Showing posts with label Raphael Varane. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Raphael Varane. Show all posts

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.

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.

Solskjaer invites pressure

Manchester United lost the easiest game of the group on paper against Young Boys of Switzerland with matches versus two tactically astute teams in Villareal and Atalanta yet to be played. Young Boys came through two-legged qualifying rounds to beat three teams scoring 16 goals and reach the group stages, consequently looked sharper. United had only 2 shots on target in the whole match which is the least since 2003-04 says a lot about the dysfunctional tactics and substitutions by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer despite having the greatest player of all time Cristiano Ronaldo open the scoring early on via an inspired pass by Bruno Fernandes. It will be catastrophic if United do not make it to the knock-out stages of the lucrative Champions' League after marquee signings of Jadon Sancho, Raphael Varane and Ronaldo.

Did Sir Alex Ferguson always had a perfect squad to win all the trophies? Even during the treble winning season he had Roy Keane and Paul Scholes suspended for the final, won one league title with Wes Brown and Mikael Silvestre as centre-backs, one Robin van Persie inspired rest of the aging team to win his last title etc. Ferguson usually took out a full-back to bring on an attacker in the later stages of the match to try and score more goals. They did score loads of late goals and a certain Norwegian scored four times as a substitute against Nottingham Forest. Between the victory in Cup Winners Cup in '91 and reaching semi-finals of Champions' League in '97, Ferguson's United struggled against sides like Torpedo Moscow, IFK Goteborg and Rotor Volgograd. Fans had no doubt about Ferguson's ability as he had guided Aberdeen to '83 Cup Winners Cup glory beating the mighty Real Madrid and won the same competition with United eight years later beating Barcelona despite English clubs being banned from European competitions for previous five years! 

Solskjaer has no such record. That is why it is mandatory for him to not repeat mistakes. Last season the loss to Istanbul Basaksehir made United to fail to qualify for knock-out stages and were relegated to Europa League. That day he rested his first choice partner to Harry Maguire in Victor Lindelof by playing Axel Tuanzebe; in Bern he rested Raphael Varane for the first half by starting with Lindelof. Donny van de Beek started both these games and was not at fault in either. Solskjaer took off Tuanzebe and brought on Matic to revert to five at the back at half-time and did so again by introducing Varane for van de Beek. Then Juan Mata and now Jesse Lingard were at fault to allow a goal to slip by, both of whom should have moved on from United. In form Mason Greenwood was an unused substitute this Tuesday. In fact at Bern, United slipped alarmingly from a good start in both halves unlike at Istanbul where they got one goal back.

United have previously played on plastic pitches against Young Boys themselves in 2018, Astana FC and AZ Alkmaar in 2019. More than half of Norwegian league home grounds have artificial surfaces! Despite FIFA and UEFA certifying artificial turf since 2004 and the technology evolving into third generation perceptions of increased player injury, tiredness for players and different ball behavior still exists. For Young Boys the result could prove to be 'Miracle of Bern' moment for Swiss football if they qualify.

Nor has Solskjaer outmaneuvered his opponents to win a trophy yet like the loss to Sevilla and Villareal in Europa League, to Paris St Germain and RB Leipzig in Champions' League group stages, to Chelsea and Leicester City in FA Cup and to Manchester City in successive League Cup runs. Solskjaer is the only manager to have beaten Pep Guardiola three times in a row, yet could not get reach the League Cup final. He has managed to beat other stalwarts Thomas Tuchel and Julian Nagelsmann but could not progress through to group stages of the Champions' League last season. A well settled West Ham United provide a stern test this weekend but initiative has been lost bringing more scrutiny and pressure so early on in the season evaporating the feel good factor of Ronaldo's homecoming.

Declan Rice on his European debut with West Ham produced a virtuoso performance against Dinamo Zagreb and scored a wonderful goal too, will be eager to remind United what they have missed. Not since Michael Carrick the most underrated footballer in history, has anyone won all player awards at all levels at West Ham academy after joining from Chelsea at the age of 14. United can no longer get away by not snapping up exceptional talents as they did for Carrick and Rio Ferdinand, but have to get them before and directly as clubs are no longer hard pressed to sell their top talents because English Premier League is the richest in the world and due to excessive transfer fees involved especially if the player is English. After dismissing Declan Rice as 'sloppy' earlier ex-United captain Roy Keane now said "He's is way ahead of where I was at 22." recently. To remove two positions occupied by McTominay and Fred, Solskjaer needed someone like Rice to free up another spot for an attacker without losing the defensive shield. With the present squad it's still possible to win games with 3-2 score-line rather than 3-0. 

Darren Fletcher might intervene to not only check but mark those errors in tactics and substitutions by Solskjaer against Young Boys for John Murtough to analyze. This tracking might have escaped in previous seasons but not now. As a club United have gone up a few notches with key personnel all around not just in summer signings and that will make more demands to get the right results. Its not a doomsday scenario for Solskjaer but he can't postpone anymore to impose 'style of play' dubbed the 'Man United way' with the squad at his disposal now.

Most promising season under Solskjaer

Manchester United begin the season on the back of their best transfer window in the post Sir Alex Ferguson era with additions of centre-half Raphael Varane, winger Jadon Sancho and reserve keeper Tom Heaton. Diogo Dalot back from his successful stint at AC Milan is like a new signing. And two weeks are still left to the end of summer transfer window! Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has augmented his coaching staff with Eric Ramsay the youngest coach to get a UEFA Pro license at 27 in 2019, he joins United from Chelsea as 'set-piece specialist' an area of concern from last season having conceded the most goals amongst the top four with 44. Trophy is the only thing missing now at United.

Unlike last season United managed to play four pre-season friendlies(2W, 1L, 1D) to build the momentum leading up to the opening game of the season against rivals Leeds United. It will be the first game at Old Trafford with fans since the 2-0 win over Manchester City in Mar, 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. United will have a new shirt sponsor this season in Germany's Team Viewer and look forward to "ground-breaking augmented reality solutions and remote access to Old Trafford – Manchester United’s famous stadium". Solskjaer also signed an extension to his contract until 2024, the departing chief executive Ed Woodward rightly said "Ole and his staff have worked tirelessly putting the foundations in place for long-term success on the pitch."

Based on the fixtures released United have a relatively easy start until facing Liverpool on 23rd October. Three matches each in November and March will be the toughest. Aim for Solskjaer will be to have United in the hunt for the title until April. This will be a very tough task as the standards set by Manchester City and Liverpool have been of the highest order. 12 points behind City last season and 33 points behind scoucers in season before that; on both occasions the champions ran away from rest of the pack in December. Chelsea have invested heavily to win the Premier League as they endure the longest league trophy drought under Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich. Strength in depth still does not favour United with deadwood at the club in Phil Jones, Jesse Lingard, Eric Bailly, Andreas Pereira and aging Juan Mata, Nemanja Matic, Lee Grant. This is despite the purge of more than a dozen players like Fellaini, Sanchez, Rojo, Smalling, Romero that has positively brought down the wage bill significantly to move United from top to 7th in space of two seasons. Following players have been loaned out: Axel Tuanzebe, Facundo Pellistri, Tahith Chong, Nathan Bishop, Ethan Galbraith, Ethan Laird and the futures of Amad, James Garner, Brandon Williams, Teden Mengi is not finalized.

United face Leeds on the opening day of the season only for the 2nd time. First time they met was in 1970 on August 15th losing 0-1 at Old Trafford. Last Leeds United win at Theatre of Dreams was on 28th February, 1981 and since then United have mostly the upper hand. Premier League welcomes 50th club in Brentford this season, with Norwich and Watford the two other promoted teams. Much maligned VAR has adopted the successful model from the Euro 2020 in terms of offside and handball rule; the substitutions has been limited to 3 from 5 while the squad can still have 20 players.

Marcus Rashford will miss the opening 2-3 months due to long delayed shoulder surgery. This will put the onus on Anthony Martial to make the most to sustain his United career which was blighted by injury last season. Will Paul Pogba be consistent? Will Donny van de Beek get more game time? Will Solskjaer still persist with double pivot of McTominay and Fred? Will the acquisition of Sancho hinder the development of Amad? Will Bailly be happy being fourth choice centre-back? Will United be as lucky as last term with injuries? United will need to create more goals to augment the loss of penalties from changes to VAR. Last three seasons United have won 12, 14, 11 penalties! Two legged League Cup fixtures are back unfortunately. Top three finish in league but within single-digit points difference from the winner, make it to the knock-out stage of Champions' League and a trophy like FA Cup or League Cup sounds risky as a good Cup run usually depends on the draw.

United will get off to a better start this season than the terrible ordeal of last season, try to avoid losing to relegation teams and convert many of the 11 draws into wins. To win trophies they would need to win the crucial moments in crucial matches by making right use of all available resources. This will entirely depend on the judgement of the manager in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. If Sir Alex Ferguson chose Solskjaer to be his 'man of destiny' who in turn has build the club back step-by-step, will surely be cognizant of the pivotal moment this season is going to be. United faithful have never been so optimistic in last five seasons, not just our super-sub.

Murtough breaks new ground

Manchester United pitching for players from their rivals in European G14 teams in Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, and in their prime like Raphael Varane and Leon Goretzka is a clear shift in transfer policy under the first Director of Football John Murtough. As highlighted in a previous post this type of transfer has been unusual at Old Trafford who would avoid contacting players from these clubs out of respect. Previously Bastian Schweinsteiger and Zlatan Ibrahimović had joined United after their best years at Bayern Munich and Paris St Germain. It must be noted that United did come close to signing Sergio Ramos from Real Madrid in 2015 but only to be used in order to negotiate a better salary for the player. This time around the player in question has changed his agent to CAA Base Ltd whose primary clientele are Premier League players.

John Murtough is perhaps the major success from David Moyes era, both of whom worked together at Everton before he was made Premier League's first Head of Elite Performance a program which was introduced in 2012-13 and slowly adopted by clubs since then. Its key function has been described as "Through a systematic, evidence-led approach the Elite Performance function aims to add value to player development throughout the age phases (9-23) and across a multi-disciplinary platform, including physical, technical, tactical and psychological development." This has led to successful introduction of academy players Marcus Rashford, Scott McTominay and Mason Greenwood into the first team. Having revamped the youth setup and headed the group to introduce data science, being appointed as Director of Football seems like a natural progression: "overall leadership and responsibility for operations and strategy across all football functions." 

Raphael Varane has the distinction of winning the most Champions' League trophies before joining Manchester United and at 28 in prime of his career! At 24 he unseated Paolo Maldini as youngest defender to win three of Europe's most elite competition, played ahead of more experienced Pepe at Madrid, won the 2018 World Cup with France by playing in all the games. Due to muscular problems recurring through his career he hasn't played in more than 32 league games per season though he has missed just 1 to 6 matches at a time in short absences. Varane's two mistakes led to City winning 4-2 on aggregate in last season's round-16 match in Champions' League and he accepted the responsibility for it. Sir Alex Ferguson pursued Varane in 2011; fellow countryman Zidane clinched the deal on behalf of Madrid. Philip Anthony Jones joined United as part of a trio including Chris Smalling and Johnny Evans identified by Ferguson to eventually compete and replace perhaps United's greatest centre-back pair of Rio Ferdinand-Nemanja Vidic. Having been disastrously unsuccessful in selling or loaning out Jones, United must hand the jersey number 4 to Varane.

Schweinsteiger was 31 when he came to Manchester in 2015 on the back of playing his last and 500th game at Bayern Munich, lifting the World Cup with Germany in 2014 and winning the treble of Champions' League, Bundesliga and DFB-Pokal Cup in 2012-13 season. His appearances for Bayern Munich decreased due to recurrent injury problems at his patella and ankle, and also when Pep Guardiola took over as coach in 2013. He was fans favourite for a long time as an ideal replacement for Roy Keane since 2005. 9 year wait! Under Louis van Gaal who also was his manager at Bayern for two seasons, placed full faith in the German at United. His team selection was often questioned especially when he paired 34 year old Carrick with Schweinsteiger and got found out for lack of pace. He then switched to 'Schmidfield' with Schweinsteiger and Schneiderlin that drained all creativity from midfield and made watching United a bore. Jose Mourinho took over and instantly froze the German who was made to train with U23's but came out of hibernation in a FA Cup match vs Wigan with a goal and an assist to win 'Man of the Match'. Mourinho was more than happy to let him leave United for MLS in 2017.

Another past connection were re-united when Jose Mourinho got Zlatan Ibrahimović as a free-agent from Paris St Germain after winning two consecutive French domestic trebles. Earlier the pair had worked at Inter Milan winning the Scudetto in 2008-09. Ibrahimović scored on his debut for Manchester United in Community Shield, Home league game, Away league game, Europa League, League Cup and FA Cup in a single season and at 35 years became the oldest player in Premier League to score 15 league goals in a season. United under Mourinho with Ibrahimović won the Europa League - only trophy that club had not won in its illustrious history, League Cup and Community Shield. However in April while playing against Anderlecht he suffered cruciate ligament injury that made him to stay out of football for a year. His recovery since re-joining AC Milan in January 2020 has been amazing 28 goals in 47 games, and if compared with similar injury suffered by Radamel Falcao prior to joining United that full and complete recovery from cruciate injury is about 2.5 years! Zlatan could not be at his best for a year each at United and LA Galaxy while Falcao could not be at his best on loan at United and Chelsea only to later win the Ligue 1 with Monaco by scoring 30 goals in 43 games.

Laurie Cunningham became the 1st English player to play for Real Madrid in 1979 and later in 1982 spent a season on loan at United, playing only 5 times as injury curtailed his reunion with manager Ron Atkinson under whom he gained prominence at West Bromwich Albion as 'Three Degrees' with Cyrille Regis and Brendon Batson. Since then many United players have joined Madrid starting with David Beckham, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Gabriel Heinze, Cristiano Ronaldo and Javier Hernandez. King of assists the Argentine Angel di Maria joined United from Madrid for a record #59 million fee after not favoring a new formation by manager Carlo Ancelotti and left Old Trafford just after a season under Louis van Gaal despite starting off in splendid form donning the iconic number 7 jersey

Raphael Varane is a consummate professional looking for a new experience as Madrid still chase his signature to extend his deal. Varane crucially has pace which could allow Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to abandon the double pivot of McTominay-Fred to make way for more attack minded midfield. Like the signing of Gary Pallister(24) for Steve Bruce(28) or Nemanja Vidic(25) for Rio Ferdinand(28), comes Raphael Varane(28) for Harry Maguire(28) though not in terms of age. Maguire-Varane have a short time of 2-3 seasons to cement their status amongst other stellar United centre-back pairs!

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 ...

Popular Posts