Monthly Archives: June 2011

A Central Mid Is The Key To Success

Originally posted on 19 Times And That’s A Fact.

We may be the most successful club in England of all-time, but there’s something missing in Europe. And now, with Paul Scholes’ retirement, we look a little empty in the middle of the park.

Our dismantling against Barcelona proved how little dominance we have in central midfield without the power of Scholes. Michael Carrick may have turned his form around, but playing Giggsy doesn’t work – a winger in centre mid never does. Darren Fletcher was out for the majority of last season, and Darron Gibson showed signs of promise, but never enough to cement himself in the United line-up.

Every United fan put a lot on Scholesy’s shoulders to deliver every single week – his sporadic passing was second to none, and everyone knew it. But when he’s gone, that’s that – there’s no ready-made replacement waiting in the wings.

Anderson was signed in the hope he would progress quicker than he has. Carrick and Fletch are still just squad players, and Gibbo never hit the grade. And although Owen Hargreaves’ £17m price tag indicated he’d be in the starting XI every single week, his injuries thought otherwise.

So what do we do now?

Well, the rumour mill is well and truly under way, and everywhere you look seems to be another report linking us to Wesley Sneijder, from Inter Milan. Some say £35m cash, others say some form of swap deal involving Nani. Either way, the attacking midfielder may be the answer to United’s prayers. A real presence in midfield, he helped Inter Milan win their Treble two years ago, helped the Netherlands reach a World Cup Final last year, and has become one of the most sought-after players on the planet.

His passing is like that of Scholes, and he can be a character on the pitch, which is exactly what is needed – a leader in the middle. However, although form is temporary and class is permanent, his game may not be particularly well suited to the Premier League. It will be the signing every United fan wants to see, and it will definitely make us a better team, but whether it alters the shape of Europe… Only time will tell.

Other reports have linked us with Luka Modric, the Tottenham playmaker. Fergie has been a fan for years, and we were linked with making a bid when he signed for Spurs in 2008. He can run the game from midfield, but does enjoy attacking the goal, which leaves the middle vulnerable. However, he is a Tevez-like figure, always willing to win the ball back, and always looking to push play forward. Spurs Chairman Daniel Levy wants upwards of £40m, according to reports, despite releasing a statement saying Luka would not be leaving the club. Already proven in the Premier League, he’d be the sensible man’s choice.

Having already spent upwards of £35m this summer, on Phil Jones and today’s confirmation of the signing of Ashley Young, don’t expect Fergie to be waving the chequebook at clubs when he doesn’t see value. Modric may be a cracking player, but there’s no way the market shows any form of value any more – it was distorted the minute Liverpool were quoted £20m for Jordan Henderson. Now everyone has a yard stick to measure how much their players are worth, in comparison to the young Englishman.

However, there were strong hints on social networking sites today that United are in fact looking at other options too. Names touted around so far include Kaka, Lassana Diarra, and the Samir Nasri rumours just won’t go away. Of course, every one of these rumours come from people ‘in the know’ – but are we not all in the know when we’re sat on Wikipedia cherry-picking great stories to gain more followers?

There may be some truth in the rumours, and I may be forced to eat my words, but Sneijder and Modric seem to be the clear choices to join United at some stage this summer. Any acquisition in midfield will not be made to add youth, or for potential, but to rocket us to Champions League victory, and to turn a hungry, youthful team into world dominators.

Agree with me? Want to make your own opinions heard? Contact me on Twitter via @Adam9309, or via the site’s official account – @StrettyNews!


Dimitar Berbatov: Should He Stay Or Should He Go?

Originally posted on Stretty News.

The Clash recorded this iconic hit in 1981. Ironically, the year Mr Berbatov was born.

Our £30.75m Number 9 looked set to be leaving the club after the Champions League Final defeat against Barcelona at the end of May. Having been left out of the match squad, rumours swamped the internet that he’d left Wembley early and was angry and upset with Fergie, and with the club as a whole. Rumours later denied by both club and player.

After the emergence of Chicharito, and the impeccable form of Wayne Rooney, who could blame Sir Alex in leaving him out the final few games of the season? Certainly against Barca – the pace of our front men was one of the only positives we could have taken from the night.

But Berba looked set to stay, after ‘pledging his future to the club’ earlier in the summer – usually the Kiss of Death for any player. His agent seems to know more than he does most of the time, which doesn’t seem right for a man clearly unsettled from the team he longed to play for.

However, reports in the papers over the last week seem to contradict that. Even this morning, the strongest rumour yet of a move to a revitalised Paris Saint-Germain seems on the cards. An opening offer of £10m will be turned down, but what happens if they offer more?

In the last few moments, we’re seeing reports of United and PSG agreeing a fee – presumably more than the £10m reported. But what does it mean for Berba? What does he have to choose between?

In realistic terms, should the form of Chicharito and Rooney continue, Michael Owen remains injury-free, and Danny Welbeck continues to improve at a rate of knots, Berba will find it tough to be starting a game against big clubs. But, after Scholesy’s retirement, there is now no-one left at the club who can do what he can – link up play.

If Berbatov was a central midfielder, he would be one of the best in the world – his skill, first touch, and ability to pass the ball in ways never seen before are second to none. But the fact he’s a striker, who in his first few seasons didn’t tend to score too often didn’t exactly advocate him to the fans. There isn’t another player like him at Manchester United, let alone the Premier League.

He will score goals, providing you build the right team around him. look what happened against Blackburn and Liverpool last season! We stuck him up top, played Wayne and Chicharito off him, as opposed to with him, and suddenly he had the freedom to stick the ball in the net and create chances. He’s still one of the best centre forwards in Europe.

At the end of the day, his contract runs out at the end of next season, so Fergie may find it best to cash in now. He knows all, remember. But expect backlash from United stalwarts – the majority want to see Dimitar stay a Red for as long as possible, and appreciate the skills he offers to our great club.

Agree with me? Think Dimi should go? You can contact me on Twitter via @Adam9309, or via the site’s official account – @StrettyNews!


Money No Object For New-Look MUFC

Originally posted on 19 Times And That’s A Fact.

United celebrate their 19th title

May 28th 2011 – the day the European football season finished. Alongside the MUFC careers of Edwin van der Sar, Owen Hargreaves, and the legend that is Paul Scholes.

May 29th 2011 – the day the new United revolution began.

As the rumour mill continues to swirl remarkable tales of ins and outs, there are a few deals that do seem to be doing the rounds, and have some element of truth within them.

First up, the ‘Is it? Isn’t it?’ deal for David de Gea, the 20 year-old Atletico Madrid keeper, currently impressing for the Sapin U21 team in Denmark. Fergie said a deal was close, then de Gea said it wasn’t. Then, earlier this afternoon, reports surfaced that he wants to ‘follow in the footsteps of Edwin van der Sar’, insinuating a move to United seemed to be imminent. He’ll cost somewhere in the region of £17.5m, with many United blogs and forums stating the deal will be done come July 1st. That’s one position out the way.

Next came the tussle for Phil Jones. We all know Fergie has been an admirer of Jones all season, having sent scouts to watch him. What we didn’t expect was for us to trump Liverpool with a big £16.5m+ bid to gain the young centre back. The contracts are yet to be signed, but the five-year deal will be made official when he returns from England U21 duty. Reportedly, Jones spoke with Arsene Wenger the day before the deal, and had the opportunity to talk to Liverpool, but didn’t want to know, and only had eyes for Old Trafford. Stage two of the revolution complete.

What about the Ashley Young debacle? This deal was touted in early April as the one to watch, but most United fans just deemed it pure speculation. Until Fergie acted. Now, nothing is official, and we’re basing it on sources and reports we’ve all seen in the media, but apparently Young is very close to completing a £16.5m deal to United, having agreed personal terms and undertaken a ‘brief medical’. The player cancelled his wedding and went on holiday to have a think, having met Aston Villa chairman Randy Lerner, and many expected that to be that, and the formalities to be wrapped up once he returned. But is it that simple?

Well, apparently not. Big rumours and reports emerged this morning that United have lodged a big, £27m bid for Udinese’s Chilean winger Alexis Sanchez, and we were close to snatching the player from under the noses of Chelsea, Man City, and Barcelona. Again, the player is reported to ‘only have eyes for United’, but is this all speculation? And why would Fergie want another winger? There are only three possibilities. Either the Young deal has stalled, Nani is leaving the club, or he plans to play Young in centre midfield, with Sanchez on the wing.

It all seems a little crazy to me – Sanchez would be a wonderful signing, but only if we don’t sign Young. What it looks like to me is Fergie is building a team of world-class stars, proving United still have a big power within the transfer market, and by taking players from under the noses of arch-rivals Liverpool and Man City, we’re proving we are still the place to be in English football.

That may not be the case for Wesley Sneijder, though. Sneijder has long been admired by Fergie, and world football for that matter. We were reported to be close to signing him in the summer of 2010, after a sterling performance for Holland in the World Cup. However, those plans didn’t come to fruition, yet throughout this season, the talk of Sneijder in a red shirt come the 2011/12 season continued to build and build. All seemed lost when the Dutchman pledged his allegiance to Internazionale, but since, both club and player have admitted a deal may be on the cards. Sneijder would cost upwards of £30m, but may involve Inter target Nani in a player plus cash deal to persuade the club to allow Sneijder to join the fifth Fergie generation. However, wages of £200,000 AFTER tax may prove a massive stumbling block.

If Inter don’t give in, though, attention may turn to Luka Modric, the Tottenham playmaker. United have a history of big deals involving Tottenham in recent seasons, with both Michael Carrick and Dimitar Berbatov making the 165-mile journey north. Modric could be another, having admitted yesterday his future is yet to be resolved. However, manager Harry Redknapp does not wish to sell any ‘star players’, and so will charge through the roof for the 25 year-old Croat. Any deal will start at around £20m, and could involve players going in the opposite direction to compensate.

The final piece of the puzzle may fall at the feet of Pato Rodriguez, the unknown Argentine from Independiente. Little is known of the player who scored three goals in 27 appearances last season, yet a €10m fee may lead to the left-sided midfielder join the club. Many say he is the future Ryan Giggs, due to his skill and first touch, but another winger in not yet needed. He may join on a pre-contract agreement, if rumours are to be believed, before joining the club officially on 1st July.

If all deals are concluded, then United will have spent upwards of £135m this summer – a majority share of the £180m cash United have stockpiled, according to football finance expert and United fan Andy Green. So how will we manage to recuperate some of this cash? We’ll have to sell the deadwood.

Already, it sounds like Darron Gibson is off to Sunderland for £5m, and could be joined by Jonny Evans and John O’Shea, for a combined total of £10m. Wesley Brown may call time on a 25-year associated with Man United and join Phil Neville at Everton for somewhere in the region of £4m. Nani is the subject of interest from Italy, with rumours suggesting a £27m deal to Inter or Juventus is likely. Tomasz Kuszczak will be shown the door for a minimal fee, and Dimitar Berbatov may have to leave the club in order to fund these deals, with a £10m+ deal back to Germany looking quite likely, now Miroslav Klose has left Bayern Munich.

All in all, it looks to be a very busy transfer market, and the first time a re-modelling of the team on this scale has taken place since the summer of 1995. It clearly shows the competition Fergie feels has appeared from Chelsea and Man City for European titles, never mind English titles, is severe, and he wants to counter it with a mixture of youth and experience to create a European torrent that will win domestic and European trophies for years to come.

First though, is the small matter of putting Barcelona to rights…

Want to contact me on Twitter? Would love to hear your views – I’m  @Adam9309!