The true winners of the events of this week are the peddlers of rumours, football gossip and the real news; the press. The good people of Rumourville broke gist 24 hours before Sir Alex announced his departure; and it was so. They whispered to us that David Moyes was the appointed successor; yet it turned out so. The press has had so much to report this week and they’re still thirsty for more. And it appears that Old Trafford is hugging the entire spotlight to itself all week because another event is brewing. And for fans of Manchester United it’s not good news. This time, the little bird is chirping that Wayne Rooney has already packed his bags and is ready to say goodbye to playing at The Theater of Dreams.
We, the fans of Manchester United, would never have imagined that day would come that Wayne Rooney would fail to show up for work in our club colours in our beloved stadium. The good people of Rumourville have it on good authority that he’s headed to United’s Premier League rivals, Arsenal Football Club. Another wicked dagger to our yet-to-be-healed hearts. Watching Rooney play anywhere else would be painful but the question is, is this the right time to go? Is it the right time to say goodbye to the jewel in the Manchester United and England’s crown?
Rooney has given 9 years of his life to Manchester United. 9 years in which he broke his foot twice, injured his ankle badly, had several surgeries and at several times had to deal with bad press in his personal life. Rooney didn’t have it easy but with the help of his manager he carried himself well. Especially when things went against him. In turn, he was protected and well-groomed by the club and the manager and he paid their faith in him back. His rewards were on the bountiful side; 5 Premier League titles, 2 F.A League Cups, 3 F.A Community Shields, 1 Champions’ League crown, 2-time losing finalist, 1 FIFA Club World Cup title and several other personal accolades. Rooney and United’s union is like that of a hand in a velvet glove.
He came to Old Trafford a promising 18 year-old and what a passionate, determined and dedicated man he grew up to be on the pitch. For an English player he displayed such uncommon talent and skill and was harnessed to the fullest by the equally resourceful Sir Alex Ferguson. The roughness was refined and discarded out of his game and life, leaving behind a fine, priceless gem. And isn’t it ironic both manager and his player were calling time on their services to the club together?
Rumours have it that Rooney met with Sir Alex 2 weeks before the titan announced his retirement. Their subject of discussion? A possible exit from Manchester United. His reason? He’s looking for a fresh challenge in the remainder of his career and he thinks that challenge lies outside of Old Trafford. Whatever and however that meeting ended, we do not know. But I have it reliable sources that as far back as 6 weeks ago an English club began making moves to add Rooney to their fold this summer and they would table a £20m offer for his services soon. No, it’s not the blue half of Manchester nor the blue half of London. The club that moved to capture Rooney first is Arsenal Football Club of London, England. Now isn’t that ironic? The same club Manchester United raided and pried their former charismatic captain, Robin Van Persie, from their fingers want to return the favour to the Red Devils. The question is should Manchester United let Rooney go and should they let him go to Arsenal? Why should United let Rooney go?
UNITED HAVE THE CHANCE TO REBUILD NOW
At 27, Rooney still has many years ahead of him in the sport. We don’t know if he’s peaked but we know he can still replicate the form that saw him win all those titles at Old Trafford. The slight problem is he wants to do it elsewhere, and he should be allowed to. Wayne Rooney should be allowed to leave now because the club is at a new dawn. If he doesn’t want to be part of the new movement he can’t be forced to stay. Now is a good time, the club can rebuild and restart now because the season hasn’t started. It may take a whole lot of work but what must be done must be done. This is no time to be sentimental. The club has a new manager now and starting off with a reluctant player would definitely set the team back before the season even kicks off. That should not be allowed to happen. Cantona wasn’t stopped from retiring when he still had tons to deliver and the club survived, this will not be any different. It definitely will be tough letting Rooney go but then that’s what Manchester United is famous for. For starting all over again.
KEEPING HIM AGAINST HIM WILL MAY BE COUNTER-PRODUCTIVE
He can’t be forced to play for United, it will prove counter-productive for both club and player. Not only will there be a reluctance to play on his part, it will affect his game adversely and that ultimately may ruin the team. He’ll become unmanageable for the club. A docile Rooney is a stubborn character; a recalcitrant one would be volatile, violent and very mercurial at best. Imagine Rooney in the mold of Steffan Effenberg, Hristo Stoichkov, Roberto Mancini (the player not manager), Antonio Cassano or Mario Balotelli…devastating. Nothing but devastating. He would usher in unheralded anarchy. A rebel with a cause. A modern day football-inspired Spartacus. If Rooney wants to go, the team must find a way to cope without him or go down with him. Being the kind of man he is, he must have thought of his decision before giving voice to it. It took a lot to make him stay on in 2010/2011 season, Sir Alex Ferguson being a big reason, things are different now. David Moyes may have groomed him in the Everton academy but Rooney’s not a 16 year-old former boxing apprentice anymore. He’s grown and can put up a legal team to seek a forceful exit. United should let him go honourably and not let things get ugly.
MOVING ON WILL LET HIS REFRESH HIS NATIONAL CAREER
The 2014 World Cup is almost upon us. England, the home of football has only one trophy to her name won back at Wembley in 1966. They’re way overdue for another one. This may be Rooney’s generation’s last chance as he would be 28 by Brazil 2014, a very good time in his life and career. By Russia 2018 his powers would have waned. Now is a good time to rediscover his form for The Three Lions. Alongside Steven Gerard, Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole, the other remnants of the golden generation, this may just be Rooney’s last chance to make up for previous failures. Going to Arsenal, would be United’s gift to England not necessarily to The Gunners. Yes he’ll have massive impact for Arsenal but think of what an in-form Rooney can add to England’s game. The talk of a domestic rivalry can wait till another day. Influential players like Rooney might serve England’s purpose and cause better if he continues his career at home than elsewhere. Michael Ballack elected to play for Bayern Munich instead of Real Madrid when he left Bayer Leverkusen in 2002. Roberto Baggio chose to continue playing in Italy when Manchester United approached him back in 1994. Frank Lampard refused a big money move to the MLS when Chelsea was stalling and unwilling to give him a new contract extension. They made such choice so they could have a shot at glory with the nation team. If Rooney goes to Bayern or PSG, he’ll have to go through the rigour of travelling for hours before joining the team in training. Those hours would ultimately count for valuable contribution to the team.
LETTING HIM GO IS A CHANCE TO REMAIN COMPETITIVE AND CREATE ANOTHER LEGEND
The capital would suit Rooney and his family very well. The joy that will bring alone would add something to his game. Playing with a ball-playing team like Arsenal would even be great and it will make The Gunners competitive again, so that will put United back on their toes again. This move can only make United up their game and a return to the pinnacle of greatness can be the result of this movement. This will mark the return of epic battles and rivalry yet again. This is healthy for the game. And if it’s his wish to go to the capital, Rooney should be allowed to go so United can create another player of legendary status. Just the same way Roy Keane took over from Cantona, and the same way Rooney took over from David Beckham. It’s another chance for Manchester United to make another player a legend as they’ve been doing in the past decade and half of dominating the England scene. Nothing could be better for the club.
The young man deserves an honourable exit for his meritorious service to the club, letting him go without squabbles to a club of his choice may be the way to start. And when he makes a return to Old Trafford; he’ll get the customary standing ovation we accord our friends and former heroes. For at the sound of the whistle, the Red Devils won’t be showing Rooney nor his new teammates mercy of any sort on the grass. Good bye, young lion, may you continue to roar far and wide the birthplace of the beautiful game of football.
That’s my take, what do you think?
Van Persie delivered the win.
Ever since the Robin van Persie's move from Arsenal to United was done, it has been discussed that he is the difference between United and rest of the title contenders. And yesterday, by scoring his 2nd hat trick of the season, he has proved it right. Van Persie scored three goals to become the leading scorer in the league and delivered the league on a silver plate. Rooney's delivery for Van Persie's second goal was done justice when Robin hit a beautiful volley to extend the lead. Van Persie moved to Manchester United to have a chance of winning trophies as it was better to bet on Kentucky derby now
than to expect Arsenal to win the league and he made sure he did his best in achieving so. Golden Boot and Goal of the season along with a possible PFA Player of the year and a Premier League medal should mean that you've had a good season.
Aston Villa set up was too attack minded.
Paul Lambert's side was in good form coming into this game and with just 3 points off relegation zone, a point or three from this game would have been more than welcomed. With this in mind, Villa set up with an attacking mindset playing Weimann, Agbonlahorand Benteke up front. But this side could not cope up with the blistering start United had and the game was finished when van Persie completed his hat-trick around the half hour mark. The 2nd half was a much better performance and it showed signs of why Villa won't go down this season. They are a young side and fielded 3 academy products on Monday.
Cracking the Rooney-Kagawa roles.
If there are two players who were almost flawless on the pitch yesterday, they were Wayne Rooney and Shinji Kagawa. Rooney started in the center midfield position and Kagawa played just behind Van Persie. Rooney's key passes created the opening two goals and although the opponent was not as tough as Chelsea or City, he put in a
fine shift which earned him a standing ovation from the Old Trafford faithful when he was taken off. Kagawa's best position is playing in the hole and he proved it yet again against Villla last night. Although he missed a sitter to make it 4-0, he only misplaced 3 passes all game and that's a fine example of good he was.
Phil Jones - "The Greatest Ever"
With Ferdinand and Vidic suffering slight injuries, Sir Alex turned to Jones and Evans who started as center backs. There has been a lot of talk of Jones having immense potential and he has been compared to the like of Duncan Edwards, tipped to be United and England's future captain. But the biggest praise he received was yesterday when Sir Alex said that he could go down as the club's greatest player ever. Jones is versatile and has done well in every position he has played, be it at center back, full back or in the defensive midfield. Having only just turned 21 years of age, he has a decade ahead of him and should he stay injury free, he will become one of best in the world.
Sir Alex and the hunger to win
Time and again, season after season, Sir Alex rises like a Phoenix from ashes after to get the trophy back. In the last decade he has shunned the challenge from Arsenal, Chelsea and now he has managed to go one up on Manchester City. He's a winner who has his flaws but his hunger to win and succeed cannot be questioned.
United were poor in the 2nd half and even though they were comfortably leading 3-0 he was on the touchline shouting on players who were lethargic. It's his 13th premier league title and this one's sweeter than the last one.
From being indispensable two years ago, to not making the staring 11 for United’s biggest game of the season, Rooney’s importance at Manchester United has sort of shown a downward graph in last couple years. You don’t substitute your best players, simple as that. However, Rooney, has been subbed off quite a few times this season. Is this an indication that Sir Alex does not see Rooney as his ‘go to’ man anymore?
One of the main reasons that has worked against Rooney is his fitness problem. Often turning up overweight after a break has made his performances lethargic and that is very obvious on the field. Rooney’s been punished for his ‘night outs’ few times by Sir Alex as recently as last season when he was left out of the Blackburn game which United lost in the end. Rooney’s body is not like of someone like Giggs who rarely puts on weight, albeit it’s not his fault that he gains weight quickly, it is his responsibility to watch what he eats.
Analyzing Wayne Rooney’s performance post-contract saga is not as easy as it should be. He has played wide number of roles in past 3 seasons. From excelling by playing in the hole and helping Hernandez and Welbeck for two seasons, to playing in central midfield and on the left. His defensive play has increased as he’s playing deeper than he did in past seasons. Taking into perspective that Rooney’s most influential position has been as playing in the lone striker role, Rooney has still managed a fine return of 65 goals/assists in his last 73 starts for the club.
Sir Alex’s constant playing with Rooney’s position has resulted in him losing his level of performance. A player who is two goals shy of 200 goals for his club should be played upfront. With Shinji Kagawa coming in this side, United have a player who can work wonders from playing in the hole position just behind striker. In such a case, if Rooney’s under-par performance continues, United could easily think of cashing him in and using it for filling up the central midfielder position.
Reports suggest that Rooney is keen to sign a new contract but this time the ball is in United’s court as they hold the strings here. It’s highly unlikely that United will be willing to offer him more wages and certainly nowhere near to the kind of wages the French side Paris-Saint Germain would. Shinji Kagawa is gem of a player and if he is more effective playing in the position Rooney is playing then United should consider selling him thus as it seems like the only way all the parties involved will benefit. Rooney will be better off playing out of position so it would be a sort of second coming for the striker in him and United would get good money for him thus using Kagawa in his favored position.
The word “controversial” has almost become synonymous with French whizkid Paul Pogba. Even at the tender age of 20, his two career moves have prompted much debate, discussion and deliberation amongst the football folk of the land. However, his summer switch to Turin was as infuriating as it was inevitable, making a mockery of the storm that was brewed following his transfer from Le Havre to Old Trafford. Here we had a teenage primadonna in the making, a handful of first team appearances under his most probably Armani belt, demanding a starting role in the midfield and a £30,000 a week contract. What is the world coming to? That’s what we all thought, right? Come on, admit it.. There can be no secret that Sir Alex thought the same. But, with the benefit of hindsight, did we all make a terrible error of judgment?
Since his high profile exit in the summer, Pogba has featured 28 times for table-topping, title-touching Juventus, netting 5 times in the process. This for a club with the Serie A trophy under lock and key in the aptly, yet rather boringly titled Juventus Stadium (Hmm, I wonder who struts their stuff there?). Not many gave him chance a of making it after leaving United. Many even advised it is better placing your bet on sports at Top Bet
and hope Spurs win the league than betting on Pogba doing well elsewhere. Pogba made his international début for France against Georgia in March, playing all 90 minutes in a 3-1 victory. In a more recent and, let’s be honest, a little more tricky qualifying game against tripartite champions Spain, Pogba more than held his own against the likes of Xavi, Andreas Iniesta, David Silva and, erm, Nacho Monreal, or “the new Andre Santos” as he’s affectionately known by the white wearers of the capital’s Northern regions. A late sending off for an overzealous, forgivably youthful challenge on tika-taka King Xavi failed to dampen the spirits or loosen his “noveau Patrick Vieira” tag that, for some time, has been tightening round the neck of the man who has dedicated himself to emulating Paneka’s heir, Andrea Pirlo. “I would like to have a similar career to his”, stated the bullish enforcer-cum-playmaker. On early evidence, this doesn’t sound like the arrogant drawls of a teenage wannabe. It’s a career plan. One that looks increasingly achievable.
So how are we discussing Paul Pogba’s Old Trafford
career in the past tense, a dead duck? Well, Sir Alex has never been one to suffer fools. And the way Pogba acted was, in truth, foolish. "I didn't want to sign a contract as Ferguson didn't play me, even though there were no midfielders there. He obviously thought I didn't deserve the contract I asked for, and didn't put me in the team even though he had no midfield players. It was his choice.” It certainly was. But was it the right one? In an era where the greed and arrogance of the likes of Zeki Fryers and Ravel Morrison saw the bright lights of Old Trafford eclipsed before their cartoon-esque dollar sign eyes, Pogba inevitably fell into an identical bracket. With the aforementioned duo playing reserve and Championship football, many of us anticipated the young powerhouse to discover the same fate, even in the land of sun, sea and, erm, Fabio Borini. Surely the Juve first team would prove, like in the land of rain, council estates and, erm, Les Dawson, a step to far even for his leggy frame. Not the case. Far from it. "United were short of players like me”. Unfortunately, he was right.
Errors of judgment are not something Sir Alex makes a habit of but for every Robin Van Persie and Cristiano Ronaldo, there is bound to be a David Bellion and Eric Djemba-Djemba, so bad they named him twice. There may be no “should’ves” or “could’ves” about Fryers or Morrison, but, in terms of Pogba, it was a chance missed so emphatically that Mame Biram Diouf comes to mind (although, rather frustratingly, the Senegalese forward has been on fire for Hannover this season, reportedly courted by Dortmund. Typical!). Pogba’s form for Juventus has been more fearsome than fine. And with a current squad that is, so were told, desperately deficient in quality midfielders, it seems almost criminal that Pogba has been allowed to slip through the net. As he bid au revoir to Old Trafford, the cries of good riddance were almost deafening. However, avid watchers of the Italian league will tell us that Pogba has developed into one of Europe’s finest midfield prodigies, if not the cream of the rather classy crop. Sacre Bleu!
So, what is it about Paul Pogba that makes him so special? What is it that marks him aside from so many academy disappointments and failures, dropping like flies by the wayside? Why does he rank alongside the likes of Gerard Pique and Giuseppe Rossi rather than Danny Drinkwater and Terry Cooke? You want proof? Unfortunately for the United lovers amongst you, you may not be able to handle the proof. Get on YouTube (other video viewing sites are available...probably...somewhere) and type in “Pogba goal”. The first video you’ll see (behind adverts for Fosters and a Renault Clio) comprises of two, rather special strikes against Udinese. And that’s an understatement. Watch it. Now do you see why he’s so special? Yeah, thought so.
The fact is, Pogba is
exactly what United have been after. All this time scrupulously searching for their Holy Grail and, in reality, it was already in their grasp. An expansive passer, tenacious tackler and owner of some of the most powerpacked boots in Italian football. Comparisons with Vieira, Desailly and co. were just a matter of time. Just when you thought the age of the box-to-box midfielder was dying a death quicker and more painful than the career of Holly Valance, a new kid on the block turns the world upside down. Sometimes the truth can hurt. Watching Pogba in full flow is not too dissimilar to witnessing a young Roy Keane at the peak of his powers. And by Robbie Fowler (or “God” to those of us without shell-suits), we could do with him back. Painful, isn’t it. They say pride is one of the seven deadly sins. Sometimes, it’s best just to admit you’re wrong. As sacrilegious as this may be, Sir Alex was indeed erroneous. In hindsight, he ought to have given Pogba a chance to justify his self-assurance in the first team. Instead, he brought back Paul Scholes. Inspired move it may have been, as “sat-nav” steered United to within a kick of the title, but, in this very moment, the death certificate on Paul Pogba’s Premier League life was signed, sealed and delivered. It was a huge misjudgement. One hopes, prays that Sir Alex will be able to enjoy the luxury of having such a supremely talented protégé in his ranks again. As good as Pogba though? Perhaps not.
In the warbling words of Joss Stone, “you had me, you lost me”. Maybe next time Sir Alex kicks back and listens to a bit of Now 59 this particular track, either side of old favourites; the vaguely memorable Ice-Cube and yep, totally forgotten Christina Milian, will resonate deep within his conscience. After all these years of waiting, wondering when the next big talent was going to stride out of the doors of Carrington, we lost sight of the fact that he was already there. Pogba’s career is on the rise and, if truth be told, it’s barely even begun. United sold him for shy of £1million. What would he be worth now? 20, 25 times more? 30? At the end of the day, you’ve got to wish Paul Pogba luck. You can’t fault his ambition. It’s that bullish quality that has become so synonymous with the man who should still be his manager. He wanted first team football. He was prepared to leave to get it. And, guess what? He got it.
Lessons can be learned. Youth team players are not bred to wind up at Leicester City in a few years time. They are taught by the best, for the best. And sometimes, on rare occasions, they may even be the best. Pogba may be the one who got away, but there’s still reason for optimism. Adnan Januzaj, Davide Petrucci. Hope springs, forever, eternal. If there’s one thing we have all learned from this, it’s that you should never write someone of for having ambition. Yeah, there’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance, but it never did Ronaldo much harm. Pogba may have slipped through the net. Just make sure it’s tighter next time.
Written by Daniel Owen
West Ham deserved at least a point.
Hammers started far better than the league leaders and their physical presence in the midfield and upfront trouble United throughout the 90 minutes. Vaz Te and Matt Jarvis played some good football on the wings and skinned United's defenders quite a few times. Hammers applied the long ball theory where they hooped the ball in hope
that one of their big men headed it in the net and it worked when Rey got their 1st goal. Carroll won every header in the box and was useful yesterday. Diame's wonderful curler gave Hammers the lead for the 2nd time in the match and in the end the game finished at 2 goals a piece but truly, the hammers deserved their 1 point.
Jones fails in a two-man midfield.
In a game where you need to control the ball and keep the possession, playing Jones in the misfiled turned out to be a bad idea as he could not ace either of these traits. Jones was good at getting back and tackling when needed but that left a huge space in the midfield which was often covered by Rooney who played very deep. Carrick needs a player who is more dynamic and United had one of them in Cleverley on the bench but Sir Alex continued not to play him for some mysterious reason and hence filled it by playing Jones there.
United got lucky.
The performance was very lethargic and it would count as lucky that United came away with a point from Upton Park. United's defenders were unable to deal with the long balls for most of the times and their attack was toothless. Rooney had another of those games where he could not care about the game and was rightly subbed off for Giggs in the second half. Kagawa was the only one who played well and it was clear that his 2 assists proved to be the difference. United rescued a point courtesy Robin van Persie's goal and however ugly the way United played was, it meant United only needed 2 wins out of the remaining 5 games.
Sir Alex and substitutions
There has been a trend recently that has seen Sir Alex make changes to the team that would often result in 'too late.' When a team goes down a goal or two it means something is surely not working and it needs to be rectified. But, Sir Alex seems to be content with making changes very late in the game. It has raised some eyebrows that how someone like Valencia who is having worst spell of his career can still start a game. A 39 year old Giggs is looked upon as a game changer and it is worrying some United fans that the signs are not looking good even though United have somehow managed to win most of the games.
The Wayne Rooney situation.
This season, Rooney has been out for nearly 10 weeks due to various injuries he suffered. He still has a good goals/assist ratio but he has been played in every attacking position available. From striker to playing in the hole to a central midfielder and on the left yesterday. Although Sir Alex has said many times that he's a kind of player who can excel anywhere on the pitch, it feels like this experimentation of playing him where the team is lacking is affecting his performance.
No matter what the situation, it’s always a horrible feeling to see your arch rivals celebrating on your own turf. And this was no different. Imagine peering out the window and witnessing your most despised childhood enemy gleefully destroying your prized winning lawn. Well, that must have been how Sir Alex felt as Sergio Aguero’s rocket blasted City into a matchwinning lead at Old Trafford. But every cloud has a silver lining, that’s what they say isn’t it? Even a cumulonimbus like this, obscuring the Theatre of Dreams in a shroud of dismay, brings with it a glow of optimism. Yes, City may have prevailed, yes, City may have des
erved a escapist victory, directing their attention away from their impending disappointment, but it will count for nothing. There’s only so far local pride can go.They can rightfully claim the bragging rights for now but, when you can counter that with the “yeah, but who are the champions?” rhetoric, you may well have discovered the perfect way to shut up the critics. More pressing matters first though. Another home derby defeat. Not quite the humiliation of last year but that humble pie is beginning to taste very bitter.
Lack of importance = lack of quality
Late yellow card flurry aside, United vs City lacked the traditional iconography of a true, old fashioned, rough and tumble English derby. De Gea and Hart were relatively unworked in an uncompromising yet unceremonious affair. Aguero’s wondergoal was, in truth, the only moment of bonafide quality in a derby that looked more local under 12s encounter than superclub mêlée. Perhaps the 15 point gap was the worst possible factor for a game that was almost immediately billed as the title decider by various live betting
sites when the fixtures went to press last summer. Unlike the death or glory battle royale of City’s 1-0 success this time last spring, volume II was as uninspiring a sequel as Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, with Aguero in the ruinous role of Jar Jar Binks. Perhaps the seemingly eternal 15 point lead was the worst thing that could have happened in the eyes of the neutral. The must see finale of last season will not be repeated. The lack of intensity reflected this. Not so much a title claiming combat but, almost a testimonial to the season’s demise. After last year though, we’d certainly take “boring” wouldn’t we?
Hernandez should be first choice
Who would have thought that, with Robin Van Persie and Wayne Rooney in the front line, there would be calls for another man to take on the starring role at Old Trafford? Well, following another abject performance from the out-of-form Dutchman and the seemingly out-of-shape Merseysider, perhaps it’s time for a bit of Mexican magic in the centre forwards birth. Javier Hernandez has always had the reputation of being a truly clinical finisher, as Petr Cech will testify. Not only that, his aptitude for big goals at big times in big games marks him out as the perfect squad member. But, isn’t it about time he deserved more than that? Not once did United stretch the City defence. Not once were Kompany and Nastasic forced to stare into the whites of Joe Hart’s eyes. Hernandez’s introduction gives Sir Alex a different option. One he perhaps should be taking more advantage of.
Lack of midfield muscle cost United
Again the scaly demon of midfield criticism has raised its horrific head. Michael Carrick may have been the star of the show this season, putting in performances that he previously could only have accomplished on Fifa, while Ryan Giggs’ club legend status remains as deeply embedded as ever. Against City however, they were outnumbered, outran, outthought and, let’s be honest, outclassed. With a combined age of a gratis bus traveller, these seasoned veterans are just not the combination for a big game encounter. Against mobile opposition, Giggs and Carrick lack the legs to keep up with the pace of the game. Sir Alex must learn to pair an experienced campaigner with an enthusiastic youngster. Cleverley may not have been in the best of form recently, but his mobility and manoeuvrability is a must have. City predictably dominated possession and, subsequently, dominated the celebrations. A young midfielder is a must have. Unless Sir Alex gets his hands on some sort of “Back to the Future”-esque Delorean and gives Ryan Giggs the keys, the only answer is to put some faith in youth.
Welbeck is the answer to wing problems
OK, United need a new midfielder, we all admit to that, but there has been a recent clamour for a new wideman to etch his name into the Old Trafford squad list. With Wilfried Zaha following in the footsteps of his very near namesake, and continued speculation about a possible swoop for James Rodriguez; it’s clear that the media have made their mind up about who the new darling of Old Trafford should be. With Young, Nani and Valencia beginning to become as disappointing as each and every episode of the Walking Dead, Danny Welbeck has stepped up the plate, possibly providing the answer to our wing wizard equation. OK, he may be no Ronaldo, Giggs or Beckham. In fact, he’s not even a natural wideman. But his enthusiasm and willingness to play anywhere and everywhere makes him an essential commodity for Sir Alex. Where Young again disappointed, Welbeck impressed, giving Gael Clichy plenty of food for thought. Maybe Sir Alex can save that £36million after all.
Momentum has gone
Perhaps that Madrid robbery has had more of an impact than we first thought. It was a crime that wouldn’t have looked out of place on a Channel 5 documentary and it seems like the victims are yet to recover from the trauma. 5 games since, just 2 wins, including disastrous defeats to, not only City, but Chelsea as well. The defence may have undergone a “Ten Years Younger” style makeover but the strikeforce has struggled to come to United’s rescue as they had done on such a consistent basis in the season’s early stages. On Sky Sport’s prided “Monday Night Football”, it appeared that the majority of the United squad had spent the weekend living life to the full, rather than preparing for the visit of the noisy neighbours. The momentum, the energy has gone, lethargy taking its place. Perhaps it’s lucky we’re so far ahead. Because the disastrous disassembling of this time last year is becoming more and more familiar.
It wasn’t quite a goal of such resonance to generate a season soundbite, but Sergio Aguero has a knack for rather meaningful strikes, as United were reminded of on Monday. It was a special goal to seal a dismal derby. City may be chortling now, but we will have the last laugh. They may have won the battle, but we will win the war. The gap is now 12 points but, if that was an option at the beginning of the season, be honest, you would have snapped anyone’s hand off. 4 points to seal the title. Away games against Stoke and West Ham to come. In truth, United should end the drama within the fortnight. If not, no matter. There are still a few winnable home games to follow. United need to put another derby defeat behind them and focus their efforts, their attention on the Britannia on Sunday. Back to the bread and butter, and Stoke away really is the main course in a staple diet. It may hurt now but, just think, in a few weeks this defeat will fade into insignificance. Then we will have the luxury of skipping it on the season review. And that, if nothing else, is the indication of a successful season.
Written By Daniel Owen
The Red Devils are certainly no strangers to change and it looks like the 2013 season is once again going to be packed with players being bought and sold. The latest speculation is that Burak, Matic, Lewandowski and Rooney could all be facing transfers, making it an interesting pick at the bookies for anyone who wants to take a bet where these players may end up.
Sir Alex Ferguson is keen to take on Robert Lewandowski who is currently playing at Borussia Dortmund for the season. Lewandowski has scored 26 goals so far and looks set to be a worthy investment for Man U. The Red Devils were interested last summer, but ended up signing Robin van Persie instead. The rumour mill is however in overdrive, with speculation that Sir Alex is in advanced negotiations with Bayern Munich.
With so much intrigue and anticipation surrounding transfers it has made online sports betting so much more exciting. In addition to the added air of anticipation the iPad has also made a huge impact on the way that fans place their bets and get information about the latest developments, match fixtures, stats and predictions about the games. The iPad allows for anyone to simultaneously watch a live match at the stadium whilst enjoying some online gaming at a site like http://www.ipadcasino.co.nz
or to enjoy sports betting whilst mid game or after some research into the Red Devil players past performances.
Speculation that a new striker will be needed at Old Trafford is rife, as Wayne Rooney’s departure looks imminent. The Red Devils could sell the striker as early as the summer, and the deliberate exclusion of Rooney from the Man U team in the 2nd leg of the Champions League seems to suggest the writing is on the wall. It looks like uber wealthy Paris Saint-Germain who recently acquired David Beckham as their midfielder could be contenders, as they have been closely linked with Rooney’s move. Saint-Germain’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic has warmly encouraged Rooney to transfer as they are desperately trying to establish themselves as the top club in Europe.
There is also speculation that Man U is keeping tabs on Nemanja Matic, the Benfica Midfielder who has become a regular first team player and has represented Serbia at an international level, but it seems this is being kept tightly under wraps for now.
As the cruel ringing of the alarm awoke Manchester United from their dream of FA Cup glory, there was the realisation that the sweet smell of the green Wembley grass will not be filling the nostrils of anyone connected to the Red Devils for yet another season. The lost to Chelsea mean my Free Football Predictions
will make no returns. Domestic glory in the League may offset more disappointment in a knockout front but this season was supposed to be the year when United matched their treble magnificence of ’99, failing that, double glory that opponents Chelsea had enjoyed in abundance in recent years. It was a game of few chances, eventually sealed by two moments of blue brilliance at both ends of the formation spectrum, a sublime volley by Demba Ba equalled in splendour and importance by a wondrous save by Petr Cech. For this season, the dream may have died in the same place that has claimed the lives of so many formerly respected gaffers, but what can United do to ensure that next year, we come back bigger, badder and better. As a certain actor turned congressman once quipped “I’ll (in this case a collective “we’ll”) be back”. And who would dare argue with him?
United need Rooney
Frustration aplenty for Sir Alex as, once again, an international break claimed the fitness of one of our big men for the biggest of occasions. Wayne Rooney, cruelly denied a piece of action due to a groin injury, was severely missing from United’s usual team selection. Akin to Harry Potter without his wand, or perhaps more appropriately Gareth Bale relinquished of his left peg, United lacked a bit of their typical magic. A spark was certainly missing, as the low frequency of chances created proves. Rooney’s power, pace and the ability to pull up trees like the Hulk in Sherwood Forest, was exactly what United needed to defeat a Chelsea side determined to ensure their unrivalled recent dominance in the FA Cup continued unrelentingly. Yes, Javier Hernandez did his customary bit for the cause but, without Rooney’s vision and ingenuity, United lacked the forward thrust that the English bullmastiff provides with maximum bite and relentless aggression. As a result, Cech’s net was, for the most part, as safe as Ant and Dec’s Best Entertainment Presenters award. United have City at home on Monday, the cork loosened on the champagne of success. We’ll all be praying that Rooney returns to provide the pop.
Welbeck is improving by the game
The stats will tell you that Danny Welbeck has just two goals to his name this season. For a forward, that suggests a season of Emanuel Adebayor-esque profligacy. Indisputable proof that the stats, for all their reputation of honesty and integrity, do, indeed, lie. The young English lion has rediscovered his roar in recent months and, if his performance at Stamford Bridge is anything to go by, is beginning to mature into the King of the Old Trafford jungle. And perhaps goalscoring is just not his forte. Fortunately, his possible transition from sturdy centre forward to wing wizard may be exactly what United need. In a team of prolific goalscorers and incompatible widemen, Welbeck’s recent eminence on the chalk straits has arrived at the ideal time. His trickery, speed and increasingly improving close control make him a nightmare for even the most experienced campaigners, as Ashley Cole found out to the detriment of his ageing hamstrings (we shouldn’t laugh at someone’s pain, but, on this occasion, we can make an exception). A sublime first time delivery from the right generated the games optimum chance, that Hernandez header. In truth, Welbeck provided the only real positive in an encounter that reminded us all of the tedious visits to Stamford Bridge of the Mourinho era. Stats. Ha! About as truthful as a Burger King menu.
What to do with Nani?
It seems that, even in our record breaking win machine, there seems to be a poor performance from a red-clad wideman every single game. Whether it’s Young, Valencia or, in this case, Luis Nani, it’s clear that the supposedly tabled deal for Porto prodigy James Rodriguez should perhaps be reignited. As inconsistent as an Oasis album track list, no one is ever 100% what the Portuguese winger is going to do. Even more worrying, not even the man himself seems totally confident anymore. That’s a surefire sign of decline. After a dismal start to the season, missed penalties and half-time substitutions, Nani looked back to his brilliant best in recent weeks only for an awful display at Stamford Bridge to cast clouds over his Old Trafford horizons once more. Poor touch, misplaced passing, typically terrible corners, what is the true Nani? Buoyant and brilliant or inconsistent, overrated? The fact is, we just don’t know. Does anyone? The only man who poses more questions than an episode of Lost, perhaps Sir Alex is fed up with trying to find answers.
Cleverley’s form has dipped
Tika taka protégé Tom Cleverley is arguably the finest young midfielder to strut his stuff at Carrington since Paul Scholes in the era of Britpop and backwards hats. But, recently his form has dipped lower than a military jet. Cleverley, deployed in a slightly wider position at Stamford Bridge, is lacking the haste and penetration of his early season game, replaced by a laboured movement and stray delivery. At the end of the day, John Obi Mikel is hardly the most fear inducing midfield opponent, but Nigeria’s answer to Carlton Palmer dominated the England playmaker out of the game. Cleverley’s influence on proceedings was severely limited. Perhaps this enigma can be accredited to a Raheem Sterling like burnout. He has been at the forefront of United’s leisurely, walk in the park style stroll to the Premier League title, has started every international fixture and represented Team GB at the Olympics. He is human after all. What he needs is a Summer break, a week or so to soak up the rays and rest his muscles at the most luxurious of Spanish villas. And next season, once again, United will reap the benefits of this supremely talented young midfielder.
Flexibility is key
These days, you study the United team sheet and get the feeling that the Sky Sports producers are merely guessing who will be playing where. This United team offers something that past incarnations have failed to provide: flexibility. The years of forcing square pegs into round holes are gone. Darren Fletcher on the wing, Ryan Giggs in defensive midfield, corner pieces in the Jigsaw’s central image. Finally, however, Sir Alex has enough options to keep the opponents guessing as much as a punter with an accumulator on Championship games. Welbeck, Kagawa, Jones, Rooney, Giggs, Rooney etc. All can ply their trade in a variety of positions. At United, formations can alter as rapidly as a politician in the centre of a media storm. And that is what makes this edition so special. In the capital, United may have lost, but their team selection comprised many pliable professionals. If the opposition don’t know your gameplan, stopping it becomes all the more difficult. As City will hopeful advocate in a few days time.
Stamford Bridge has never been a happy hunting ground for Manchester United. They had actually endured nine winless years before a solitary Rooney strike spilt blue blood in the 2011 Champions League. The recent FA Cup defeat harked back to the old days of Chelsea domination. Their monopolisation over the world’s oldest and most revered cup competition doesn’t look like ending any time soon but, as some out of touch French women once said, let them have their cake and eat it. Give Chelsea fans a ray of hope in their increasingly waning hopes. While they bask in the glory of the FA Cup, we will have another Premier League to add to the collection. Maybe that’s why this particular defeat didn’t cause too much pain. Most probably, it meant more to the boys in blue than it did to us. The main priority was the league title. So we’re not doing too badly, are we?
Written By Daniel Owen
They say, in life, that you make your own luck. And Robin Van Persie proved that there is still life in this middle-aged maxim yet. Although, let’s face it, with Titus Bramble at the heart of the opposition defence, your chances of getting the rub of the green are certainly not diminished in any way. The only goal, the winning goal pretty much summed up Sunderland vs Manchester United in a nutshell. A scrappy goal in an equally fragmentary encounter between two sides at polar opposites of the form table. But we’re used to United grinding out victories against dogged opposition. Been there, done that. They are a lean, mean winning machine, mass producing victories at a rate never witnessed before in the Premier League. 25 wins from 30. Yet another record bowled over by Sir Alex’s merchant avengers, relinquishing the unbridled horrors of their most recent visit to the Stadium of Light. There was a sense of revenge amongst the traveling hordes, the Wearside jeers of last May still ringing in their ears. The shoe is certainly on the other foot now, as Martin O’Neil was brutally booted from his job. Another gallant gaffer falls. While the Black Cats are facing a dreaded visit to the vets, Manchester United pounced on their misery to maintain their grip on a 20th league title. And it’s not always easy to discover something about your team after a rather disappointing display. Sometimes, you have to delve a little deeper to find the answers.
Buttner shines again
With all the clamour for a certain Miles Kane lookalike to make the move from the Mersey to Manchester, it came as a relative, if slightly unceremonious surprise when Sir Alex splashed out just short of £4million to bring Vitesse Arnhem unknown Alexander Buttner over the shores of the North Sea. Spiked hair, heavily tattooed, the unfamiliar full-back resembled a member of Blink 182 rather than an essential component of a title winning team. But, over the last few months, an “essential component” is exactly what Alexander Buttner has become. OK, if he tried to count his number of Premier League starts on his fingers he’d only need to be one-handed, but the dynamic Dutchman, once again, showcased exactly what Sir Alex noticed that the rest of the footballing world appeared to remarkably overlook. Hey, their loss. It was an excellent performance. Forming an efficient partnership with Ashley Young, Buttner’s forward thrust and enthusiasm marked him down as the Man of the Match in many quarters. Look up the word “tenacity” in the dictionary and there should be a minute thumbnail of the man himself. An impressive crosser of the ball, Buttner personified his attacking prowess, twice forcing Simon Mignolet into showing off the feline reflexes appropriate to his team’s moniker. With age finally catching up with Patrice Evra, Buttner is set to make his dash towards first team recognition. Sir Alex certainly likes a bargain. And in this guy, he’s found one worthy of Del Boy himself. Lovely jubbly, indeed.
Kagawa deserves a central role
Akin to those caused by a refreshing ice cream on a sweltering summers’ day, Sir Alex’s recurring headache is certainly bittersweet. A dilemma that would make even the most prestigious of philosophers partake in a few minutes of solitude. Van Persie’s position is secure. Centre forward, first choice, no doubt about it. But who should occupy that all-important number 10 role that has become so synonymous with modern day football? The cries of “Wayne Rooney” are almost deafening, but maybe some consideration should be given to Shinji Kagawa. After spending months out of fitness and out of form, the former Dortmund destroyer showed everyone why he’s so highly thought of amongst the experts of our field with a sublime treble against the wing clipped Canaries on their migration North. Starting slightly behind Rooney, he was provided with the space to finally do what he does best. Create and score. It’s a perfect combination. Again, he proved his worth on an uncharacteristically sunny, yet appropriately freezing early afternoon kick-off in the North East. Kagawa may not have provided Mignolet with any real food for thought, but his role at the tip of the tripartite central triangle fitted the Japanese playmaker like a tailored glove. Kagawa slowed down the game, almost toying with Sunderland’s battering ram midfield partnership of Gardner and N’Diaye, bringing his team mates into proceedings with consummate ease and swagger. Not too dissimilar to a mini me Berbatov. OK, he may not possess the power or the punch of Rooney, but he offers something very different to Sir Alex: the creative King the Old Trafford masses have been crying out for. The coronation of Kagawa: United latest midfield monarchy. Sir Alex had better get himself down to the pharmacist. Because this selection head-ache is not going to let up any time soon.
United need to rediscover that golden touch
As with any game, there are always negatives to balance the scales, almost like the Egyptian gods, weighing up whether the performance is worthy of a place in footballing heaven or hell. It is all well and good focusing on the positives, of which there were few in all honesty, but it’s the negatives that keep you grounded, keep you remembering that there is always ample room for improvement. Another 1-0 win for United. Yes, it’s three points, and who can argue with that, but again you just got the feeling that, had United really pushed on, they could have boosted their healthy goal difference, giving it superhuman vigour. Professionalism the key to unlocking success and, granted, too often last season’s gung-ho approach left us with faces as red as Sir Alex confronting a Turkish ref, but the first half at the Stadium of Light was the perfect opportunity to ensure that the scoreboard operator earned his wages. Mignolet was rarely stretched to any real capacity as United totally dominated proceedings. Danny Graham may well have stayed on the team coach for the first half, Sunderland really were that ineffective going forward. With that in mind, it was the perfect chance for United to commit more men forward and kill the game before the break, no mercy. Instead, they toyed with their prey, dragging out its pain, instead of putting it out of its misery. United need to rediscover that killer instinct, that dead eyed tiger shark mentality. Although, hopefully, they’re saving their ammunition for City next Monday.
Young’s time is up
Wouldn’t it be fantastic if we could get that Geordie bloke off Big Brother to speak on behalf of us fans? In any case, its high time Ashley Young was evicted from Manchester United. But hey, fair play to him, he was fantastic for England last Friday. A textbook performance, enhanced by a truly wondrous goal. Maybe he’s finally found his level. The joint worst international team in the entire footballing globe. In the self-proclaimed greatest league in the world then, he’s probably a little out of his depth. This season has been truly terrible. Talk about Liverpool squandering cash on overpriced England internationals, consider this: United forked out £17million to drag Ashley Young to the North-West. His performance on Wearside suggested we might as well bring back Bebe. Talk about desperation. Overhit delivery, misplaced passes; Young should have wrapped the game up in the dying embers, instead opting to roll a tame side-footer to Van Persie, having taken all of the momentum out of his initial forward burst. There’s only so much longer we can take, Sir Alex. He’s getting worse by the game. Suddenly, Nani is looking a very attractive option indeed. Who would have expected that a few months ago?
Defence is the best form of attack
At last, it seems Manchester United have rediscovered the dying art of defending. From that calamitous start to the season, culminating in that 4-3 victory at Reading where Sir Alex joked that he might as well play himself at the back, an attractive prospect at the time, United have revived their defensive durability. It just so happens that it’s coincided with a period of 1-0 wins. Coincidence? Don’t be ridiculous. United have now maintained six clean sheets in a row and not just because they’ve discovered the “new formula” of a certain garishly coloured cleaning product. Bang, and the defensive frailties are gone. Thank God. Could we take any more 4-3s? De Gea seems to have finally come to terms with the fact that he’s going to have to deal with some actual human contact in the Premier League, developing into, not only a top-class keeper, but a sweeper in the Victor Valdes mould. Vidic, Evans and Smalling were fearless, the aforementioned Buttner making up an awesome foursome at the back. From Ground Force to Grand Designs, United are now as secure as any structure in the top flight. It’s about time they got the recognition they deserve.
It may not have been a classic, hey, let’s be honest it was a fairly tepid encounter, but to come away with maximum points and a clean sheet from a side fighting tooth and nail for their Premier League status is nothing to be sniffed at. De Gea’s only moment of worry occurred when Nemanja Vidic got the Spaniard’s face confused with the ball, cue the six minutes of, aptly named, injury time. A return to goalscoring charts for Robin Van Persie (come on dubious goals panel, surely you don’t want Suarez to pick up the Golden Boot) and a clean sheet to throw into the bargain. It’s not a case of blasting teams out of the water, more a case of taking each game as it comes, getting fixtures out of the way. In the end, there will be no games left. And that’s when the trophy returns to its rightful place. It almost seems wasteful that you spend the whole season striving to wrestle back the trophy, only to lock it away in a cupboard for 12 months. Surely is should be on display somewhere. Maybe we’ll design a “Welcome to Manchester” poster complete with an action shot of Vidic, arms aloft, silverware in hand. 8 games left, just 3 wins required. Should be manageable, don’t you think?
Written Daniel Owen
Form is a fickle mistress. Sheer devotion one minute, back-stabbing betrayal the next. You wouldn’t be surprised to discover her and Lady Luck gossiping, cackling, devoting themselves to duplicity. Almost like a metaphorical Katie Price. For Antonio Valencia, form has been a cruel mistress of late. His mysterious girl. 2011/12’s Player of the Season has seen his status as Old Trafford’s Wing Wizard compromised by a dismal run of displays throughout this campaign. But don’t let that fool you. Valencia is still one of the world’s top widemen. He just needs to remind us of the fact. There’s space in his own personal trophy collection for another Manchester United medal but, with the imminent arrival of Wilfried Zaha and the returning form of prodigal son Nani, Valencia’s future is far from certain. How does Sir Alex solve a problem like Valencia?
There can be little doubt that Antonio Valencia is not far off the perfect professional. If a committee of the footballing Gods sat round a table, notepad and pens at the ready with the intention of developing a manager’s dream player, the jet-heeled South American would be the result. A figure of utmost class, both on and off the pitch. A man known for his back-page headlines rather than the front. Even his image. Shaved head, footwear of respectable apparel. An old school throwback to the “good old days”. An example to aspiring professionals everywhere. Maybe Sir Alex had this in mind when Valencia was hand-plucked to replace Cristiano Ronaldo in the summer of 2009. Big, luminous shoes to fill. From one half of a right-wing partnership with Emerson Boyce to the bright lights of the Champions League to the tune of £17million. But if anyone could keep their feet on the ground it was Valencia. A parallel opposite to the preened and plucked departing demi-God. Who would have thought that a guy originating from relative obscurity, making his name at Wigan Athletic of all places would wind up replacing arguably the finest footballer the Premier League has ever had the privilege to witness? No one. Except the man who matters.
Sir Alex had been monitoring the effervescent Ecuadorian since he reduced Patrice Evra to a quivering wreck in the Latics 1-0 defeat at Old Trafford in early 2009. Pace, power, energy, if any man was powered by a Duracell battery, it was Valencia. When Ronnie finally said Adios to Manchester and Ola to Madrid, there was only ever one man to replace him. Valencia had gone big time.
Not that it fazed him. Over the course of the next four seasons, we witnessed Antonio Valencia develop into one of the most dangerous widemen in world football. Ok, he’s no Ronaldo, but who is? While the posturing Portuguese has sulked with green-eyed glances across at his little Argentinean nemesis, Valencia has simply got on with the job. Fuss? Barely minimal. Last season’s Player of the Year gong was a rare moment in the centre of the attention circle. Since then however, he has been thrust almost unwillingly into the light of lime hue. Remember that dog that was inexplicably voted as the biggest talent in Britain? Remember the fear in its eyes as it stared into an expectant multitude of masses? Sometimes media attention can be a very detrimental thing. Just look at Lindsay Lohan. And how much longer before Justin Bieber goes completely off the rails? Now, no-one’s saying Valencia’s going to lash out at a photographer or be two hours late for kick-off but perhaps he’s been blinded by the unforgiving glare of a paparazzo’s lense. From star to squad member. But can Valencia show a little bit of boucebackability?
If there’s one man who has ever had Ashley Cole shaking in his boots, it is undoubtedly Antonio Valencia. Love him or hate him (although most of you will surely favour the latter) the recent England centurion is probably the greatest left-back of the previous decade, although it pains to admit it. The student-shooting, Cheryl-cheating defender almost always survived a Ronaldo onslaught so the fact that Valencia has given him so many problems over the years is a testament to the winger’s ability. He started in United’s justly controversial victory at Stamford Bridge earlier in the season (it’s nice to get a bit of redemption, isn’t it?), coinciding with arguably his finest performance of the season. A brilliant driven cross supplying an instant second goal, Van Persie the benefactor of the Ecuadorian’s trademark accuracy. Once again, Cole was left spluttering on the dust generated from Valencia’s heels. So why can he effortlessly destroy the finest full-back of his generation, yet when he goes toe to toe with Enda Stevens or Ben Davies we are left disappointed, bordering on disillusioned?
In truth, Antonio Valencia only really has one, defining style. Bruce Willis, Ray Winstone, they’ve become compromised by their lack of flexibility, subsequently being stereotyped into a traditional character type. A recent trip to the cinema led to a rather predictable discovery. Willis appeared in a variety of varying, yet ultimately identical, action flicks, each featuring the bald bruiser returning from retirement to shoot-‘em-up, usually donned in a plain white T-shirt. As a result, you can often predict the plot by browsing the cast list. Maybe this bombastic metaphor can explain Valencia’s recent difficulties. Touch, shift, cross. The three-step rule to Antonio Valencia’s gameplan. On occasion, he is possibly the most lethal winger in the league but, on an off day, United might as well be playing with ten men. It’s a style that is often so effective, or completely ineffective. Unfortunately, this season has seen a proportional lead for the latter. Doubling up against him restricts the space, making crossing the ball as challenging and ultimately pointless as sitting through an episode of Eggheads. You know that you aren’t going to know any answers so why bother trying. At times, Valencia must feel the same way. Maybe it’s time for a change in style, time to break free of his stereotyped traditions. But then again, that’s probably about as likely as Bruce Willis starring in the new “Alvin and the Chipmunks” catastrophe.
Sometimes you watch a footballer and you just wonder what is going through their mind. Money, cars, girls. OK, you could probably take a wild guess and come up with the right answer but, in terms of training, why on earth do some players remain so predominantly one-footed? Messi, Ronaldo, Falcao. The three greatest modern footballers. Would you be willing to let Messi take a right-footed shot, let Ronaldo cut inside onto his supposedly weaker peg? No. It’s the ability to mix it up that makes them so special. Valencia on the other hand, well, you pretty much know what he’s going to do. Look at Arjen Robben for instance. How many times have you watched with frustration as he has scampered inside and blazed a left-footed shot over the bar? Too many. These footballers become predictable, preventable. Honestly, how much effort does it take to work on your weaker side a bit after training? Is half an hour a day too much to ask? What do footballers actually do in the afternoon? A game of Fifa, a browse of the local shops, a cup of tea and Deal Or No Deal? Indisputably that time could be put to better use. Imagine how good Valencia would be if he had the ability to cut inside and shoot. Unpredictability is vital in the modern game. Surely being totally proficient with two feet makes you doubly dangerous. Doesn’t it? Could this be Antonio Valencia’s undoing? It certainly appears that way.
In a way, you would hope that Valencia knows what he must do to improve. Even at the height of his majestic powers, it was clear that he could do with a bit of variation. The difference is, back then his main, perhaps only, tactic was working a treat. Now even his tried and trusted style has betrayed him. It was inevitable that he was going to get found out eventually. The best we can hope for is that he rediscovers his pace, revives his confidence and the chalk-booted superstar we all loved returns in earnest. Failing that, the United number 7 shirt may be up for grabs once more. Supposedly Nani is the one heading for the exit. In truth, it’s probably more likely to be Valencia at the moment. He’s got about two months to save himself. Otherwise it’s going to be an interesting summer to say the least. Valencia, if you’re reading this: get down to Carrington and start working on that left foot. Then, drive home and stick on the Season Review for 2011/12. Remember how fantastic you were back then? Now figure out how to repeat it. Touch, shift, cross. Touch, shift, cross. It’s worked so well for you before. Let’s just hope, pray that it will again.
Written by Daniel Owen