Showing posts with label Erling Haaland. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Erling Haaland. Show all posts

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. 

Positive changes but still cannot dictate matches is Solskjaer's first year report card

Solskjaer has eclipsed that night in Paris by scintillating victories over Tottenham and Man City within 3 days, jettisoned the naysayers, rejuvenated the squad with youth from academy as per traditions, spent the budget wisely on three first team starters, 11 changes to the team for an exhausting trip, rejig of the youth setup with head of first team development, amid all the struggles maintained the decorum in his communication, and still there is plenty to be done.

De Gea was tied down with a new contract but errors have crept into his game, Wan-Bissaka hasn't let anyone beat him one-on-one securing the right flank, Maguire leads the side by playing the most minutes, Lindelof now Sweden's best player for 2nd successive year, Williams has been the standout youth taking his chance amid injury crisis, McTominay and Fred consistently being picked have gained confidence, James the 22 year old has carried the team on his young shoulders on many occasions, Andreas runs around energetically and puts a few decent crosses, Rashford has grown in stature to represent the club having already matched his best goals tally before December itself, Martial links the play well yet fizzles out against sturdy opponents, Greenwood great option from the bench has 2nd best goals tally behind Rashford, Tuanzebe ready for first team after two great years on loan. Its a far cry from having Valencia, Smalling, Jones, Young, Fellaini, Sanchez stutter last year and is a welcome positive change by Solskjaer.

Paul Pogba has been absent for most of the year and could easily have opened up teams to improve the league position. Club has moved ahead during his absence to demonstrate how he can still play a crucial part yet being able to cope without its only world class player. Solskjaer has benefited immensely as Pogba turned his magic post sacking of Mourinho but his form could not last as he was asked to do too much. Once again the Gaffer has spoken of Pogba as "best all-round midfielder in the world" pinning his hopes and not well thought out plan for the Frenchman. As his agent Mino Raiola rightly pointed out Pogba needs help around him with better players.

Club needs to pounce on three top midfielders like Sergej Milinkovic-Savic if Pogba leaves, James Maddison to wear the iconic No 7 jersey, Denis Zakaria to add physicality and fill the gaping hole that allows opponents into disbelief as to how a club renowned for Pat Crerand, Nobby Stiles, Sammy McIlroy, Bryan Robson, Roy Keane, Paul Scholes, Micheal Carrick can be so brittle nowadays? Simply put midfield is the most critical element in controlling the game. Agents and opponents are happy for MUFC as they look set to sign Erling Haaland who is a great prospect but clearly points to an incorrect priority in their acquisition.

Manchester United struggle against teams outside the top 6 who sit back and expect the Reds to break them down but cannot and end up dropping points. First loss at home to Crystal Palace in 30 years, converted the visits to London Stadium into a graveyard due to abject non-performance, can't stomach a fight against the rain, wind and determination at Bournemouth, gifted victory to Newcastle who debuted two brothers in arms, continue to lose to the bottom most club in Watford just like Cardiff last season and this season is not yet over so expect few more unpleasant records to blemish the spectacular history of this great club. Critics point to Solskjaer's inability to eek out results to convert defeats into draws and draws into victories by varying his tactics. Result might seem unimportant if the board has given a blank slate.

Can the double winning captain finally win at Old Trafford as a manager? Steve Bruce has never won at Old Trafford in the opposition dugout while Manchester United have the best record of winning the boxing day fixtures. It was in 1930-31 that Newcastle United did the double over MUFC who suffered relegation finishing last in the league! That would be disastrous indeed if the double loss to Magpies were to happen again 89 years later.

Grealish jumps atop United queue as January window beckons

Manchester United have won four, drawn six and lost four in fourteen matches this season which is the worst run of results since 1988-89 season at the same stage of the league campaign. Despite the weakness of the squad especially in midfield, Solskjaer's game management was questioned for not retaining the 3-2 lead at Bramall Lane where they ran riot in a seven minute spell being atrocious for the remainder of the game and an unconvincing display at home against Aston Villa from the squad rested from mid-week European excursion that reacted to being a goal down to score two only to concede again for a tame draw. That is four points dropped against newly promoted teams with bigger challenges against Spurs and City yet to come.

Jack Grealish stole the show at Old Trafford in the 2-2 draw in a manner of a young Cristiano Ronaldo playing for Sporting against an MUFC side on pre-season tour in August 2003 the first match played at the Jose Alvalade stadium. Sir Alex Ferguson kept the team coach waiting for an hour after the match in order to complete the deal to bring Ronaldo to Old Trafford for record fee for a teenager and within nine days he debuted spectacularly wearing the famous No 7 shirt against Bolton in a 4-0 win. The stature of that team under Ferguson had the likes of Keane, Neville, Giggs, Scholes, Ferdinand while this present team fouled Grealish turn by turn.

In the recent past MUFC have failed to bring in players like Javi Martinez, Sadio Mane, Wissam Ben-Yeddar to name a few who have excelled in games against the Red Devils or our main rivals and unless acted upon immediately like Ferguson decisively did in 2003 other clubs will scoop up the player. The notoriously slow negotiations at MUFC that took an entire summer transfer window of three months duration to sign just three players further complicates the matter that is clearly not Solskjaer's fault.

Meanwhile there has been some positive developments about other potential MUFC targets; Leipzig not having the first right on fellow Red Bull club Salzburg's Haaland who had previously worked with Solskjaer at Molde, Christian Eriksen refusal to sign an extension in his final year with Spurs to make him available in January, Arturo Vidal not playing regularly for BarcelonaJadon Sancho being targeted in Dortmund and seeking a way back home, Gareth Bale untenable situation at Real after holding 'that' flag while securing Wales qualification for Euro 2020. Only the willingness from Woodward is needed to get some of these deals through to back Solskjaer.

Its also nice to have targets ruled out apparently: James Maddison as Leicester chase top four, Declan Rice upbraided by Roy Keane, Timo Werner wanting to win the Bundesliga with second place Leipzig, Bruno Fernandes signing a new deal with Sporting increasing his transfer fee, Thomas Muller reinstated by interim boss Flick at Bayern.

Ideally would expect Sergej Milinkovic-Savic of Lazio who are third in Serie A or Marco Verratti who recently extended his contract with PSG to dominate the midfield. Signing either of this duo seems highly unlikely being cost prohibitive and based on the success of Daniel James from the Championship would not mind Kalvin Phillips from Leeds or Sandro Tonali from recently promoted Brescia. Phillips, Grealish and Haaland - they would fit the bill of young and hungry player profile that Solskjaer has outlined while Savic, Eriksen, Muller would add much needed experience to complement the youthful exuberance of Solskjaer's Special's. A pragmatic view would be the mix of the two sets based on availability and fee.

MUFC have missed Scott McTominay in the two matches and hope for his return against Spurs and City to give them a chance to put up a fight. MUFC to their credit have won against Chelsea and Leicester then drew with Arsenal and Liverpool, but now face Spurs and City after two successive draws putting more pressure on Solskjaer to not assume the long term vision with near term surrender.

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