United can win their first match against Sevilla

In order to reach the semi-finals of Europa League, Manchester United need to make history by recording their first ever victory against Sevilla and in their stadium 43,883 seater Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan. United have drawn and lost two games each against them thus far which is also the record of Sevilla under their latest manager Jose Luis Mendilibar with four games in charge. And one of those duels between the two clubs was in 2020 Europa League semi-final when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was the manager at a neutral venue. This is easily a more daunting prospect for Erik ten Hag.

Manchester United are having a poor away record in English Premier League losing three of last five games. While in Europe this season United have faced three Spanish opponents already in Sociedad winning 1-0 away, losing 0-1 at Betis and drawing 2-2 in Nou Camp against Barcelona. This has made fans to mock the draws against four Spanish teams as if United were playing in Copa del Rey!

First leg of the match which ended 2-2 at Old Trafford had United cruising 2-0 till the 62nd minute and Erik ten Hag made three substitutions removing Fernandes, Sancho, Martial that turned the match around. Later Anthony was taken-off at 81st minute to protect him from getting a second yellow. United lost their best defender in Lisandro Martinez for rest of the season through broken metatarsal. At half-time Raphael Varane had to come off. Varane-Martinez have been United's best centre back pairing this season. Both are out of the squad for this game along with suspended Bruno Fernandes and another injured duo Garnacho and McTominay.

Harry Maguire will most likely be paired with Luke Shaw replacing the injured Varane-Martinez. Maguire though getting limited playing time under the Dutchman would have rued the fact as to why he wasn't paired with Shaw earlier, the duo enjoy a good rapport with England national team also. Maguire-Shaw braved a 2-0 away win at hostile Elland Road in February and today's atmosphere would be no different. Diogo Dalot and Aaron wan-Bissaka would be two full-backs taking the heat off young Tyrell Malacia. Similarly Marcel Sabitzer who had a slow start to life at United with respect to number of games played has started to prove himself by scoring those two goals in the first leg. He would be replacing the big void of Bruno Fernandes in midfield and play alongside Casemiro and Eriksen.

For such a crucial match Marcus Rashford will want to play some role and contribute to injury ravaged team's cause. He might even start with United clearly needing to win this match. Rashford alone has scored 1/3rd of United's goals this season and without him United were cruising till 62nd minute at Old Trafford last week is a testament to Erik ten Hag's work. Sevilla will be tipped to target Anthony dos Santos and will the Brazilian who got a goal and an assist for the first time in the same match for United in Sunday's win over Nottingham Forest rise to avoid confrontation and enable another victory? Can Martial score in a crucial match under pressure? Fred's best scoring season at United will be a factor to have him involved at some stage.

To fathom the scale of task facing United, last time Sevilla lost at home in Europa League was in 2016 quarter finals against Athletic Bilbao in extra time and the Spanish national team are unbeaten in 26 matches there! At the same time this season the club are struggling in 13th position in the league table having lost 0-3 to Barcelona and 1-6 to Athletico Madrid recently while they let in unusual 4 goals in two of their group games in Champions' League against Man City and Dortmund. Their current coach Mendilibar, aged 62 isn't as storied in stature as Julen Lopetegui nor Unai Emery.

Starting XI: de Gea, Dalot, Shaw, Maguire, wan Bissaka, Casemiro, Eriksen, Sabitzer, Rashford, Martial, Anthony
Bench: Butland, Vitek, Lindelof, Malacia, Fred, Zidane, Elanga, Pellistri, Sancho, Weghorst

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,.

Larsson like striker option that can be the new Sheringham

Olivier Giroud or Thomas Muller are the only profiles who can match that of Henrik Larsson and both of them are not a possibility. Its clear the type of player Erik ten Hag wants and he has already demonstrated he can implement a style of play to get the best out of a player. Next best options available are Youssef En-Nesyri, Wissam Ben Yeddar, Wout Weghorst and Vedat Muriqi. As outlined previously (January 2020) United in recent past had not reached out to fellow big European clubs for signings. This changed when United got Raphael Varane and Casemiro. Earlier Zlatan Ibrahimovic (who is injured now) had joined United on insistence of Jose Mourinho six years ago. United might strike a deal within 10million for loan or exchange due to excess spent on Martinez and Anthony.

Reviewing possible targets:

  1. Depay - Barcelona - huge salary and contract as he is looking to exit so loan won't work - X
  2. Mehdi Taremi - great stats, proud Asian option, but Porto won't prefer to loan but sell - X
  3. Youssef En-Nesyri - 25 age, Sevilla - great header at World Cup for Morocco - Y
  4. Moussa Dembele - Lyon - tough negotiators - not a good season - not great at holding the ball - X
  5. Wissam Ben Yedder - Monaco Captain so difficult, prev target, great stats - Y
  6. Wout Weghorst - Burnley loan to Besiktas so unlike Blackburn striker will NOT impact their promotion attempt so possible, also he is Dutch and scored at World Cup - Y
  7. Vincent Janssen - Royal Antwerp - exSpurs flop in Premier League - X
  8. Vedat Muriqi - Mallorca - 10m fee as per transfermarkt.co.uk - great stats at whoscored.com, club might prefer to sell than loan but won't be stiff like Porto - Y
Ruled-out:
  1. Ivan Toney - Brentford - under investigation
  2. Asensio - Real Madrid - not natural 9
  3. Olivier Giroud - AC Milan - ruled out due to Zlatan injury
  4. Thomas Muller - Neur injury, Muller becomes Captain instead - Bayern Munich
  5. Joao Felix - not number 9
Other Possibilities:
  1. Marcus Thuram - B Mgldbch 40m fee - new star from world cup
  2. Ben Brereton Diaz - MUFC academy graduate - Blackburn chasing promotion so not likely
  3. Vitinha - Braga forward just 22 - inexperience
  4. Youssoufa Moukoko - need to buy now or agree a free transfer for summer with difficult Dotmund
Else will have to include Harry Maguire (eg Ollie Watkins at Villa), Aaron Wan Bissaka, Donny van de Beek et al as part of deal for loan or exchange. Most recent high profile swap deal involved Alexis Sanchez - Henrikh Mkhitaryan which was a purely financial deal and a footballing disaster. Had made this draft in late December but not published until the news broken by Fabrizio Romano about Manchester United's interest in Wout Weghorst. Weghorst has scored all types of goals, is great in penalty box, holds up the ball to link with his team-mates. Made good impresssion in 2nd half of last season with Burnley not with goals but his play that included an assist against Manchester United in a 1-1 draw.

Ever since Teddy Sheringham experienced the pinnacle of his career at United the urge to sign an experienced striker has always been felt. He scored 46 gems in 153 games across 4 years. Sir Alex Ferguson described his acquisition thus "He was a good finisher, especially in the air, and had the tactical perception and passing skills to release other attackers into scoring positions." which fits the bill now for an attacker needed by Erik ten Hag. Trend was further strengthened by Henrik Larsson's successful three month loan when he was a cult figure amongst players and invested fully in every training session and matches esp at Middlesborough playing in midfield! 

Michael Owen did score in that famous derby win but his Liverpool link and failure of number 7 jersey successors since has mixed responses from fans. Falcao was mostly injured and Louis van Gaal dropped him for a young James Wilson saying "he couldn't play 20 minutes". Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored on his United debut in Community Shield, Premier League and FA Cup; and had a stellar 1st season despite injury in March which ruled out of starting XI in United's last trophy the 2017 UEFA Cup with Jose Mourinho. Club were generous to reward him an extension despite knowing he will not be available soon due to serious ligament injury. Edinson Cavani had a good first season under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer but missed most of the second season due to injury denting his impact.

Sheringham for 2-4 year tenure and Larsson for short term loan has since become benchmark for minimum requirements. Prior to joining United, Sheringham had played 521 games scoring 232 goals at the age of 31 without winning any major trophy. 30 year old Weghorst (470 club games, 171 goals) has a chance to sign for United like Larsson but can end like new Sheringham!

United heading in the right direction

15 Manchester United players were involved in the FIFA World Cup that just concluded in Qatar with an exceptional final which was decided on penalties with Argentina edging France. United with 15 of its players were just behind neighbours City who had 16 and German giants Bayern Munich with 17. Most heartening statistic was that two of United's best centre-backs Raphael Varane (521") and Lisandro Martinez (301") featured prominently while Facundo Pellistri still not capped by Erik ten Hag got 182" game time in the tournament. Harry Maguire (430") will be the biggest positive having had a great tournament while Marcus Rashford (137") despite being top-scorer for England was underutilized by Gareth Southgate. Most destabilizing facet remains the state of mind of Jadon Sancho who could not make it to the squad and hasn't yet recovered from the psychological shock and is training by himself in Amstredam. Erik ten Hag said he is not sure about a date by when Sancho will be back. 5 of 15 players were signed by Erik ten Hag in the summer: Malacia, Eriksen, Martinez, Casemiro, Anthony!

United failed to top their group in UEFA League which means playing two extra fixtures against mighty Barcelona in February. Erik ten Hag got team selection wrong at Anoeta Stadium and later was desparate with route #1 football for the all elusive second goal. They lost to Aston Villa in the league for the first time since 1996 when Sir Alex Ferguson fielded his fledglings which made Alan Hansen to say 'you can't win anything with kids'. Influential on-field captain Bruno Fernandes missed the match due to suspension and Erik ten Hag gave World Cup hopefuls like Donny van de Beek a decent run in the first team. United won the next immediate fixture most convincingly against Villa in the Carabao Cup 4-2 and won against Fulham in the league with an injury time goal by Alejandro Garnacho. 'A star is born'. Garnacho clearly overshadowed a once great but sulking Portguese superstar who was forced to leave the club which further enhanced the rising pedigree of Erik ten Hag.


Owners of Manchester United, the Galzer family released a statement on 23rd November "the Board will consider all strategic alternatives, including new investment into the club, a sale, or other transactions" specifically targetting the elephant in the room "to strengthen the club, including stadium and infrastructure redevelopment". Redevelopment of clubs home Old Trafford either by constructing a completely new facility or modifying existing structure needs huge funds and detailed planning. Since Sir Alex Ferguson retired the club has not majorly invested in either Old Trafford nor its training ground at Carrington. Glazers who put the club in debt in order to buy it and that debt has soared rather than being pared-down. This profligacy and present economic outlook has finally forced the Glazers to consider selling the club. It's a welcome move but if new owners are from consortium of Amercian NFL teams the situation might become from bad to worse. Glazers wanting a big profit from their sale will rule out many genuine buyers like Sir Jim Ratcliffe who rightly wants to treat the club as a community asset and not a financial one. Tread with caution. United's share price rallied to a four year high of $22.84.

Cody Gapko is bookmakers favourite to arrive in January as a forward signing to replace the departed Portuguese. Gapko had a great World Cup for Netherlands scoring 3 goals which might make him even more expensive acquisition unlike City's shrewd signing of Julian Alvarez. Behind him is the Portuguese Goncalo Ramos who scored a hat-trick in a single match. Former United player Memphis Depay presents a cheaper option in transfer fee while Dusan Vlahovic is at club in turmoil whose entire board resigned enmasse. United played two games in Spain as practise when the World Cup was going on with remaining players and gave a host of youngsters a chance. As yet unused players Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Brandon Williams started both matches where Teden Mengi partnered Victor Lindelof in defense. Zidane Iqbal got the nod in midfield in both games. Club also announced triggering an extra year in contracts of four players: Marcus Rashford, Diogo Dalot, Luke Shaw and Fred. This will give club time till end of season to agree new deals with these players while they try to negotiate with David de Gea who can agree terms to join another European club in January.

Best news was indeed the date of unveiling of statue to the late Jimmy Murphy. The Welshman kept the flag flying in the darkest days of clubs history after the Munich tragedy and remarkably led the depleted team to the FA Cup finals. Apart from being the perfect foil for Sir Matt Busby as his assistant, he helped nurture the Busby Babes including Duncan Edwards, Sir Bobby Charlton and George Best. He even led Wales to quarter-finals of the 1958 World Cup as their manager and rejected offers from Brazil, Arsenal to remain loyal to both club and Busby. If not for Murphy the club would have folded. Sir Bobby Charlton credited Murphy entirely for his development "He was a brilliant teacher. The greatest influence on my career." Kudos to Patrick Burns of Manchester Munich Memorial Fund to form a consortium of Manchester United fan groups and approach the club to finally give Jimmy Murphy the importance he deserves. Statue will come up near Stretford End where he used train the Busby Babes.

Erik ten Hag has put in place a modern possession based football which was expected from Ralf Rangnick and coaches under him earlier. More importantly he has worked with most of first team players and improved them. Rejuvenation of Marcus Rashford is the main highlight; in just 15 matches he has overtaken the goals and assists tally of entire last season when he looked lost while battling injury. Main exception was the Portuguese superstar who despite preferrential treatment ultimately lashed at the very club who made him a star. Luckily the new United board under Richard Arnold and advisories like Sir Alex Ferguson, David Gill stood by the manager thankfully, and did not repeat the mistake of backing the player against Jose Mourinho. This is a football club again! Other exceptions to player progress are mainly due to injuries to Anthony Martial, Donny van de Beek, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Brandon Williams. Hopeful to see Facundo Pellistri in the 2nd half of season if he is not loaned out. A new star emerges to replace an icon, more control to Erik ten Hag, under-fire owners evaluating all options including a sale, sizeable world cup participation, finally a long overdue recognition to Jimmy Murphy - right direction indeed.

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.

Glazers break the ceiling after #GlazersOut reaches a crescendo

Every new manager of Manchester United barring David Moyes was handed about 140 million to spend on new players. Louis van Gaal brougth Angel Di Maria, Luke Shaw, Ander Herrera, Marcos Rojo, Daley Blind. Jose Mourinho used it on Paul Pogba, Henrik Mkhitaryan, Eric Bailly, Zlatan Ibrahimovic(free). Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had Harry Maguire, Aaron wan Bissaka, Daniel James. Same was the expected outlay for Erik ten Hag except for two factors. First was footballing one where six players who came to the end of their contracts left although that freed up the wage bill enourmously. Second reason needs examination of chain of events that unfolded.

During a visit to a local pub chief executive Richard Arnold engaged with fans and answered all questions forthrightly where he disclosed the summer transfer budget to be about 200 million. Having parted ways with outspoken Ralf Rangnick the club decided to discard his suggestions of needing upto ten new players after the loss to Liverpool and ended their interest in targets that belonged to the Red Bull group whom the German had been associated in the past.

United and Erik ten Hag started the window by targetting the Barcelona and Dutch international Frenkie de Jong. Barcelona were in financial turmoil and needed to raise cash to revamp their squad and register them with La Liga who follow more stricter guidelines of UEFA's Financial Fair Play rules. This interest was sustained through out the transfer window despite the player repeatedly stressing his desire to stay with the Catalans. Arnold and director of football John Murtough visited Barcelona and increased their offer from 65 to 75 million to cover the deferred wages the player had been owed in order to complete the transfer. de Jong represents the Barcelona identity in Johan Cruyff mould and from the same Ajax acedemy where he honed his skills. Selling him would have betrayed the ethos of the club and the player was never wanting to leave unless forced. Barcelona meanwhile sold percentage of media rights to raise sufficient cash to not force the sale. United did not get their target.

United had only one new player for pre-season Tyrell Malacia and another two new before the season started in Christian Eriksen and Lisandro Martinez. Having comprehensively lost the opening game of English Premier League to Brighton with superstar Cristiano Ronaldo angling to leave, the club were in disarray. United hierarchy responded by chasing Bologna striker Marko Arnautovic for 7 million and Adrien Rabiot for 15 million! You cannot be serious!! Scott Patterson and other fans wrote to Richard Arnold questioning why the club were on the verge of signing a rascist? United backed off. Rabiot demands were excessive, thank god. Back to the drawing board. Brentford gave United a massive shock with a 4-0 thrashing in just 35 minutes of first half. Fans group 'The__1958' had organised protests against the Glazer ownership of the greatest English footballing institution before the match against arch rivals Liverpool. This time there was lot of media scrutiny into Glazers taking dividends out, not putting their money into the club, increasing debt, lack of investment into Old Trafford and Carrington etc. Something big had to be done to reclaim the focus on football which is a 'results driven business'.

United agreed a fee of 70 million with Real Madrid for their Brazilian central defensive midfielder Casemiro with the player present in the stands during the match against Liverpool. Reputed Spanish football expert Graham Hunter speaking to Off The Ball said this might result in Real not winning La Liga such is the importance of Casemiro to that squad. Following the win against Liverpool, United went back to Ajax to persuade them to sell Anthony whom Erik ten Hag had coached to become a full Brazil international. 84.5 million fee was accepted by United which shows the degree to which the manager believes in the player and the club backed it up. Worlds best wingers have mainly come from Manchester United with Geroge Best, Ryan Giggs, Cristiano Ronaldo or Brazil with Garrincha, Jairzinho, Rivellino. Sir Alex Ferguson chased Ronaldinho. Anthony becomes United's first Brazilian winger finally. United ended the window with spend of 226 million second only to Chelsea under new ownership and signed keeper Martin Dubravka on loan from Newcastle United to provide competition for David de Gea. 

United had lost seven consecutove away games a feat which had not occured since mid 1930's and now managed to win two back to back away gaimes against Southampton and Leicester by a single goal with same starting XI that does not include Ronaldo, Maguire, Shaw. Arsenal the only team with 100% winning record to top the table presents a real test for Erik ten Hag's team. Casemiro and Ronaldo came on as substitues in last two games and could start against the Gunners. Anthony would eventually start on the right wing while Jadon Sancho switches to the left; either of these would be vying to wear the coveted #7 shirt after the tenure of Ronaldo ends. Goal scoring record and adaptability of Ronaldo will also result in him being included in the starting XI which looks like: de Gea(GK), Dalot, Varane, Martinez, Malacia, Casemiro, Eriksen, Fernandes, Anthony, Ronaldo, Sancho

Five of starting XI have been changed in first transfer window itself of Erik ten Hag, massive. Lisandro Martinez has already won United's player of the month award, Malacia had Salah in his pocket in his first game for United, Eriksen spraying the passes from the deep to push Fernandes into goal scoring positions, over to Casemiro and Anthony now for 'o jogo bonito'. Without head of recruitment United under Richard Arnold seem to have come to grips with the situation by changing their response by accepting feedback and listening to genuine fans. From van Gaal, Mourinho to Solskjaer it was the second summer transfer window which deeply dissapointed. Win always gives a breather to correct and Arnold has time till next summer to prepare and learn from past mistakes.

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.

Garnacho, Hojlund, Mainoo

INEOS chairman Sir Jim Ratcliffe not only met with all staff and players but also fans forum and community groups to stress the same message...

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