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Marcus Rashford

Putting the Cart Before the Horse

And that’s why you don’t get carried away with league title talk when you haven’t seriously challenged for one since Sir Alex Ferguson retired. I was worried Manchester United players, fans and ex-players-turned-pundits were getting way ahead of themselves after last week’s surprising and stirring victory over Manchester City. Sure enough, after blowing a late lead against Crystal Palace in midweek and then losing to league-leading Arsenal in the 90th minute, United aren’t looking like a title threat anymore.

Still, there are plenty of silver linings to take from Arsenal 3-2 Man Utd:

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Friends, Romans, Countrymen, Lend Me Your Players

Typically, teams preparing to be sold try to keep their expenses and liabilities low so they can attract as many bidders as possible. This also makes sense from a sporting perspective. Why should a team spend big now, knowing the next owner might have different priorities or plans?

As such, we shouldn’t be surprised that Manchester United have decided to pursue loan deals instead of permanent moves in the just-opened January transfer window.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though.

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Welcome Betinho!

Manchester United restarted its Premier League campaign with a stirring 3-0 victory over hapless Nottingham Forest. There were plenty of talking points before and after the match, most notably:

  • Marcus Rashford’s continued run of great form and the re-emergence of his once-dangerous partnership with Anthony Martial. Rashford scored the first goal and assisted Martial on the second, giving hope that they can make up for United’s lack of an established, proven center forward.
  • Raphael Varane bravely and selflessly volunteering to play after illness sidelined the club’s only two available senior center halves, Victor Lindelof and Harry Maguire. Despite being excused from the match due to his country’s run to the World Cup Final, Varane felt his team needed him and stepped up.
  • Luke Shaw volunteering to play center back to help ease said defensive selection crisis. Like Varane, Shaw played well and gave his manager something to think about moving forward.
  • Casemiro’s ongoing brilliance. The Tank dominated in his usual role after filling in at center half against Burnley in the League Cup the previous week. He also showed off his playmaking skills, turning two defensive stands into quick counter-attacks that resulted in goals. He even got a slick assist on Fred’s goal late in the match that sealed the three points.
  • Jesse Lingard’s first match at Old Trafford since leaving in the summer for Nottingham Forest. Say what you will about JLingz and the way he left, but Lingardinho scored some big goals for his boyhood club and always gave his all on the pitch. After leaving early in the second half with an injury, Lingard finally got the warm send-off he had been denied the previous spring, as Old Trafford gave him a nice ovation thanking him for everything he had done.

But the one that got the most attention was the sudden addition of a forward named “Betinho” to the club’s active roster. Was it a purported clerical error, as the club later claimed? Or did someone jump the gun before a transfer became official?

And who was this mystery man, anyway? Was it the Portuguese forward currently playing for S.C. Espinho who made one appearance with Brentford in 2014? Was it a heretofore unknown nickname for Atletico Madrid’s misfit playmaker Joao Felix? Was it a new, tongue-in-cheek identity for in-form Brentford striker Ivan Toney, who could face a long ban for allegations relating to betting on Premier League matches?

Or was it this man?

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Ronaldo: Pressing is For Sandwiches and Suits.

UPDATE (11/22/2022): Cristiano Ronaldo has left Manchester United by mutual consent. According to reports, Ronaldo will forfeit the estimated £16 million left on his deal in order to leave the club immediately. Guess the World Cup will be even more important to him than we initially thought.

On the one hand, Cristiano Ronaldo didn’t make any major revelations in his recent interview/therapy session/bridge burning with friend and sycophant Piers Morgan.

We’ve known that the Glazers don’t care about the team and only see them as a marketing cash cow. We’ve known that United are stuck in the past (Zlatan Ibrahimovic said the same thing) and that the club’s facilities and infrastructure are in desperate need of upgrades (a process that finally started over the summer). We’ve known that he almost went to Man City last summer and that it took a last minute intervention from Sir Alex Ferguson to change his mind (although, for the record, City put out a statement a couple of days ago denying this).

What we didn’t know was just how much contempt he had for Ralf Rangnick, Erik ten Hag, and modern managers and tactics. In that vein, it’s not only clear that his homecoming was never going to work out, but that, in many ways, Ronaldo is stuck in the past every bit as much as United are.

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Farewell To The Special Juan

Monday’s 3-0 victory over Brentford at Old Trafford was all about saying farewell. A farewell to this nightmare of a season. And, specifically, a farewell to outgoing players Juan Mata, Nemanja Matic, Edinson Cavani, and Phil Jones, each of whom received a warm ovation from the fans. They’ll be joined at the exit ramp by at least three players who didn’t play: Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard, and most likely Eric Bailly.

It will be a long overdue housecleaning for United, which has lacked a coherent, consistent identity on the pitch and in the transfer market over the last eight years — a period that began when Mata helicoptered into Carrington looking like a cross between James Bond and a guy who sells bonds.

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