Showing posts with label Roy Keane. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Roy Keane. Show all posts

Decent transfer window despite restrcitions from FFP

Manchester United's greatest captain of 21st century, Roy Keane demanded they sign Harry Kane and Declan Rice. Erik ten Hag and the club were very clear that they wanted more than that starting from changing the goalkeeper. United completed their major first team reinforcements by 1st week of August: Mason Mount, Andre Onana, Rasmus Hojlund. This was a major departure from the way they conducted their transfers before. Mount and Onana were part of pre-season tour of America where they lost majority of their games, and Hojlund carrying a minor back injury was a doubt to be fit for opening game of the new English Premier League season.

To balance the books due to Financial Fair Play rules United had to raise funds by selling players before they could make any further incoming transfers. Every club in Europe knew this desperate position of United, once mighty club reduced to accepting low bids from 3rd tier clubs in part due to their poor recruitment over the years. Mark Ogden wrote a brilliant piece about this in ESPN "fact that he (Erik ten Hag) has written off 20 first-team players since taking charge just 15 months ago highlights how poor the club's squad had become". David de Gea, Donny van de Beek, Eric Bailly, Phil Jones, Axel Tuanzebe haven't found a club yet.

This gap in valuations of players from club like Manchester United and their worth as seen by clubs was always going to delay the agreement over transfer fee. This situation was compounded by clubs farcical handling of Mason Greenwood internal investigation. Countdown presenter and long term United fan Rachel Riley threatened to boycott the club. Entire club lacked focus and promptly lost to Spurs 0-2 with utterly dispirited performance. Thus far the biggest blunder of chief executive Richard Arnold.

In keeping with habit of Erik ten Hag to retain the same starting XI that surrendered to Spurs and make improvements in effectiveness of gameplay with same XI, United came-back from 0-2 down to win 3-2 at home in their next game against Wolves. Then deadline day loomed. United were kept waiting for 4-days by Crystal Palace to conclude the deal for Dean Henderson for 15 million initial fee with 5 million in add-ons. This led to a frantic day of dealings to complete the signing of Altay Bayindir, Sergio Reguilon, Johnny Evans and Sofiyan Amrabat. Due to this delay United were forced to not commit to Marc Cucurella from Chelsea who could have been an upgrade to Luke Shaw and instead had to opt for Reguilon. The one deal all United fans were crying out for was that of Sofyan Amrabat and it was completed not as a direct buy but on loan due to insufficient funds. Salute to Morrocan's patience to wait till last minute of transfer window after contacts were made with his team in June itself. Seven incomings in one transfer window is decent return overall.

Barnay Roonay criticised Manchester United transfer activity on the 10th anniversary of 1st transfer window of post Ferguson era when Fellaini was brought on deadline day as most players deserted United and without David Gill, United had no plan to tackle that. This window isn't the same and instead he could have highlighted the plight of Manchester United famed for promoting their academy players to be forced to sell them in record numbers to raise funds: Charlie Savage, Anthony Elanga, Zidane Iqbal, Ethan Laird, Di'Shon Bernard, Matej Kovar, Noam Emeran, Teden Mengi, Logan Pye. Listed are only the 9 of 15 academy players moved on. Sir Alex Ferguson would often introduce young players at full back positions late in 2nd half after contracting their midfield, United of 2023 chose to loan out Alvaro Fernandez and get Sergio Reguilon on loan after injury to two left-backs Luke Shaw and Tyrell Malacia. 23.5 million as per transfermarkt raised by selling Elanga, Kovar, Iqbal of total 55.24 million i.e., 42.54%. Inability to sell Harry Maguire was the only negative of transfer window as United needed a new partner to Lisandro Martinez since Varane is often injured and Lindelof like Henning Berg is effective but not convincing.

All focus will be on Rasmus Hojlund when he makes the much-awaited debut. Return of Cristiano Ronaldo disrupted the away record under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and it has got worse since then. Industry of Hojlund will be key to press from high up and be first line of defense. Ronaldo signing was necessitated to protect his legacy of his first stint with United and not let him join City. United have retained 19-year old striker Joe Hugill as backup option! United needed the numbers (7) to reinforce the squad after writing off close to 20 players. Second season is more difficult than first but Erik ten Hag has got his players unlike Jose Mourinho so he should be able to slowly improvise team at his disposal to eke out good results eventually.

David de Gea next in line for ruthless Erik ten Hag after seeing off Ronaldo and Maguire

When Sir Alex Ferguson wanted fans favourite Norman Whiteside and Paul McGrath out of Manchester United squad, none at the club were pleased. Injury had almost curtailed Whiteside's career by then while McGrath was reinvigorated after leaving United for Villa culminating in fantastic World Cup performances with Ireland in Italy and USA. Erik ten Hag has already gotten rid of Cristiano Ronaldo and rarely uses club captain Harry Maguire, next in line is legendary keeper with most number of games, clean sheets for Manchester United and last player to have won Premier League in 2013, David de Gea.

David de Gea has won Sir Matt Busby player of the year award 4 times and helped United to finish in top six with incredible saves despite being in a poor side. He has never been in headlines for wrong reasons and worked with all coaches from Ferguson to ten Hag. His performances in most of last 12 years can be compared with 'Captain Marvel' Bryan Robson's 12 year tenure as they both carried a floundering club single handedly. Robson won the Premier League twice, Cup Winners Cup, 3 FA Cup's and League Cup while de Gea has won the Premier League once, Europa League, 1 FA Cup, 2 League Cup's.

From last season unfortunately a montage can also be made of blunders of David de Gea. Most recently in the FA Cup final against City for both goals from Gundogan, first and third goal against Sevilla in Europa League quater-finals 2nd leg, messed up a speculative shot from Benrahma at West Ham to lose 0-1, got beaten at near post for 1st goal scored by Barcelona at Camp Nou, let the ball slip between his legs for Everton's only goal as United won 3-1 in FA Cup 3rd round, 1st goal in the 0-4 loss at Brentford where he let the ball pass through his hands while diving. Roy Keane had this to say after the FA Cup final loss "That’s the thing with top goalkeepers, they get you over the line in certain games and could have been the difference today. You expect your keeper to save that and he didn't and that’s why we’re seeing these celebrations. For Man United, they need a world class goalkeeper and he isn't". 

These crucial mistakes apart from inherent deficiency in his game of not commanding his penalty area aerially, poor clearance from pressure situations during back pass, zero understanding between him and Maguire, not able to play out from the back a pre-requisite for the modern game make his future as United No 1 keeper vulnerable. The Athletic published a damning report of how Manchester United backed out of contract negotiations by not signing the deal after agreeing lower terms with David de Gea. If true it's a very bad way to treat a club legend who has bailed the club in its worst times. Club have not responded to this report as yet but released a short statement "De Gea's contract is due to run out but discussions remain open with the long-serving keeper".

Officially David de Gea is a free agent as of 1st July, 2023 and Dean Henderson their No 1 keeper who seems bent on joining Nottingham Forest who in return are yet to make an offer for him. With the club up for sale and ownsership status not yet decided the funds available for summer transfer are limited. With a centre-forward and midfielder already a priority adding a keeper to the list squeezes the funds even further. Options for United include buying a new No 1 keeper like Andre Onana from Inter who is valued at 50 million, make Dean Henderson the new No 1 keeper and buy a new backup keeper, give David de Gea a new contract and buy a new backup keeper to maintain pressure to perform. 

Backup keeper option seems to be over after United did not pursue its interest in Bart Verbruggen who has since joined Brighton. It's a dead heat between signing Onana and retaining out-of-contract David de Gea. As per Fabrizio Romano the respected transfer specialist United wish to speak with de Gea after his marriage and ascertain his future plans if he has any offers on hand and then take a call. Press reports claim of offer from Saudi club Al-Nassr FC for whom Cristano Ronaldo also plays. To bolster funds for transfers United have put Fred and Elanga on the list. Futures of Harry Maguire, Anthony Martial, Dean Henderson, Eric Bailly, Alex Telles, Brandon Williams, Donny van de Beek that's 7 confirmed players for exit and an area where club is not good at namely getting a good value for its players and getting the deal done quickly. Despite the imminent arrival of Mason Mount, most problematic position has been that of No 6 when Casemiro is injured and United must get a backup without fail.

Two years back had done this tribute to David de Gea, a bona fide Manchester United club legend and one of its greatest ever keepers. Club under Richard Arnold and John Murtough has backed Erik ten Hag over an icon like Ronaldo which is a welcome departure from Ed Woodward's social media preference to retain stars as in case of Pogba over Mourinho. Erik ten Hag needs to be backed to get his players in order to realise the style of play desired on the pitch for Manchester United to progress. In his first year he has clearly achieved his targets especially by ending the trophy drought and finishing in top three. Here is hoping he succeeds like how Ferguson did.

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,.

Five Elanga's

Anthony Elanga is perhaps the lone bright spark in a dismal season thus far for Manchester United. To cap his fantastic run he scored against Athletico Madrid in the knock out phase of the Champions' League to keep the tie level at 1-1 after a tepid first half. This problem of slow start which was the bane of Solskjaer regime has reared its head again. Crucially for the interim boss Ralf Rangick his substitutions have been generally well timed with the right personnel enabling him to save face. Loss to championship side Middlesbrough in fourth round of the FA Cup ended all hopes of winning any trophy this season, and another season became a write-off.

Ralf Rangnick was the last appointment of Ed Woodward who is now gone, and it increasingly sounds like the new CEO Richard Arnold wants to stamp his authority by getting the summer appointment of Manchester United's permanent manager correct. This will mean United might not get the maximum out of the German guru and further depriving the morale of coaching staff and players wrt targets for this on-going season. This is especially hard on the players and Fred who has improved under Rangnick lamented "I think it's a little bit bad for us not to have one(permanent manager), at the moment it's all about the short-term goals. We don't know how it's going to be after the end of this season." 

United have tried big name managers in Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho who to their credit won trophies justifying the decision but the success was not lasting. Big spending on players not only continued surprisingly under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer but increased drastically - Maguire, wan-Bissaka, James, Fernandes, van de Beek, Amad, Cavani, Sancho, Varane. Without pre-season training to embed the ideas of the football guru Ralf Rangnick, the players are markedly struggling to implement the tactics during matches. Rangnick shelved 4-2-2-2 to quasi Solskjaer 4-1-2-3 formation which is slightly different than 4-2-3-1. This highlights the importance of recruitment which has to be consistent in line with United's identity. Moyes should have been backed by 3 to 4 young and hungry players to add energy into that old team which won the last Premier League title under Sir Alex Ferguson. Take heed.

In the interim capacity Ralf Rangnick has stopped the leakage of goals from the previous regime and exponentially increased the shots on target to be the best in English Premier League since his tenure started yet the conversion rate with Ronaldo, Rashford, Cavani, Sancho is very poor. Mason Greenwood who is suspended and still has the 3rd best goal stats just behind Ronaldo and Fernandes. Suspension coming near the end of the January transfer window and the club chose not to replace the striker perhaps not sure about the gravity of the case. Rangnick has since explicitly said that United need new striker in the summer as "obvious". Without Greenwood, United drew at Burnley, Southampton and Watford which might well deny United the top four finish with tougher matches against Man City, Tottenham and Liverpool lined back to back. Anthony Elanga who needs to be managed to not be burnt-out started one and came on as a sub in two of these drawn games.

This player hesitency to grasp newer ideas and Elanga's application has clearly demonstrated the way forward for Manchester United yet again. Promote youth from within or buy young players to give the next manager the best chance of being a success. Roy Keane rightly said the players will throw the manager under the bus after Mourinho was sacked and the loss to Middlesbrough highlighted the fact when United missed not just chances but even a penalty from perhaps the greatest player of all time! As a fan I wanted to stop watching football for rest of the season. The answer is for United to have five Elanga's in the same starting XI. Jadon Sancho is finally thriving proving this point further and also James Garner excelling at Nottingham Forest will help the club to trim the requirement down to 2 or 3. Fans would have loved to see Axel Tuanzebe or Teden Mengi get the attention from Rangnick and be ahead of Eric Bailly and Phil Jones. Elanga, Sancho and Garner all set who could be other two and which part of the pitch specifically for next season?

Central defensive midfield and centre-forward. Dylan Levitt already with 10 caps for Wales and Ethan Galbraith the former teammates of Garner will get a shot. While Garner has done well at Forest, Galbraith has got good playing time at Doncaster who are fighting to avoid relegation and Levitt has been hampered with injury at Dundee United which suggests the duo might need another season of regular football elsewhere before being in a position to succeed at United. Below them in the pecking order are this season's debutants Zidane Iqbal, the first British South Asian to represent United and Charlie Savage, the son of ex-United player Robbie Savage while Hannibal Mejbri has been fast tracked to the first team after his debut in the last game of last season. Clearly these are not immediate solutions for next season. With developments at Chelsea where the Roman Abramovich era is coming to an end, United could find themselves in pole position to sign Declan Rice, 23 given the huge transfer fee or be wise to opt for Aurélien Tchouaméni, 22 and for above mentioned profile of players should be in the hunt for forwards Darwin Nunez, 22 or Victor Osimhen, 23 or Alexander Isak, 22.

Meanwhile Alejandro Garnacho, 17 year old who has been the main goal threat in FA Youth Cup where the club has reached the semi-final stage for the first time since 2012 semi-final loss to Chelsea. Garnacho has been included in the provisional 44-man squad for World Cup qualifiers by Argentinian National team who have already qualified. United and Wolves competed for the first two FA Youth Cup finals in '53 and '54. If United progress they are likely to meet Chelsea or Forest in the finals. United have invested heavily since the summer of 2020 on U18 players like Willy Kambwala, Charlie McNeil, Joe Hugill, Logan Pye, Marc Jurado, Alvaro Fernandes, Radek Vitek, Isak Hansen-Aaroen, Alejandro Garnacho, Manni Norkett and Ethan Ennis. Strategically this could be United most important competition for the rest of this season. Garnacho is guaranteed a first team debut if he stays injury free.

"If you’re good enough, you’re old enough." Busby's clarion call to introduce the Babes in 1950's and four decades later Fergie's Fledglings.

PS: RIP Frank O'Farrell and Xmas of 71 being top of the league with George Best banging in the goals after Sir Matt Busby had retired! Injuries and lack of signings into the 1968 European Cup winning team turned the tide. Tommy Docherty took the lessons from his predecessor, and United must listen to Jose Mourinho warning to end this vicious repeatitive cycle plaguing the present team.

21 years to the Treble and that promise to myself

League and FA Cup double having won in 1993-94 and 1995-96 the European quest remained elusive after having lost to unfancied Monaco on away goals rule and Borussia Dortmund in the previous two seasons in quarter and semi-final stage. Failure to add a continental striker once again raised doubts about Manchester United's chances and the toughest of draws made it near impossible. Gabriel Batistuta, Marcelo Salas, Patrick Kluivert were the coveted players who turned down Ferguson's plea, and instead late into August United had to pay a hefty #12 million to Aston Villa for Dwight Yorke that sounded like an emergency.

Jaap Stam reinstated the leadership in defense that was missing after departure of Steve Bruce following the 1996 FA Cup win in which he was surprisingly dropped from match day squad. Gary Pallister, David May, Ronnie Johnsen, Henning Berg all tried but did not succeed consistently. Stam later published the details of his record transfer from PSV and how he was tapped up by Sir Alex Ferguson who furiously let go of his top defender after only three seasons in which United won the league three times in a row! United's greatest ever goal keeper Peter Schmeichel had announced he would leave for Sporting Lisbon at the end of the season after eight glorious yet hectic trophy laden seasons and the break in January did wonders to regain focus as United remained unbeaten thereafter. United lost the curtain raiser Charity Shield 0-3 to Arsenal and started the league campaign with two draws while had to qualify for Champions' League by beating LKS Lodz.

Season began after the 1998 World Cup where England had lost to Argentina on penalties in round of 16 after David Beckham was sent-off in the 47th minute for reacting to Diego Simeone's challenge that resulted in him and United to a certain extent facing a backlash from England fans. Ferguson used the fallout positively to create a siege mentality to unite his team by refusing to talk to media after West Ham fans who booed every touch of Beckham in a 0-0 draw at Upton Park. United beat former manager Ron Atkinson's Nottingham Forest 1-8 where Solskjaer came from the bench to score four goals to create that super-sub aura. United winning the league on the final game of the season by beating Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 was the first televised match in India on ESPN with John Dykes as presenter. Eleven days before United drew with Liverpool in Ferguson's 500th game in charge to hand the initiative to Arsenal who next lost to Leeds that tilted the balance back in our favour. From 1990 I was following the English League from BBC on short wave radio frequency of 15.31 MHz with Jimmy Armfield and Mark Pougatch, and later 5 Live from 1994. Markings of that frequency on my radio are still visible.
My National Panasonic Radio with markings on frequencies of BBC.



My notes of final league table and results of MUFC matches.


Ryan Giggs scored the goal of the millennium in the FA Cup semi-final replay against Arsenal at Villa Park in extra time by intercepting a wayward pass from Patrick Viera and running past several defenders before shooting from left into the roof of the net beating David Seamen. Before this breadth-taking goal United had to suffer a second yellow to Roy Keane from uncompromising referee David Elleray who had sent him off four times in total and Peter Schmeichel saved a penalty in normal time from Dennis Bergkamp. United had beaten Liverpool in 4th round and Chelsea in 6th round. Newcastle United and Alan Shearer were in their second successive final and lost both.


Having emerged from the group of death at the expense of Barcelona (Rivaldo, Luis Figo, Kluivert, Guardiola, Luis Enrique, de Boer et al), United beat Inter Milan (Ronaldo, Zamorano, Pirlo, Baggio, Simeone, Zanetti et al) and Juventus (Zidane, Del Piero, Inzaghi, Davids, Conte, Deschamps et al) in quarter and semi-finals. For the Sunday Times newspaper its two veterans Hugh McIlvanney and Brian Glanville provided two opposite viewpoints for and against United which was a scintillating read justified with logic. In the second leg of semi-final at Turin, United needed a win or get a 2-2 draw to progress on away goals rule but a Inzaghi double left them reeling 0-2 inside 11 minutes then Roy Keane became a colossus to not only score a goal back, rally the team and in doing so picked up a second yellow to miss the final. Yorke and Cole scored to win the match outright 3-2, duo scored 53 goals that season. Ryan Giggs was injured & Paul Scholes rested to avoid a second yellow but was brought on in second half and got booked for a two-footed lunge to miss the final. The Sportstar from Hindu group was every fans favourite magazine in India who had syndicated Telegraph's articles that still make me read that paper everyday especially Henry Winter who now works for the Times.

Munich had giants in Effenberg, Scholl, Matthaus, Babbel, and Kahn. They missed their pivot in Elber and even though they scored early through a Mario Basler free-kick were unable to convert their dominance into goals while Schmeichel was massive that made two shots hit the post and rebound. United lineup was patchy with Butt and Beckham in midfield where he had played well in the FA Cup final four days before, Giggs playing on the right not his preferred wing and Blomqvist on the left. Sheringham despite his impressive display in FA Cup final was on the bench. At half-time Ferguson reminded the team of the opportunity that might never come their way if they lost "You will be six feet away from the European Cup but you won't be able to touch it." As the match wore on United through tireless running of Beckham and intelligence of Giggs, later Sheringham gained confidence. Time was running out I switched on my lucky radio from 70th minute and heard the goal scored first just after 90th minute and later in television - a Beckham corner with Schmeichel coming up leaving United goal empty, a shot gently placed by Sheringham past Kahn. Voice from the radio again celebrated, anxiously watched on as a another corner by Beckham headed from near to far post by Sheringham where another substitute Solskjaer's lunge hit the top of the netting to script an incredible comeback. It was also Sir Matt Busby's birthday and Peter Schmeichel in his last game lifted the trophy.



That incredible joy of winning all major honours might never be possible again I thought and promised to support my club in its tough times. Due to work pressure had stopped making notes of every match in my diary from 2006 and got back to it in 2012. Post Ferguson follow and support them evermore till they win back the league again. Even now feel grateful for the most amazing moments and memories of that season where as a team United overcame every obstacle to win it all inspired by one and only Sir Alex Ferguson.

United efforts to help during this outbreak cheers fans

Manchester United players led by captain Harry Maguire have taken a 30% pay cut on their one month salary to donate #3.5 million to NHS, while rest of the English Premier League (EPL) and Professional Footballer's Association (PFA) are yet to agree on a similar proposal. Last month the club decided to continue to pay the match day staff numbering 900, perhaps the largest in the EPL during the suspension of all matches while few other EPL clubs had put their staff on furlough. United joined hands with rivals City to donate #100,000 to local food banks. These series of measures by the club have made the supporters proud.

However the Club did release a video of how two of its players having a difficult season are coping with the shutdown in Paul Pogba & Jesse Lingard. Perhaps aimed at building bridges with the fans! Futures of both at United remain uncertain. Lack of live football has been partially compensated by re-run of classic matches including that famous away win in Turin vs Juventus with unselfish captain Roy Keane ensuring passage to the Champions' League final while he himself being suspended wasn't available for a momentous night at Nou Camp, 1999.

Too soon to call the PR appointment of Neil Ashton a success but the above steps certainly bode well. Challenges on clearing the deadwood from the playing squad remain as United contemplate the return of its highest earner Alexis Sanchez having flopped at Inter on loan. Will he move to a Chinese club on a high wage or loaned out again remains to be seen. Jesse Lingard, Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo, Timothy Fosu-Mensah, Chris Smalling, Andreas Pereira being the others. Benefits of removing Fellaini, Herrera, Valencia, Darmian, Lukaku, Young has been the emergence of Scott McTominay, James Garner, Brandon Williams, Axel Tuanzebe, Tahith Chong and Mason Greenwood from the academy.

UEFA having postponed the Euro's to next year a move that has reiterated their commitment to complete this season's competition's including the Champions' League, Europa League and local leagues to ensure the clubs do not lose the lucrative revenue from TV sponsorship. Various scenario's have been discussed including hosting all pending European or league games behind closed doors in a single city with multiple stadiums like in China or Birmingham. Postponement is possible as far as September with a curtailed season next term but anything later might lead to freezing the league table as is like in Belgium or voiding the season.

Summer transfer window and players contracts that run through to 30, June might be impacted. Bayern Munich chief rightly predicted the huge transfer prices of players might fall by about 10-25% or more in a few cases. This presents a unique opportunity for clubs like Manchester United who might have more cash to burn than most clubs to use it wisely for a bargain to get a superstar but not make a mistake like Alexis Sanchez again. A storm blew the top of Victoria Ground home of Stoke City in 1976 which was uninsured and led them to sell Jimmy Greenhoff to United who was instrumental in denying Liverpool the treble in '77 by scoring the winner in the FA Cup final that year. Scenario now is far more serious as clubs across Europe will be fighting to survive with absolutely no earnings for unknown length of time. Clubs like Barcelona, Athletico Madrid might need to sell presenting United with an chance to pursue Antoine Greizmann or Saul Niguez. If Paul Pogba is moved out then Jack Grealish, Jadon Sancho, Donny van de Beek or Saul Niguez, Thomas Meunier would represent an excellent transfer window. Dean Henderson must spend a year as understudy to David de Gea before taking over as number one choice else United might look at another loan move next season.

Solskjaer revealed how Carrick and McKenna are working on a plan for a two or three week pre-season if the league resumes. Seems like the new coach Martyn Pert whom United hired in December, 2019 is becoming another of Solskjaer's great hires and Fred is an example of how Martyn has worked on individuals to get the best out of them. Meanwhile Marcus Rashford has become the best symbol of how players can play their part during these tough times by contributing to the society.

#StayHome #StaySafe

Start of something special

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has left his entire senior squad in Manchester to prepare for next Premier League game against Aston Villa while taking the reserve team with three seniors Axel Tuanzebe, Jesse Lingard and Luke Shaw (none of whom started against Sheffield United) to Kazakhstan to play FC Astana in the Europa League Cup wherein they have already qualified for the next round.

It is a bold move because normally MUFC have had youth players part of every match day squad where as now Solskjaer has taken an entire reserves team to play instead of the main squad. It also shows the ruthlessness of Solskjaer who described the first half performance against Sheffield United "I could have changed 11 players at half time that's so simple apart from the keeper David" at 2:17-2:24. Skeptics have called it as 'Solskjaer throwing the players under the bus' whereas earlier during the bad run of results in April last season Roy Keane said "these are the same players that threw Mourinho under the bus and they will do exactly the same to Ole, leopards don't change their spots" at 0:29-0:36.

Solskjaer does not believe in retribution like the serial winner Jose Mourinho who used to publicly call out and blame individual players making the dressing room toxic. Solskjaer has been impeccable and honest in his interviews maintaining calm under severe pressure and responding to every criticism without making it personal. Solskjaer has saved the first team squad a seven hour long flight to play in severe cold of about -14 degrees and resting them for crucial run-in of fixtures across the league and cup competitions that sees them playing three times in seven days next against Villa, Spurs and City immediately and later six more games before end of December.

Three first team players will be making their debuts: Ethan Laird, Di'Shon Bernard and Dylan Levitt. Lee Grant in goal his first competitive start for MUFC, ahead of Matej Kovar. Axel Tuanzebe will partner impressive Di'Shon Bernard in defense. Ethan Laird back from injury will play at right back. Luke Shaw will be starting his first match since late August. James Garner and Dylan Levitt will anchor the midfield. Tahith Chong, Jesse Lingard the captain, Angel Gomes and Mason Greenwood will lead the attack. Seven of squad have never played for first, among them three are confirmed starters. Its a rare start for Chong and Gomes who are yet commit their futures to MUFC.

Not just MUFC players and fans but everyone in sport can take inspiration from the fight back from cancer of Max Taylor who makes this travelling squad to defiantly state "I won't let cancer define me."

This squad will help to assess the depth of talent ahead of January transfer window wherein the performances of Brandon Williams has meant that MUFC will no longer be looking to buy a right back as they had originally planned to do. This will also please the board as Solskjaer will review every member of MUFC squad including the reserves before asking for funds thereby solidifying his claim to fill a gap in the squad. The only concern will be if Astana play physically bulldozing the youngsters and if that results in injuries to any of the reserves.

As I had previously mentioned this match remains the closest competitive match of MUFC to watch by travelling from India. Will it turn out to be as historic as the games against Liverpool in November 1951 of 'Busby Babes' or season opener against Villa of 95 'Fergie's Fledglings' remains to be seen. Those two games were in the context of the league while this might be placed with many cup games which weren't the focus of those campaigns down the years that had first team fringe players mixed with youth. Nonetheless its very difficult to re-collect such an wholesale changes to a entire team made up of mainly youth/reserve players. Post Munich there was 9 forced changes in squad that faced Arsenal in the league and Sheffield Wednesday in FA Cup with Harry Gregg and Bill Foulkes the only two constants, while here entire starting XI is changed and five subs including Lingard, Grant, Tuanzebe, Garner, Greenwood were part of squad that played Sheffield United now face Astana. Whenever Greenwood has played he has scored or assisted that will definitely guarantee goals.

Epoch making in the MUFC tradition, "Solskjaer's Specials."

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