Category Archives: Manchester United

Where now for Tom Cleverley?

Cleverley: Down and out at Aston Villa, or seeing things clearly?

Cleverley: Down and out at Aston Villa, or seeing things clearly?

The curtain-raiser for the new season was halfway through and Manchester City had eased into a comfortable 2-0 lead, with every prospect of denying their cross-city rivals from Old Trafford any chance of a sniff of comeback. During the break however, Sir Alex Ferguson, perhaps considering there was little to lose, decided to throw a young Tom Cleverley into the fray for the second period. When the referee brought the game to an end, United had turned the tables and won 3-2, with the young midfielder, fresh from a season-long loan period at Wigan Athletic the star turn.

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Giving up the ghost!

A little harsh perhaps, but for my version of 'A Christmas Carol' Ed Woodward is cast as Scrooge.

A little harsh perhaps, but for my version of ‘A Christmas Carol’ Ed Woodward is cast as Scrooge.

‘Tis the season to be jolly, or so they say. For some however, it doesn’t quite work out like that. In a story particularly popular at this time of year, Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by a number of ghosts. Each has a cautionary tale to tell about how things need to change if a particularly unpleasant outcome is to be avoided. Well, seeing as it’s panto season as well, I’ve decided to take the plunge and offer my football-inspired version of A Christmas Carol.

To be sure, Ed Woodward, executive vice-chairman of Manchester United is no miser. Well, not as far as I’m aware anyway, and his largesse in the transfer market probably bears that out. For the purpose of my particular interpretation of Dickens’ famous tale however, I am compelled to cast Ed in the role as Ebenezer Scrooge. Apologies requested in advance. Continue reading →

Moyes seeking redemption amongst the Basques.

Moyes is to take over at the Estadio Anoeta.

Moyes is to take over at the Estadio Anoeta.

Sir Alex Ferguson was always fond of saying that whenever anyone leaves Manchester United, inevitably it was a step down, regardless of whichever club they went to. Real Madrid, among a couple of others may dispute such an assertion, especially of late, but for David Moyes, taking a step back to reignite his managerial career after his traumatic time in the Old Trafford hot seat was probably inevitable. That he has landed at the Estadio Anoeta to take charge of Real Sociedad, a club often compared in stature to Moyes’ previous employer at Goodison Park, at least shows that the Scot retains a hunger to prove himself in the managerial game.

Just over a year ago, Moyes, together with his then Manchester United charges returned from San Sebastien following a fairly satisfying 0-0 draw against his new employers in a Champions League encounter and could hardly have envisaged the turmoil and dismissal that was to follow. With an 18 month contract now is place with the Basque club however, he faces the task of rebuilding both a career and a reputation seriously damaged by the doomed attempt to take over the driving seat at Old Trafford from Sir Alex Ferguson. Continue reading →

Sir Alex Ferguson learns the difficult art of denial

Sir Alex Ferguson - Is he trying to walk away from his mistake?

Sir Alex Ferguson – Is he trying to walk away from his mistake?

There was always that dread moment at school when a particularly hard-line teacher suspected you of doing something wrong.

“It wasn’t me,” you said. “I didn’t do it.” It was as if multiple denials were some kind of incantation that would convince the menacing figure of malevolence of your innocence. It never seemed to work though, no matter how effusive you were in pleading to the contrary. Busted!

It would be wrong to paint the latest version of Sir Alex Ferguson’s autobiography in such a light, but I have to confess that the addition of chapter 27, ‘United in Transition’, brings those thoughts to mind. A mea culpa it certainly isn’t. Continue reading →

TPO funds – The Pay-Day Loans of the football world?

football-money

Fifa has agreed to ban the third-party ownership (TPO) of players. It’s the practise that allows clubs to buy players wherein the transfer fee is part-funded by an investment company, which then takes a share in the commercial rights of the player, with the desire for that percentage to turn a handsome profit when the player is sold on. In essence, the fund is using the club as a finishing school for a player to gain in experience and ability, thus increasing his value in the transfer market and proportionately having the same effect on their investment. Some see such practices as reasonable, others as the inevitable and insidious continuing encroachment of financial affairs into the world of football. Continue reading →

Louis van Gaal’s 3-5-2: How the knee of a Roma midfielder shaped Manchester United’s formation for the new season.

Following Holland’s progress in the World Cup deploying the system, it was always likely that Louis van Gaal would consider bringing the 3-5-2 formation to his new club, Manchester United. That the Dutchman is a coach of world-renown, with a trail of trophies and titles behind him in countries across Europe is of course widely accepted. What may be less well appreciated however is that his adoption of the formation was less part of a strategic plan, and more a reaction to the knee injury sustained by a key player.

Louis van Gaal - 3-52 by design or necessity?

Louis van Gaal – 3-52 by design or necessity?

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Louis van Gaal and the Class of ’97.

Van Gaal at the Camp Nou

Van Gaal at the Camp Nou

If you were asked to produce a list of the managers who have left a major mark on football, who would be on the list? Ferguson? Almost certainly. Wenger? Probably. Mourinho? Ancelotti? Arguably. Some may even reach back a little further in time, and pull out Rinus Michels as a name. There’s a case to be made for all of the above.

Some, such as Michels with his ‘totaal voetball’ have done so with tactical innovation. Others, such as Sir Alex Ferguson or Arsene Wenger in English football, can claim to have dominated for a while. The likes of Jose Mourinho and Carlo Ancelotti have broken barriers with winning Champions League trophies with different clubs, building winning squads again and again. Very few however could lay claim to have influenced so many future high-profile managers, in such a short period of time, as Louis van Gaal did in his spell at Barcelona between 1997 and 2000. Continue reading →

The poisoned chalice of being the man that follows the man.

Moyes - Manchester united

With the new season just around the corner, and a new man at the helm at Old Trafford, it seemed an appropriate time to reprise an article I produced around the turn of the year talking of the difficulties that Davis Moyes was facing, and would face moving on as he sought to replace Sir Alex Ferguson. It also discussed that if Moyes was moved on, the next manager in line may have an easier ride. It turned out to be quite prescient.

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