For many, Sunday is a day spent in the company of family and friends, reading that unfinished book, or watching a new episode of a favourite show. Over at United Rant it’s spent catching up on the beautiful game. Join us, in Rant’s weekly round-up of Manchester United-related news and blogs – Media Digest, which in this issue covers not one, but the past two weeks.
The season has started! United has been four dull games late to the party, but after the international break fans finally got a chance to see a re-energized side in action. Even as the Reds were burning against Leicester City, one couldn’t escape the thought that this was somehow a small measure of progress. Slowly, United is getting there.
“Happy endings may get a bad rep, but they do happen.”
Few doubt that David Moyes’ time at United was a failure and he had mostly himself to blame. But did anything good come from the period? Paul Gunning suggests in his article for Republik of Mancunia that supporters should be at the very least thankful for the reality check the Scot provided:
“Sometimes, a period of illness can almost seem worth it as you begin to recover. You step back out into the world with fresh eyes and a greater appreciation for the beauty that surrounds you. It has always been there, but you had stopped noticing it; taken it for granted. Suddenly the future looks bright and you know that, even when things take a turn for the worse, you can draw strength from the memory of dark times in your past that you have negotiated.”
But even so, it wasn’t pretty. While fans are yet to hear many details, some are slowly surfacing. Rio Ferdinand provided the most recent in his autobiography. While Red Mancunian’s Mark Nevin was not fond of the revelations, he also notes:
“One of the first principles of effective man-management is not to allow yourself to get dragged into disagreements over issues that are at best peripheral: in other words, if you’re going to upset your employees, only do it over something important… Banning the eating of low-fat chips falls into the same category. Its impact on performance is almost certainly negligible: all it achieves is to annoy those at the receiving end of the dictum. ‘Win the person not the argument’ is another common management slogan… We may, in time, find similar criticisms levelled at Van Gaal… His control, however, is aimed squarely at those areas that impact on performance and team bonding and which will unquestionably make sense to the players under his charge..”
Things have definitely moved on since last April (for a memory refresh Beautifully Red reviewed United’s summer in .gif format.) For one, the club finally spent some money. Does it mean United lost its identity and abandoned the ‘way of youthful?’ Almost every blog touched on this topic in recent times and the universal agreement is that the club’s identity is just fine.
The Peoples Person features a thorough look at the topic by Doc Joshi, who argues:
“The Class of ’92 played alongside the likes of Peter Schmeichel, Eric Cantona, Gary Pallister, Steve Bruce, Brian McClair and Denis Irwin – all seasoned professionals at the peak of their powers. They had players like Roy Keane and Andy Cole proven at the highest level who were yet to hit their peak years. It was a team filled with quality as well as promise. The point is not that we are abandoning our faith in youth but we are concentrating on elevating the first team to the standard expected of a Manchester United side… It is easier to bring in young players when you are in a position of strength.”
As Richard Cann notes in his article for Stretty News, “when it’s United different rules apply, for they are eternally damned if they do and damned if they don’t”. Cann then smashes critics’ doublethink:
“However, criticism of Woodward, Van Gaal et al since the early editions were printed on the morning of September 2nd has not only centred on the failure to recruit in certain areas. Instead, commentators aimed their arrows at the very overspending that many had insisted would be necessary weeks before and…actions considered to be betrayal of United’s fabled faith in youth and home-grown talent… Perhaps what is most remarkable about the claims that United have broken from their history and ushered in a new Galactico era is that it totally ignores Sir Alex’s time at the club prior to the Glazer takeover, when his United regularly broke the British transfer record and paid out what were vast sums for both young talents and proven quality.”
After all several young players have featured for United this season and quite a few are expected to follow the lead.
“You really have to want to quit. You gotta hit rock bottom.”
Late on 1 September Danny Welbeck left the club for Arsenal, breaking a few hearts and igniting an identity-lost-or-found-debate along the way. Whilst it was a good move for all parties concerned, many fans were disappointed to see the striker go: Manchester born and bred, saying goodbye to his boyhood club, dreams shattered. The scenes.
In his Hemingwayesque article for Red Mancunian (“write drunk, edit sober”), Joel Downings waxes lyrical:
“Our club’s identity is shaped by those who embody it. Players who ‘get it’, Danny Welbeck is a prime example of that… “When the ball went in, that feeling… if that feeling was a drug I would be dead!” Welbeck said of his first United goal.”
He then, soberly, adds:
“I write with a heavy heart but it’s for purely sentimental reasons I wish the transfer hadn’t happened. I trust in our manager’s vision and if it is felt that a youth product isn’t good enough for our first-team then I accept that.”
In the end, though, as William Dawson argues in his piece for Red Rants:
“The jokes hide the pain but it must be said that there is no sarcasm when wishing Danny the best of luck and saying he will be sorely missed… Hopefully one day after he’s developed into the world-class striker he has the potential to be, he might be back at Old Trafford. Danny Welbeck. Forever a Manchester Lad from Longsight. Our Danny.”
“All those things that weren’t supposed to happen? They happened. What happens next is up to you.”
Just like fans, journalists were concerned with United’s identity in the past fortnight. Unfortunately, for the most part, the fourth estate fell victim to the urge for sensationalism, with few offering a more honest assessment. One such author is Danny Taylor, who writes in his article for The Guardian:
“Check the history, Gill used to say, and it would show United had never gone in for buying superstars for huge sums when they could develop their own for nothing. If only that were true. Twenty-one different clubs have broken the British transfer record since Aston Villa made a Scottish inside-forward by the name of Willie Groves the first £100 player in 1893. United, however, are the only one to have done it eight times… United are not losing their soul. They are simply playing catch-up. It is probably their only way back and, if anything, the most legitimate criticism about them returning to the highest end of the market is that they should have done it long before now.”
Among those who insisted that United’s way will never change is Ryan Giggs. In his interview for The Telegraph he talks about Falcao, management, confidence, and what it’s like to work with Louis van Gaal.
“Obviously the manager – sorry, Sir Alex – had his ways of working, basically his man-management was brilliant, his knowledge was brilliant, but he left the day-to-day stuff to Steve McClaren, Brian Kidd, Carlos Queiroz, Rene and Mick. Louis is more hands-on regarding what we’re doing day to day, he takes the sessions. It’s all very precise. He’s very vocal during training, very keen to communicate exactly what it is he wants and expects. He is calm… Louis prefers to work on the training ground.”
The same outlet is also full of praise for United’s new signing Daily Blind. Alan Smith suggests that Blind brings game intelligence to United’s midfield and goes on to say:
“…it was clear right away how well Blind reads the game. Adept at offering the right angle to the man in possession, he kept the play moving smoothly with his one‑touch passing… Lacking the athleticism of Bryan Robson, the power of Roy Keane or the long-range vision of Paul Scholes, the new man compares more closely to Michael Carrick, who, when fit, might experience some problems finding a place in this side. Like Carrick, Blind is a continuity player also responsible for sniffing out danger and blocking off avenues. Not so much of a strong tackler, he goes about that defensive side leaning more on anticipation and interceptions.”
“You keep rolling with the marital discord, and I see you across from Oprah on a big yellow couch”
By the time Wayne Rooney retires he might have scored the most goals and submitted the most transfer requests in United’s history – and the joke will be on the fans. Should this be allowed this to happen?
Paul Parker thinks not. In his column for Yahoo! Sport he writes:
“That’ll leave Van Gaal with a big call to make: dropping Wayne Rooney… A few weeks ago, I read Jamie Redknapp’s column saying more or less the exact opposite – saying (ahead of the arrival of Di Maria and Falcao) that Rooney would be the only United player who’d get into the side at Chelsea or Manchester City. I actually laughed out loud when I read it, because it’s just total rubbish… He’s not a patch on the likes of Diego Costa or Sergio Aguero – and as we’ve seen in the past, rather than react by upping his game and sharpening up his act, he’s more likely to down tools and start sulking about his treatment. In retrospect he should probably have been sold to Chelsea last summer…”
Barney Ronay echoes Parker’s sentiment in the article for The Guardian:
“Enter: the Wazza Paradox. Here is a footballer who has been elevated to the pinnacle of what he could reasonably hope to achieve – captain of club and country – at precisely the stage in his career when he is no longer able to fulfil with genuine distinction either function… Above all he has lost that sense of absolute joyful certainty in his own powers, reduced instead at times to whirling about fretfully between the lines like a dying crab, eyes fogged with grit, gargling brine and scurf, pincers snapping at empty air.”
“Who gives diamonds to the homeless?”
What did the past two games, against QPR and Leicester City, have in common? The correct answer is: formation. United employed a midfield diamond, but to rather different outcomes. After a victory over QPR, Stretty News’ John Deehan was straightforward:
“Surely there can’t be many United fans out there, especially in the wake of the QPR game, who are gunning for a return to [3-5-2] which seemed so alien to the players it may as well have come under Chapter 2 in the David Moyes’ Big Book of Tactics – Chapter 1 being The Art of Crossing.”
Unfortunately, when it comes to properly defending with a diamond, United still has a lot of work to do. Pearson admitted: “We had done our research this week and their attacking options are frightening but the diamond formation they play leaves a lot of space behind the full backs and we looked to exploit that.” The press, led by Redknapp and Carragher, destroyed United’s defending much like their namesake Jamie Vardy did. while Gary Neville simply called United soft-centred.
Meanwhile former Liverpool midfielder Danny Murphy provided an interesting analysis of the game for BBC:
“The game should still have been in their control. Instead, they were nervous. When you are in that situation, leadership matters…In the past, Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic have been that voice, but they have gone and not been replaced. Instead, against Leicester, United had 20-year-old Tyler Blackett at the heart of their defence… The Leicester players were given far too much space. Blind got lots of praise this week for the way he shielded the defence against QPR and set the tempo with his passing – but that was a completely different game…This time, with the pace and energy of Leicester, plus the number of players they pushed forward, the game by-passed him a little bit… if United want to challenge against the top sides then they have to look at changing their system or their personnel…You could really only argue that Luke Shaw should be given a chance now, and that Phil Jones would play if he is fit. But that is it. So a change in system is probably more realistic.”
Andy Mitten tells a great story for Scandinavia Supporters Club’s site.
Cristiano Ronaldo is a jealous of the attention United’s new signings are receiving, so claims The Telegraph.
Meanwhile, Daily Mail reports that Van Gaal ordered players, including Antonio Valencia, once Cristiano’s, ahem, replacement, to take English lessons. It is also reported that he ruled that players hand in their mobile phones the night before matches.
The Telegraph reveals how United attracts their superstars even without Champions League football.
Daily Mail reports on the termination clause in Radamel Falcao’s loan agreement if the Colombian’s knee injury returns.
“Nobody likes you. You’re ugly and your mother dresses you funny. Now smile, you fucking douche.” Did Hank describe a football agent? The Telegraph reports on Jorge Mendes’ big coup, while Sky Sports quotes Sporting Lisbon president’s rage over third-party ownership of players.
P.S. Sandy Busby passed away earlier this week. Rest in Peace.