Manchester clubs should have Mangnall Cup organized annually

Ernest Mangnall has the only distinction to have managed both Manchester United and Manchester City till date. During his reign both clubs moved their home to Old Trafford and Maine Road to become established clubs in the football league. At United he lured City's 1904 FA Cup winners Billy Meredith, Herbert Burgess and Sandy Turnbull who were auctioned off after a match fixing scandal that banned City from playing, to help the new club United win its first major honours the League in 1907, 1910 and FA Cup in 1908. He is the third most successful manager of all time at Manchester United.

"A great, intricate, almost delicate, and to the vast majority of the public an incomprehensible piece of machinery is the modern, up to date, football club. It is a creation peculiarly by itself. There is nothing like it..."  

The Manchester derby on 7th September, 1912 would be the last match he was officially in charge of United before joining rivals City who won the match 1-0 as rumours were rife about his shock switch before the match. At City he guided them to runners up in league in 1920-21 and FA Cup semi-final in 1924. Twelve years in charge interrupted by war that cut short his tenure to 9 seasons is the third longest serving manager of the Citizens behind Les McDowall and Wilf Wild.

His testimonial on 10th September, 1924 saw the best of Manchester face the best of Liverpool in a combined XI. Best tribute would be to organize a season opening U23 fixture between the two clubs alternately staged at Old Trafford and Etihad Stadium to mirror his crucial role during the incipient years that shaped the two clubs.

Solskjaer will be without Rashford and McTominay that sway the odds to a City win. If the Norwegian manages to win he will join the halcyon company of Mourinho and Klopp to have won two away fixtures against Guardiola and that can be counted as a special company. Without sure shot Lukaku the fulcrum of MUFC's win at PSG any repeat of that heroics seem distant for a club that has still not replaced Herrera and Fellaini let only the big Belgian marksmen. City are hoping to win the League Cup for the 3rd straight year. This match again presents Anthony Martial to hog the limelight but can he pull it of against a top side? Else MUFC need to bring in a striker like Moussa Dembele from Lyon who now have a replacement signed up.

Bruno Fernandes seems to be finally moving to Old Trafford after the protracted deal that consumed United the whole of January when they actually needed 3 or 4 players. After Fernandes signed a new contract last year United still put a #50 million bid expecting it to be concluded was being just blind, now the deal is structured to be #55 million + #10 million easily achievable bonus + #15 million difficult to achieve bonus + 10% of sell-on clause that totals #80 million! Micheal Carrick's shirt 16 is being vacated by the loan of Marcos Rojo to Estudiantes for Bruno Fernandes. MUFC linked to Southend goal keeper Nathan Bishop who has represented England at U20.

The green and white of Sporting Lisbon in Cristiano Ronaldo, Nani and Bruno Fernandes reminds of the famous Celtic players who chose to come to Manchester United most notably Paddy Crerand who was the missing link to supply Denis Law with the incisive passes that elevated the Reds to title contenders. Marcus Rashford must be particularly delighted by Bruno Fernandes. 

MUFC close in on Fernandes as #SackWoodward gathers pace

The details of Marcus Rashford's injury overshadowed the loss at Anfield and not the expected news about Bruno Fernandes signing. Ian Wright did not absolve Ole Gunnar Solskjaer from the blame either and rumours of an internal inquiry at MUFC to look into this issue surfaced. United were outplayed for most of the match as 34 clearances revealed while Andreas and Martial blew two big chances. David De Gea came out like a leader to protest against the foul by Virgil van Dijk as the new Captain Harry Maguire looked on. In form Mata and Greenwood were brought on very late by Solskjaer. Fred and Andreas got into positions where they could shoot for the goal but clearly lacked the skill that Bruno Fernandes can easily provide. The Portuguese is definitely an upgrade on MUFC existing midfield but needs a midfield organizer along side him like Donny van de Beek. This signing could possibly mean the start of Paul Pogba moving out of Old Trafford.
As a big club MUFC can easily negotiate with a smaller club in Sporting and the fact that both clubs had unofficial contact last summer so knew about the internal intricacies involved for more than 6 months yet this deal protracts. No excuses to have this deal not wrapped up by 1st week of January so that MUFC could have benefited by being in the Champions' League positions by now! With Rashford out injured potentially till end of the season can United get one additional player like Moussa Dembele a typical #9 who will cost more than #50million and Olympique Lyon have potentially signed a replacement in Karl Ekambi! Brazilian forward Everton Soares plays on the left of the front three much like Rashford but at the right age of 23 while Jarrod Bowen is of the same age but plays on the right of the front three.

Meanwhile Erling Haaland scored a hat-trick on his debut for Borussia Dotmund in a 5-3 comeback win over FC Augsburg. Cavani is beyond the age to make Eric Cantona type of impact realistically while Krzysztof Piatek is behind Ibrahimovic in the pecking order says everything. One thing is certain that without reinforcements the thread bare squad cannot sustain the challenge neither in the Premier League, Europa League nor FA Cup. As previously mentioned MUFC need to develop relations with the erstwhile G-14 clubs to take players on loan which is the best way to plug this gap while saving big on forced player purchases.

Money has never been an issue with MUFC but rather attaching value to it. If Solskjaer had #150 million to spend which he used it on just three players and could not consequently get a replacement for Lukaku while publicly saying he was satisfied with the summer transfer business does raise questions about squad planning for the whole season.

#SackWoodward got trending after the brave Gary Neville spoke the truth about the state of affairs at Manchester United. "I can’t believe, with the investment that has been put into the squad over the last five or six years and you end up with that out on the pitch. I cannot believe it." Once a Captain always a Captain.
This was followed by another correct analysis by Sky Sports reporter Kaveh Solhekol that while Chelsea and Man City owners injected 1 Billion dollars each into their respective clubs the Glazers at MUFC had taken out 1 Billion dollars from the club during the same time. Old Trafford is crying out for modernization.
Jude Bellingham a 16 year old playing in Birmingham City's first team already represents the kind of signings that Real Madrid and Borussia Dotmund regularly do now. 18-month loan deal is a bit too long though for the high transfer fee being placed on him.

MUFC Youth team finally reached the 5th round of FA Youth Cup after their 2-0 win over Norwich and will now face Leeds United. MUFC haven't gone beyond 5th round since 2012!

Its #MUNBUR next in the Premier League without Pogba, McTominay and Rashford. Lindelof was sent off from training due to illness which might lead to Eric Bailly getting into the starting XI. Excellent Mata might start at #10 with Andreas wide on right giving Daniel James much needed rest on the bench. Dalot, Gomes and Chong might get some game time. MUFC have not done the double over Burnley since 1975-76 season. Sean Dyche appreciated Solskjaer for being calm and positive amid all the pressure "It does take time. It’s taken a big transition from Sir Alex (Ferguson) to where it is now and it continues to be that. Ole is doing a good job in staying calm throughout that period." The reverse fixture a 2-0 away win was a resounding mid-week display towards the end of December that won over critics. Repeat performance at Old Trafford will be very difficult with injuries not impossible. Will Anthony Martial lead the forward line, harass the opponent defenders, be injury free and take Greenwood along after that miss at Anfield which he needs to banish as quickly as possible. Burnley have drawn their last three games at the Theatre of Dreams can they go one better?

Sir Matt Busby 'Mr Manchester United'

On this day: 20th January 1994 Sir Matt Busby passed away as MUFC under Sir Alex Ferguson successfully went on to win the first League and Cup double which had eluded Busby. Earlier in May, 1993 MUFC had ended their 26 year wait to become English League Champions once again. Few poignant quotes from Sir Matt Busby...

Recollections on becoming the manager of MUFC: "It was not an easy assignment. The ground had been blitzed, they had an overdraft at the bank, what is more I had no experience as a manager, and I felt they were taking a great risk in appointing me."

Wearing a track suit whilst holding a training session: "Playing a wee bit o' football with the lads."

His first act after becoming MUFC manager was to ask Jimmy Murphy to be his assistant: "It could be that what either Jimmy Murphy or I lacked the other had. He would always give a straight-forward opinion. He was no yes-man."

To Stan Pearson facing big spenders Derby County in FA Cup semi-finals 1948 who duly scored a hat-trick in that match: "The greatest thrill in soccer is playing at Wembley on Cup Final day."

Keen on entering the new European competition against Football League's wishes: "Prestige alone demanded that the Continental challenge should be met, not avoided."

Introducing youth players from the academy be it Roger Bryne and Jackie Blanchflower vs Liverpool in Nov, '51 and many others since "If you’re good enough, you’re old enough."

His philosophy after winning the League in 1955 with Busby Babes: "From the very start I had envisaged making my own players, having a kind of nursery so that they could be trained in the kind of pattern I was trying to create for Manchester United."

Whispering to Jimmy Murphy as Busby lay in hospital bed after the crash: "Keep the flag flying"

Returning to Manchester for the first time: "Resting in Interlaken, Germany was one thing and facing Old Trafford another. When I approached the ground and moved over the bridge along which our supporters had squeezed fifty abreast in there tens of thousands to shout for us I could scarcely bear to look. I knew the ghosts of the babes would still be there, and there they are still, and they will always be there as long as those who saw them still cross the bridge, young, gay, red ghosts on the green grass of Old Trafford."

Trauma of being a survivor of a tragedy: "To be honest, I suppose I wasn't sane. I was raving and creating hell with everyone. Why us? Was it some human error or had this been decreed from above? If so, why hadn't I died with them?"

Fighting back: "There were many difficulties to overcome, but the hardest thing of all was coming round to flying again. For a few matches after Munich we went abroad by sea and train, but obviously that couldn't go on for too long. We all had to deal with it in our different ways."

Inspiration to carry on after Munich: "Frankly, ever since my wife, Jean, had told me in the Munich hospital that she felt sure the lads who had died would have wanted me to carry on, I had become increasingly obsessed about United winning the European Cup. It was almost as if this glittering trophy were the Holy Grail."

On Bobby Charlton scoring 68 goals in three seasons immediately after Munich "When things looked their blackest after the Munich accident, and there were times when I felt great despair, I was enormously cheered to think that Bobby Charlton was there. His presence was a great source of inspiration to keep working for the restoration of Manchester United."
Surprisingly lost to Partizan Belgrade in the semi-finals of European Cup 1966 when the United squad was at its peak: "We'll never win the European Cup now."

Decisive game of 1966-67 season beating West Ham 6-1 at Upton Park who had three World Cup winners Sir Bobby Moore, Sir Geoff Hurst, Martin Peters and had reached the finals of Cup Winners Cup with the finest display of football seen in England post the second world war: "This was my greatest hour."

To his players before the start of extra time in the European Cup final 1968: "I told them they were throwing the game away with careless passing instead of continuing with their confident football. I told them they must start to hold the ball and play again."

His decision to retire on 14th January, 1969: "Manchester United have become rather more than a football club. They are now an institution. I am finding less and less time to attend to the thing I consider paramount, which is the playing side."

Being conferred Manchester's first Freeman: "Football's great occasions are, for me at any rate, unequaled in the world of sport. I feel a sense of romance, wonder and mystery, a sense of beauty and poetry. The game becomes larger than life. It has something of the timeless, magical quality of legend."

Maguire elevation and the incredible United trio

Harry Maguire is confirmed by Solskjaer to be the new Club Captain after the proposed departure of Ashley Young to Inter Milan. Ashley has been a model professional, played at number of different positions admirably and given his best. It's unusual for a Captain to leave mid-season but fair play to Solskjaer to reduce the average age of the squad with Williams and Shaw ready to share the burden. Manchester United have had a history of great Captains from WW2 in Johnny Carey, to Roger Byrne, Noel Cantwell, Martin Buchan, Bryan Robson, Steve Bruce, Eric Cantona, Roy Keane, Gary Neville, Nemanja Vidic, Wayne Rooney. Jose Mourinho destroyed his lineage by making his Captain be a bench warmer in Rooney, Carrick and Valencia who could not even speak English properly. Solskjaer is resetting another flaw to properly reflect the clubs DNA. Not a fan of Sir Bobby Charlton as a Captain especially during the post Busby years. 

Rashford, Martial and Greenwood have scored 26 league goals this season just two shy of the famed LFC trio of Salah, Firmino and Mane! This without a decent midfield to create quality passes and Pogba being injured for most of the season. Solskjaer being a striker himself must be filled with pride of his young strike force.


MUFC are the only team to have taken points off runaway league leaders LFC back in Oct with a 1-1 draw. Last seasons below par performance triggered MUFC board to sack Mourinho else the record at Anfield has spread out evenly in three's for loss, draws and wins from last nine fixtures there. Form goes out of the window in the biggest derby of English Football League like LFC's defensive solidity and MUFC's lack of goals away from home both of which point to only one result. Without the industrious McTominay and replaced by slow Matic the task will only become onerous. Rashford remains a doubt after his cameo lifted the spirits to have the only goal scored by Mata from a Martial pass in the FA Cup 3rd round replay against Wolves and was injured soon after for a sub to be substituted. Greenwood is still too young to command a regular starting berth.

Before the reverse fixture MUFC chief executive stepped in to speak in favour of Solskjaer and now has reportedly kept Bruno Fernandes on standby. Not getting the player which the club targeted in time for their biggest match of the season is not following Ferguson's template. This away match is the ultimate yardstick to measure the individuals in the squad and how well they combine to thwart the opposition. In the 80's when MUFC went eight games unbeaten including Ferguson's first match while LFC lifted trophies the present form is representative of the gulf in class between the two sides. With Chelsea losing yesterday United have the opportunity to reduce the gap to two points from the fourth spot. Maguire can seal the unlikely result by opening his goal tally for his new club to claim a legendary status.

United should honour Docherty now as they realize the task Solskjaer has

Tommy Docherty was sacked as Manchester United manager after winning the 1977 FA Cup as reports of his affair with club physio's wife was made public. More details emerged about the way he conducted deals out of advertisements, tour games, tickets for FA Cup matches, belittling the senior players etc during the libel he threw at Willie Morgan who called him "about the worst manager there had ever been." The impulsive Docherty retorted "Any manager who says he has not cheated or lied is not being honest." Based on Sir Matt Busby's high standards he should have sent Docherty off much before winning the first major trophy for MUFC after he won the European Cup in 1968.

Docherty was managing Scotland with Jimmy Johnstone, Kenny Dalglish, Billy Bremner, Peter Lorimer, Denis Law, Lou Macari, Martin Buchan calling them "the most talented squad the national team has ever been able to call upon" who were well on their way to qualify for 1974 World Cup. Sir Matt Busby poached him after consulting seniors in the team from Scotland. With the retirement of Sir Bobby Charlton at the end of the season MUFC board had a huge outlay for transfers and Doc brought four Scottish players in Alex Forsyth, George Graham, Lou Macari and Jim Holton to being dubbed the first million dollar team. Drew 1-1 with Leeds United in his first match and once played eight Scottish players in a league match against West Ham. Incidentally MUFC lost to Arsenal in the first match of '73 and went out of the FA Cup to Wolves 0-1. MUFC avoided relegation by finishing 18th but the next season they succumbed.

Docherty' reign preceded with the sacking of George Best simultaneously with that of previous manager Frank O'Farrell and the Ulsterman was persuaded to re-join briefly between Oct '73 to Jan '74 [Won 2, Drew 4, Lost 7, scored twice]. Charlton ended his career in his first season and then Doc transfer listed Denis Law who joined local rivals City to send MUFC infamously into the second division with his back heel. End of the United Trinity of Ballon d'Or winners with 287 most amazing matches between them starting with 4-1 win over West Brom when all three scored on 18, Jan 1964 to 28, Oct 1972 in a 1-4 loss to Tottenham!

To call the rebuild task as monumental might also be an understatement: Tommy Cavanagh as his assistant to instill discipline in the squad, appointed Brentford manager Frank Blunstone as youth coach: Arthur Albiston, Gerry Daly, Brian Greenhoff, David McCreery, Jimmy Nicholl came to the fore; moved Sammy McIlroy to midfield, gave MUFC their identity back in Steve Coppell and Gordon Hill on the wings, shrewd purchase of Stan Pearson and Jimmy Greenhoff who reserved his special for Liverpool, won promotion immediately finishing 3rd in the league and reached the FA Cup final in '76, Stopped LFC from winning the treble with that '77 FA Cup win. MUFC became the 1st English team to win the European treble under Ferguson in 1999. Led MUFC back in Europe for the first time since Busby with UEFA Cup beating Ajax but lost to Juventus in the next round despite winning the 1st leg 1-0 with a Gordon Hill masterclass while the absence of skipper Marin Buchan cost the 2nd leg.

Doc was last at Old Trafford in 2014 the experience apparently that left him sore "I won’t be back at United after them charging me for my tickets about three years ago. I got an invoice for £88 for two seats so that was it for me. If I fancy a game locally I’ll phone up Mike Summerbee at City and they always look after me. But I’m done with United." Dave Sexton who did the double over MUFC with modest Coventry might have been at Old Trafford assisting numerous England coaches. While Ron Atkinson upset MUFC with Sheffield Wednesday in League Cup final and appears on MUTV quite regularly. Doc never managed to be at a club for more than 2 seasons after his MUFC tenure and later confessed to be regretful about leaving Scotland for MUFC.

Clearly the reasons are not football related but the rebuild that has lasted till Ferguson's appointment does not justify the impertinence shown towards Tommy Docherty now in his 90's. He should have been invited for the opening game of this season which was against Doc's Chelsea for whom he played, managed and changed their colours from White to Blue. Wolves the last major club he managed whom MUFC face in the FA Cup 3rd round replay at Old Trafford this Wednesday offers the club another chance.

On this day: 14-Jan-1969 Sir Matt Busby announced his decision to retire at the end of the season and become general manager at MUFC.

Woodward steps in after drubbing by City to make a transfer to overshadow match against Liverpool

Ed Woodward intervened to get Manchester United linked with Donny Van de Beek immediately after the drubbing by Man City in the League Cup semi-final first leg. City players were claiming to have slowed down after scoring 3 goals inside 38 minutes to avoid exertion in a midst of a busy schedule and David de Gea made a few superb saves to keep the score down. In the second half MUFC scored via captain Marcus Rashford that started with Angel Gomes' tackle and a through ball by Mason Greenwood - all three Mancunian's involved a special goal indeed. Solskjaer reaction was "From 15 minutes to half-time was the worst we have played this season. We couldn't cope with the setback. Now we have a steep mountain to climb." but prided on winning the second half 1-0.

Reaction from Netherlands about the interest in Donny Van de Beek was muted that made MUFC to rekindle their interest in Bruno Fernandes whom they courted all summer only to reject stating he took too many risks from midfield. Rio Ferdinand's tweet sent MUFC fans into meltdown on Friday.
Sporting's directors concluded the meeting with MUFC and flew back for Saturday's game against Vitoria Setubal. Its claimed the fee is around #60 million plus #10 million in add-ons and if agreed Fernandes can travel next week for the medical and conclude the deal. Sporting play Benfica in crucial League Cup semi-final on 21st January while MUFC travel to play Liverpool on 19th. Credit to Woodward for coming out in defense of Solskjaer ahead of the visit of Liverpool to Old Trafford earlier in the season which ended in a 1-1 draw. This transfer might shadow the outcome of the game against our biggest rivals in England and perhaps act as a cushion to persist with Solskjaer. This is one of those on-off deals that most trusted MUFC journalists can't be sure of until its done.

Start to 2020 has been disastrous with no wins in three matches against Arsenal, Wolves and Man City. Harry Maguire returned to lead the side after missing the derby as MUFC won 4-0 at home to Norwich the bottom side in the Premier League. MUFC thankfully did not repeat losing to bottom team as they did against Watford last month. Rashford scored two goals in his 200th appearance being the 3rd youngest behind George Best and Ryan Giggs to reach that milestone. After being 3-0 ahead the fans chanted slogans against the Glazers and Woodward despite Solskjaer stating earlier that he is forthright in his opinions with them "looking at how we are going to look in one month's time, five months' time, in the longer period" but ended saying "I am happy with these players"!! MUFC are yet to win three consecutive games in the Premier League this season. MUFC midfield is short staffed which apparent to everyone and yet the club waited for the poor result against Man City to try to bolster the personnel in that area of the pitch that once again raises questions about the veracity of planning for this whole season.
Bruno Fernandes though would be most welcome addition to the squad. He should have been signed after excelling in the inaugural UEFA Nations League last summer. He is a two time Portuguese player of the season and scored 31 goals in all competitions in 2018-19 season. MUFC can finally have a specialist free-kick taker and expect goals from midfield especially in the absence of Paul Pogba. It does not make James Maddison's purchase redundant as the duo can play as a pivot on either side of a holding defensive midfielder. Will Mark Goldbridge from the United Stand be present at his unveiling like fan Joe Ruane was at Wayne Rooney's remains to be seen.

Options for MUFC in a difficult January window

Harry Maguire pulled out of League Cup semi-final first leg at Old Trafford with a hip injury that can rule him out for at least a month. The England international has played in 11 straight games in 5 weeks since the seniors were made to skip the away tie at Astana and bizarrely Solskjaer even played him against the minnows Colchester United. Its a huge blow to MUFC as both Cup tie's coming up before the end of the month. Maguire joins McTominay and Pogba on the injury list and all three form the spine of the thread bare team that's why MUFC season can crumble in January if reinforcement's are not added in this transfer window. Note the team are also short of two midfielders since the departure of Fellaini and Herrera. Best option would be to recall Chris Smalling from Roma where he's had a great season but off late errors have again crept in.

After the disastrous 1-3 drubbing to Man City sources from the club immediately claimed to be considering a move for Donny Van de Beek from Ajax who might cost #50 million. His teammate Hakim Ziyech is a tenacious winger who excelled in a 4-4 draw against Chelsea and can fill the right wing slot. While Rio Ferdinand suggested another midfielder Fabian Ruiz from Napoli who unjustly fired coach Carlo Ancelotti for player revolt. Donny Van de Beek would be a marquee signing that will also help to attract creative or attacking midfielders in the summer who might be assured of protection that will enable to express themselves better. Real Madrid tried to sign him in the summer and might get back again thus if MUFC cannot get him they can consider either of Kerem Demirbay of Leverkusen, Daniel Parejo from Valencia, Teji Savanier from Montpellier, Alejandro Gomez of Atalanta who have all excelled for at least one whole season playing consistently and are from clubs outside the traditional top three of their respective leagues. These four are no match to the Dutchman in terms of Champions' League experience thus are not marquee but have elevated their game to earn a move to a new club or moved into the top midfielders category in their respective leagues.

MUFC can look at other elite clubs in Europe like Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Juventus, Inter, Paris St Germain who frequently loan players to each other. Mauro Icardi between Inter and PSG, Philippe Coutinho between Barca and Bayern, Perisic between Inter and Bayern. Even Arsenal got Dani Ceballos from Real! MUFC have let out Alexis Sanchez who they could not handle to Inter and Chris Smalling to Roma but failed to negotiate any incoming players despite being one of the founding members of the disbanded G-14 that has now become European Club Association. Historically MUFC have shunned this type of deal since the Ferguson years and there could be an opportunity for the present management to reassess this route until then any transfers seem unlikely. Example: Arturo Vidal, Samuel Umtiti from Barca, Emre Can, Adrien Rabiot, Daniele Rugani from Juventus, Edinson Cavani from PSG.

Championship has always been a great reserve to scout for future prospects. Brian Glanville used to frequently tell of how Chelsea's first League winning team in 1955 was made up of players from lower division. Kalvin Phillips of Leeds, Matt Grimes of Swansea, Matheus Pereira of West Brom, Jarrod Bowen of Hull, Matthew Cash of Nottingham, John Swift of Reading, Jed Wallace of Milwall. Last season's standout player was Jack Grealish who MUFC might sign in the summer for a hefty fee from Aston Villa while MUFC did sign Daniel James, Neal Maupay is now excelling at Brighton and Reece James at Chelsea.

MUFC can take this window to sign up players in the summer and do the homework in advance like Chelsea signed Christian Pulisic in last January only to be available in the summer. James Maddison is the prime candidate to do such a deal now for #70 million else once he signs a new deal with Leicester then he would cost more than #100 million in the summer. Such a deal would be smart and reduce the cost of acquisition later.

Or look to sign free transfers like Thomas Meunier to add the experience and backup to Aaron Wan-Bissaka. Ashley Young seeking his last contract and in talks with Inter where he can perhaps even extend his playing years in the slow Italian league. Meunier can add the experience at the full back positions that now will have Shaw, Wan-Bissaka, Dalot and Williams all below 25 years of age.

Options are available if search is focused in the right direction. Ed Woodward can overturn his image with the fans and slowly gain acceptance. This season he has been proactive unlike in the past. Being 5th in the table and still in contention for all three Cup competitions, unless the club acts to protect its performance by adding quality players they might collapse like at the end of last season. #GlazersOut movement on social media from fans will definitely re-start towards the end of January if no one is signed.

Will Woodward seize the opportunity to gain acceptance from fans

Wolves are proving to be the bogey team for Solskjaer's Manchester United as once Nottingham Forest did to Ferguson's in his early years. Beating them would be a huge boost of confidence like overcoming a mental block. MUFC in the recent past have done well against teams from top half and that bodes well for this match. The tie is important for Wolves to ascertain if they have emerged out of that shock semi-final loss to Watford in the FA Cup last year or not. Wolves if they had won would have faced Man City a club who they want to emulate and structurally they are well setup to aim for silverware following the steady years under coach Nuno Espirito Santo & Fosun ownership aided by super agent Jorge Mendes.

Squad rotation will be crucial given the League Cup semi-final is on Tuesday against Man City who will put a strong side to win now that they seem to have lost the League. MUFC can't afford to choose one cup competition over the other especially if one is more prestigious and the other just three matches away to winning a silverware. Losing out on both would have Solskjaer staring at eventualities that befell Wilf McGuinness and David Moyes while a win will buy him an opportunity  to win a silverware like Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho. Will Solskjaer make the cut?

Will Angel Gomes play again and eventually sign a new contract with MUFC? He is well suited to play the number 10 role that only recently has seen Andreas growing into and Gomes can be a good long term option despite the disadvantages of his height. Matic, Gomes and Chong can sign contract with European clubs in January for a free transfer in the summer. Brandon Williams might start giving that wing a real panache and a goal threat. Romero probably should not just play in the cup games alone but also take David de Gea's spot in the Premier League for a few games in order to get a positive reaction from MUFC's best player of last decade. Fred and Matic might start due to injuries to McTominay and want-away Pogba. Solskjaer has played with three at the back but that hasn't produced positive results than just to block the opposition like the credible draw against LFC while in other matches has put MUFC at a disadvantage.

Ed Woodward should take a call on Pogba for the sake of recognizing the contributions of the team  that without the World Cup winner has taken the club to the fifth position in the league. And in parallel get two more players starting with Grealish or Maddison. It would cement his acceptance with the fans who have seen few positive moves from the banker this season. An opportunity like this does not come often especially with non-big name manager in Solskjaer at the helm. Refusing to do business in January or refusing to deal with super-agents is not a mature way of conducting football transfer instead it needs to be shifted to focus on value-addition with a stable medium-to-long term view. Woodward must take inspiration from the transfer of Denis Law for whom the club took debt for the first time post WW2 to support Sir Matt Busby. Sale of Pogba should not be a precondition to bring players to fill the big void in midfield since the departures of Fellaini and Herrera. That British transfer deal #115,000 also sheds light on how Sir Matt asked Denis to sit quiet in Manchester for a month to force Torino to budge and not sell him to Juventus instead. Woodward should also realize from the same transfer that MUFC would be better off to let Pogba leave now.

Mark Robins goal got MUFC the victory over Nottingham Forest in '90 FA Cup 3rd round and the first major trophy was subsequently won by Sir Alex Ferguson who was supposedly on the brink of being sacked if he was to loose the 3rd round tie. The significance of today's match is certainly not lost especially on the protege Solskjaer whom Ferguson called 'Our Man of Destiny'.  

Defining week for Solskjaer that seem familiar with McGuinness and Moyes era

Wilf McGuinness and David Moyes had taken their teams at Manchester United to the semi-finals of the League Cup which they lost in 1970 December and 2014 January and went out of the FA Cup 3rd round respectively with the former's reign ending in December itself while the later lasted till April. That predicament could soon befall Ole Gunnar Solskjaer if the tie against Wolves in the 3rd round of FA Cup and against Man City in the league cup semi-finals over two legs do not go right, nor if he fails to stitch together a run of victories in the league to secure the 4th spot.

The patchy results in the league despite the victories over Spurs and Man City he has clearly failed to bring consistency that normally would have meant a run of 5 or 6 straight victories increasing the confidence of his young charges. Unbeaten at Old Trafford since the loss to Crystal Palace in late August and six game unbeaten run that included three draws are the only two positives that have protected Solskjaer in the results oriented business of football management. Loss to Arsenal was a consequence of two bad choices by the Norwegian: Lingard instead of in-form Andreas and James instead of Greenwood. No Angel Gomes in the squad either who traveled but did not make it to the bench due to issues over his contract. To resurrect the confidence of David De Gea MUFC appointed a new goal keeping coach Craig Mawson from Burnley.  Fans would have loved to see a hard fought draw given the hectic schedule and eke out a result to maintain another run of games unbeaten.

All focus was once again and unfairly on Paul Pogba who did not play in the match after Solskjaer had hinted that he might be involved earlier in the week. Two events clearly points to non-cohesion between the football and commercial management at the club. Firstly after MUFC pulled out of Haaland deal Pogba's agent gave a damning indictment saying "It’s a club out of touch with reality and without a sporting project. I wouldn’t take anyone there, they would even ruin Maradona, Pele and Maldini." Huge loss of commission from that Haaland deal seem obvious but why should MUFC allow such a diatribe from an agent of a player employed by the club. Second is more worrisome actually spoken by Solskjaer "How long is Pogba out for? Three or four weeks maybe, I don't know. He's been advised to have an operation by his people and he'll probably do that." It reminds of Mourinho wanting the Frenchman out but could not due to Management disagreement over the loss of revenue vis-a-vis social media. Despite Solskjaer maintaining utmost restraint so far this season to put a brave face on a tough situation given the weak squad this admission does demand an transparent revelation of the exact injury suffered by Pogba. No talks about contract extension with Pogba who is already in his final 17 months of his existing one does bare out the hard truth.

Without Pogba and more importantly McTominay for a whole month could jeopardize what could possibly be achieved this season. James Garner and Dylan Levitt may get more game time but its probably a year too early for them to be playing in the Premier League every week. MUFC must reignite the interest in Kalvin Phillips or Sandro Tonali based on Solskjaer's template of young and hungry, after sounding out their first tier targets in Grealish and Maddison. The iconic number 7 jersey remains vacant and is still a big draw for an aspiring midfielder seeking world wide acclaim. Ferguson wasn't a fan of January signings either but did bring Vidic and Evra when required. Saul Niguez, Donny van de Beek, Arturo Vidal, Fabian Ruiz, Marco Verratti are pricey options that should be considered. Although experience is the key driver to bring a midfielder given that McTominay might be the first choice Denis Zakaria or Boubakary Soumare may be looked in purely from availability point of view only if none of the other names work out.

The sheer passion shown by Solskjaer coupled with courage to chart through the tough times for the club does deserve more praise than scorn. He is also perhaps caught in the clash of classical manager versus the modern hands on coach from varied background that has inundated the game. The loss to Arsenal away followed by the loss to Wolves in the FA Cup quarter-finals in March was the start of unraveling of deeper issues that led to a collapse towards the end of last season. The same opposition and a year later will the performance and result be any different now? Worse given the same two fixtures are early in January this season if the deficiency in midfield isn't managed by the way of player acquisition the fallout can be disastrous for the 17 remaining league games.

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