Showing posts with label Old Trafford. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Old Trafford. 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!

Special win against Barcelona sets up first Cup final

Victory against Barcelona has always been special for Manchester United. Bryan Robson got the better of Diego Maradona to reverse a two goal deficit to win 3-0 at Old Trafford in 1984 Cup Winners Cup, later in 1991 beat Barcelona to win Cup Winners Cup courtesy two goals from Mark Hughes, and a Paul Scholes strike edged United to a Champions' League final in 2008. Erik ten Hag had called for fans to play their part and Public Announcement systems were off 15 minutes before kick-off to allow fans voice to be heard. It worked wonders despite United having a poor first half. To come from a goal behind and beat Barcelona, who are 8-points clear at the top of La Liga is no easy achievement. Pair of Brazilians did the scoring in Fred who kept Frenkie de Jong in-check and substitute Anthony who got the winner answering his doubters in best possible way. Marcus Rashford had to be subbed after being shrugged off the ball in 81st minute.

In the end United had 12 shots on target to Barcelona's 6. Turnaround completed not only in the match by Erik ten Hag but also at the club who are still fighting in all 4 competitions: Carabao Cup, FA Cup, Europa League, and English Premier League. ETH lost opening two games to Brighton and Brentford, Ronaldo ran away before the World Cup, unavailability of Jadon Sancho, injury to influential Christian Eriksen late in January. None of these challenges fazed the gaffer who has improved most of the players in the team and none more so than a certain Marcus Rashford has been so exceptional that he can achieve the 30 goals landmark last achieved by Robin van Persie in 2012-13 if he remains injury free. ETH met Sir Alex Ferguson for lunch last week just about sums up the fantastic job that he is doing at United. Earlier Manchester United Supporters Trust (MUST) issued a statement on takeover process “Any prospective bidder needs to explicitly commit to backing Erik and his plans to restore United to glory."

Takeover process being conducted by Raine group reached a milestone when deadline to submit bids closed with four parties reported to have been interested. Only two of those have come out publicly. First bid is from Qatar by Sheikh Jassim Bin Hamad Al Thani for a full takeover which could break Chelsea's record sale of 4.25 billion pounds and second by Sir Jim Ratcliffe, the founder of chemicals giant Ineos for a majority stake but not a full takeover. Two other bids are supposed to be from Saudi Arabia and a group of US investors. Qatari bid is seen as the one which can invest massively to re-develop Old Trafford despite concerns from Amnesty International, while Ratcliffe being a lifelong United fan who had previously bid for Chelsea can usher in reform in English football club ownership with the advent of government's official regulator "We also recognise that football governance in this country is at a crossroads. We would want to help lead this next chapter, deepening the culture of English football by making the club a beacon for a modern, progressive, fan-centred approach to ownership." Hope the Glazers do not make a U-turn seeing the success on the pitch.

United face another united in Newcastle on Sunday in Carabao Cup final. Both clubs have improved tremendously this season being in top five in Premier League. With Guimares, Botman, Isak in their ranks Newcastle can challenge the very best while Eddie Howe their manager can conjure innumerable ways to score is a potent combination thats driving the Geordie's club that was recently taken over by Saudi Arabia's PIF group. United beat Newcatle in 1999 FA Cup final to clinch their 3rd double in six years before completing the treble in that historic year. Casemiro versus Guimares is a key battle that can decide the outcome of the game. United might have more winners in their squad but in sport the majority always support the underdogs. Newcatle's first domestic cup final since 1999 and its been 68 years since they last won a domestic trophy.

Newcastle's last trophy was Inter-Cities Fairs Cup in 1969 and en-route they beat Glasgow Rangers in semi-finals when a certain striker Alex Ferguson was kept out of the squad. Newcastle were also one of first clubs to be interested in signing the same Scottish youth international when he was an apprentice with Queen's Park. United had tough time in their unsuccessful pursuit of rare talents from Newcastle such as Peter Beardsley, Paul Gascoigne, Alan Shearer while the great Andy Cole turned out to be an outstanding success who is still placed 4th in Premier League overall goals tally with 187! Manchester United have their own Gerodie legends most notably in Bryan Robson, Steve Bruce and Michael Carrick. Sir Alex Ferguson the master of mind-games rightly questioned Leeds United who would lift their game while playing against United rather than others and cited this as one of the main reasons for their struggles near bottom of the table under Howard Wilkinson, who incidentally sat next to Ferguson during their recent win at home to Barcelona. Leeds were to play Newcastle next who were leading United at the top of the table and Kevin Keegan took offence to explode emotionally after beating Leeds "..I'll tell him now if he's watching it. We're still fighting for this title... And I'll tell you something - I will love it if we beat them, love it."

Erik ten Hag seems to have picked a few hints from meeting Ferguson midweek by terming Newcastle as 'annoying' for a lowly 52.3% effective match time and explained it further "For instance, referees want to play effective time. They have the lowest in the league and they are quite successful with it. So it's up to us that we get speed in the game, but also we are then dependent on the refereeing as well". This puts referees on the spot. In '99 FA Cup final Gary Speed tackled captain Roy Keane out of the match in 8th minute itself that forced Ferguson to bring Sheringham and switch Solskjaer to right wing. Sheringham set the tempo of intricate passing with Scholes and Beckham to give a man of the match performance with a goal and an assist. This just shades Cantona's triumphful return from suspension to beat Newcastle 1-0 and Rooney's thunderbolt volley. United did not embrace English Football's newest trophy the League Cup which debuted in 1960-61 and won their first of five trophies only in 1992 beating Nottingham Forest 1-0 which had young Roy Keane and Teddy Sheringham. Its time to make history again! 

Wembley,
Wembley,
We're the famous Man United and we're off to Wembley,.

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.

19th February a momentous day for Manchester United through the ages

1910: First official game was played at the new home of Manchester United - Old Trafford. Gracious host lost to Liverpool 3-4 who would become their perennial rivals from 60's. Sandy Turnbull scored the first goal at the new home for United. The decision to move from Bank street was backed by club chairman John Henry Davies who hired best stadium architect Archibald Leitch to build a brand new home befitting the league winners of 1907. The stadium also hosted two FA Cup finals including the 1911 replay and 1915 khaki cup final cementing its place as one of the finest and largest stadiums in England since. United finished fifth in their first season at Old Trafford and in the next won the league championship in 1910-11 for the second time in their history. 110 year celebration on the clubs official website. Guests received an invitation to the official opening of Old Trafford

"The President (Mr J H Davies) and Directors of the Manchester United Football Club ask your acceptance of enclosed, and extend a cordial invitation to attend the opening match on Saturday next.

The ground is situated at Old Trafford near the County Cricket Ground, and can be reached by three tram routes: Deansgate, Piccadilly and St Peter's Square.


The ground when completed will hold over 100,000 people. The present Stand will accommodate 12,000 people seated."

Due to cost overruns the capacity was limited to 80,000. Since the days of Busby Babes in late 50's United have best attendance record of any club in England and the farsightedness of John Henry Davies makes the club self-sufficient and the envy of every multi-billionaire investors around the world.

1939: Birth of Paddy Crerand whose assists were critical in many of the goals in the 60's and was the last piece of jigsaw that led United back to its glory days starting with FA Cup win in '63 within months of him joining the Red Devils. "If Pat Crerand plays well, United play well." was the famous adage to describe his influence over the team.

1945: Sir Matt Busby signs the contract to become the manager of Manchester United who were without any full time manager since Scott Duncan stood down in November 1937. He was the first tracksuit manager in England aged just 34. After the Ernest Mangnall era United had to wait 41 years to win their next league title in '52. But Busby laid the foundations of a modern football club based on progressing youth through the ranks and attacking flair that would forever be its DNA. Sir Alex Ferguson famously said that all he had to do was to copy the Busby blueprint. He took over the reins in October after being demobilized at the end of second world war where he served as company sergeant-major instructor.

1958: The first match after the Munich air disaster was held at Old Trafford wherein they faced Sheffield Wednesday in the postponed tie. Manchester United did not have enough fit players to take the field so the printed program notes had blanks instead of names in the team sheet highlights the uncertainty till the kick-off. It was left to the inspirational Jimmy Murphy to continue the show with full backing from Matt Busby still in hospital and club chairman Harold Hardman. Murphy signed Ernie Taylor although 33 but the man behind Blackpool's '53 FA Cup final and Stan Crowther from Aston Villa who had originally agreed to travel to Manchester to watch this FA Cup tie to decide for himself but four hours before kick-off Murphy's words convinced him to not only sign but play on the same day! Thousands of people stood outside Old Trafford even as 59,848 filled the stadium to show their solidarity with the club in its darkest hour. The team included five reserve players and Brennan one among them scored twice in that game while managing to score only 4  more in twelve further years at United: Gregg, Foulkes (C), Greaves, Goodwin, Cope, Crowther, Webster, Taylor, Dawson, Pearson, Brennan. United had struggled against them earlier in the season losing 1-2 but on this emotionally charged occasion ran out 3-0 winners.

1964: Thumped Bolton Wanderers 5-0 at home with goals from Best(2), Herd(2) and Charlton to set off on a eight match unbeaten run that made United challenge Liverpool and settle for second position after losing the their head-to-head match 0-3 at Anfield. Sir Denis Law would score 46 goals that season his best tally to win the Ballon d'Or. Next season United would go one better to win the league for fourth time under Sir Matt Busby.

1972: Lost to Leeds United 1-5 at Elland Road the biggest defeat of the season in the middle of seven match losing streak that dragged United who were the league leaders till Christmas in the first year of Frank O'Farrell to finally finish eight. This defeat prompted United to sign Martin Buchan the Aberdeen captain for club record fee of 120,000 pounds just ten days later. Buchan became the first captain to win both Scottish and English FA Cups and clearly the clubs most distinguished player of the 70's.

1997: Won 2-1 away at Arsenal their direct rivals without the suspended Eric Cantona who would retire at the end of the season. This match gave a glimpse of life without the clubs iconic No 7 player Eric Cantona perhaps the most influential in the last 30 years. New signing Ole Gunnar Solskjaer scored in this crucial game and topped the scoring chart with 19 goals in all competitions. David Beckham won the young player of the year award and the succeeded the Frenchman to the No 7 jersey and while experienced Teddy Sheringham was now the go to man to provide the winning edge.

2003: Beat Juventus at home 2-1 in the group D fixture of the Champions' League to top the group with goals from Wes Brown and Ruud van Nistelrooy. This raised the expectations of United reaching the final which would be held at Old Trafford. United lost to Real Madrid 5-6 in a thriller of a quarter-final tie which set off the rumours of Beckham joining Madrid amid Ferguson kicking a shoe accidentally at him. Real lost to Juventus in semi who lost to AC Milan in the all Italian finals that was a bore to watch.

PS: Yep that's my birthday!

Can Mourinho emulate Dave Sexton and do the double over United

Jose Mourinho returns to Old Trafford for the first time after being sacked last December ending his two and a half year stint with Manchester United in which he won the League Cup, Europa League Cup and finished second in the league their highest finish since retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson 4 years earlier. At Tottenham he has a comparatively better and balanced side that can not just beat Manchester United but like another ex-Chelsea legendary manager who also managed MUFC in Dave Sexton do the double.

Dave Sexton coached Chelsea to triumph in 1970 FA Cup, 1971 Cup Winners Cup and took over the Managers post at Manchester United at the second time of being offered. He was one of the candidates considered to take over from Sir Matt Busby but refused while still at Chelsea. He succeeded Tommy Docherty in 1977, reached the FA Cup final in 1979 and finished second the same year which was the highest finish since the retirement of Sir Matt Busby and 12 years after the last League title. He is credited with bringing Ray Wilkins, Joe Jordan to MUFC and the flotation in the stock market hindered the ability to buy quality players. He was sacked for lack of playing style as he had previously achieved at Queens Park Rangers in mid-70's despite ending with seven wins on the trot to finish in 8th position at the end of 1980-81 season.

Sexton took over Coventry City in 1981 and did the double over Manchester United; winning 2-1 at Highfield Road on opening day of the new season with goals from Steve Whitton, Peter Bodak and 1-0 win on his return to Old Trafford with Les Sealey in goal for Sky Blues and Whitton again the goal scorer.

Post world war MUFC have had to face their previous managers only on four occasions; Tommy Docherty, Dave Sexton, Ron Atkinson and David Moyes due to the longevity of Sir Matt Busby and Sir Alex Ferguson. Sexton in charge MUFC did the double over Docherty's Derby County including a 4-0 win at Old Trafford while the fans still called that teams as Doc's. Ron Atkinson famously beat MUFC in the league cup final in April, 1991 with Sheffield Wednesday. Big Ron's side drew 0-0 at Old Trafford on his return with the Owls. David Moyes lost 1-3 on his return to Old Trafford with Sunderland while being greeted with abject silence as if he were the 'Forgotten One'.

Jose Mourinho will be applauded for the trophies he won while rooting for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to do a David over Goliath with the young MUFC squad just like Dave Sexton who once fielded the youngest league side for Sky Blues in November 1982 in a match vs Liverpool, a record that stood for 36 years. Dave Sexton served England managers from Ron Greenwood to Sven-Goran Eriksson, journalist Norman Giller called him "a coach's coach".

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