Showing posts with label Anthony Elanga. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Anthony Elanga. Show all posts

Erik ten Hag it is!

David Ornstein of the Athletic broke the news of Manchester United having reached a verbal agreement with Erik ten Hag to become their next permanent manager. United had considered a four man shortlist for the job that included Mauricio Pochettino of PSG, Julien Lopetegui of Sevilla and Luis Enrique the Spanish national team coach. It was a dead heat between ten Hag and Pochettino after the other two ruled themselves out and in the online twitter poll that Gary Neville conducted the Dutchman was the overwhelming fans favourite by 82:18 margin while most of ex-United players backed the Argentine. Pochettino was strongly rumoured to take over from Louis van Gaal after meeting Sir Alex Ferguson in May, 2016 and has been linked with United job ever since. Erik ten Hag is seen as more steady with his stock on the rise while Pochettino had a difficult season at PSG with superstar players.

Erik ten Hag will be the second Dutch manager at United after Louis van Gaal, and

  • at 52 years of age would be around the same age as when Jose Mourinho took over in 2016
  • with a 4-years contract is the second lengthiest after Moyes' 6-years in post Ferguson era
  • he was assistant to former Sir Alex Ferguson assistant Steve McClaren at FC Twente in 2008 and McClaren could return to United if ten Hag wants
  • perhaps the first defender in his playing days to manage United since 1946 and played for FC Twente in 3 stints winning the Dutch Cup in 2001. All other previous United managers were either wing halfs or forwards as players.
  • None of the previous managers after Ferguson have even last 3 years. Gaffer used to say it takes 4 years to have all XI starting players of ones choice.

His best moment came in 2018-19 season in Champions' League when Ajax defeated Real Madrid who were attempting to win 4th straight trophy, by 4-1 and at Santiago Bernabeu with Dusan Tadic getting a perfect 10 score for his performance in that match! Ajax then beat Juventus in quater-finals but lost to Tottenham managed by Pochettino in semis in 96th minute. That season Ajax won Eredivisie for the first time in 5 years! United have not won the league since 2013. Both clubs have good academies and Erik ten Hag is known to bring players through. Despite losing most of his brightest young players he not only created a new winning team and won Eredivisie again in 2020-21 but changed the style, from false 9 and inverted wingers to out-an-out number 9 with wingers. In this seasons Champions' League Ajax won all 6 of their group stage matches against Borussia Dotmund, Sporting Lisbon and Besiktas but lost in the knock-out phase to Benfica with Darwin Nunez, a target for United to replace Edinson Cavani scoring the winner. In the knock-out phases ten Hag has had more favourable results away than at home at the Amstredam Arena.

At United the Glazers love big name players like Paul Pogba, Cristiano Ronaldo who generate lot of social media buzz. Hope Joel Glazer, Richard Arnold and John Murtough understand that they would need to stand by their manager in any event of a contest with those big name players. If they repeat the stance they took against Jose Mourinho they will help repeat the chaos of last 9 years not rectify it. Having understood the setup first-hand Ralf Rangnick can play a crucial role to ease Erik ten Hag who has thrived under director of football at Ajax but the structure at United is still vague with most decisions deferred to Glazers. Stadium re-development plans having been initiated the board must ensure that does not drain the resources for investment in the first team. Board must act quickly to get the transfers done early in order for Erik ten Hag to have a full pre-season(Thailand and Australia) to mould the squad that failed previously to adapt to Rangnick's 4-2-2-2 itself. He often stresses on a particular trait "creating space for others with off-the ball runs" which United players can only embrace in training. Incidentally lack of standard 'training'  was one of the major issues pointed out by players about the regime of Solskjaer and Rangnick, with ten Hag that will be firmly resolved.

After an underwhelming season a host of United players are nearing their end of contracts(6) which will clear the squad for a rebuild - exit of Paul Pogba, Edinson Cavani, Nemanja Matic, Jesse Lingard, Juan Mata, Lee Grant should free up the wage bill enomously. Under utilized players(3) like Dean Henderson, Eric Bailly, Phil Jones and decide the futures of players returning from loan(7) like Donny van de Beek, Anthony Martial, Axel Tuanzebe, Andeas Pereira, Tahith Chong, Amad, Facundo Pellistri. Thats easily about 12 players as Amad and Pellistri are highly rated youngsters! One player most thrilled by this appointment will be Donny van de Beek. Crucial will be to bring in 4 to 5 young and hungry players to spruce up the squad and not repeat the mistake made under Moyes where only Fellaini and Mata were brought in. Availability of Anthony Elanga and James Garner will be of tremendous help. While the biggest question is not the future of Cristiano Ronaldo but of Mason Greenwood and especially if he cannot play regularly next season United will have to prioritize the signing of a forward like Darwin Nunez urgently.

Based on available resource Erik ten Hag has modified the team's style of play at Ajax. At United will Harry Maguire be able to play a high defensive line? Will the handicap of McTominay and Fred be finally over? Luke Shaw's defensive liability be tolerated? Over reliance on Bruno Fernandes be reduced? Struggling Marcus Rashford regain his form? Chose between David de Gea or Dean Henderson? Problems of plenty but lacking the ability to control the game from midfield. A single high profile signing of Declan Rice or combination of Reuben Neves, Aurelien Tchouameni, Amadou Haidara, Yves Bissouma or Kalvin Phillips. On a positive note Erik tan Hag can in the future look to pick from players who have reached the FA Youth Cup finals in Alejandro Garnacho, Charlie McNeil, Kobbie Mainoo, Daniel Gore, Marc Juardo, Rhys Bennett et al, an option and quality in such numbers unavailable to most of his predecessors as United's previous final was in 2011.

United move from having the guru of Jurgen Klopp in Ralf Rangnick as interim manager to former assistant to Pep Guardiola at Bayern Munich where he trained the players to be ready for the first team while playing in the same style. Tottenham's ascent to 4th spot with the best manager available then in Antonio Conte proves yet again that it is the singlemost important appointment at a football club. Guardiola, Klopp, Tuchel and Conte all but fortifying the top 4 the best that can be expected of ten Hag is 5th place finish next season but importantly a clear style of play with Manchester United DNA.

Five Elanga's

Anthony Elanga is perhaps the lone bright spark in a dismal season thus far for Manchester United. To cap his fantastic run he scored against Athletico Madrid in the knock out phase of the Champions' League to keep the tie level at 1-1 after a tepid first half. This problem of slow start which was the bane of Solskjaer regime has reared its head again. Crucially for the interim boss Ralf Rangick his substitutions have been generally well timed with the right personnel enabling him to save face. Loss to championship side Middlesbrough in fourth round of the FA Cup ended all hopes of winning any trophy this season, and another season became a write-off.

Ralf Rangnick was the last appointment of Ed Woodward who is now gone, and it increasingly sounds like the new CEO Richard Arnold wants to stamp his authority by getting the summer appointment of Manchester United's permanent manager correct. This will mean United might not get the maximum out of the German guru and further depriving the morale of coaching staff and players wrt targets for this on-going season. This is especially hard on the players and Fred who has improved under Rangnick lamented "I think it's a little bit bad for us not to have one(permanent manager), at the moment it's all about the short-term goals. We don't know how it's going to be after the end of this season." 

United have tried big name managers in Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho who to their credit won trophies justifying the decision but the success was not lasting. Big spending on players not only continued surprisingly under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer but increased drastically - Maguire, wan-Bissaka, James, Fernandes, van de Beek, Amad, Cavani, Sancho, Varane. Without pre-season training to embed the ideas of the football guru Ralf Rangnick, the players are markedly struggling to implement the tactics during matches. Rangnick shelved 4-2-2-2 to quasi Solskjaer 4-1-2-3 formation which is slightly different than 4-2-3-1. This highlights the importance of recruitment which has to be consistent in line with United's identity. Moyes should have been backed by 3 to 4 young and hungry players to add energy into that old team which won the last Premier League title under Sir Alex Ferguson. Take heed.

In the interim capacity Ralf Rangnick has stopped the leakage of goals from the previous regime and exponentially increased the shots on target to be the best in English Premier League since his tenure started yet the conversion rate with Ronaldo, Rashford, Cavani, Sancho is very poor. Mason Greenwood who is suspended and still has the 3rd best goal stats just behind Ronaldo and Fernandes. Suspension coming near the end of the January transfer window and the club chose not to replace the striker perhaps not sure about the gravity of the case. Rangnick has since explicitly said that United need new striker in the summer as "obvious". Without Greenwood, United drew at Burnley, Southampton and Watford which might well deny United the top four finish with tougher matches against Man City, Tottenham and Liverpool lined back to back. Anthony Elanga who needs to be managed to not be burnt-out started one and came on as a sub in two of these drawn games.

This player hesitency to grasp newer ideas and Elanga's application has clearly demonstrated the way forward for Manchester United yet again. Promote youth from within or buy young players to give the next manager the best chance of being a success. Roy Keane rightly said the players will throw the manager under the bus after Mourinho was sacked and the loss to Middlesbrough highlighted the fact when United missed not just chances but even a penalty from perhaps the greatest player of all time! As a fan I wanted to stop watching football for rest of the season. The answer is for United to have five Elanga's in the same starting XI. Jadon Sancho is finally thriving proving this point further and also James Garner excelling at Nottingham Forest will help the club to trim the requirement down to 2 or 3. Fans would have loved to see Axel Tuanzebe or Teden Mengi get the attention from Rangnick and be ahead of Eric Bailly and Phil Jones. Elanga, Sancho and Garner all set who could be other two and which part of the pitch specifically for next season?

Central defensive midfield and centre-forward. Dylan Levitt already with 10 caps for Wales and Ethan Galbraith the former teammates of Garner will get a shot. While Garner has done well at Forest, Galbraith has got good playing time at Doncaster who are fighting to avoid relegation and Levitt has been hampered with injury at Dundee United which suggests the duo might need another season of regular football elsewhere before being in a position to succeed at United. Below them in the pecking order are this season's debutants Zidane Iqbal, the first British South Asian to represent United and Charlie Savage, the son of ex-United player Robbie Savage while Hannibal Mejbri has been fast tracked to the first team after his debut in the last game of last season. Clearly these are not immediate solutions for next season. With developments at Chelsea where the Roman Abramovich era is coming to an end, United could find themselves in pole position to sign Declan Rice, 23 given the huge transfer fee or be wise to opt for Aurélien Tchouaméni, 22 and for above mentioned profile of players should be in the hunt for forwards Darwin Nunez, 22 or Victor Osimhen, 23 or Alexander Isak, 22.

Meanwhile Alejandro Garnacho, 17 year old who has been the main goal threat in FA Youth Cup where the club has reached the semi-final stage for the first time since 2012 semi-final loss to Chelsea. Garnacho has been included in the provisional 44-man squad for World Cup qualifiers by Argentinian National team who have already qualified. United and Wolves competed for the first two FA Youth Cup finals in '53 and '54. If United progress they are likely to meet Chelsea or Forest in the finals. United have invested heavily since the summer of 2020 on U18 players like Willy Kambwala, Charlie McNeil, Joe Hugill, Logan Pye, Marc Jurado, Alvaro Fernandes, Radek Vitek, Isak Hansen-Aaroen, Alejandro Garnacho, Manni Norkett and Ethan Ennis. Strategically this could be United most important competition for the rest of this season. Garnacho is guaranteed a first team debut if he stays injury free.

"If you’re good enough, you’re old enough." Busby's clarion call to introduce the Babes in 1950's and four decades later Fergie's Fledglings.

PS: RIP Frank O'Farrell and Xmas of 71 being top of the league with George Best banging in the goals after Sir Matt Busby had retired! Injuries and lack of signings into the 1968 European Cup winning team turned the tide. Tommy Docherty took the lessons from his predecessor, and United must listen to Jose Mourinho warning to end this vicious repeatitive cycle plaguing the present team.

(Rang)Nick of time

Two wins against differing tactical sides in Brentford and West Ham United brought much needed optimism about the remainder of this season and dispelled doubts about Ralf 'the professor' Rangnick's mettle being out of day-to-day coaching for majority of last decade. His tactical switch to 4-3-3 but with one holding number 6 and two number 8's in these games, and getting the result brought cheer to fans who were a bit depressed after he fell back to Solskjaer's 4-2-3-1 at Villa and Wolves to salvage those two games. Big question now is how will Rangnick integrate Paul Pogba into that system after the Frenchman returns from injury in time for the FA Cup fourth round clash against Middlesbrough.

After suffering his first loss to Wolves and scraping through Villa in FA Cup, Rangnick picked Anthony Elanga to start in the next three games drawing one and winning two. The young Swedish international's energy galvanised the left of front three as had when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer introduced Mason Greenwood(right) and Louis van Gaal put his faith in record youth signing Anthony Martial. Elanga is starting ahead of much fancied Jadon Sancho and Amad Diallo says a lot about the effort the lad has put in to get noticed in training and then perform on the big stage when given that opportunity. His composure to score his first goal of this season from a tight pass from Fred while showing awareness about goalkeeper's position was simply awesome. United fans responded in kind by having a new song based on a fav song from my childhood SNAP!'s 'Rhythm is a dancer'. German band is having a revival of this classic song in its 30th year of release, and under a German boss at United.

Rhythm is a dancer, Anthony Elanga
Try to stop him if you dare
He came from Scandinavia
To be United's saviour
Scoring goals from everywhere
Wooooah its Elanga
Wooooah you can feel it in the air
Wooooah its Elanga

Futher goals by Greenwood and then Rashford coming off the bench sealed a memorable 3-1 away win at perhaps the best atmosphere in this season's Premier League at newly promoted Brentford. Manchester United last played them in the first season after the war in 1946-47 winning the home fixture 4-1 with Jack 'Gunner' Rowley hat-trick and drawing the away match 0-0. Brentford under Thomas Frank outplayed and outpressed United in the first half who only survived thanks to yet another masterclass from David de Gea in goal and rightly proclaimed "We destroyed them in the first half, they didn't have a sniff, three huge chances and there could only have been one winner of this game. They are unbelievably lucky. I know all the stuff about taking chances. They changed the system against little Brentford."

In the closing stages after United led 2-0 Rangnick substituted Cristiano Ronaldo in 71st minute for Harry Maguire to play three at the back. This was in direct response to late second half capitulation against Aston Villa after being 2-0 up to draw 2-2. Ronaldo was furious and Rangnick was seen explaining to perhaps the greatest player of all time. Media latched on to this and Anthony Martial's comments to press Rangnick who was calm to douse any flames and handled both episodes well.

Marcus Rashford regaining his form to score his first goal since October and then score the matchwinner in the last minute against West Ham will give a big boost to United's chase for the top four. That last minute goal involved United's all three substitutes Martial, Cavani and Rashford. Such an attacking change to go all out for a result against a quality side like West Ham is reminiscent of United under Sir Alex Ferguson. Harry Maguire battling for his position got a start ahead of Victor Lindelof who had a breakin at his home when United were playing Brentford and rightfully chose to be with his family. Maguire had a great start to the game and dominated aerially to fight for his place in the starting XI despite being the captain. Thats the scale of transformation done by Rangnick in short time.

David de Gea had a clean sheet at last to show for his tremdous saves to move ahead of Gary Bailey to become Manchester United's third best keeper in terms of clean sheets; David de Gea's tally is now 162 just shy of Alex Stepney at 175 and Peter Schmeichel at 180. David de Gea was part of Sir Alex Ferguson's last Premier League trophy win, won the FA Cup under Louis van Gaal, and won League Cup and UEFA Cup under Jose Mourinho to easily be the best player at United of the last decade.

Anthony Martial has just agreed a loan move to Sevilla; good luck to him and hope he fulfills his potential on a consistent basis. Amad Diallo has yet to confirm his option of loan move, Jesse Lingard is being approached by Newcastle, Eric Bailly had an enquiry by AC Milan... Outgoings raise expectations for a defensive midfield cover for Scott McTominay as cut-price deals for secondary targets like Denis Zakaria and Boubacar Kamara are available. While both primary targets Declan Rice and Reuben Neves had nice things to say about Old Trafford recently after their games against United, the club is unlikely to sanction a purchase of a player out of uncertainity over its manager in the summer. Club under new CEO Richard Arnold is now likely to start the process to appoint a permanent successor to interim Ralf Rangnick ostensibly to avoid Brian Glanville's favourite quote of Karl Marx "History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce."

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