Showing posts with label Diogo Dalot. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Diogo Dalot. Show all posts

United dominate opposition after years in doldrums

Manchester United totally bossed the game with 28 shots 10 on-target against 3rd placed Antonio Conte's Tottenham Hotspur who were also 6-points ahead. Casemiro, Eriksen or Fred, and Fernandes have given United the impetus to dictate the game and set the tempo. Brazilian duo Casemiro and Fred battled against Spurs while Eriksen was brought back in to partner Casemiro after being unwell to totally outclass Chelsea in the first half at Stamford Bridge yesterday to draw 1-1. United for their dominance should have at least scored one goal in 1st half from three clear cut chances created. Casemiro's imperious header sealed a point in 3rd minute of injury time after going behind in 87th minute through a penalty clumsily given away by McTominay. Scotsman's strike in injury time was enough to beat Omonia Nicosia 1-0 in Europa League. It was United's first injury time winner in European competition since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's stunning goal to win the 1999 Champions' League over Bayern Munich. Fergie time is back in the reckoning!

Erik ten Hag has clearly brought back team spirit and sense of purpose with a clear vision of how to play. He has now demonstrated the complete 'control' of footballing side of the club, a trait as outlined by Sir Alex Ferguson as the most important inorder to restore the club back to its glory days. David de Gea has started to come off the blocks to stop opponents from creating a chance while Luke Shaw is re-energised creating a healthy competition with Tyrell Malacia. Diogo Dalot is a constant presense with his keen footballing brain while Lisandro Martinez adds street-fighter mentality missing since Steve Bruce, Jaap Stam and Nemanja Vidic days. Raphaeal Varane is able to balance the unit by organising it to face the threats like a leader by accelerating at key stages to clear the danger that Harry Maguire has not been able to in recent past. Defense has provided a strong foundation and now midfield is starting to dominate and create chances but the Forward line has yet to click to convert the dominance into easy victories.

Four games in nine days: 1-0 over Nicosia at home, 0-0 vs Newcastle at home, 2-0 at home to Tottenham and 1-1 away at Chelsea. Cristiano Ronaldo started in first two games, refused to come on as a sub in the game against Spurs in a clear case of misjudjement on his part, and was rightly suspended by the club for the match against Chelsea. This explosive incident did not disturb the cohesion in the dressing room and the togetherness of the squad was on display in the reaction to scoring the equaliser in injury time. Ronaldo unsettled, Martial often injured, Greenwood remains suspended; this leaves Marcus Rashford as the only fit and proper centre-forward. Anthony Elanga was preferred by Rangnick came on as a sub against Chelsea while Alejandro Garnacho was on the bench but unused as his contract talks have not progressed. United need to play three more games before the World Cup and a further 24 games in English Premier League has to be played after the event in Qatar. United should not be in such a precarious position in the forward department.

United board are constrained by the excess spent of £20 million each on the Ajax duo Martinez and Anthony that will hamper efforts to buy a top striker in January like Victor Osimhen. Osimhen will not leave Napoli in the middle of the season especially when they are on top of Serie A and top of their group in Champions' League including Ajax against whom they scored 10 goals in two games! Joao Felix at Atletico Madrid is not getting enough game time this season due to presence of Greizemann and Morata but Felix is more of a second striker than an out and out striker with a price north of £65 million. Rafael Leao of AC Milan has to be ruled out as he predominantly plays off the left of front three or on left wing. Christopher Nkunku of RB Leipzig appears to have agreed to join Chelsea next summer. Benjamin Sesko of RB Salzburg remains a promising option aged only 19 which rules him out from being a first team starter in case of injury to Rashford. Jonathan David of Lille is on an upward steady trajectory in last three seasons and carries major goal scoring responsibility for his team. Part of the squad that qualified for World Cup with Canada as winners of their group and scored 9 goals. Approx £40 million is the valuation for both Jonathan David and Ivan Toney; the former looks slightly better prospect than Ivan Toney, 26 of Brentford who already plays in Premier League with a call up for England National team recently.

United must sign either Jonathan David or Ivan Toney in January transfer window else risk losing top four and repeat last season's mistake when Ralf Rangnick was not allowed to sign a striker as Greenwood was initally suspended late in the window and wantaway Anthony Martial was loaned to Sevilla. Rangnick alerted United to availability of Dusan Vlahovic, Christopher Nkunku, Darwin Nunez, Julian Alvarez. United lost last six away matches to finish 13 points adrift of 4th place scoring only two goals. As Rashford emerged under Louis van Gaal, Mason Greenwood under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Anthony Elanga under Ralf Rangnick, the fans were expecting to see Alejandro Garnacho promoted. The Argentinian was part of 33-man squad in March, 2022 but has not yet played for the senior squad. Erik ten Hag has been consistently picking him in the first team squad but not given game time. Forward line of Rashford, Osimhen, David and Elanga or Garnacho would be the expectation for next season.

United this season have beaten Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham at home, losing to City away and drawing to Chelsea away. Good home record is the essential base for a solid finish and eventual title challenge in a few seasons given the high standards of City. Erik ten Hag has handled the situation around Cristiano Ronaldo firmly yet respectfully. United finally have a midfield in Casemiro, Eriksen, Fernandes and Fred to play on their strengths and not take counter-attacking route which was used too often in recent past especially under Solskjaer. Eriksen has no backup as yet and thus the interest in Frenkie de Jong while Donny van de Beek has missed most of the season through injury. Erik ten Hag has seen out a tough set of fixtures in first eleven games, while 20 points and 5th position is the same as David Moyes at this stage of the seaon, the Dutchman has evolved a clear playing style that dictates the player selection and a much better squad to chose from. United are back... but here is the World Cup in the middle of the season and risk of injuries to players that can yet derail the season!

Can Erik ten Hag break the losing jinx of post-Ferguson managers against City?

188th Manchester derby arrives with the red half at a major disadvantage of not having played a league game since 3-1 win over Arsenal on 4th September, which was their fourth consecutive victory after two disastrous defeats at the start of 2022-23 English Premier League campaign. While City are in-form winning five and drawing two with target man Erling Haaland scoring 11 of their 23 goals and Kevin de Bruyne already notched up six assists this early in the season. Reds have only scored eight goals and conceeded similar number. This highlights a massive gulf between the two sides despite United turning things around, lot of work lies ahead to close the gap.

David Moyes lost 1-4 in his first league match against City, Louis van Gaal lost 0-1, Jose Mourinho lost 1-2 at home,  Ole Gunnar Solskjaer lost 0-2 at home as interim manager but won both home and away fixtures next season as permanent manager, Ralf Rangnick also lost 1-4. Another grim reminder of United falling behind their local rivals who have won the Premier League in four of last five seasons. Sir Alex Ferguson triumphed 2-0 over City in March, 1987 when United finished 11th and City were relegated in the old First Division with 22 teams. First derby match for Ferguson was in fact the FA Cup 3rd Round which United won in January by a single goal scored by Norman Whiteside. 

Overall United still edge the derby stats with 77 wins to 57 with 53 games being draws and will take at the minimum 10 years to eclipse if City win all home and away games. Erik ten Hag has already shown glimpses of turning things around and if he remains in-charge United will not need 10 years to win the Premier League again. After Sir Matt Busby it took United 26 excruciating years and now after Sir Alex Ferguson it already has been 9 seasons. Erik ten Hag has managed to lose just one of eight 'Der Klassieker' derby in Dutch league against rivals Feyenoord. In is short span he has managed to out-wit Jurgen Kloop to win 2-1 vs Liverpool and won less convincingly against Arsenal 3-1. He knows what this fixture means for local fans and to continue the momentum of last four games.

Erik ten Hag won 'Manager of the month' award and Marcus Rashford won the 'Player of the month' awards simultaneously for the September. International break saw the best of Diogo Dalot, Cristiano Ronaldo, Bruno Fernandes for Portugal, Casemiro and Fred for Brazil (Anthony came on as sub in both games), Lisandro Martinez for Argentina, Luke Shaw for England, Tyrell Malacia for Netherlands, Christian Eriksen for Denmark, Raphael Varane for France who won with him 2-0 and lost without 0-2 vs Denmark. Harry Maguire the United captain drew the biggest criticism for the penalty conceded against Germany. While England boss Gareth Southgate backed his man as expected, his injury rules him out of the derby.

Jadon Sancho can be the star of this match. Not being named in the squad for England during the International break should have given him more time to prepare and get himself back in the squad for the World Cup. He has played with Haaland while at Dortmund and can share his first-hand tips to stop the Premier League top goalscorer. Sancho who also came from the City academy and will cherish to score against them in order to firmly be entrenched as United folk hero. A certain parallel with Ryan Giggs cannot escape attention. Anthony Martial returns from injury and will be on subs bench.

Two most important players will be the fullbacks Diogo Dalot and Tyrell Malacia, both just 23 with the task of stopping crosses meant for Erling Haaland. Scott McTominay based on his excellent form continues to displace the Brazilian Casemiro from the first team. Lisandro Martinez has not allowed Haaland to score in three games the duo have played head-to-head in their Ajax vs Dortmund stints bodes well for the Argentinian who came under scathing examination for his short stature in the English media. Shrewd signing of Akanji by City shows the leaps United need to make to catch up in recruitment. Defeat against Real Sociedad in the very first game of Europa League at home highlighted a stark reality i.e., changing habits takes time and persistent effort. A solid performance against the best team in the country sans the result will still soothe the fans.

Erik ten Hag cracks the whip

Erik ten Hag stamped his authority by dropping Ronaldo, captain Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw for the crucial do or die match against Liverpool at Old Trafford. He clearly stated the reason to drop Maguire and Shaw was to "want mobility and agility" in defense. Raphael Varane and Lisandro Martinez as the latest centre-back pairing combined well with full-backs Diogo Dalot and Tyrell Malacia to produce one of the best defensive displays in recent memory despite giving a goal away. Arrivals of Ibrahimovic, Lukaku, Cavani, Ronaldo had stunted the game time of Martial in particular and Rashford but the duo were given their chance on Monday night to combine for the second goal. Entire team were proactive and took the game to Liverpool in stark contrast to previous two games as revealed by the distance covered of 114km vs just 95km in earlier matches.

Scott McTominay covered the pitch with thought and restraint while Christian Eriksen sprayed the passes. Elanga had a wonderful chance to open the score but hit the post. Not to be detered Jadon Sancho received the ball in crowded penalty area and reversed his movement to out do the marker and slot in a direction pointed by Captain for the day, Bruno Fernandes to score. Old Trafford erupted in joy. Liverpool then upped their game and domintaed the rest of first half. After restart Anthony Martial replaced Elanga on the left and his weighted pass found Marcus Rashford who might have been just off-side and beat the keeper to make it 2-0. Liverpool scored with 9 minutes left to setup a finale but United's high spirit tended to that and even enabled a triple substitution of Ronaldo, van de Beek, wan Bissaka for Rashford, Eriksen, Dalot in 86th minute.

Before the kick-off #GlazersOut protests started from Media centre towards Old Trafford through the Munich tunnel and chants continued throughout the game. Hugh McIlvanney of the Times lamented in 2005 about "supporters are cannon fodder in football’s money wars, virtually guaranteed victimhood."  while Brian Glanville took direct aim at the Glazers "Utterly ignorant of soccer, owner of Tampa Bay Buccaneers American gridiron club, obsessed by the urge to make money from childhood,.. he is the very incarnation of capitalism red in tooth and claw." After the disastrous touting of European Super League by the Glazers who reached out to fans in order to appease them 16 years after their massively leveraged take over, the English media in general have finally woken up. 

Kaveh Solhekol of Sky Sports started pointing out the reasons for United's downfall despite United being on a 5-game winning streak in last full season under Solskjaer while senior United and ex-Telegraph reporter Mark Ogden said 'diminished status and expectancy is down to the owners' after the humiliating 0-5 loss to Liverpool last October. Failure to conclude the transfer business not just before the pre-season but even after English Premier League has started just highlights the constraints under which Erik ten Hag has to operate. This repeated failure of Glazers is no longer hidden from most of the media nor are they enamoured by lavish signings and wages on last choice players who end up at Old Trafford instead. For once Fans and media are in sync.

Before the match fans paid tribute to players who were part of England's Euro 2022 winning squad Ella Toone, Alessia Russo, Mary Earps and unveiled their latest signing Casemiro. The Brazilian despite his age might be one of the most influential signings United have ever made. He was the lynchpin of the most successful era in Real Madrid's recent history and allowed rest of the team to thrive and elongate their careers. Casemiro was man of the match when Madrid won the UEFA Super Cup and is match fit. Diego Simeone called him out “For the balance of the team, he is without a doubt their most important player.” while Zinedine Zidane brought him into the first team by noticing qualities similar to Claude Makelele with whom he played and won handsome laurels. Murtough and Arnold must be congratulated for having pulled out a coup of a transfer. Martinez and Casemiro fill the void of steely resolve and tenacity to the squad. Casemiro will wear shirt #18 of Paul Scholes.

United did not bow down to super agents in their quest to sign quality players. Ajax holding United to ransome over Anthony and 90 million is too much when their own fans claim 60 million is sufficient. This is especially true as club looks at back-up goal keeper, right back, striker and another midfielder. Erik ten Hag not only made the team run 13.8km which they lagged against Brentford team in their 0-4 humiliating loss but he himself ran with them to demonstrate he is with the team while helping them recover and not merely passing instructions. ETH exploited United's pace againts Liverpool to secure a memorable win and showed remarkable flexibility to change tactics. This is one of the key reasons why fans preferred him over Pochettino. Key now is to string up a winning run of games that includes Southampton and Leicester City.

Carrick impresses as interim

Michael Carrick stood up for the beleaguered coaching staff and took charge of two games against Villareal and Chelsea impressing everyone to earn an away win and a draw. Most striking feature was how different they were setup in these two games 4-2-3-1 with Ronaldo leading the line and 4-3-1-2 flooding the midfield without Ronaldo making the winger Jadon Sancho to score in both these games thereby regaining form. Carrick himself paid tribute to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his man-management before the first game, and took on the responsibility of managing United as an interim with great application based on his vast array of technical skill as a player.

Later due to delay in getting the work permit and agree terms with Lokomotiv Moscow for Ralf Rangnick, Carrick had to manage the team for the 3rd match against Arsenal at home. He dropped Aaron Wan-Bissaka who was involved in a lash to clear the ball that caught Thiago Silva's leg and United could only draw at Chelsea. This is proper management that seemed to be lacking under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Diogo Dalot deputized and unlike being outrun and targeted by Villareal, Carrick played Rashford on right not left to protect him. Fred was the workhorse again that earned United a crucial penalty as Ronaldo scored two goals to earn a 3-2 win against their direct rivals for the 4th Champions' League spot. Typical exhilarating Premier League match of recent years where again United did not have majority of possession even at home, something that is still unthinkable could have happened under Sir Alex Ferguson!

After the game it was made public that Michael Carrick would be leaving his position with United that started 15 years ago initially as player who replaced Roy Keane winning every trophy in his illustrious career and took a stint as a coach under Jose Mourinho. Carrick let it know he does not have any plans as yet but loyalty to Solskjaer was a factor. United are losing one of their finest who could have become their permanent manager from the bootroom in the future. Rangnick revealed he has tried to persuade Carrick to stay on in a long chat two days before. Hoping Carrick has a great career as a coach ahead of him and crucially win trophies that most of Ferguson's former charges have had very little of. Thank you.

In a short three game period Carrick has an impressive two wins and a draw but his team displayed cohesiveness that was lacking for much of this season under Solskjaer and a clear formation adapting for the deficiencies in midfield. In the game against Chelsea the coaching staff had live data feed from analysts in the background which was not the case before Rangnick's appointment. This made many experts believe that it was Rangnick forcing the move to bench Ronaldo against Chelsea and it was not Carrick's call. Judging from Carrick's storied history as a technical lynchpin of past United side playing alongside Paul Scholes with aplomb, he would have taken in the positive advice from Rangnick to make more use of pitch-side monitors for the coaching staff but the final team selection would be his own.

Another feature that was liked by all was Carrick's reading of the game in his press conference. As an example he described Thomas Tuchel's in form Chelsea team and the way they play in depth with full analysis. Did not repeat stuff often nor try to paint a picture but reveal his view. Refreshing.

By the way, Ronaldo scored his 800th goal of his career in the game against Arsenal. 800th! United fans would love him to get his 200th at United by the end of his two years here and surely surpass George Best's tally of 178 goals. Only Ryan Giggs has more appearances for United than 800 at 963, imagine to score in 19 seasons that is averaging a staggering 42 goals per season. Only Sir Denis Law has managed to score more than 42 goals for Manchester United once in 1963-64 that won him the Ballon d'Or with 46 goals, a trophy much coveted and respected in the past. 

Most promising season under Solskjaer

Manchester United begin the season on the back of their best transfer window in the post Sir Alex Ferguson era with additions of centre-half Raphael Varane, winger Jadon Sancho and reserve keeper Tom Heaton. Diogo Dalot back from his successful stint at AC Milan is like a new signing. And two weeks are still left to the end of summer transfer window! Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has augmented his coaching staff with Eric Ramsay the youngest coach to get a UEFA Pro license at 27 in 2019, he joins United from Chelsea as 'set-piece specialist' an area of concern from last season having conceded the most goals amongst the top four with 44. Trophy is the only thing missing now at United.

Unlike last season United managed to play four pre-season friendlies(2W, 1L, 1D) to build the momentum leading up to the opening game of the season against rivals Leeds United. It will be the first game at Old Trafford with fans since the 2-0 win over Manchester City in Mar, 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. United will have a new shirt sponsor this season in Germany's Team Viewer and look forward to "ground-breaking augmented reality solutions and remote access to Old Trafford – Manchester United’s famous stadium". Solskjaer also signed an extension to his contract until 2024, the departing chief executive Ed Woodward rightly said "Ole and his staff have worked tirelessly putting the foundations in place for long-term success on the pitch."

Based on the fixtures released United have a relatively easy start until facing Liverpool on 23rd October. Three matches each in November and March will be the toughest. Aim for Solskjaer will be to have United in the hunt for the title until April. This will be a very tough task as the standards set by Manchester City and Liverpool have been of the highest order. 12 points behind City last season and 33 points behind scoucers in season before that; on both occasions the champions ran away from rest of the pack in December. Chelsea have invested heavily to win the Premier League as they endure the longest league trophy drought under Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich. Strength in depth still does not favour United with deadwood at the club in Phil Jones, Jesse Lingard, Eric Bailly, Andreas Pereira and aging Juan Mata, Nemanja Matic, Lee Grant. This is despite the purge of more than a dozen players like Fellaini, Sanchez, Rojo, Smalling, Romero that has positively brought down the wage bill significantly to move United from top to 7th in space of two seasons. Following players have been loaned out: Axel Tuanzebe, Facundo Pellistri, Tahith Chong, Nathan Bishop, Ethan Galbraith, Ethan Laird and the futures of Amad, James Garner, Brandon Williams, Teden Mengi is not finalized.

United face Leeds on the opening day of the season only for the 2nd time. First time they met was in 1970 on August 15th losing 0-1 at Old Trafford. Last Leeds United win at Theatre of Dreams was on 28th February, 1981 and since then United have mostly the upper hand. Premier League welcomes 50th club in Brentford this season, with Norwich and Watford the two other promoted teams. Much maligned VAR has adopted the successful model from the Euro 2020 in terms of offside and handball rule; the substitutions has been limited to 3 from 5 while the squad can still have 20 players.

Marcus Rashford will miss the opening 2-3 months due to long delayed shoulder surgery. This will put the onus on Anthony Martial to make the most to sustain his United career which was blighted by injury last season. Will Paul Pogba be consistent? Will Donny van de Beek get more game time? Will Solskjaer still persist with double pivot of McTominay and Fred? Will the acquisition of Sancho hinder the development of Amad? Will Bailly be happy being fourth choice centre-back? Will United be as lucky as last term with injuries? United will need to create more goals to augment the loss of penalties from changes to VAR. Last three seasons United have won 12, 14, 11 penalties! Two legged League Cup fixtures are back unfortunately. Top three finish in league but within single-digit points difference from the winner, make it to the knock-out stage of Champions' League and a trophy like FA Cup or League Cup sounds risky as a good Cup run usually depends on the draw.

United will get off to a better start this season than the terrible ordeal of last season, try to avoid losing to relegation teams and convert many of the 11 draws into wins. To win trophies they would need to win the crucial moments in crucial matches by making right use of all available resources. This will entirely depend on the judgement of the manager in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. If Sir Alex Ferguson chose Solskjaer to be his 'man of destiny' who in turn has build the club back step-by-step, will surely be cognizant of the pivotal moment this season is going to be. United faithful have never been so optimistic in last five seasons, not just our super-sub.

United dominate opposition after years in doldrums

Manchester United totally bossed the game with 28 shots 10 on-target against 3rd placed Antonio Conte's Tottenham Hotspur who were also ...

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