Showing posts with label Ethan Laird. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ethan Laird. Show all posts

Point to prove and avoid the double by Cherries

United this season have never won the game when their direct top four rivals in Chelsea have slipped up first. Drawn with Wolves and lost to Burnley, Liverpool, Arsenal when Chelsea had dropped points recently. Now the Blues have lost to their local rivals West Ham and United response is awaited with the visit of Bournemouth to Old Trafford today who are aiming to do the first double over the Red Devils having won the reverse fixture 1-0 in November which was one of the most dismal away performances by Solskjaer's side amid rain and injury to Scott McTominay.

The Norwegian was pragmatic when asked about the seemingly easy run-in against teams from the bottom half of the table whom United have not beaten this season: "I've seen lots of quotes that we have an easy run in. But then the next five games they are against Bournemouth, we lost to them in the previous game. Aston Villa, we drew to them at home at Old Trafford. We have Southampton, which we drew to, we lost to Palace, we lost to West Ham, so there's teams that we've got a point to prove against." If the attitude to prove the doubters wrong is maintained it can be an advantage.

Solskjaer deserves to eclipse the 17 game unbeaten record of Mourinho from Nov, 2016 to Jan, 2017 and is approaching game number 16 today. Finally he has a starting XI that picks itself up and, will they start for third game in a row after astounding 3-0 wins over Sheffield United and Brighton & Hove Albion? Young Mason Greenwood could be rested and instead Daniel James might start. Bruno Fernandes took a knock but might still start and come off in the second half. Fred had a run of more than 20 consecutive games that really transformed him this season and could be back if Matic is to be rested. Eric Bailly has not been convincing to dislodge either Maguire or Lindelof based on that FA Cup win away to Norwich. Andreas looks much better than Lingard to deserve to be in the match day squad. Giving the newly promoted right back Ethan Laird a cameo would be superb.

Fine form has seen Solskjaer nominated for Manager of the Month award for June while Bruno Fernandes and Anthony Martial have been nominated for Player of the Month awards. Reports emerged from Germany informing of Borussia Dotmund completing a deal for Jude Bellingham. After Erling Haaland this is the second high profile teenager that has chosen BVB instead of United which confirms that although Red Devils have done a course correction under Solskjaer by appointing Nicky Butt as head of first team development at the start of this season, it is a recent appointment and sufficient time hasn't passed yet to see the desired results. Angel Gomes did not sign a new contract with United. Positive news on Jadon Sancho that he has agreed personal terms with United and now both clubs need to agree on a transfer price.

Home of AFC Bournemouth is Dean Court known commercially as Vitality Stadium is the only arena in the English Premier league with less than 20,000 capacity, to be precise its just 11,329 that is lowest in the league by a big margin. Five years in Premier League by Eddie Howe is fantastic. Bogged down by injuries to majority of the squad earlier in the season they haven't regained their form of last four years. Tough for them to get back into the top flight immediately if relegated. “If you’d have said to me 12, 15 years ago that Bournemouth would be playing in the Premier League one day, I’d have thought you were off your head. What’s happened here has just been beyond belief." Harry Redknapp who did a giant killing by managing the Cherries to win against defending champions MUFC in FA Cup 3rd round 1983-84. Following that 0-2 loss the first shouts of 'Atkinson Out' were chanted by United fans. United atoned that defeat by thrashing them 3-0 in next years FA Cup 3rd round!

George Best played his last 5 league games of his career for Bournemouth in Third Division in 1982-83 season whose aspiring owner wanted to double the gate receipts and that desired aim was achieved easily. In January when United were desperate for a back-up striker they had approached the former academy graduate Josh King now playing for the Cherries. If that would have clicked it would have been 3rd player to have been transferred directly between the two clubs and remarkably all three were strikers; other two being Jack Rowley 'the Gunner' scored 211 goals in 424 games for United despite the interruption of second world war, and Ted MacDougal a bona fide Cherries legend but flopped at United due to managerial changes. Thankfully Odion Ighalo has not disappointed. United must seize the chance given Leicester City are stuttering and Chelsea blowing hot-n-cold while Wolves are on United's heels.

Start of something special

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has left his entire senior squad in Manchester to prepare for next Premier League game against Aston Villa while taking the reserve team with three seniors Axel Tuanzebe, Jesse Lingard and Luke Shaw (none of whom started against Sheffield United) to Kazakhstan to play FC Astana in the Europa League Cup wherein they have already qualified for the next round.

It is a bold move because normally MUFC have had youth players part of every match day squad where as now Solskjaer has taken an entire reserves team to play instead of the main squad. It also shows the ruthlessness of Solskjaer who described the first half performance against Sheffield United "I could have changed 11 players at half time that's so simple apart from the keeper David" at 2:17-2:24. Skeptics have called it as 'Solskjaer throwing the players under the bus' whereas earlier during the bad run of results in April last season Roy Keane said "these are the same players that threw Mourinho under the bus and they will do exactly the same to Ole, leopards don't change their spots" at 0:29-0:36.

Solskjaer does not believe in retribution like the serial winner Jose Mourinho who used to publicly call out and blame individual players making the dressing room toxic. Solskjaer has been impeccable and honest in his interviews maintaining calm under severe pressure and responding to every criticism without making it personal. Solskjaer has saved the first team squad a seven hour long flight to play in severe cold of about -14 degrees and resting them for crucial run-in of fixtures across the league and cup competitions that sees them playing three times in seven days next against Villa, Spurs and City immediately and later six more games before end of December.

Three first team players will be making their debuts: Ethan Laird, Di'Shon Bernard and Dylan Levitt. Lee Grant in goal his first competitive start for MUFC, ahead of Matej Kovar. Axel Tuanzebe will partner impressive Di'Shon Bernard in defense. Ethan Laird back from injury will play at right back. Luke Shaw will be starting his first match since late August. James Garner and Dylan Levitt will anchor the midfield. Tahith Chong, Jesse Lingard the captain, Angel Gomes and Mason Greenwood will lead the attack. Seven of squad have never played for first, among them three are confirmed starters. Its a rare start for Chong and Gomes who are yet commit their futures to MUFC.

Not just MUFC players and fans but everyone in sport can take inspiration from the fight back from cancer of Max Taylor who makes this travelling squad to defiantly state "I won't let cancer define me."

This squad will help to assess the depth of talent ahead of January transfer window wherein the performances of Brandon Williams has meant that MUFC will no longer be looking to buy a right back as they had originally planned to do. This will also please the board as Solskjaer will review every member of MUFC squad including the reserves before asking for funds thereby solidifying his claim to fill a gap in the squad. The only concern will be if Astana play physically bulldozing the youngsters and if that results in injuries to any of the reserves.

As I had previously mentioned this match remains the closest competitive match of MUFC to watch by travelling from India. Will it turn out to be as historic as the games against Liverpool in November 1951 of 'Busby Babes' or season opener against Villa of 95 'Fergie's Fledglings' remains to be seen. Those two games were in the context of the league while this might be placed with many cup games which weren't the focus of those campaigns down the years that had first team fringe players mixed with youth. Nonetheless its very difficult to re-collect such an wholesale changes to a entire team made up of mainly youth/reserve players. Post Munich there was 9 forced changes in squad that faced Arsenal in the league and Sheffield Wednesday in FA Cup with Harry Gregg and Bill Foulkes the only two constants, while here entire starting XI is changed and five subs including Lingard, Grant, Tuanzebe, Garner, Greenwood were part of squad that played Sheffield United now face Astana. Whenever Greenwood has played he has scored or assisted that will definitely guarantee goals.

Epoch making in the MUFC tradition, "Solskjaer's Specials."

Return of Cristiano Ronaldo

Manchester United were nudged by Jorge Mendes, the expert agent of Cristiano Ronaldo when he opened direct talks with local rivals City abou...

Popular Posts