Browsing Tag

Louis van Gaal

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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Master of None

It’s probably fair to say that Daley Blind was kind of an afterthought when he was unveiled alongside Radamel Falcao on September 11, 2014. El Tigre had been one of the best strikers in Europe, and his arrival on a loan/option-to-buy deal generated real excitement among the United faithful. Blind, on the other hand, was a good player but hardly a marquee star. A £13.8 million signing from AFC Ajax, he was, seemingly, only bought because of his rapport and familiarity with then-Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal.

Four years later, as Blind prepares to return to Ajax in a deal worth, potentially, £18.1 million, it’s fair to say that he contributed far more to United’s cause than either Falcao or Angel Di Maria, the other major acquisition in the summer of 2014. With three trophies to his name, as well as many instances of professionalism, heads-up play and selfless determination, he will always be remembered fondly by the United faithful.

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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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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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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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