Ole the smiling assassin

First thing Ole sensed when took over as the Manager was that Marouane Fellaini's style of play has nothing in common with the traditions of MUFC and promptly he was packed off to China. Fair play to the Belgian who saved the poor team's blushes on many occasions. Then Antonio Valencia's contract was not renewed in March and it was too late to salvage the one with Ander Herrera. In the summer Ole has sent Romelu Lukaku, Matteo Darmian off and loaned Alexis Sanchez, Chris Smalling. That's SEVEN players off the first team squad which is massive.

Questions about Ole unable to handle big name personalities sound premature giving the apparent mismatch in the style of play warranted by the Gaffer and the unsuitability of those players. Only Ander Herrera can be counted as a loss while Romelu Lukaku's guaranteed goals against non-top 4 sides will be definitely missed. These two should have been replaced no doubt.

On the pre-season tour many academy grads have been initiated, can Ole match the records of Sir Matt Busby and Sir Alex Ferguson now by handing debuts to 9 or 10 of them? Certainly as he has left himself with no choice but the number might not as high. This will earn the support of traditional fans and buy him time for the squad rebuild to eventually challenge for the title in 3 years time.

The two penalty misses in two games costing MUFC 4 points have exposed the known flaws very early in the season undoing the pre-season form. Marcus Rashford's penalty was very well taken and beat the goal keeper who went the wrong way. MUFC need to persist with him as first choice. With a weak spine, only Pogba as a player of repute in midfield and no options on the bench other than Mata, results will not be predictable like early 60's of Busby and late 80's of Ferguson era. That calls for Patience from fans which will be regularly tested especially in social media where everyone seems to vent their anger or react instantly than construct a balanced thought.

Poorly taken free kicks and corner kicks in the last game will nudge Ole to pick Andreas Pereira more frequently. However playing Pereira on the right wing is not the answer as he is not a natural winger nor picking a deadball specialist if he does not offer anything else. Pereira though is still in his formative years. Ole has settled on the 4-2-3-1 formation yet the midfield composition needs to be worked out. If the results do not improve Matic will be back in the equation as a damage control exercise. Daniel James might be eventually entrusted with spot kick duties in the long run.

It's a make or break season for 26 year old die-hard MUFC fan in Jesse Lingard. His social media immaturity in the summer rightfully earned him a censure from Ole. He is no longer an academy grad but having played in 170 games and not having cemented his position in the squad. Lingard needs to be selfish to match his instincts to deliver when the team needs it. He has done that against mid-table teams in away fixtures for Jose Mourinho in 2017-18 season. He did not start against top 4 rivals Chelsea the only win of MUFC thus far perhaps highlights his eventual fate.

David de Gea will again be in the spotlight as he has a recent tendency to go for the spectacular save instead of basic keeper tactics. His contract renewal hasn't been sorted adds to the indecision despite MUFC duly naming his as Captain in the absence of Ashley Young. The new #130 million defensive unit had its first jolt and how it responds to defeat will be keenly watched against Southampton. If they do not sort themselves Chris Smalling enhanced with Italian experience might be in the reckoning next season.

Ashley Young for injured Luke Shaw seems a direct swap but considering the urgency to avoid 3 games without a win scenario Ole might bring in Nemanja Matic for Scott McTominay and Juan Mata or Andreas Pereira for injured Anthony Martial. Mason Greenwood on the bench. Angel Gomes played in the U23 match on Friday means he will not feature in this match.

With the international break coming up Ole will know the result best suited for this Saturday lunch time kick-off.

Initiative at Molineux turns a new chapter

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer did not match the opponents formation last week who had won all 3 encounters the previous season. Rather he played to United's strength from the start with pace in James, Martial and Rashford. Knowing that Wolves play better in the 2nd half United came back after the scores were level and could have still won the game but for the penalty. Yet apart from the penalty miss there were loads of positives.

Paul Pogba was immense and eager to extend the MUFC tally of 5 goals in first two games of a new season. Against Crystal Palace today Ole might play the diminutive Angel Gomes ahead of Jesse Lingard, who offered a lot of effort and movement but no end product thus continuing his barren run in 2019 calendar year. Behind the closed door fixture last Monday against Sheffield United the team consisted of rest of squad who did not feature on last match day generating a healthy competition at every position. Matic has been on the bench like a safety valve ready to step in if required. The back room staff certainly seem to be preparing for Plan B and C. The youth team have again won their match with a difference of 4 goals. No doubt Manchester United has continued to buzz starting from that emphatic opening day victory.

Roy Hodgson has astutely led Palace to beat City and Arsenal last season and did the double over Leicester. Having drawn the game last season at Old Trafford, can Roy take them one step further to their first Premier League win against MUFC? In their captain, top scorer Luka Milivojević and ex-United winger Wilfred Zaha they certainly have the capability. Eagles have won 5 of their 6 away matches to end 2018 season strongly in 12th position. They are yet to score in this new season which is not an unusual start for them.

The new-look MUFC defense needs to make Old Trafford into a fortress by not conceding goals. This, apart from high wages in the new contract might finally convince David De Gea to sign a contract extension and become the full-time deserving Captain of MUFC given he's been our best player in the post Ferguson era. Apart from Angel Gomes who is a week away from his 19th birthday, Mason Greenwood might get more game time. Angel Gomes made his MUFC debut against Crystal Palace in 2016-17 season making him the 2nd youngest player ever behind the late Duncan Edwards to play for Manchester United. Today Ole might play him from the start i.e., full debut continuing on from last week where Daniel James was given a full debut. Ole gave nothing away in the press briefing if Alexis Sanchez might stay or leave. At least Sanchez has played in the practice match last Monday unlike want-away Lukaku.

Hope for a 2-0 home win with goals from Anthony Martial and Harry Maguire. Juan Mata is one goal away from eclipsing his league tally at Valencia and equaling his overall.

Four goal opening match win sets up MUFC for Top 4 finish

Manchester United beat their main Premier League rivals in terms of trophy's won 4-0 in the opening match of the new season 2019. Last four occasions when they have defeated any opponent by four goals MUFC have at least finished in the top 4 right from the post war years.

In 1985 under Ron Atkinson, United beat Aston Villa 4-0 with goals from Mark Hughes(2), Norman Whiteside and Jesper Olsen. Eventually ended the season in 4th place after such a promising start when they remained unbeaten till November.

In 2003 under Sir Alex Ferguson, United beat Bolton Wanderers 4-0 with goals from Ryan Giggs(2), Paul Scholes, Ruud van Nistelrooy. Finished the season in 3rd place.

In 2006 and still under Sir Alex Ferguson, United beat Fulham 5-1 with goals from Louis Saha, Wayne Rooney(2), Cristiano Ronaldo and an Own Goal. Finished the season as Champions.

In 2017 under Jose Mourinho, United beat West Ham 4-0 with goals from Romelu Lukaku(2), Anthony Martial, Paul Pogba. Finished 2nd which Mourinho considered his greatest achievement.

All of the above huge opening days victories were achieved at Old Trafford. In sports records are meant to be broken but here is hoping for a great season from MUFC.

Chelsea opening day fixtures:
MUFC did beat Chelsea 5-2 in 1958 where Sir Bobby Charlton scored a hat trick and Alex Dawson got two more. Finished runners up famously by drawing upon their indomitable spirit post Munich disaster.

In 1952, United beat them 2-0 with goals from the two Johnny's Berry and Downie.

In 1953, United drew with them 1-1 with goal from Stan Pearson.

New kids on the block from MUFC - Its not '55 nor '95 will it work


MUFC head into the new 2019 English Premier League season with only 3 signings and net spend of approx 65 million which might still come down if Darmian, Rojo and Sanchez are sold before end of European transfer deadline. Considering that the club had not bought anyone in January nor spent heavily last summer meant the expectations of fans were raised given how well Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had turned around the fortunes between December and February, and social media pressure of the #GlazersOut movement.

Beneath the surface there seems to be a method employed by the coaching staff all of whose positions have been filled for the first time in a decade. They have not only sought young and hungry players who consider joining this illustrious trophy laden club as a step-up but also have picked out defense as an area requiring urgent repair.

In Harry Maguire they have got a leader apart from being England's best centre-half. Mourinho was furious with the club last summer for not recruiting one although he broke the record for the same position twice in Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelof. Clearly the missing element was leadership. United have not made their best player as Captain in recent seasons but senior-most who might not play every match. Fans hope that after David de Gea signs his contract extension he will wear the arm band, last worn by Goal Keeper in 1919 - Jack Mew. Another area where no one since Gary Neville's retirement made his own seems to have been finally filled in Aaron Wan-Bissaka at right-back and he comes with EPL experience unlike Matteo Darmian. Luke Shaw the left-back was voted the clubs player of the season last year while Victor Lindelof had a steady season after a slow start to his United career. For the first time since United last won the league in '13 under Ferguson, they now have a formidable defense.

Ole's mentor Sir Alex Ferguson also signed a right-back in Viv Anderson and centre-half in Steve Bruce as two of his first three signings. Comparisons do not end there. Like in '95 where Ferguson famously let Hughes, Ince and Kanchelsks go and replaced them with 'Class of 92' prompting Alan Hansen to say "You can't win anything with kids", Ole has let Fellaini, Herrera and Lukaku off without replacements. Ole retracted Pereira after the FA Cup 3rd round game and made him ready by February when the change was there for everyone to see, esp the goal against Southampton. Fred had a great night in Paris against PSG. McTominay ran riot against Barcelona in the first leg of Champions' League quarter-finals and has persisted with the Scot ceding the fact that his positional sense will naturally improve with age. Only player yet to respond to Ole has been Alexis Sanchez and one gets a feeling its only a matter of time before the Chilean starts to produce the magic his earnings so demand.

Apart from these Ole has promoted youth and bought a sensation of the championship last season in Daniel James. Tuanzebe (back from two excellent campaigns on loan at Villa) in defense, Angel Gomes and James Garner in midfield, Mason Greenwood in attack, Tahit Chong on the wing. All of them had a great pre-season tour of Far East, restoring the belief in Ole that "If they are good enough, they are old enough." a famous Matt Busby quote. This has prompted comparisons with Busby Babes of '55 and  Fergie's Fledglings of '95.

Busby introduced the Babes from '51 onwards after their debut against arch rivals Liverpool ("United's Babes were cool and confidant", Tom Jackson). They had won the League in '51 after a gap of 41 years with Carey, Chilton, Pearson, Cockburn, Aston Sr, Rowley forming the backbone of the squad who also played in '48 FA Cup triumph. This coupled with United winning the first six FA Youth Cups from '52 gave Busby plenty of options to think about. '53 would prove even more significant with record signing Tommy Taylor and debut to Duncan Edwards, both of whom dominated the '55 and '56 league winning teams.

Ferguson re-focused the emphasis on youth under an impressive coach Eric Harrison that bore results by winning the FA Youth Cup in '92. And later became mainstay of the senior squad from '95 while Giggs was already part of the first team since '91. That team had a spine of Schmeichel, Bruce, Pallister, Irwin, Keane, Cantona. On that foundation United went on to win the League and FA Cup double with kids in Neville brothers, Butt and Scholes.

Ole meanwhile has just got his defense together and are yet to know each others strengths and weakness. While apart from De Gea and Pogba, United have lacked a spine capable of holding the team against tough opponents and guide the upstarts in the fast, pacey and physical demands of the league. Ole has broken from the recent mistakes of using just the cheque-book to fill the gaps, choosing instead to form a structure with a high-press style that requires lot of stamina which was the focus of the pre-season training. This has certainly excited the long serving die-hard fans with eager anticipation of the new campaign. But doubts remain if United would do any better than finishing 6th given the absence of a proven spine, lack of depth in other positions and loss of their talisman Lukaku.

Lot rides on young Rashford and Martial to not only make up for loss of Lukaku but start proving their credentials of becoming a lead marksmen for the team on a consistent basis. The right midfield was bereft of creating ideas in recent seasons and introducing James or Chong on the wing with consistent run of games for Pereira might yield better results. Sanchez might occupy the left attacking role where he had clashed with Pogba in the past for possession. McTominay and Fred have to support the slowing Matic, whose positional sense is still great to thwart and create chances. Attack and midfield areas still need sorting out in later transfer windows requiring patience from fans and MUFC Board. From Busby, Ferguson analogy and the spine of the team that needs strengthening in a methodical way, Ole has created a 3 year blueprint to challenge for the top which is better than quick fixes that have not solved the root cause.

At long last the defense is sorted and new kids are raring to go as per the great traditions of this famous club, can't wait to get behind the team. #OlesAtTheWheel #OurManOfDestiny #GGMU

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