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Arsenal

Asleep at the Wheel

Never let it be said that Ole Gunnar Solskjær wasn’t the ultimate company man.

When Manchester United finally decided to sack him as manager after a series of humiliating losses and poor performances but didn’t want to use that terminology, Solskjær went along with the charade and said that he was “stepping aside.” He even gave an exit interview with ManUtd.com that was full of platitudes and niceties. He even managed, with a straight face, to deliver lines like “It was time for me to step aside” and “I’m going to leave by the front door” even though everyone knows he’s being shoved aside (and deservedly so, but that doesn’t mean he should have to swallow his pride or continuing taking one for the team on the way out). I can only imagine what Louis van Gaal or Jose Mourinho would have said to that. Probably a two word phrase that starts with the letter “f” and ends with the word “off.”

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A Treble of Coins Commemorating Manchester United’s Greatest Accomplishment

You’d forgive Manchester United fans like yours truly for living in the past. These last six years have been painful – especially for those of us who came of age during the Sir Alex Ferguson era, when the club collected trophies the way I collect coins. From Ferguson’s appointment in 1986 to his retirement in 2013, United won 38 trophies, including 13 Premier League titles and two UEFA Champions League crowns.

His finest moment came twenty years ago, this week. United played Bayern Munich in the Champions League Final held at the Nou Camp in Barcelona. Both sides were chasing a historic treble, having won their respective leagues and primary league cups. Both sides were evenly matched and loaded with talented players, however United were slight underdogs heading into the match, owing to suspensions to team captain Roy Keane and playmaker Paul Scholes.

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Bye Bye Basti

You’d think that most Manchester United fans would react to the departure of an old over-the-hill midfielder who had made fewer appearances for the club than Mark Bosnich, Luke Chadwick and the immortal Eric Djemba-Djemba (so bad they named him twice) and had yet to play in the Premier League this season with a collective shrug. You’d 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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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 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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Super Dave

“Is that skinny kid with the bad alpaca-like facial hair the guy we just bought from Atlético for £18 million?”

I got to see one of David de Gea’s first starts for Manchester United. I went to watch United play Barcelona in Washington, D.C. during United’s pre-season tour of the United States in 2011. The match took place several months after Messi, Villa, Xavi and Iniesta dismantled Sir Alex Ferguson’s last great United team in London during the Champions League Final. The 20 year-old, rail-thin de Gea had just signed for the club to replace United legend Edwin van der Sar, and he looked like an overgrown tuft of grass standing in his green kit on the Fed Ex Field turf.

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Wither the Manchester United Youth Academy?

A lot has been made of Manchester United’s decision to sell home-grown player Danny Welbeck to Arsenal while bringing in Colombian hitman Radamel Falcao from AS Monaco for a (potentially) astronomical fee. Predictably, many United alums are up in arms that the move is a betrayal of the club’s history of putting youth development first and giving prized academy graduates an opportunity to succeed with the first team. Former assistant manager Mike Phelan sounded the warning bell immediately after the transfer window shut, saying that the club was “losing its identity.” Eric Harrison, the famed youth team coach that won the FA Youth Cup in 1992 with the likes of Ryan Giggs, David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt and the Neville Brothers said he was worried the club would “lose its soul” by importing foreign stars and failing to give opportunities to academy graduates.

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