Showing posts with label Ander Herrera. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ander Herrera. Show all posts

Paul Mitchell or relegation battle next season

With upto six players coming to end of their contracts at Manchester United who already have an unfilled vacancy in central midfield since departures of Ander Herrera and Marouanne Fellaini three years ago, the club has a monumental task ahead in the summer transfer window as Ralf Rangnick put it "for me, it is clear there will be six, seven, eight, maybe ten new players" following a 0-9 aggregate thrashing at the hands of their biggest rivals Liverpool. With the scale of the rebuild and a limited funding of about 150 million nett the task of getting the right players is difficult as it is; it is further compounded by the fact that United have a duboius record under Ed Woodward and Matt Judge to take forever to conclude negotiations while paying over the odds for the wrong players!

Richard Arnold will want to demonstrate how he tends to operate differently than his beleaguered predecessor and thus the appointment of Erik ten Hag, an upcoming manager who has steadily won laurels at Ajax. A new position was also created under John Murtough for Deputy Director of Football. Ralf Rangnick worked closely with Paul Mitchell at the Red Bull group and both were spotted at FA Youth Cup match in February. The Manchester born recruitment specialist would be an ideal candidate based on his brilliant eye for talent while at Southampton, Tottenham Hotspur, Red Bull group and now AS Monaco. Mitchell was also synonymous with the rise of Mauricio Pochettino at Southampton and Tottenham but reportedly fell off with Spurs chairman Daniel Levy and had to leave. With AS Monaco losing to Braga in round of 16 in Europa Cup and presently in 4th place in Ligue 1 six points off 2nd place amid managerial churn, time is perhaps right for Mitchell to move to new destination after a two year stint at the principality.

United have lost four straight away matches to Man City, Everton, Liverpool and Arsenal. Last time this happened was in 1980-81 when United finished eight. United have lost 10 matches this season and conceded 51 goals already. Loss to Liverpool was the worst match in Premier League history. If it were not for Cristiano Ronaldo and David de Gea, United would be battling relegation. Board having sacked Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and appointing an interim manager thus writing off the whole season, demolished the morale of the squad. With impending player exodus the chances of 'Too good to go down' might repeat in 2022-23 just a year before the golden jubilee of last relegation in 1973-74. Reports of conflict between British and Iberian/South American players must be firmly dealth with. Everton part of original top 4 clubs of league football in England are now facing relegation, United must wake-up now. Not only have City and Liverpool marched on while Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham are re-grouping but likes of Wolves, West Ham, Leicester, Brighton, Brentford, Aston Villa, Crystal Palace have sound structures to enable high performance. 

More than anything the character of the players will be paramount. Sir Alex Ferguson brought Viv Anderson, Brian McClair and Steve Bruce and fixed the centre-back issue to build a firm foundation that got better after Gary Pallister added pace to handle counter-attacks. United must rally around a new captain in Bruno Fernandes ably guided by veterans Cristiano Ronaldo and David de Gea as the current skipper Harry Maguire has had a torrid time while being unispiring. Mason Greenwood is likely to miss another season, Edinson Cavani is leaving, Martial and Rashford are not number 9's which makes an emergency signing of a forward mandatory. If team takes time to adapt to different type of gameplay under Erik ten Hag, they must have an option to switch to more direct form in the last 20-30 minutes to salvage crucial points. United were relegated due to lack fit and proper strikers in 1973-74 campaign! Return of James Garner from an excellent spell at Forest has raised expectations. United cannot introduce young players from the team that has reached the FA Youth Cup final without proper protection from senior players like how 'Captain Marvel' Bryan Robson switched to left wing to take care of opposing right-back who was giving young Ryan Giggs a tough time.

United certainly cannot spend 150 million on one player like Declan Rice or proven leaders like Harry Kane and Conor Coady as it seems very difficult to raise significant funds from selling players. United need two defensive midfielders, one centre-forward, one centre-back for a start. Hypothetically it is likely to be 40m for Ruben Neves, 50m for Yves Bissouma, 75m for Darwin Nunez, 35m for Jurrien Timber will top 200m. But an expert like Paul Mitchell can tweak this from his extensive contacts especially from Red Bull group players like Amadou Haidara(ligament injury), Konrad Laimer, Josko Gvardiol, Willi Orban, Marcel Halstenberg, Christopher Nkunku, Rasmus Kristensen et al and from his existing employers AS Monaco the likes of Aurelian Tchouameni, Benoit Badiashile, and others throughout Europe to transform the squad in couple of seasons itself. Getting Paul Mitchell will strengthen Ralf Rangnick's stature who is to become a consultant after this season and the board must not bring politics into play to handicap the club instead of being an enabler. Mitchell is likely to weigh up the takeover scenario at Chelsea who will play in the Champions' League next season unlike United before deciding.

United have been poor at letting players go and the plan of Ed Woodward to load non-starting players at high salary to extract good transfer fee has backfired spectacularly. Club will have to generate minimum of 50m by selling Dean Henderson, Eric Bailly, Anthoy Martial. Instead of Phil Jones club can groom Axle Tuanzebe or Teden Mengi. Luis Campos who is not associated with any club since leaving Lille in late 2020 is an formidable alternative to Paul Mitchell as are Brentford duo Phil Giles and Rasmus Ankersen. Campos performed the ultimate miracle by helping AS Monaco and Lille to win the French Ligue 1 as underdogs against oil rich Paris Saint-Germain. United were beaten by another United in Newcastle to the signing of technical director Dan Ashworth who has left Brighton and Hove Albion. What if United had football people at decision making levels to back Jose Moruinho over players with social media power, hired Luis Campos and signed one quality centre-back in summer of 2018. This summer is another such momentus occasion where fans want Manchester United to be run as a football club and not just a commercial brand.

Cannot afford to lose in the toughest group on return to Champions' League

Manchester United finished 3rd surprising everyone to qualify for Champions' League only to be drawn against last years finalist's Paris St Germain and semi-finalist's Red Bull Leipzig in the toughest draw of the group stages. They start their campaign against PSG in Paris where they memorably came back from first leg loss of 0-2 to win 3-1 and progress on away goals rule after Marcus Rashford converted the penalty which could have been Romelu Lukaku's hat-trick. 18 months later both teams have changed a lot and its the group stage not the knock-out yet due to involvement of three top teams in the group every point counts.

PSG will certainly want to erase that memory with a solid display befitting the second best team in Europe. They will be without a few players like Icardi, Verratti, Paredes, Kehrer and Bernat yet the threat of Kylian Mbappe heir to Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar will be enough to beat the best of teams. PSG after a shaky start to the season have won five on the trot scoring 16 goals. United could face two of their ex-players in Angel di Maria and favourite Ander Herrera. New signings Rafinha Alcantara from Barcelona and Danilo from Porto are available as are Gueye, Draxler and captain Marquinhos.

United will be without captain Harry Maguire who hasn't travelled just like Mason Greenwood, Eric Bailly and Edinson Cavani. Victor Lindelof might have Axel Tuanzebe and Luke Shaw partnering him in what looks like a 5 man defense, meaning new signing left back Alex Telles might make his debut and Wan-Bissaka in the right back role. Nemanja Matic playing alongside Scott McTominay in midfield and behind Bruno Fernandes. Martial up top with Rashford on the left cutting in. Much improved David de Gea might continue in goal ahead of Dean Henderson. Last time in Paris Pogba spoke of his wish to play for Real Madrid after he contributed to two goals for the opposition in the 1-6 loss to Spurs that no longer makes him an automatic starter tonight, while Parisian Ander Herrera still speaks eloquently of his love for Manchester United wanting to say goodbye to fans, contrast is stark and real.

Interestingly the announcement of Bruno Fernandes to lead the side took place during the press conference when Solskjaer said "The captain sits next to me. Bruno will captain the team tomorrow." to which Fernandes responded "I was not expecting this. I know the same time as you." Why? Did Solskjaer needed to show his faith in Fernandes after supposed reaction to being thrashed by Tottenham? Having captained Sporting this role comes naturally to Fernandes, but hopefully Rashford was taken in confidence beforehand who speaks first to fans after every bad display including the loss to Spurs, had led United against City in the league cup semi-final loss, and was spoken as future leader by everyone for his drive to help disadvantaged children.

First match of the group stages should be viewed by most teams in the Champions' League as an opportunity to get the maximum points as the favourite teams might not be ready yet. PSG usually run riot in the French Ligue 1 winning the title in 7 of last 8 seasons and aiming to win the Champions' League under Qatar Sports Investment headed by ruler of the state. Of United Thomas Tuchel rightly said "They are one of the best teams in transition. We need to keep the ball and impose our own game on them and prevent the counter-attack." Having averted a crisis by winning at Newcastle would ease the pressure significantly on United players who can express themselves more tonight. Starting cautiously and shifting to counter attacking style suits United to nick the points away in Paris, its the home match next in the Premier League the worry.

My favourite memory from that night in Paris was the shot of Marcus Rashford much like Mr. Manchester United Sir Bobby Charlton in his heyday, struck the ball with full power only to fall just ahead of the keeper who now has to adjust to the bounce that increases the chances of ball spilling over, and Lukaku slotted home his second goal.

Time running out for Gomes

Story of Angel Gomes is like a dream. Coming through the youth ranks and finally making his debut in May, 2017 to become the youngest player to play for the first team in 64 years since Duncan Edwards the greatest. Part of England squad that won the U17 FIFA World Cup held in India where team played all their games except one at the country's football capital Kolkata. Gomes started in only 2 games scoring a goal apiece against Chile and Iraq. He was brought on as a sub late in the final after a stunning comeback from 0-2 down was confirmed to finally beat Spain 5-2. Since then much has been heard about his colleagues from that group Jadon Sancho, Phil Foden, Rhian Brewster, Callum Hudson-Odoi not Angel Gomes. Is this tweet from MUFC another attempt to urge Gomes to sign a new contract before his present one expires on 30, June?
Of all positions to emerge from and settle successfully in the first team midfield is the most challenging where the player is most dependent on others. This season forward Mason Greenwood, left-back Brandon Williams have broken through to first team and done admirably while being younger than Gomes. Competition in midfield is hotting up from James Garner and Dylan Levitt. Levitt was not part of the summer tour last season but his consistent good performances have earned a call from Wales senior squad managed by former United legend Ryan Giggs. Height should not be an issue though Gomes is even smaller than either Nobby Stiles or Paul Scholes who as per Sir Alex Ferguson's autobiography had no chance of making it being dubbed "Too small."

In march Tahith Chong signed a new contract ending speculation about his future after his potential suitors Inter Milan suggested to loan him out next season. He has played in Cup matches since and registered two assists but did miss an easy opportunity to score against Astana in Europa league. In contrast Gomes has also played in Europa league but other appearances have dried up owing to stand-off over his contract while he was being touted all over Europe by his father who is also his agent.

Solskjaer denied Gomes an opportunity to be loaned last January after he took over as United were short of numbers in midfield but was involved in only two games. This year too in January he was denied the chance rightly as his contract negotiation had not concluded. Loan without contract could have only benefited Gomes not the club. Lack of progress under Mourinho after he gave Gomes the dream debut was a greater cause for slump in his progress.

Rebuild under Solskjaer is progressing well but was late to offer Ander Herrera a chance to stay. Same isn't the case for Gomes who has an offer from United for quite some time. In the first part of this season where United struggled with different players in midfield all options were evaluated starting from seniors to juniors in the squad owing to the pressure of gaining points in ultra competitive Premier League. Jesse Lingard and Andreas Pereira were ahead of Gomes that probably upset some fans but the proportion could have been varied to give Gomes slightly more game time. Consistent run of games given to Fred has resurrected his career and hope Gomes sees this positive influence of Solskjaer that has also turned around Luke Shaw and Nemanja Matic whose United future was in doubt. Arrival of Bruno Fernandes and return of Paul Pogba will mean he needs to deliver at any given opportunity which can only happen if hard work in training and right attitude is never compromised. Eventually when Pogba leaves United can have a home made replacement in Gomes.

Stats do not tell the complete picture though in the 6 senior appearances Gomes could not score nor produce an assist. He took the free-kick against Astana which was superbly saved by their keeper. With the reserve team he has 4 goals and 2 assists having missed many games this season as he was with the first team as standby but not part of match day squad limiting his appearances significantly. He has represented England at every level from U16 to U20. Overall for United youth teams in 66 games he has 29 goals and 17 assists which is very impressive and continuing this into the senior setup needs a bit of patience and planning else frustration creeps in.

Paul Pogba left Manchester United at the end of his contract influenced by his agent as outlined by Sir Alex Ferguson and later became clubs record transfer from Juventus a foreign club. Gomes likely destination is United's direct rivals in Chelsea who have been dominating the Youth Cups but under Lampard and Morris aim to promote youth where United's record of blooding a youth player is unbroken for more than 4,000 games stretching back to 1937. This stat alone should sway the decision of Gomes who has been at United since the age of six and if not Solskjaer's teammate who is also his godfather Nani ring to nudge him to continue his development at United. To have made United to wait till the very last moment would have also given them a clear message. Ravel Morrison's career shows talent alone is not enough and there is a long road ahead for Gomes.

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