Showing posts with label Wayne Rooney. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Wayne Rooney. Show all posts

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,.

Reality check for Rangnick

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

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

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

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

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

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

Return of Cristiano Ronaldo

Manchester United were nudged by Jorge Mendes, the expert agent of Cristiano Ronaldo when he opened direct talks with local rivals City about the next move after his most famous client decided to leave Juventus this summer. Sir Alex Ferguson praised Mendes in his autobiography as "the best agent I dealt with, without a doubt. He was responsible, looked after his players to an incredible extent and was very fair with clubs". Credit to the team at United who acted swiftly to secure the services of Ronaldo once again, undoubtedly the intervention of Ferguson perhaps a first since his retirement brought about this transfer coup considering the final fee in five installments of €3million a year!

Ever since Ronaldo scored 42 goals to help United to their European double of Champions' League and English Premier League in 2007-08 his stats has been explosive and consistent. At Real he averaged 50 goals per season and at Juventus 33. Ronaldo broke the men's record of most international goals by scoring his 111th goal for Portugal who defeated Ireland 2-1. In the recently concluded Euro 2020 delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic he was the lead scorer despite Portugal losing in the knock-out phase itself. For the first goal he scored against Germany, Ronaldo ran 90 meters in less than 14 seconds dispelling any doubts about his fitness even at the age of 36. Despite being two years older than Messi he rose to the challenge brilliantly almost matching his 472 goals with 450 of his own during the same time in La Liga. Harry Kane and Romelu Lukaku will have stiff competition for sure.

Does Ronaldo make Manchester United title challengers? Despite lacking a central defensive midfielder of repute to control games, United will solve another major problem of not having a player to score 30 goals a season. This itself will catapult United to challenge for the title but it will not make them favourites like Manchester City, Liverpool or Chelsea. Ronaldo is not an affliction with United's past glory as critiqued by a few notable journalists. Considering the history of Sir Denis Law, United protected their interests now unlike in the 70's earning the unpopular Glazers an important point over the Edwards ownership for sure. Sir Alex Ferguson augmented his coaching staff by recalling legends under Sir Matt Busby in Nobby Stiles to help nurture academy graduates, and promoting Brian Kidd to be his assistant. That worked brilliantly for Fergie. Another incredulous critique was to draw parallels with the disastrous purchase of Alexis Sanchez that completely disrupted the dressing room under Jose Mourinho; here the player in question is an ex-legend and super fit with a coach eager to get the best out of him. Yes, the United wage bill has hit the roof with this one transfer but the benefits far outweigh any negatives.

Cristiano Ronaldo will himself be aiming for glory to give his glittering career a fitting end. He would want to aim for record of Francesco Gento with most UEFA Champions' League wins and put a daylight behind his present records. His Premier League tally is 84 goals now with 34 assists, his overall tally of 112 needs 43 more to enter top 10 scorer's of all time and 67 to match George Best's tally of 179, he missed Denis Viollet's tally of 32 league goals the most by a United player by just one goal in 2007-08 and in the same season his tally was 4 shy of Denis Law's all-time record of 46 goals in 1963-64 that won the Scotsman a Ballon d'Or a first ever for a United player. George Best scored 6 goals in a match against Northampton Town where as Ronaldo has scored five goals in a league match on two occasions. Wayne Rooney rightly argued that Ronaldo has the physique to play into his 40's like Ryan Giggs.

Ronaldo's home-coming promises to eclipse the return of George Best twice, first after retirement under Frank O'Farrell he scored 4 in 19 games and second time after suspension under Tommy Docherty he scored 2 in 12 games before finally quitting United. Ronaldo's age might be a handicap in terms of longevity when comparing to Mark Hughes' spectacular seven years second spell. Paul Scholes made an impactful return from retirement by winning the Premier League. Other returnees have mainly been youth players from Mark Bosnich, Les Sealey to Paul Pogba and Tom Heaton. How hard it is get one's wish to return, just ask Gordon Hill when Ron Atkinson wanted him back at United after excelling in mid-70's but fate conspired against it.

With Ronaldo, United can play two upfront and not just 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1. Edinson Cavani scored 17 goals in all competition last season and would be an ideal strike partner. Rashford or Martial from the left, Fernandes or Pogba through the middle, and Sancho or Greenwood from the right offer plethora of opportunities to create goals for the Portuguese superstar. Pressure on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will increase manifold to keep United in the hunt for the league till the very end and win the club its first trophy in five long years. There is no place to hide anymore!

Don't panic if Messi joins...

Louis van Gaal's term as Manchester United manager ended on a winning note, FA Cup the last United triumph at Wembley. On the final day itself news seemed to have been leaked of his sacking and appointment of Jose Mourinho in response of Pep Guardiola joining the neighbors. Not only that, Guardiola not extending his contract with Bayern Munich was agreed back in December(20-12-2015) itself and overshadowed the second half of season especially in red half of Manchester. United lost four matches in a row in December and no wins in seven straight matches dropping off the top four, their worst run since January 1990. No incoming transfers in January due to indecision of the board to back its existing manager - similar to the summer of 2018 when Jose Mourinho was demanding a centre-back but got Fred and Dalot instead. Guardiola's confirmation to join City on 1st February buoyed our rivals to finish in top four edging past United who lost to West Ham 2-3 despite being 2-1 ahead in the final match at Upton Park.

After losing to Stoke City 0-2 on boxing day when Louis van Gaal dropped Wayne Rooney the following home match at Old Trafford against Chelsea there emerged scarves with Jose Mourinho as United manager. Mourinho was sacked on 17th December, 2015 after five months of his second stint as Chelsea manager and champions of previous season were just above relegation. United with their skipper Rooney reinstated 'dared to play' and had very good chances of winning the game lifting the spirits of fans. It finished 0-0.

Messi's arrival will be far greater than 'Welcome to Manchester' campaign of Carlos Tevez for local rivalry between the two clubs. In terms of profile of the player has been the world's best for more the a decade. It might help Pep Guardiola to extend his contract. During United's domination under Sir Alex Ferguson the Italian Serie A initially and later the Spanish La Liga were clearly far ahead of English Premier League. This isn't the case now with both Spanish giants working under constraint of Financial Fair Play whose terms have been relaxed this year due to the pandemic which City can use after winning their case against two year ban. Italian league is still recovering from 'Calciopoli' match fixing scandal in 2006 when Juventus, Lazio, Fiorentina were relegated and AC Milan had 30 points deducted.

United in contrast by sticking to Solskjaer and his immediate transfer requirements need to send out a message of 'who cares' and not panic. The delaying of Jadon Sancho transfer until after Messi's signing might bring back a sense of balance in social media parlance that has long been highlighted as important by Manchester United board in its financial conference calls frequently. United board must also ensure it does not pay dividends this year as the world economy reels under recession. Dividends goes mainly back to owners as payout. If board do show largesse it must be for an additional quality player after getting the ones on the list given to them by Solskjaer and not contravening him i.e., after getting the top three targets of right winger, defender and holding midfielder by opting for Declan Rice or Jack Grealish. Solskjaer craves a good character like Harry Maguire not a big name draw like Alexis Sanchez. Unfortunate incident involving Harry Maguire in Greece will hasten the acquisition of a centre-back as the United captain might be absent for playing due to court commitments over the next two years.

Some fans would want Cristiano Ronaldo back at Old Trafford. Ronaldo has admitted in the past he would like to return, and that is something most past players of Manchester United say to stay relevant among the biggest fan base in the world. Ronaldo is two years older than Messi although fit physically he is determined to stay on top of his game in any league he plays in. The whole project at Juventus is centered around Ronaldo to help them lift the elusive Champions' League after winning the Italian Serie A nine times in a row despite change of managers. If Juventus fail to be in the top four by December and play miserably with an aging squad in the new season under first time coach Andrea Pirlo, rumours can fructify. Seems unlikely. Does Ronaldo see a 'project' at United to win back the league in two years? Fans would love to hear that coherence at all levels of the club and Solskjaer is trying his best to convey that. Solskjaer would welcome Ronaldo back, most managers would. In the last decade this idea has been suggested numerous times without any hint of conviction. According to his latest post he remains committed to Juventus!

If Messi or Ronaldo is the only thing few United fans can think about as a counter, they should look at one of their own in David de Gea whose heroics in goal has kept below par team fighting for Europe consistently. David de Gea in his 10th year at United will now be challenged by Dean Henderson after another error prone season that's unlike his high standards he set himself by winning Sir Matt Busby player of the year four out of five years. 3M's - Martial, Marcus and Mason scored 61 goals and the tally will only get better as the trio play more often and gain experience buoyed by Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba. Sancho will take the attacking threat up another notch and being in the same age group as the 3M's will auger well. Sancho had left the comfort of his surroundings to pursue his dreams by going to Germany and succeeded in having double digit goals + assist second only to Messi but with the prime of his career ahead of him in the next decade unlike the Argentinian. If any three of these six manage to play together for over 200 games they will bring back the success of original United trinity of Best, Law and Charlton.
If anything the last season justified was the faith in the manager ultimately led United to overcome its shortcomings to finish the season strongly than they had started. They must keep this in mind at all times especially when going gets tough.

Bruno Fernandes a dream come true for United

The long courted Portuguese maestro has an unbeaten month since making his debut in a 0-0 draw against Wolves followed by two wins and a draw in league, and draw and a win in Europa League. He has been rightly voted as the player of the month for February at Manchester United. He has shown purpose in every second while being on or off the field and combined effectively with Brazilian Fred to make the famed United midfield ticking again. This coupled with an improved defense with 9 clean sheets in last 15 games since the new year has set a solid foundation for future success though playing with five at the back. Only component lacking now at United is the pace on the wings where Martial and Rashford were deployed on the left, and James on the right when none of them are 'natural wingers' at a club known for Billy Meredith, Johnny Berry, George Best, Steve Coppell, Gordon Hill, Ryan Giggs, David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Bruno Fernandes who left his native to learn his trade in Italian league and came back much wiser technically to become the mainstay at Sporting who suffered a player exodus after mismanagement that resulted in him being endeared further with the demanding fans at one of Portugal's most famous clubs. That acumen of an all round midfielder adept in switching his role between a 6 and an 8 as per demands of the game is now being reaped at Old Trafford. He has been handed the role of penalty taker in the absence of Marcus Rashford and scored his first goal for Manchester United against Watford. Two goals and four assists while lifting the spirits to give the club a boost for a top four finish. Solskjaer admitted "That little spark he’s given us, he’s come in and the feeling around the place is better."

Solskjaer needs to ensure that United have a plan to cope with teams that mark Bruno Fernandes and limit his involvement else after a season he will find it tough just like Anthony Martial and Daniel James. The difference between those two and Fernandes is that he has more experience and has captained Sporting shouldering more responsibility. United have suffered from lack of leaders since the end of Ferguson era when most of the seniors parted ways within a year and this crucial facet of team dynamics has now been taken up by Solskjaer to remedy by first signing Harry Maguire and making him the captain. United prefer Jack Grealish over James Maddison now because he is leading Villans this season in their fight to avoid relegation.

United are unbeaten in eight games since their shock loss to Burnley in late January and wonder how the results in that month could have turned out if Fernandes was signed as soon as January transfer window opened or at the start of the season. Now they must make the most of a good FA Cup draw to reach the later stages as they face Derby County tonight where United's all time leading goal scorer Wayne Rooney is currently playing. Frank Lampard made his mark as a manger when he took the Rams past United in the 2018 League Cup in a penalty shootout when he had many talented players on loan from Chelsea and Liverpool. Rams are now managed by the distinguished former Dutch midfielder Philip Cocu who has won Eredivisie with PSV Eindhoven thrice and promoted Memphis Depay whom Louis van Gaal signed for United. Jason Knight and Tom Lawrence are the ones to watch out for led by former United captain Rooney. Paulo Wanchope's solo goal in 1997 in an upset win over United was rated by their supporters as the greatest goal in the clubs history.

The draw away at Everton where Solskjaer last year suffered his biggest defeat ended United's chance once again of winning three consecutive games this season. Harry Maguire, Bruno Fernandes and Nemanja Matic were impressive in that match. With mid-week games due to Europa League or FA Cup, Solskjaer must rotate his players and return of Paul Pogba will only boost the team's attacking threat. No point in not utilizing one of world's best player to push for top four. Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba in the midfield will worry any side whilst splitting the opposition marking and alternating the thrust to create goal scoring chances that can catapult United back into challenging for trophies.

United face Derby before the Manchester derby!

Four goal opening match win sets up MUFC for Top 4 finish

Manchester United beat their main Premier League rivals in terms of trophy's won 4-0 in the opening match of the new season 2019. Last four occasions when they have defeated any opponent by four goals MUFC have at least finished in the top 4 right from the post war years.

In 1985 under Ron Atkinson, United beat Aston Villa 4-0 with goals from Mark Hughes(2), Norman Whiteside and Jesper Olsen. Eventually ended the season in 4th place after such a promising start when they remained unbeaten till November.

In 2003 under Sir Alex Ferguson, United beat Bolton Wanderers 4-0 with goals from Ryan Giggs(2), Paul Scholes, Ruud van Nistelrooy. Finished the season in 3rd place.

In 2006 and still under Sir Alex Ferguson, United beat Fulham 5-1 with goals from Louis Saha, Wayne Rooney(2), Cristiano Ronaldo and an Own Goal. Finished the season as Champions.

In 2017 under Jose Mourinho, United beat West Ham 4-0 with goals from Romelu Lukaku(2), Anthony Martial, Paul Pogba. Finished 2nd which Mourinho considered his greatest achievement.

All of the above huge opening days victories were achieved at Old Trafford. In sports records are meant to be broken but here is hoping for a great season from MUFC.

Chelsea opening day fixtures:
MUFC did beat Chelsea 5-2 in 1958 where Sir Bobby Charlton scored a hat trick and Alex Dawson got two more. Finished runners up famously by drawing upon their indomitable spirit post Munich disaster.

In 1952, United beat them 2-0 with goals from the two Johnny's Berry and Downie.

In 1953, United drew with them 1-1 with goal from Stan Pearson.

Best performance of the season in FA Cup final leads Manchester United back into Europe

Lead-up to the FA Cup final was dire for Manchester United; tepid displays throughout the season with most of the defence being injured tha...

Popular Posts