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7 Questions Mourinho needs to Address

Added by Philip Meese on 29 Nov 2018 17:30

A look at some burning issues within Old Trafford that Mourinho needs to answer.

By Philip Meese, Chief Editor

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The storm clouds are gathering over Old Trafford, despite their qualification to the Champions League knockout round. It’s not been pretty this season, even less so than last year. Manchester United were out of the title race by the end of September, and out of the League Cup at the first hurdle.

There are some burning issues that are bugging the fans, which have regularly come up on Social Media this season. To date, nobody seems to be able to answer any of these questions.

Why is Valencia the club captain?

Antonio Valencia has developed into one of the most pointless footballers in the Premier League. When he arrived at Old Trafford in 2009, he was a powerful, pacey winger with pinpoint crossing ability. Within six months of his arrival, Wayne Rooney had more than trebled the amount of headed goals he had scored throughout his career.

Fast forward to 2018 and what United are left with is a winger converted to a full-back, who isn’t the best defensively and has seemingly developed a phobia of crossing the ball, preferring to cut it back to someone else when in a good position. Throw into the mix the fact that he still hasn’t learnt fluent English, having been in the country for over 12 years, and you must ask why he is the official club captain. It’s not as though he is leading by example, in fact he’s barely played this season. In fact, he hasn’t been the same player since handing back the number 7 shirt.

Surely the captain of Manchester United should be someone who is going to play every week, which at the age of 33 seems unlikely for Valencia even if he hadn’t liked a certain Instagram post recently. The club skipper should also be someone who fluently speaks the same language as the rest of his team mates. Most importantly, it should be a player who is seen as a key player in the team. Valencia does not tick the box any of those categories, so why is he wearing the armband?

In summary, he’s not great at defending, offers nothing in attack and, at the age of 33, is hardly in his prime. United need a captain who can lead the club over the next five to ten years. Valencia is not that captain.

What exactly has Eric Bailly done wrong?

Ask any United fan who they think the best centre back at the club is, and it’s likely they will say Eric Bailly. When he joined the club from Villarreal in 2016, it looked like Mourinho had found a bargain. Here was a defender with the aggression of Nemanja Vidić, the athleticism of Rio Ferdinand and more pace than either of them in their prime. He hasn’t kicked a ball for United in almost two months.

The warning signs were there last season, when Bailly was consistently left out towards the end of the campaign. When Phil Jones gave away a penalty in the F.A. Cup Final, the wisdom of this was questioned (and still is). This season he seems to have been made a scapegoat. In the defeat to Brighton & Hove Albion, Bailly’s rash challenge gave away a penalty in what was already an awful performance. In fairness, that’s how a lot of penalties are conceded. Against Newcastle, with United 2-0 down, Bailly was withdrawn even though neither goal was his fault – Ashley Young was culpable for both. 

You also have to ask what Bailly has done to receive such treatment, given that he looked superb in his first two seasons at United. It’s also worth pointing out that Bailly was a José Mourinho signing, who a lot of fans believe is one of the few players at the club who is of the required calibre expected of a United player.

The fact that United conceded less than thirty league goals in each of the last two seasons, when Bailly was a regular, is worthy of note. This season, when the Ivory Coast international has hardly played, they have already conceded 21. The message seems clear, the team needs Eric Bailly.

What’s the deal with Pereira?

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This is a strange one. Mourinho made a big song and dance about the fact that Andreas Pereira went on a second loan spell last season. After spending 2016-17 at Granada, he spent last season at Valencia and impressed in both spells. After impressing in the pre-season tour of the USA, he started United’s first two games of the season. Since then, he has made just three substitute appearances. He did well against Leicester City but, like most of the team, didn’t against Brighton. He must have done something right as he made his debut for Brazil the same month.

A lot of the fans on social media have been saying he should be playing, and it’s clear that United need something different. It’s hard to say, however, that Pereira should play because nobody has seen enough of him to judge if he is good enough. But he should be given a chance, at least.

If he isn’t going to be given opportunities, what was the point in keeping him at the club, and why did Mourinho seem to be so upset when he went on loan last season? Is he just punishing him for going against his wishes, or is that now he has seen him up close in training, has concluded that he isn’t good enough?

What does Matić have to do to be dropped?

Mourinho has always had his favourites over the years, players who are seemingly undroppable, regardless of how bad their form is. Nemanja Matić would seem to fall into this category right now, even though he is probably in the worst form of anyone in the team right now.

Last season, the Serbian was one of United’s best outfield players. He brought a calm authority to the midfield, protected the defence and would have made a good choice as captain. This season is a totally different story, as Matić is becoming a liability. He had surgery in the summer and looks like he has lost a yard of pace, when he wasn’t exactly blessed with it to start with.

At first many people thought it was while he was getting his match fitness back, but as the season progresses, he seems to be getting worse. Against Young Boys on Tuesday night he was not only poor with his passing, but slow to react to passes from his team mates, which resulted in United conceding possession on several occasions.

Everyone is entitled to go through a bad patch of form, it happens to most players. At most clubs those players are dropped, with someone else given a chance. What is baffling, particularly as some players are dropped after just one average performance, is that no matter how poor Matić plays his name seems to be set in stone on the team sheet. It can’t be a coincidence that his dip in form and United’s suddenly leaky defence have happened in the same season.

What was the point of buying Fred?

United’s biggest signing of the summer was Brazilian international midfielder Fred, a £52 million transfer from Ukrainian club Shakhtar Donetsk. Like Pereira, Fred also started United’s first two games of the season and was dropped after the Brighton game. He has featured more than his international team mate, and even scored his first Premier League goal against Wolves.

It’s almost as though Mourinho is easing him into the team, trying to get him used to the rigors of English football. The truth is that he doesn’t really need it as he has looked decent, admittedly not spectacular, in the games that he has played. Against Young Boys, he was the only one trying to play the ball forward, and yet he was substituted to keep Matić on the pitch. Surely giving Fred a run of games, especially when nobody in United’s midfield is doing anything special, would surely be the best way to get him bedded in?

United need something different, because what they have tried so far clearly isn’t working. Playing week in, week out might remind Mourinho why he bought him in the first place.

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Why are contracts being handed out to players who should be cleared out?

There have been a lot of average players at Old Trafford over the last seven or eight years. A lot of these players wouldn’t have got into any of the United sides that conquered the Premier League or Europe over the years. They aren’t winners and are certainly don’t possess the talent to play for a club the size of United.

Marcos Rojo was given a new deal earlier this year and has yet to feature for the club this season. He has played more games for Argentina than the club who pay his wages. Despite his late winner on Tuesday night, there are very few United fans who would be sorry to see the back of Marouane Fellaini, who only signed the contract United offered him when he realised no other big club was interested.

Reports suggest that United are having talks with Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, and Ashley Young, and will trigger the one-year extension for Antonio Valencia and Matteo Darmian. Given that none of these players have come anywhere near putting together a Premier League title challenge in the last five years, the only reason the club should be extending their deals is to get a sell-on fee.  The only reason Smalling and Jones have got Premier League winners’ medals is because they were part of a defence that included Nemanja Vidić and Rio Ferdinand.

In the meantime, United have triggered the extension on David de Gea’s contract, while they attempt to negotiate a new long term deal. Reports suggest that he wants around £350,000 a week. If this is the case, given that he is the only proven world class player at Old Trafford, they should have no hesitation. He is the only member of United’s squad that earns his money every single week. United should prioritise this over renewing the contract of players who should have been cleared out long ago.

What is actually happening in training?

Look at the slow, lethargic patterns of play that United have displayed this season. Is that what they work on in training? Is Mourinho happy with what he is seeing in front of him on the pitch? The fans certainly aren’t, hence, a crowd of less than 73,000 at Old Trafford on Tuesday.

It’s bad enough that Manchester City and Liverpool are not only better than United but playing a brand of football that gets people off their seats. Mourinho’s side play boring, pedestrian football that nobody wants to watch; there is nothing exciting about it. Do they work in training to bore the opposition to death and then try to nick a goal?

The emphasis seems to focus on United stopping the opposition scoring, rather than letting the players express themselves. Their attacking players have proved time and time again that they have goals in them, and United fans would accept the lack of serious contention for trophies a lot more readily if they were at least watching exciting football.

Final Thought

If Mourinho hopes to make a success of his time at Manchester United, maybe he should consider the points above. Each one addresses an issue that is niggling the fans on a big scale, because they all seem to be affecting the current plight of the club.

Big changes are needed at Old Trafford, and the sooner some, preferably all, of the above issues are resolved, the sooner the United fans might not spend every game posting on Facebook and Twitter about the state the club is in.

If José Mourinho doesn’t address at least some of those issues, he might find that the “Third Season Syndrome” that dogged his spells at Real Madrid and Chelsea strikes again.

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Rants & Musings

The Worst United team in 30 Years?

Added by Philip Meese on 28 Nov 2018 20:38

A look at why this current Manchester United side are the worst in thirty years.

By Philip Meese, Chief Editor

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Manchester United are in crisis, no doubt about it. Something needs to change, but you get the impression that nothing is about to. The Red Devils have just played two home games in a week, and it took them more than three hours to score just one goal. That is unacceptable.

30 Years ago, United had a team that ended up finishing 11th in the table, something which doesn’t look out of the realms of possibility for the current squad. Incredibly many of the fans would probably rather watch that particular team that what they are currently being served up on match days.

Here we look at the similarities between the United team of back then and the current one, as well as some glaring differences.

Looking Back

At the end of the 1987-88 season, things seemed to be looking up for Manchester United. Alex Ferguson had just completed his first full season at Old Trafford and had finished 2nd in the table. They were still a considerable distance behind the eventual champions Liverpool but seeing as United had gone over twenty years without winning the league, this was a considerable improvement on the previous season’s 11th place.

Much was expected going into the new campaign, especially after Brian McClair had become the first United player since George Best to score more than 20 league goals. When Mark Hughes returned from Barcelona in the summer of 1988, it looked like they finally had the firepower to overthrow their scouse rivals.

What happened is that the season petered out before the end of Autumn. By the start of December, United had only won three league games, and were out of the League Cup. English clubs were still banned from Europe at the time, which meant United’s only hope of silverware was the F.A. Cup, which ended after a disappointing home defeat to Nottingham Forest. McClair and Hughes scored 32 goals between them (16 each), one less than McClair had managed on his own the previous season.

The highlight of the season was a brilliant 3-1 win over Liverpool on New Years Day 1989, after an encouraging performance from Russel Beardsmore. United finished 11th in the table, and it seemed like they were just going backwards. This was highlighted further when the following season they finished 13th, five points above the relegation zone, despite winning the F.A. Cup.

The Current Situation

United have had their worst start to a season in the Premier League era. They have won less than half of the thirteen league games played so far, and have a negative goal difference for the first time at this stage of the season since the 1970’s. In three Champions League games at Old Trafford, United have scored just one goal, in injury time against Young Boys last night. That’s over four and a half hours of European football at Old Trafford before they found the net.

Romelu Lukaku has struggled to find the net this season, after hitting 27 goals last term. The calls for him to be dropped are getting louder, with his lack of mobility being cited as one of the reasons for United’s pedestrian approach to games. There is certainly no doubt that his goal drought is one of the elements in United’s failure to score, as he was quite reliable last season.

Just like thirty years ago, they are already out of the League Cup and with 14 points separating United and Manchester City, José Mourinho can forget the title this season. It’s very unlikely they will even finish in the top four, given the teams they have struggled to score against this season.

Similarities

There are numerous similarities between the current campaign and that of thirty years ago. On both occasions, United had a manager around two years into the job, and both had finished the previous season as runners up in the league, but quite a distance behind the eventual champions. Just like in 1988-89 United’s inconsistent form saw their title challenge effectively ended with less than two months of the season played.

United went out of the League Cup at home to Derby County at the first hurdle earlier this season. Thirty years ago, they also suffered an early exit, but at least made it to the second before Wimbledon knocked them out. If United were to be knocked out of the F.A. Cup in the quarter-final, like in 1988-89, it would be no surprise.

Another interesting comparison between the two eras is in the striking department. On both occasions a striker who had scored more than 25 goals in his first season at the club, struggled in his second. Lukaku has played 17 games this season and scored just four goals, the last one being at Watford in September. By the end of November in 1988, McClair had played the same number of games and scored six times – three of them against 4th Division side Rotherham United.

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It is also worth noting that in both seasons, United had endured a disappointing summer in the transfer market. Only two of Mourinho’s targets, Diogo Dalot and Fred, were recruited but their high-profile failure to attract a new centre-back was one of the talking points of the summer. In 1988, Ferguson had been promised by Paul Gascoigne that he would be moving to Old Trafford, only to change his mind and join Tottenham Hotspur. Mark Hughes was the only major addition that summer.

It could see a similarity in terms of outgoing transfers as well. Towards the end of the 1988-89 season, Norman Whiteside, Paul McGrath and Gordon Strachan were all transferred to pastures new. They had been three of United’s best players throughout the early to mid-1980’s. Fast forward thirty years and every day United’s three most important players, Paul Pogba, David de Gea and Anthony Martial are linked with a move away from Old Trafford. The latter two have deals that expire at the end of the season, although United will no doubt trigger the one-year extension for both players.

Differences

Despite the similarities regarding certain situations, the Manchester United of 1988 could not be further removed from the one we watch today. In both cases, the teams are infuriating but thirty years ago, United would be brilliant in one game and either very poor or average in the next. This season United have only played to their potential in one game, against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge when they were unlucky to concede a last-minute equaliser. Many of the positive results they have had have been ether ground out or rather fortunate, such as Juventus away.

One of the reasons for the inconsistency of the 1988-89 team is that Alex Ferguson was slowly rebuilding the club. He was struggling to get a tune out of Strachan, who didn’t enjoy playing under him, and Whiteside and McGrath’s off-field disciplinary problems were too much for even Ferguson to handle. Hughes and McClair were struggling to gel as a partnership (which never really happened completely), the recently acquired Steve Bruce didn’t have a regular partner, leaving Bryan Robson as the only world class player that Ferguson could rely on. The rest of his squad were made up of youngsters and fringe players from the Ron Atkinson era who were surplus to long term requirements.

The one thing that can be said about United this season is that they have been consistent. Boring to watch, slow-paced, dispassionate and looking like they are afraid of the opposition has been a theme in almost every game this season. They have consistently been awful. It’s hard to find an explanation for this, either.

José Mourinho has got a squad full of talented players, all of whom are internationals, assembled at vast expense over the last ten years. Unlike in 1988, most of these players have played together for at least a couple of years, yet they play like they are alien to one another. One of the most disappointing things, however, is that they show little urgency to break down the opposition. Sometimes it looks like they are worried about the opposition, rather than letting them worry about what United can do to them.

The vast difference is in how both of squads approached games. United would always try to win games under Ferguson, but the problem was that most of the players he inherited from Atkinson were not of the calibre expected of an Old Trafford player. Ability wise, they wouldn’t get near the current squad. But they always gave it their all. Many of the current United squad, although certainly not all of them, as individual players have the pedigree required to wear that famous red shirt. The problem is that, a lot of the time, they look like they can’t be bothered.

Conclusion

In 1988 there were certain excuses that could be made for the plight United found themselves in at the time. Ferguson was overhauling the club from the ground up, particularly at youth level, and the first team were a mix of some of his early signings and what was left from Atkinson’s reign. It would get worse before it got better, as United finished 13th in 1990 but also won the F.A. Cup. The difference is that those players ran through brick walls for the shirt, sweated and even bled for the cause.

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Watching United last night in the Champions League it is not hard to understand why the ground wasn’t full. The attendance was less than 73,000, meaning more than 3,000 seats were empty (United always publish the actual attendance, unlike some clubs who announce the attendance how many tickets were sold). Given that some fans come from all across the country, even the world, you can’t blame them for not wanting to turn up, especially when half the team don’t either.

At the end of the 1988-89 season United had an attendance of 23,368 for a home game with Wimbledon. In those days Old Trafford held less than 50,000, and the club had literally nothing to play for, having bored the fans for most of the season already. Last night qualification for the next stage for the Champions League hinged on a United win. It would have been unthinkable five years ago for United not to sell out a fixture such as that.

Compare the two situations, a game that meant nothing at the end of the season three decades ago, against a game that United’s entire season could depend on. In both instances, the fans voted with their feet. The difference is that in 1988, it was easier to pay on the door at Old Trafford, the match day attendances weren’t as dominated by season ticket holders. The chances are that most of those empty seats last night had been paid for, an important game, and they didn’t have a full house. It could have been the last Champions League match at Old Trafford for a very long time, as well.

If we’re honest, the only way United are likely to be playing Champions League football next season is if they somehow manage to win the competition. In fairness, Mourinho has won it twice, and both times with clubs who were nothing like the best team in Europe. It would take a brave man, however, to bet on lightning striking a third time.

Moving Forward

Something needs to change at Old Trafford if they don’t want to see similar attendances going forward. Manchester United is not the draw it once was for Europe’s top players, and Old Trafford is no longer a ground that opposing teams fear to play at. The standard of football, the attitude of the players and the fact that they haven’t challenged for the league title since they last won it was bound to have a knock-on effect. It is no surprise that some fans don’t want to go out of their way to watch them anymore.

Think about it another way; when you pay money to go to watch a film at the cinema, and it turns out to be nowhere near as good as you thought it would be, how annoying is that? Why would you pay at least ten times that amount to go and watch something you already know is going to be of very little entertainment? The fans that do go to every game are the ones who do so out of pure loyalty.

The reality is that top flight players these days have little to lose. Even if they spend the season on the bench, they will still be at least a couple of million pounds richer by the end of it. Each contract they sign ensures that. Now what the club have is a bunch of overpaid, overpampered players who don’t care about playing for the shirt (they still get paid a king’s ransom at the end of the week), and a manager who seemingly doesn’t know how to get the best out of them. All of these elements, plus the sleep inducing football on show mean that, unless they can turn it around soon, they will be known as the worst United side in thirty years.

The real Manchester United fans (not the ones who only started supporting the club because they were winning everything) are not too concerned about the fact that they aren’t anywhere near the best team in the country right now. They don’t think United have a divine right to be winning trophies, and would stick with them even if they got relegated. What they want to see is a team that at least tires to win the game and tries to play attacking football. They want to see a team that cares.

In 1988, the players in the Old Trafford dressing room were nowhere near as individually talented as the current crop. Most were players who knew they genuinely had no place being at a club the size of Manchester United. But at least they tried to put on a show for the fans.

And at least they cared.

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Features

Who Could blame De Gea if he leaves?

Added by Philip Meese on 26 Oct 2018 18:27

In light of José Mourinho’s comments that he doesn’t believe David de Gea will pen a new deal, we ask the question, who could blame him if he doesn’t?

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By Philip Meese, Chief Editor

It emerged earlier today that Manchester United manager José Mourinho is not expecting David de Gea to sign a new deal. The Spanish goalkeeper has been at Old Trafford since 2011, and his current deal is due to run out at the end of the season, although United do have the option of extending by an extra year.

The situation means that if de Gea cannot be persuaded to ink a new contract before next summer, United may have no option but to involve the extension and sell him. This will no doubt provoke angry reactions from some fans, but can anyone really blame him for not wanting to stay in the current climate?

He’s Come a Long Way

When de Gea first arrived in Manchester just over seven years ago, he was a 20 year old bag of bones, who looked anything but able to cope with the demands of the English game. During his first two seasons at Old Trafford, fantastic reaction saves were tempered by several mistakes which often saw him dropped in favour of Anders Lindegaard.

In truth, it wasn’t until after the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson in 2013 that everyone began to see what all the hype was about. Under David Moyes’ stewardship, United were an absolute mess going from champions to 7th place in just one year. Had it not been for de Gea, who won the clubs Player of the Year award for the first time that term, United might have finished in the bottom half of the table, so poor were they during that season. This was the first of three consecutive awards (the first player in United’s history to do so) and he won his fourth last season, just for good measure.

World Class

In the current setup, it is probably fair to say that David de Gea is the only undisputed world class player at Manchester United. Fans of Paul Pogba and Anthony Martial may argue that United’s French contingent also fall into that category, but it’s just not the same. The reason that players like Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are bracketed as world class (in fact, they are probably a level even higher than that) is that they perform to the best of their abilities practically every week, and have done for over a decade. In almost every game they play, they show exactly why they are rated as highly as they are.

Pogba and Martial definitely have world class potential, there is no questioning the talent of either player. But until they start doing the business every week, and United start regularly winning games because of their efforts, they cannot put themselves in that bracket. Alexis Sánchez, who is also rumoured to be on his way out of Old Trafford less than a year after his arrival, has shown it over the years with Barcelona and Arsenal, but not yet in a United shirt.

The reality is that over the last five years, de Gea has pulled out a world class save in almost every game United have played. These are the sort of saves that win matches, the kind that most other goalkeepers don’t produce. This is why many fans, whether they support United or not, rate him as the best in the world.

Better than Schmeichel?

When Ultimate United was first set up, one of our regular series of articles was whether de Gea could be better than legendary Danish goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel. Many United fans rate him the best of all time, especially those who followed the club in the 1990’s. There can be no doubt he is one of the greatest keepers ever to play the game but, in my opinion, de Gea has surpassed him in terms of ability.

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This may be a controversial opinion but there are several factors to consider, whoever you may believe is the best. Schmeichel only ever played in successful teams, and in the eight years he was at Old Trafford the Red Devils never finished lower than 2nd in the league table. He played behind defenders such as Steve Bruce, Gary Pallister, Denis Irwin, Jaap Stam, Gary Neville and Ronny Johnsen. Even the less lauded defenders such as David May, Henning Berg and Paul Parker were far better than what de Gea has had protecting his area for the majority of his time in England.

Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, Jonny Evans and Marcos Rojo wouldn’t even get a squad number for the teams Schmeichel played in. Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidić and Patrice Evra were at Old Trafford when de Gea signed but all three were probably at their peak at that point, if not a little bit past it. Edwin van der Sar was the one who got the pleasure of playing behind them at their absolute best.

Another factor that puts de Gea ahead of Schmeichel is the range of saves he can come up with. The great Dane saved United on so many occasions, but the best saves he produced were usually as result of the way he seemed to be able to make his already huge frame even bigger. De Gea seems to be able to pull off saves that he has no right to make, with almost any part of his body. His awareness and anticipation of where the ball is going to travel is far greater than any goalkeeper in United’s history. This is how he saves so many shots that would beat most others.

He Deserves Better

United fans rejoiced when de Gea did a U-turn in 2015, signing a new contract after flirting with a move to Real Madrid all summer. That should have been the catalyst for United to start planning how they were going to turn around the mess that they were in, even back then. The truth is that the club look even less of a title contender now than at any time since Ferguson left. Yes, they finished second last season but the reality is that they were closer to 6th placed Arsenal than champions Manchester City. De Gea is the only player who would get in Pep Guardiola’s side; any City who disputes this now they have Ederson, ask them how he would fare if he was behind United’s current defence.

Real Madrid signed Thibaut Courtois from Chelsea during the summer transfer window which would seem to end their interest in de Gea, at least in the immediate future. Make no mistake, however, there would be no shortage of top European sides interested in his services if he were to become available. Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain are just two clubs to be been linked with him lately, and given how the Turin giants performed at Old Trafford on Tuesday night, who could blame him for having his head turned by them?

A goalkeeper of de Gea’s calibre would be an asset to any squad in world football, and he deserves to play in a team at the same level. The fact that opposition sides aren’t afraid to come to Old Trafford anymore, all of them confident that they can get a result, tells its own story. At the moment it looks like the only way United will be in next season’s Champions League is they either win it this season, or they finish third in their group, drop down to the Europa League and win that. Neither of those scenarios seem likely at the moment. With the club 10th in the table at the moment, it would take a very confident gambler to bet on Mourinho’s side finishing in the top four.

Given that he is one of the best goalkeepers in the world, if not the best, it seems fair to expect that he will want to win the top honours in the game. His international team are a shadow of the side that won the World Cup, sandwiched in between two European Championship victories. If United can’t provide him with a setup where he can challenge for the top honours, why should he waste his peak years at a club that doesn’t match his ambitions? He has already given us more years that most players would have done.

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Final Thought

Remember when Wayne Rooney told United he wanted to leave to in 2010, it sparked protests from fans and even death threats. People were camped outside his house to hurl abuse. In some fans eyes his legacy has been tarnished forever after he signed a new contract a week later, which made him the highest paid player in England at the time. The situation with de Gea is unlikely to be resolved in the same way this time.

Back then, Rooney had also expressed concern at the way the club was headed, but he was persuaded to sign a new deal on the sort of money even Ronaldo didn’t earn. It is hard to see de Gea signing a new deal just because of a pay hike this time. Let’s face it, any club he goes to will most likely pay him the sort of money United can offer. It’s not about that.

All that the top brass at United seem concerned about is making money, and qualifying for the Champions League; something which is by no means a certainty this time around. De Gea wants to win it, and every other major trophy he can lay his hands on. Despite being the biggest club in England, and one of the biggest in the world, United haven’t once challenged for the Premier League title since Ferguson retired.

At the age of 27, he probably has around another ten years at the very top of his game. Who could honestly blame him, after more than seven years, for wanting to win the sort of trophies that Manchester United are not even challenging for?

Given the state of the club, if United can persuade David de Gea to sign a new contract, it would be an even bigger achievement than when they held off Real Madrid to get him to agree to the current one.

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Features

United's loan stars 2018-19

Added by Philip Meese on 15 Oct 2018 21:18

A look at the players United have loaned out this season, how they are doing and what their future Old Trafford prospects are.

By Philip Meese, Chief Editor.

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With a quarter of the season gone, it’s safe to say Manchester United’s first team haven’t had the best start to the campaign, especially in the Premier League where they sit 8th in the table. As is the case every year, several of their academy players have gone out on loan to gain first team experience. This has proved valuable in the past as it gives them the chance to play on a regular basis, preparing them for if and when they make the grade at Old Trafford.

United’s poor start to the 2018-19 season has made fans wonder if some of the players farmed out might have been able to contribute to the current first team. Here’s how the nine players loaned out this campaign are getting on in their new surroundings, and how their future prospects look at Old Trafford. Are they out on loan to gain first team experience, which will help them establish a future at United, or just in the shop window to interest other clubs?

James Wilson

Wilson made a dream debut at the age of 18, scoring twice again Hull City in May 2014. It’s all gone downhill since Louis van Gaal left, and he has never started a competitive game under Mourinho.   Previous loan spells at Brighton & Hove Albion, Derby County and Sheffield United produced just five goals, although his time at Derby was cut short by a season-ending knee injury.

Wilson is under contract until 2019, with the option of a further year. He wasn’t given a squad number at the start of this season, however, and was sent on a further loan spell to Aberdeen. He has played three games so far, scoring one goal against Motherwell. Given how the last few years have gone for him, it wouldn’t be a surprise if United don’t even trigger the one-year option on his deal next summer. Clearly, his future lies away from Old Trafford.

Verdict: Shop Window

Matty Willock

Yet to make an appearance for United, Willock has spent his entire career on loan in Holland and Scotland. Last season, while on loan at St Johnstone, he scored his first senior goal. So far, he has played six of St. Mirren’s first eight games this season, and they are currently 11th in the Scottish Premier League. At the age of 22, and with his deal expiring next summer, it’s hard to imagine him making the breakthrough.

Verdict: Shop Window

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Demetri Mitchell

The young left back has already made his Premier League for United, against Crystal Palace in 2017, and he is very highly rated at Old Trafford. This is his second spell at Hearts, after last season’s loan was hampered by injury, with Mitchell claiming he has “unfinished business” at Tynecastle Park. He has already played in five games in a season which has seen the Edinburgh club take a shock early season lead at the top of the table.

Verdict: Gain Experience

Dean Henderson

The 21 year old goalkeeper instantly became first choice for Sheffield United upon arriving. He has played all 12 league games so far this season, keeping four clean sheets, as they sit at the top of the Championship. With his contract expiring in 2020, United will have a decision to make next summer, as there will be plenty of interest if he keeps up this level of performance. Will they renew his contract, and send him back on loan, or sell him in order to obtain a fee rather than risk losing him for nothing a year down the line? He may have a long term future at Old Trafford, but unless David de Gea is sold, it’s hard to see him breaking through in the immediate future.

Verdict: Shop Window

Kieran O’Hara

O’Hara is currently first choice goalkeeper for the Republic of Ireland under 21 side, and is spending this season on loan at Macclesfield Town in League Two. He has played three of the last four games, but with the goalkeeper competition already at Old Trafford, it is hard to see the 22 year old’s future at United.

Verdict: Shop Window

Joel Pereira

Of the three goalkeepers United have loaned out this season, Pereira seems to be the most likely to have any kind of future at Old Trafford. He has already played three games for United’s first team but is spending this season in his native Portugal, with de Gea and Sergio Romero ahead of him in the pecking order.

Pereira has so far played 5 games for Vitória de Setúbal who currently sit 10th in the Primeira Liga table. He still has just under three years left on his contract, so his loan seems to be more about gaining first-team experience, rather than putting him in the shop window. As is the case with Henderson, De Gea’s future at Old Trafford could determine his own.

Verdict: Gain Experience

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Axel Tuanzebe

Like Demetri Mitchell at Hearts, Tuanzebe went on loan last season, to Aston Villa, only to see the opportunity wrecked by injury. He returned to Villa Park over the summer, and has played 11 games for them so far. While Tuanzebe seems to be having a productive season, the same cannot be said for Villa themselves. They currently sit 15th in the Championship table, although only four places off a playoff place, which cost Steve Bruce his job earlier this month. Dean Smith is now the man in charge, and it remains to be seen whether Tuanzebe will remain as involved as he has so far this season.

José Mourinho has sung Tuanzebe’s praises in the past, and he will hope that this time his loan spell is injury free. The 20 year old has looked the part when given first team opportunities at United, particularly against Arsenal. It makes sense for him to be on loan, however, given that the defence is already lacking experience. It’s hardly likely than Tuanzebe would be the answer; in fact, given the way United’s season has gone, it would probably destroy his confidence. It would be no surprise to see him head out on loan next year as his contract has just under two years left, with the option of a further year.

Verdict: Gain Experience

Tim Fosu-Mensah

This was the loan deal that surprised, and annoyed, a lot of United fans. Fosu-Mensah is a Dutch international, and can provide cover at full back, central defence or in midfield. Given United’s woes at the back this season he might have been a useful addition. It’s also surprising because, at 6ft 3ins, he fits the “giant” category of the type of player that Mourinho likes in his side.

After a successful stint on loan at Crystal Palace last season, where he was quite a hit with the fans, he hardly needed another loan spell. He has been similarly received at Fulham this time around. It’s hard to say whether Fosu-Mensah is on loan because Mourinho just couldn’t guarantee him as many minutes on the pitch as he would like, or if he just doesn’t rate him. There would be no shortage of buyers if it is the latter.

Verdict: Gain Experience

Cameron Borthwick-Jackson

How his stock has fallen in the space of just two years. He impressed when drafted in under van Gaal in the 2015-16 season, and José Mourinho tied him to a new contract until 2020 as soon as he arrived at Old Trafford. Fast-forward to 2018, and his loan at League One side Scunthorpe United seems to have put him in the last chance saloon, after previous loans at Leeds & Wolves turned sour. He has played six games so far, but only one in the league. For someone who showed so much promise, it now seems likely he will be sold next summer.

Verdict: Shop Window

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Features

Why Woodward Banner will have No Impact

Added by Philip Meese on 03 Sep 2018 21:27

A look at why the banner aimed at Ed Woodward over the weekend was nothing more than a waste of money.

 

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By Philip Meese, Chief Editor

 

Ahead of Manchester United’s 2-0 win over Burnley on Sunday, a group of fans clubbed together to hire a plane to fly a banner over Turf Moor. The message, aimed at Old Trafford CEO Ed Woodward, was quite clear; they blame him for the lack of transfer activity over the summer. It labelled him a specialist in failure. What was also apparent that the majority of the fans are behind José Mourinho, whose named was chanted throughout the game.

 

As bold a statement at the banner is, it is also a rather pointless one. Whatever the fans may think, the only way that Woodward will leave his position will be of his own accord.

 

That First Summer

 

Ed Woodward is a former investment banker who joined United in 2007 as head of the commercial department. Within his first five years, he almost tripled the club’s commercial revenue, and was appointed to the board of directors in the role of executive vice-chairman. When Gill stepped aside in 2013, Woodward was appointed in his place.

 

History shows that the majority of fans have never really taken to the United chief executive.  He replaced Gill around the same time that David Moyes replaced Sir Alex Ferguson. What followed was a summer of frustration, filled with transfer rumours which never came true. The only player United were linked with who ended up at Old Trafford was Marouane Fellaini – and even that made the club look like amateurs. First of all, they let a £23 million buyout clause in his contract expire, and then ended up paying £27 million on the last day of the transfer window. This was just a few weeks after they had bid £28 million for both Fellaini and his Everton team mate Leighton Baines.

 

Events such as this led to speculation that the Glazers had put a cap on the spending, but over the next few years the club spent more than half a billion on transfers. This kind of spending seemed to dispel those rumours, especially when they broke the world transfer record to buy Paul Pogba. Last summer, however, the first crack in the foundations of the relationship between Woodward and Mourinho began to appear.

 

Opening the Chequebook

 

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Despite Woodward backing Mourinho to the tune of £145 million for Romelu Lukaku, Nemanja Matić and Victor Lindelöf (not counting what they would later spend on Alexis Sánchez), a stumbling block was hit regarding Ivan Perišić. The Croatian winger was valued at around £50 million by Inter Milan, whereas United were reluctant to go any higher than £44 million. The spending this past summer has been quite modest in comparison to previous years, with just Diogo Dalot and Fred recruited for a combined £67 million. Mourinho wanted a new centre-back and, despite making enquiries about Harry Maguire, his preferred target was Toby Alderweireld. As with Perisic the previous year, Woodward and the board were apparently not happy at the prospect of shelling out a hefty fee for a player fast approaching the age of 30. In both cases, they were happy to pay a certain amount, but their respective clubs’ valuations were significantly higher.

 

United’s poor start to the season, particularly in defence where Mourinho was trying to strengthen, was highlighted by defeats to Tottenham and Brighton. Although some fans have called for the manager’s head, as some always will, it appears that he retains the backing of the majority of the match-going crowd. As the banner shows, a lot of the blame seems to be directed at Woodward for not loosening the purse-strings. His case probably wasn’t helped by announcing a new brand deal with Chivas Regal on the day before the transfer window closed, while most fans were expecting a new signing.

 

The Glazers

 

Manchester United’s American owners will never be accepted by most fans at Old Trafford, with most able to remember their hostile takeover in 2005. They lumbered the club into a debt of almost £700 million, using high interest loans to secure their purchase. As of March this year, it has been reduced to just over £300 million. On average, United usually estimate profits of £185 million each year, and they usually end up exceeding that.

 

In reality, the Glazers could use two years profit to pay of the remainder of the debt if they so wished, but this is not likely to happen anytime soon. They are astute businessmen, and while the club continues to make the kind of profit that it does, the level of debt is perfectly manageable to them. They have no deep-rooted attachment to United, but they didn’t get into a position where they were able to buy the club by making silly decisions.

 

When they saddled United with the biggest debt in world football, the Glazers would have taken all aspects into account. What wouldn’t have been lost on them was that every new TV deal since the Premier League began was bigger than the one that preceded it. While the initial figures looked scary, they probably would have figured that the sums of TV money that would eventually pour into Old Trafford would easily cover it. Then there is the merchandising and commercial sectors to take into account. United were already the most profitable club in the world before the Glazers took any interest. All they needed to do was find the right man to take that area of the club to the next level. Enter Woodward.

 

Indispensable

 

There is no doubt that the United CEO is a commercial genius; the money that he has brought into the club borders on the ridiculous. According to Bluegrass Capital, in 2006 the vast majority of United’s overall revenue came from match-day sales, £71 million (43%). The rest was made up from broadcasting and commercial deals, each totalling £47 million. By 2016, the match-day sales were up to £107 million (no doubt helped by the constant increase in ticket prices), but this only contributed to 21% of the club’s revenue. Broadcasting was up to £140 million, but its percentage remained roughly the same at 27%.

 

The big increase came from the commercial sector, which had risen to £268 million, and now made up 52% of United’s yearly revenue. This was well over five times what it made the club a decade earlier. In less than ten years, Woodward had more than tripled the club’s revenue from £165 million to £515 million.

 

By Manchester United’s lofty standards, the last five years haven’t been their most successful. Despite only winning three major trophies in that time (something most clubs would be ecstatic about), their revenue has gone through the roof. The main reason for that is Ed Woodward.

 

Even if Mourinho was to go on an unprecedented winning streak, winning the Treble and then repeating it the following season, is position would not be as secure as the United CEO’s. If he can get them profitable as that during their less successful years, imagine the kind of money he would be pulling in if United were still dominating English football.

 

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Conclusion

 

When a similar banner was flown over Old Trafford in 2014, during a home game with Aston Villa, the fans who set it up were granted their wish within a few weeks. David Moyes was sacked following defeat at Everton, but that had nothing to do with the banner. He was already on borrowed time after a poor season. It’s a similar scenario this time, in that the banner is nothing more than a waste of money.

 

The fans who clubbed together to pay for the plane to fly over Turf Moor on Sunday may point out that it is important that the club knows how they feel. It’s unlikely the Glazers will see it that way, however, or care in the slightest about how they feel. They have proved time and time again that they will run the club as they see fit. During the thirteen years they have owned Manchester United, they have faced numerous protests, green and gold scarf campaigns and even death threats. What has any of it changed, exactly?

 

Unless people start voting with their feet, and stop going to games, nothing is going to change. Even then, it wouldn’t matter too much because whoever starts boycotting matches, someone will be there to take their place. The Glazers wouldn’t care less if every single fan in the world wanted him out. While Woodward continues to make them money, and United the most profitable club in the world, he has a job for life if he wants it.

 

All the banners in the world won’t make any difference.

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