Predicted XI: Mengi and Laird on the bench against the Hammers?

Manchester United return to action against West Ham United in the Premier League on Wednesday evening after being beaten by Chelsea in the semi-final of the Emirates FA Cup on Sunday evening. This is the final league match at the Theatre of Dreams this season and will be the penultimate match of the season at home. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will need to get his team firing in this game to stop the Hammer from doing the double over them this season and break into the top four.

If United beat David Moyes’ side, they will rise up to third in the league with Chelsea due to face Liverpool in the later kick off on Wednesday, meaning that they could, if Chelsea beat Liverpool, still be fourth in the league going into the final match of the season against Leicester City at the King Power Stadium on Sunday. United will not win the FA Cup this season but they should at least ensure UEFA Champions League football.

How United have faired against West Ham in the Premier League.

United and West Ham have played 47 times in the Premier League with United winning 28, drawing 12 and losing seven times. United have scored 94 goals conceding 43. United have kept 18 clean sheets with the Hammers keeping seven. United have won five penalties, scoring four with the Hammers winning two and scoring both. United have been shown 55 yellow cards with the Hammer having 71. United have had four red cards with the Hammers getting two.

Earlier this season, at the London Stadium, the Hammers beat United 2-0 with Andriy Yarmolenko and Aaron Cresswell scoring the goals. It was a tough defeat for United to take and after losing against Chelsea in the semi-final of the FA Cup on Sunday, Solskjaer’s side should be looking to bounce back. In this fixture last season, United won with two Paul Pogba penalties which cancelled out Felipe Anderson’s 49th minute equaliser.

Here is my predicted starting XI to face West Ham United in the Premier League at Old Trafford on Wednesday evening…

Goalkeeper: David De Gea

The Spanish goalkeeper had a terrible game against Chelsea in the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley on Sunday. He conceded two goals which he should have stopped easily. He will know that and despite what Solskjaer has said in public, he will have reminded him that he needs to up his form to continue as United’s number one goalkeeper. Some of the best goalkeepers in the world have had blips but this seems to be more than just a blip. De Gea carried United for a number of seasons, literally being the player that stopped United from being beaten. It is time we admit that he has been poor but repay him for his loyalty. A goalkeeper in poor form could change that form with a but of support. This is what supporting a team is all about.

Defenders: Tim Fosu-Mensah, Victor Lindelof, Harry Maguire, Brandon Williams

United face some problems in defence at this stage of the season with Axel Tuanzebe and Phil Jones already out of action before Luke Shaw injured his ankle against Southampton and before Eric Bailly received a head injury at Wembley. This will leave United with two central defenders that have experience. We could see Solskjaer draft Ethan Laird and Teden Mengi into the first team, however, it is unlikely that they will start. Aaron Wan-Bissaka needs to be rested from this game, keeping him fresh for Sunday’s match against Leicester City. Tim Fosu-Mensah can take his place. Victor Lindelof and Harry Maguire will continue in the centre of defence with Brandon Williams keeping his place at left-back with United returning to a back four formation.

Midfield: Nemanja Matic, Paul Pogba

In midfield, the lack of Paul Pogba on Sunday left United weak. Fred is a decent midfielder, or has been when United relied upon him week after week, but after little time on the pitch, any form he built during that time playing week after week has gone. Pogba should start in this game, alongside Nemanja Matic, which is the best partnership possible at this time. Scott McTominay has lost form majorly too and he needs playing time to change that, but right now, United need to be winning matches. Perhaps, if United beat West Ham, Solskjaer could play some of these players against Leicester, or even giving them a run out against LASK in the final match of the season at Old Trafford.

Attacking Midfield: Marcus Rashford, Bruno Fernandes, Mason Greenwood

Solskjaer changes his attacking formation against Chelsea and despite other times whereby it paid off, this one backfired. United will need to resort to the 4-2-3-1 formation with Mason Greenwood, Bruno Fernandes, and Marcus Rashford playing in the advanced areas. All three players will be unhappy with the defeat on Sunday and will be seeking to come back from that by taking advantage of Leicester’s defeat to Spurs and even assuming that Liverpool will beat Chelsea, which could see United rise to third in the Premier League this week, which would be uplifting from Sunday’s defeat – the clubs first in 20 matches, ending in 19 matches unbeaten, which is proof that something is being built at the club.

Striker: Anthony Martial

The French forward has been in some great form this season, Granted, it did not happen for him on Sunday, despite the fact he won the penalty that got United a late consolation goal, through Fernandes. In truth, later scoring 22 goals this season, like Rashford, Martial will need to keep firing to ensure his future looks good at the club. When Martial signed for United, some were unsure of the type of player that Louis van Gaal had signed but in his first game, he showed the world what he could do. Five years later, he is still showing what he can do, beating his best ever season at the club (his first) by five goals so far. Tony Martial came from France…

Substitutes: Sergio Romero; Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Ethan Laird, Teden Mengi; Juan Mata, Andreas Pereira, Fred, Scott McTominay; Odion Ighalo

Solskjaer will have five substitutes to use during matches for the remainder of the season and the whole of next season. Some will moan that the bigger clubs hold an advantage but all teams in the Premier League will need a certain squad size, so why not allow all players to be used across the season? This is a positive not a negative. Despite the fact that many will be calling for De Gea to be dropped, Sergio Romero will remain on the bench. In defence, Wan-Bissaka, Ethan Laird and Teden Mengi could be called upon, if needed. I would prefer the right-back to be completely rested though. In midfield, Juan Mata, Andreas Pereira, Fred and Scott McTominay will be available. Odion Ighalo will be the only attacking player on the bench.

Written by John Walker

Preview: Maybe it is time for Solskjaer’s United to hammer the Hammers

Manchester United -v- West Ham United

Premier League

Old Trafford, Manchester

Wednesday 22 July 2020, KO 18:00 BST

Referee: Paul Tierney Assistants: Ian Hussin, Darren Cann 

Fourth Official: Mike Dean Replacement Official: Natalie Aspinall

VAR: Peter Bankes Assistant VAR: Peter Kirkup

Manchester United return to action against West Ham United in the Premier League on Wednesday evening after being beaten by Chelsea in the semi-final of the Emirates FA Cup on Sunday evening. This is the final league match at the Theatre of Dreams this season and will be the penultimate match of the season at home. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will need to get his team firing in this game to stop the Hammer from doing the double over them this season and break into the top four.

If United beat David Moyes’ side, they will rise up to third in the league with Chelsea due to face Liverpool in the later kick off on Wednesday, meaning that they could, if Chelsea beat Liverpool, still be fourth in the league going into the final match of the season against Leicester City at the King Power Stadium on Sunday. United will not win the FA Cup this season but they should at least ensure UEFA Champions League football.

Form: United have been in some good form recently but in the past three matches, the indications have been there that this team has weaknesses. It is time for them to stand up to West Ham.

Manchester United: LWDWWW

Chelsea 3-1 L, Crystal Palace 2-0 W, Southampton 2-2 D, Aston Villa 3-0 W, Bournemouth 5-2 W, Brighton and Hove Albion 3-0 W

West Ham United: WWLDWL

Watford 3-1 W, Norwich City 4-0 W, Burnley 1-0 L, Newcastle United 2-2 D, Chelsea 3-2 W, Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 L

Top Scorers: United will need to find a way to get Rashford, Martial and Greenwood scoring again after failing to find their form against Chelsea at Wembley.

Manchester United Goals: 22 – Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford, 16 – Mason Greenwood, 9 – Bruno Fernandes, 5 – Odion Ighalo, Scott McTominay, 4 – Daniel James, 3 – Harry Maguire, Juan Mata, 2 – Fred, Own Goal, Jesse Lingard, Andreas Pereira, 1 – Diogo Dalot, Phil Jones, Victor Lindelof, Nemanja Matic, Paul Pogba, Luke Shaw, Brandon Williams, Ashley Young

Solskjaer’s side has been in good form since the restart of the league and have now been defeated, which is a first for Bruno Fernandes at the club. United will need to hit back against the Hammers, going straight back to winning ways which would also see them take advantage of Leicester City dropping points after their defeat to Tottenham Hotspur. A victory over the Hammers would see United rise to third in the table, although Chelsea face Liverpool in the later kick off, which could see United stay there of slide to fourth – still an improvement.

West Ham United Goals: 9 – Michail Antonio, 7 – Sébastien Haller, 5 – Robert Snodgrass, 4 – Pablo Fornals, Mark Noble, Andriy Yarmolenko, 3 – Aaron Cresswell, Issa Diop, Tomas Soucek, 2 – Angelo Ogbonna, 1 – Fabián Balbuena, Jarrod Bowen, Javier Hernández, Felipe Anderson, Declan Rice, Jack Wilshere, Pablo Zabaleta

West Ham lie 16th in the Premier League table six points clear of the relegation zone with two matches left to play this season. It is quite possible that they will remain in the Premier League this season as they have a healthier goal difference compared to the teams below them. A win out of their next two will secure their position in the league for another season. David Moyes will be hoping that comes in this match.

Team News: Solskjaer has defensive worries ahead of West Ham clash; youth players might be added to the squad to add defensive cover.

Solskjaer could be without four defenders for the visit of the Hammers to the Theatre of Dreams. Axel Tuanzebe and Phil Jones remain on the sidelines, Luke Shaw may not be fit enough after missing the last two matches and Eric Bailly will be out for a period of time following his head injury against Chelsea at Wembley. Solskjaer might need to draft in one of Teden Mengi or Ethan Laird for this match. Solskjaer, speaking to the official Manchester United website, said:

“That’s the way of a footballer’s life, you need to get over this. We’ll be ready for Wednesday. We know how huge those two games are, they’re going to be massive for us and we’re looking forward to it.”

Moyes looks set to be missing two players ahead of his return to Old Trafford. Ryan Fredericks (calf/shin/heel) and Robert Snodgrass (lower back) set to be out of his squad, which might not be the biggest of problems for the veteran manager. The Hammers will be seeking to take three points from Old Trafford this season, doing the double over United this season, which would be devastating.

Predicted Starting XI: Top four or bust for United with UEFA Champions League football needed more than ever next season.

United will need to bounce back form their defeat to Chelsea, which was the first in four matches against Frank Lampard’s side. With Leicester losing on Sunday, the chance to break into the top four, possibly at their expense is too much to lose for United. Putting the best available team out to get the result against the Hammers will be needed but it is not going to be easy. United have been pretty poor in their last three matches now.

Match Prediction: United have a lot to lose if they do not bounce back from their FA Cup semi-final defeat against West Ham on Wednesday at Old Trafford.

United and West Ham have played 47 times in the Premier League with United winning 28, drawing 12 and losing seven times. United have scored 94 goals conceding 43. United have kept 18 clean sheets with the Hammers keeping seven. United have won five penalties, scoring four with the Hammers winning two and scoring both. United have been shown 55 yellow cards with the Hammer having 71. United have had four red cards with the Hammers getting two.

Earlier this season, at the London Stadium, the Hammers beat United 2-0 with Andriy Yarmolenko and Aaron Cresswell scoring the goals. It was a tough defeat for United to take and after losing against Chelsea in the semi-final of the FA Cup on Sunday, Solskjaer’s side should be looking to bounce back. In this fixture last season, United won with two Paul Pogba penalties which cancelled out Felipe Anderson’s 49th minute equaliser.

Manchester United 2-1 West Ham United

Written by John Walker

Ryan Giggs awarded Athletic Bilbao accolade ‘One Club Man’ for Manchester United career

Wales manager and former Manchester United winger Ryan Giggs has been awarded an accolade by Spanish club Athletic Bilbao, which in 2019 was awarded to Celtic legend Billy McNeil. The One Club Man honour for 2020 was awarded to Giggs, who signed for United at the age of 14 in 1987, turning pro at the club at the age of 17 in 1990.

Giggs then made his first team debut in March 1991, playing a total of 963 times for the club, over 24 years which has seen him become the most decorated player in English football. Giggs will share the label, One Club Man with many footballing greats including; Paolo Maldini, Francesco Totti, and current Athletic Bilbao player, Iker Muniain.

During his time at United, Giggs has won many things including 13 Premier League titles, four FA Cups, three League Cups, nine FA Community Shields, two UEFA Champions League titles, one UEFA Super Cup, one Intercontinental Cup, and one FIFA Club World Cup. He was also named the PFA Young Player of the Year twice; in 1991/92 and 1992/93.

The Bilbao club says it gave the annual accolade to Giggs for his fantastic professional career with Manchester United which lasted 24 years. Back in March 2012 when Giggs played against Athletic Bilbao in the UEFA Europa League, which saw United exit the competition after 5-3 aggregate loss, the club’s fans gave the player a standing ovation.

“We speak of a world class footballer who has demonstrated an unwavering loyalty to their club.”

During his career as a player at United, he was made the interim manager after the sacking of David Moyes during the 2013/14 season, where he took charge of the final four matches of the season, a season which United finished seventh in the Premier League. After playing his last match in the 2013/14 season, Giggs was the assistant manager under Louis van Gaal until he was sacked at the end of the 2015/16 season.

The Bilbao club has stated that Giggs, 46 has accepted an invitation to receive the award at the San Mames stadium once travel restrictions are out of the way following the coronavirus pandemic which suspended world football in mid-March. It will be another proud honour for Giggs, along with all the other he has received over the years.

During his time at United, playing 963 times for the Old Trafford club, which includes 672 league appearances, 74 FA Cup appearances, 41 League Cup appearances, and 157 European appearances, plus 19 appearances in other competitions, scoring 168 goals for the club and 248 assists, which is some achievement.

Giggs has played football with many club legends from Steve Bruce, Bryan Robson, Gary Pallister, Peter Schmeichel, Edwin van der Sar, Gary Neville, David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt, Eric Cantona, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Andy Cole, Dwight Yorke, Cristiano Ronaldo and current manager, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Currently, Giggs is the manager of the Wales national team, succeeding Chris Coleman on the 15 January 2018. As a player, Giggs was capped 64 times by Wales, scoring 12 goals, also being capped four times, scoring once for Team GB at the 2012 Olympics in London. He’s managed 19 matches for Wales, winning nine, drawing three and losing seven.

Mino Raiola could be the only person wanting Paul Pogba to leave Manchester United; PSG now interested in the Frenchman – reports

Manchester United reportedly believe that Mino Raiola, the agent of French midfielder Paul Pogba, is the only person pushing to get the 27-year-old to leave the Theatre of Dreams this summer, according to reports. The FIFA World Cup winner has been linked with a return to Juventus, a move to Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain.

However, the financial problems which have been caused by the coronavirus pandemic, seem to have given United a problem in trying to secure the £89 million they paid for the player four years ago, if the player is sold this summer. Last summer, after announcing that he wanted a new challenge, United wanted £150 million for him.

A move to Real Madrid was not viable because of the players £15 million wage each year, something the Spanish club were not keen on having at the club, which would spark a wage row amongst a number of players at the club. Something Alexis Sanchez’s arrival at United seemed to park, considering the Chilean offered next to nothing at the club.

The Times states that United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer sees the Frenchman as integral to his squad and has plans for him in the future, so based on that, the Norwegian would like to see him stay at the club he once described as his destiny. Club legend, Bryan Robson, whose quotes were carried by the newspaper, seemed to suggest just that, talking about Pogba and January signing, Bruno Fernandes, saying:

“They are both special talents. We all know that Paul is a great talent. What he’s got to do now is to fit into whatever role that Ole wants him to play, whether that’s further forwards, with Fernandes dropping back, or the other way around.

“It’s like when people used to say [Steven] Gerrard and [Frank] Lampard couldn’t play together because they were similar but I think they could have done.

“Lampard was always going to be an attacking player, and Gerrard had it in his locker to defend and read the game well.

“He could play that sitting role, and Paul has got the ability to do it too, but what he has got to do is to take on more responsibility on the defensive side of the game if Ole [Gunnar Solskjaer] is going to ask him to play that role.”

United supporters are excited to see what United can achieve with both Pogba and Fernandes playing in the same team. It would be fair to say that the Frenchman would not be the only player expected to pull the string in midfield, making it easier for him to shine. Personally, playing in a deeper role could suit him now, running forward to support the attack.

Slightly contradicting this report is another one from the same newspaper, confirming that Pogba is open to a move to Paris Saint-Germain this summer, which would be an embarrassing move for him, given the fact the club, despite having Neymar and Kylian Mbappe in attack, do not seem to be a force in the UEFA Champions League.

French news outlet, Le10Sport, suggest the French champions have thrown their hat into the ringer United World Cup winning midfielder. They go on to suggest the Real Madrid is the club leading the race to sign Pogba, despite reports stating his wages would be a problem. Juventus are also mentioned, probably trying to find more past it players to add.

It would seem that nothing will cast aside this speculation other than Pogba himself committing his future to the Old Trafford club, not only signing a new contract but publicly announcing that he does not see his future anywhere else. However, I do not think for one minute that this will ever happen. If it does, perhaps I called it? That is what a journalist would claim after covering all the bases.

Paul Pogba could have been signed in 2013 but David Moyes opted for failed Cesc Fabregas approach instead

Former Manchester United manager David Moyes could have signed Juventus midfielder Paul Pogba in the summer of 2013, instead the replacement for Sir Alex Ferguson opted to spend the summer chasing Cesc Fabregas, who had no intention of joining the Old Trafford club, according to reports.

Moyes was rightfully sacked in April 2014 after seeing United regress considerable despite being the reigning champions of the Premier League, exiting the FA Cup in the first round, the League Cup in the semi-final, falling to Sunderland on penalties and getting knocked out of the UEFA Champions League weeks before he was sacked.

United finished seventh that season, which was pretty much defined at the time Moyes was sacked. The man nicknamed the ditherer, especially in the transfer window, seems to have made pigs ear of his time as United manager, despite being given a six-year contract at the moment he replaced the legend that was Ferguson.

Just one year after Pogba left the Old Trafford club as a free agent, not yet breaking into the first team at the club, the Frenchman, at least according to The Athletic, was open to returning to the Theatre of Dreams, however, the ‘Chosen One’ opted to chase Cesc Fabregas, who was at Barcelona the time, despite having no intention to sign for United.

At the time, Moyes was led to believe that Fabregas was interested in leaving the Catalan club with Andres Iniesta and Xavi the chosen midfielders, giving him little playing time. United made a £25 million bid for the former Arsenal midfielder, which was unsuccessful and resulted in the player staying in Spain for another year.

Pogba, at the time, had not become the star that he had seasons later for Juventus but a little bit of hindsight could have saved United from an £89 million club and then world record fee from being spent on the player. However, United could still have Moyes at the club now, which based on what we know, does not bear thinking about.

Obviously, Arsenal were the club that Fabregas wanted to return to but seemingly, based on comments from the player, that did not happen either, instead the player agreed to return to London, with Chelsea, a year after United were interested in signing the player. It is probably for the best as the player was close to passing his best. Fabregas said:

“Once I decide to leave (Barcelona), Arsenal will have the first option of any other club and I cannot speak to any other club for one week to see if Arsenal want me or not.

“Arsene didn’t give an answer, we just had to wait one full week to see if they responded. Definitely this was my first option, in my mind I’m telling everyone I’m going to Arsenal – this is what I want.

“Arsene can see this. I didn’t want to be a beggar, they know the situation, in one week they haven’t said anything, straight away I knew they probably didn’t want me back.

“They waited the full week without giving me a response. After the week I had to take my chance, I had Manchester City, United and then I spoke to Mourinho – which I didn’t think would ever happen.

“To be honest, after I left the room with Mourinho I said, ‘that’s it, I don’t need to talk to anyone else, I’m going to Chelsea.’ What he told me, the team he wanted to make, what he thought of me, how he wanted me to play, this is what I wanted.

“On top of that it’s London and not Manchester, London was my home.”

Looking back at the mistakes that were made by United and Moyes, I would not change them for the world. Ed Woodward had to learn a lesson and the only shame there is that is took more than six years for that to happen. The days of chasing players all summer seem to have gone with United now chasing player they want who will make the team better.

The pressure of playing for Manchester United was real but very different after leaving – Portuguese winger admits

On the 6 June 2007, Manchester United signed Luis Nani from Sporting Clube de Portugal for a fee of around €25.5 million. Two summers before Cristiano Ronaldo left the Old Trafford club and coming from the same club and academy of the world’s best footballer of the modern era. The now 33-year-old is playing for MLS outfit Orlando City.

Nani spent seven seasons at United before being loaned back to the club he started his career at, making 230 appearances at United, scoring 40 goals and 73 assists. He helped the club win the Premier League four times, the League Cup twice, the FA Community Shield four times, the UEFA Champions League and the FIFA Club World Cup both once.

Nani has felt connected to United for a period of time, which was not something he could explain. The Portuguese winger reminisced about visiting Old Trafford earlier in his life, at the time having a feeling that he would play for the club during his career – something he was right about. Speaking about his early feeling of this, Nani said:

“I went into Manchester a couple of years before, three or four years before, when I was a junior at 17 years old. We went to England for a pre-season, I don’t remember where, but we were training and the coach, one day, said: ‘Guys, we’re preparing for a tour at Old Trafford.’

“Wow, wow, Old Trafford! Wow! The day we went there, we were inside the Museum and there was a challenge game to see who had the hardest shot. It would give the numbers and I was there, kicking every time, I can tell you, one of the hardest shots. My very hardest shot.

“Okay, on to the dressing room and it was a special moment as it was where the players sit and change for a game. I was very excited. Giggs, Cristiano, Beckham have been here and I went there inside. I remember I was sitting and the guy giving the tour said to us, ‘Cristiano sits here, Giggs sits there’. Oh, they sit here! Oh my goodness!

“Unbelievable. One day, I will sit here and I will be here. It’s funny, after probably five years, I was there and it was amazing. My team-mates were the ones who remembered that, not me. When I arrived there, after a couple of weeks or months, some of my friends were coming and said, ‘You said you wanted to be there. Do you remember, when we were going there and what we were talking about?’ I couldn’t remember but it but they remembered it. For me, it was amazing. Incredible.”

Watching the Champions League final during the 1998/99 season, in which United faced Bayern Munich at Barcelona’s Nou Camp stadium, the Portuguese winger knew that United was this team. United were 1-0 down in the opening six minutes, coming close to more damage being done but in stoppage time, two corners changed everything.

United, led by David Beckham taking the first corner, saw Teddy Sheringham, after Ryan Giggs slotted the ball towards goal, equalise for the Red Devils, seemingly taking them into extra time. However, after corner – “Beckham into Sheringham, and Solskjaer has won it,” changed the course of history. Remembering this, Nani said:

The game when Manchester United won 2-1 against Bayern Munich, in the final, I remember I had a situation with another friend,” he said. “I think he lives in England now.

“Probably saying it, you just feel it. Come on, you’ve got to have a reason but there are so many things that happened in the past that now make sense.”

Back in 2007, Sir Alex Ferguson made a move for the winger, something that the player knew he could not refuse. When he was younger, he said he would play for United during a tour of the Theatre of Dreams. Now was his chance. Nani could follow in the footsteps of Beckham, Giggs, Ronaldo and more. Recalling this, he said:

“At that time, I was lucky because I was working with the strongest agents in the world and then we had a connection with a lot of important persons. People who were important in Manchester because, at that time, Ronaldo was playing there and had a similar story, you know, playing for Sporting and then Ferguson went to bring him to United. Carlos Queiroz was there as well, he’s Portuguese, so it can help a little bit and I was very excited.

“My agent asked me as there were so many teams to choose from – Chelsea, Arsenal, teams in Italy like Juventus and Inter [Milan]. Bayern [Munich] and [Real] Madrid – I don’t know if they were true but it was in the news. I chose Manchester because of the reasons they gave me at that time and everything [about how] the past was involved with me. It gave me the reasons to go there, all my story and beyond that, told me to go to Manchester. It was a club where I have a story in the past before I moved to Manchester, when I was a kid, so it was good.”

Nani never really made it last at United. He was a good player and very talented, however, his form was never something that stuck around for long. He played in some good matches, scored some great goals and celebrated his time at the club well, achieving more than some but he never quite fit into the shoes he was meant to replace.

Ronaldo was an immense talent at United, making 292 appearances, scoring 118 goals and 69 assists – helping United win the Premier League three times, the FA Cup once, the League Cup twice, and the FA Community Shield, UEFA Champions League and FIFA Club World Cup all once. Nani left the club for Fenerbahce in 2015 for £4.25 million. On leaving the club, Nani concluded by saying:

“I’ll tell you the truth. It will never be the same after leaving Manchester United to play for another club. It’s not the same. As a club, as a structure, the quality, everyone knows that. I’m not offending anybody. Everyone knows that.

“That’s why Man United is Man United, all over the world. It was great to come back to Sporting because I came back home, close to my family and my friends.

“It was good to breathe a little bit, to recover and get some energy back and motivation, to find a new challenge. To tell the truth, it was a great season for Sporting for me that year.

“I played very well and, in the Champions League, I scored a couple of goals. I enjoyed the football a lot in that time.”

I guess the weight of the pressure at United was something that got to the player, despite him not actually saying it. He confirmed that playing away from United was very different which suggested he was talking about the pressure. He did what he predicted earlier in his life and won a lot at the club and will forever be a part of it. Nani was a good player, but it might not have been the right time for him. I am thankful that he played for United though.

An in Depth Look at Major Signings made During Ed Woodward’s time at Manchester United

Since Ed Woodward replaced David Gill in 2013 as executive vice-chairman at Manchester United and effectively took charge of the club’s transfer dealings, it’s safe to say there has been a mixed reaction from the fans of the club. Some see United have spent nearly £1 billion since 2013 and think there is no way a club spending that much can be struggling with transfers.

Others see how a large portion of these transfers did not work out as well as the club would have hoped and point the blame at the man in charge, Ed Woodward. In this article, big money signings made under Woodward will be ranked and the overall transfer strategy will be analyzed, concluding with the answer to this question; Is it time for Ed Woodward to relinquish transfer responsibilities to a Director of Football? 

Twelve players signed from 2013 to present day have been selected for this pool of players to be analyzed. New signings that have not yet played a full season like Harry Maguire and Bruno Fernandes have been excluded. Defenders have also been excluded as Woodward seems to refer back to the coaches when deciding on defensive acquisitions, as evident by Louis van Gaal signing Daley Blind or Jose Mourinho signing Victor Lindelof. Woodward seems to focus on more marketable positions, such as forwards, so this article will be focusing more on these players. Starting off with number twelve…

12) Angel Di Maria

Number twelve and eleven on this list could very easily swap around but the Argentine has just grabbed last spot due to his poor attitude. A deadline day signing to mark the end of Louis van Gaal’s first transfer window, Di Maria arrived with a plethora of promises but left with little more than a miraculous chipped goal against Leicester City to his name. After one season that was marked with clashes with Van Gaal and problems adjusting to the league, Di Maria had enough and left for Paris Saint-Germain. A lot of money wasted for very little in return. 

11) Alexis Sanchez

Oh what could have been with Alexis Sanchez. His time at Arsenal was fantastic, scoring 60 Premier League goals for the Gunners but his time at Manchester United has been the polar opposite. Not only have his performances been dire for the most part, his arrival upset a lot at the club. Taking in the highest wage at the club, Sanchez’s arrival allegedly upset the wage structure. This made resigning individuals such as David De Gea more difficult. His arrival also pushed Anthony Martial out of the starting eleven despite the Frenchman being in fine form. It begs the question, was Sanchez signed because Mourinho wanted him or did Woodward just want to beat Manchester City to a player?

10+9) “Scheid” midfield

Great examples of players bought for one manager that did not fit the next, the midfield pair of Morgan Schneiderlin and Bastian Schweinsteiger were huge indicators of Woodward signing players without long term planning in mind. Both players were good professionals during their time at the club but never locked down places in the squad when Van Gaal was sacked. The pair went from first team members of Van Gaal’s squad to almost no appearances under Jose Mourinho. They were eventually sold to Everton and the Chicago Fire respectively. 

8) Henrikh Mkhitaryan

Again, an example of a great player signed that did not fit the style of the coach. A Mourinho midfield relies on physical presence and hard working individuals that work both sides of the game. Mkhitaryan is more of a luxury player that can have moments of brilliance but in Mourinho’s set up just looked lost most of the time. He was eventually swapped to Arsenal for Alexis Sanchez, which is a transfer deal both clubs will want to forget ever happened. 

7) Fred

Fred has become one of United’s best players this season under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. However, he is placed at only number seven on this list as representation for the disaster of a window that ultimately led to Jose Mourinho’s sacking. To close the gap of 19 points on Man City, Mourinho was given Fred, who would need a year to adapt from the Ukrainian League to the Premier League, a young prospect at fullback in Diogo Dalot and a reserve goalkeeper in Lee Grant. Poor planning and execution by Ed Woodward and the squad is paying the price for that window to this day. 

6) Romelu Lukaku

Another ‘galactico’ type signing made by Ed Woodward that does not indicate any sort of long term planning by him. A striker that can hold up the ball well was crucial for Mourinho’s system but Lukaku is much more effective when he is facing the goal. Woodward then replaced Mourinho with Solskjaer who likes a more technical striker. Lukaku himself did well, scoring 28 goals for the club in the league but is another indication of poor planning by the club’s higher ups.

5) Ander Herrera

A true professional and fan favorite during his time at the club. Ander Herrera is a rare signing almost all United fans can agree on being a success at the club. He was also signed before the arrival of Van Gaal so it is safe to assume he was a Woodward signing. Credit where credit’s due, Woodward got this one right. 

4) Anthony Martial

Another fan favorite, Anthony Martial has had his ups and downs at Manchester United but when he’s been on form, he’s lit up Old Trafford. In the current squad, only Marcus Rashford has scored more for the club. However, his signing again exposes a lack of planning by Woodward. Van Gaal said on numerous occasions Martial is one for the next manager, referring to Giggs, yet Woodward never gave Giggs a chance and appointed Mourinho. Martial would eventually fall out of favor with Mourinho.

3) Juan Mata

A true professional and some would argue the best post Sir Alex Ferguson signing, Juan Mata has been a class act. Mata was one of those players that if he’s available, you sign and that is just what Woodward did. No complaints with this one. 

2) Paul Pogba

A polarizing figure at United but Paul Pogba on his day is one of the best players in the English Premier League. His signing was not only great on the pitch for providing fans with moments of magic but his signing showed Manchester United could still attract players, even without Champions League football. His signing appeared to be the catalyst for a new, successful era but other factors at the club let that prospect down. His frequent clashes with Mourinho again beg the question, did Woodward force a player onto the coach that the coach did not want?

1) Zlatan Ibrahimovic 

The leader of Jose Mourinho’s 2016/17 side, Ibrahimovic did what he set out to do and conquered England. The biggest star, along with Paul Pogba, that United had signed since Ferguson retired, Ibrahimovic scored 22 goals in a season that saw United win three trophies. He wasn’t here for a long time but on a free from PSG he sure did make the reds excited. 

Is it time for Ed Woodward to relinquish transfer responsibilities to a Director of Football?

After analyzing big money transfers made by Woodward, it is concluded that yes, it is time to get a Director of Football to oversee transfers. As mentioned throughout the article, Woodward’s transfer strategy is not much of a strategy. He often signs big name players that do not make logical sense for the current coaches or future of the club. Players fall out of favor with coaches on occasion but it seems to happen quite often at United, especially with big transfers. Woodward has a lot on his plate with the commercial side of running the club. Appointing a football man that can oversee transfer dealings and long term planning for the club will benefit United more than having Woodward do everything.

Written by Nicholas Blaustein

Ashley Young can hold his head high based on what he achieved at Manchester United

Ashley Young left Manchester United for Inter Milan on Friday after speculation about him signing for the club rumbled on over the past week. The 34-year-old could have remained at United for the remainder of the season, signing a pre-contract agreement with a foreign club or taking pot luck on his career in the summer. However, he chose to leave with immediate effect with reports of a £1.3 million fee being involved.

The winger turned fullback signed for United in the summer of 2011 arriving from Aston Villa for a fee in the region of £17 million. It may not have been the best signing the club could have made under Sir Alex Ferguson, who was coming to the end of his reign as United manager, but in terms of what he offered the club, at that time, he was a good signing. He was no Cristiano Ronaldo, that was obvious.

On signing, Young, who was 25 at the time stated that he could not turn down the opportunity to play for United, who at the time had won their nineteenth league title, the twelfth Premier League title, knocking Liverpool off their perch. He said it was a chance to play for the club who were seeking to win their twentieth league title, a feat the club achieved during the 2012/13 season, saying goodbye to Ferguson also. Young said:

“The opportunity to come to play for one of the biggest clubs in the world is one I couldn’t turn down. It is a chance to hopefully become part of history by helping them to win their 20th title.”

Of course, United had heartbreak in the 2011/12 season after taking rivals Manchester City to the final day of the season and a very late goal by Sergio Aguero stopped them retaining the Premier League title seeing the noisy neighbours lift it instead. It was something that inspired United to take the bull by the horns and ensure their twentieth title came the following season, which also paved the way for life after Ferguson, which has not been easy, to say the least.

Young will be remembered for many things as a player. The first will be his brace in the favour 8-2 victory over Arsenal, finishing on eight goals in total that season, his best goalscoring season for the club – he had scored nine goals in all competitions for the previous four season’s at Villa, scoring 15 in one season whilst playing for Watford. It is safe to say that after Ferguson, it was never the same for United.

Saying that though, Young, who helped lift the Premier League title at the end of the 2012/13 season, won his first trophy for the club on his full debut, the FA Community Shield after being 2-0 down at half time against City, winning 3-2. Young also helped the club to win the Emirates FA Cup at the end of the 2015/16 season, the first major honour post-Ferguson, and both the EFL Cup and the UEFA Europa League during the 2016/17 season.

The player saw many management changes from Ferguson leaving, David Moyes coming and going in the same season, Louis van Gaal lasting two years and winning the first major honour post-Ferguson, Jose Mourinho coming and lasting shy of two-and-a-half years, winning two major honours, then the club moving on to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, a player who learned from Ferguson, both as a player and a reserve team coach.

It was safe to say that United’s hunger to achieve started to fizzle away post-Ferguson and part of that was because of an ageing squad, clueless owners and an executive vice-chairman who knew how to bring the money in but had a notion to keep hold of it rather than spend it on players the club needed to continue to drive the club forward. Under Solskjaer, despite him playing 43 times, he was the past rather than the future.

During his time at United, Young managed to play his way into the England squad for the FIFA World Cup in the summer of 2018 despite playing for the country once between 2014 and 2017, playing five out of the seven games in the finals which saw England finish in fourth place after a 2-0 defeat to Belgium in the third place playoff of the competition. It was a good feat for Young to earn his place in the squad for the competition after a good season under his belt.

Young will now play for the remainder of the season for his fourth club of his career, Inter Milan, meeting former teammates Romelu Lukaku who was sold to the Italian club in the summer and Alexis Sanchez, who was loaned to the club for the 2019/20 season, although at this current time he is injured. He may also come against some former teammates; Chris Smalling, on loan at AS Roma, Matteo Darmian, who was sold to Parma.

The 34-year-old may not be remembered for greatness at, but after 261 appearances and scoring 19 goals. His final match came against Wolverhampton Wanderers at the Molineux a 0-0 draw in the third round of the Emirates FA Cup, which United won the replay during the past week at Old Trafford, winning 1-0 with his final goal coming in the 4-0 victory over AZ Alkmaar in the UEFA Europa League back in December 2019. His passion, leadership, experience, desire and determination will also be remembered as the club moves forward into a new era.

copyright: JW