Browsing Tag

David de Gea

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.

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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The Manager Formerly Known as the Special One.

Manchester United sacked Mourinho on Tuesday morning before training began. Club legend Ole Gunnar Solskjær has been named caretaker manager for the rest of the season, whereupon the club will appoint a permanent manager – maybe Mauricio Pochettino of Tottenham, ex-Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane, or Mourinho’s BFF Antonio Conte. Or maybe someone else. Who knows?

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The Strongman Cometh.

The common refrain about Jose Mourinho teams is that the good ones always have a strong spine.

At Porto, he had a spine that comprised, mainly, of Vítor Baía, Ricardo Carvalho, Costinha, Deco, and Hélder Postiga. During his first go-around at Chelsea, he added Carvalho and Didier Drogba to the already-strong Petr Cech-John Terry-Claude Makélélé-Frank Lampard based spine he got from Claudio Raineri. At Inter, he inherited a fantastic defensive spine and added playmaker Wesley Sneijder and hitman Samuel Eto’o to provide the goals. His best Real Madrid team was held up by a spine that consisted of eventual nemeses Iker Casillas and Sergio Ramos, as well as Pepe, Sami Khedira, Xabi Alonso, Mesut Özil and Karim Benzema. The spine for his second Chelsea go-around (Thibaut Courtois, Terry, Gary Cahill, Nemanja Matic, Cesc Fabregas, Diego Costa) was so strong that it helped power the team to another title win following Mourinho’s dismissal.

Now, with Matic’s defection to Old Trafford, Mourinho finally has the kind of spine that can rival those of his best teams.

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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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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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