Category Archives: 19 Times

Half-Term Report: What Are United Scraping By For?!

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

United celebrating another goal against Arsenal

With the international break this weekend, we’re left in a bit of a quandary – nobody can really judge our season as yet, but you can’t help but look back. Such a strong start, yet some very lacklustre performances. But why?

The plain and simple reason is that of our midfield. I’ve said time and time again that we have no-one in the middle of the park to connect our strikers and our defenders. Our lack of counter-attack ability proves this. The Norwich game last weekend helped show how we hold onto the ball far too long, then get trapped into tight positions in the middle third of the pitch. It’s a very dangerous game to play.

But we can’t keep blaming Anderson, Darren Fletcher and Michael Carrick for our problems. We’ve been weak in defence without Vidic, and Rio certainly is leaving a lot to be desired. Phil Jones has been our star of the season so far – he’s a man possessed sometimes. Chris Smalling continues to improve and impress, but again, Patrice Evra seems to be a bit off-form too. Pressure of concentrating on being interim captain? Surely not for a man who ahs given so much to our team the last few seasons.

We seem to be relying far too much on Wayne Rooney up top. I know he is seemingly our best player, but does that mean we should become a one-man team? The whole attraction of United is that we’re not, and we just drive forward as a unit, not just one man and another ten following up.

I will admit that we have played some cracking football at times too. Our first few games of the season, in particular the 8-2 victory against Arsenal, really shone, and made us stand out from the crowd.

So what would solve all this? I know we keep going back to it, but someone in midfield with experience, and with attacking AND defensive prowess. We miss Scholesy, who brought a lot to the table with his play. Someone like Paul is needed to tie all the team together, and bring us completely together as one.

Will Sneijder join? If things stay the same, don’t be surprised to see Fergie make a cheeky bid. We’ve been long linked with Bastian Schweinsteiger, who would be an equally good signing. Other names floating around are Javi Martinez, Marek Hamsik, and Eden Hazard, all of whom could do the job.

Until that hole is plugged, we’re going to keep seeing these scrappy, drawn-out performances, which I know for a fact is annoying every United fan around the world.

Tagged

Will 1999 Ever Be Duplicated?

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

20110729-074741.jpg

For any United fan, 1999 is ‘it’. It is the year that every dream any Red had came true, and the season that no fan will ever forget. A Premier League win pushed right to the end of the season, an FA Cup that had all the thrills of any good cup run, and a Champions League trophy to celebrate Sir Matt’s 90th birthday.

But can that wonderful season ever be bettered?

The simple answer is yes, of course it can – nothing is unbeatable. There are a wealth of opportunities available to European clubs to bask in the glory of a Quadruple, or even win a ‘Clean Sweep’ – still yet to be achieved. How many English clubs do you know that could win a Premier League, FA Cup, League Cup, Community Shield, UEFA Champions League, and UEFA Super Cup?! Currently, only Barcelona look close enough to achieving the feat, but even then, it’d be a massive struggle.

The 1999 win is judged by many to be the most glorious moment in an illustrious history. After all the heartache and despair that followed the 1958 Munich Air Disaster, and the ‘Rising of the Phoenix’ that culminated in a first European Cup in 1968, ’99 was one of those seasons that EVERYTHING fell into place.

Ryan Giggs’ 70-yard dribble and goal against Arsenal in the FA Cup semi-final. Roy Keane’s inspirational performance against Juventus. The Golden Generation of Nicky Butt, Paul Scholes, David Beckham, Gary Neville, and Phil Neville all hitting peak performance at the same time. There aren’t many bad thoughts that followed 1999.

However, 1999 will always be remembered by United fans as the best season in the history of not just English football, but European football. It wasn’t what happened on that May evening in Barcelona, but what it meant to so many. United are estimated to have 330m fans worldwide, and I can guarantee that the majority will automatically think of the Treble when 1999 is mentioned. Sod the Millennium Bug, or Cliff Richard’s new Number One – it was the Red Mist at the Nou Camp that we all take away.

But there is no way that it will ever be duplicated. We may win another Treble again, or we may even complete a ‘Clean Sweep’, but the sentimental value of 1999 wont ever be beaten. That season was just majestic.

Who can forget the brute force of our midfield?! Roy Keane with a crunching tackle, before the ball was played to Scholesy, who played an inch-perfect ball across to Beckham, who would himself then cross into the box. Teddy Sheringham up front with Andy Cole, and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer read to pounce from the bench whenever a quick goal was required.

Compare that to 2011. Michael Carrick with a tackle, before the ball was played to Darren Fletcher, who played a ball to Nani, who would cross into the box. Doesn’t sound quite as effective when Lady Luck isn’t on your side.

Solskjaer is similar to Chicharito, in that they both loved to score goals, and they both adored running from the sideline in the 85th minute in search of a late winner. Wayne Rooney’s had a few ‘hairy moments’, let’s say, but he is still one of the greatest signings Fergie has made.

Our defence can, of course, occasionally be shambolic. Nemanja would leave Rio exposed, and seeing as he’s crocked 90% of the time, we do see flaws. Especially if Jonny Evans has to play. A far cry from the super-partnership that was Ronnie Johnson and Jaap Stam. You’d be lucky to make it past the big Dutchmen, and then you’d be faced by the Great Dane that was Peter Schmeichel.

So, in reality, no, 1999 can’t be duplicated. In terms of footballing capabilities, all you have to do is look at the Champions League Quarter-Final against Chelsea last season, and you’ll see we haven’t lost it. But it won’t ever be quite as special as that completed Treble in May 1999.

I used to have an alarm clock in the shape of Old Trafford, and I woke up every morning to this…

‘Beckham, into Sheringham, and Solskjaer has done it! Manchester United have reached the Promised Land!’

Tagged

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!

Tagged

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!

Tagged