Showing posts with label Mark Robins. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Mark Robins. Show all posts

Reality check for Rangnick

Ralf Rangnick's famed gegenpressing lasted just 30 minutes against Crystal Palace and was not seen again! The imbalance in the massive squad was very quickly laid bare. But the more serious issue was the lack of effort on display by the players. Soon the dressing room unrest became the media frenzy. Spotlight was on the new coaching setup who were settling in after the exodus of coaches under Solskjaer, and the outbreak of Covid-19 that forced the closure of Carrington for few days did not help either. The appalling game against Newcastle (13 shots apiece for both clubs) and defeat at home to Wolves (only 9 shots compared to 19 from visitors) brought the reality check. That loss to Wolves a first at Old Trafford since 19, August 1980 also the first loss of Rangnick's reign after just six games (3Wins, 2Draws, 1Loss).

As Sir Matt Busby used to point out its about the method and the progress, Ralf set out as 4-2-2-2 as a template for his method but disowned it after being out played by Wolves and move to three at the back. And still lost. This is where the new coach is not sticking to the method but disbanding it to be accommodative. That is an immediate betrayal which can be pardoned only if he goes back to it after getting the profile of players needed to play in a very specific way. If not the rot will be masked to rear its head again. In stark contract Wolves players were following instructions to the tee from the coach Bruno Lage who clearly explained how his team used the spaces to outdo United in post match interview. Phil Jones made a solid comeback with a good performance against Wolves, his first competitive match in nearly two years!

The most pressing shortage is in the central defensive midfield role or the engine room that connects the defensive with attack or in short controls the game. Its shocking to think that United would be lacking dominating midfielders which has been its staple through the decades. If the chance to get a stop-gap emerges it should be exercised as Fred and Scott McTominay have no backup and neither are of the profile employed by clubs who play gegenpressing. Primary targets like Declan Rice, Aurelien Tchouameni or Reuben Neves might not be available but secondary ones like Amadou Haidara, Dennis Zakaria or Boubacar Kamara might be feasible if any departures come about like Martial, Lingard or Bailly. 

One of the surprising things to come out is that the non-selection of Donny van de Beek under Rangnick, with reports that suggest that the Dutchman can at best play in number 10 now occupied by Bruno Fernandes where Paul Pogba and Jesse Lingard can also play, but struggles to cover the ground elsewhere in midfield. While the most visible change is in the full-back position where Rangnick has used Telles and Dalot instead of Shaw and Wan-Bissaka. Martial wants out which if materialized will free-up one position in the bloated squad. Eight is a high number of experienced players who are are on the fringes of the squad Henderson, Bailly, Jones, Mata, Lingard, van de Beek, Martial and Paul Pogba's(played <50% of games due to injury) contract due to expire in June. Rangnick's reply to a question whether he should persuade a player to stay at Manchester United was on-the-spot "Players have to want to play for a big club like Manchester United. If a player does not want to play Manchester United in the medium or long term, I don’t think it makes sense to convince him to change his mind."

Three wins and a draw has taken Wayne Rooney's Derby County within 3 points of second from bottom team in the table considering the massive 21-points deduction for financial breaches at the start of this season. If Derby avoid relegation to League One, Rooney will certainly be a bona fide legend as a manager. An intriguing fixture was in the FA Cup where Derby lost to another former ex-United player managed team Coventry City, Mark Robins. As expected Richard Arnold has been confirmed as new CEO from Ed Woodward thus bringing the curtains down to perhaps the most torrid period of United history since mid-70's.

United face their lucky charm Aston Villa in the third round of FA Cup though its not at Villa Park. The corresponding fixture in 1948 when United beat Villa 6-4 at Villa Park was described by Geoffrey Green as one of the best matches in the history of the Cup. Villa led 1-0 within a minute then United annhilated the hosts with five goals and in second half Villa hit back with three goals to setup a humdinger of a finale before Stan Pearson struck to soothe the nerves. "For dramatic content and depth of plot that Villa-United tie lives with the best... as a match of high drama, swaying one way then another and hightened by the storm of rain, it takes some beating." Busby's United went on to win their first trophy. Only two losses came in third round of 19-20 and in final of 56-57 when United were chasing the first double of last century of league and FA Cup. United though beat Villa en-route to winning the FA Cup in 62-63, 76-77 and 03-04 campaigns. During the treble winning season Ryan Giggs's solo goal at Villa Park waltzing his way through the Arsenal midfield and defense is certainly the greatest FA Cup goal. Rangnick would hope world's most famous and oldest cup competition provides the perfect opportunity for United to get their season back on track.

FA Cup provides valuable experience for a young side

Fernandes-Pobga era started with Manchester United beating Sheffield United 3-0 on 24th June, 2020. A date to remember like the debut of another combination Charlton-Crerand on 23rd Feb, 1963 in 1-1 draw at home to Blackpool with David Herd scoring the only goal. Crerand went on to play in all the 19 remaining league games of the season after making his debut. United survived relegation finishing in 19th but won their first trophy after Munich the 1963 FA Cup thanks to home draws in initial stages and goal scoring prowess of Denis Law at his best.

United under Solskjaer broke another unwanted record still lingering from the Ferguson days that of the last hat-trick in the Premier League by a United player in Robin van Persie against Aston Villa in 22nd April 2013. Anthony Martial scored 3 goals which included two assists by Marcus Rashford and one by Aaron Wan-Bissaka. The best goal was the 3rd which included a long pass down the middle by Pogba to Fernandes back flick to Rashford to Martial for a sublime goal. 19 goals apiece for Rashford, Martial and 12 for Greenwood makes it 50 for the forward trio. Nemanja Matic had a great game and United did 5 substitutions in the second half at one-go. David de Gea under spotlight barely had a save to make.

Later United reversed its decision to let go of academy players by retaining all U18's totaling about 202 in number till the summer or help them find their next club. Its a great move to recognize the mistake done and undo the damage especially to the youngest of the lot. Unfortunately that means letting go of 9 senior graduates who could not make it especially Largie Ramazani.

Ahead of the FA Cup quarter finals against Norwich Solskjaer spoke of importance of the cup and how it can be a catalyst to a young side to achieve great things in the future. "For our team, it’s a new team and to win our first trophy or title could be fantastic and, hopefully, a catalyst for things to come. We are very focused on doing our best and getting through to the next round, and then hopefully, to the final." Sounds just like what the 1963 FA Cup did for Sir Matt Busby who had a senior squad that was later infused with youth from 1964 FA Youth Cup winners in George Best and David Sadler.

City's loss to Chelsea conferred the 2019-20 Premier League title to Liverpool who won their first league title after a gap of 30 years, four more years than it took United to reach the summit from Sir Matt Busby in 1967 to Sir Alex Ferguson in 1993. This perhaps shows how hard it is to get back to the top and the long road ahead for Solskjaer's Specials. Chelsea have over the years acted swiftly to sack coaches and get players quickly focused solely on winning the league while City and Liverpool have perhaps the two best coach's in the world right now. To challenge the this top three United would need 2-3 exciting signings like Jadon Sancho(20), Jack Grealish(24), Milan Skriniar(25), Wilfred Ndidi(23), Harry Kane(26). Meanwhile Wolves will give United a tough chase for the top 4 finish as well as in the Europa League.

The Norwich game will be the last chance for United to see Angel Gomes play. If he isn't in the squad perhaps it ends his career with Manchester United where be broke the greatest Duncan Edwards record for being the youngest ever debutant. Wishing him all the best!
Manchester United met Norwich for the 1st time in the FA Cup in 1906 in second round winning 3-0. Later on Norwich won all encounters in 59, 67, 91. Same predicament followed in League Cup in 75 and 79. Only in 1994 United managed to win 2-0 with goals from Roy Keane and Eric Cantona, who later fouled Jeremy Goss described by commentator Jimmy Hill as 'despicable and villainous'. Beat Norwich in 4th round League Cup by 4-0 but lost in semi-finals to unfancied Sunderland to eventually seal David Moyes' fate. Sunderland had three ex-United players in John O'Shea, Wes Brown, Phil Bardsley and escaped relegation under Gus Poyet being bottom of the table at Christmas. Manchester United they moved the very next day to sign Juan Mata from Chelsea to limit the damage instead of getting the deal done as soon as transfer window opened that January. This lethargy in doing transfers still afflicts the club to this day.

In the run up to United's first league title under Ferguson, Aston Villa and Norwich were the main rivals. The Canaries were led by ex-Red striker Mark Robins with 14 goals who previously had scored in 1990 FA Cup 3rd round match from Mark Hughes perfect lob that split their defense to win 1-0 against Brian Clough's Nottingham Forest to save Ferguson's job. Beating direct challengers Norwich 3-1 away set United on a seven match unbeaten run to clinch the league title in 1993. Losing 1-0 to Norwich in March, 1988 Sir Alex Ferguson summoned his team to a Sunday meeting to discuss what went wrong and result was a 10 match unbeaten run enabling United to finish creditable second in his first full season in charge. Winning this historically significant tie will be crucial in advancing Solskjaer's narrative to shape a new team with traditional United ethos.

Will Woodward seize the opportunity to gain acceptance from fans

Wolves are proving to be the bogey team for Solskjaer's Manchester United as once Nottingham Forest did to Ferguson's in his early years. Beating them would be a huge boost of confidence like overcoming a mental block. MUFC in the recent past have done well against teams from top half and that bodes well for this match. The tie is important for Wolves to ascertain if they have emerged out of that shock semi-final loss to Watford in the FA Cup last year or not. Wolves if they had won would have faced Man City a club who they want to emulate and structurally they are well setup to aim for silverware following the steady years under coach Nuno Espirito Santo & Fosun ownership aided by super agent Jorge Mendes.

Squad rotation will be crucial given the League Cup semi-final is on Tuesday against Man City who will put a strong side to win now that they seem to have lost the League. MUFC can't afford to choose one cup competition over the other especially if one is more prestigious and the other just three matches away to winning a silverware. Losing out on both would have Solskjaer staring at eventualities that befell Wilf McGuinness and David Moyes while a win will buy him an opportunity  to win a silverware like Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho. Will Solskjaer make the cut?

Will Angel Gomes play again and eventually sign a new contract with MUFC? He is well suited to play the number 10 role that only recently has seen Andreas growing into and Gomes can be a good long term option despite the disadvantages of his height. Matic, Gomes and Chong can sign contract with European clubs in January for a free transfer in the summer. Brandon Williams might start giving that wing a real panache and a goal threat. Romero probably should not just play in the cup games alone but also take David de Gea's spot in the Premier League for a few games in order to get a positive reaction from MUFC's best player of last decade. Fred and Matic might start due to injuries to McTominay and want-away Pogba. Solskjaer has played with three at the back but that hasn't produced positive results than just to block the opposition like the credible draw against LFC while in other matches has put MUFC at a disadvantage.

Ed Woodward should take a call on Pogba for the sake of recognizing the contributions of the team  that without the World Cup winner has taken the club to the fifth position in the league. And in parallel get two more players starting with Grealish or Maddison. It would cement his acceptance with the fans who have seen few positive moves from the banker this season. An opportunity like this does not come often especially with non-big name manager in Solskjaer at the helm. Refusing to do business in January or refusing to deal with super-agents is not a mature way of conducting football transfer instead it needs to be shifted to focus on value-addition with a stable medium-to-long term view. Woodward must take inspiration from the transfer of Denis Law for whom the club took debt for the first time post WW2 to support Sir Matt Busby. Sale of Pogba should not be a precondition to bring players to fill the big void in midfield since the departures of Fellaini and Herrera. That British transfer deal #115,000 also sheds light on how Sir Matt asked Denis to sit quiet in Manchester for a month to force Torino to budge and not sell him to Juventus instead. Woodward should also realize from the same transfer that MUFC would be better off to let Pogba leave now.

Mark Robins goal got MUFC the victory over Nottingham Forest in '90 FA Cup 3rd round and the first major trophy was subsequently won by Sir Alex Ferguson who was supposedly on the brink of being sacked if he was to loose the 3rd round tie. The significance of today's match is certainly not lost especially on the protege Solskjaer whom Ferguson called 'Our Man of Destiny'.  

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