Poll: is Van Gaal right to sell Victor Valdés?

July 16, 2015 Tags: Polls 13 comments
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Louis van Gaal says that goalkeeper Victor Valdés will be sold this summer because the Spaniard refuses to follow the Dutchman’s philosophy. In a damming assessment Van Gaal accused the 33-year-old former Barcelona player of refusing to play in United’s under-21 side last season – supposedly a key tenet of the Dutchman’s fitness regime.

“Philosophy is how you play football and how you maintain your match rhythm,” Van Gaal said.

“There are a lot of aspects in the philosophy of how you have to play like a goalkeeper at Manchester United. When you are not willing to follow the principles of the philosophy, then there is only one way and that is out.”

Valdés initially joined United last October, training with Van Gaal’s squad in a bid to recover from the anterior cruciate ligament injury sustained against Celta Vigo in March 2014. After proving his fitness Valdés inked an 18-month contract with United in January.

“It is a big disappointment,” added Van Gaal. “It is a pity because we have given him the opportunity to rehabilitate, gave him a contract and then he is fit to play. If you do not play in the first team, our philosophy is to play in the second team and he did not do that.”

However, Valdés used his Instagram feed to hit back, posting a quartet of pictures – three of under-21 fixtures in which the Spaniard featured and a photo of the stopper with his young team-mates – alongside the hashtag “respect.”

It’s a pointed message from the Spanish international; one that suggests two sides to this story. So is Van Gaal right to sell Valdés this summer?

Is Van Gaal right to dump Victor Valdes?

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Poll: who tops your summer transfer wishlist?

June 15, 2015 Tags: , Polls 13 comments
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Transfer season is in full swing, with Louis van Gaal having already signed £30 million Memphis Depay from PSV Eindhoven this summer. The Dutch winger is likely to be the first of four or perhaps five top quality signings in a busy summer that could stretch to another £150 million spree. At least if Van Gaal’s determination to mount a Premier League title challenge next summer matches the Glazer family’s new found willingness to release club cash for transfers.

Certainly, Van Gaal would like to bring in a central defender, right-back, central midfielder and striker this summer. If David de Gea moves to Real Madrid as expected then a replacement goalkeeper will also join the club in the coming months.

With the wishlist already lengthy it is little wonder that media gossip has run deep, with the fourth estate speculating Manchester United bids for more than 20 players. Topping the list are superstar names such as Gareth Bale, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Edison Cavani, together with youngster talents including Harry Kane, Felipe Anderson and Roberto Firmino. But given the choice where would, you, Rant’s readers spend the money?

Who tops your summer transfer wishlist?

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Poll: Who is United’s Player of the Season?

April 16, 2015 Tags: Polls 15 comments
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It is football’s equivalent of Oscar Season; that time of year when the gongs are handed out and the focus is on individuals rather than teams. It is a process, says Arsene Wenger, that deflects from the team ethic required in professional football.  Still, with two nominations, David de Gea is the only Manchester United player up for one of the PFA’s top awards this year. As the country’s outstanding goalkeeper, he deserves it too.

Despite the double nomination for both the PFA Player of the Year and Young PotY awards De Gea is unlikely to win either gong when the winners are announced on 26 April – they are likely to go to Eden Hazard and Harry Kane. Yet, De Gea’s rise over the past four years from nervous 19-year-old newly arrived from Atletico Madrid to one of the three best ‘keepers in world football  is surely complete.

Indeed, De Gea will be named as the Premier League’s best goalkeeper for the second time in four years. In truth it should be three, with Petr Cech edging out the United stopper in 2014 despite the Chelsea stopper’s indifferent year.

This season De Gea has frequently been the difference for United when the Reds conceded far too many chances amid some indifferent team performances over the autumn and winter months. He has also made mistakes though – recent goals conceded against Liverpool and Aston Villa were, in part, due to De Gea’s error.

There are also other candidates for United’s Player of the Year Award: Wayne Rooney, Chris Smalling, Michael Carrick, Marouane Fellaini and Ashley Young enjoy support among United’s global fanbase.

Who is Manchester United's Player of the Year?

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Poll: do you get the ‘philosophy’ now?

March 27, 2015 Tags: Polls 10 comments
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Louis van Gaal is a enigma, although he certainly wouldn’t like the characterisation. After all, almost a season after taking the job at Manchester United, supporters are still debating the nature of Van Gaal’s much-discussed ‘philosophy.’ Some might say that we are little closer to a true definition.

It is at one both fast-paced total football and attritional hoof-ball; the use of both width and narrow formations. It is a rapid transition and a laboured approach. It is a left-footer on the left and a right-footer on the right. It is players lacking match-fitness appearing for the stiffs. It is a goalkeeper using his feet and midfielder running less, not more. It is 4-4-2, 3-5-2, 4-3-3 and everything in between. It is whatever the trainer-coach enacts this week.

Yet, after two victories against Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool, and two far superior performances, there seems a clearer path forward. To a definition of a United side that excites supporters once again after more than 18 months of anything but. Is this the philosophy that we’ve been waiting for?

Do you get the 'philosophy' now?

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Poll: when should Van Gaal bring back United’s “champagne football?”

February 20, 2015 Tags: Polls 7 comments
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Manchester United legend Gary Neville’s says that supporters should “let go” of the past and embrace manager Louis van Gaal less-than-attractive style of play. Under the Dutchman United has enjoyed a run that includes just one defeat in the past 19 matches, taking the Reds to third in the Premier League and into the FA Cup quarter-final. Yet, the veteran Dutch coach has come under fire recently for United’s style – West Ham United manager Sam Allardyce dubbed Van Gaal’s team “Long Ball United,” while former player Paul Scholes said that he was “struggling to watch” the team.

By contrast Neville argues that while fans are confused by United’s good form and poor performances, supporters should embrace the former and not the latter.

“I personally believe in attacking football, with a high tempo,” wrote Neville in the Telegraph this week.

“If United were committed to protecting that style of play at all costs they should have appointed a manager with those beliefs. But there was no way Van Gaal was going to come to Manchester United and adopt somebody else’s philosophy. It’s a bit like breaking up with a partner of 26 years and wanting the new person to be the same as the old one.”

Fair comment, although few suspected that Van Gaal would bring a brand of ultra-pragmatism to the club. After all, this is the same Van Gaal that built a vibrant Ajax side in the mid-1990s and the pre-cursor to Barcelona’s tika-taka kings in the early 2000s.

Champions League football is Van Gaal’s primary goal this season – one reason that the Dutchman’s significant bank of credit remains high despite the lukewarm reception to his team’s performances. It might not always remain that way. As Neville concludes, “Van Gaal’s work will be judged not by whether he can take United back into the Champions League this season but whether he can ultimately regain the English title.”

It remains open to question whether that success, should it come, will be with an attacking, attractive, side…. or otherwise.

When should Van Gaal bring back United's "champagne football?"

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Poll: Should United have strengthened in the window?

February 5, 2015 Tags: Polls 13 comments
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The transfer window closed this week with the only business being conducted at Old Trafford involving player exits – aside from a couple of bizarre purchases destined for little more than the under-21 team. Heading out the exit door: Brazilian misfit Anderson, who returned home to Internacional on a free transfer. Meanwhile, Darren Fletcher signed for West Bromwich Albion and Wilfried Zaha completed a permanent return to Crystal Palace.

Louis van Gaal’s now slimmer squad remains in a four-way race for third and fourth places in the Premier League, with Southampton and Arsenal then Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool all within five points of Van Gaal’s side. There is little guarantee the Reds will make the Champions League, although the Reds remains marginal favourites. After all, it has been anything but a consistent season, in part disrupted by injuries, in part by the vagaries of Van Gaal’s ever-changing approach.

The transfer window is about resources though – the real question is whether Van Gaal’s now fully-fit squad has enough to ensure a spot in the top four without additions. After all, while the Reds’ seemingly shaky defence boasts the third best defensive record in the league, it is up front where goals have been hard to come by in recent weeks. The balance between the two is yet to be found by United’s manager more than six months into the role.

In contrast a number of United’s rivals strengthened during the January transfer window. Arsenal signed 24-year-old Brazilian defender Gabriel Paulista, while Southampton added two talented midfielders in Filip Djuricic and Eljero Elia. Liverpool and Spurs, like United, played a more circumspect game by adding little over the winter.

It leaves the season on the edge – and Van Gaal in the spotlight, with supporters asking the questions…

Should Van Gaal have strengthened in the window?

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Poll: will Valdés deal signal De Gea’s departure?

January 7, 2015 Tags: , Polls 13 comments
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Former Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdés will sign for Manchester United this week after recovering from a serious knee injury. But what does a deal for the 32-year-old Spanish international say about the future of incumbent number one, David de Gea?

Valdés has been training with United since October in a bid to recover from the anterior cruciate ligament injury sustained against Celta Vigo last season. Now fully fit, Valdés is set to ink an 18-month contract with United, after missing much of Barcelona’s campaign last year together with the World Cup in Brazil. As a free agent Valdés is eligible to register for any team during the winter transfer window.

Despite the serious nature of his injury Valdés comes with an illustrious past, having won six La Liga and three Champions League titles with Barcelona, before departing at the end of last season. Valdes, who spent 12 years at Barcelona before leaving Camp Nou for a fresh challenge, had initially agreed to join Monaco before the French club pulled out of the deal following the player’s injury.

Yet, for all his trophies Valdés also harbours critics, with the Spaniard both short for a top-level stopper and not always dominant under the high ball – a skillset that will certainly be tested in the Premier League.

United’s deal for Valdés will likely end reserve Anders Lindegaard’s time at Old Trafford this winter, but it is the future of De Gea that fascinates most. The 23-year-old was named United’s Player of the Season last year; an honour he must surely be favourite to retain at the half-way stage of the campaign. Yet, with just 18 months left on De Gea’s contract, and Real Madrid reportedly interested, there appears little guarantee the former Atletico Madrid player will remain at Old Trafford beyond next summer.

In this context Valdés’ acquisition could be a precursor to De Gea’s inevitable departure, with the younger man seemingly not keen to extend his stay at United. Alternatively, it may well simply be good business for an experienced ‘keeper that will provide fresh competition to his compatriot.

Does Valdés deal signal De Gea's departure?

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Poll: where will United finish this season?

September 5, 2014 Tags: Polls 15 comments
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Six players in, 13 out – it has been a summer of significant transition at Manchester United. Out went the experience of Ryan Giggs, Rio Ferdinand, Patrice Evra and Nemanja Vidić. So too the former promise of Nani, Shinji Kagawa, Chicharito, and Danny Welbeck. Not to mention misfits Alexander Büttner, Bebé, Federico Macheda, Wilfried Zaha and Tom Cleverley.

In the dozen’s stead came Ander Herrera and Luke Shaw for around £60 million before the summer’s World Cup and then Marcos Rojo, Angel Di Maria, Daley Blind and striker Falcao in the final week of the window. Upwards of £150 million was spent in total in a splurge not witness by United supporters in the club’s long history.

Indeed, not only has United brought in – for the most part – proven quality but a balanced selection of players too: left-back, centre-back, defensive midfielder, attacking midfielder and forward. Yet, the side is probably an experienced central defender and world-class box-to-box midfielder short of making a title challenge – a year on from finishing seventh in the Premier League.

The rapid evolution renders any prediction of United’s performance this season problematic. Quality was eventually acquired over the summer, but presumably it will take time to bed in. After all, while the club has brought in ‘world-class’ Louis van Gaal as manager, United has just two points from the opening three Premier League games. It begs the question of quite why the club spent so much, so very late in the window.

Where will United finish in the Premier League this season?

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Poll: Should Ed Woodward be sacked?

August 20, 2014 Tags: , Polls 87 comments
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He is the Glazer’s poster-child; the man who masterminded the family’s 2005 leveraged takeover of Manchester United and has executed on the Americans’ vision of a globally sponsored brand. Yet, all is not well with Ed Woodward, United’s executive vice chairman – the man who has led the club into the most troubling period in a generation.

United finished seventh in the Premier League last season and to compound supporters’ growing frustrating Woodward has seemingly struggled to strengthen the club’s squad this summer. Despite spending some £80 million on Ander Herrera, Luke Shaw and Marcos Rojo, star names have failed to appear, beaming, before the Manchester press pack holding a Red scarf aloft. It has left hollow Woodward’s hubris about United’s supposedly awesome financial power.

Indeed, with a little over a week before the transfer window closes it is hard to characterise United’s squad as stronger than the one David Moyes left behind at the end of last season. Not least after eight, mostly experienced, players departed Old Trafford this summer: Ryan Giggs, Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidić, Patrice Evra, Alexander Büttner, Anders Lindegaard, Bebé, and Nani.

It was a similar story of failure in the transfer market last year, with the club humiliated by a series of failed bids for big-name European stars. Woodward then oversaw the farcical £27.5 million purchase of dud Marouane Fellaini – and for £4 million over the player’s buyout clause fee. Little wonder Woodward has become the butt of supporters’ contempt. Many, most perhaps, have begun to characterise the former JP Morgan banker as inept and naïve.

On the positive side Woodward has overseen a massive increase in United’s commercial revenue, including a £750 million 10-year kit deal with adidas that is the world’s most lucrative. The executive’s strategy has so vastly increased United’s enterprise value that the Glazer family will extract around $200 million from the sale of shares in New York before the summer is out. He is seemingly untouchable in the top post.

Yet, to paraphrase Sir Matt Busy, it is on the pitch that supporters would rather see money spent – a cause in which Woodward has failed more often than not. Should the Essex-born executive fail to secure further players before the window closes Van Gaal will be left with fewer resources than he contemplated when accepting the job in June.

While Woodward has seemingly excelled in delivering new revenues from brands desperate to be associated with the club, he has failed to replicate those riches on the pitch. It leaves an obvious question:

Should Ed Woodward be sacked?

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Poll: which ‘world star’ should United sign?

July 23, 2014 Tags: , Polls 22 comments
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Executive vice chairman Ed Woodward claims that Manchester United can break the world transfer record for player, with manager Louis van Gaal working under no fixed budget. Speaking during United’s tour of the USA, Woodward echoed previous sentiments about United’s financial muscle.

“It is in our capabilities to spend £60m, £70m, £80m on a player – and we would not be afraid to do that,” said Woodward.

“There is no budget. We are in a very strong financial position. We can make big signings Whether it’s a record or not doesn’t really resonate with us. What resonates is a top, top elite player that the manager wants that is going to be a star for Manchester United.I get pointed in the direction of a target that the manager wants and there is an assessment of what that might cost and I’ll negotiate hard to do the best I can on the trade.”

The former banker took the top job from David Gill a little over 12 months ago. During Woodward’s time in charge the 42-year-old has overseen the transfers of Marouane Fellaini, Juan Mata, Luke Shaw and Ander Herrera for fees totalling almost £120 million. Yet, in that period, European rivals Real Madrid and Barcelona have spent £86 million on Gareth Bale, £75 million on Luis Suárez, £63 million on James Rodríguez and £56 million on Neymar.

Woodward’s record signing is yet to materialise; it may never, cynics will add. But if you had the choice, which star from The Football Observatory’s list of the world’s top 25 “most valuable” (expensive) players would you sign? United players have been removed. Choose your top 3 or add a missing player in the comments. There are some very good players absent, particularly defenders…

Which 'world star' should United sign?

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