He Cost Us F—king Zero. He Gave Us Lots of Goals (and the League Cup).

When Zlatan Ibrahimovic announced that he had signed with Manchester United, I figured he’d be good for a few great goals, a bunch of arrogant quotes and, a whole lot of moments where he came up short, thereby confirming the long-held belief that he couldn’t play in England.

I was right about the first two things. As for the third thing, I’ve never been happier to be wrong.

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Morgan Schneiderlin Never Had a Chance.

Morgan Schneiderlin’s Manchester United tenure came to an early end when he went to the place where many United stars go when their careers don’t turn out the way they had hoped. On Thursday, the French midfield maestro joined Everton in a £20 million deal (potentially rising to £24 million). But did he ever really have a chance at Old Trafford?

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Do Not Operate Heavy Machinery While Watching Manchester United Matches.

“De Gea passes to Smalling, over to Fellaini, he gives it to Carrick, back to De Gea, over to Schweinsteiger, who holds it… holds it…. holds it…”

Seriously, this Simpsons clip essentially illustrates the divide between the vast majority of the soccer world and Louis van Gaal. While everyone else (including United’s biggest corporate sponsor) sees a boring, impotent team that can’t break down a third-division team at home, van Gaal sees his philosophy at work.”We can improve but how many chances have Sheffield United created? Nobody is talking about that,” he said after the game, a 1-0 victory for United after a stoppage-time penalty gave the team its best scoring chance of the day. Maybe the reason why no one is talking about it is because United shouldn’t be giving up any chances to a team 47 places below it in the English football standings. But hey, how about those possession stats? 71 percent! That’s a C- at most schools. A much higher grade than United deserved for its poor showing against Sheffield.

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“A Season in the Red”: How David Moyes Beat Himself Before Chelsea, Everton, Man City, Liverpool (and a Ton of Other Teams) Did.

“He is a modest man who has a lot to be modest about,” Winston Churchill reportedly said about political rival Clement Attlee. Of course, Attlee got the last laugh, defeating Churchill in the 1945 parliamentary elections, but the (possibly apocryphal) put-down lives on in political lore.

Churchill’s quip was on my mind as I read A Season in the Red, by the Guardian’s Jamie Jackson. The book, which was released this month in the United States, chronicles all of the various missteps and mishaps from David Moyes’s disastrous 10-month stint at Old Trafford. The book, which covers both Moyes’s ill-fated tenure, as well as the first year of Louis van Gaal’s reign, is written primarily from the perspective of the press corp covering the team during that tumultuous two-year period following Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement.

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When the Going Got Tough, Di Maria Got Going

In the end, Angel Di Maria’s only positive contribution to Manchester United’s history might be that he made other, less-heralded #7’s like Michael Owen and Antonio Valencia, look not-so-bad in retrospect. Oh, and he did score a ridiculous goal against Leicester City that was voted “Goal of the Year” by the Premier League. That was pretty cool.

After that, there aren’t many nice things to say about his time at Old Trafford.

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The Forgotten Man

He’s the first Manchester United player to score 20 goals in his debut season since Ruud van Nistelrooy. He was a vital part of two title-winning teams and scored many important goals along the way. He especially had a knack for scoring against Chelsea. Since joining United in 2010, he’s scored in four of eight league matches against the Blues and has netted against them in the League Cup, F.A. Cup, Champions League and Community Shield. Some players are born to score goals, and this guy could do it with his feet, his head, the back of his head, and even with his face while falling down. Last season, while on loan, he made six fewer starts than Radamel Falcao yet still managed to score more than twice as many goals as the Colombian “hitman.”

And yet, prior to the start of Manchester United’s pre-season tour, it looked like Louis van Gaal had completely forgotten about Javier Hernandez. Indeed, as recently as April, van Gaal was dismissive of the forward who has scored 59 goals for United in 154 appearances (1 goal every 2.6 appearances- not bad when you consider 68 of those 154 appearances were as a substitute). “Chicharito’s future?” he asked rhetorically. “I have already sent him away once. When you score a goal, as he has just done for Real Madrid, are you suddenly different? I don’t think so.”

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The Born Winner

Sure, it was always possible that Bastian Schweinsteiger would call time on his lengthy and wildly successful career at Bayern Munich- a career that goes back to 1998 at the youth level. Just like it’s possible David Moyes will get a stand named after him at Old Trafford that’s actually visible to the general public and isn’t a euphemism for a toilet or garbage can. Possible – just not very probable.

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London Calling

I recently went to London to cover the 800th anniversary celebration of the sealing (no, King John never signed it- but I bet he still had that sourpuss expression on his face) of the Magna Carta for the ABA Journal. I may have also made a detour to Manchester to see Old Trafford (I also had the chance to see Take That in concert, but my wife never would have forgiven me for going without her). Anyway, here are the stories that came out of it:

The Ballad of Clever Tom

(Sung to the tune of “The Ballad of Jed Clampett“)

Come and listen to a story about a man named Tom,
Clever midfielder, thought he was the bomb.
Then one day he was lighting up the grounds,
And Sir Alex came a calling – he was Manchester bound.
(United that is. 20 league titles. 3 European crowns)

Well next thing you know, he’s creating lots of goals,
Starting for United, he’s the next Paul Scholes.
Bossed Arsene’s boys – clinched the Shield at Wembley,
The sky was the limit for that lad Cleverley!
(Tom that is. TC23! Future England superstar!)

But then Clever Tom had some really bad years,
No more forward passes, always stuck in second gear.
Said it wasn’t his fault; sent to Villa on loan,
Now Goodison Park is his brand new home.
(Best of luck at Everton, Tom. But please don’t come back now, ya hear?)

The Manchester United Perennial Transfer Targets XI

For certain players, being linked with Manchester United has become a semi-annual tradition. Some players have been on the verge of joining United for so many years that you wonder whether media outlets merely have templates that they trot out every few months where they just fill in the name and price.

In fact, you can make a pretty good team with all of the players that Manchester United have been linked with in the transfer market over the last few years. Some ground rules: I looked at longevity of the rumors and gave preference to players who are still currently linked to the club (sorry Cesc). Also, I disqualified Cristiano Ronaldo, Paul Pogba and Gerard Pique and other ex-United players because it’s only natural for them to be linked to their former team.

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