Showing posts with label David Moyes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label David Moyes. Show all posts

Must win game for Solskjaer, again!

Manchester United travel to Goodison Park to play Everton after two defeats in two competitions, first a loss to Arsenal at home in Old Trafford after a gap of 14 years and secondly a least expected away loss at Istanbul the bottom side of group H in Champions' League that was shambolic. After a run of successive victories when Solskjaer took over, United suffered their biggest defeat of his first season at Goodison Park 0-4 mauling that made the Norwegian to rightly apologize to the fans "I just want to apologise to the fans. They're the only people with the badge on today who can hold their head high, because we can't." Just as now, and back then all criticism was directed at the players.

These defeats highlight the importance of Victor Lindelof, clearly if it wasn't for him United's loss to Arsenal would have been greater instead of being just 0-1. Suffering from a bad back he might miss this crucial game. David de Gea looks like he has regained his lost form, responding positively to induction of Dean Henderson becoming his deputy. Is Harry Maguire the right man to organize United's defense? Has he got the right protection in front of him? McTominay has industry not discipline, Fred is not a specialist central defensive midfield nor best in the world, while Nemanja Matic has lost his pace to play regularly.

Reactions on team selection seems to have gone to the head of Solskjaer. Donny van de Beek started after an intense backlash especially from Patrice Evra who questioned the rationale behind his purchase after spending more time on the bench. Ole Gunnar has persisted with both McTominay and Fred after the 1-6 defeat to Spurs, and removed not one but both of them at Istanbul after Paul Scholes told Premier League Productions "It’s as poor as I’ve seen Manchester United at Old Trafford to be honest with you. You have to give Arsenal credit, they were very good but on other hand you have to expect more from United and the two midfield players especially." Paul Pogba started again after a seemingly unexpected comment by Bruno Fernandes the talisman of last season's revival, but the Frenchman bizarrely few times quite clearly failed to pass to the most influential United player of recent times in Marcus Rashford. Fernandes said this after the Istanbul defeat that further raised eyebrows about the football management team responsible for running the club "We need to do much better, and we need to do something more than say 'Do something in the next game', because it will be a difficult game for us." 

Victory over Leipzig and Newcastle was huge but they came late in the second half. But Solskjaer again sounded overly optimistic when he said "It's not long ago we were the best thing since sliced bread, beating Leipzig and PSG. [You get] ups and downs in football. You've got to have belief." This followed an assertion from him that 3rd win of the season did not come until the 10th game last season easily forgetting that last season was the worst start to a United campaign in 33 years! 

Sir Alex Ferguson sounded out Pep Guardiola, Mauricio Pochettino, Jurgen Klopp and Jose Mourinho to be his successor but was unlucky to not get any of them to become the manager of Manchester United. Instead it was David Moyes. Then Louis van Gaal took over instead of Mauricio Pochettino and later Jose Mourinho instead of Carlo Ancelotti. With Solskjaer the heart is in the right place to restore United to its glory but the means seem missing like a structured consistent performance despite spending close to 250 million on squad overhaul. For the second straight season United have started badly to mount a challenge in the English Premier League that seems to throw up surprising results opening the competition up for many clubs to claim. United thus far seem unable to grab this opportunity, on the back of a delayed Europa League Cup that did not give the players adequate recovery time. Luckily United have a big squad to be able to cope especially the addition of Henderson, van be Beek and Telles add depth which wasn't there earlier. But the club knew this situation all along and still delayed the transfers to not help their man in charge. These are the minutiae that top coaches of the world in Mauricio Pochettino look at before choosing their next move.

United do have a good squad even if its not great like the top three of Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea, to eventually come good and climb the league table with a game in hand. Its these players who for the sake of their careers get going again. Else the upcoming break due to international fixtures might come to haunt Solskjaer. Jose Mourinho was sacked after losing away to Liverpool, today their neighbours Everton host United in a must win game for the Reds.

Opening day loss at home: how bad is that for United?

Just the second home loss to the start of the Premier League season for Manchester United. First was in 2014 under Louis van Gaal's first match in charge when United lost to Swansea 1-2 with captain Wayne Rooney's consolation strike while Ander Herrera made his debut and subsequently club signed Angel di Maria from Real Madrid who left after just one bad season. United finished 4th in the Dutchman's first season in charge improving from 7th under Moyes previously. Solskjaer had taken the team from 14th after the draw with Liverpool to 3rd in the last season but is a slow start warranted yet again?

Lost 1-3 to Crystal Palace in this seasons' opener. A much heaver defeat for Solskjaer than van Gaal with a much better squad though. Main reason is the lack of rest after a pandemic enforced break and subsequent lack of pre-season to bring players up to match fitness required for the demands of the grueling season. Paul Pogba was rushed back after just recuperating from corona virus. Donny van de Beek came on for Pogba looking sharp and scored a goal on debut. Did Scott McTominay provide enough protection for the defense? Perhaps van Gaal's honest assessment forced United's hand to break British transfer record for di Maria "To win the title this season would be a miracle. But that isn't to say that it isn't possible, I think the Glazer family understand this or I would not have accepted this job." Solskjaer hasn't said anything as striking for Glazers to act.

Prior to 2014 loss the next one was far back in 1972 season a 1-2 loss to Ipswich Town, that's 40 year proud unbeaten home record in between. Frank O'Farrell lost his job midway through that season after a nine-game winless streak at the start did not improve league position enough and United were hovering over the foot of the table ushering in the Tommy Docherty era. That unbeaten record withstood the changes in managers from Docherty(2 matches unbeaten in opening home fixtures), Sexton(2), Atkinson(4) to Ferguson(15). It is a blemish on Solskjaer's reign unfortunately especially since he is so steeped in United's rich history.

Absence of fans makes the loss less scathing but equally affects how tamely the team might respond. Would Solskjaer have used Timothy Fosu-Mensah, Scott McTominay and David James in front of fans at Old Trafford in the first match of the season? Is it a subtle dig at the Glazers to force Jadon Sancho transfer? Even Jose Mourinho managed to win both his two home games at the start of 2nd and 3rd year in charge. Could Solskjaer instead have taken advantage of not having fans to start with two defensive midfielders in order to neutralize the opposition before unleashing Greenwood for the last twenty minutes?

First away loss was in the inaugural Premier League season against Sheffield United 1-2 with Mark Hughes scoring the only goal and ultimately United went on to win their first league title after 26 years. Next one was against Aston Villa 1-3 when Sir Alex Ferguson introduced his fledglings that made Alan Hansen to say "you can't win anything with kids" that helped create a siege mentality to unite the squad winning their second double of Premier League and FA Cup. United lost 0-1 in 2004-05 to Chelsea under their new coach Jose Mourinho in his first match in the English Premier League. United finished 3rd and trophy-less that season. Injury hit squad were without both strikers in Ruud van Nistelrooy and Louis Saha while captain Roy Keane played as centre-half. Team: Howard, Silvestre, Gary Neville, Keane, Fortune, Miller, O'Shea, Djemba-Djemba, Giggs, Scholes

Solskjaer rightly pointed out that United must rebound quickly. They face Luton Town away in League Cup 3rd round on Tuesday wherein the squad will be much different than the one that faced Crystal Palace with Dean Henderson certain to make his debut in goal, before visiting Brighton & Hove Albion in the Premier League at the Amex Arena on Saturday. Amidst an exceptional season due to the pandemic form book goes out of the window more often and United must do their bit first to take advantage. League Cup can serve as a tough practice match as the Hatters defeated Derby County and Reading in their first two rounds, and help United regain their sharpness. Is giving important players a vacation one after another like Ferguson (Beckham, Scholes, Schmeichel) did during the treble winning season the answer? Due to Euro 2021 having been postponed to next summer, next season clubs might face the same issue? Hope Glazers understand that squad depth and rotation certainly helps before the transfer window closes.

Trust Solskjaer to take a call on De Gea

FA Cup semi-final 1-3 loss to Chelsea at Wembley was this season's worst performance - resting Pogba, changing a winning formation, tired players who didn't turn up and David de Gea's two howlers. Solskjaer needs to immediately get back to winning ways to secure the lucrative Champions' League spot. Last season United lost tamely to Wolves in FA Cup quarter-finals after a run of good results that effectively derailed the season winning just two of last nine games and missed top four finish.

Solskjaer set the stall of the press conference as soon question on David de Gea was raised "This is not going to become a David De Gea press conference, We're just going to stick together." Will David de Gea be dropped after a steady decline over last two years that culminated in the shambolic display last Sunday in London? Sir Alex Ferguson had a similar conundrum when his then main keeper Jim Leighton had a bad day in the 1990 FA Cup final drawing 3-3 with Crystal Palace when in fact the loss of form was glaring from 0-4 loss at Nottingham Forest earlier and two unconvincing displays against Oldham Athletic in semi-final that also needed a replay. To make the call for the final replay Ferguson watched Leighton's response to the loss which was "In the dressing-room afterwards I noticed Jim Leighton with his head in his hands, completely shattered. I went over and gave him a pat but received no response. He looked to me like a beaten man." recalled Ferguson in his finest autobiography 'Managing My Life' co-written with perhaps the best football writer ever Hugh McIlvanney.

Alternative the Argentine Sergio Romero only plays in secondary matches of Cups in League, FA Cup and Europa League even with about 59 games in 5 seasons does not warrant a start in an extremely important league match. Again going back Les Sealey who deputized brilliantly in place of Jim Leighton in the FA Cup final replay which United won 1-0, Ferguson recalls "Les was cocky and at times downright arrogant, so I did not foresee a failure of his nerve at Wembley. Was he a better goalkeeper than Jim? No." Appearances can be deceiving and language another barrier for foreign players but is Sergio Romero who has been capped 96 times for Argentina confident going into today's game against West Ham United having not played a single English Premier League match this season and importantly was poor against Norwich in FA Cup quarter-finals which made Solskjaer to drop him for Chelsea? Think not.

Barring Luke Shaw's injury Solskjaer might choose the same lineup which played in five consecutive games from Sheffield United to Southampton scoring 16 goals, conceding 4, getting 13 points out of maximum 15: de Gea, Wan-Bissaka, Shaw, Lindelof, Maguire, Matic, Pogba, Fernandes, Greenwood, Martial, Rashford. Timothy Fosu-Mensah might play if Shaw is unfit ahead of rookie Brandon Williams. Maguire and de Gea are on course to play in all 38 matches this season, today's game will be number 37. United lost another Busby babe in Alex Dawson the former centre-forward who played a prominent role immediately after Munich air-crash that fast-forwarded his inclusion in the first team ahead of time as the club did not have sufficient senior players having forever lost eight of them plus two more to injury that is almost their first starting XI.

West Ham managed for the second time by former United manager David Moyes comes to Old Trafford in good form by beating Norwich and Watford to escape relegation. Micheal Antonio and Tomas Soucek have contributed immensely and will dominate aerially where MUFC are weak. Declan Rice and Issa Diop being previously linked with MUFC will want to give a solid display to increase their prospects for the future. Moyes does not have a good record vs MUFC at Old Trafford with both Everton and Sunderland. Last time an ex-United manager won at Old Trafford was Dave Sexton with Coventry City in Mar, 1982 who did the double eventually with Les Sealey in goal for the sky blues and if Moyes succeeds in today's game West Ham also will complete the double. MUFC lost 0-2 at the London Stadium when Manuel Pellegrini was in charge at West Ham in September.

Moyes was wrong to say that the only difference between him and Solskjaer was "Ole has been given time." Question was not about time because although he inherited an aging side with most of the players coming towards the end of their careers, he also dismantled the backroom staff of Sir Alex Ferguson who had developed and accumulated so much knowledge of the game over the years; and secondly Moyes had a very bad transfer window with only Fellaini in summer and Mata in January coming in. Solskjaer spotted this glaring error and was quick to bring back Ferguson's assistant Mike Phelan as his number two. Moyes in short blew his chance as Rio Ferdinand also recounted when he tried to do everything at perhaps the biggest club in the world in Manchester United instead of delegating to his trusted staff to take decisions.

The crunch match that United fans recollect was the final game of 1994-95 season when leaders Blackburn Rovers lost to Liverpool and United needing to beat West Ham at Upton Park could only draw failing to take advantage and not win the league. Hammers celebrated as if they had won the title! Today's match is at Old Trafford where United are unbeaten in 12 matches with Anthony Martial scoring in the last five. West Ham have had more time to prepare and so will Leicester City who get a week before facing Manchester United this Sunday. United players will no doubt be geared up to finish the season on a high to represent in Europe's best competition next season and to remove the 25% wage cut if they do not qualify for the Champion's League again. Matches with West Ham at this stage of the season will always be interesting to say the least.

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.

Year when Woodward finally turned the corner

At the end of 2012-13 Premiership winning campaign Manchester United were dealt a double blow firstly the decade long successful chief executive David Gill announced that he would step down in February and in May Sir Alex Ferguson retired finally on his second attempt. On his first attempt Peter Kenyon had lined up Sven-Goran Eriksson as the successor in 2002 but thankfully Sir Alex stayed on to overhaul LFC's 18 league titles and win another Champions' League in 2008. Promises were made to fans by the board that the succession was properly taken care of and a repeat of a disaster that ensued Sir Matt Busby's departure would not happen again.

All of Ferguson's successors would have been ideally suited to helm different roles that he single- handedly played. David Moyes as head of the academy, Louis van Gaal as technical director, Jose Mourinho as manager and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as an assistant with media duties. Instead David Moyes walked in with his own staff from modest Everton and quickly banished the entire Ferguson back room team of Mike Phelan, Rene Muelensteen and Eric Steele. Departure of Paul Scholes while Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Giggs were in their final year and Darren Fletcher struck down by ulcerative colitis meant MUFC needed an big squad overhaul. It is widely believed that MUFC won their 20th league title largely due to Sir Alex Ferguson's brilliance in getting the maximum of a thread bare ageing squad and goals from Robin van Persie an inspired signing.With new chief executive Ed Woodward who had played a key part in the Glazer take-over in 2005 MUFC struggled to sign players despite being linked to Toni Kroos, Gareth Bale, Cesc Fabregas and managed to sign only one new player for the new season in Marouane Fellaini from Everton and later Juan Mata was signed in January for a hefty #37 million from Chelsea.

MUFC finished in 7th their lowest position in 23 years suffering double loss to LFC, Everton, Man City, bowed out in 3rd round of FA Cup and David Moyes was sacked in April for failing to deliver European football for next season. Under Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho MUFC saw a flurry of transfers largely done through three super agents Jorge Mendes for Radamel Falcao, Angel di Maria and Mino Raiola for Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Paul Pogba, Romelu Lukaku and Fernando Felicevich for Alexis Sanchez. Overall spending on player acquisition post Ferguson retirement is a staggering 1,053.55 million euros. Under LVG and Mourinho MUFC won the FA Cup, League Cup, UEFA Europa League, finished 2nd in the league within 4 years of Ferguson's exit while it took 8 years for the 1st trophy after Busby had left in form of FA Cup in '77 after suffering relegation in 73-74 and brief comeback by Busby for 2nd half of 70-71 season. The catastrophic failure of Alexis Sanchez deal was a wake-up call for Woodward who was thus far not intervening on decisions if the player will be a good fit as per the MUFC traditions or not. He only allowed the signing of Lee Grant, Fred, Diogo Dalot and blocked the deal for Jerome Boateng while Raphael Varane could not be persuaded to leave Real Madrid despite willing to spend #100million in the summer of 2018.

This season Woodward came out in defense of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer ahead of the pivotal game against Liverpool, led the tributes to Munich victims at Belgrade and agreed to an open interview with 'United We Stand' fanzine celebrating their 30th year. Got all the three summer transfers right and importantly all of whom have integrated well with the first team playing regularly: Daniel James, Aaron Wan-Bissaka & Harry Maguire. Rightfully pulled out on agreeing a deal to bring Erling Haaland another of Mino Raiola's client due to excessive demands on his future transfer including a buyout clause. Talent wise this is a loss for MUFC given that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had personally flown to meet with Haaland's representatives and having managed him at Molde. Questions still persist over perhaps the biggest scouting team employed in football worldwide that consistently fails to spot the next exciting prospect whom the club can entice at valuations that save considerable money and the negotiations team that takes for ever to conclude a deal severely impacting the number of players that club can sign in a transfer window.

Solskjaer has set a trend of former players returning to manage the clubs they played for and that in turn has increased the percentage of British managers in the Premier League. MUFC end the year in 5th position within 4 points off 4th place: crucial to secure Champions' League football else the club will receive reduced fees from sponsors next season. Based on the progress thus far this season fans feel encouraged that club will not have to wait another 26 years (i.e., 2038) before winning the league again. 

Can Mourinho emulate Dave Sexton and do the double over United

Jose Mourinho returns to Old Trafford for the first time after being sacked last December ending his two and a half year stint with Manchester United in which he won the League Cup, Europa League Cup and finished second in the league their highest finish since retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson 4 years earlier. At Tottenham he has a comparatively better and balanced side that can not just beat Manchester United but like another ex-Chelsea legendary manager who also managed MUFC in Dave Sexton do the double.

Dave Sexton coached Chelsea to triumph in 1970 FA Cup, 1971 Cup Winners Cup and took over the Managers post at Manchester United at the second time of being offered. He was one of the candidates considered to take over from Sir Matt Busby but refused while still at Chelsea. He succeeded Tommy Docherty in 1977, reached the FA Cup final in 1979 and finished second the same year which was the highest finish since the retirement of Sir Matt Busby and 12 years after the last League title. He is credited with bringing Ray Wilkins, Joe Jordan to MUFC and the flotation in the stock market hindered the ability to buy quality players. He was sacked for lack of playing style as he had previously achieved at Queens Park Rangers in mid-70's despite ending with seven wins on the trot to finish in 8th position at the end of 1980-81 season.

Sexton took over Coventry City in 1981 and did the double over Manchester United; winning 2-1 at Highfield Road on opening day of the new season with goals from Steve Whitton, Peter Bodak and 1-0 win on his return to Old Trafford with Les Sealey in goal for Sky Blues and Whitton again the goal scorer.

Post world war MUFC have had to face their previous managers only on four occasions; Tommy Docherty, Dave Sexton, Ron Atkinson and David Moyes due to the longevity of Sir Matt Busby and Sir Alex Ferguson. Sexton in charge MUFC did the double over Docherty's Derby County including a 4-0 win at Old Trafford while the fans still called that teams as Doc's. Ron Atkinson famously beat MUFC in the league cup final in April, 1991 with Sheffield Wednesday. Big Ron's side drew 0-0 at Old Trafford on his return with the Owls. David Moyes lost 1-3 on his return to Old Trafford with Sunderland while being greeted with abject silence as if he were the 'Forgotten One'.

Jose Mourinho will be applauded for the trophies he won while rooting for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to do a David over Goliath with the young MUFC squad just like Dave Sexton who once fielded the youngest league side for Sky Blues in November 1982 in a match vs Liverpool, a record that stood for 36 years. Dave Sexton served England managers from Ron Greenwood to Sven-Goran Eriksson, journalist Norman Giller called him "a coach's coach".

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