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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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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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Welcome Ralf

After Manchester United sacked Ole Gunnar Solskjær, there were all sorts of rumors flying around linking the club to the best managers available (or not available— at least not until the end of the season).

Brendan Rodgers was supposedly house-hunting in Cheshire. Zinedine Zidane was, reportedly, the choice of the Glazers. Or maybe it was Mauricio Pochettino, who United supposedly made a play for but were turned down. Or Luis Enrique of the Spanish National Team, who laughed off reports linking him to the job. Or fellow Barca alum Ernesto Valverde, who reportedly met with United brass. Or United legend Steve Bruce.

Ok, it was never going to be Steve Bruce.

But one name stood out: Ralf Rangnick. (Or as my wife calls him, “Ralf Ragnarok.”)

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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 Olympics: A Great Excuse for Commemorative Coins

Here are some things that are almost always true of the modern Olympic Games:

  • They’re really expensive and end up costing the host city a fortune.
  • For two weeks, the Olympic Village turns into a scene from Caligula.
  • The host country will always issue commemorative coins.

As the 2020(1) Summer games wind down, I thought I’d show off some of my Olympic coins:

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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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