Showing posts with label Lisandro Martinez. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Lisandro Martinez. Show all posts

Grim midseason update as INEOS finally step in

INEOS group led by boyhood Manchester United fan, Sir Jim Ratcliffe has finally reached agreement with Glazer family to acquire 25% of the club and control the footballing operations. This protracted saga that began in November, 2022 will conclude finally when the Premier League approves of this transaction early next year. It will mean Sir Dave Brailsford and Jean-Claude Blanc overseeing the entire football structure including the much-maligned recruitment department. Brailsford the 'marginal gains' guru will coach the entire coaching staff on his CORE principles and Blanc will lead football operations with his previous experience at Juventus and PSG. C for commitment will probably mean fans won't have to hold 'play like you mean it' banner hereafter.

Populous group the global design agency who've developed Tottenham Hotspur stadium and Legends group have come out with a plan to build a new stadium next to the present iconic Old Trafford by utilizing the vast space surrounding it. This will mean United will not need to play their home games elsewhere but could continue playing their home games at Old Trafford while work on new stadium commences. Also Jean-Claude Blanc spearheaded the first club owned stadium in Italy by converting Stadio Delli Alpi to Allianz Stadium, a modern and sophisticated UEFA accredited level 4 arena. INEOS had promised $300 million investment into infrastructure on the deal getting ratified but Old Trafford redevelopment will need in excess of $1 billion! Will refurbishment and expansion of existing facilities be way to balance in view of global geopolitical turmoil and keep the heritage?

Manchester United's form has been utterly inconsistent to say the least. Erik ten Hag tries to blend his ideas and when struck goes back to counter-attacking style epitomised under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. This approach has meant United still do not have an identifiable style of play. Especially this season its more of the later that has made even fans question the tactics of the gaffer. Dismal loss away to West Ham, worst performance of the season in 0-3 home loss to Bournemouth, losses to Newcastle, Man City, Crystal Palace, Brighton & Hove Albion, Arsenal and Tottenham that's a whopping 8 defeats in 19 games with negative goal difference of -4 and 11 points behind leaders. Bournemouth won for the first time in their history at Old Trafford, United have now lost 4 consecutive Premier League games to Brighton, lost 5 of opening 10 games, are some of the damning indictments of the performances this season.

United finished creditable third last season and qualified for the Champions' League. They were paired with favourites Bayern Munich, Galatasary and Copenhagen. Least expectation was to finish behind Bayern and fight for 2nd spot. Lost in Munich despite scoring 3 goals, lost at home to Galatasary, squandered the lead in Istanbul, blew up in Copenhagen to a partisan fantastic crowd supporting the home team vigorously to finish bottom of the group! Incredibly sloppy and poor. Scoring 12 goals is no consolation while conceding 15. Harry Kane won Man of the Match awards in both games to remind United of composure they still lack in their play and scoring goals. Lindelof-Martinez combination started 1st match, Maguire-Varane started two matches while Lindelof-Varane 1, Lindelof-Maguire 1, Maguire-Evans 1 match each i.e., 5 pairings in 6 matches! Varane was absent from first team from September till Liverpool league game for which club captain Bruno Fernandes was suspended, an inexcusable mistake. In the group stage Rasmus Hojlund was the top scorer in Europe with 5 goals which bears testimony to his undoubted skills.

Scott McTominay was reintroduced as an attacking midfielder and he grabbed two late goals against Brentford to win the match at Old Trafford. That put more stress of defense who had men in short numbers in front of them to protect. Amrabat who joined at the very end of transfer window had not been playing for Fiorentina while waiting for the move to his boyhood club. Major injury to Licha Martinez and Malacia, minor ones to Mainoo, Shaw, Mount, Casemiro, Rashford, Maguire, Martial, operation to Lindelof, Sancho out of the squad due to indiscipline have all meant United kept changing players. Add to those three major facts: main player of last year Casemiro's loss of form, 30-goals man Rashford hit a drought and new goal-keeper Onana taking time to settle down while conceding few errors.

Belatedly Erik ten Hag might have realised that its better to bred youth instead of rotating the same squad with little improvement. That has led to more chances for Garnacho, Mainoo, Mejbri, Kambwala in the first team. Team that started that astonishing comeback game at home to Aston Villa was: Onana, Wan-Bissaka, Varane, Evans, Dalot, Mainoo, Eriksen, Garnacho, Fernandes, Rashford, Hojlund. Erik ten Hag, Harry Maguire, Alejandro Garnacho have won the manager, player and goal of the month awards from Premier League. Best home game thus far was the 2-0 win over Chelsea. Given the players that the gaffer wanted clearly its old boy Johnny Evans has been the player of the season so far and Diogo Dalot put in most outfield minutes while captain Bruno Fernandes has crossed 100 mark for creating chances. Despite media reports of Erik ten Hag losing the dressing room, team battled to 0-0 draw at Anfield where they had lost 7-0 last season. Out of Europe and only FA Cup to contend with apart from the league, should give the manager ample time to improve the players individually and the team consequently. Happy new year!

United can win their first match against Sevilla

In order to reach the semi-finals of Europa League, Manchester United need to make history by recording their first ever victory against Sevilla and in their stadium 43,883 seater Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan. United have drawn and lost two games each against them thus far which is also the record of Sevilla under their latest manager Jose Luis Mendilibar with four games in charge. And one of those duels between the two clubs was in 2020 Europa League semi-final when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was the manager at a neutral venue. This is easily a more daunting prospect for Erik ten Hag.

Manchester United are having a poor away record in English Premier League losing three of last five games. While in Europe this season United have faced three Spanish opponents already in Sociedad winning 1-0 away, losing 0-1 at Betis and drawing 2-2 in Nou Camp against Barcelona. This has made fans to mock the draws against four Spanish teams as if United were playing in Copa del Rey!

First leg of the match which ended 2-2 at Old Trafford had United cruising 2-0 till the 62nd minute and Erik ten Hag made three substitutions removing Fernandes, Sancho, Martial that turned the match around. Later Anthony was taken-off at 81st minute to protect him from getting a second yellow. United lost their best defender in Lisandro Martinez for rest of the season through broken metatarsal. At half-time Raphael Varane had to come off. Varane-Martinez have been United's best centre back pairing this season. Both are out of the squad for this game along with suspended Bruno Fernandes and another injured duo Garnacho and McTominay.

Harry Maguire will most likely be paired with Luke Shaw replacing the injured Varane-Martinez. Maguire though getting limited playing time under the Dutchman would have rued the fact as to why he wasn't paired with Shaw earlier, the duo enjoy a good rapport with England national team also. Maguire-Shaw braved a 2-0 away win at hostile Elland Road in February and today's atmosphere would be no different. Diogo Dalot and Aaron wan-Bissaka would be two full-backs taking the heat off young Tyrell Malacia. Similarly Marcel Sabitzer who had a slow start to life at United with respect to number of games played has started to prove himself by scoring those two goals in the first leg. He would be replacing the big void of Bruno Fernandes in midfield and play alongside Casemiro and Eriksen.

For such a crucial match Marcus Rashford will want to play some role and contribute to injury ravaged team's cause. He might even start with United clearly needing to win this match. Rashford alone has scored 1/3rd of United's goals this season and without him United were cruising till 62nd minute at Old Trafford last week is a testament to Erik ten Hag's work. Sevilla will be tipped to target Anthony dos Santos and will the Brazilian who got a goal and an assist for the first time in the same match for United in Sunday's win over Nottingham Forest rise to avoid confrontation and enable another victory? Can Martial score in a crucial match under pressure? Fred's best scoring season at United will be a factor to have him involved at some stage.

To fathom the scale of task facing United, last time Sevilla lost at home in Europa League was in 2016 quarter finals against Athletic Bilbao in extra time and the Spanish national team are unbeaten in 26 matches there! At the same time this season the club are struggling in 13th position in the league table having lost 0-3 to Barcelona and 1-6 to Athletico Madrid recently while they let in unusual 4 goals in two of their group games in Champions' League against Man City and Dortmund. Their current coach Mendilibar, aged 62 isn't as storied in stature as Julen Lopetegui nor Unai Emery.

Starting XI: de Gea, Dalot, Shaw, Maguire, wan Bissaka, Casemiro, Eriksen, Sabitzer, Rashford, Martial, Anthony
Bench: Butland, Vitek, Lindelof, Malacia, Fred, Zidane, Elanga, Pellistri, Sancho, Weghorst

United heading in the right direction

15 Manchester United players were involved in the FIFA World Cup that just concluded in Qatar with an exceptional final which was decided on penalties with Argentina edging France. United with 15 of its players were just behind neighbours City who had 16 and German giants Bayern Munich with 17. Most heartening statistic was that two of United's best centre-backs Raphael Varane (521") and Lisandro Martinez (301") featured prominently while Facundo Pellistri still not capped by Erik ten Hag got 182" game time in the tournament. Harry Maguire (430") will be the biggest positive having had a great tournament while Marcus Rashford (137") despite being top-scorer for England was underutilized by Gareth Southgate. Most destabilizing facet remains the state of mind of Jadon Sancho who could not make it to the squad and hasn't yet recovered from the psychological shock and is training by himself in Amstredam. Erik ten Hag said he is not sure about a date by when Sancho will be back. 5 of 15 players were signed by Erik ten Hag in the summer: Malacia, Eriksen, Martinez, Casemiro, Anthony!

United failed to top their group in UEFA League which means playing two extra fixtures against mighty Barcelona in February. Erik ten Hag got team selection wrong at Anoeta Stadium and later was desparate with route #1 football for the all elusive second goal. They lost to Aston Villa in the league for the first time since 1996 when Sir Alex Ferguson fielded his fledglings which made Alan Hansen to say 'you can't win anything with kids'. Influential on-field captain Bruno Fernandes missed the match due to suspension and Erik ten Hag gave World Cup hopefuls like Donny van de Beek a decent run in the first team. United won the next immediate fixture most convincingly against Villa in the Carabao Cup 4-2 and won against Fulham in the league with an injury time goal by Alejandro Garnacho. 'A star is born'. Garnacho clearly overshadowed a once great but sulking Portguese superstar who was forced to leave the club which further enhanced the rising pedigree of Erik ten Hag.


Owners of Manchester United, the Galzer family released a statement on 23rd November "the Board will consider all strategic alternatives, including new investment into the club, a sale, or other transactions" specifically targetting the elephant in the room "to strengthen the club, including stadium and infrastructure redevelopment". Redevelopment of clubs home Old Trafford either by constructing a completely new facility or modifying existing structure needs huge funds and detailed planning. Since Sir Alex Ferguson retired the club has not majorly invested in either Old Trafford nor its training ground at Carrington. Glazers who put the club in debt in order to buy it and that debt has soared rather than being pared-down. This profligacy and present economic outlook has finally forced the Glazers to consider selling the club. It's a welcome move but if new owners are from consortium of Amercian NFL teams the situation might become from bad to worse. Glazers wanting a big profit from their sale will rule out many genuine buyers like Sir Jim Ratcliffe who rightly wants to treat the club as a community asset and not a financial one. Tread with caution. United's share price rallied to a four year high of $22.84.

Cody Gapko is bookmakers favourite to arrive in January as a forward signing to replace the departed Portuguese. Gapko had a great World Cup for Netherlands scoring 3 goals which might make him even more expensive acquisition unlike City's shrewd signing of Julian Alvarez. Behind him is the Portuguese Goncalo Ramos who scored a hat-trick in a single match. Former United player Memphis Depay presents a cheaper option in transfer fee while Dusan Vlahovic is at club in turmoil whose entire board resigned enmasse. United played two games in Spain as practise when the World Cup was going on with remaining players and gave a host of youngsters a chance. As yet unused players Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Brandon Williams started both matches where Teden Mengi partnered Victor Lindelof in defense. Zidane Iqbal got the nod in midfield in both games. Club also announced triggering an extra year in contracts of four players: Marcus Rashford, Diogo Dalot, Luke Shaw and Fred. This will give club time till end of season to agree new deals with these players while they try to negotiate with David de Gea who can agree terms to join another European club in January.

Best news was indeed the date of unveiling of statue to the late Jimmy Murphy. The Welshman kept the flag flying in the darkest days of clubs history after the Munich tragedy and remarkably led the depleted team to the FA Cup finals. Apart from being the perfect foil for Sir Matt Busby as his assistant, he helped nurture the Busby Babes including Duncan Edwards, Sir Bobby Charlton and George Best. He even led Wales to quarter-finals of the 1958 World Cup as their manager and rejected offers from Brazil, Arsenal to remain loyal to both club and Busby. If not for Murphy the club would have folded. Sir Bobby Charlton credited Murphy entirely for his development "He was a brilliant teacher. The greatest influence on my career." Kudos to Patrick Burns of Manchester Munich Memorial Fund to form a consortium of Manchester United fan groups and approach the club to finally give Jimmy Murphy the importance he deserves. Statue will come up near Stretford End where he used train the Busby Babes.

Erik ten Hag has put in place a modern possession based football which was expected from Ralf Rangnick and coaches under him earlier. More importantly he has worked with most of first team players and improved them. Rejuvenation of Marcus Rashford is the main highlight; in just 15 matches he has overtaken the goals and assists tally of entire last season when he looked lost while battling injury. Main exception was the Portuguese superstar who despite preferrential treatment ultimately lashed at the very club who made him a star. Luckily the new United board under Richard Arnold and advisories like Sir Alex Ferguson, David Gill stood by the manager thankfully, and did not repeat the mistake of backing the player against Jose Mourinho. This is a football club again! Other exceptions to player progress are mainly due to injuries to Anthony Martial, Donny van de Beek, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Brandon Williams. Hopeful to see Facundo Pellistri in the 2nd half of season if he is not loaned out. A new star emerges to replace an icon, more control to Erik ten Hag, under-fire owners evaluating all options including a sale, sizeable world cup participation, finally a long overdue recognition to Jimmy Murphy - right direction indeed.

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.

Glazers break the ceiling after #GlazersOut reaches a crescendo

Every new manager of Manchester United barring David Moyes was handed about 140 million to spend on new players. Louis van Gaal brougth Angel Di Maria, Luke Shaw, Ander Herrera, Marcos Rojo, Daley Blind. Jose Mourinho used it on Paul Pogba, Henrik Mkhitaryan, Eric Bailly, Zlatan Ibrahimovic(free). Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had Harry Maguire, Aaron wan Bissaka, Daniel James. Same was the expected outlay for Erik ten Hag except for two factors. First was footballing one where six players who came to the end of their contracts left although that freed up the wage bill enourmously. Second reason needs examination of chain of events that unfolded.

During a visit to a local pub chief executive Richard Arnold engaged with fans and answered all questions forthrightly where he disclosed the summer transfer budget to be about 200 million. Having parted ways with outspoken Ralf Rangnick the club decided to discard his suggestions of needing upto ten new players after the loss to Liverpool and ended their interest in targets that belonged to the Red Bull group whom the German had been associated in the past.

United and Erik ten Hag started the window by targetting the Barcelona and Dutch international Frenkie de Jong. Barcelona were in financial turmoil and needed to raise cash to revamp their squad and register them with La Liga who follow more stricter guidelines of UEFA's Financial Fair Play rules. This interest was sustained through out the transfer window despite the player repeatedly stressing his desire to stay with the Catalans. Arnold and director of football John Murtough visited Barcelona and increased their offer from 65 to 75 million to cover the deferred wages the player had been owed in order to complete the transfer. de Jong represents the Barcelona identity in Johan Cruyff mould and from the same Ajax acedemy where he honed his skills. Selling him would have betrayed the ethos of the club and the player was never wanting to leave unless forced. Barcelona meanwhile sold percentage of media rights to raise sufficient cash to not force the sale. United did not get their target.

United had only one new player for pre-season Tyrell Malacia and another two new before the season started in Christian Eriksen and Lisandro Martinez. Having comprehensively lost the opening game of English Premier League to Brighton with superstar Cristiano Ronaldo angling to leave, the club were in disarray. United hierarchy responded by chasing Bologna striker Marko Arnautovic for 7 million and Adrien Rabiot for 15 million! You cannot be serious!! Scott Patterson and other fans wrote to Richard Arnold questioning why the club were on the verge of signing a rascist? United backed off. Rabiot demands were excessive, thank god. Back to the drawing board. Brentford gave United a massive shock with a 4-0 thrashing in just 35 minutes of first half. Fans group 'The__1958' had organised protests against the Glazer ownership of the greatest English footballing institution before the match against arch rivals Liverpool. This time there was lot of media scrutiny into Glazers taking dividends out, not putting their money into the club, increasing debt, lack of investment into Old Trafford and Carrington etc. Something big had to be done to reclaim the focus on football which is a 'results driven business'.

United agreed a fee of 70 million with Real Madrid for their Brazilian central defensive midfielder Casemiro with the player present in the stands during the match against Liverpool. Reputed Spanish football expert Graham Hunter speaking to Off The Ball said this might result in Real not winning La Liga such is the importance of Casemiro to that squad. Following the win against Liverpool, United went back to Ajax to persuade them to sell Anthony whom Erik ten Hag had coached to become a full Brazil international. 84.5 million fee was accepted by United which shows the degree to which the manager believes in the player and the club backed it up. Worlds best wingers have mainly come from Manchester United with Geroge Best, Ryan Giggs, Cristiano Ronaldo or Brazil with Garrincha, Jairzinho, Rivellino. Sir Alex Ferguson chased Ronaldinho. Anthony becomes United's first Brazilian winger finally. United ended the window with spend of 226 million second only to Chelsea under new ownership and signed keeper Martin Dubravka on loan from Newcastle United to provide competition for David de Gea. 

United had lost seven consecutove away games a feat which had not occured since mid 1930's and now managed to win two back to back away gaimes against Southampton and Leicester by a single goal with same starting XI that does not include Ronaldo, Maguire, Shaw. Arsenal the only team with 100% winning record to top the table presents a real test for Erik ten Hag's team. Casemiro and Ronaldo came on as substitues in last two games and could start against the Gunners. Anthony would eventually start on the right wing while Jadon Sancho switches to the left; either of these would be vying to wear the coveted #7 shirt after the tenure of Ronaldo ends. Goal scoring record and adaptability of Ronaldo will also result in him being included in the starting XI which looks like: de Gea(GK), Dalot, Varane, Martinez, Malacia, Casemiro, Eriksen, Fernandes, Anthony, Ronaldo, Sancho

Five of starting XI have been changed in first transfer window itself of Erik ten Hag, massive. Lisandro Martinez has already won United's player of the month award, Malacia had Salah in his pocket in his first game for United, Eriksen spraying the passes from the deep to push Fernandes into goal scoring positions, over to Casemiro and Anthony now for 'o jogo bonito'. Without head of recruitment United under Richard Arnold seem to have come to grips with the situation by changing their response by accepting feedback and listening to genuine fans. From van Gaal, Mourinho to Solskjaer it was the second summer transfer window which deeply dissapointed. Win always gives a breather to correct and Arnold has time till next summer to prepare and learn from past mistakes.

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.

New era dawns at Old Trafford

Erik ten Hag ushers in new begining on the field while Richard Arnold the former head of commercial operations who took charge as CEO (from embattled Ed Woodward) in February does the same off field. Not just six players who came to the end of their contracts but also director of football negotiations, chief scout, global head of scouting, etc and appointed a deputy director of football in a club wide restructuring. In a positive development the new CEO has created an advisory group that includes Sir Alex Ferguson, David Gill and 'Captain Marvel' Bryan Robson along with John Murthough. Club has even moved ahead with its plans for  'Fan Advisory Group' and 'Fan Share Scheme' that it initally announced in June, 2021 to win the fans back after the disastrous courting of European Super league. One crucial appointment missed was the head of recruitment which has severely impacted the most anticipated transfer window into a damp squib.

Despite Cristiano Ronaldo's return the club chose to write-off last season by appointing an interim manager Ralf Rangnick to replace the sacked Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. This is the main reason why fans have sympathy with the Portuguese star. To make up for that mess and loss of so many players on a free transfer, fans were anticipating both quality and quantity of incoming players. Erik ten Hag's voice on the field at Ajax the Argentine Lisandro Martinez, Christian Eriksen on a free transfer and young left-back Tyrell Malacia are the only three new recruits. Club remain in pursuit of Frenkie de Jong presently of Barcelona after agreeing on a 75 million deal but the player is refusing to accept as he is owed deferred wages of around 17 million. A striker, right back and another midfielder are three area's club are yet to firm up an offer. Although striker appears to the most glaring gap due to unavailability of Mason Greenwood and Ronaldo's eagerness to play in Champions' League the lack of midfield options might deter the club from finishing off teams especially in away destinations. 

Erik ten Hag preparations for the new seaon began with a bang, a 4-0 win over Liverpool in Bangkok and followed by 4-1 win over Melbourne Victory, a 3-1 win over Crystal Palace and 2-2 draw with Aston Villa. However in the more serious matches United lost 0-1 to Atletico Madrid in Oslo and drew 1-1 with Rayo Vallecano at Old Trafford last week. Aside from these results several changes to the playing style was observed. Erik ten Hag was repeatedly heard shouting at players if they did any mistakes, five a sides were punished physically for letting a goal, all players are now required to eat together, more sessions on one-touch passes under tight spaces, Sancho and Dalot appear to develop an understanding on the right wing, Zidane Iqbal, Charlie Savage, Ethan Laird, Alejandro Garnacho all played well on tour. ETH has added Kevin Keij from Ajax as performance analyst and Benni McCarthy only South African to have won Champions' League while at Porto under Jose Mourinho to the coaching staff. ETH has retained Harry Maquire as captain dispelling all rumours about squad unrest. Phil Jones is by the way still registered as a player with Manchester United!

With net spend of 70 million on Martinez and Malacia it is the lowest after appointing a new manager at United except that of David Moyes who was given just one signing of Fellaini. How have Arnold and Murtough prepared to handle the hicupps especially after transfer window closes? Ferguson used to famously say that its a crisis if Manchester United loses two matches in a row. How will online fan trolls, media scutiny be managed by the new management team? Murtough, Arnold and Ferguson might talk to media after 3rd, 6th and 9th defeat of the season while ETH only talks about winning the next match. 16 matches to be played before first winter World Cup in Qatar including tough October against City, Spurs, Chelsea and 22 matches after. Blooding of FA Youth Cup winning players might induce patience from fans longing for silverwere since Stockholm, 2017 against Ajax side led by Erik ten Hag!

First signs of issues ETH has to handle aside from coaching occured in friendly game against Rayo when Ronaldo and few others left the stadium after being substituted at half-time. ETH later spoke with Dutch media outlet Viaplay describing this behaviour as "unacceptable". Earlier Ronaldo who had skipped the Asia-Australia-Norway tour for family reasons had posted on social media that he would be playing against Rayo "Sunday, the king plays". ETH might be forced to play Ronaldo for the 1st game of the season against Brighton as in-form striker Anthony Martial suffered a recurring hamstring injury. Fans though have already earmarked Alejandro Garnacho as the breakout player of the season. But who would United replace Ronaldo with at such late notice? Rashford to score more than 20 goals, yes. First the team needs to ensure 0-4 humiliation in last game against Brighton will not be repeated.

Manchester United exceeded the target yet again for commercial operations by two-fold before the start of the new season thanks to Ronaldo wanting out and being involved in fund raising of Barcelona for interest in Frenkie de Jong. Guessed it right the social media hype. Are United being played by Barcelona to garner investors as they seek to come out of economic collapse which made them sell Messi last season? ETH has identified FDJ as his main summer target as per reports from many credible journalists who track Manchester United. Chelsea who offer Champions' League football enter the fray for both Ronaldo and FDJ. Implications if United were to lose out, disastrous to be in this position in the first place. Due to lack of recruitment specialist the last word is yet to be written on this one. Till then its going to McFred in midfield. Unpardonable!

Erik ten Hag recently said "to win in a certain way, being proactive, brave and with adventure. This is also what belongs to the culture of Man United." Aye. Aye.

New United kit is smashing by the way, credit where its due.

United's transfer woes and wins

Manchester United not only secured early appointment of Erik ten Hag on 22nd April before the final league match of Eredivisie on 15th May but the Dutchman started work immediately thereafter by watching the final league game of Reds against Crystal Palace on 22nd May. This was primarily due to the good officies of Edwin van der Sar and Ajax Amstredam. United secured the services of his assistant coach Mitchell van der Gaag to be his deputy at Old Trafford. It is quite natural for managers to have known and trusted backroom staff but also to get one player especially if he transmits the ideas and instructions of the manager on the pitch like Lisandro Martinez. United had done this in the past when Ron Atkinson signed Bryan Robson for a record British transfer fee to follow him from West Bromwich Albion.

Although officially this might be the business concluded with Ajax Amstredam but what transpired in the month of June during and after the Nations League was ungracious from United. It started with courting of 21 year old breakthrough centre-half for both Ajax and Dutch National team in Jurrien Timber. Ex-United manager and present manager of Dutch National Team Louis van Gaal termed his potential move as "not wise" arguing that he wants his players to get maximum game time ahead of first ever winter World Cup 2022 in Qatar. Timber decided against following his coach who progressed him from reserve team through to first team and helping him win the Marco van Basten Ajax Talent of the Year award for 2021-22 season.

While United were busy with Timber, Arsenal had an initial bid of 30 million Euro's submitted for his partner Lisandro Martinez in the heart of Ajax defense that had won two successive league titles. Martinez can play also play as defensive midfielder to keep in check the main opposing threat and win the ball back. He was Ajax's Player of the Year. United banged in to try to snatch what seemed like a bargain but Ajax stood firm. United then reportedly bid ~110 million for both Argentine Martinez and Brazilian winger Anthony together as per the Times. Ajax meanwhile as planned let Noussair Mazraoui (on free), Ryan Gravenberch (last year of contract) and Sebastien Haller (big fee of 31 million) leave. This raid from United would have ripped the team apart. Ajax indicated the price of the duo that United were not about to match thus Anthony was dropped.


Hounding did not stop there. Next was young striker Brian Brobbey an ex-Ajax academy graduate who had been transferred to RB Leipzig but brought back last January to play an important role with 7 goals. Usually employees sign Non-Disclosure Agreements on joining a company and stick to Non-Compete clause while leaving, this clearly was about to be breached and also tarnish the great legacy of Erik ten Hag at Ajax. Another Ajax target Sasa Kalajdzic was scouted. Clearly neither Brobbey nor Kalajdzic has the record nor consistency to lead the 20 times English Premier League champion's attacking front line but are players still developing their potential.  

As none of the Ajax targets fructified United pounched in the deal of young left-back from Eredivisie Tyrell Malacia after Olympique Lyon had agreed a fee of 13 million with PSV Eindhoven. United did not seem to mind to pay 2 million extra to get their first summer signing and first signing of Erik ten Hag era. This is the second deal where United have muscled in and clearly exposing their lack of transfer specialist among their midst while hiring another corporate manager to be assistant to Director of Football John Murtough. This was highlighted by United's recent pursuit of Brentford's head of recruitment Lee Dykes in vain.

Malacia (15 million), Eriksen (free) and Martinez (55 million) done the next focus will be on protracted saga of Frenkie de Jong. United have as per reports increased their initial fee from 65 to 75 million to cover for the deffered wages owed by Barcelona to the player while the total fee remains 85 million. If concluded it will take the total spending to 155 million. If Frenkie de Jong deal does not get done than ETH can be confident that United are fully behind him to secure the type of players he demands. United might be forced to make the best out of Anthony Martial for one more season while promoting Alejandro Garnacho. Free agents Dries Mertens, Andrea Belotti or Jamie Vardy (last year of contract) can be last gasp attempt to cover for absence of Mason Greenwood. United have earned 10 million from the sale of Andreas Pereira to Fulham and departure of six players has drastically reduced the wage bill. United remain hopeful of further offloading Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Phil Jones, Eric Bailly, Axel Tuanzebe, Alex Telles or Brandon Williams.

Erik ten Hag's debut match was a 4-0 thumping victory over our greatest rivals Liverpool in Bangkok, Thailand, Asia. Here is hoping Dutch Revolution mark-II gets the chance to be completed unlike mark-I under Louis van Gaal which was abruptly disbanded just as Rashford, Lingard, Martial after initial struggle settled nicely and were starting to turn things around. Trust the process.

Garnacho, Hojlund, Mainoo

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