 10 to the ‘B’ group, including first team regulars Fábio and Rafael da Silva, and Welbeck. However, with the Scot able to add unlimited ‘homegrown’ under-21 players to his match-day party talented yougsters including Ravel Morrison and Paul Pogba could be included at a later date. Homegrown players are those who, regardless of nationality, have been trained by United or another club England for at least three years between the age of 15 and 21.

But inclusion is unlikely to proffer any of the quartet significant match time, relegating Macheda to minor cup competitions and the remainder of the trio to, perhaps, even less than that unless a move away is found. In that there is a significant challenge. After all none of the quartet, bar perhaps Diouf, is a Championship-level player and of the major European leagues only Turkey’s window remains open – until 5 September.

UEFA Champions League Squad

Goalkeepers: David de Gea, Tomasz Kuszczak, Anders Lindegaard, Ben Amos*, Sam Johnstone*

Defenders: Patrice Evra, Phil Jones, Rio Ferdinand, Jonny Evans, Chris Smalling, Nemanja Vidić, Fabio*, Rafael*, Sean McGinty*

Midfielders: Anderson, Ryan Giggs, Park Ji-Sung, Michael Carrick, Nani, Ashley Young, Thomas Cleverley, Darren Fletcher
Antonio Valencia, Darron Gibson, Matty James*, Davide Petrucci*

Forwards: Michael Owen, Dimitar Berbatov, Wayne Rooney, Javier Hernández, Danny Welbeck*, Federico Macheda*, Mame Biram Diouf, Will Keane*

* B List

Farewell to old Reds

Ed July 7, 2011 Tags: , , Opinion 28 comments

Wesley Brown and John O’Shea each agreed moves to Sunderland on Thursday, ending more than a decade of the pair at Old Trafford. Between them the players have appeared on more than 750 occasions for Manchester United, not representing the very best players at Old Trafford, but invaluable members of Sir Alex Ferguson’s squad nonetheless. With the pair’s departure Ferguson loses not only experience and loyalty but a genuine sense of what being a United play entails.

Brown, 31, completed a medical at the Stadium of Light on Thursday and has agreed a four-year with Steve Bruce’s Wearsiders. The fee, which is officially ‘undisclosed’, will net United £1 million for youth team product. Meanwhile, O’Shea, 30, also completed a move to Sunderland, having passed a medical and agreed a four-year contract with the club. United will earn a fee of around £5 million for the Waterford-born Irishman.

Each has lost his place in the United first team – some might say neither ever fully earned it – with Brown falling out of favour following a well-publicised argument with Ferguson during last summer’s tour of North America. Few players have ever returned from falling foul of the Scot’s ire; that Brown reportedly called Ferguson a “c*nt” cannot have helped the Longsight-born player’s cause.

Despite the breakdown in the relationship between player and manager Ferguson was magnanimous with his praise of Brown today, praising the 31-year-old’s commitment to the cause since his début in 1998.

“He was a product of the youth system and marked himself out from an early age as one of his generation’s most natural defenders,” Ferguson told ManUtd.com.

“In his time with us, he certainly became a favourite with the fans for his no-nonsense approach to the game and his infectious personality.

“It’s always the hardest of decisions to let loyal servants go. But life moves on and, unquestionably, Wes will get the chance to make a real contribution to Steve Bruce’s Sunderland and I’m delighted to be passing him into such good hands. Everyone connected with United wishes him a long and happy stay at Sunderland.”

Brown has always been one of the most naturally gifted English defenders; a home-made Rio Ferdinand whose talent was only ever limited by injury. It is no disservice to say that had it not been for one of the game’s most lengthy injury records Brown could have amassed more than a century of caps for England, and not just 23. He would surely have also made more than 500 appearances for United bar for frequent trips to the treatment room.

The player earned rave reviews for early appearances at right-back, including the 6-2 thrashing of Brondby in Copenhagen during the treble-winning season, but it was at centre-half that the defender was at his natural best, offering the Reds acceleration over 20 yards, a fearless competitive streak and perfect timing.

“It was disappointing not to have played as much as I could at Manchester United over the last couple of seasons so just to know that I’ll be back in, playing, I’m focusing on that really and looking forward to it,” said Brown.

“Last season, I couldn’t get into the team and that was frustrating but that’s football and you move on. Sunderland is a big club and Steve Bruce was a big factor coming into it. That’s what it came down to really. When I was younger, I used to watch Steve and I’ve known him a bit as well so it was fine. I know a couple of lads who have been here and they say it’s a wonderful club and I thought this was the place for me to come.”

Brown will join former Reds Phil Bardsley, Kieron Richardson and Fraizer Campbell on Wearside, together with O’Shea. United midfielder Darron Gibson is also wanted by Bruce, although Sunderland baulked at the midfielder’s opening salary demands during negotiations. Together the trio were the subject of a £12 million bid in late June.

Meanwhile, O’Shea arguably has never possessed the same natural talent as Brown but won over United’s supporters with a vibrant début campaign, largely at left-back. The popular chant of “Johnny marching down the wing” began during O’Shea’s early years at the club that promised so much but rarely delivered in subsequent campaigns.

O’Shea’s versatility undermined his attempt to earn a regular first-team place, while also offering the Irishman a longevity at Old Trafford that bemused many fans. The player appeared across the back-four, in central midfield and even in goal during more than a decade at the club.

“John has been a solid, consistent part of Manchester United’s squad for well over a decade which goes to show the fantastic pedigree of player we have signed,” claimed Bruce on Thursday.

“He is a wonderful professional both on and off the field and his wealth of experience and versatility will be great attributes for us. I’m delighted with the players we’ve been able to secure ahead of the new season.”

Allowing Brown and O’Shea to move on for relatively modest fees is part of an unwritten Old Trafford policy of rewarding loyalty with minimal barriers for the players involved. The reward: long-term security at Sunderland that would not have been available at Old Trafford.

Supporters and ex-colleagues will wish the pair the best, while room has been made in Ferguson’s squad for younger players to come through.

So long, farewell, auf wiedersehn Darron T Gibson

Ed June 14, 2011 Tags: Opinion 58 comments

The T, sadly some might add, does not stand for Tiberius but news that Darron Thomas Gibson has agreed terms on a £5 million move to Steve Bruce’s Sunderland will leave not a dry eye in the house all the same. Maybe. Sort of. Well, perhaps not at all but it will bring to a close a chapter in recent Manchester United history with Gibson the subject of many a supporter debate over recent seasons.

Gibson, 24 in October, will join former Reds Frazier Campbell, Phil Bardsley and Kieran Richardson on Wearside after five years at United in which the Derry-born midfielder made less than 60 appearances for the club. Despite a thunderous shot Gibson failed to seal a consistent place in Sir Alex Ferguson’s side. With neither the technique, pace, nor all round game for the very top-level Gibson’s departure can hardly surprise, even though Ferguson has shown years of patience in the player.

Despite Gibson’s limitations the Irishman has never lacked confidence; a certain arrogance that is required of all United players. Gibson repeatedly rebuffed Irish manager Giovanni Trappatoni’s assertion that the midfielder should move to a lesser club in search of more time on the pitch.

Gibson will finally achieve his national manager’s goal at the Stadium of Light, replacing £20 million England under-21 international Jordan Henderson who departed for Liverpool in the past week. It was a week in which Gibson admitted for the first time that his future may lie elsewhere after Sunderland bid £12 million for the player together with United colleagues Wes Brown and John O’Shea.

“It wouldn’t faze me one bit to leave, all I want is what’s best for me,” admitted Gibson, who has 16 caps for the Republic of Ireland.

“So if the best thing for me is to leave and go somewhere that I’ll play every week then so be it. I haven’t sat down with Sir Alex to talk but if it comes to me not playing as much as I’d like next season I’ll have to move. I’m nearly 24. I’m going to have to go somewhere else if I don’t start playing regularly. Steve Bruce has played under Sir Alex Ferguson and I think he bases his managerial style on Sir Alex. If it came to it, I would love to play for Steve Bruce.”

Despite Paul Scholes’ retirement, and Owen Hargreaves’ departure, Gibson is behind Michael Carrick, Anderson and Darren Fletcher for a place in the United side. With Ferguson expected to bid for a leading central midfielder in the summer, Gibson is no closer to claiming a regular place in the United engine room than at any point in his Old Trafford career.

Gibson spent two seasons away from Manchester in a bid to further his chances, moving first to Royal Antwerp in Belgium and then to Wolverhampton Wanderers a year later for the 2007/8 season. Although popular in Antwerp, Gibson’s time coincided with a downturn in the club’s fortunes, with relegation to the Second Division providing a poor grounding for United’s youngsters.

Yet, as a past winner of the Jimmy Murphy Young Player of the Year award, Gibson has not fulfilled the promise of youth. There have only been fleeting moments in an Old Trafford career that has lasted longer than many expected; the 25-yard-strike, for example, against Hull City on the last day of the 2008/9 campaign, the clean hit against Bayern Munich in last season’s Champions League quarter-final.

At nearly 24 the time is clearly now right is right for both club and player to move on, with word that United is not prepared to offer Gibson an extension on a contract that runs to June 2012. Meanwhile, Gibson has seemingly accepted that his chances at Old Trafford will be forever limited, not that the old self-confidence has diminished despite the limited opportunities.

“There are four teams every year that play in the Champions League from the Premiership so there’s not many other teams in the Premiership that would have that experience within their team,” adds the Irishman.

“So even though I am young, no matter where I go, experience-wise, I’m going to be a big help. Obviously playing International and Champions League football is going to be a big help to wherever I go. So if I do leave it will be a big help to which ever team I go to and it will obviously be a big help to me too if I’m playing every week.”

Depsite Gibson’s many failings the midfielder’s departure adds £5 million to Ferguson’s supposedly hefty transfer budget while freeing up a space in the Scot’s squad. Tom Cleverley returns after a successful year at Wigan Athletic, while supporters continue to dream that a player of genuine midfield quality will arrive in the summer transfer window.

Gibson was never that.

Gibson: the carrilero who will not run

Jay Shon February 6, 2011 Tags: Opinion 38 comments

Darron Gibson is having a bad season; possibly the worst he has had in a short professional career to date. The Irishman’s performance against Blackpool can perhaps be written off as a bad day at the office. The abysmal appearance against Southampton – a League One side – is harder to justify.

As one of Carrileros – “shuttlers” – in Manchester United’s midfield diamond, Gibson’s role is to provide box-to-box running and auxiliary width. The task requires little technique and is thus independent of one’s innate talents – many players can train themselves to run all day. Certainly, Gibson has the stamina to fulfill the task. The United midfielder just lacked the willingness.

Gibson’s laziness had already got him into trouble with his national team manager. Giovanni Trapattoni fairly argued that the midfielder must do more work off the ball. It is weird, if not downright unbelievable, that the Irishman, someone of clearly limited talent, does so little work on the pitch. When Dimitar Berbatov and Eric Cantona are reprimanded in the British Isles for “not trying,” one must wonder why pundits aren’t more critical of Gibson – surely the mundane and lazy are worse offenders.

In this sense, the Darren Fletcher argument cannot be applied to the Irish international; the Scot has always worked his socks off on the pitch. In addition to the work on the pitch, the Scottish captain is of sound personality. Take the infamous “Keanogate” incident in November 2005. Fletcher was one of the players harshly criticised by the former United captain before the move to Celtic. Instead of hitting back at Keane à la Gibson at Trapattoni, Fletcher took the criticism on board. Realising that he lacked the guile and natural talent of Paul Scholes, Fletcher set about becoming a defensive midfielder, instead of the attacking midfielder he was mooted to be in youth.

In addition to suspect temperament and work rate, Gibson is let down by his technique. The Irishman has a poor first touch for a ball-playing midfielder. Consequently, Gibson often loses the ball under pressure and very rarely gains possession in 50/50 situations – even when he wins the initial challenge.

Perhaps Gibson’s biggest weakness is his tactical naiveté. The Irishman still doesn’t have the feel for spatial aspects of football. He relies heavily on others to create space for him. Coupled with indolence, the tactical shortcomings cause the United midfielder to be far too static. This is primarily why Gibson noticeably drifts in and out of games.

Gibson does have strengths though. He is a good finisher and an excellent athlete. To take advantage of his excellent finishing, the Irishman must improve his movement. He must learn to make clever runs to create space for other midfield players, to support forwards, and to get into positions where he is able to strike at goal. The physical attributes are a great asset in this endeavor.

If Gibson works harder on the pitch and matures a little tactically, the Irish international can become essentially a more attacking version of Darren Fletcher; someone who can be deployed to do a bit of everything.

It is difficult to see Gibson making vast progress, however. He is 23 and only has about hundred appearances under his belt. Fletcher had made 50 odd more games at a comparable stage in his career and it still took the Scot two more season as a rotation player to establish his place in the first team. With Anderson ahead of him, Gibson will find it hard to play the games that he desperately needs to develop.

There is an argument to be made for Gibson staying at Old Trafford. If, for example, the Irishman will progress with a ‘good kick on the backside’ then Sir Alex Ferguson is the best in the game for that particular task. Certainly, United lacks a midfielder who can score goals from distance and Gibson can be brought on to provide that threat.

The ball is squarely in Gibson’s court though. His contract runs out in 2012 and it is up to the 23-year-old whether he stays at Old Trafford. The midfielder has done little to earn a new contract. The likelihood is that Gibson will be moved on but if the midfielder wants to be a United player makes he has to make a case on the pitch.

The next few games will be crucial – they will show whether Gibson has the bottle to ante up when it really matters.

On occasion patience has no virtue

Ed January 30, 2011 Tags: , , , Opinion 54 comments

Of Sir Alex Ferguson’s many faults, lack of patience is not among them. The great Scot has, according to recent analysis, the most stable squad in European football, with players remaining at Old Trafford almost six years on average. That lengthy tenure is aided no doubt by Paul Scholes’, Ryan Giggs’ and Gary Neville’s longevity but the point remains – when it comes to some players, Ferguson has almost limitless patience.

In many ways Ferguson’s approach is anathema to the modern game, where high annual turnover of players and coaches is commonplace at many leading clubs. Yet, the flip side of this undoubtedly virtuous coin is the Scot’s seemingly unwavering loyalty to players that many supporters find insufferably frustrating.

Ferguson’s faith in Darron Gibson, Anderson and Gabriel Obertan, as three midfield examples, is based not on an aggregate of excellence but faith that each will come good in time. That they may, even if the evidence is scant to date.

Discounting any player as not fit for purpose comes with risk of course. The oft-repeated example of Darren Fletcher’s rise from fan pariah, cruelly dubbed ‘the Scottish player’, to an essential cog in the Red machine is now something of an Old Trafford cliché. Yet the 26-year-old Scot’s story is instructive – even those that do not posses natural talent in abundance can carve out a niche if Ferguson’s patience and the player’s will are in sync.

Expectation plays a hefty part in supporters’ reaction of course. Fletcher cost the club little, with the player not commanding a transfer fee and serving United on eminently reasonable wages until the Scot signed a new four-year contract in 2008. The same can be said of Gibson, who graduated through United’s academy, and even Obertan, whose £3.5 million fee made little impression on the club’s mammoth debt.

Anderson, by contrast, attracts a different level of expectation – and therefore criticism – having joined the club as Brazil’s ‘next Ronaldinho’ for more than £19 million in summer 2007.

But in each Ferguson has shown faith beyond concrete evidence; perhaps even beyond reason. While Anderson’s undoubted natural talent comes to the fore only sporadically, it is hard to recall any occasion on which Gibson or Obertan have truly impressed. Certainly against the highest level of opponent.

Anderson’s pace with the ball is a boon but the Brazilian’s impact is continually limited by horrendous passing statistics that in aggregate over three seasons barely reach 70 per cent successful completion. That the player neither scores nor creates goals has led to some fans to acerbically labelling the former Porto midfielder as United’s “fake Brazilian.”

Meanwhile, Obertan continues to run into blind alleys on the rare occasion he is selected for United’s first team. The French under-21 international appears to have little to no knowledge of the game’s mechanics. That nothing is left to chance at United, with players drilled in every small detail of gameplay and tactics, makes the wingers progress over the past 18 months – or lack thereof – all the more frustrating.

Then there is Gibson, who sank to new depths this week with two performances of such casual ineptitude as to call into question the very sanity of his selection. The Irishman, who lacks pace, touch, skill, vision or seemingly the ability to pick out a teammate with the simplest of passes, can at least shoot. Whether the Derry Dynamo’s long-range efforts actually work the goalkeeper is another point altogether.

Ferguson though is unlikely to give up on the trio with any speed. Indeed, the 69-year-old United manager believes that Anderson is the long-term successor to Scholes, despite the Brazilian lacking almost all the attributes that have made the flame-haired midfielder one of the finest midfielders of his or any generation. Time will presumably tell whether Anderson inflicts damage to United’s ambitions or aids them.

Whether Obertan and Gibson face a different fate is as yet unknown. The Frenchman is no closer to a first team berth than when he arrived at the club the summer before last. That Obertan has seen so little first team football, even with Giggs ageing, Antonio Valencia injured and Park Ji-Sung having an inconspicuous season, is relevant. Gibson’s one Champions and three Premier League starts this season tell the tale of a player who has seemingly progressed not one iota in five seasons on the fringe of United’s first team squad.

Each is tied to the club in the long-term though. Anderson signed a new four-and-a-half year contract in December that will keep the 22-year-old at Old Trafford until 2015. Meanwhile, Gibson is tied to the club until summer 2012, as is Obertan.

On current evidence Anderson will continue to frustrate until the penny finally drops. If it ever does. Obertan has natural talent if not the know-how to use it. Yet, with the least natural talent of the trio there seems little prospect, even from the most blinkered of supporters, of Gibson ever making a success of his time at Old Trafford.

If Fletcher’s rise to Old Trafford stardom was hugely surprising from those who followed the Scot with increasing frustration from 2003 to 2006, then a similar path taken by Gibson will be little short of miraculous. More talented players than the Irishman have left United, as Giuseppe Rossi and Ryan Shawcross might attest.

Fortunately for the 23-year-old Ferguson is of a more patient bent than most.

Gibson spat exposes home truths

Ed September 8, 2010 Tags: Opinion 34 comments

Darron Gibson’s very public argument with Ireland coach Giovanni Trapattoni over his role in the national team offers plenty of insight into the midfielder’s state of mind. Gibson says that he is not ready to step down a level to get more game time. The Italian coach, meanwhile, says that the Manchester United player must add to his game.

Perhaps each is right but Gibson is the party who stands to gain most from heeding the advice of a genuine coaching legend.

Turning 23 next month, Gibson is no longer the callow youth, although the player’s limited experience to date – just 21 starts with United – tells a slightly different story. But the player has enough attributes for United manager Sir Alex Ferguson to have fought to keep the Derry-born midfielder at the club when his contract ran out last summer.

After a mediocre spell on loan at Wolverhampton Wanderers during the 2007/8 season, Gibson returned to Old Trafford making just nine starts the following season. Departure seemed inevitable until Ferguson’s late-summer intervention. Last season, 12 starts, with 23 games in all and five goals tells a story of some progression at least.

Some say it is time for the player to repay that faith at club and international level. Indeed, Gibson has reached a turning point in his career. Perhaps critical even. If the midfielder, who has built a reputation for spectacular long-range shooting, cannot make it at Old Trafford now, he may never do so.

Yet the month-long dispute with the Irish management offers some insight both into the player’s technical shortcomings and his state of mind. After all he is now on the sidelines for both club and country.

“Gibson is a young player but maybe he needs to improve more in terms of putting pressure on the opposition,” said Trappatoni’s assistant Marco Tardelli last month, who has picked the Irish team after his manager’s recent operation.

“It’s understandable why this is so because he plays for Manchester United and that’s different to playing for Stoke because you are attacking more whereas with Stoke, or a team outside the big four, you always have to put men under pressure to win possession.”

It’s a suggestion that summarises the core argument of Gibson’s critics. The midfielder, so say those most frustrated with him, is too flash, too young. Almost as if he has already bought into unjustified hype, based not on consistency of performance but isolated incidents of the spectacular that has masked failures in the mundane.

True, Gibson has already scored both the breathtaking and the important for United in his short career to date. None more so than the clean strike that put Ferguson’s team into the lead against Bayern Munich is last year’s Champions League quarter-final at Old Trafford. But the player’s inconsistent passing and first touch are matched by a casual approach that is rarely tolerated by the Old Trafford crowd.

“What I told him was that, for him, the action is not finished when he does not have the ball,” said Trapattoni yesterday.

“I told him that in this great team (United) it is not easy to play in this situation because he plays with ten great players and when these great players have the ball they play.

“He must ask for the ball, he must want the ball. That is important. He has to work to get the ball. He has fantastic vision and the long ball and he has a good personality with the ball.”

Roy Keane’s long-standing assertion that hard work comes first, then talent takes over is even more applicable to those on the team’s edge. Gibson should take heed.

Yet, Gibson’s dismissive reaction to legitimate criticism from Ireland’s team management has bordered on the arrogant and is unlikely to attract a positive response. It is not the first time that the midfielder has courted controversy.

“If Trapattoni wants me to move on from a club like Manchester United to better my game, move to somewhere like Stoke where I’ll get more games but have little chance of winning anything, then I just don’t know,” said Gibson.

“At what club, other than Manchester United, could I go to improve my game? To be honest, if he’s trying to say that I should move somewhere like Stoke City and change my game to winning tackles and not winning games, then he’s having a laugh.

“To move on from Manchester United just doesn’t make sense to me.”

It’s an attitude many United supporters will endorse. After all, they say the only way is down when a player leaves the club. But for Gibson, who is yet to make it in the game, his dismissal of advice from one of the world’s great coaches is a genuine concern.

He need not leave Old Trafford but Gibson must work harder at his game than those with greater natural talent. Perhaps Darren Fletcher’s is the example that the Irishman should follow most keenly. From pariah cruelly dubbed ‘The Scottish Player’ to, quite literally, United’s most important midfielder in 200 games.

Gibson could yet make it. Judging by recent comments, the only person holding him back is the midfielder himself.

Three players holding United back

Dan Bowman January 4, 2010 Tags: , , Opinion 62 comments

While a knee-jerk reaction in the aftermath of yet another defeat for Manchester United – an eighth this season – benefits nobody, some players have underperformed this season. This much is glaringly clear to the Old Trafford faithful. Defeat to Leeds United serves to highlight the problem, with three players in particular failing to do the shirt justice.

Despite Darron Gibson’s goal tally this season and threat from long-range – something desperately required in the current side – the Irishman has become a luxury United cannot afford right now. The Derry-born midfielder’s overall game simply lacks the basic features expected of any United player.

In recent fixtures Gibson has been United’s worst performer, with no better example than the team’s 3-0 defeat away to Fulham recently. At 22 there is time for the Lampard-esque player to improve but if Fulham’s Jonathan Greening, ditched by Sir Alex Ferguson at a similar age, wasn’t good enough for the boss, then Gibson certainly isn’t either.

Dimitar Berbatov’s transformation from one of the Premier League’s finest strikers at Tottenham Hotspur, to an under-performing waste of space mystifies many United fans. The £30 million Bulgarian’s talent is obvious, yet he offers the team so little. At international level Berbatov is a record-breaking goalscorer. It’s a feat he looks far from matching at Old Trafford.

From day one in Manchester, Berbatov conjured memories of the King, Eric Cantona. But just five goals in 23 matches this campaign says it all; Berbatov is no Cantona. Instead, United is desperate for the goalscoring central striker that the team has lacked since Louis Saha’s departure.

Michael Owen is now billed as as an ‘impact’ substitute since his free summer transfer to Old Trafford. Yet, when United is down – a common occurrence this season – Owen adds so very little to the picture from the bench. True, there are few better finishers than Owen from the six yard line but if a malfunctioning team fails to create the simplest of chances for the striker, the player adds little to Ferguson’s squad. Much as it is painful to say, perhaps United is missing in-form Carlos Tevez after all.

Despite the problems the trio’s malaise might not be terminal. Within the current squad there are constant reminders of players who have struggled, only to blossom later in their United careers. Take for example Darren Fletcher, transformed from a the much derided midfielder dubbed ‘The Scottish Player’, to one of the first names on the team sheet.

Then there is Patrice Evra, who endured a nightmare start to his Old Trafford career, but is now both a fans’ favourite and one of the few United players to emerge unscathed this season.

Gibson, Berbatov and Owen may well come good and prove central to United’s cause this season. For the time being the trio sum up the malaise within the club at the moment. The club faces a crucial couple of months in the Premier League, Carling Cup and Champions League. Can the underperforming players up their game?

Fergie’s faith in Darron Gibson repaid

Tom Wilson December 9, 2009 Tags: Opinion 4 comments

Darron Gibson, man-of-the-moment against Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham United, is one of the best emerging players at the club now. Another product of Manchester United’s highly rewarding youth set up but at 22 Gibson can no longer be considered a youngster. The Irishman must now progress or end up on the United scrap heap.

Gibson is now at an age when he needs to play regularly. Despite recent goals, the player made his début more than fours years ago, just after his 18th birthday as a second-half substitute in the Carling Cup victory over Barnet, October 2005. Yet, the Derry-born midfielder has made just 19 appearances for the club in the intervening years.

Inconsistency has been a problem, despite the recent goals. Stand-out performances against Spurs and the Hammers came after a shocker at home to Besiktas in the Champions League.

“He is not playing the amount of football he would wish for but he has very good competition in Paul Scholes, Anderson, Michael Carrick and Darren Fletcher,” said Sir Alex Ferguson of the player the manager singled-out for big things prior to the season’s start.

“But he has never let it get to him in terms of being unsettled. His performances in training are excellent and he comes in knowing it has been worthwhile.

“Sometimes you can’t hold a young man back and that time is approaching for Darron now. He is becoming a good, powerful midfield player.”

Gibson played every game in United’s charge to Carling Cup victory last season. It was his big opportunity and, appearing in the final, a first medal at the club.  The reward was a new three-year contract for the Republic of Ireland international that will keep Gibson at the club until 2012. The new contract is a measure of the faith Ferguson has in the player despite the irregular first team starts.

Gibson’s performance in the Champions League loss to Besiktas last month placed into question his long-term future at the club. But in scoring twice against Spurs, and again in the win over West Ham, the Irishman has offered renewed hope. What made his performance even more impressive against Spurs was that the Londoners more or less fielded their first string midfield.

“It was a good team performance following last week. We bounced back and the young lads did well,” said Gibson after the Carling Cup victory last Wednesday.

“We didn’t go out to try and prove anything. Sometimes you have bad days and today was a good day.”

Ferguson was clearly happy with Gibson’s performance, praising the player’s “tremendous power in his shooting.” Indeed, Gibson is likely to start United’s match against Aston Villa on Saturday – it will be his fourth in a row.

Now Gibson must take the next step and begin to take matches by the scruff of the neck himself. Failure to do just that is a criticism often levelled at Gibson’s major rival for a first team spot, Michael Carrick.