Will Manchester United fan favourite Anthony Martial ever live up to the hype?

The future is definitely an exciting one for Manchester United when you weigh up some of the young, promising players at the club. There are multiple top class prospects at the club, especially in the attacking areas of the field, namely Marcus Rashford, Tahith Chong, Mason Greenwood and Angel Gomes, all young flair attackers filled that came through the youth set up, with potential and talent just waiting to be unleashed.

One man at the club who didn’t come through the United youth set-up is French winger Anthony Martial. The 23-year-old was brought to the club by Louis van Gaal for a hefty £54 million on deadline day in the summer of 2015, a decision which brought with it uncertainty from many United fans regarding the sizeable fee.

Immediately Martial lit up Old Trafford, bringing pace, flair and a fearless attitude to the United side. The questions surrounding the price tag United paid for the former Monaco man were beginning to be answered. He was the main threat for Van Gaal’s side that season, baggingeleven goals in the league and contributed to seven in a winning FA Cup run, including the crucial semi-final goal against Everton that dragged United to the final. He had started to become a fan favourite at the club after a more than impressive debut season in England.

Embed from Getty Images

It was far from ideal for Martial’s game then when Van Gaal was given the boot by United and replaced by Jose Mourinho. Mourinho was not exactly known for his teams playing attacking, exuberant, attractive football, but what he did bring with him was a reputation for getting results on the pitch. Unfortunately for the Frenchman, Mourinho has always favoured players that have the willingness to graft and work hard over those with bundles of talent and flair on the ball.

His appearances became less frequent under the new boss and when he was given a chance, often the team’s style of play would not suit him, leading Martial to make quite a few mistakes or have little to no impact on a game. Mourinho was ruthless nonetheless, and more often than not, after an unconvincing performance, he would be left to sit on the bench the following week.

Understandably, this affected the player’s confidence, and while still displaying the odd flash of brilliance, he would often drift out of games for long periods of time. This reflected in his output as well, only managing four Premier League goalsin the Portuguese man’s first campaign in charge, and just one on a run all the way to UEFA Europa League glory.

Things slightly improved the following season, with the winger make a similar number of appearances but contributing to more goals. His league tally increased to nine, while chalking up five assists also. Despite this, it was still obvious to all that Martial had much more in the locker, but was being held back and having his attacking influence curbed to a certain extent by the team’s cautious approach at times and the player not being given an extended run in the team.

Embed from Getty Images

Mourinho was finally given his marching orders in December by the United board and replaced on a caretaker basis by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Many felt Martial’s career potential and expected rise to becoming a world class player had been almost halted for two and a half years while Mourinho was in charge.

Solskjaer has effectively taken the shackles off this team and given exciting players like Martial the green light to express themselves and show their ability. Some of his best moments in a United shirt have come since the change of manager, but despite this, inconsistency remains a problem for the Frenchman. He still holds a real admiration among certain sections of the United fan base, who are hopeful he will prove any doubters wrong and become one of the world’s best.

He is in danger of being left behind by other exciting talents of a similar age, Leroy Sane, Raheem Sterling and Kylian Mbappe just to name a few. The hype surrounding Anthony Martial remains strong, but the questions remain also of whether he will make that step up to the next level as a player and truly live up to the hype.

Written by Jack Grady

Is Ed Woodward’s ego blocking the addition of a Director of Football at Manchester United?

Given the number of roles that Ed Woodward seems to have taken on at Manchester United, one would think that he has found the pill from the film Limitless. Not only does he play major roles in the various business and financial aspects of the club, however, Woodward also has the say on which players the club brings in, and also handles the contract extensions for current players.

Unfortunately, while it most likely would look good on a CV to have assumed so many roles, it doesn’t mean a thing if one juggles all the responsibility and end’s up with poor results in the end.

The executive vice-chairman’s dealings on the market have drawn criticism from fans. According to TalkSport, Woodward was on the hot seat this season during the dreadful performances the club endured under Jose Mourinho.

As reported back in October, Mourinho’s treatment of players such as Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford did draw criticism, but the primary target was not the manager, but instead Ed Woodward. With the blame now being targeted at Woodward, the recent trend of the director of football becoming a productive position in clubs throughout England has added more spotlights on the 47-year-old executive.

Embed from Getty Images

Woodward’s ideal player when shopping around seems to have caused a lack of growth within the squad. Some would wonder if this is because of his financial backgrounds, as Woodward seems to have a tendency to look for a cheaper option to fill a position, even if it means going for an older player, who could potentially be past their prime if not nearing the end of it.

Some of the players that would be good examples of this habit are Zlatan Ibrahimovic for one, who United was able to secure for free from PSG. Ibrahimovic was able to make an impact at United in his defence, as he made 91 total appearances in his three seasons of involvement in Manchester, even while spending over 200 days in the 2016/2017 season, and 60 days in the 2017/2018 season on the injured reserve.

Another example is Bastian Schweinsteiger, who United secured for just over £8 million from Bayern Munich. Schweinsteiger joined United in the summer of 2015 and while he made 29 total appearances in all competitions, his first season accounted for a massive majority of the appearances, as he only made four appearances in his second season with the club, none of them being in the Premier League.

It has become a popular question amongst United supporters of whether or not the club will eventually put in place a director of football. Through his dealings in the transfer market, it is evident that Woodward has no clue of the importance of chasing down youth, instead of bargains.

Embed from Getty Images

Even recently, with the reports of United potentially making a bid to get Antione Griezmann, Woodward that he doesn’t have much experience with the football side of the club. He seems to chase after the biggest names in the game, even if they’re in their upper 20s nearing their 30s.

This type of mentality can be lethal for a club’s hopes to rebuild and win titles, as instead of investing in players who can spend 10 to maybe even 15 years at the club, they end up with a two to four year fill-in player. However, for this to happen the players need to be acquired young, like Wayne Rooney was when he arrived at Manchester United.

While it is true that when a club has a young player that has the potential to become a star, they will make another club pay a hefty sum to acquire them. The math still favours paying the sometimes-exorbitant fees for a young prodigy, over still paying a good chunk of change on an older player who may only give you a few seasons and may be injury prone. 

A director of football knows the value of youth, and United supporters are beginning to voice their demands for the addition of one at United. The only thing that may stand in the way of the position coming to the club is Ed Woodward himself.

Whether or not he gives up his control over the players will come down to him willing to accept that he may not be the right man for that job, and to go back to possibly more behind-the-scenes roles that he also has. Either way, he was hired to do what was best for the club, and not for himself. It is the expectation of every United supporter, player, and member of the staff that he doesn’t forget that.

Written by Joel Dulka

Was Marouane Fellaini the biggest scapegoat of post-Sir Alex Ferguson era?

Sir Alex Ferguson finally called it a day in May 2013 leaving behind a squad that had just won the league title in a very stylish and convincing fashion. David Moyes was the chosen one to succeed him as the manager of the biggest and most talked-about club in the world, Manchester United.

It was always going to be a sea of change with everything because the club was used to one man running the show for twenty-six years! This sudden shift was going to affect all those involved and those who were going to be involved in this process (new signings) to continue the winning tradition of this famous club.

The 2013 summer transfer window was a very underwhelming one when the club courted players like Thiago, Cesc Fabregas, Gareth Bale, Leighton Baines and Marouane Fellaini but was only able to sign Fellaini on transfer deadline day.

Embed from Getty Images

There were big expectations set for the new management and Fellaini to perform and win games from the get go but quite obviously with the incompetence shown by the club regarding transfers, it was never going to be that way. The club who had just won the league with the existing players also had ageing players who were approaching the twilight years of their respective careers. 

Fellaini was supposed to arrive along with a group of players ear-marked by the manager. Reinforcements in multiple positions were required to strengthen the squad to continue to aim for silverware.

With performances and results going downhill, the blame immediately shifted towards the new manager and their only new signing in the summer. Fellaini was continuously picked out by the media and supporters alike for every loss and bad performance and at the same time was never appreciated by them for the shift he righteously put in whenever he was on the pitch representing the Red Devils.

Sure, he was never going to a player who was going to add flair and technique in the midfield, but he did have a few talents that could never be duplicated by any other player in the squad. A threat in both the boxes, sheer presence in both defence and attack and that exquisite chest control!

Embed from Getty Images

He delivered an attacking masterclass with his headers many a time for his manager and club. The one moment that no one talks about is the header against Crystal Palace in the dying seconds of the game which guaranteed fourth place in the 2014/15 season. He celebrated proudly, pointing towards the crest of the club.

One could go on about his famous moments in the red shirt which also includes goals and assists in key cup games, but he was more than just that. He was also very well appreciated by his teammates and managers which was evident during his goal celebrations and various social media posts by the players.

With all of this, the hate that he received (mostly by the fans of his own club!) was unprecedented and undeserved for a player who gave it all for his manager, teammates and most importantly, the shirt he wore with pride week-in, week-out.

Written by Shyam Shanker

The five principles Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has reinstated at Manchester United

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer became the caretaker manager of Manchester United after the sacking of Jose Mourinho after the clubs 3-1 defeat to Liverpool back in December 2018. In the time that has since elapsed, Solskjaer has reinstated five principles that have not always been present at the club, at the same time, since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson.

1. Man management

It is no secret Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s style of man management is more inclusive than his predecessor Jose Mourinho. Criticism has been traded for encouragement, in press conferences player’s strengths are highlighted instead of flaws. In December 2017, Mourinho bemoaned Marcus Rashford’s “childish decisions in front of goal” after he missed a chance coming off the bench against Leicester City

Fast forward a year and Solskjaer is at the helm, in press conferences he highlights Marcus Rashford’slack of fear”,frightening pace,” and “great link-up play”. It’s no surprise then that this belief from his manager has coincided with the best form of his career. Perhaps more surprising is why Mourinho is so insistent on his approach when it has been observed many times that football is a confidence sport.

Building players up was a theme of Sir Alex Ferguson’s tenure. Did he believe Phil Jones would be United’s best ever player? Perhaps not. But he knew by saying so the centre back would be a hell of a lot closer. 

Embed from Getty Images

2. Squad rotation

The modern game is physically demanding and fixture lists are crowded. As such modern managers should be able to successfully rotate their squad. Mourinho stubbornness meant he did not do this. For example, in the 2017/18 Premier League season Nemanja Matic only missed two games and Romelu Lukaku only missed four. This tendency for favourites resulted in those on the periphery of the squad losing motivation. 

Under Solskjaer, the message was clear – “everyone will be given a chance”. This chance for many came against Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday 6 March 2019. United was able to write history becoming the first team ever to overturn a 2-0 deficit from the home leg. What’s more, is they did this with ten first team players missing.

An overworked Lukaku under Mourinho would not have given the same tireless performance. Similarly, would an ostracised Scott McTominay, Andreas Pereira and Fred have played with the same desire? Ferguson would have been proud. It’s this type of management that brings out the best in peripheral players. He may have been reminded of a certain Solskjaer substitute appearance scoring four goals in ten minutes vs Norwich.

3. Tactical Flexibility

Under Solskjaer we have seen United play in various formations; 4-4-2, 4-1-2-1-2, 4-3-3, 4-5-1, 4-2-3-1 and 3-4-1-2. Importantly United are now able to change formation in play. Meaning they are versatile to deal with in game developments. This was a hallmark of the Ferguson era and in particular many formations were deployed throughout his 2007/08 double winning season. 

Ferguson opted for a 4-3-3 or 4-5-1 in European games that season. A similar tactic was used by Solskjaer versus PSG away as he deployed a 4-5-1 from minute 60-80 in order to consolidate his player’s energy and limit PSG’s attacking space. Leading in to the final minutes he went 4-3-3 in search of a vital goal. A shrewd tactical plan that paid off for United.

Embed from Getty Images

4. Giving youth a chance

Since Solskjaer took charge United have scored 40 goals and over half have been scored by players who have graduated from the clubs academy. Part of the reason United attract such a wide audience is the community feel of the club. There is a pride that comes with educating the next generation of footballers.

Bryan Robson mentored Paul Scholes who mentored Michael Carrick who is now mentoring Paul Pogba. This is a deep history that had been forgotten since Ferguson’s departure. A tradition which allows youth players to express themselves and senior players to stand taller. Every football fan should be celebrating its return. 

5. Delegation 

Perhaps Ferguson’s biggest quality was his ability to delegate tasks. As put by Rio Ferdinand – “the best traits that Ferguson had were that he delegated and trusted other people”. He expands on this saying one of Moyes failure was his inability to relinquish any form of control – “Moyes’ hands were on everything at the club”. Micro-managing leads to those around you switching off, your colleagues and employees will no longer observe the work they are doing. 

Since Solskjaer’s arrival, there have been signs of change, the manager of the month award was a collective photo rather than individual. Tactical decisions are discussed rather than enforced. Interesting that David Moyes, Louis van Gaal and Mourinho were often fraught figures at United. While Solskjaer seems to be enjoying the ride. An open hand was Ferguson’s way of maintaining the tightest grip. He let go to keep control. Solskjaer seems to be doing the same. 

Written by Chris Barnes

Manchester United and hat-tricks, long forgotten but something that is certain to return?

Manchester United has not scored a hat-trick since Zlatan Ibrahimovic got one in the UEFA Europa League against St Etienne at Old Trafford on the 16 February 2017. Wayne Rooney scored the last hat-trick before that when United was in the play-off stage of the UEFA Champions League against Club Brugge. Before that, Robin van Persie’s hat-trick which saw United win their 20th league title.

It is clear to say that hat-tricks are something that is missed by the supporters of the club and players, especially over the past few seasons, have come close to scoring them. It has been more than two years since the last hat-trick. However, there have been many braces scored by the players, which suggests that the club is getting closer to scoring hat-tricks once again. Here is the number of braces per season;

2018/19 – nine braces, 2017/18 – eleven braces, 2016/17 – eight braces, 2015/16 – six braces, 2014/15 – five braces, 2013/14 – fourteen braces, 2012/13 – eleven braces

Teams such as Manchester City seem to score hat-tricks for fun. This season alone, they have scored six hat-tricks in all competitions. It would be great if United could be achieving this feat. It seems so far away from actually happening but the confidence has started to return after five and a half years of chaos which has paid end to David Moyes, Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho.

Embed from Getty Images

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer scored three hat-tricks during his United career and with him now managing the club, albeit until the end of the season, although rumour suggests that he will be given the job permanently, it could see United start to play more attacking football, which has been the case so far this season. 91 players have scored hat-tricks for United in the history of the club.

Denis Law has scored the most hat-tricks for the club, scoring a total of 18 during his eleven-year career at Old Trafford. Jack Rowley scored 12, Dennis Viollet scored nine, Wayne Rooney scored eight, and Sir Bobby Charlton scored seven. Rooney is the only recent player to appear in the top ten, although Ruud van Nistelrooy, Andy Cole, Dimitar Berbatov, Mark Hughes, Robin van Persie, and Dwight Yorke do appear also.

Of the 64 braces scored between Sir Alex Ferguson’s final season managing the club and the current season, which start with Mourinho and will end with Solskjaer managing, Rooney has the most with 12, closely followed by Romelu Lukaku, a current player, with seven. Nine players who have scored braces no longer play for the club;

Marouane Fellaini, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Rooney, Memphis Depay, Van Persie, Danny Welbeck, Adnan Januzaj, Javier Hernandez, and Ryan Giggs.

With nine of the players to have scored braces no longer at the club, another, James Wilson is currently out on loan and looks likely to leave the club on the expiry of his current contract at the end of the season. It leaves just nine of the nineteen players still at the club, which means there is still some goalscoring talent at the club, even though they need to start doing much better.

Embed from Getty Images

United have scored just a single goal in their last two matches, which came after overcoming Paris Saint-Germain in Paris and earning a UEFA Champions League quarter-final place against Barcelona. Of these players, Lukaku, Jesse Lingard, Paul Pogba, Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford, Ashley Young, Juan Mata, Chris Smalling and Ander Herrera remain.

Lukaku has scored four braces this season and three last season. Pogba has scored three braces this season and one during each of the previous two seasons. Lingard has had one brace this season, two last season and Martial has scored one brace this season, one the season before last and two the season before that. It is not great reading for these talented players, although attacking football has newly returned to the club.

For United to get back to scoring hat-tricks, goal creation is a must as is every player on the pitch pulling together to ensure goals are scored regularly. That is all that stands in the way of United and further success, whether it be in the Premier League, Emirates FA Cup, Carabao Cup or even the UEFA Champions League. Scoring hat-tricks are not necessary to win trophies, but it certainly brings the feel-good factor back.

It may only be a matter of time before United start to score hat-tricks again. The scoring of braces dwindles under the management of Van Gaal but started to return under Mourinho and remain under Solskjaer. Whilst Mourinho’s football was not a 100% attacking style, it did evolve from Van Gaal’s style. Solksjaer’s though, have evolved further more and will continue to evolve into the United way of playing football.

Is there a missing ingredient in Manchester United’s winning recipe?

The year was 1999. It was the UEFA Champions League final. 1-0 down to Bayern Munich in the 90th minute. Manchester United staged one of the most famous comebacks to secure the treble and subsequently set in stone that United was one of the best clubs the world had ever seen. 20 years later and United fans are now asking themselves what has gone so wrong. But is everything as bad as it seems? 

No one can deny that a lot has changed for United in two decades, most prominently the retiring of Sir Alex Ferguson who is arguably the best manager in the history of football and certainly in the history of the club. Whilst at the club Sir Alex Ferguson managed United to 38 trophies including 13 Premier League titles, five FA Cups and two Champions League trophies. 

Whoever was to be appointed to follow on from Ferguson after his retirement had a near-impossible job on their hands to equal the reputation of his predecessor. David Moyes was the man the club chose to take over the managerial position but lasted only 10 months, the third-shortest managerial stint in United history and the shortest in 82 years. The only accomplishment was winning the FA Community Shield.

The cycle then continued through Louis van Gaal who won just the FA Cup and Jose Mourinho who won the FA Community Shield and the famous UEFA Europa League. Most recently the club has appointed Ole Gunnar Solskjaer who looks extremely comfortable in the role and has no doubt changed the negative atmosphere in the club to a much more positive vibe.

Embed from Getty Images

In the few months that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been managing United, he has turned the club around to the point that they are now in the Champions League quarter-finals after a historic comeback against a strong Paris Saint-Germain side. The club is also only three points off third place which will make for an exciting, nail-biting end to the season.  

However, after a 2-1 defeat to Wolverhampton Wanderers in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup in a match where the team looked lethargic and uninterested for the majority of the game, fans are asking what more can be done to get a great club back to its silverware winning ways? The United team is full of world class players including a World Cup winner in Paul Pogba who looks a lot stronger this season after butting heads with former manager Mourinho.

The team is also full of younger players who, having had to step up to the plate against PSG did not disappoint in the slightest. Marcus Rashford and Romelu Lukaku are now starting to find the back of the net on a regular basis whilst David De Gea is consistently keeping goals out at the other end. Equally the defence is looking a lot stronger with Victor Lindelof proving impassable and Luke Shaw showing his worth every match.

Alexis Sanchez is due back in a few weeks after hitting another injury against Southampton but United fans are starting to question whether the Chilean can still find his form at the club despite Solskjaer stating that Sanchez will come into his own. Is it time to find a replacement for the forward? There is speculation linking United with Gareth Bale but right now it is nothing more than that.

Embed from Getty Images

Looking at the recent form and results of United it doesn’t make for pleasant reading. After coming back on a high from the PSG comeback, the team lost 2-0 to Arsenal and then suffered a 2-1 defeat against Wolves, who have held their own this season, which begs the question of what’s different between what the team did in Paris and why they couldn’t do it on home soil?

Solskjaer made club history when the team achieved eight consecutive away wins in all competitions but then suffered two defeats in the last four matches. United need to show the character and determination of a side that wants to win every time they step on to the pitch so the focus really is consistency and why United are having so much trouble finding it.

Despite this, the club looks rejuvenated and re-energised under the command of Solskjaer and every United fan around the world is eager to see what seems like a much more promising future for the Red Side of Manchester with the Champions League still in contention and the possibility of a top four Premier League finish on the horizon.

It is too soon to tell what could happen with the club but the future, without doubt, is bright for the Red Devils.

Written by Chris Kaye

Are the Glazers just not meant for sports franchise ownership?

It’s safe to say that the Glazer family is not the most beloved family by Mancunians. However, they can rest assured that they aren’t the only population that have an unfavorable view of the Glazers. Fans of the American football team the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have also had their fair share of issues with the family. 

Both clubs within the last 10 years have begun to struggle with business management, players, and coaching staff all beginning to perform well under par of what the fans have gotten used to. Under the Glazer’s both clubs have achieved league champion status, with the Buccaneers winning the Super Bowl in 2003, and Manchester United winning the Premier league in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011 and finally 2013.

Embed from Getty Images

However, one thing is similar about the start of the clubs’ declines, both have begun after the resignation of a long-time manager, or head coach in the Buccaneers’ case. For Tampa Bay, head coach Jon Gruden was the one coaching the team when they won the Super Bowl in 2003. He started with the team in 2002 and was let go by the team at the end of the 2007/08 season after a couple of rough seasons.

Since he was released, the team has not made it to the playoffs since and is on their fifth head coach. In the case of Manchester United, they are now on manager number four after Sir Alex’s retirement, and the failure seasons of David Moyes, Louis van Gaal, and Jose Mourinho. The major consistency in both clubs’ struggles is the Glazer family and their recent lack of inclinations to spend large sums on their investments.

It’s not that they don’t at all, but it is clear that in both of the team’s situations, they were hoping that they could somehow find a formula for a cheap, but successful team. Many can agree that maybe a manager or two wouldn’t have been fired if it wasn’t for the lack of a decent budget.

Embed from Getty Images

Unfortunately for them and most importantly the fans, this money saving venture has not been successful, and both teams find themselves in the midst of a long period of rough and painful losing seasons. While the Glazer’s at one time did put their money where their mouth is and build a strong franchise.

Nowadays fans are questioning whether or not the family is cut out to be owners any longer. Especially in this modern world of exponential value growth on players around the world, being cheap just is not an option in any sport whatsoever.

Written by Joel Dulka

Manchester United are back, and the rest of the football world can’t be happy!

In May of 2012 Manchester United fans were hit with the inevitable retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson. During his long tenure with the club, Sir Alex followed the traditional attacking style that United has known for so long, and added his own personal spin on the club’s playing style, which ended up creating a dynasty that fans around the world quickly fell in love with and will never forget.

When United won the title that same year, and David Moyes was chosen as the new manager, things began to take a downward turn through a wormhole of possession football, and micro-managing tactics used by our new managers whether it be Moyes, Louis van Gaal, or Jose Mourinho that caused the club to perform well under par. To make matters worse, it is safe to say that United has an especially big target on their backs when it comes to opposition.

So, on top of their lacking performances, they were met with opponents who were absolutely hungry for a win against them. They came in smelling the blood of an already weakened squad and capitalised on every weakness United had. Since then United has seen a few rough seasons, not even seeing a top three finish until last season when they finally finished second.

It seemed as though the players had almost no life in them, and there were constant rumours of player/manager feuds going on behind the scenes, most recently Paul Pogba was rumoured to be near the end of his patience with Jose Mourinho. The team chemistry and the attacking mentality that helped the club flourish years prior seemed to be just about on its deathbed.

Embed from Getty Images

Fortunately, nearly six years, and three managers later, there is a light at the end of this tunnel. In this light, we can see a man that is already known and loved from a previous era, a man who already brought United joy on a night in Barcelona back in 1999. This man is Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, and he is bringing back that old Manchester United from the 1990s and 2000s that we came to know and love so well.

United’s players are more galvanised than they have ever been since Sir Alex was in charge and attacking football, oh how you have been missed. The difference from this managerial change is night and day. Before December a majority of us supporters can honestly say that we didn’t think United had a chance in the UEFA Champions League. Especially after they drew Paris Saint-Germain, who some believed were a contender for the competition.

United was pretty much counted out, and well thanks to Solskjaer, now we get to see the Champions League quarter-finals. Sir Alex was also a huge supporter of developing United’s players young, something that definitely disappeared with his retirement. Youth players for the past six seasons since have really only seen action in very widely gapped matches between United and their opposition. Only if it were almost a certain win for the club, were they given the chance.

Also, the second they showed any sign of amateurism they were subbed and were lucky to see another appearance, especially under Van Gaal and Mourinho. Now, while Solskjaer is at some point required to use his youth players at the moment due to the injury list being quite extensive, he’s doing it with a long leash for the lads. He still lets them take a risk or two and when they mess up, he hasn’t shoved them to the back of the room to never be seen again. If they don’t mess up, they don’t learn, they don’t improve.

Embed from Getty Images

Solskjaer knows that if he never throws them onto the pitch in a critical match or derby, they will never shake the nerves that come with those matches, and thus, will never get to the calibre necessary to be a regular starter. With all this taken into account, there’s no way that other Premier League clubs, as well as Champions League clubs, aren’t paying attention to what is happening at United.

Solskjaer in his short time here at United has completely transformed the club back to its elite class, something that the Premier League may not have been ready for. Clubs are starting to show fear when coming to Old Trafford again, the way it should be. No longer are United a potentially easy win for some clubs (any club at that matter after their performance against PSG), and the football world is starting to notice again.

We can all remember when United was called an “arrogant” club by opposition supporters when everyone hated the club for being the best in the Premier League consistently. That arrogance is what made United the club it is though in all honesty, being the best requires the best players, the best ground, the best manager, but most importantly, and without this last thing everything else is just about useless, from every soul involved in the club, it requires the best heart and determination.

That’s what makes Manchester United what it is. That is what makes the other clubs fear us, and if Solskjaer keeps this pace, United will be back and more arrogant than ever, just how we like it.

Written by Joel Dulka

Marouane Fellaini: The man who gave it his all and got nothing in return

Deadline day 2013, what a day that was. From failing to sign Fabio Coentrao on loan to Ander Herrera’s ‘representatives’ being anywhere but at Old Trafford, it was all a sign of things to come that season. The transfer window took an even stranger twist with a last-minute bid for Everton duo Leighton Baines and Marouane Fellaini. ‘Fellaini?! We’re actually going through with that?’ I remember telling my friend at Oliver Reed’s last pub, half drunk and not making much sense at that point. We and many others later started calling him “Our tree”.

Inevitably Manchester United signed just Marouane Fellaini without Leighton Baines and gave him the number 31, it was safe to say there was nothing extraordinary about signing the lanky Belgian midfielder, well apart from his hairstyle that is. Life at United proved difficult at the start for Fellaini, especially after Manchester City putting United to sword 4-1 and Yaya Toure and Fernandinho making short work of the United midfield.

Everything after that match went downhill, David Moyes was sacked and United finished a miserable seventh place. It’s easy to understand why Fellaini is so synonymous with that season, he suffered a difficult first season, was perceived to be a panic buy and he was brought in by a manager that took United from a club that were the champions to mid-table. It looked like the Belgian’s stay at Manchester United wouldn’t be that much longer than that of the man who brought him to the club.

Embed from Getty Images

We were all wrong, Louis van Gaal was appointed that summer and Fellaini’s career at United seemed to take a turn for the better with the Dutch manager taking a liking the player and inevitably so did his successor. Looking through Twitter these past few days to see what the general feeling was about Fellaini leaving, hoping to see a few tributes to a player who acted professionally at United and gave his all.

I was wrong, what I saw baffled me and had me seething with anger at how little respect (if any) United fans have for a player who scored vital goals for the club over these past four years such as his winner against Crystal Palace in 2015 putting United a win away from returning to Champions League football. Fellaini also scored three semi-final goals including one in the Europa League semi-final against Celta Vigo which put United through to the final and saw them win the trophy for the first time.

It’s also safe to say that without Fellaini, United and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer would not be preparing to take on Paris Saint-Germain in the round of 16 of the UEFA Champions League after his last gasp goal against Young Boys at Old Trafford last November. Fellaini was never the most glamourous of players, but he tried his best to contribute to the cause every time he came on and wore the United shirt, irrespective of who was the manager and what instructions he was given.

The level of abuse and disrespect aimed at Fellaini over the last few days has been baffling, to say the least, some of it, ironically enough, even coming from profiles with a picture Paul Pogba (along with Luke Shaw) as their avatar, a player who in my eyes could be accused of downing tools because he didn’t see eye to eye with Jose Mourinho and his methods. Not to mention the drama his agent Mino Raiola caused when he offered Pogba to Manchester City.

Embed from Getty Images

Maybe it’s because Fellaini doesn’t have the social media presence players like Pogba have or maybe it’s because most United fans see him as an easy scapegoat for all that went wrong after Sir Alex Ferguson resigned in 2013, even if these are the reasons they still are unjustified for a player that always gave his best in a United shirt and contributed to the club winning what little silverware they won over the past three years.

It’s sad to see the club let go of a character like Fellaini, a character that rarely gave in, fought hard, wasn’t easily pushed around and unselfish to teammates One story that comes to mind is when Fellaini gave up his number 31 shirt to Bastian Schweinsteiger, why? Because it meant a lot to Schweinsteiger and it helped him settle in better, that’s just the sort of guy Fellaini was and that is just the sort of character Manchester United have lost, a player that puts his teammates first.

It’s going to be strange not seeing Fellaini coming on anymore, and yeah, I’ll miss his tenacity and fighting spirit especially when United are down and need a goal out of nothing. One thing’s for sure, now with both Mourinho and Fellaini gone, the list of scapegoats at Old Trafford has grown shorter and people that unjustly escaped any form of blame in the past might not be so lucky if things turn sour again. Goodbye, ‘Our Tree’ it’s been a pleasure seeing you in a red shirt.

Written by John Grech

Matteo Darmian: Right Character, Wrong Player!

The Summer of 2015 was a surreal one, to say the least, with moves that saw Robin van Persie and Nani, Rafael da Silva (a transfer I’ve still not come to terms with), Angel Di Maria and Jonny Evans heading through the exit doors. Amidst those departures, the rumour of David De Gea’s imminent departure kept buzzing around everyone’s ears like an unwelcome mosquito in the middle of the night that just wouldn’t die.

In through the other end, the welcome mat was laid out for players like Morgan Schneiderlin, Memphis Depay, Sergio Romero, Deutsche fußballmeister Bastian Schweinsteiger, Anthony Martial on deadline day and an unknown Italian Gary Neville lookalike fullback from Torino called Matteo Darmian that could play on either side of the defence. Moving on to the first match of the 2015/16 season, United beat Tottenham Hotspur at home 1-0 through a Kyle Walker own goal, a standard Louis van Gaal result with a standard Van Gaal performance.

That match saw Chris Smalling getting Man of the Match, however, the player that caught my eye was our new number 36, Darmian. Solid in defence and wouldn’t stop darting forwards, making runs up and down the pitch up until he was substituted in the 80th minute by Antonio Valencia. Many suggested Darmian as a close contender for Man of the Match and rightly so.

Embed from Getty Images

Darmian followed his solid performance with another decent outing at Villa Park the following Friday when United beat Aston Villa 1-0 through an Adnan Januzaj goal which proved to be his last in a United shirt. Darmian’s start to life at Old Trafford was an impressive one, to say the least, with the fullback being named United’s Player of the Month for August 2015 and he even went on score a spectacular volley against Crystal Palace later on in the season.

United seemed to have found the versatile fullback they so craved and the future for 25-year-old Darmian looked a bright one, what could go wrong? Fast forward to the present day, Darmian cuts a lost and forgotten figure at Carrington (I refuse to use its new name), with a total of 36 appearances in three seasons compared to the 28 in his debut season, Darmian has fallen behind Ashley Young, Antonio Valencia and now young prospect Diogo Dalot in the fight to become United’s first choice right-back.

There seemed to be some hope of rekindling his Old Trafford career, after a move back to the Serie A failed to materialise during the summer with Ed Woodward refusing to sell the player for anything less than the reported sum of £15 million. Things looked on the up when according to Darmian’s agent said that Jose Mourinho refused to give up on the player. Sadly, we all know how that story ended. Darmian’s story at United now seems to have reached its epilogue.

At the time of writing this, the Italian fullback is on the verge of securing a loan move to Italian champions Juventus for £4 million with an option to buy at £8 million, which will surely not go down well with his former club Torino (think Luke Shaw moving to Manchester City). The move back home seems to be the perfect move to reignite his career with Darmian looking to get back to playing regular football and back into the Italian national side.

Embed from Getty Images

With Juventus fighting on all fronts (again) this season, Darmian could play an important part as Juventus will surely need more depth in both fullback positions currently occupied by the electrifying Joao Cancelo, Matteo De Sciglio and rumoured United target Alex Sandro. United could have made more money in the summer if Ed Woodward budged slightly on his estimation of the player, but that’s Woodward for you.

Whilst there’s nothing much to write about in terms of performances in Darmian’s last two seasons at the club, one must admire the professionalism shown by the player. With unfortunate injuries, admitting to being homesick, losing his place in the national squad and a failed transfer back home, the player has handled all this in a professional manner. In a day and age where players create unneeded drama by taking snarky swipes at their managers and clubs on social media, whilst their agents to fuel rumours of interest from other clubs to either force an exit or a better pay cheque, Darmian has forgone all of those methods.

Darmian has always been there when called upon even after the club scuppered his move last summer and whenever he was called upon, he gave his utmost on the pitch and tried his best without any fuss or shenanigans. The story of Darmian at United could be summed up in one sentence: The wrong player with the right character. Which is a shame really, because United could do with the professionalism of the Darmian’s of this world, players that make United proud, not just on the pitch but off it too.

Good luck, Matteo, I wish it turned out differently.

Written by John Grech

copyright: JW