Showing posts with label Gary Neville. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gary Neville. Show all posts

Glazers engage with fans after 16 years

Friday afternoon on 4th June, Joel Glazer finally met with Manchester United fans forum representatives - the first meeting between Glazer family and fans 16 years after the heavily leveraged buyout that saddled the club with £540 million of debt and never been wiped out due to interest payments, loans and dividends made out to the Glazer family of over £1.1 billion in the same time. Before Glazers the club was debt-free and self-sustaining, consequently became the most sought after club in world football including being pursued by Rupert Murdoch's BSkyB the chief broadcasters of English Premier League which was vehemently and successfully opposed by unifying all United fans organizations, prominent MPs like Michael Crick and the media. Edwards family owned United between 1958 and 2002 for 44 years but were generally hated by the fans for mismanagement of England's most famous sporting institution as detailed in the brilliant book 'Manchester United: The Betrayal of a Legend', sadly same fate has befallen the Glazers.

Glazers were forced to apologize and meet the fans, it has to be noted not on their own volition but due to the fan protests and widespread condemnation of the disastrous flirtations with European Super League announcement on 19th April. Protests by United fans led to disruption to the training at Carrington on 22nd April and cancellation of the biggest fixture in the English league against their arch rivals Liverpool at Old Trafford. Glazers were forced to pay £22 million fine imposed by the Football Association. Despite the Covid-19 pandemic and Super League fiasco the Glazers still persisted with taking $0.09 per share as dividend that will be issued on 30th July. This makes the mockery of fine imposed by the FA, and further raises questions on why this take-over was not blocked by the Monopolies and Mergers Commission now called CMA. Ironically its the three American owners of three big traditional England football league clubs in Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal who have backed the Super League to mirror their operations in American NFL franchises!

Same top three English teams were involved in the previous flirtation of European Super League in 1998, there again backed by JP Morgan from where the Glazers hired Ed Woodward to work on buying Manchester United. Then JP Morgan had promised $20 million to each of the founding clubs and of being in a group of 16 teams who will participate for six years irrespective of their domestic league position; that sum became $200 million in 2021. Since then the number six has had deliberate evolution in European football - top 6 teams: ignoring traditional giants of the game like Everton or Aston Villa, these top six sides in the league had steadily increased their lead from the rest of the league. Evolution perhaps has a surprise too, in Leicester City's of the world who have worked hard from ground up to evolve into a major club by strategic choice and financial backing by football savvy owners. Contrast Leicester City owners with Glazers who famously cut the net budget in the later years of Sir Alex Ferguson to about £20 million each year. Recall United selling Cristiano Ronaldo for £80 million, lost Carlos Tevez to local rivals City and replaced the duo with Michael Owen (free transfer), Antonio Valencia (£16 million), Gabriel Obertan (£3 million) and Miram Diouf (£4 million) from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer managed club Molde! Consequently the last Premier League winning team under Ferguson had iconic veterans who needed urgent replacing - Giggs, Scholes, Ferdinand and Vidic. Imagine if Glazers would have been in touch with football where might United have been post Ferguson? Brian Glanville wrote this of the Malcolm Glazer in 2005 under the heading 'United they fall': "Utterly ignorant of soccer, owner of Tampa Bay Buccaneers American gridiron club, obsessed by the urge to make money from childhood, at odds with his own sisters over his mothers will, he is the very incarnation of capitalism red in tooth and claw."

This was not the first protest by the Manchester United fans who had previously launched the 'Green and Gold' campaign by Manchester United Supporters Trust (MUST) that was inspired by the colours of Newton Heath LYR (Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway) football club as United used to be known till 1902. Many loyal fans who had been supporting the club for more than two to three generations were part of this protest, and some of them even managed to form a new club FC United who now play in Northern Premier League the 7th tier of English football. They did not get the backing from any of players of the club including the "Class of '92" who instead invested in Salford City FC in 2014 and changed their jersey from tangerine shirt and black short to red shirt and white short. That kit sounds familiar!

In the absence of any football men on United board its the 'Class of '92' who are backing Ole Gunnar Solskjaer just like Sir Matt Busby backed Tommy Docherty when United suffered their last relegation and like Sir Bobby Charlton backed Sir Alex Ferguson when he faced his worst crisis in 1989. It must also be stressed that Docherty and Ferguson had achieved path-breaking success at their previous clubs in Chelsea and Aberdeen respectively unlike modest Solskjaer.

Threat of Super League finally made Gary Neville to take a stand against the Glazer ownership and further shared details of him recalling his medals given to United for display at their museum four years ago, as had a former United captain Martin Buchan. Thus far the "Class of '92" have rightly backed Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in general about the direction of rebooting the club as per its tradition. If Solskjaer does not win trophies this upcoming season be assured this backing might change. Gary Neville had the toughest of tasks to succeed Roy Keane and bridge the chasm that emanated from the bitter fall out between Ferguson and his long standing, most successful United captain. Neville has successfully campaigned for an independent regulator in football to which the government has positively responded, and his assessment of the outcome of fans meeting with the Glazers was spot-on too. Doubts remain if Glazers would ever agree to a fan share scheme but the result of #NotAPennyMore campaign that has led to the The Hut Group pulling out of the training kit deal offers hope.

The Manchester Munich Memorial Fund (MMMF) that spearheads the joint group of major United fan organizations to lobby for recognition of Jimmy Murphy's major contribution in creating the Busby Babes and leading the fightback after the crash at Munich made significant breakthrough in their talks with the club who in principle have agreed to the proposal. Confirmation from Jimmy Murphy's grandson in 'All for United' YouTube channel.

Glazers NFL franchise Tampa Bay Buccaneers despite having the lowest win percentage 0.397 they shrewdly acquired the greatest player in NFL history in Tom Brady and won only their second Super Bowl. Can they replicate the same with Manchester United by getting Cristiano Ronaldo? Since the retirement of Ferguson and only when United are out of top four Glazers have invested heavily, this peak and trough transfer policy without a core guiding principle has back-fired thus far. Ed Woodward the embattled chief executive finally quitting and decision making decentralized to a limited extent makes for a fascinating season ahead, not just the transfers. Solskjaer wisely is being patient in his reboot to fill all facets of a modern football club by getting the youth setup revamped, hiring coaches at all levels, backroom staff, director of football, and this is slowly but surely leading to a crescendo of success as a tribute to halcyon days of Busby and Ferguson. If the Glazers do not stop taking dividends and reduce the debt nor engage with fans, irrespective of any on field success they risk being hated just like the Edwards. Old Trafford needs urgent attention!

2005-06 was the only time I got a postcard from United to join as a overseas member, immediately after the Glazer takeover. I remain hopeful of a positive change.

United need a convincing performance to avert a crisis

Speculation will always be rife about the future of their manager and of their main players if United lose two of their three games let alone get thrashed like they did against Spurs and at home in Old Trafford without fans. It gets another dimension when the very player who was inspirational for turning around the fortunes of the club since his arrival in late January, Bruno Fernandes is substituted at half time when the team is down 1-4. Team failed to buckle up in the second half and conceded two more goals. As the players return to Manchester from their international duty, Fernandes responded to the rumours "What was said is in no way true. I was replaced at half-time, it is true, by technical option. The coach told me that game was almost over and that we would a have lot of games ahead of us. I was not satisfied but said nothing that could harm the group."

Paul Pogba played for United in the first match against Palace despite having just recovered from coronavirus and recently while representing France once again spoke of his desire to play for Real Madrid one day. It seems MUFC had exercised the option to extend Pogba's contract by one further year till June, 2022 which made Solskjaer to say "Paul’s our player and he's going to be here for another two years." Both Fernandes and Pogba are crucial for United to get out of this slump in form. Will Pogba pay the price for his comments and Solskjaer choose Donny van de Beek instead who scored his first international goal for Netherlands against Italy? United were outplayed in the midfield where McTominay and Pogba played in the first match, and Matic and Pogba the next two. Pogba will relish the opportunity to shine against PSG in his native France.

United let in 11 goals in just 3 games that highlights disjointed display through out the squad. It started before the season even began when skipper Harry Maguire was involved in an serious incident in Greece courting arrest. Solskjaer obviously having spoken with his captain decided to start him from the word go. To continue the misery he got sent off in a 0-1 loss to Denmark at Wembley this Thursday. Maguire served United well last season playing in all 38 league matches with David de Gea to concede just 36 goals. Eric Bailly was brought into the starting XI to partner Maguire against Spurs on back of his two games in the league cup instead of Victor Lindelof, while Juan Mata was continued to be ignored as an attacker despite two man of the match awards. If Harry Maguire is fit and has not been sent on vacation other than to Greece to take a break and recharge, he is likely to start. Lindelof looks unconventional while tracking back but was effective last season that might get him the nod ahead of Bailly who is quick but not sure about his positional sense.

Anthony Martial is serving his three match suspension and Edinson Cavani is under quarantine which might mean a rare start for Odion Ighalo in the league. Solskjaer is most likely to start Marcus Rashford honored with an MBE or Mason Greenwood in the 20-man short list for Golden Boy award. Solskjaer usually does not drop his main players unless they are injured while at the same time resource management will take centre stage as Champions' League starts next week with an away match to Paris St Germain. Ferguson made five changes to his side after they lost 1-6 to City in Oct, 2011 for the next league match away at Everton including a recall for Phil Jones! The claim to name Fernandes or Rashford as captain instead of Maguire will not be considered. Dean Henderson will not be content in playing just the League Cup and FA Cup, and will want to play more games coupled with the fact that Champions' League might be more demanding, can replace David de Gea this weekend in goal in the Premier League. Alex Telles might be on the bench.

Probable starting XI against Newcastle United might be:
Henderson (GK), Wan-Bissaka, Shaw, Lindelof, Maguire(C), Fred, van de Beek, Fernandes, Mata, Greenwood, Rashford

Board not getting the players that Solskjaer had asked for isn't a surprise nor the excuse for bad performance. United and their local rivals City were the only teams still playing till middle of August in Europe unlike the rest of the league that has had a direct effect on both their standings being 16th and 14th respectively. It calls into question the strategy they employed to counter the lack of recuperation between two seasons and without pre-season to get into optimal physical conditioning. City have had a tougher set of fixtures than United having to face Wolves(A), Leicester(H) and Leeds(A) while United faced Palace(H), Brighton(A) and Tottenham(H). Both clubs could have asked their players to continue with pre-season instead of vacations, not easy but necessary due to the pandemic, and should have completed their transfer activities early. Both clubs might have erred in their strategy.

An unpleasant news regarding my club from my country in the tweet below: Cannot expect logic to dictate sports as human elements are involved at all levels in playing, administration, officiating and governance. Key is to find the pockets of positivity like policy to hire about 15 of the best youth players from across the continent to strengthen the youth setup, inspired actions of Marcus Rashford and the club during the pandemic, Bruno Fernandes proving to be as inspirational as Cantona and emergence of Mason Greenwood. United finished 3rd reaching three semi-finals in the first full year in charge of Solskjaer and as expected second season will be a lot tougher.

MUFC Board were certainly busy preparing the project 'Big Picture' which was rightly vetoed at the Premier League meeting this week. Meanwhile Gary Neville has backed the alternate proposal by ex-FA chairman David Bernstein for an independent regulator. The unfinished FA Youth Cup of 2019-20 that was halted at semi-final stage will re-start on 30-Oct with all games being played at National Football Centre in St George's Park and finals on 02-Nov. United play Chelsea while Blackburn play City in the two semi-finals. Good luck lads.

Clubs Q1 and full year results of 2019-20  will be delayed from 12-Oct to 21-Oct (United play PSG) when the true extend of loss in revenue due to COVID-19 will be known. Here's hoping Solskjaer turns things around by then to avert a certain crisis. If United lose that will be the worst start to a league campaign since 1986 when Ron Atkinson eventually lost his job to Sir Alex Ferguson who had defied the old firm dominance in Scotland. Will bank on the good away form and are unbeaten since the unexpected loss to Burnley in January before Fernandes joined the club. Solskjaer has big calls to make to set the right tone ahead of very difficult set of matches after today's visit to St James' Park in Paris St Germain, Chelsea, RB Leipzig and Arsenal. Playing Newcastle instead of Chelsea or Arsenal is a blessing to regroup right after international break, for that same reason pressure will also increase exponentially if the result this weekend isn't right. Former United captain Steve Bruce at his boyhood club got his first managerial win last season with a dream debut for Longstaff brothers a sublime moment in sport. Another inspired display from the Gerodie's can wreck havoc in Manucian sails that Solskjaer will be wary about hoping 'Lightning never strikes the same place twice'!

MUFC close in on Fernandes as #SackWoodward gathers pace

The details of Marcus Rashford's injury overshadowed the loss at Anfield and not the expected news about Bruno Fernandes signing. Ian Wright did not absolve Ole Gunnar Solskjaer from the blame either and rumours of an internal inquiry at MUFC to look into this issue surfaced. United were outplayed for most of the match as 34 clearances revealed while Andreas and Martial blew two big chances. David De Gea came out like a leader to protest against the foul by Virgil van Dijk as the new Captain Harry Maguire looked on. In form Mata and Greenwood were brought on very late by Solskjaer. Fred and Andreas got into positions where they could shoot for the goal but clearly lacked the skill that Bruno Fernandes can easily provide. The Portuguese is definitely an upgrade on MUFC existing midfield but needs a midfield organizer along side him like Donny van de Beek. This signing could possibly mean the start of Paul Pogba moving out of Old Trafford.
As a big club MUFC can easily negotiate with a smaller club in Sporting and the fact that both clubs had unofficial contact last summer so knew about the internal intricacies involved for more than 6 months yet this deal protracts. No excuses to have this deal not wrapped up by 1st week of January so that MUFC could have benefited by being in the Champions' League positions by now! With Rashford out injured potentially till end of the season can United get one additional player like Moussa Dembele a typical #9 who will cost more than #50million and Olympique Lyon have potentially signed a replacement in Karl Ekambi! Brazilian forward Everton Soares plays on the left of the front three much like Rashford but at the right age of 23 while Jarrod Bowen is of the same age but plays on the right of the front three.

Meanwhile Erling Haaland scored a hat-trick on his debut for Borussia Dotmund in a 5-3 comeback win over FC Augsburg. Cavani is beyond the age to make Eric Cantona type of impact realistically while Krzysztof Piatek is behind Ibrahimovic in the pecking order says everything. One thing is certain that without reinforcements the thread bare squad cannot sustain the challenge neither in the Premier League, Europa League nor FA Cup. As previously mentioned MUFC need to develop relations with the erstwhile G-14 clubs to take players on loan which is the best way to plug this gap while saving big on forced player purchases.

Money has never been an issue with MUFC but rather attaching value to it. If Solskjaer had #150 million to spend which he used it on just three players and could not consequently get a replacement for Lukaku while publicly saying he was satisfied with the summer transfer business does raise questions about squad planning for the whole season.

#SackWoodward got trending after the brave Gary Neville spoke the truth about the state of affairs at Manchester United. "I can’t believe, with the investment that has been put into the squad over the last five or six years and you end up with that out on the pitch. I cannot believe it." Once a Captain always a Captain.
This was followed by another correct analysis by Sky Sports reporter Kaveh Solhekol that while Chelsea and Man City owners injected 1 Billion dollars each into their respective clubs the Glazers at MUFC had taken out 1 Billion dollars from the club during the same time. Old Trafford is crying out for modernization.
Jude Bellingham a 16 year old playing in Birmingham City's first team already represents the kind of signings that Real Madrid and Borussia Dotmund regularly do now. 18-month loan deal is a bit too long though for the high transfer fee being placed on him.

MUFC Youth team finally reached the 5th round of FA Youth Cup after their 2-0 win over Norwich and will now face Leeds United. MUFC haven't gone beyond 5th round since 2012!

Its #MUNBUR next in the Premier League without Pogba, McTominay and Rashford. Lindelof was sent off from training due to illness which might lead to Eric Bailly getting into the starting XI. Excellent Mata might start at #10 with Andreas wide on right giving Daniel James much needed rest on the bench. Dalot, Gomes and Chong might get some game time. MUFC have not done the double over Burnley since 1975-76 season. Sean Dyche appreciated Solskjaer for being calm and positive amid all the pressure "It does take time. It’s taken a big transition from Sir Alex (Ferguson) to where it is now and it continues to be that. Ole is doing a good job in staying calm throughout that period." The reverse fixture a 2-0 away win was a resounding mid-week display towards the end of December that won over critics. Repeat performance at Old Trafford will be very difficult with injuries not impossible. Will Anthony Martial lead the forward line, harass the opponent defenders, be injury free and take Greenwood along after that miss at Anfield which he needs to banish as quickly as possible. Burnley have drawn their last three games at the Theatre of Dreams can they go one better?

On England's 1000th game the best MUFC XI

The squad:
Alex Stepney (GK)
Gary Neville
Gary Pallister
Rio Ferdinand
Roger Byrne
Duncan Edwards
Bryan Robson (C)
David Beckham
Wayne Rooney
Tommy Taylor
Sir Bobby Charlton

Subs: Ray Wood, Phil Neville, Nobby Stiles, Ray Wilkins, Steve Coppell, Teddy Sheringham

England's first, youngest and longest serving team manager was Walter Winterbottom who had a brief spell as a player at MUFC in 1930's. Between 1946 and 1962 he oversaw England participation in all four World Cups wherein the quarter-final defeat to eventual champions Brazil in 1962 was his best result. In 1958 World Cup in Sweden his squad was depleted due to the Munich Air Disaster which robbed him of three first team regulars in Roger Byrne, Duncan Edwards and Tommy Taylor and prior to the event were beaten only once in 17 consecutive games. He did pick a young Bobby Charlton but did not play him even for a single match while Pele debuted spectacularly for Brazil being 3 years younger.  During his tenure a selection committee usually picked the squad and his influence was limited mainly as a trainer which he professionally taught and wrote about. Hungary famously beat England at home 6-3 in 1953 and 7-1 away in 1954.

Jack Mew and Alex Stepney won just one cap, Gary Bailey two and Ray Wood and Ben Foster three is the tale of MUFC goal keepers who have represented England. Alex Stepney has easily been the most successful at club level. Steve Bruce is perhaps the most famous MUFC player for never having represented England (Jimmy Greenhoff and Alan Gowling were also denied) being the first double winning captain of MUFC while his partner at centre-half Gary Pallister earned first of 22 caps while still playing for Middlesbrough in the second division. Rio Ferdinand became the youngest player to debut as a centre-half at 19 years 8 days while still playing for West Ham and ended up with 81 caps. Gary Neville holds the record for most caps by a right back at 85 and played with his brother Phil in the same team 31 times; Phil has 59 caps. Bill Foulkes sole cap came against Northern Ireland in 1954 as a right back. Roger Byrne held the record for most consecutive appearances for England with 33 at left back and being the Captain of the famous Busby Babes.

Duncan Edwards became the youngest post-war player to play for England in 1955 at 18 years 183 days against Scotland, in total played 18 times scoring 5 goals including that 'boom-boom' shot against World Champions West Germany. His England captain Billy Wright had this to say "There have been few individual performances to match what he produced in Germany. He tackled like a lion, attacked at every opportunity and topped it all off with cracking goal."

'Captain Marvel' Bryan Robson leads the team as he carried the side on numerous occasion on his own in the 80's, once scoring a goal in just 27 seconds against France in 1982 World Cup. David Beckham peaked as England captain under Sven-Goran Eriksson scoring that crucial free-kick at Old Trafford against Greece to secure the qualification and was rumoured to want away from MUFC when Sir Alex Ferguson reversed his decision to retire as the Swede Eriksson was lined up to succeed. Paul Scholes had lesser impact than either Nobby Stiles or Ray Wilkins. Steve Coppell's impressive career on the wing with 42 caps 7 goals came to an abrupt end at just 28 years when he sustained a knee-injury while playing against Hungary to qualify for 1982 World Cup.

Tommy Taylor had an incredible goal ratio for both MUFC and England, scoring 131 goals in 191 games for club and 16 goals including two hat-tricks in just 19 appearances for country. Alfredo di Stefano called him 'Magnifico' and was seen as a long term replacement for aging Nat Lofthouse. Wayne Rooney beat the all time scoring record long held by Sir Bobby Charlton at 49 goals for more than 45 years but could only score one of his 53 goals in World Cup competition against Uruguay in 2014 and four at the Euro's across three tournaments! George Wall the left winger who was a key player to during the reds first victorious phase in late 1900's decade comes close to cementing that spot but in terms of best MUFC players to represent England have Sir Bobby Charlton at left wing. Charlton's best came against Portugal in the semi-final of the 1966 World Cup and the great 'Der Kaiser' Franz Beckenbauer summed that glorious World Cup as "England beat us in 1966 because Bobby Charlton was just a bit better than me." Teddy Sheringham's best came in two spells on either side of his MUFC tenure, firstly partnering with Alan Shearer to reach the semi-finals of the Euro '96 and then being used as a tactical sub for his intelligent play especially in the 2002 World Cup in Japan; overall scored 11 goals in 51 games.

Viv Anderson was Sir Alex Ferguson's first signing in 1987 and became the first black player to represent England while playing for Nottingham Forest in 1978. Owen Hargreaves who got most of his caps while playing for Bayern Munich before his move to MUFC to help win the 2008 Champions League was in fact born in Canada. Most notable player born outside England was James Princep who was born in India and held twin records of being the youngest player to represent England in 1879 at 17 years 252 days and to play in FA Cup final at 17 years 245 days. He held both records for around 125 years!


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