Tag Archives: everton

Let The Sunshine In

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What a difference a month makes, eh? It now appears very shortsighted of me to have spent almost the entirety of last month‘s column venting about the team’s penchant for conceding late goals before concluding we were heading towards mid-table. Clearly, this current upsurge in form wasn’t something I was anticipating any time soon… that’s what 3 years of spluttering form under Moyes and Van Gaal can do to a man, I guess. Oh me of little faith…

Instead of the regular kick in the balls, we’ve been treated to a month of football that has been a genuine pleasure to witness. Indeed, watching United has probably not been this much fun since the conclusion of the title winning season of 2012/13. For the first time in god knows how long, I’m looking at league tables and fixture lists again. Going to Old Trafford no longer feels like a chore and I’m actually making eye contact with people who want to talk about the game. Yes folks, this is big!

Realistically, and this isn’t some outlandish reverse-curse attempt, we aren’t going to win the league this season. We’re too far behind and even if Chelsea do implode, there are better placed teams than us to take advantage. The thing is though, it doesn’t even matter. Crucially, it just feels like we’ve got something back that’s been missing for ages. Gary Neville suggested it was arrogance which is taking things a bit far I think, it’s more like we’ve regained a bit of belief… the team and the fans.

The Middlesborough game felt absolutely massive (okay, I know it was only Middlesborough but bear with me) given the manner in which we came back to win in the last 5 minutes. If this team does go on to achieve greatness in future, we’ll look back on that day as something of a turning point. For the first time since Fergie left, falling behind with 15 minutes left provided an incentive to do something about it rather than the sight of heads dropping at the sheer injustice of it all.

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There was no seismic groundswell where the whole stadium stood as one and willed the team forward or anything, such atmospheres just don’t happen at Old Trafford these days, sadly. But the sense of resignation that has greeted such scenarios over the last 3 years wasn’t apparent as the fans got behind the team, the team continued to press… and ultimately got their reward. Belief. It felt like a breakthrough moment, evidence that the penny has finally dropped and they’re evolving into a half-decent side. Where Mourinho and the team are at right now, they (and we) needed something like that to happen.

Anyway, I’m not getting carried away or anything but it’s all quite encouraging… and yes, perhaps the outlook isn’t quite as bleak as what I suggested a month ago. It’s still a work in progress (how many times have we said that over the last 3 years), but for now we look to have a settled team that’s gaining in confidence and improving by the week. Keep progressing in the cups, push on towards the top four and continue playing football that resembles something like the United of old. If we can maintain this current momentum and there’s a few more moments comparable with the Boro turnaround, then that’ll do nicely for the foreseeable.

It’s now looking fairly certain that this month will see the departures of Memphis Depay and Morgan Schneiderlin, two players who have been here 18 months but leave having abjectly failed to have made any kind of impression whatsoever. Harsh on Memphis perhaps, who at least provided some merriment with his gargantuan ego and spectacularly bad dress sense. Schneiderlin on the other hand, doesn’t even possess a personality to take offence at – he’s probably the beigest player to have ever played for Manchester United. The only thing I can recall him doing is looking like a Next Directory model, as I’m struggling to pinpoint a single, standout moment in any of his 47(!) appearances.

It’s hard to credit now that back in the summer of 2015, Memphis Depay was unanimously hailed as one of the brightest talents in Europe. Arriving as a prolific goalscorer from PSV worked well for Ruud, and Memphis came with a similarly impressive showreel and long list of suitors. His signing felt like a real coup at the time but it just never worked out. He didn’t have great pace, lacked a trick and couldn’t cross a ball to save his life. In other words, he was no improvement on either Ashley Young or Adnan Januzaj. Factor in his King of Rotterdam, Big Pimpin’ schtick and it didn’t take long for the realisation to dawn that he was more international class bellend than international class footballer.

Manchester United v Crystal Palace - Premier League

Anyway, it’s no great loss in either case and a move away looks to suit both Depay and Schneiderlin at this juncture. Thankfully, Everton still seem confident in the abilities of both so we should recoup a sizeable chunk of the fees paid for the pair of them. Fingers crossed they’ll go on to be a great success for the season’s remainder and buoyed by this, the scousers will return in the summer and offer us £25M to take Fellaini back too. Y’see? Done and dusted, everyone’s a winner.

Another who may find himself back at Everton in the not too distant future is Wayne Rooney, and hearty congratulations to him on equalling Sir Bobby’s record of 249 career goals for United. It’s been a long time coming for Wayne, as he’s finally reached the milestone about 2 years later than one might have anticipated – a once prolific striker nowadays consigned to a mere supporting role.

Mourinho deserves some credit for how he’s skilfully managed to solve the Rooney conundrum with a degree of sensitivity. Both Moyes and Van Gaal found themselves hamstrung by the fact he was club captain and a seemingly automatic first team choice, playing him despite his awful form and terrified of the implications of taking him out of the firing line. Mourinho meanwhile, played Wayne until dropping him became a no brainer – it was the kindest thing to do.

Rooney must know in himself that his career at OT is drawing to a close, yet I read something this weekend about United having an option to extend his contract by a further year. Do me a favour, as things stand it’ll be a major surprise if he’s still here in August given the fact he’s no longer a confirmed starter. Far from kicking off about it, you get the impression that Rooney is fully aware the end is nigh and is now content to be getting any game time at all. Whatever happens over the coming months, 13 years and all-time leading scorer at the club is an incredible achievement. In this red’s opinion at least, the plaudits being thrust his way currently are richly deserved.

Copyright Red News – January 2017

www.rednews.co.uk

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Up The Hill and Down The Slope

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So as we enter the merry month of May, there’s still no word on whether or not Spanish Dave will still be here next season. It’s not looking too hopeful, given that his girlfriend (a 2015 Spanish version of Whigfield from what I can gather) thinks Manchester is “uglier than the back of a fridge” and Jorge Mendes keeps crossing out Dave’s name on United’s contract offer and scrawling ‘Radamel Falcao LOL’ in red crayon.

Like everyone else, I like De Gea and I hope he stays for a long time. He’s been a great signing who’s developed superbly after being singled out and targeted as something of a soft touch during his first season. His supposed ‘catalogue of errors’ was something that was hugely over-exaggerated and I was always confident that given time and a little nurturing, he’d be sound. If he does go, however, then so what? With the greatest respect to the lad, he’s only a goalie. If he wants to go to Real Madrid and suffer the fate of not being Casillas then let him… it’s really no biggie in the grand scheme of things. We’ll soon find another one.

The derby turned out nice again, didn’t it? The build-up was horrendous given that the City fans I know (firmly back in plucky underdog/damage limitation mode) all solemnly predicted a United win. The thought of losing 5 in a row to them didn’t bear thinking about and thankfully, wasn’t something we were forced to suffer. You know you’ve been in a top goon when seats are getting obliterated in celebration, you’re being gripped by people who sit 3 rows behind and you’ve still got purple/yellow bruises on your calves 2 weeks after the game.

It’s always good value getting into work early on the morning after a derby win. The tension is palpable. Confused expressions of blues expecting full-on soccerbantz, countered with the feigned indifference of reds content to let them stew in their own disappointment. One always cracks after a couple of hours of non-football chat, resulting in a tentative “so, I suppose you had a good day, yesterday?” At which point, resisting the temptation to sprint the length of the office and do a knee-slide whilst triumphantly flicking the V’s with both hands raised, I find it’s more dignified just to smile, give an affirmative nod and maintain the silence.

After the giddiness of beating Liverpool and City in recent weeks, we were probably due a reality check – so the defeats at Chelsea and Everton came along as no great shock. United were well worth a point at Stamford Bridge and came very close to achieving that when Falcao hit the post. Possession stats, however, are meaningless in high-stakes games where one manager has basically instructed his team to sit back and let the opposition have the ball. Mourinho remains a master pragmatist, which is probably one of the main reasons why he’ll never manage United. He genuinely couldn’t care less whether it’s entertaining or not, he’s only interested in getting the 3 points.

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The Everton game, on the other hand, was a genuine reminder of the shortcomings we’ve demonstrated this season. United simply didn’t turn up. It was Leicester away revisited as we were exposed due to a high defensive line, with several players looking bang average again after playing out of their skins for the last couple of months. Visits to Goodison Park always play out exactly the same way – Everton (both team and crowd) are a highly excitable bunch so you just need to let them tire themselves out a bit and wait for them to lose belief. What you don’t want to do, quite clearly, is to give the ball away straight from a corner and concede a goal after 5 minutes.

Despite this sudden downturn in form kiboshing the happy happy, joy joy vibes of late, the season is trundling to a reasonably satisfactory conclusion that should see us secure a Champions League place. And let’s not forgot, back in January as we blundered round the pitch at Deepdale being outpassed and outfought by Preston, you would probably have laughed in my face if I’d suggested that was still looking likely. Anyway, (almost) mission accomplished. Now whereas Moyes might have ordered an open-top bus for such an outcome, it’s good to note that Van Gaal is making all the right noises about his plans for next season. “I’m ­always at a club to win championships – not to finish third or fourth.”

This month marks the 10 year anniversary of the Glazer takeover, the event which led to the club being burdened with a £660M debt and also within weeks, became the catalyst for a couple of thousand reds to stop attending Old Trafford and instead form their own club, FC United of Manchester.

The existence of FC United, despite them going about their business in an environment (figuratively, if not geographically) a million miles from OT, remains an emotive subject that will continue to divide opinions decades from now. There might not be the levels of vitriol flying about that there were during their first couple of seasons, but there remains an ever-present undercurrent of tension. On the hand, there are those that’ll insist on brandishing the ‘Judas’ card at the merest mention of their name, whilst on the other, (choosing my words carefully here) there’s a condescending, holier-than-thou element within their support who’ll look somewhat aghast whenever you ‘fess up to still attending MUFC games. Admittedly, I’ve met far more of the former than the latter.

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For the most part though, you’ve got a few thousand people in the middle. Most FC fans of my acquaintance aren’t the militant lefties or tree-hugging idealists they’re ridiculed as, they are just normal reds. Reds who said “not one penny” and actually meant it; beer monster reds who watched United for years yet slowly drifted away; reds who stopped going well before Glazer, enticed back by an affordable alternative; swing both ways reds who will contentedly watch FCUM one week and MUFC the next. I’ve never met a single one though, who professes to no longer care about Manchester United. They might no longer attend games but the bond will always be there – it couldn’t not be given how FC came to exist.

Anyway, this is all just a roundabout way of tipping my hat to everyone connected with the club following their promotion up to the Conference North and the imminent opening of their new home at Broadhurst Park. 4 promotions and building a ground from scratch within 10 years is an amazing achievement, especially considering they started out at the very bottom of the pile with absolutely nothing. So many congratulations and the best of luck to all concerned… the story will make a great film one day (or more likely a terrible one, if Hollywood ever gets involved).

Copyright Red News – May 2015

www.rednews.co.uk