Browsing Tag

Cristiano Ronaldo

A Big Job Ahead

Erik ten Hag will be Manchester United’s fifth permanent manager and eighth overall since Sir Alex Ferguson retired.

To say he’ll have his work cut out for him is like saying Liverpool were slightly better than United on Tuesday.

Put simply, United are a mess right now — worse than at any point since Sir Alex Ferguson retired. United may still have an outside chance at the Top Four, but the gulf between them and the likes of Man City and Liverpool has never looked wider.

And despite having a bloated squad and gigantic payroll, the cupboard is actually quite bare. As Ralf Rangnick stated in the aftermath of Tuesday’s disastrous defeat at Anfield, United could require at least ten new players if they’re really going to rebuild the squad. Indeed, other than David de Gea, Raphael Varane, Jadon Sancho, Bruno Fernandes and Cristiano Ronaldo (who may or may not fit ten Hag’s project), there are a lot of players who are big on ego and wages, but have been exposed as being unable to play at the highest level.

Despite that, the players possess a level of entitlement that only seems to get larger as their on-field performances get worse. The Old Trafford ship is leakier than the Titanic and several players have already made it clear (anonymously, of course) that would prefer Mauricio Pochettino and aren’t impressed by ten Hag. As if the players have a right to judge a manager who has actually won trophies in the last five years and has done better in Europe despite having a fraction of United’s budget.

Ten Hag will have to rely on every ounce of his team-building and tactical skills while dealing with relentless pressure from the media and former United players second guessing his every move. Let’s hope he gets enough time and support to succeed. Otherwise, we’ll be back here in another two or three years.

It’s The Hope That Kills You

There’s been a familiar pattern at Manchester United, as of late.

United win a couple of matches, and everything is hunky-dory. Ralf Rangnick is a great manager who’s making his mark and could even get the job on a permanent basis.

They lose or draw a couple, and the buzzards start flying overhead. Suddenly, Rangnick is in over his head, and players are questioning his tactics and training sessions (because heaven forbid they start later in the day or work on basic things like team shape and organization). ESPN even reported that the players have started derisively referring to American-born assistant Chris Armas as “Ted Lasso,” after the titular character in the popular Apple+ series starring Jason Sudeikis as a clueless Yankee manager who somehow manages to land a job coaching an English football team.

You know what? United would be lucky to have Ted Lasso right now.

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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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Something for Ole to Think About?

There was plenty to talk about after Saturday’s 4-1 victory over Newcastle United.

Cristiano Ronaldo made his much-anticipated homecoming and bagged a match-winning brace. Not to be outdone, Bruno Fernandes scored a beauty from outside the box that will get plenty of consideration for Premier League Goal of the Month. Paul Pogba continued his fine form, adding two assists to his ridiculous early-season tally of seven in four matches. On the other hand, the defense continued to look shaky as the decision not to buy a better holding midfielder could come back to bite them.

Then there was the guy who scored the fourth goal in the dying moments of the match…

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Return of the King

A lot can change in 24 hours. Just ask Jack Bauer.

Or Cristiano Ronaldo. On Thursday, it looked like he was ready to break the hearts of the faithful United fans who still sing his name and join Pep Guardiola at Manchester City. In doing so, he would be the eighth player to suit up for both United and City — and the third player from that vaunted 2007-2008 Champions League winning team to do so.

But then the United Network kicked in. Sir Alex Ferguson spoke to the player he’s long had a fatherly affection for and tried to get him to come home, something he thought he had accomplished in 2013 as his last act before retirement. Former teammates weighed in, with Rio Ferdinand calling to try and talk him out of joining City, Patrice Evra keeping tabs via WhatsApp and Wayne Rooney sending a message through the media. Even Bruno Fernandes reached out to his fellow Portuguese international and Sporting Lisbon alum to try and change his mind and sell him on an unlikely homecoming.

It worked.

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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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It Was Seven Years Ago Today

One of my favorite memories. Cristiano Ronaldo scoring on a beautiful header off a Wes Brown cross. Ryan Giggs nearly scoring in extra time. Drogba hitting the post, then getting sent off near the end of extra time for slapping Nemanja Vidic. Both sides employing game theory during the penalty shootout. Ronaldo missing his penalty. John Terry slipping and falling. Edwin van der Sar psyching out Nicolas Anelka. And, of course, Manchester United winning its third, and to date, last, Champions League trophy.

This match also marked the start of my professional writing career. At least I’ll always know that I started out on a high.

Here We Go Again…

Perpetual Manchester United target Wesley Sneijder finally looks set to fulfill his destiny by securing a lucrative move… to Juventus.

Based on various media sources, Wesley Sneijder has been on the verge of joining Manchester United in nearly every transfer window over the last four-plus years. The media continue to link Sneijder to United even though the team has no need for him as he doesn’t play center-back and there are already too many creative midfield types at the club. Sure, there have been other names continuously linked with the club, like Cesc Fabregas, Gareth Bale or Arturo Vidal. But none of those players have generated as many stories or produced as many twists-and-turns over the years as Sneijder. He’s been on the way to Old Trafford for so long that United might as well have a testimonial for him when he retires.

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Talent Isn’t Everything

If you type “Nani work ethic” into Google, the top result is a 2010 story on an inactive Manchester United blog with the headline: “Nani’s trickery and Berbatov’s work ethic inspires United to crucial win.” That’s right. Dimitar Berbatov, who has never done anything at full speed, is the one whose work ethic is praised. The next two results are social media posts complaining about Nani’s lack of work ethic. The next two are about two people named Nani who don’t play soccer. Likewise, if you type in “Nani hard work” the top result is 2011 story from the Daily Mail about Nani, who was in the midst of a career year, talking about the hard work he put into learning how to shoot with both feet.

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