Tag Archives: Manchester United

Manchester United Win. Now What?

Okay, now that the FA Cup enthusiasm has waned, let me analyze it.

Erik Ten Hag had the players he wanted for the first time this season: Raphael Varane partnering in the back with Lautaro Martinez, with Amrabat in front of them, Marcus Rashford on one flank and Alejandro Garnacho on the other. United did not play with an out-and-out striker — Bruno Fernandez was the shadow striker – so clearly Ten Hag was going to rely on his inverted players to score, and he had no choice but to play on the counter against a team that is probably the best in the world at the high press.

It worked. They defended deep, and worked the flanks deftly switching play – that long searching pass from Rashford over the top to Garnacho from left to right flank so Garnacho could find Kobbie Mainoo on the opposite flank with space and nobody marking him was brilliant. Then when United got a 2-0 lead, they brought in Hojlund as a target man to replace Fernandez, keeping City defenders in the back instead of charging forward.

All that said, Ten Hag needs to be replaced. Even though he had the suffocating injury issues they had all season and was not able to play the players he wanted to play, there was tons of depth on United to put together a patchwork team that at least should have finished in the top four. Scoring should not have been the issue it was, not with scoring inverted forwards Rashford, Garnacho, and soon Jadon Sancho available (Sancho is coming back after his loan spell at Dortmund, so here’s hoping the next manager will know what he has).

With a porous defense his high press was not going to work, leaving way too much space in the middle and center. He was way too loyal to players he acquired who played for him before (Antony in particular). Most of all, he sacrificed chemistry and familiarity for ad hoc discipline – Sancho should have never been banished from the locker room, and Rashford should have never been deactivated – so he lost the locker room; the players simply just don’t like playing for him.

This was so obvious the several times they lost to inferior teams and bottom feeders they had no business either drawing or losing to, even at home. Ten Hag never has a set lineup, and he doesn’t clearly define what the players’ roles are. Glad he came up with a game plan to defeat City in this one really important game finally with the players he wanted all along, but it isn’t the cup competitions that a manager is judged by. It’s the league season, and with expectations as they are at United, this was just unacceptable.

Manchester City Are Going To Have To Earn It

Manchester City is the wealthiest futbol side in the world now…

…So what?

Coming into the new Premier League season spending hundreds of millions of dollars on some of the finest players in the world — and starting the season winning their first five fixtures to go top of the table — the Blues entered their first Manchester Derby with every expectation of making a statement and shaking up the status quo, even with the game being played across town at Old Trafford. After thoroughly manhandling Arsenal a week ago, one of the so-called Big Four in English futbol, Manchester City were no longer satisfied with being the bastard stepchild to their cross town arch-rivals, and were poised to take over English futbol…

…Manchester United had other ideas.

A City side that gave up only one goal in five previous matches gave up four against the Red Devils, including a Michael Owen game winner five minutes into stoppage time, stealing a point away from the Blues and giving full points to their hated arch-rivals. Instead of the statement at the top of the table that City desperately wanted to make, they fell to third place, three behind United.

Blues manager Mark Hughes had every right to be angry with the game referee, who had signaled that their would be four minutes of stoppage time at the end of the second half but granted United almost six. But while his anger with the timekeeping may be legitimate, it is no excuse for his team having taken their foot off the pedal before the final whistle. With a Craig Bellamy equalizer just seconds into stoppage time, the Blues effectively mailed it in the rest of the way. Say what you will about the Red Devils, but they play hard in every match through to the final whistle.

Was the game referee being kind to Sir Alex Ferguson’s charges? Possibly. But Mark Hughes played for United for 15 years, including eight under Ferguson. In his 24 years at the helm of Manchester United, Ferguson has won ten Premier League titles, five FA Cups, four League Cups, one Cup Winners Cup, two European Championships, one Euro Super Cup, and two Club World Championships. As a result of such largesse the Red Devils have the largest private stadium in England, the most popular sports club in the world, are the most expensive single sports club on the planet (valued at close to $2.5 billion), and generate the most annual revenue of any sports entity in this dimension (about $500 million annually). In every measurable sense Manchester United sit on top of the futbol summit. So it should come as no surprise that on occasion the referees give United the benefit of the doubt that is usually accorded a king. Hughes should be well aware of that from his time there.

Nature Boy Rick Flair once said, “If you want to be the man, you gotta beat the man.” There is also an axiom in boxing that says, “If you want the title then you can’t just win it on points, you’ve got to get a knockout.” The Blues did neither.

If Mark Hughes, Manchester City and their wealthy Abu Dhabi sugar daddy owners want to become one of the elite teams in England and the world like Liverpool, Boca Juniors, Juventus, Barcelona, Real Madrid, AC Milan, Bayern Munich – and Manchester United – then these aforementioned sides are not just going to bow down and relent simply because the Blues have more money than they have now. All of them spent decades earning their place atop the futbol food chain…

…Manchester City is going to have to earn it, too.

– daveydoug

Deservedly Tooting My Own Horn

“YOU HEARD IT HERE FIRST: Sometime in the next three years Barcelona and Manchester United will be playing each other in some European capital on the fourth Wednesday in May.”

On July 10th, 2007, after Arsenal transferred world-class forward Thierry Henry to Barcelona, in an infrequent soccer feature I write call “Some Soccer Thoughts”, I made the above observation on this very blog (If you don’t believe me you can check for yourself)…

…I’m just saying…