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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

Where Are They Now? Nick Powell – raw talent at Crewe led him to United move but it did not work out for him

On the 2 July 2012, Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson purchased Nick Powell, 18, from Crewe Alexandra for a fee of £4 million which could have been worth £6 million with add-ons – the transfer was confirmed on the 12 June 2012. The 18-year-old was noticed by United following his exploits for Crewe in a season that the club qualifies for the League Two play-off, winning it by beating Cheltenham Town 2-0 with Powell scoring the second goal – a volley from outside of the box and into the top corner of the goal. Powell won both the Young Player of the Year and Player of the Year awards for his club that season. Sir Alex Ferguson, the United manager at the time, stated:

“We have scouted Nick for months now. He is an exceptional talent and has been schooled well at Crewe. I’m delighted he has chosen to come to United. He has a lot to offer and we are all looking forward to working with him.”

During the 2011/12 season at Crewe, Powell made a total of 45 appearances, scoring 16 goals and eight assists, which was a good achievement for a player of his age. Ferguson saw his talent, which was a bit on the raw side, seeing the potential in the player. On moving to United, Powell made his debut in a pre-season coming off the bench in a 1-1 draw with Ajax Cape Town then starting four days later against Shanghai Shenhua, a 1-0 victory for United. The 18-year-old made his competitive debut against Wigan Athletic, scoring the fourth goal in a 4-0 victory in the Premier League.

During his debut season at United, Powell made a total of six appearances for the first team, scoring one goal, making 10 appearances at youth level, scoring four goals and one assist. During the 2013/14 season, after the retirement of Ferguson, David Moyes loaned Powell to Wigan Athletic where he made 41 appearances for the club, scoring 12 goals and three assists – three goals and one assist in the UEFA Europa League. Powell spoke to the Manchester Evening News about the retirement of Ferguson, which came as a shock to him, hearing the news after coming round after surgery, saying:

“I remember waking up from my back operation and he’d announced his retirement. So I had no idea, woke up and then he’d retired.

“I remember saying before that I didn’t want my op, as United had pretty much won the league by then and you needed 10 appearances to get a medal – I was on two or three. I made a couple of bench appearances and I was really enjoying the time, even though I wasn’t playing. He [Ferguson] told me exactly what I was getting into and I didn’t mind that.

“Then to get that news when you wake up from an operation when that was the whole reason you went to the club in the first place…yeah it was a kick in the teeth.

“It was always going to be different when Sir Alex retired. If he wasn’t there and I didn’t have a phone call and meetings with him, I probably wouldn’t have gone to United. So it was always going to be a downhill spiral for me as soon as he left.”

During the 2014/15 season, this time working under Louis Van Gaal at United after the sacking of Moyes in April 2014, Powell was loaned out once again, after playing in that 4-0 League Cup defeat to MK Dons, this time to Premier League new boys Leicester City – playing three times for the first team and four times at U21 level where he scored two goals and two assists. The player returned to United during the winter transfer window after Leicester terminated the loan deal. Powell played five times at U21 level for United, scoring two goals before the end of the season.

Come the 2015/16 season, Powell was to remain at United suffering from a knee injury and needed time to recover after surgery. He made his first appearance for United in 2015 in the UEFA Champions League against VfL Wolfburg, replacing Juan Mata with United losing 3-2 and being knocked out of the competition with PSV Eindhoven beating CSKA Moscow, finishing third in the group and exiting to the Europa League. Powell made two first team appearances for United that season, making three more at U21 level, where he scored three goals and one assist.

Powell was loaned to Hull City during the winter transfer window, seeing out the remainder of the 2015/16 season at the club, making just five appearances for the club and not scoring or assisting any goals. It was safe to say that his career had gone by the way side and he was losing his love of the game, based on Ferguson retiring, injury recovery and a loss of form – the player was in a downward spiral – which was a shame to see based on the talent that had taken him to United. Speaking to the Manchester Evening News about this, Powell said:

“My time at United was poisoned by falling out of love with football. I didn’t feel like I was part of anything at the time. I was in limbo between reserves and first-team.

““I remember people trying to find me because I was late to a reserve game, reserve training, first-team training – purely because I didn’t know where I was supposed to be.

“I’d get onto one training pitch and I’d be told, ‘no, you’re over there this week’ and I’d be 10, 15 minutes late and I’d be getting fined. But nobody was talking to me, I didn’t know where I was supposed to be.”

In June 2016, United made the decision to release Powell from the club at the end of his contract, which was a four-year deal. Powell signed for Wigan as a free agent and stayed at the club for three seasons making 99 appearances, scoring 29 goals and 15 assists – making his club total 140 appearances, 41 goals and 18 assists (including his time on loan at the club from United). Powell was offered a new contract at the club which he turned down in June 2019 as confirmed by Wigan manager Paul Cook, in which he told the Wigan Post, reported by Wigan Today the following:

“Wigan Athletic could not have done any more to keep Nick at this football club. Right up until the end, this club genuinely tried their very best to be in the market to keep him here.

“Unfortunately for us – and the fans must accept this – when you find yourselves up against Stoke City, and a few other big clubs he was speaking to, it becomes impossible.

“But the biggest compliment you can pay Wigan Athletic is that it ended up being such a tough decision for him despite all that. That really is a compliment in itself.”

Powell, now 26, signed for Stoke City on the 25 June 2019 and made his debut for the club in their Championship opener against Queens Park Rangers on the 3 August 2019 but was unable to finish the match due to injury, which saw him miss the next nine matches. During the 2019/20 season, which was delayed into the summer of 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic with football all around the world suspended for around three months, made a total of 30 appearances for the club, scoring five goals and five assists.

During the 2020/21 season, Powell made 42 appearances for his club, scoring 12 goals and three assists and seems to be settling into the game and looking ahead to the future. Looking back at his time as an 18-year-old and looking like the next big things in the game, and seeing his his career developed after moving to United, many will see him making what will be seen as the biggest mistake of his career. Ferguson retiring at United was something that he was upset by, as were many other players at the Old Trafford club at the time. United are still seeking to recover from it.

Ahead of the Carabao Cup 5-4 penalty victory over Blackpool, Neil Critchley now the manager of the Lancashire club used to be the academy director of Crewe Alexandra so knew Powell. He gave some advice for the player at his new club and talked about his hope of seeking him develop his career and reach for the top of the game, which is the Premier League, a league he has played in sparingly for both United and Leicester. Critchley spoke to the Stoke Sentinel about the 26-year-old, praising the player for his ability and hoping that he finds his feet again, saying:

“It’s great to see Nick. I’m delighted when I see the way he plays. I’ve known him since he was six and he’s still the same; an unbelievable player, without doubt one of the best I’ve ever had the privilege of coaching.

“Physically he’s fantastic, he can use both feet and there’s nothing he can’t do with the ball. I spoke to Michael before the game and asked him and he spoke very well of him as well. I hope he goes on to have a really good season for Stoke this year. I want to see him do what he should be doing – scoring goals and making a difference.”

Powell was a talented teenager but he was not seen as the best player that should be kept around United following the retirement of Ferguson. Granted, the club has still not recovered from that based on the bad decisions of the hierarchy of the club, which is still happening now and the fact the footballing decisions seem to be made by people who know nothing about the game. Powell wanted to thrive at United under Ferguson but the direction under Moyes and Van Gaal were different. Critchley, talking about Powell’s future, concluded by saying:

“I hope so. He’s still young enough, he’s still got years in front of him. That’s sometimes the rollercoaster of a football career. It’s probably not gone the way he would have wanted so far but he’s still having a fantastic career, playing at some amazing football clubs.

“Has he got the ambition and hunger to be a success in the Premier League? I don’t work with him every day now but I know the type of boy he was. He absolutely loves football, lives for football and he’ll be wanting to get where probably things he can play.

“I hope he does that, either personally or by getting there with Stoke this season.”

The future looks good for the 27-year-old as his transfer to Stoke seems to have paid off with him making an impact in front of goal during the 2020/21 season. His contract is set to expire at the end of June 2021, and having been named the clubs Player of the Year for the 2020/21 season. The player is still wanted at Stoke but Financial Fair Play (FFP) and the terms the Stoke players are on at this time make it difficult for contracts to be offered but it is something that the club will be seeking to sort out this summer. Powell has not been named one the retained list published at the end of the season and has not been released either. He is also the only player pictured wearing the clubs new 2021/22 season home kit when it was unveiled, so there are obviously plans to keep him around.

Written by John Walker

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

Ranked: Every post-Sir Alex Ferguson season ranked from worst to best

On the 8 May 2013, the world of football was sent into a state of shock. Journalist rooms were sent into a state of frenzy and Manchester United fans sent into a saddened mood. Sir Alex Ferguson had announced his retirement. 

Fresh on the back of winning United’s twentieth English league title, his thirteenth, Sir Alex Ferguson would leave United needing a new manager for the first time in 27 years. After keeping his promise of knocking Liverpool off their perch, it would now fall to other managers to lead United into a new period of glory. 

Nearly eight years down the line and Old Trafford has seen four different managers (not including Ryan Giggs as interim manager) and success has been hard to find. Not many of the seasons that have followed that final Sir Alex Ferguson league title can truly be called successful. 

For the first time in the post Sir Alex Ferguson era, United can currently consider themselves in the title race. If they can keep at that current form, then it might go down as the best season since. Let me review each season since David Moyes became the first new United manager since 1986.

7. 2013/14 Season

Ah, poor David Moyes. It just wasn’t meant to be. Much has been made of whether United should have gone in for Pep Guardiola or Jose Mourinho, in order to continue the success that Sir Alex Ferguson brought to the club. In the end the honour fell to fellow Scot, Moyes. Moyes had served a long apprenticeship at Preston and then Everton, the latter leading to many plaudits coming his way. He would leave Everton on the back of finishing in the top eight, eight seasons in a row. In the 2004/05 season, they would finish fourth in the league, however, Liverpool’s win in the Champions League, prevented a well-deserved European campaign. However, failure to win a trophy in that time, runner-up in the FA Cup would be as close as he got, was a slight worry as he made the short journey from Merseyside to Manchester. 

His United tenure started well. A win in the Community Shield and an opening day 4-1 win over Swansea gave United fans optimism that it would be business as usual despite the change. You could argue, however, that would be as good as it got. A home draw against Chelsea followed and then his first Liverpool game would end in defeat. A crushing defeat to City (4-1), would leave him 0-2 in Derby games. A home defeat against West Brom, a West Brom who hadn’t won against United since 1984, left United with their worst start after six games in 24 years. 

Many more of those records would be broken as the season went on and despite a seven-game unbeaten run after that West Brom defeat, inconsistency would plague the rest of the season. Four wins in a row just before the turn of year led to hopes they had turned the corner, but the rest of the season would be a tough watch. A penalty shootout defeat to Sunderland denied United a League Cup final and 3-0 home defeats to both Liverpool and Manchester City left Moyes on the brink. Hope of a shock win over Bayern Munich in the Champions League was quickly extinguished and despite back to back wins scoring four goals in both games, defeat away, cruelly ironically, to his former club Everton meant David Moyes would fail to see at his first season at the club. Ryan Giggs took the final four games and would blood in a few youngsters, a bright spark being James Wilson scoring twice on his debut. 

Moyes ripped up the backroom staff that had sent many years under Sir Alex Ferguson and knew the ins and outs of the club. In hindsight, it was a bad move, but you can’t blame him too much to want to stamp his on authority at a club where one manager had led for so long. Many would point to the squad not being the best it could have been when Sir Alex Ferguson left and that United failed to get in the player’s he wanted to boost the squad. Of course, it was also a first season for new executive vice-chairman, Ed Woodward. Criticism over transfer dealings continue to this day but bringing in only Marouane Fellaini did not help the cause. Juan Mata signed in the new year, but it wasn’t enough to save Moyes from the chop and give United their worst season since Sir Alex Ferguson left the club. The emergence of Adnan Januzaj could not even paper over this shocking season. 

6. 2018/19 Season

What an odd season. Finishing second the season before, hopes of Jose Mourinho being able to bridge the 19-point gap between United and winners City, were high. That would be the only thing that would be high. Performance levels were low. League positions were low. Confidence was extremely low. A 3-1 defeat to Liverpool left United sixth with just seven wins in 17 games. Dressing room discontent, a toxic environment and a manager who felt he wasn’t backed was not tenable and Mourinho would leave before Christmas. 

Enter Ole Gunner Solskjaer. United legend. Scorer of the 1999 European Cup winner in THAT game against Bayern Munich. Everything he touched turned to gold. 10 wins in 12 games league games (the other two draws) including FA Cup wins over Arsenal and Chelsea, moved United into fourth place as they travelled to Paris for the second leg of the last 16 Champions League tie against Paris Saint-Germain. United had lost the first leg 2-0, the only defeat in the interim period. Incredibly a last-minute Marcus Rashford penalty sent United into the quarter-final despite being injury ravaged, missing 10 first team players, with Tahith Chong and Mason Greenwood finishing the game on the pitch as United chased a winner. 

The clamour for Solskjaer to be handed the job permanently became too much for the United top brass to ignore and the confirmation was announced soon after. In almost a complete reverse of his first 17 games, the next 12 games would yield just two wins. Numerous opportunities to secure fourth place came and went, and even victories over already relegated Huddersfield and Cardiff in the final two games of the season, would have led to Champions League football again. As we all know, two shocking performances would follow. United would finish sixth, incidentally the same position United were in when Mourinho was sacked. Worries were starting to circulate that Solskjaer was the wrong man for the job and the club were too hasty in his appointment. Solskjaer believed that the tough training that he had to put his players through, due to the low level of fitness that he found when he joined, meant the players ran out of the steam at the end of the season. Whatever the reasons, the season was plain bad. 

5. 2014/15 Season

As a sign of how quickly expectations had fallen since the horror show of David Moyes’ failed season at the club, United were keen to bring in an experienced winner who could get them back into the top four. Many fans wanted to see Giggs get his chance after his interim period but just before the 2014 World Cup, Louis van Gaal, then manager of the Netherlands, was announced as manager. United fans sat back to watch how the Netherlands would play in Brazil. To everyone’s delight, it was very good. In fact, it was better then very good. They made it to the semi-finals, playing some excellent football and Van Gaal seemed to know exactly how to get the best out of Robin van Persie, who wasn’t at his very best during the season before. One of the highlights that lived long in the memory of Van Persie’s diving header and his run to celebrate with his manager. The dream team that United hoped would fire them back to glory was on. 

Then Van Gaal would oversee six wins from six in pre-season, including wins over Inter, Real Madrid and Liverpool. Instead of praying for the top four, United fans were dreaming a lot bigger. The signings needed to bolster a weak looking squad came thick and fast. Luke Shaw, Ander Herrera, Angel Di Maria, Marcus Rojo and Daley Blind all came in and yet the bubble quickly burst. Swansea would again be the opening day fixture, however, this time it was at home and it ended in defeat. United fans were understandably aghast. ‘Even Moyes beat Swansea’ was probably heard in every home of every United fan. Drab draws against Sunderland and then Burnley didn’t do much to allay early fears and when they lost to Leicester City, they had one win in five and were sitting twelfth. Throw in the League Cup humiliation, losing 4-0 to League One MK Dons, and United fans were wondering what had happened to their side in such a short period of time. 

There were bright moments in the season. A league double over Liverpool is always celebrated as is putting four goals past Manchester City. They would only lose two league games between the 8 November and the 18 April. By then they were comfortably in the Champions League spots, but one win in the last six left a sour taste in the mouths and dampened spirits a little going into the summer break. However, being back in the Champions League will have been the minimum target when appointing the Dutchmen and it couldn’t be any worse than the debacle the season before. 

4. 2015/16 Season

It is interesting to hear what is considered a successful season. Fans will likely deliberate this for the rest of time. It could probably be called the Arsenal conundrum. Arsene Wenger’s last few seasons at Arsenal would see them quality for the Champions League and that would be a success. If they could win a cup, then that would be the added bonus. However, many fans believe that the league is more important than the cup. That aiming for fourth place is not good enough. Your write has always tended to agree with that; however, I will probably contradict myself in this remaining article and that starts here. This season would see United lift their first piece of silverware in the post Sir Alex Ferguson era. (sorry Mourinho, the Community Shield doesn’t count). If there was ever a season that constituted as ‘one step forward, two steps back’ it was this one. More signings were made. Memphis Depay was exciting. Matteo Darmian, Morgan Schneiderlin and serial winner Bastian Schweinsteiger bolstered the squad and the arrival of unheralded 18-year old Anthony Martial caught everyone off guard. 

In the league United would not win more than three games in a row but would complete another league double over Liverpool. The home win would see the arrival Martial, with that stunning solo goal and his form would continue to be the brightest of sparks throughout the season, finishing United’s top goal scorer. However, Liverpool would knock them out of the Europa League as United exited their return to the Champions League at the Group Stage. A group stage that should have been easy to advance from. 

Whilst the signing of Martial paid off, the Depay arrival hadn’t gone as well, and Van Gaal remained under pressure throughout the season. Losing to West Ham in their final game at Upton Park, handed the initiative to rivals City in the race for fourth place and with the goal difference being so far in City’s advantage, there win on the final game of the season consigned United to another spell in the Europa League. Heading into the FA Cup final, the impression was that if United won, Van Gaal would get another year. They did win. An extra-time win over Crystal Palace, however, Van Gaal didn’t get another year. Even worse, he was sacked immediately after the cup win. It is something that Van Gaal hasn’t let go to this day, however the football that season was poor. At points the fans were booing when United passed back to David De Gea in goal. Just 49 goals were scorer in the league, and it was clear that Van Gaal was no longer the right fit. The FA Cup though did make it a slightly better season then his first, by virtue of it being United’s first silverware for three years. 

3. 2019/20 Season

The last three seasons is where my contradiction kicks in. Last season was another strange season for United. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was entering the season on the back of those shocking performances against Cardiff and Huddersfield. The defence that had been so poor the season before, was bolstered by the signings of Harry Maguire and Aaron Wan-Bissaka. The season started so well. A 4-0 win over Chelsea with Maguire winning Man of the Match signalling hope that United were finally on the right track. As has been so often, it was a false dawn. United would only win one of their next eight games leaving them down in 14th place. After draws to newly promoted sides, Sheffield United and Aston Villa, Solskjaer was seemingly on the brink. Back to back wins over Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City gave eased the pressure once more, pressure that would be back just a month after. Four defeats in the next eight games, culminating in defeat to Burnley at Old Trafford, looked the end for Solskjaer. Enter Bruno Fernandes. 

One signing transformed the side. Despite drawing with Wolves in his first game, a result that left them in seventh place, United would go undefeated for the rest of the season, either side of the break for the pandemic. They would end up finishing third, hugely important after failing the season in their quest for Champions League football. The 14 games unbeaten should have given reason for optimism heading into the new season, but failings in the semi-finals of all cups they were involved in left a sour taste in some fan’s mouths. The last being the Europa League, played over one leg because of the aforementioned pandemic, that they were expected to win. However, they looked tired as the season ended and the defeat to Sevilla meant the wait for Solskjaer first trophy would head into the next season. 

Some will argue that this season isn’t much different to this season and Van Gaal’s fourth place season. Both secured Champions League football, but when you factor in the three semi-finals and second half of season form, then it warrants it’s place high on the list. 

2. 2016/17 Season

The final two seasons are where the contradictions can get tricky. Jose Mourinho was a problem that the United board didn’t know how to solve. The born winner in Mourinho came out this season. In his first season he was backed. Paul Pogba returned to the club. A centre back, Eric Bailly, was signed. He was needed. Henrikh Mkhitaryan signed from Dortmund and of course Zlatan Ibrahimovic joined on a free transfer. Big statement signings. Big statement signings that saw three wins in a row to start the season. Excitement started building. Whilst Mourinho had been sacked from Chelsea, he was still seen a winner who would bring success to any club he took over. As seems to be the trend when the excitement levels build, United would win just one of their next six games, losing three. United wouldn’t lose again in the league until May. So United were surely in the title hunt? No defeat in six months? They must have been. Unfortunately, not. United could not win games. They would draw 15 times. Many against teams they should have beaten, including Stoke (twice), Burnley, Hull, West Brom and Swansea. United would finish sixth. Worse than both seasons under Van Gaal. They were in the hunt for the Champions League, but just one win in their final six games laid rest to that. 

Mourinho didn’t care though. He had the back up of the Europa League. United had already won the League Cup, three wins in a row now at Wembley, including the Community Shield (sorry Mourinho, still not a trophy). However, the Europa League was a big trophy now that it was his only route into the Champions League. Of course, his United side would win. Mourinho would run onto the pitch waving three fingers, in reference to his three trophies (yes, he included the Community Shield). 

This season, in league terms, wasn’t great. However, it was a return to the Champions League and a return to multiple trophy wins, and many believed that with this success, United could go on to bigger and better things, after all, Mourinho always wins the league after two seasons in charge.

1. 2017/18 Season

Alas, he wouldn’t win the title. He wouldn’t even win a trophy. So how does this rank as the best season you may ask? 

Well Mourinho himself called finishing second, with the squad he had, his best achievement. Things started to sour a little. Ibrahimovic was still out injured with the serious knee injury he had sustained in the season prior, so Romelu Lukaku was brought in for £74 million. Lindelof was also brought in, in hope that he would form a title winning partnership with Eric Bailly, who had been so impressive in his debut season. Many saw Nemanja Matic as the final piece of Mourinho’s puzzle, when Chelsea let him go. In reality, despite finishing second, United never really got close to Manchester City. The signing of Alexis Sanchez at Christmas, designed to put United in position to challenge the season after, will live long in the memory of all United fans. And not for positive reasons. He was a disaster for the rest of the season and for the rest of his United career. Losing in the final of the FA Cup, led some to think that Mourinho should go the same way as Van Gaal. The football wasn’t much better, and Van Gaal only had one trophy less than Mourinho when you match up their seasons. Of course, you’re not going to sack a manager after a second-place finish.  

The league should always be a priority. This is the season that United finished closest to top spot. For United fans it is a sad reality, however, it is the best season that United have had. The current United side have a chance to leapfrog all of these seasons and for United fans, the thought of title number 21 lingers on their mind almost every day. 

Written by Huw Rawlings

Where Are They Now? Adnan Januzaj – Cristiano Ronaldo comparisons suggested he was the boy that could do anything

Nine years ago, Manchester United signed 16-year-old Adnan Januzaj from Anderlecht after impressing in a skills session in Brussels, Belgium. After a seemingly glittering career in the academy at United, Januzaj was promoted to the first team during the 2012/13 season, which was also Sir Alex Ferguson’s final season at the club before retirement. Januzaj never featured inn the first team for Ferguson but was an unused substitute in his final game as United manager, a 5-5 draw with West Bromwich Albion at the Hawthorns.

For his performances for the then U21s, now the U23s, Januzaj was awarded the Denzil Haroun Reserve Player of the Year award for the 2012/13 season. Under the management of David Moyes, despite this being his ill-fated season at the Old Trafford club, Januzaj kept his place in the first team squad, playing in the pre-season tour of Asia, scoring in the final tour match against Kitchee. In Rio Ferdinand’s testimonial at Old Trafford, Januzaj started, assisting United’s only goal in the 3-1 defeat to Sevilla.

In his debut season at the club, which was also his best in terms of bringing something to the team, Januzaj played 35 times in all competitions, scoring four goals and six assists – United only won the FA Community Shield that season, seeing Moyes sacked at Easter time and finishing seventh in the Premier League – the worst season to date. Ryan Giggs was the caretaker manager for the final four matches of the season with Louis van Gaal installed as the permanent manager during the summer, prior to the 2014/15 season, which needed to be a good one for United.

Januzaj only played 21 times that season, failing to score a single goal or assist, at least in the first team. Januzaj was loaned to Borussia Dortmund for the 2015/16 season, but after 12 appearances for the club, with no goals and three assists to his name, his loan spell was ended on the 6 January 2016 and he returned to United. He played seven times for United, scoring one goal and it was starting to look like the end of the road for the player at United.

During the 2016/17 season, Januzaj was loaned to Sunderland for the entire season, linking up with Moyes. Despite playing 28 times for the first team, the Belgian scored just one goal, assisting three times for the club. It was clear that Moyes rated the player but his lack of performances on loan would not keep him at United. In the summer of 2017, Januzaj signed a five-year contract with La Liga side Real Sociedad. It was a shame to see another bright youngster leave United, especially after periods of promise.

With United still reeling from the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo at the time he broke through into the first team, with some comparisons at the time, many were let down. In his debut season (2017/18) in Spain, Januzaj made a total of 35 appearances for the Basque club, scoring four goals and a further six assists, playing in La Liga, the Copa del Rey and the UEFA Europa League. During the 2018/19 season, Januzaj played just 24 times, scoring twice and assisting four more goals for his club.

In the 2019/20 season, which was suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic, Januzaj seems to be finding his feet and showing some promise. In 29 appearances throughout the season, before and after the coronavirus pandemic, the now 25-year-old has scored eight goals, assisting a further four, playing in La Liga and the Copa del Rey. So far, it was the best season of the Belgian’s career and it could be the start of something for the winger. It was a shame he never really made it at United but that does not mean he did not have ability – he had plenty of it. He has two goals in six appearances this season.

Different things happen at different times and people react differently. I am glad his career is seemingly picking up. As yet, it is not yet know whether La Liga will continue this season, if it does, Januzaj will be seeking to pick up where he left off. Real Sociedad were fourth in the league at the time the league was suspended, which could bring riches to the club in the form of European football. Seeing Januzaj shine will make me smile. The boy could do anything, except make it work at United.

Written by John Walker

Louis van Gaal talks about his ten-man Manchester United transfer shortlist

Manchester United employed Louis van Gaal to manage the club from the summer of 2014, giving him a three-year contract which should have carried him through until the end of the 2016/17 season. However, that did not go to plan and the Dutch manager was sacked days after winning United’s first major honour post-Sir Alex Ferguson with United beating Crystal Palace in the Emirates FA Cup final in 2016. Van Gaal has spoken about Ed Woodward many times, however, now his ten-man transfer list has been revealed which makes for some interesting reading.

In the summer of 2014, Van Gaal signed Luke Shaw, Ander Herrera, Marcos Rojo, Angel Di Maria, Daley Blind and Radamel Falcao. However, looking at his transfer list, it was clear that United were not fully behind the manager. David Moyes’ time at United was abject failure and the club should have been behind Van Gaal. The Dutchman has revealed his ten-man transfer shortlist and he was unable to sign any of them. Speaking to FourFourTwo, Van Gaal said:

“I wanted Robert Lewandowski, but when this proved difficult I tried to get Gonzalo Higuain instead.

“Before I had arrived, I also spoke with the board about Neymar. If you are at United, you have to think big. He was also interesting for the club in terms of selling shirts, and I wanted to have quick wingers. For that reason, I also tried to get Sadio Mane and Riyad Mahrez.

“Thomas Muller was on my wish list, too, and in central midfield I wanted N’Golo Kante. I even tried to sign James Milner, who was already quite old but very multifunctional and possessed leadership skills.

“For the defence, I wanted Sergio Ramos and Mats Hummels, because ours wasn’t the strongest in building from the back.”

Obviously, Shaw and Herrera were signed whilst the Netherlands and Van Gaal were at the World Cup in Brazil so could well have been done by the club with the managers knowledge. In defence, wanting Ramos and Hummels and getting Rojo and Blind is one thing but wanting Lewandowski or Higuain and getting Falcao was something else. Imagine if United had signed Kante and either Mane or Mahrez – could it have changed anything? I guess we will never know but it would seem that every manager is hung out to dry by United inter Woodward and the Glazers.

In his first season at the club, United finished fourth in the Premier League and earned UEFA Champions League football after a season out of European competition altogether after finishing seventh the season before. Van Gaal seemed to think it was strange for a manager of a club to not have any part in the negotiations to sign players at a club that was one of the biggest in the world at the time, despite the poor season under Moyes. Concluding, Van Gaal stated:

“Those were my top targets, but we couldn’t get any of them. I don’t know why, because as the manager I wasn’t involved in any negotiations.

“After I left, players like Mahrez and Kante ended up at Manchester City and Chelsea, while United couldn’t get them. I found that very odd.”

In his second summer as United manager, Van Gaal was again given money but still did not sign any of the targets he wanted. United signed Memphis Depay, Matteo Darmian, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Morgan Schneiderlin, Sergio Romero and Anthony Martial. Of the 12 players he signed, Shaw, Rojo, Romero and Martial still remain at the club. In the Premier League during the 2015/16 season, United finished fifth, missing out on the Champions League and earning UEFA Europa League football instead.

The season ended brightly for United though as they lifted the FA Cup at Wembley but days later, Van Gaal was removed as the manager, becoming the second one to be sacked post-Ferguson. Jose Mourinho was brought in a matter of days later and United were at the start of another new era once again, the third post-Ferguson. Looking back though, and providing what Van Gaal has said is true, it shows that United are badly managed as a club, which has been seen for years now. Mourinho was not backed either.

The same will happen to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, if it has not happened already. Ed Woodward and the Glazers seem to be a bad fit for football. Granted, money has been spent since Ferguson left the club but United are on another rebuild because things are never done properly. Imagine if things were dome properly in the first summer after Ferguson retired with United spending the right money in the right areas, also installing a director of football, things could have been much different than they are now. It is like the club announce plans to being in a director of football to appease the supporters, then it never happens anyway.

Written by John Walker

Morgan Schneiderlin says he ‘only has himself to blame’ for failure at Manchester United

Former Manchester United midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin feels that he only has himself to blame for his failed move to the Old Trafford club. The Frenchman signed for United from Southampton in the summer of 2015 in a £25 million deal, arriving with former Bayern Munich midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger – both nicknamed ‘Schmidfield’.

United were in the early stages of their transition which never seemed to come following the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson and at the time of his arrival it was suggested that United might actually have a decent midfield once against with the Frenchman and the German combining – however, it was not meant to be.

Schneiderlin arrived under the management of Louis van Gaal but he was sacked two seasons into his career with Jose Mourinho replacing him in May 2016 and a year later, the Frenchman was sold to Everton. The player does not have any hard feelings against the club or Mourinho and seems to blame himself for his failings, which is professional.

Schneiderlin made a total of 47 appearances at United, scoring one goal and one assist during his time at the club. After being sold to Everton, things did not work out for him there either, him making 88 appearances, scoring one goal and two assists. The player is now at OGC Nice in his native France. Speaking Nice-Matin about his time at United, Schneiderlin said:

“In terms of the commercial side, all the aspects off the pitch and on the pitch make it for me the biggest club in the world.

“It was a source of pride for me [to play there], an honour.

“I would have preferred my time there to be longer, that it took a different direction. But it is certainly my fault, I should have been more patient yet again.

“But I don’t regret it at all, it was a fantastic experience.”

The player struggled to hold down his place in the team following Van Gaol’s departure from the club and it is good to see a professional player holding himself accountable for the problems he faced, whether he means it or not. Of course, Mourinho could have been part of the problems but that could be between him and the player. On him leaving the club, Mourinho stated:

“Great professional, fantastic boy, very honest, very open and opens his heart a couple of times.

“My answer is simple: if he’s playing regular with me I have the right to say no way.

“”If he’s not playing regular I have no right to tell a player that wants to be happy – to say to a player you’re going nowhere.”

Everton soon came in for Schneiderlin when they were seeking to rise from the mid-table of the Premier League and make themselves counted, which is something that still has not happened yet. United recouped much of the fee they gave to Southampton for the player, which was a bonus. He became a first team regular again and is now back in France as a player for Nice, which he denies having involvement in the transfer, saying:

“I experienced several years in Manchester where it rained all the time. That never scared me. The number one criteria was football related.

“I wanted to leave already last year, I was close to doing so, but [Everton] held me back, saying that they were really counting on me for this season, but that they would allow me to leave the following summer.

“I said to the sporting director to close all other negotiations. I had chosen Nice and I was not going to go anywhere else. From that moment on, they were very classy.”

copyright: JW