Tag Archives: radamel falcao

Stormy Clouds

Luke Shaw

As the years go by and the faces change, United never seem to lose that innate ability to make things difficult for themselves. Any thoughts of ending the season on a high have been obliterated in recent weeks, as it only took Carrick getting injured and Rooney dropping back into midfield for old problems to re-emerge. After 3 defeats on the bounce, that period of 4 games when everything clicked during March and April now resembles more of a blip than a season-defining eureka moment.

Although Van Gaal has delivered a return to the Champions League, everything points towards another summer of extravagant spending and further squad upheaval. Back in August, Falcao and Di Maria were the 2 genuine big dawgs brought in yet both have proven spectacular flops. Young and Fellaini meanwhile, despite appearing to have no future here, each end the season as deserved first choice starters. Whether that’ll still be the case at the start of next term remains to be seen, but their upturn in fortunes highlights the futility of making predictions and the absolute minefield that is squad preparation and planning.

As well as the gruesome twosome of Radamel and Angel, the other major disappointment has been Luke Shaw – the £30M wunderkind who is currently looking about £25M overpriced. If you’re being kind, you can focus on the mitigating factors of his age, his inexperience and the constant injuries he’s suffered all season. Worryingly though, on the rare occasions he has featured, I’m hard pressed to recall very much that marks him out as anything special. At all. When I look at Shaw, he makes me think ‘John Curtis’. Playing for United just smacks of too much, too young for him at present – he’d be better off being taken out of the spotlight and trying to get his mojo back out on loan somewhere.

Another one who’s had a tough time of late is Adnan Januzaj, the fleet-footed, ferret-faced great white hope of the Moyes era who looked a genuine contender for about 15 minutes last season. This year, Adnan has been relegated to the dubious role of ‘comes on with 20 minutes left and gives the ball away repeatedly’ – it’s got to the stage where he knows it and everybody watching knows it too. Like Shaw, he looks like he’d benefit from a year away learning his trade elsewhere. He’s clearly not good enough to be starting games, and he’s not making any kind of impression during these brief cameo appearances. Whatever we’re doing with him currently doesn’t appear to be working, which suggests a re-think might be required before his career at OT stalls completely.

Still, as the arrival of Memphis Depay demonstrates, at least we’re doing our ‘business early’. You can’t pick up a paper or watch 5 minutes of SSN without being reminded how important it is to ‘get your business done early’… as if signing players in July or August is a completely catastrophic idea, tantamount to enlisting Harry Redknapp to oversee business on transfer deadline day. I have no idea about Depay. He’s got loads of tattoos, which means he looks like a footballer and he’s apparently got a bit of an attitude problem, which means he also acts like a footballer. Add in a 10 minute highlights reel on YouTube showing him tormenting the likes of NAC Breda and Go Ahead Eagles, and you’ve got all the evidence needed to suggest we’re onto a surefire winner with the lad.

An immeasurably pleasing sub-plot of the Depay capture is the news he was Liverpool’s chief object of desire this summer. Apparently they’ve been courting him for the last 18 months(!) and on one occasion, the player was even blessed with a papal visit from the great man himself, Brendan Rodgers. One can only imagine the cringeworthy introductory spiel he was subjected to, “I see you as a precious orchid, Memphis… I want to nurture you and nourish you.” Little wonder he opted for Old Trafford the moment big Louis strode in and slapped his balls on the table. Naturally, Rodgers was quick to refute any interest on LFC’s part, flatly denying reports to the contrary. This despite PSV recently going on record stating that Liverpool were in regular contact and talks had taken place between club and player. Oh dear.

What then, do we make of Van Gaal’s first year in charge? All season I’ve tried to remain positive, convincing myself we’ve been making progress in the face of setbacks that were to be expected. But truthfully, the last couple of weeks have been as grim as anything witnessed under Moyes. LVG himself hasn’t shown himself up as the barking, strutting mentalist some anticipated. He’s proven himself to be more of a chilled-out entertainer during his TV spots and press conferences – tersely avuncular as opposed to passionately unhinged.

There have been numerous occasions this season where we’ve looked in dire need of some sort of direction from the sidelines, particularly as we’ve struggled with the ability to change tempo and chase late goals. Once upon a time that would have been Fergie’s cue to start prowling the touchline, seeking out an instant response… which he found, more often than not. Van Gaal, almost disappointingly, appears to have taken a vow of stasis in such circumstances. Ryan Giggs easing himself off the bench with his hands in his pockets then waving his arms about a bit just doesn’t seem to have the desired effect.

If we’re assuming another half-dozen new faces arrive and a handful exit the club, that leaves United pretty much where we were at the start of this season. Another £150M down, players attempting to settle into English football and a manager still experimenting with his best formation and starting XL. At the moment, it’s acceptable because 4th represents steady progress after finishing 7th last year. Any failure to challenge for the title next term though, and LVG might be struggling to call on the goodwill he’s being afforded at present. Put another way, it’s doubtful whether many will tolerate a 3rd consecutive season of transition.

Anyway, that’s me done. See you back in August for more idle speculation, poorly judged opinion and juvenile bitching. Hugs.

Copyright Red News – May 2015

www.rednews.co.uk

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Up The Hill and Down The Slope

Dave-saves

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.

Louis-van-Gaal-Manchester-United-Queens-Park-Rangers

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.

broadhurst park

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

Check Your Head

munich clock

In this age of faux sentimentality and competitive grieving, the manner in which the club and United fans remember the Munich Air Disaster each year remains a source of some pride. There tends to be nothing over-elaborate or contrived about how the anniversary is marked. We don’t seek the attention of outsiders and we’ve never flaunted the tragedy to garner public sympathy. For the most part, everything is kept in-house, low-key and respectful – just as it should be.

Unfortunately, this message of ‘how we do things’ doesn’t seem to have reached a number of ‘reds’ that inhabit social media. February 6th this year saw Twitter rammed-full of the self-satisfied, ‘look at me’ witterings of people in competition to be the biggest and bestest, grief-stricken mourner. It was pathetic, with a few even attempting to get in early by posting their heartfelt missives the night before – ‘Munich Eve’, I suppose, in their world.

The biggest clown of the lot was one lad, writing for a sizeable United news blog, who decided to take offence at the fact Danny Murphy appeared on Talksport on February 5th and relayed an anecdote relating to aircraft turbulence. Sadly, I’m not making this up. This is what Murphy said…

“I’ll never forget going through a storm in a plane on a pre-season tour, Switzerland to Germany and it was the worst turbulence I’ve ever had and we were in little propellered plane, only the team. We were flying and it was really bad turbulence, I was like getting a bit scared and Didi Hamann was terrified. Michael Owen turned round and said ‘Don’t worry, I’m not going to die in a plane crash’. I thought, you know what, he was joking, but I’m thinking, he’s right you know, Michael Owen is not going to die in a plane crash.”

So Murphy made no mention of Munich whatsoever, wasn’t mocking the crash and simply told a story which highlighted the fact that as a youngster, Michael Owen was a cocky little bleeder. It’s a good story too, yet apparently it shouldn’t have been told because it was the day before the anniversary of Munich – a fact which apparently made this United blogger’s “blood boil”. The blog’s editor even contacted Talksport demanding some kind of explanation or apology, an utterly brainless request that I sincerely hope was ignored. Seriously now, what do these people hope to achieve? Are we so sensitive now that the words ‘plane crash’ can’t be uttered in February? Should we also ban aircraft travel during that month in case there’s ever a repeat?

The Munich anniversary has always been a sombre and muted affair, not a cue for people to start losing the plot and crowbarring themselves into the spotlight in an attempt to drum up some controversy. There was no story here, just a shameless attempt by a United fan hoping to increase blog traffic and cause embarrassment to an ex-Liverpool player. Just because a significant number of their fans seem to draw pleasure from trawling the media, seeking out tenuous insults and stirring up trouble for the supposed perpetrators, it doesn’t justify United fans adopting a similar mentality.

Next year, it would be nice if certain people could mark the anniversary as we have always tried to in the past – quietly, calmly and above all, respectfully. It doesn’t require a fuss and it certainly doesn’t need plastering all over social media to advertise how caring we are. If you choose to visit Manchesterplatz in Trudering or Duncan Edwards’ resting place in Dudley, then fantastic, do it – just don’t feel obliged to show everyone the pictures on Facebook. Then again, we’re talking about people here who would see nothing untoward with tweeting live updates from a family funeral. “Coffin gone in. Missin’ u already, Mum xx”

allardyce

It’s not only a number of United fans who’ve suffered a #headsgone moment this month, as Louis Van Gaal demonstrated during his press conference a couple of days after the West Ham game. Quite why the manager of Manchester United felt the need to respond to Sam Allardyce of all people, questioning his tactics, is something that can only be answered by Louis himself. This, of course, was the same Sam Allardyce whose entire managerial career has seen him prosper by employing the likes of Kevin Davis and Andy Carroll as human battering rams. Louis would have been better off ignoring him completely rather than trying to disprove his accusations with a cringeworthy dossier of Benitez-style ‘fachts’.

Talking of Kevin Davis, I note he gave a textbook demonstration of his limited skill set during the game up at Preston recently. Quite what this journeyman clogger has ever done to merit his national treasure status is really quite baffling. At Deepdale he was showing off his full repertoire of snide, culminating in a shin-high, late challenge which deserved a straight red yet was conveniently ignored by the referee, Phil Dowd. Thankfully, Preston had the sense to substitute him soon afterwards before he made an even bigger fool of himself. Here’s hoping that’s the last time our paths will ever cross, and that sometime in the near future Davis will summon up the good grace to retire at last, the try-hard prick.

The Preston game encapsulated exactly where United are at right now. It’s painful to watch for the most part, with many players struggling with tactics and formations they still seem entirely uncomfortable with. Attempts at possession football result in them smashing the ball against each other’s shins and most confusingly of all (and somewhat disturbingly), we actually look a better team with Young and Fellaini on the pitch. Falcao, meanwhile, looks to be in a terminal slump. Despite starting a run of games and now being able to last a full 90 minutes, he looks a shadow of the player that was tearing up La Liga 2-3 years ago. It’s all gone a bit Shevchenko at Chelsea for him, sadly.

Van Gaal’s claim that he’s happy with the team’s progress has a hollow ring to it at present, especially now a top four place is under serious threat from a resurgent Liverpool and an in-form Arsenal. Considering the easy run of fixtures we’ve had since Christmas, it should really have been all but wrapped up by now – but instead we’re facing a tough run of games with key players struggling for form in a system that seems to change by the week. Judging by the comments coming from the away end at Preston during that diabolical 1st half, Van Gaal still has a lot of convincing to do. He may well have the players onside, but can he rely on the support of the United board if he doesn’t finish top four?

Copyright Red News – February 2015

www.rednews.co.uk