Archive | October 2010

Predatory Javier Hernandez thinks inside the box

Manchester United's Javier Hernández celebrates with Darren Fletcher

There is an ever-growing concern that the world’s most deadly predators, sharks and tigers for example, are at the brink of extinction but as endangered as they may be, they are still feared by many. As will eventually be the case for the man they call ‘Little Pea’, for he too represents a dying breed of his type. He is also a predator, but rather than lurking in a sunny savanna in North Africa, his preferred spot is somewhere in the 18 yard box.

The Old Trafford crowd witnessed a classic ‘striker’ performance from Javier Hernandez on Sunday against Stoke City, as he proved more than an able deputy in the absence of Wayne Rooney. There, he scored two goals which gave further confirmation of the talent possessed by the Mexican. And whilst doing so, he showed that Sir Alex Ferguson’s faith in buying players from the recommendation of his fine team of scouts, A-list or not, is the way forward.

Hernandez, or Chicharito, is the man of the moment. There is a notion that exports from across the pond fail to come to grips with the English game; and there are numerous examples to be taken from Manchester United such as Diego Forlan, Juan Sebastián Verón and Kléberson. However, let’s not discount two examples that put paid to that particular notion; Tim Howard and Antonio Valencia. We’ll wait and see if Hernandez could join that exclusive club but, for the moment, the omens look good.

Indeed, the best may yet to come and it comes as no surprise that he has been likened to Ole Solskjaer (although admittedly a bit early). The signs are pointing to something as such – five goals so far, four more than a certain Wayne Rooney has managed. He has a tendency to score crucial goals, like he did with Mexico against France in the World Cup, and repeated again in the red of United against both Valencia and Stoke. That strike against the Spanish outfit was impressive in particular – he had little room to manoeuvre, yet produced a clinical finish so late in a game that had looked to end a stalemate. It was a finish worthy of a place in the coaching manuals.

The opener against Stoke was rather special, too, a ‘backwards’ header that had left City’s goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen stunned, and dumbfounded, by the sheer audacity. None of Wayne Rooney’s 34 goals last season came from outside the box and with him otherwise focused on getting back to full fitness and regaining form, United will look elsewhere for an able deputy to act as an outlet for goals. Course, they’ll look no further than their Little Pea, who, in the last few weeks, has grown fast and developed a sweet scent for goals.

The Red Report – Episode 2: Rooney, Wolves, Pompey and the ‘Man Yoo’ debate

Welcome to the second issue of The Red Report, the round table discussion of all things Manchester United by your favourite United blogs:

It’s just the second week but you can expect fireworks in what has been a dramatic week at Old Trafford. With Wayne Rooney’s u-turn, games against Bursaspor and Stoke amongst other things, this issue promises to be good.

Wayne Rooney has split opinion amongst United fans with his antics this week, some are happy to have him whilst others are struggling to forgive the Scouser after what was perceived as an slight on our great club so we discussed what is the view on Rooney now?

Wayne Rooney

Chudi (The Busby Way): Wayne Rooney has much to do to rebuild the rapport he once had with us the fans. His words this week were not only confusing but also very insulting as he gave the impression that nothing associated with Manchester United, as a club was good enough for him.
I like Rooney so I didn’t join in with others who insulted and cursed the Scouser, losing a player of his calibre would be a massive knock but as I said I am not happy with him and he needs to let his goals do the apologising!

Doron (Stretford End): Personally, I’m delighted Rooney’s signed. We’d be stupid to not want him. However, he needs to look down a camera and apologise directly to the fans. The MUTV interview wasn’t much of an apology. Then I’d expect him to work hard, train hard and earn a place in our time. His form’s not been good enough to consider a start. Then if he has sense he’ll sack Stretford, mind you he’s just become our highest paid player ever so I doubt he’s complaining. Importantly we must unite and back him; let’s give him the chance to win us back. He probably doesn’t deserve it but we’re a good bunch of fans!

Siddarth (BTOT): I’m still shocked over the turn of events, Rooney signing a 5-year deal after making so much fuss and insulting the club! I don’t think I can ever forgive him. But he’s a great player for any team to have and to have him in full flow almost every time guarantees you a win. Hopefully last week’s chaos doesn’t happen ever again.

TG (ManUtd24): I may get a bit of stick but I’m genuinely happy he’s staying. He’s shown his commitment to the club and to Fergie and that’s what’s important. He’ll be forgiven over time; but no doubt, United fans will never forget this. Also, we know he feels quite passionately about trophies now, a reason why he wanted to leave in the first place. I hope United fans accept him as one of their own again – because, boy, is he special.

Alan (RedForceRising): Rooney himself has gone from hero to zero. I will appreciate his goals and efforts and I will give credit where it’s due, but I will never take him to heart like I had until Tuesday. He will also have to make it up to his team mates who will be disappointed AND apologize to the fans –sincerely – but still happy to have him at the club. All in all, player power reared its ugly head, Sir Alex pulled of stunning public relations coup, Rooney ruined his reputation further and insulted his team mates and Manchester United scored another victory over City.

The Rooney situation despite having being ‘solved’ will rumble on for ages and I’m pretty sure will remain a talking point for weeks to come.

This week we take on Wolves in the Carling Cup. The competition is usually seen as an opportunity for younger players or those on the fringes of the first team to give Sir Alex something to think about. Recently we have done pretty well in the competition and are the current holders so we discussed this upcoming tie:

Wolverhampton Wanderers v Manchester United

Alan: Sir Alex should practice what he’s been preaching lately and give the younger players a chance. I would love to see a balanced mix of young and experienced players start this match, which should hopefully see Magnus Eikrem, as well as Bebe see some action.

Starting X1 4-5-1: Kuszczak, Brown, Smalling, Evans, Fabio, Obertan, Carrick, Anderson, Eikrem, Bebe, Macheda
Subs: Amos, Neville, O’Shea, Stewart, Gibson, Park, Owen (if fit)

TG: I’m pretty excited about this one. Carling Cup fixtures have become some sort of ‘spin-off'; where teams tend not to take it all that seriously and fielding many second string players. We may witness the return of Owen Hargreaves, the inspiration behind Manchester United’s double winning season of 2007/08. I’d also like to see Magnus Eikrem, Gabriel Obertan and, being greedy, Bebe feature in this game as this competition is obviously a fantastic platform for our fringe players. Having said that, I’d expect Wolves to give us a fight, despite their below par start to the season.

Siddarth: A game I’m really anxious to watch, mainly to see if Eikrem finally plays a 1st team game! I love the lad and I’m pretty sure he’s going to be a special player. Also looking forward to Bebe and Fabio getting some more game time. Maybe if we’re lucky Ravel Morrison might make the bench and come on. It’s the chance to see youngsters make a mark that’s making the Carling Cup such a big hit! Rumours about that Hargo might make his comeback in the game, so another reason to be excited about the fixture. Wolves will be a difficult challenge, but they’ll be concentrating on survival in the league so I see Mick McCarthy putting out a weaker team. We should be able to win the game.

Doron: I was gutted this was a home tie. Something about away games in the cups gives the games an edge. Seems a shame to play at Old Trafford with empty seats and no atmosphere. In terms of the personnel finally Eikrem should grace our first team, maybe from the bench. Obertan, Bébé and Smalling should all start along with Amos who missed the Scunthorpe tie due to an arm injury. I guess if Hargreaves gets over his calf injury he may feature too. Long shots for a place on the bench – Will Keane, John Cofie and Ravel Morrison. As per usual it’ll be a good opportunity for ‘squad’ players to get minutes and hopefully a win and a nice away draw will follow.

Chudi: The Carling Cup should be the game in which we bleed in young talent, we have a plethora of it here at the club and a number of players I feel that are/will be good enough for the first team so they should be playing in these games more often. For me Magnus Eikrem is the closest to crossing over and I will be disappointed if he doesn’t play a part this week. Last season we saw Josh King make a promising cameo against Wolves but he didn’t immediately break into the first team and become a star so I’m under no illusion that anyone that gets a chance this week will but if these youngsters are to become the stars of tomorrow they need to be given the chance.

As you can see we all have high hopes, not only the game but also our future stars. Tuesday should be interesting!

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For Rooney to find his form, he needs to become the main striker

Wayne Rooney Alex Ferguson

All around Europe, the football grounds were buzzing with the talk of one subject; Wayne Rooney. The precocious teenager had set the continent alight with a bullish showing at Euro 2004, scoring four goals before injury ruled him out of the rest of the tournament and there was an intrigue of whether he could sustain those levels in football’s premier club competition. He did. And, boy, what an impact he made. A hat-trick on his Manchester United debut – a 6-2 thrashing of Fenerbahce at Old Trafford in the Champions League– confirmed his status as the world’s most exciting prospect.

Rooney at 18 was a rampaging force of nature. His stature may have been of a different build than the world’s best ever player but his athleticism, skill and power evoked memories of a fledgling Pele. Rooney had a swagger, a self-confidence and spontaneity about him that was backed up by the ability to deliver the audacious. Chips, volleys, long range passes and driving runs were a frequent sight whenever Rooney was on the pitch. He exertions then reminded me of Franz Beckenbauer’s analysis of Paul Gascoinge at Italia 90:  “A true footballer from the streets, defiant, crafty and intrepid like the leader of a boy’s gang. Behind his angular forehead, he would cook up ideas you just didn’t expect.”

Nowadays, however, and Wayne Rooney plays a more refined game. Pushed up as the highest point of attack as opposed to a roaming split forward in his younger days, he scored an amazing 34 goals in all competitions last season. Playing as a more orthodox striker, Rooney bullied defenders and caused havoc at a higher zone on the pitch. He became more effective – a criticism levelled at him in previous seasons – so much so, that he felt that playing as a number 9 was now his most natural position. Most importantly perhaps though, Rooney said last season, that at 24 he enjoys the game more than when he was 18 – something which is surprising given that a general consensus will tell you that professionalism is growing in football and that more players treat the game as if were a job, rather than a hobby. And that leads us to an important point.

Given England’s failure in the World Cup and inability to produce anything of the imaginary, some people feel deploying Wayne Rooney as an “out-an-out” striker as they say, strips the Manchester United man of the combustible spontaneity and street footballer mannerisms he once had. It is a view that would most certainly be shared by perhaps England’s most gifted player, Paul Gascoinge. Speaking on Match of the Day 2 a couple of seasons ago, Gascoinge felt coaches would rather value discipline over individualism and it is arguably something Rooney has been a victim of. Certainly, when was the last time Rooney scored a goal outside the penalty area for United? And from an aesthetics point of view, why remove a player as talented as Rooney from having the ball as much by playing him that high up the pitch? Indeed, beset by personal problems, he is failing to find his form again playing behind Dimitar Barbatov in the position he once played in his early professional career.

But there is the other side of the argument and that is Rooney, before the off-field issues that will surely disappear and in time bring back his real form, has finally the recognition that he deserves on the world stage. He is once again feared, as he was in last season’s Champions League run where coaches were visibly wary of his impact. As far as the top coaches are concerned, playing Rooney as the main striker, he can bring his qualities where he can be of more effect. “Rooney is a super footballer and he isn’t even that old yet. He has really developed as a player, a great player who is always efficient with his actions,” said Bayern Munich manager Louis van Gaal. One goal this season is not an efficient return by any stretch of the imagination playing in the hole.

In a topsy-turvy week where he was reportedly contemplating signing for Manchester City, Rooney will perhaps be envious of his former strike partner, Carlos Tevez, who is playing in role he favours most. As the main forward, Tevez can bring all dimensions of his game to the team and the set-up at City is not too dissimilar to United’s last season – a 4-5-1 with wingers. In 2004, whilst the 18 year-old Rooney was making waves in the European Championships, Tevez played in a similar role to Rooney behind the forward for Argentina Under-23’s in the Olympics. These days, however, and the tactical changes of the modern game mean football is played in zones and that makes it difficult to play with two forwards in a 4-4-2. Rooney is not quite a second striker, as highlighted by his difficulties this season behind Berbatov and if you do deploy two up front, they must press intensely, something the Bulgarian is not famed for.

For England, it is slightly ironic that he plays as a second striker because it was Fabio Capello who suggested Rooney’s best position to be as the main striker as he was said to be playing “too far from the goal.” As the main striker, Rooney now perhaps evokes the same sentiments of Andriy Shevchenko, the striker the innovative Ukranian coach Valeriy Lobanovskyi said was the most all-rounded player. Former Serbia manager Radomir Antic feels similarly as said of Rooney: “I see a complete player. He does everything he has to on the pitch – play as the lead striker, drop into midfield to pick up the ball and go out wide to stop the opposition full-back going forward.” Slovenia coach Matjack Kek agrees: “He is more dangerous now than ever. He is somebody who makes the team win. That is the best thing you can say about a player.”

For Wayne Rooney to find his true form, as he puts his personal and contractual issues behind him it seems, he must plays as the focal point of the team. The position where he is most dangerous and has now made his own. “Playing up front every game, whether alone or with Dimitar Berbatov, I was an out-and-out striker. That was the big difference,” said Rooney. “For goalscoring it is a lot better. When you are playing in the hole, you are creating chances for others. I want to score as many goals as I can.”

Fans have been let down by the man close to acheiving greatness

Wayne Rooney Manchester United Everton football

As far as twists go, Wayne Rooney leaving for Manchester City is a monumental one. And the infamous “once a blue, always a blue” phrase that goes along with Rooney wherever he may go may just ring truth again. Circumstances that were pretty unimaginable six months ago.

The general feeling amongst United fans is one of hurt and confusion. Hurt that last year’s top goalscorer would even consider turning his back on the club having been a terrace favourite since his move from Everton, hurt that their talisman, the one for whom they showed so much love for when under-fire, would even consider joining City. And they’re confused, oh so confused.

The 2009/10 campaign was hit best ever. His transition from boy into man was greatly recognised and appreciated. That was the case against West Brom on Saturday. Even going through what looks the least purple of all patches, United fans chanted from the back of their throats for the man to come on and rescue them; he came on yet he did not rescue them. Fans have been let down – although you feel you can hardly read much into that. For, fans will genuinely miss him. Manchester United will miss him.

Old Trafford is his home or so it seemed. Exactly two years ago this week, a defiant and courageous Wayne Rooney was kissing the United badge amidst the jeering of thousands of angry Evertonioans. It looked as if United was his actual ‘home sweet home’, not Goodison. That scenario could repeat itself again at the Theatre of Dreams, with Rooney, dare I say it, in the blue of City kissing the crest of the neighbours who have become more a nuisance in the last few years.

And, having felt betrayed and hurt (that word again), I still have an undying love for Rooney, undying that is, if he uses his brain and turns his back on City. Better yet, if he stays at his adopted home. Old Trafford. One can only dream, and some dreams never become reality – what is for sure is that he probably won’t be at United any longer. Fans are hurt, and Rooney, so close to achieving legendary status, will never be forgiven. Loved, but never forgiven.

Why Rooney will be a bigger miss than Ronaldo

Wayne Rooney, August 2010

When Cristiano Ronaldo had left the club in 2009, many had been quick to dismiss Manchester United’s bid for the elusive 19th league trophy even before the new season had started. While, admittedly, I thought United were going to win that year, and still very much hold the hope with burning optimism that they could do so this year, others did not agree – stating that the Red Devils will badly miss the services of their legendary Portuguese no.7. For, Ronaldo is part of a special minority of players that are able to work wonders on a football pitch. Wayne Rooney is part of that collective. And, as I explore in more detail below, cumulatively, Rooney will be a bigger void to fill if he were to leave.

While on talent, Ronaldo is obviously the bigger miss, a Rooney departure, in addition, will mean an increased difficulty in filling that void. Not to say the club haven’t got the talent nor the money to replace Rooney, but Wayne Rooney and Ronaldo are on completely different levels to the majority in world football. When Ronaldo left, United had Rooney to fall back on. Speaking after the departures of Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez, Rooney promised:

“Between them Cristiano and Carlos scored a lot of goals for us last season and the season before, but I would like to think I’m capable of filling that gap. I’ve said before that, if I can play in my right position, I’m capable of doing that.” Indeed, he was ‘capable’ of doing so. While United fell desperately short of a fourth successive championship, Rooney had experienced his best season yet in United colours – with Ronaldo gone, he was given more freedom and a license; he scored a total of 34 goals in that campaign, eight less than Ronaldo had managed two years previous, but it did give an indication that Rooney had helped fill the non-refillable void. Potentially, that is the key word here, his would be a bigger void to fill because they have no ‘obvious’ individual to fall back on this time or to rely on.

The Red Devils, however, do have plenty of strength in depth to argue against this. It’s important to look at another perspective, that United have plenty in their armoury. People will argue the need for a fresh new face, but if not, they boasts the talents of Dimitar Berbatov, Javier Hernandez, Federico Macheda and three or four others who could, and probably would, score as many as Rooney combined – but the point is that it’s difficult to see an individual apart from Rooney score 25+ himself. Of course, United are also in a decent position youth-wise and have an excellent system in which they develop players so the situation wouldn’t be disastrous as the red tops and, in some cases, some of the broadsheets have made out to be. But, in a way, it is quite disastrous. Potentially. Whether I’m a pessimistic optimist or just a deluded old man, you decide and make yourself heard by leaving a comment.

The inaugural Red Report: 17.10.10

Welcome to the inaugural ‘Red Report’, the weekly United round up from your favourite United sites. The brainchild of ‘The Busby Way’, ‘Stretford End’, ‘Bangalore to Old Trafford’ and ManUtd24, we aim to give you a weekly dose of all your United needs. This week, the panel discuss the captaincy of Rio Ferdinand, the Glazer ownership and the situation over at Liverpool.

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Rio Ferdinand

As we are coming off an international break United news was initially slow but it didn’t mean United players were out of the press. At the start of the week Rio Ferdinand regained the England captaincy under much press scrutiny so we stopped to discuss what all the furore was!

Yolkie @ Stretford End:

I can’t see why it exists. He was captain, he wasn’t fit, but he’s fit now. Regardless of people’s opinion of Ferdinand’s fitness, you have to evaluate whether Gerrard has done a good enough job to keep it in his absence. My opinion? No, he hasn’t. The secondary issue is is it really good for team morale to change official captain twice in a matter of months? It’s a non-issue, as Rio should always have been captain, it shouldn’t have been open for debate.

Kyle @ Stretford End:

I don’t see why this was even a debate. Rio got injured, Gerrard filled in as captain. This is normal in a captain’s absence. What did Gerrard do in Rio’s absence that warranted changing the captain? As long as Rio is fit and willing to play for England, the armband should be his. If anything, Gerrard being captain during what was arguably England’s worst showing at a World Cup should’ve confirmed that Gerrard did not deserve to keep the armband.

Chudi @ The Busby Way:

He is the best man for the job, he has shown a proficiency in the role at club level where he was in charge during the double winning season so why all the commotion when the man that was duly chosen returned to the role?

Siddarth @ Bangalore To Old Trafford:

It’s just the press finding another way to fill pages. Rio was supposed to be the captain for the World Cup but was ruled out, so when he does return to action it is natural that he should carry on as the Captain. Rio hasn’t done anything to be stripped of captaincy and is an excellent choice to lead the team. Fabio wouldn’t have chosen him initially if he didn’t think so himself!

TG @ ManUtd24:

It’s all a bit strange in the sense that Ferdinand has done nothing to warrant being ‘stripped’ of duty. But, I guess you can’t blame the papers for making an issue of the story having seen Sir Alex do something similar already – having revealed that he handed Nemanja Vidic the armband for this season, he said his decision was purely because Vidic is “consistently available”, unlike Rio who has obviously seen his past two campaigns ravaged by injury. However, it must be asked whether Gerrard deserves the captain’s armband himself, and the answer is a simple no. In fifteen games as skipper, he has tasted defeat five times. Not happy reading for Gerrard, that.

All very strong points as I’m sure you will agree.

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