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A brief history of Post-Sir Alex Ferguson South American players at Manchester United

In recent history, the signing of Veteran Uruguayan striker Edinson Cavani has been a sensation for Manchester United. However, the club’s history with signing South American talent has been a mixed one at best, many arriving with great expectations and failing to deliver, notably during Sir Alex Ferguson’s reign at the club with signings such as Diego Forlan and Juan Sebastian Veron failing to live up to expectations.  

So, how many South American players have been a true success at United since the retirement of Ferguson? This piece will evaluate United’s Post-Ferguson South American signings and see how they compare. 

Edinson Cavani

Normally it is hard to determine if a player has been a nailed-on success at a club when he has only been playing for said club for just over one season, however, in the case of Cavani, every United fan would agree than the striker has been a breath of fresh air. 

Not only has his 18 goals and six assists since he has joined the club been vital for United, but the passion and drive the now 34-year-old shows every time he pulls on the jersey has solidified him as a cult hero. 

Even this season, with minutes being much harder to come by due to the signing of Cristiano Ronaldo, Cavani has been a model professional, and has given everything for the team when called upon, most notably in Manchester United’s 3-0 victory against Tottenham Hotspurs, in which he scored a crucial goal.

All of this and more means that United fans will always remember Edinson Cavani as nothing other than a success. 8/10. 

Alex Telles

Again, Telles has only been a United player for just over a season, besides this, he also appears to have signed at just the wrong time, with Luke Shaw, United’s other senior Left-back arguably having the best season of his career during Telles first season at the club. 

It could be argued that the introduction of another top level left back to United made Shaw play at a higher level more consistently due to the very real threat of Telles taking his spot in the first team, so in regards to providing competition for places, Telles has been a success. 

However, on an individual level, the Brazilian has not played nearly enough games for United to be deemed a success, or perhaps even a failure. Since signing for United in the summer of 2020, Telles has only made 27 appearances across all competitions, scoring one goal and getting four assists.

However, it should be noted that due to being second choice in his position, most of Telles’ minutes in the 2020/21 season came In the Europa League, and out of seven appearances in this competition, he was part of a defence that kept four clean sheets, which played a vital part in United reaching the final of the competition that season.  

Due to his form in Europe, it feels unfair to deem Telles a failure, he also has time to push to be United’s first choice at left back. 5/10. 

Fred

Fred was one of the last Jose Mourinho signings for the club, before his sacking in December of 2018, the Brazilian arrived with huge expectations after being signed for an amount in the region of £52 million as reported by Sky Sports

However, it seems as though this was a singing done out of panic instead of strategy as there were reports that Manchester City were in for the player as well. This perhaps explains why, for his first season at the club at least, it felt as though neither Mourinho or Ole Gunnar Solskjaer knew what to do with the Brazilian, as he has all the energy in the world, but is not an attacking minded midfielder and is too rash to be left on his own in the defensive midfield position. 

However, now that Fred is in his fourth season as a red, it feels as though his most effective position is in a defensive midfield pivot, with his energy often being utilised to break up attacks from the opposing team. Fred has amassed 133 appearances for the club since his arrival and has managed five goals and seven assists during this time. For a player used in defensive midfield these numbers are not terrible. 

Unfortunately, Fred is a player who divides opinion amongst the fan base, mostly due to the fact that he seems to lack in technical ability; as a midfielder, he does not have a good range of passing, and as a defensive midfielder he often gives away needless fouls, as can be seen by the fact he has received 27 yellow cards and one sending off during his time as a United player

While he no doubt runs himself into the ground most games and never stops, he is most certainly not one of the best in the league in his position, and the £52 million price tag, over three years later, looks like a mass overpayment. 

A player who gives his all each game but lacks the ability to be deemed a success at this level and at this club. 5/10. 

Andreas Pereira

Pereira is an interesting addition to the list due to the fact that he is classed an academy player, instead of a singing, unlike the vast majority of South Americans who have played for the club. As a youth prospect, the Brazilian looked like a world beater, often putting in dazzling performances at the under-23 level, making United fans everywhere desperate to see him break into the first team. 

After two loan spells in La Liga at Granada and Valencia respectively, Pereira’s chance to prove his ability in the Premier League arrived in the 2018/19 season where the youngster made 23 appearances across all competitions for the first team, scoring one goal and getting one assist from midfield

Even after a disappointing first season, the youngster was given another chance to prove himself in the 2019/20 season, with the midfielder making 40 appearances across all competitions, scoring two goals and getting four assists. His failure to make a lasting impact on the first team during this season seems to have been the beginning of the end for the Brazilian at Manchester United, with the player being sent on loan every season since.  

Once a bright prospect, now a forgotten player. 3/10. 

Alexis Sanchez

Probably one of the more disappointing names on this list, Alexis Sanchez arrived from Arsenal in January of 2018 in a swap deal with Henrich Mkhitaryan, as reported by BBC Sport. The winger arrived with immense expectations due to him being one of the best wingers in the league during his time at Arsenal, he played 166 times for the Gunners across all competitions, scoring 80 goals and getting 45 assists, a fantastic attacking return for a player who was often the best player on the pitch during his time at the London club. 

However, once again, it seems in hindsight that this was a signing made due to panic and not long-term strategy. There were rumours that the winger was near to joining Manchester City, and the owners of United wanted a big name signing as much for marketing reasons as for results on the pitch. 

This all made for a frankly disastrous signing for all parties involved, with Sanchez playing 45 times for United, only managing five goals and nine assists during this time. Not only were his attacking returns not good enough, but his wages were astronomical, with Sky Sports reporting that the Chilean was on a £560,000 per week contract. 

The wages simply did not match the performances and United were glad to be rid of the winger when he left to join Inter Milan in the summer of 2019. 

A great player who was signed for the wrong reasons at the wrong point in his career. 2/10. 

Sergio Romero

Usually, it would be hard to deem a backup goalkeeper as a success or a failure due to lack of playing time, however, Romero was as impressive a backup goalkeeper as anyone, often putting in big performances in cup competitions. 

The Argentinian’s clean sheet record at United is immense, with the goalkeeper keeping a huge 39 clean sheets in just 61 appearances for the club. Most notably, Romero was United’s Europa League Keeper in the 2016/17 campaign, which resulted in United lifting the trophy. During this campaign, Romero kept eight clean sheets out of 12 games in total, including a clean sheet in the final against Ajax.

A certain success in an extremely difficult position. 9/10. 

Marcos Rojo

United signed defender Marcos Rojo for £16 million in the summer of 2014 after an impressive display for Argentina in the 2014 world cup, as reported by BBC Sport. However, the defender arrived to very little fanfare, most likely due to the very reasonable amount United paid for him. 

This perhaps worked in Rojo’s favour as he was not subject to scrutinizing on the same level as other big money signings at the club. In total Rojo made 122 appearances for United, also scoring two goals and getting four assists in that time, which should not be worried over too much due to the fact that he was mostly utilised as a centre back during his time at United. 

Notably, Rojo played in many centre back pairings during his time at the club, with the defender struggling to put a run of games together in a settled defence, something that was out of his control. He was also injury prone, missing a huge 82 Premier League games during his time at United due to various injuries.

This meant that by the time Solskjaer took the helm, the defender had faded into the background, being sent out on loan and then eventually sold to Boca Juniors in the winter transfer window of 2021.  

At his best, an impressive defender who gave his all for the club, but too injury prone to be deemed a great success. 6/10. 

Angel Di Maria

Perhaps the most disappointing signing made in the post-Ferguson era, Angel Di Maria was signed for a then British record transfer fee of £59.7 million in the summer of 2014, as reported by BBC Sport.

On paper, the deal looked like great business for United, they had signed a world class player in a position that needed reinforcement and new manager Louis van Gaal was looking like he was getting the transfers he desired to be a success at the club.

After a fantastic first couple of months at United, things started to break down for the Argentinian, he was frustrated with the playing style of the manager and was sometimes being played out of position. This led to a break down in communications between the club and the player, and after only one season at United, Di Maria was sold to Paris Saint-Germain.

It was reported that the player felt unsettled after a break in at his Cheshire home in the January, as reported by BBC Sports, this seems to have been a big factor in the players exit. However, while his numbers were still impressive in his single campaign, getting four goals and 12 assists in 32 appearances for United, fans were left with a bitter taste in their mouth at his exit.

He seemed to disrespect the club by not reporting for pre – season duty before being sold and certainly did not reward the huge transfer fee United had paid for him. These factors led to Di Maria being labelled as one of the biggest ‘flops’ in United’s history.

Paying a record transfer fee for a player who leaves under a cloud after one season can not be labelled anything other than a massive failure. 1/10.

In conclusion, United’s record with signing players from South America has become no less shaky since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson, it is still all over the place in terms of successes and failures. However, with the more recent signings of Alex Telles and Cavani, perhaps United are getting better at deciding which South American players will fit Manchester United’s playing style and rise to the challenge most effectively.

It must be noted that Columbian Radamel Falcao was not included in this list due to being a loan signing and Uruguayan Guillermo Varela was mostly used in the Under 23’s during his time at United, and therefore could not be evaluated properly. 

Written by Jennifer McCord

Memphis Depay: Right player, wrong time?

In June 2015 Manchester United announced the signing of Memphis Depay from PSV Eindhoven for a reported fee of £31 million, at the age of 21 Depay said; ‘This is a dream come true for me, a new chapter in my life and one that I am looking forward to’, as reported by BBC Sport.

Things could not have looked better for the youngster, he had been brought to the club by Louis Van Gaal, a manager he had played under for his national team of the Netherlands, and he was seemingly ready to take the next step in his career. 

In his first season at the club Depay made 45 appearances across all competitions, scoring seven goals and getting six assists. While these stats are not abysmal, it is safe to say United fans were hoping for more from a player who cost £31 million and came with a big reputation. 

Things unfortunately went from bad to worse for the winger after the sacking of Louis van Gaal in May of 2016, mere days after securing the FA Cup for United, as reported by BBC Sport. United hired manager Jose Mourinho, a serial winner, but a manager known for putting his trust in veteran players instead of youth, players such as Depay had reason to be concerned. 

Under Mourinho, Depay only played a total of 134 minutes across all competitions, this was nowhere near enough time for the attacker to prove his ability and the player made no attacking returns during this time

It was clear that the manager had no interest in Depay, so when it was announced in January of 2017 that Depay had been sold to French side Lyon for a fee that could rise to £21.7 million, as reported by Sky Sports, it was no surprise for United fans. The young Dutchman’s time and United had come to a disappointing end. 

In the remainder of the 2016/17 season, Depay made an impact at Lyon, making 18 appearances, scoring five goals and getting eight assists. Already, Depay had matched the amount of attacking contributions he made in 18 months at United in under six months in Ligue 1. 

Of course, it must be noted here that Ligue 1 is a much slower league than the Premier League, and for an expressive winger like Depay, this tempo can highlight the strengths of their game while failing to expose their weaknesses.

Players who have failed to make an impact in the Premier League have gone to the French league and looked like world beaters, such as United flop Angel Di Maria. 

In the following season, however, Depay came into his own, making 51 appearances across all competitions, scoring 22 goals and getting 17 assists. He was the talisman of a Lyon side that finished third in the league that season, being their top goal scorer and assister in the league with 19 goals and 13 assists. Depay had seemingly found his feet and was fulfilling his potential.  

The winger maintained steady numbers in his next three seasons at the club, and in his final season for the club in 2020/21 Depay scored 22 goals and 12 assists in 40 appearances. Once again, this season, the winger finished as Lyons top goal scorer and top assister in the league, with 20 goals and 12 assists respectively

It seemed as though Depay had done all he could in France, he had proven the player he can be when given the room to grow and express himself, something we has not given towards the end of this time at United. 

In the summer of 2021, after developing his game in France, it was announced that Depay would sign for Spanish giant Barcelona, with his contract at Lyon coming to an end. This was the move that the winger had been waiting for, a big club in a tough league and regular Champions League football to match the performances he had consistently been putting in at Lyon. 

After the departure of talisman Lionel Messi in the summer of 2021, immense responsibility had landed on the shoulders of Depay, however, he seems to be dealing with the pressure much better than he did as a youngster at United, scoring five goals and having two assists to his name already across all competitions.

For United fans, it is a bittersweet sight to see Depay succeed at a club like Barcelona, it proves that the young winger their club signed in 2015 could have blossomed into a crucial player for the club if he had been given the time to bed into a tough league. 

The Dutchman now mainly plays as a centre forward, a position United have filled with ageing, but elite strikers, in Cristiano Ronaldo and Edinson Cavani. Perhaps, in time, Depay would have proven a better investment than Anthony Martial, who is still at the club and plays in the same positions but has not fulfilled his potential since signing in the same summer as Depay. 

Depay seems to be a case of right player, wrong time. Had he signed for Lyon from PSV instead of making the huge jump at such a young age to a club as big as United, he could still be at the club today and making an impact. Instead, United fans can be happy to see a former player succeed at the top level, even if his form begs the question, ‘what if?’. 

Written by Jennifer McCord

AS Roma manager Jose Mourinho to target Diogo Dalot in January – reports

AS Roma manager, Jose Mourinho, is reported interested in signing Diogo Dalot for theItalian club during the January transfer window.

It was suggested during the summer that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was keen to sell the right-back as he was rumoured to be interested in signing Kieran Tripper of Atletico Madrid but the fee the Spanish champions wanted for the player was too high. Dalot ended up remaining at United and has been given minutes.

However, that does not suggest that the player actually has a future at United under Solskjaer, although it would be fair to give him a chance as he is a talented player and could be what United need, as long as he gets the time to show his ability.

According to Calciomercato, Mourinho wants to sign the player for the second time in his career, signing him about six months before he was sacked by United. The self-entitled ‘special one’ feels that his compatriot would add experience to the right-back position at the club with Rick Karsdorp the first-choice player at the club currently.

The 22-year-old has just under two years left on his contract at United and despite being retained by the club this season, he has made two appearances, playing just 53 minutes of football for the club. It is expected that he could replace Aaron Wan-Bissaka in the right-back position against West Ham United on Wednesday evening in the Carabao Cup at Old Trafford, which may give him a chance to shine.

Three years into his United career, Dalot has made just 37 appearances for the club, scoring one goal and three assists. Last season, the player was loaned to Italian side AC Milan, who were interested in keeping the player this season, but nothing was agreed. The 22-year-old made 33 appearances for the club last season, scoring two goals and three assists, so has something in his locker if given a chance.

Dalot could be an important player for the future if he finds his feet at the Old Trafford club. Just playing in the Carabao Cup, the Emirates FA Cup and the lower level UEFA Champions League matches will not help him show what he has about him – he needs to be tested in the Premier League, not just as a rotation option.

Dalot is an attacking fullback who can play on both the left and the right. When playing in his favoured position, right-back, he plays as a ‘pseudo wing-back’ where he tucks in and reduces the numerical advantage when the opposition overload the midfield. In possession, he plays as a normal winger, which would suit United as Wan-Bissaka does not attack as well as he perhaps should.

The 22-year-old Portuguese fullback has the technical ability to create chances and can cross the ball and be a constant attacking threat – which is what United seemingly saw in Trippier. If Dalot could offer that, given the chance, he could well add pressure for Wan-Bissaka this season.

Solskjaer will need to think about his plans for Dalot this season as if he’s going to be looked at every so often, he’s going to want to leave the club to find a club that will give him the paying time.

United clearly have other options they are seeking, with Tripper hotly linked to the club in the summer, so Dalot being at the club now could just be because United were not able to sell him.

If Mourinho does want to buy him for Roma in the summer, and the club are able to do a deal with United which matches the fee they would like to receive for the player, as two years will run by quickly, I am sure the Portuguese manager will get his man.

However, if United have plans for the Portuguese right-back, I am sure they will try and ensure that he is not sold but he will need regular playing time at the club in order to placate the player. That said, he has not really been a regular under Solskjaer in his time at the club having played just 37 times, although the majority of them come under the Norwegian.

Personally, I would like to see Dalot given a good crack at the whip this season, which could see him become one of the first names on the team sheet providing he puts in the performances he is capable of. Dalot seems happy that Cristiano Ronaldo returned to the club this summer and that Bruno Fernandes is at the club, of which they are just two of the players he could supply from the flanks.

I am sure that over the next couple of months, we will see what Solskjaer’s plans are for Dalot and providing he gets the minutes on the pitch, he will know whether he can fight for his place at United or whether he needs to be searching for a new club. Providing Mourinho has the money to sign Dalot permanently, it could be a route out of Old Trafford for him.

Written by John Walker

Is Fred of the standard a Manchester United player should be?

Since Fred’s arrival at Manchester United in 2018 for £47 million, he’s been the subject of support but also on the contrary a lot of criticism. He’s never been seen as the perfect player but with the gradual improvement in the United squad the issues in the middle are coming to the surface more prominently. 

Fred’s time at the club so far has been mixed. When he arrived in 2019 for such an expensive transfer fee, expectations were high. Fred struggled to settle in for many months and rarely played under then coach Jose Mourinho. Even back then United had midfield issues and as he settled, he was seen as the man to change that. 

In the 2018/19 season he only played 17 games in the league racking up 1,044 minutes whereas in the 2019/20 season he played 29 games with 2,159 minutes which was over double the previous season. This illustrates Fred’s progression since his signing as with a consistent run of games in the team he looked far more secure and became one of the first names on the team sheet. 

This season, his place is more competitive as with Paul Pogba dropping into midfield but still racking up assists, he becomes un-droppable and Nemanja Matic’s strong performances also give him a shout for starting.

To ensure Fred’s stays in this United team he must prove to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer that he is fit to play in a more adventurous pivot and not always the timid approach seen for most of last season. 

If he can become that proper defensive midfielder and not half of one, he could sustain his place in the team for years to come but with a midfielder high up on the list of priorities next summer he must show this progression very soon to have a chance of keeping his spot.

Fred usually sits in a two-man pivot often with Scott McTominay and sometimes Pogba or Matic. Despite originally playing in an advanced role for Shakhtar Donetsk his best qualities are more defensive. Fred has a fantastic engine which helps him power through games enabling him to press well even in the latter stages of games. 

He’s got a low centre of gravity and is very tenacious meaning he can cover ground quickly and can stick a foot in to stop oppositions attacks. The main issue with Fred is his overall game. He has some strong attributes but needs someone next to him to complete a one-man role.

He’s often played as United’s defensive midfielder, and the key fundamental parts of that role is the shielding of the back four, collecting the ball off the centre halves, transitioning it forward and just basic progression of the ball. 

Fred lacks in each of these areas. Unlike more natural defensive midfielders like Fabinho or Fernandinho, Fred can’t read the game to the highest degree and thus can leave the defence exposed meaning Solskjaer often feels like he must put a more solid midfielder next to him. He can intercept some passes, but his positioning can be off and when countered the game can pass him by. 

Furthermore, his first touch is quite weak which means when passing out the back, Fred can be susceptible to losing control of the ball and being put under pressure from the oppositions press or just give the ball away with his lose passing. He often needs excess touches to get the ball under control and when he does pass its often sideways or a loose pass forward. 

This lack of ball progression ability hinders United as a team’s overall play as the ball can’t be transitioned quickly which gives the opposition time to re-group and settle in their defensive structure which United in turn then struggle to break down. 

When playing, Fred positively effects United’s pressing tempo as he always chases down the ball but can hinder the tempo of the passing with his need for multiple touches. However, as Matic ages, his tenacious playstyle helps United defensively as he can cover the ground well not leaving acres of space. 

Overall, I feel Fred is a good player, but he is not of Manchester United standard as he isn’t a complete player and can be the hinderance stopping United’s fast flowing football. He could become useful squad depth but shouldn’t be starting as he can become a liability as Solskjaer then must use two players to fill one role which slows the whole team down. 

Ultimately, if he can improve on his weaknesses he could reach the United level, but with him being at the club for a couple years now and still struggling to pass the ball accurately, I feel he just isn’t of United standard and Solskjaer should look to bring in a proper defensive midfielder when he next has the opportunity.

Written by Ethan Bents

Ander Herrera: The fans’ favourite

Ander Herrera signed for Manchester United in 2014 for £28.5 million becoming Louis van Gaal’s first signing at the club since his arrival after the sacking of David Moyes. Herrera was a young tenacious midfield, willing to put in the graft to get the results necessary. This made him incredibly likeable amongst the supporters and he soon became a fans favourite.

Van Gaal’s style of football was very tentative looking to keep the ball and progressively move up the pitch. As a result, this needed quality passes and Herrera had that in his locker. As well as his good passing, Herrera had formidable fitness enabling him to keep running throughout the duration of the game ensuring that United were never short of a pair of legs in the midfield. 

However, his time at United wasn’t completely straight forward as he wasn’t always guaranteed a starting spot in the team. Plenty of midfielders came and went during his reign at United and despite playing lots of football, at times the jury was out as to whether he was the right calibre of player starting at United. 

Very little doubted his worth to the squad but at times for the role of a ‘box to box’ midfielder he didn’t provide many goal contributions. On the other hand, when Herrera did score, it was often in big occasions. His most important goal was against Tottenham Hotspur in the FA Cup semi-final as his contribution cemented United’s comeback to send them through to the FA Cup final which they subsequently lost to Chelsea. 

Furthermore, another big moment of Herrera’s reign was his assist against Manchester City to stop them winning the title against their local rivals. But the biggest moment of Herrera’s tenure at United was his Ji-Sung Park-esque performance against Chelsea tracking their talisman Eden Hazard wherever he went. 

Hazard wasn’t even given enough space to tie his shoelaces as Herrera was always there hassling him. This role ensured that Hazard was of little effect to Chelsea and United secured the 2-0 victory in April of 2017. Subsequently, Herrera actually won 2017 player of the year after recording eleven assists in 50 appearances and winning the EFL cup and Europa League. 

Herrera started off strongly at United but towards the middle of his time at the club he faded slightly and was benched more often. However, when Jose Mourinho came in this all changed. Mourinho is a stubborn manager who is often set in his ways but when he appreciates a player’s value, he’s rated incredibly highly hereafter. 

Mourinho liked Herrera’s reliability and trustworthiness as it was a player he could rely on in an inconsistent United squad. Therefore, Herrera became a key member of the squad and with the trust from the manager improving, so did his performances. Herrera knew what it meant to wear the United shirt and held immense pride in doing so and gradually as he played more the love from the supporters grew also until he became a fan favourite. 

However, in the summer of 2019, Herrera’s time at United was up as the board let his contract run down and an agreement for a new extended contract was never reached. Since his departure, United have lacked Herrera’s fighting spirit and quality of passing and have been looking for replacements in the midfield ever since. 

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has become reliant on Scott McTominay and Fred as his midfield duo but there’s clear fundamental issues with the pairing as they are two players doing one man’s role and United would benefit greatly with the quality of Herrera in the midfield now. 

Did the board make the right decision in letting Herrera go or should they have fulfilled his wishes and let him stay a couple more years?

Ultimately, I feel that despite the increasing wage demands, Herrera justified it as he always performed when needed and was a great example for the younger players and with him gone United have struggled to find the right balance in the midfield ever since. 

So, in conclusion I feel United made a mistake in letting Herrera leave the club and would be a better team with him in the squad right now.

Written by Ethan Bents

James Wilson: The Forgotten Golden Boy

Before Marcus Rashford, Mason Greenwood and Shola Shoretire, the name on every Manchester United fans’ lips, the next ‘big thing’ to come from the famed Manchester United Academy, was one James Wilson. A Staffordshire boy, at the club since the age of seven, seemingly with all the attributes to be a successful striker for the first team, Wilson was giving every Manchester United fan reason to be excited. So why did it not work out for the young striker? Was it ability, circumstance, or plain bad luck? 

Wilsons introduction to the first team could not have gone any better, in his First Premier league start, under caretaker manager Ryan Giggs, Wilson scored two goals helping United towards a 3-1 win against Hull City. This debut, in front of an Old Trafford crowd who had just witnessed one of the poorest seasons in recent memory of the club in the 2013/14 season, meant that Wilson was soon being heralded as ‘the next big thing’ to come out of the academy.

Scoring against Hull made Wilson the fourth youngest player to score a Premier League goal for Manchester United at the time, at the age of 18 years, five months, and five days, as BBC Sport reported. This record instantly put Wilsons’s name in the limelight as he scored at a younger age that Manchester United legends such as Ryan Giggs and Cristiano Ronaldo, these types of stats and records instantly lead to excitement around a player, which can be easy to not live up to, which in this case is what unfortunately happened to James Wilson. 

The following season promised a fresh start for all players under new manager Louis Van Gaal, a manager who also had a rich history of giving youth players a chance. However, Van Gaal signed Radamel Falcao on loan from Monaco leaving Wilson as Manchester United’s fifth choice striker behind Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie, Radamel Falcao, and Danny Welbeck.

This led to a very disappointing season for James Wilson, appearing only seventeen times in all competitions, scoring two goals, for a season that was supposed to be his breakthrough, these numbers were disappointing to fans and pundits alike, leading to the ‘golden boy’ shine leaving Wilson and instead being put onto new up and coming players at the club such as new signing Memphis Depay and on loan attacking midfielder Jesse Lingard. Over the course of twelve months James Wilson had gone from Golden Boy, to forgotten prospect. 

To get more playing time and to get back into reckoning with Louis Van Gaal, Wilson went on loan to Brighton in the Championship. Loans have been used by the club for youth prospects with varying results, some can be the making of a player such as James Garner who recently had a stellar season, as Manchester United reported, at Nottingham Forest, others can be more damaging to a player’s confidence, such as Adnan Januzaj’s failed loan move to Borussia Dortmund.

For Wilson, Brighton was valuable in terms of playing time, as he made 25 appearances in a league which is notoriously hard to find your feet in, in terms of goal numbers however, it was still disappointing with him only scoring five goals during the season. Wilson did enough for United to want to keep him on the books, giving him another loan in the Championship, this time to Derby County. 

The loan to Derby County is where most would point to as the moment things really went from bad to worse for Wilson, as after failing to score in his first four appearances for the club, he got a serious knee injury in training. The injury was to his anterior cruciate ligament and led to surgery, which in turn meant a long spell on the side-lines for Wilson, as BBC Sport reported. Derby manager Steve McClaren noted at the time that he was ‘looking forward to working with Wilson’ before his injury, according to BBC Sport.

This could imply that had it not been for the injury, McClaren was a manager who believed in Wilsons’s ability, and had Wilson flourished under him in that season at Derby, his career trajectory could have looked much different. This was the turning point that Wilson would unfortunately never bounce back from, a serious injury and a loan spell cut short meant that the striker was well and truly out of the plans of the Manchester United first team, only two seasons after his breakthrough debut. 

Wilson was sent out on loan twice more by Manchester United, to Sheffield United and Aberdeen respectively, with the latter club securing Wilson on a permanent move after he was released by Manchester United in 2019,with the club reportedly fending off interest from Sunderland to land the striker, as reported by the Daily Mail. This permanent move signalled the end of Wilsons times at Manchester United, a club he had played for since the age of seven, he officially had not broken through to the first team as many had predicted he would during the 2013/14 season.

However, to brand Wilson a failure would be unjust as his name will always be on the record books as being one of the youngest players to score a Premier League goal for Manchester United, and no one can take away his debut goals in front of a packed Old Trafford, something that many academy players dream about and never get the chance to live out. With Wilson now playing his club football at Port Vale after a goalless season at Aberdeen, and a disappointing season at Salford City, with the striker only netting nine goals in twenty-nine appearances, there is still time for him to leave his mark on the game.

Still only 25, the striker has every chance of turning it around and becoming the striker everyone saw glimpses of in the early days of his career. It goes without saying that every Manchester United fan who remembers the 2013/14 season will always wish James Wilson well for being one of few glimmers of hope and excitement during a turbulent time at the club, he will always be one of their own.

Written by Jennifer McCord

Manchester United’s best signing post-Sir Alex Ferguson

Manchester United have made 38 signings since Sir Alex Ferguson retired with some very successful players as well as others who failed to live up-to any expectations. Putting on that prestigious United shirt brings with it a lot of pressure and thus a sign of a good player is one who wears the shirt with pride but also lives up-to the names that followed before him. 

This article will explore the best signings, but firstly the lows. One of the worst signings Manchester United have made post Ferguson is Angel Di Maria. Di Maria arrived as a world class player from Real Madrid in 2014 but left within twelve months for Paris Saint-Germain. He cost the club £67.5 million but left for only £56.7 million. He was the perfect example of a player who didn’t want to play for the club but was transferred for the brand appeal, and shirt sales rather than his footballing impact.

Since his departure from United, reports have come out of him ‘hating the club’ and he’s widely seen as a massive flop. He showed glimpses of world class ability especially seen with a fantastic chip against Leicester but his poor attitude, and inability to deal with the physical aspects of the Premier League saw him become one of United’s worst ever signings.

Next is Alexis Sanchez. This was one of the most hyped-up deals in transfer history, as every United fan thought he was going to become the game changer. Through a swap deal with Arsenal for Henrikh Mkhitaryan, he went to United for free, but the best thing about his time at United was his announcement video… He had one standout game against Manchester City in that famous 3-2 turnaround but never lived up-to any expectations and with his astronomical wages became a signing to forget for United.

Now onto the better signings. Juan Mata was the second signing made post Ferguson and was one of the most successful as he’s still here to this day. Despite slowing down in recent seasons, Mata has been a loyal servant to the club who’s a fantastic role model to others around him. On the field he has a magnificent first touch and has vision like a hawk. 

Another good signing post Ferguson was Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The Swedish striker was a high-profile figure when he signed from PSG and brought that high profile ability as well. Before his injury he scored 17 goals in the league and was pivotal to the sustainability of this United team. The downfall of his United career was the long-term injury he obtained in a Europa league game which ultimately ended his chances at United.

Players like Luke Shaw, Harry Maguire, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Sergio Romero have been decent signings who have helped this United team progress and move forward. Romero was a loyal second choice goalkeeper who always gave it his best and saved United on a couple occasions and Shaw, Wan-Bissaka and Maguire are regular first-teamers now who have helped improve United’s defending a lot since their arrivals.

But the best signing United have made since Sir Alex Ferguson retired is Bruno Fernandes. Bruno Fernandes came to United in the 2020 January transfer window in desperation as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer needed a midfielder due to the injuries of Paul Pogba and Scott McTominay at the time. Fernandes was hoped to be that creative player who could make that opportunity for the forwards like Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial but he proved to be a lot more than that. 

Since his arrival no other player in the Premier League has more goals and assists than Bruno Fernandes. He has 48 goals and assists in 52 league games which is a phenomenal output for an attacking midfielder. Often the sign of a good player is when rival fans can’t do anything but hate him and with Fernandes, he fits that category. At first, he was called ‘Penandes’ due to his high output of penalties that are supposedly easy, however, in the summer this proved harder than many thought, and now rival fans are calling him a centre forward because they can’t fathom how an attacking midfielder does what Fernandes does and jealousy is at the heartbeat of this as they would take him in a split-second if they could.

‘Inevitability’ is a common word used to describe Fernandes, as even when he’s not performing at his best he’ll always do something to change a game. This can be used against him though, as some critics will say his overall performances are weak and one five-yard pass then makes people call him world class, but often these critics don’t watch him enough or watch United enough to see the sheer impact he had on this United team.

Before he came in, United lacked all ability to create and had very little flow to their build up play, but when Fernandes came in this all changed. He has a brilliant ability to find pockets of space in between the oppositions defence piercing their shape, before picking up the ball, turning on it and either using his long-distance shooting ability or fantastic passing ability to progress the ball onto the forwards.

Fernandes becomes the link that connects the midfield to the forwards and without him, United struggle to have a man that can be this link and thus the attack becomes stationary and tends to go sideways rather than forwards and usually results in it withering out. Furthermore, another key attribute to his game is his leadership. In recent years, this United team has lacked vocal leaders with a winning mentality and Fernandes defines this. He’s a winner at heart and so if United don’t win you can see his disappointment.

In addition, his winning mentality helps spur on the other players bringing that belief that United can still win however little time is left which was seen on a number of occasions last season with late comebacks. Fernandes has now won over many fans but there still a split in the fanbase that creates divisions between players such that if Pogba is world class Fernandes can’t be. But for the majority his unbelievable numbers and performances in general have swayed their belief in his favour.

Another argument that is put up against him is his ability in big games. However, I feel many people have seen one person say it and now are firmly in belief of this agenda despite whatever Fernandes does he’ll be seen as weak in the big games. Whereas, in a number of big games like against AC Milan, Fernandes has shown up, but people choose to ignore this. Then finally, some feel that as he hasn’t won a trophy for United, he can’t be deemed as successful, but the overall impact he has had is impossible to ignore and United have only come close to winning these trophies as a result of his signing.

Therefore, despite signings like, Ibrahimovic and Mata, Fernandes is the best signing Manchester United have made post Sir Alex Ferguson as he’s had the biggest impact on the team providing impeccable numbers and has been a major factor in the team’s progression in recent years. Fernandes now must secure United a trophy to solidify himself as a United great.

Written by Ethan Bents

Ranking Manchester United’s Best XI post-Sir Alex Ferguson

Since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement in 2013, Manchester United have been on a rocky path back to trying to win the Premier League title. When playing at this historic football club there is an expectation to win silverware, but United have only managed to win five trophies post-Ferguson. One FA Community Shield under David Moyes, an Emirates FA Cup with Louis van Gaal and the FA Community Shield, EFL Cup and the UEFA Europa League under Jose Mourinho.

During this period, United have seen some quality players come and go and this article will present my best Manchester United XI with all the players from this period.

Firstly, the easiest pick of the lot is David De Gea. The Spanish keeper has been at the club since 2011 and has established himself as a United great in this time. He’s put in some of the greatest individual goalkeeping performances in Premier League history with a famous game against Arsenal in which he made a record 14 saves including a tremendous double save to secure United a crucial victory. He has an unbelievable shot stopping ability and was seen as one of the best goalkeepers in the world at one point if not the best. The only competition for this spot would be Sergio Romero who has been a loyal servant to the club but no match for De Gea.

Next is Right-Back. This one is a trickier pick as there’s more competition between Antonio Valencia, Rafael da Silva and Aaron Wan-Bissaka. Unlike De Gea, United have changed right fullback a couple times in recent years but for me the best of the three was Antonio Valencia. Wan Bissaka is a fantastic tackler but his all-round game has lacked and can be a liability at the back post when defending. Rafael da Silva was a loyal player who always worked hard but he was shipped out in Van Gaal’s reign and Valencia took his spot at right back.

Valencia started off his career as right winger but was gradually pushed further back. He was a speedy full back who had a great longshot on his day. He was renowned for his step overs before using his good crossing ability to put a ball in the box. He may not be as strong defensively as Wan-Bissaka but going forward he was good and was robust defensively so he goes in at the right-back.

Next is the centre half partnership. The centre back positions at United have been a place for discussion in the last eight years as they’ve struggled to replace the conquering partnership of Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand. However, in this period, I feel the two best defenders have been Chris Smalling and Harry Maguire. Smalling was a key member of the United team for many years helping them stay afloat in troubling times.

Despite his latter years at the club not being too successful, his importance from post-Ferguson to 2016 is undoubted. Maguire may be a more controversial pick despite only having played two full seasons at the club, but for me he is in the team due to his impact he has had on this back four. Before his signing, United were consistently shaky always being bailed out by De Gea but his signing brought stability and leadership at the back which has helped United keep far more clean sheets and become far more solid defensively. 

At Left-Back its between Ashley Young and Luke Shaw. Young was a Ferguson signing and like Valencia was formally a winger converted into a left-back. At his best he was dangerous offensively with great speed and decent free kick taking. Defensively he wasn’t the best but was stable. Gradually as he got older, he became more liable to mistakes and fell off heavily. Whereas Shaw on the other hand has done the opposite. When he signed in 2014, he was highly promising and looked to have a huge future ahead. But one horror tackle later and he’s struggled to reach the form he once achieved at Southampton.

However, in the last couple seasons he’s improved massively solidifying himself as United’s number one. In the 2020/21 season he got even better with many ranking him as the best left-back in the world that season. Therefore, in my left back slot I will choose Shaw as I feel he’s come the furthest out of any of these players and is now a brilliant player.

The midfield three is an important yet easy choice. Wayne Rooney, Michael Carrick, and Bruno Fernandes make up the three. Although on paper this would be very offensive, I feel they are the best midfielders since Ferguson retired. Rooney although not an out and out midfielder did play further back towards the end of his United tenure and was a pivotal player in keeping United competitive. His versatility was key to helping bring some of the youngsters like Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford through. Carrick is the type of player United currently miss with his fantastic passing ability, coolness on the ball, great first touch and brilliant reading of the game to stop oppositional attacks.

Fernandes is likely the most disputed pick of the three but for me he’s had an impact like no other in recent years. Before his arrival, United desperately needed creativity and he optimises this with his brilliant passing and vision. Furthermore, he has a real potent threat offensively breaking Frank Lampard’s goalscoring record in a season from midfield. Granted, he’s not the safest in possession and can give the ball away but his work-rate, leadership and his overall effect on this Manchester United team is unmatched.

Finally, the front three. These three are the hardest to choose as United have had some great forwards in recent years. To combat this, I’m going to use two strikers and a number 10 as the combined three. As the number 10 I will go with Juan Mata. Since his signing in January 2014, he’s been a fan favourite with his silky dribbling and impeccable first touch. He has a fantastic footballing brain and his impeccable conduct at the club makes him such a great role model to the younger players. Although not being such a prominent member of the first team in recent years, he’s still showed glimpses of his former self helping United progress through Europa League knockout rounds. 

The two strikers are the hardest positions to choose as there’s options like Rashford who’s played upfront and off the left, Martial, Robin van Persie, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Edinson Cavani. Arguably all of these forwards haven’t been a consistent first choice striker for United for more than two seasons making it had to have a distinct best player. Therefore, I will go with one option for more longevity and one for peak season. On longevity Rashford takes my pick.

Now, as a player he may not have been the best of the lot but he’s been at the club for a lot longer than Cavani, Van Persie, or Ibrahimovic were and thus deserves a spot. Arguably, Martial could be an option especially due to his 17-league goal campaign in the 2019/20 season, but I feel Rashford has slightly more to his game due to his creation as well as goal scoring ability. Even with numerous injury problems he managed to produce 36 goal contributions with 11 goals and 11 assists in the league

Whereas, in Van Persie’s best league season post Ferguson, he scored 12 goals as the centre forward and likewise Cavani only managed 10 in the league last season. Therefore, despite Rashford not being as well regarded as Cavani or Van Persie, for him to put numbers up like this deserves a spot. Then finally, the last spot goes to Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Although only a key member of the squad for one season, the impact Ibrahimovic had was huge. He scored 17 goals and managed five assists in the league as well as being instrumental in United winning the League Cup against Southampton and helping United win the Europa League before a big injury which prevented him from playing in the final.

With young attackers like Rashford and Martial, his experience and footballing brain improved United going forward comprehensively as he became a link to the pair as they played off of him. Cavani had a good year last season, but Ibrahimovic scored more, assisted more and led United to trophies which Cavani has failed to do so far and thus that is why Ibrahimovic is the final player in my team.

Overall, this is the final team:

Written by Ethan Bents

Idols: Wayne Rooney Captain, Leader, Legend

On the 31 August 2004, Manchester United signed 18-year-old Wayne Rooney from Everton in a deal worth £27 million. Throughout the month, Everton received an offer of £20 million from Newcastle United after Rooney rejected a new contract worth £50,000 per week. He also handed in a transfer request two leave Goodison Park. United had paid the highest transfer fee at the time for a player under the age of 20. United manager Sir Alex Ferguson knew the type of player Rooney could become after his exploits with Everton. Since emerging as a 16-year-old, scoring 17 goals in 77 appearances before leaving for United.

Rooney had become now of the most sought-after players in Europe following his two seasons at Everton. Also having a starring role for England at Euro 2004, in which he scored four goals, matching new United teammate Ruud van Nistelrooy’s efforts for the Netherlands. Perhaps Ferguson knew what Rooney could achieve at United? If he continued to work hard and develop. The legend would spend 13 seasons at United and win all the major honours at the club, helping United to reach the pinnacle of European football once again under the reign of Ferguson, who did so for the second time in his career.

Rooney made a total of 559 appearances for United, scoring 253 goals and 146 assists. This meant that he offered a goal every 2.21 matches and a goal contribution every 1.40 matches. Rooney had a hand in 399 goals for United, which is a great figure for a player that really played in quite a few roles at the club. He played the main striking position. Also as a second striker, attacking midfielder, a winger. He even played as a defensive midfield at the end of his career. Rooney offered everything he has for much of his United career, keeping United ticking and earning the plaudits. Rooney also played 12 matches for England, scoring 53 goals.

Coming to United as a player with lots of talent.

In his first season at United, Rooney showed what he could become. On his debut for the club, against Fenerbahce in the UEFA Champions League, Rooney scored his first hat-trick for the club as United beat the Turkish club 6-2, scoring 17 goals and six assists in 43 appearances. Rooney averaged 19.46 goals for the club each season and regularly hit around the 20 goal mark each season. During two seasons (2009/10 and 2011/12) he scored 34 goals for the club. In his final season at the club (2016/17) he scored just eight goals for the club. In total, he scored eight hat-tricks for United, scoring four goals in one match, which showed his ability.

His hat-trick against Fenerbahce will be special as it was his first at United, on his debut and playing in the Champions League. He also scored hat-tricks against Bolton Wanderers (twice), and Portsmouth in the Premier League. Two other special ones will be prevalent though; the one against West Ham United on the 2 April 2011 and the one against Arsenal on the 28 August 2011 as United beat the North London club 8-2. Rooney was known for driving the mentality of the club forward, always wanting to win and win trophies. In the summer of 2010, a certain transfer request from Rooney could have chanced everything.

Rooney was being linked to Real Madrid, Barcelona, Chelsea and Manchester City. He said it was never an option to sign for City and he would have chose Barcelona over Real Madrid. But the Madrid club were the likely destination. Of course, he never left United, signed a new number contract at the club and continued his career. As Sir Alex Ferguson retired at the end of the 2012/13 season, he confirmed that Rooney had handed in a transfer request once again. David Moyes, Rooney’s former manager at Everton would need to solve that problem. Rooney was sold to Everton in the summer of 2017 just after Jose Mourinho’s first season at the club.

Chasing the clubs goalscoring record and moving on.

At United, Rooney was chasing the goalscoring record set by the legendary Sir Bobby Charlton. He scored 249 goals for United in 758 appearances. Rooney broke that record by scoring his 250th goal in January 2017, scoring three more goals for the club before leaving United. Rooney also broke Charlton’s record for England too, having scored 49 goals in 106 appearances with Rooney scored 53 goals in 120 appearances. He broke the record in 2015. Rooney was a player that craved success and guided United to many trophies with his teammates. His goals were something that helped United massively along the way plus his desire to win.

Rooney won five Premier League titles at United. He also won one FA Cup, three League Cups, and four FA Community Shields. The UEFA Champions League (playing in three finals), one UEFA Europa League and one FIFA Club World Cup were the cream of the crop. Rooney captained United taking over from Nemanja Vidic in 2014, handing the captaincy over to Michael Carrick in 2017. Since his departure, Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young (who have both left) and Harry Maguire have captained the club. Rooney may be a distant memory for United now, a player that has played a part in the clubs history but he will always be remembered.

After United, Rooney went back to boyhood club Everton, staying at the club for one season before heading to the MLS in the United States of America. He played for DC United and scored 25 goals and 14 assists in 52 appearances. Rooney then returned to England signing for Championship club Derby County in 2019. He was eligible to play for the club from the 2019/20 season. He is currently the manager of the club. In the future the name Rooney might be heard against at United again as the club signed 11-year-old Kai Rooney last month, for the clubs academy. He will be sure to keep the family name alive at the club, providing he makes it there.

Written by John Walker

Tactical Analysis: A Game of Two Halves – Tottenham Hotspur 1-3 Manchester United

Manchester United gained an important three points against Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday, in a game which typified both teams’ campaigns this season. United prior to the game had amassed an impressive 28 points from losing positions and extended their impressive unbeaten away run, whereas Spurs failed to win after leading at the interval for the seventh time. What seems to have gone under the radar, is the tactical switch Ole Gunnar Solskjaer made at half time which changed his sides’ fortunes.

In what was a fairly uneventful first half an hour, Jose Mourinho will feel he had a slight tactical advantage as the game began to unfold. Marcus Rashford started on the right with Paul Pogba occupying the left, an immediate small win for Mourinho as his Spurs side no longer had to worry about Rashford’s dangerous “out to in” run in behind. Without Rashford to properly threaten the space in behind, Spurs managed to nullify United’s build up by adopting the setup below.

There are several keys here. Firstly, Spurs are marking the United midfielders’ man for man. Scott McTominay and Fred are both susceptible to poor touches under pressure and Mourinho wanted his two central midfielders tight to them, to either capitalise on any mistakes or eliminate them as an option. Pierre Hojbjerg would then man mark Bruno Fernandes. In addition, note Harry Kane’s position as he splits the two central defenders. Spurs are happy for Lindelof to have to ball here, as they are effectively limiting his options to just Aaron Wan-Bissaka. Again, Mourinho knows Wan-Bissaka is arguably United’s weakest player in possession and Son continuously applied intense pressure as soon as Wan-Bissaka received the ball, as illustrated below.

For the first half an hour, this pattern of play happened regularly when United had possession in their own half. The game plan in possession seemed to centre around avoiding giving Spurs any turnovers in possession in dangerous areas and looking for long balls into Pogba, who had a significant height advantage over Serge Aurier. 

The United game plan out of possession, was to get tight to the Spurs front three to either win possession or keep them with their backs to goal. Solskjaer understood the importance of minimising the link up between Son and Kane specifically and the example below was another common theme throughout the first half. 

However, Spurs whole game plan in possession was understandably to find ways to get the ball into Harry Kane and ultimately led to the first goal. 

At half time, Solskjaer made a crucial tactical tweak by changing to a diamond set up, which allowed United to completely control the second half and ultimately win the game. Firstly, Pogba came central which nullified Spurs’ man to man stronghold in midfield as they were now overloaded. There are several examples below where Lo Celso did not know whether to press or whether to sit next to Hojbjerg in a 4-2-3-1.

Secondly, McTominay began to drop into defence to allow Wan-Bissaka to get further forward as highlighted here. 

With McTominay dropping between Lindelof and Wan-Bissaka, it either allowed him to either get time in possession or draw a Spurs midfielder out with him, leaving more space in the centre for United to exploit. This also solved United’s first half issue of Wan-Bissaka being trapped on the touchline by Son, as he began to position himself further up the field towards Reguilon. Luke Shaw also became more involved in the game, as Spurs were unable to restrict United to the right-hand side of the pitch like they did in the first half. 

As a result of the tactical tweaks, United began to play with more intensity. The passing became quicker, the rotations in midfield became more frequent and they started to apply a full press on Spurs, cementing themselves in the opposition half. Subsequently, United were able to create frequent goalscoring opportunities which led to three very well worked goals. The goals themselves all included individual class, but they were also a perfect example of how the right set up allows players to flourish. The first half setup was all about containing the opposition and United suffered in possession. Once Solskjaer adapted his tactics, United took control of the game and Spurs never really recovered.

Written by Chris Greening

copyright: JW