If we are to believe the lovely Mayans, the bearers of good news, then, sometime in 2012, the year we’ve just entered of course, the beautiful human race – and also Luis Suarez – will be wiped out by some sort of terrible catastrophe. Oh well. Thankfully however, there are a bunch of cool, slick wordsmiths who are considerably more optimistic than the Mayans and see this year as one, not of doom and gloom, but of happiness – in particular, for Manchester United.
Here’s what the editor of this site, and some of the other top-quality writers from around the interweb hope will happen in 2012 (and readers can contribute to in the comments section below):
An injury-free season for the Da Silva twins
As I’m all too familiar with in life, all good things never last. I got a brilliant new phone a few weeks back; it could do everything, such as talk to other, equally-unlucky people from long distances. Amazing, I know. But the joys were shortlived as the touch screen suddenly decided not to work – somehow, probably not the Mayans’ fault – and my smile was gone, replaced with a not-too-welcome frown. And there was something about this that reminded me of the da Silva twins. There’s something quite remarkably satisfying about watching them play; that Brazilian flair, that infectious smile, that curly hair. And they’re quite good, too. However, when everything’s going so well, it’s all undone when it happens. They pick up an injury. And my smile becomes a frown.
And so my wish for 2012 is an injury-free season for either – and, indeed, both – Rafael or Fabio da Silva. I’m absolutely sure should they stay fit (apologies for coupling them), Manchester United will enjoy a happy year. Both have the potential to be the best in their full-back positions too, and so it’s a shame that we’ve never seen either have a lengthy spell in the first team, yet instead they’re nursing a broken eyelash in the treatment room. Who knows, though? Perhaps, just perhaps, we’ll see them become the players we expect them to be this calendar year. Probably not. But – hey – a phoneless man can wish, and wish I will.
Ravel Morrison to drop the attitude and become a star
Forgive me, if you will, for momentarily lapsing into doom-mode to start things off. Times are not, no matter how hard the sighing decree, really that bad. Or if they are, well it’s only a game, isn’t it? Delude to amuse, and all that carry on. However, there does appear to be a lingering air of futility around United supporters’ every wish, demand, desire and enunciating of positivity during these current times. Many will purport that a month of wishing for wonderment is a relatively wasteful exercise, given there’s a litany of ugly obstacles lying each and every way – namely: lack of, um, money, something apparently vital when chasing a player who’s good at playing the game. Ooops. The same sense of futility applies itself to those who admirably bat aside the need for acquisition in lieu of promoting young stars. It’s an appetite born not solely out of an excitement at what’s waiting, but also a sad desperation. We seek change because we’re not happy with what’s in front of us; in fact, our unhappiness can be measured by the way in which we implore Ferguson to change things: by using kids. But our current impairment cannot, despite our romantic notions, be so simply bandaged up.
Ravel Morrison is a rarefied talent. Despite only making 3 first team appearances, his career is already marked by a deluge of juxtapositions. He is one of the finest young talents the club has ever possessed, and he’s also the most criminally immature. His sleekness and irrefutable genius on the ball is hampered by a lingering proneness to tapping frantically at the implosion button. There is a hunger to his game, too: little is made, or heard, of the fact that when he’s not at the club he’s daily partaking in five-a-sides and indoor jousts with the friends who the club would rather he parted with. And yet, despite his seemingly obsessive compulsion to be traversing a pitch at all times, he regularly fails to turn up for training. Quite how a boy of 18 could possess such an attitude is more worrying than it is deplorable. It is surreal and offers little in the way of hope. Morrison, for all his illimitable talent and potential, will be left with all the other would-have-beens unless the realisation of what lies in store dawns on him soon. The majority of those who have invested a hope in him have done so with a belief that it will all work out eventually. Ferguson knows how to deal with troubled gems, we hear. Or Ravel will simply grow out of it. But Morrison is a special case: one who, so far, hasn’t bucked up. Many believed his oozing style would enliven the dull Christmas period, including the club. The scattered word was that his knock post-Palace had ruled him out. The truth was it hadn’t.
2012 is going to be a defining year for United. The title will either be retained or lost to a rising blue sea across town. A midfielder will or will not be bought, and United will either stay and sink or rise to the level a club of its standard should be playing at. Ferguson will age another year and his reign will edge ever closer to its end. The Glazers will pilfer even more money and the vast majority won’t care. And Ravel Morrison, that complex and wonderfully gifted enigma, will either embrace the chances his talents will rightly earn him or see a career dissolve before it even raises its head to the brilliance of what awaits if he really does want it. Forget, for a moment, the talent of Paul Pogba – someone who, if reports are accurate, isn’t overly keen on staying with the club. Ravel Morrison, above anyone, is the one who is unequivocally talented enough to fuel a fire that has been fading out in midfield for too long. Early signs are not encouraging, no matter how readily we dress it up and state the contrary. We try to mask reality because we think that if we say something often enough it will eventually become true and everything will turn out fine and dandy. But, given it’s a new year and the effects of my seasonal indulgences are yet to wear off, I’ll spring a hope upon us: that Ravel Morrison will wriggle free of his own strangle-hold and liberate himself and us. Mark Kelleher, Stretford End
Rio Ferdinand to confirm his status as the best
My first thought was to hope our young players carry on their progress and at least one of them properly ‘breaks through’ – however after giving it some thought I’m plumping for a senior member of the squad, Rio Ferdinand. I’d love to see Rio stay fit in 2012 and remain at the club beyond the summer (there’s been plenty of speculation that he’ll leave). Rio will mark ten years at the club this summer and will probably go down as the best defender in United’s history. This season so far he’s proven he’s still a quality footballer when he’s fit and with Vidic out for a long time he could be crucial in the quest for silverware and helping the youngsters develop. It would be nice to see him reinstated as the captain of England for Euro 2012 too – I wouldn’t be surprised if he retired from international football after the tournament so if he could lead England to victory that would be perfect. His Twitter presence has tainted his reputation in the eyes of some but for me he’s the best defender I’ve ever seen and it would be great if his career hits another peak, in 2012. Doron Salomon, Stretford End (again)
2012 to be David De Gea’s year
My wish for the coming year is that Ferguson will find the solution to the present goalkeeping situation. I say the ‘situation’ merely because there is a concern about De Gea’s adaptation to the English game, Fergie himself admitting that he is rotating the position to ‘help De Gea learn the Premier League’ from the sidelines. The manager is too long in the tooth not to understand the intricacies of introducing a young player to the world’s biggest football club, more, introducing a foreign youngster to the most specialised position on the football pitch. Hence we saw the astute acquisition of Lindegaard, and his rotation of both keepers has thus far worked well – United are level-pegging with Manchester City, and both players have broadly impressed when given the chance. But 2012 should be the year that United see out their ‘transition’, and a settled back line – which includes the goalkeeper – should help settle the side no end.
For me, there is no doubt that the Spaniard will go on to become a fantastic goalkeeper, and United’s number one. The decision to procure his services from Atletico Madrid for £18 million was taken with great forethought and precision – lest we forget that he made close to a century of appearances for the La Liga side, winning the Europa League and the UEFA Super Cup to boot, and has been described as ‘the future of Spanish football’. And whilst Lindegaard has yet to concede a goal in the few Premiership appearances to date, has shown great presence, and exudes a confidence that is often required in this position, I still believe that De Gea will eventually establish himself in 2012 with a consistency of performance that is demanded at this football club. Despite his recent difficulties (most notably in the air), he is more of a complete goalkeeper than the Dane, with a distribution (so vital in the modern game) arguably even better than Van der Sar’s, great agility, and importantly with the mental strength and concentration that has made him stand out at such a young age. Nik Storey, Stretford End (again!)
The beginning of the end for the Glazers
It’s a very unlikely scenario, but what I’d like to see in 2012 is the beginning of the end of the Glazers. How about this for a scenario… Sir Alex Ferguson makes the following rare admission in a presser on the summer tour of Asia:
Q – After being knocked out of Champions League and FA Cup early, and finishing second in Premier League … Will you be adding to the squad this summer?
Ferguson - ”We have to respond to the challenge we’ve been set, there’s no question about that. Since we lost the boy Ronaldo there’s been no money in the kitty. Money doesn’t take you all the way, but I’ve just had to make do. I’ve brought in some young players – there’s value when I sell them on. My hands are tied.”
The admission would exert significant presasure on the Glazers to sell up or provide cash. We know the latter is not on the agenda. By the summer the global markets *may* have calmed down enough for the Glazer family to partial IPO in Singapore, resulting in United supporters, or United-supporting investors taking a sizeable chunk of the club and being able to exert pressure. It would be 2005 in reverse, with outsiders chipping away at the Glazer shareholding until a full sale becomes inevitable… Ed Barker, United Rant
United fans to get behind the team
What I want to see in 2012? I’d like to see a permanent end to Middle East conflict. North and South Korea becoming the bestest of really best friends. The Government to suddenly find £100bn of gold they’d had locked in a vault for 50 years, like when you find a fiver in an old pair of jeans. I’d like the Evra and Suarez case to disappear and not to be angered by people’s responses to it daily.
This all seems a bit easy though, what’s the point of these things if you don’t aim high? So what I’d like to see in 2012 is a reality check. A realisation that United may not have the worst team in history.
I was told many times last season how bad United were, mainly from United supporters. So many teams had such superior squads. Then, when United won the league, it was still hard for some to admit their own team may not actually be an embarrassment. Victory was then qualified by saying the rest of the teams weren’t good enough and the title had been won in an easy season.
Of course this isn’t all United fans but a significant and vocal section. At Old Trafford the word ‘sh*t’ is statistically proven (that may be a lie) to be the most used, followed by ‘useless’ and ‘c*nt’, invariably directed at the home team. I’m not asking for blind optimism and for people to ignore frailties the team may have, just that it would be nice to not hear the team being slated week in, week out. For good results not to be met with reasons why they weren’t that good and for bad results not to be met with a gleeful ‘I told you all this, this is what I’ve been saying for ages.’
Manchester United 4-1 Schalke 04
An eerie, subdued atmosphere accompanied Manchester United’s players when they came out to face Schalke in the second leg of this Champions League semi final and, despite a 2-0 aggregate lead, it remained that way for a while as United had not, initially, displayed the offensive, one-sided football we saw in Germany. But that changed – nerves, perhaps coming from, what looked, a rather peculiar line up where many fringe players featured, had soon transformed into jubilation. AfterValencia struck before the half hour, the game had become routine much like it had been in the first leg; three United goals followed in this rout.
Sir Alex rotation policy, masterstroke. Piers Morgan might have made fun of him a couple of times on Twitter, but even that abject creature would admit that Sir Alex Ferguson is amongst the finest to ever grace a dugout; not that his opinion would be valued. United’s rotation policy can sometimes backfire – the Everton semi-final in the FA Cup a few years ago is an example. But that wasn’t the case here as they displayed great authority and comfort on and off the ball to score four goals with a so-called, “under strength team.” All in all, it bodes well for Chelsea on Sunday as it not only gives United’s established crop a much-needed rest but stakes a claim for some of the other players who otherwise may not have been in contention. It says a lot about United’s strength in depth – spending in the summer might be necessary, but forking out for high-profile players maybe isn’t the way to go.
Altered central midfield excel. “Gibbo was class tonight, Scholes ran the show,” mused Wayne Rooney on Twitter. He praised Anderson, too, and for good reasons – Gibson had a majestic first half in which his well-timed through ball was converted by Valencia before he went on to score himself. Paul Scholes, nearing the end of his career, grafted and crafted as he has been doing forever. Anderson was hardly different, and his off the ball movement indicated that he can thrive as a forward player like he was in his early days at FC Porto – he scored two, but his contributions went beyond that. He was given more space by by a Schalke side with the knowledge they had to push forward and that allowed Anderson to picked out some delightful passes while his energy was also a constant threat.
Antonio Valencia, the all-rounder. Injuries might have blighted Valencia’s second season at the club but he has taken up his role on the right wing as if he left without a scratch. And here at Old Trafford, he was constantly scheming, stretching the play one one side and taking advantage of the space left by Escudero, the left back while defensively, he put in a tidy shift by constantly dropped deep to help out the back four. His goal came via a neat finish but, arguably, his contributions after his 26th minute goal were far more important as he was penetrative and demanding of the opposition full-backs; there is so much to admire about the Ecuadorian’s work ethic.
Collectively, again, no problems. It was very difficult single out any one individual as the outstanding performer – indeed, a reason for United’s ruthlessness might have been the quality, or lack of it, of the opposition. The back four and van der Sar, although rarely troubled, had overcome some early jitters (Jurado’s goal could have been avoided) and defended well, which was all the more encouraging as it was a case of three fairly inexperienced players brought in – without much football of late – for a European Cup Semi. Up front, Berbatov had formed an effective partnership with bothValencia and Nani, displaying great movement and helped bring others into play. It says a lot about Manchester United’s mentality and professionalism that Sir Alex Ferguson can effectively change a whole line-up and still maintain the right formula. Pep Guardiola must have looked on with some envy and some have argued a wasted trip. But he will himself know, that Ferguson’s teams always, maintain the same discipline and commitment and in that sense, will go away with plenty of thoughts from the match.
It is fascinating that, despite mauling current Champions Inter Milan, Schalke 04 are being somewhat undervalued and dismissed as they prepare to take on Manchester United. Indeed, the Red Devils are the favourites heading into the first leg but it would very naïve to take their German opponents lightly.
Sir Alex Ferguson has already stressed the difficulties that may arise from facing Schalke, and has warned his team that there simply won’t be any room for complacency. But perhaps any confidence in a victory is justified. In the Bundesliga, United’s opponents are floundering in mid-table obscurity with nothing but Europe to play for. They have won 11 out of their 31 league games but perhaps less should be read into that than the following statistic – Schalke are undefeated in their last 9 games in Europe.
Without Dimitar Berbatov, United will be without a potent attacking threat – on the bench. United’s starting line up in Europe always represents something of an enigma – then again, Manchester United have never been familiar with the concept of predictability. What is expected, however, is that United will line up in their default 4-2-3-1 formation we so often see in Europe.
Against Chelsea in the last eight, Michael Carrick played an inspired 180 minutes alongside the equally-effective Ryan Giggs, although whether they’ll partner each other remains to be seen – certainly, the consensus is split as to who will play in central midfield; whether we might see Anderson, Paul Scholes or even Darron Gibson participate is unclear as of yet. What is clear, however, is that United are the definite ‘box of chocolates’ side.
Possession will be United’s main focus and that’s where Carrick comes into play – you would expect Schalke to attempt to try press their visitors high and hit them on the break. If Schalke do manage to have a spell of prolonged possession, then United will do the same, but as we know, the counter-attack is a key asset to the Red Devils’ game.
Wayne Rooney is likely to play deep again; so far, he’s been a revelation in an almost-trequartista position that has seen Javier Hernandez thrive – indeed, most of the Mexican’s 19 goals this campaign have come with Rooney on the pitch. Meanwhile, Valencia and Park may start with Nani missing out. Then again, that is hardly assured. Nani offers greater pace and can drift in and switch effectively with Rooney whenever required.
But Ralf Rangnick’s Schalke are also similar in a sense; as to who will play is difficult to guess. Zulquar, from the excellent Bundesliga Fanatic, spoke of how Rangnick’s recent appointment means that the Schalke do not have a set squad, “especially since the recent change of manager has brought a lot of players, previously left out in the cold, back into contention.”
“Schalke have a massive squad, with over 35 players,” says Zulquar. “And while they have maintained a semblance of continuity at the back they have changed around a lot in most other positions.” He expects Schalke to line up in a 4-4-1-1 (line up below) with the deadly campaigner Raul playing just off Edu. Raul is obviously the main threat; his record in the competition speaks for itself and 1999 European cup winner Andrew Cole recognises this: “It’s not even like he has pace,” says Cole. “But he has movement to kill for and always scores.”
It is not only the Spaniard, however, that might stifle and crush United’s dreams. “If you look beyond Raul and perhaps Manuel Neuer in this team and most of these names are relative unknowns to the casual observer,” says Zulquar, continuing with a hint of optimism and pessimism. “But, although, this Schalke side is not particularly talented, they have a number of really hard-working players.”
Greek midfielder Papadopoulus is a “more than decent defensive utility man,” while Benedikt Howedes is a “rugged center-back” and Japanese full-back Atsuto Uchida is cited as very useful at the back and going forward. Zulqaur then adds, colourfully: “Personally though, I have slight persuasion towards Jose Manuel Jurado, who is nifty and useful player, but some people will tell you that that is perhaps similar to your affinity towards Michael Carrick.” That ‘affinity’ towards Carrick is probably not suitable for this piece, seeing as the words ‘Dear Deirdre isn’t written anywhere amongst here (kidding).
Ralf Ragnick – ‘The Professor’
“It is fitting Ralf Rangnick would get his litmus test against Sir Alex Ferguson, because his whole life, he has modelled himself on: Arsene Wenger! True story,” says Zulquar. “Like his English counterpart, Rangnick is also called ‘The Professor,’ although his nickname might stem from the fact that he is in fact a trained school teacher. Rangnick and Ferguson are quite different although perhaps a similarity is that they both like their sides to play attacking football. I expect Rangnick to stay true to his philosophies, which are generally attacking.”
Zulquar adds that Ragnick can be dogmatic and rather arrogant, too: “He left Hoffenheim because he did not approve the board’s decision to sell Luis Gustavo. Rangnick does not like to be too answerable to higher authorities,” Zulquar declares. “In that way his role at most Bundesliga clubs had been similar to that of English managers. His first tenure at Schalke ended because he and Rudi Assauer did not get along and at Hoffenheim too, he jumped ship when the board started interfering.”
Sir Alex will certainly meet his match, it seems, with Ragnick and his feisty character. And Zulquar, ever the talker, delivers one last parting blow as a warning to United: “Oh, and long may the German knock-out curse remain a monkey on the back of Manchester United!”
Predicted Line Ups:
Manchester United (4-2-3-1): Van der Sar; O’Shea, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra; Carrick, Giggs; Valencia, Rooney, Park; Hernandez
Schalke 04 (4-4-1-1): Neuer; Uchida, Howedes, Metzelder, Sarpei; Papadopoulus, Jurado, Farfan, Schmitz; Raul; Edu
Double acts come in all shapes and sizes. You can have good ones; Batman and Robin or Morecambe and Wise for instance. On the other hand, you can have duos you’d rather not; Jedward or even Clegg and Cameron. The latest twosome, Rafael and Fabio da Silva, look like they fit in the category of the former.
With Luis Nani out until April (edit – he’s magically recovered!), the two who could possibly replace him comes in the shape of either, or both, of the twins. They were efficient, excellent even, against Arsenal in the recent Cup tie and look like they are able to deal with the monumental task of filling in for such a player.
Perhaps the timely return of Antonio Valencia from the sidelines makes up a touch for the loss of Nani. But, while the Ecuadorian recovers to full fitness and Nani kicks his heels in the medical room, it is crucial that Manchester United find someone else to step up and guide them through their difficult run-in. Park is unfit and Gabriel Obertan is out of favour – possibly, the duo can fill in a more offensive role than what they might be used to. Yet, there is every indication they can succeed on the flanks.
What epitomises the modern winger is to be able to adapt to situations. It isn’t just about switching flanks, however, and a player must be able cut in and to attack the box. Technique, touch and an eye for the pass takes you a long way, too. The Brazilians still have a long way to go yet and there is much about their game that is left to fine-tune.
Yet, as we’ve seen in the past when they have played as a full back, they have much energy and are prepared to bomb forward. You could argue that a stint as a winger would actually compliment their game. It is true that their defensive game needs a lot of work, and Rafael, as we’re all too familiar, is sometimes naïve and doesn’t particularly thrive under pressure from an opposing player. But, it is nature of the fool to dismiss. His defensive abilities will improve with gained experience so even if he or his brother fails to make the conversion to a winger for whatever reason, there are certainly no concerns of their future in the United defence. But they can potentially further their game higher up the field and become usefully versatile.
Against Arsenal, they did lack some positional discipline and sometimes went adrift in their new position – but the first goal in that game, where Rafael started the move from his own half which ended in a Fabio goal after much good interplay with his team mates, typified what we might come to expect from the two. And throughout, they showed great awareness of the players around them and switched seamlessly from defence to attack and from the flanks to central forwards at times. Their defensive qualities that they already possess will certainly help them tracking back if need be.
Rafael and Fabio are not alien to the midfield role. The latter was his national side’s top goalscorer playing as a left midfielder in the U-17 World Cup in 2007. He captained that side, too, for those asking for any more interesting details of that particular event. So, amidst the dreaded curse of injuries that have left United short on options, the deployment of these two might help alleviate that and perhaps the anticipated problems would be a blessing in disguise. For these two anyway…
They say the beast is most dangerous when wounded. For Manchester United and Arsenal, both on the back of a detrimental spell that might have damaging implications on their season, this game could not have come at a worse time. Both are certainly wounded – United suffering two defeats in as many games while Arsenal are with just a single win from their last four in all competitions (and two chances of silverware blown in the process).
Yet the beasts are not nearly as intimidating to each other as they’d find Frankenstein’s Monster. Both teams will surely fancy their chances. Why so? Numbers are running low on either side with players sidelined; form, as said, is below-par and both will look to gain the mental-edge that could potentially propel the conquerors to League success in a tight two-horse race, as well as the possible cup triumph that comes with winning this game. With so much at stake but so little assured, it is guaranteed that this match is an affair worth the usual drivel that is ITV’s coverage and tactically-speaking this could be, in the words of Adrian Chiles, an “absolute corker you wouldn’t want to miss. Coming after the break.”
Pressing is key, despite what Andy Townsend tells you. Barcelona, pleasing as ever off the ball (and equally as much on it…), showed just how excellent they were doing so on Tuesday night and it is something that United have done well, in parts, this season. We shouldn’t underestimate the art of the pressing game – indeed; it was why Arsenal saw so little of the ball against Barcelona, an object they normally caress as if it were a pet or something that doesn’t sound near as just plain wrong. The Catalan outfit made nearly four times as many passes in the Nou Camp compared to their beleaguered visitors.
When these two beasts, er, teams, met in the League game at Old Trafford just before the turn of the year, United were notably strong off the ball and had pressurised the Gunners with their high pressing. Sunderland did similar when they locked horns with the North Londoners last weekend. At the Emirates on Saturday, in the absence of Nani, the Red Devils must try to do the same. If not, Arsenal’s beast can be fully unleashed; playing triangles around the park and stringing together passes to unsettle opposition.
United are still a force on the counter. The recent 4-0 win over Wigan, although so distant with two defeats following after it, was an excellent example. Granted, talking Wigan and Arsenal in the same breath is a bit like comparing Katie Price to Katie Holmes; but Arsenal have faltered in the past against United’s sheer pace on the break. Not that you’d have to remind them. *Cough* Ronaldo *cough* in the Champions League semi final, 2009, The Emirates *cough*.
United can hit The Gunners directly from the back
<figure 1> It’s ambitious, indeed. But what many teams have done this season, and quite effectively in the process, against Arsenal, is attempt to attack them back to front. In the Premier League fixture in December, van der Sar’s chalkboard above seems to give the implication that the plan was to do exactly this and play long hard balls up towards the forwards. Would be interesting to note, during play, whether this would be the case. Heurelho Gomes did the same earlier in the season – with much success.
Having suffered an embarrassing defeat at the hands of Liverpool, it surely meant that failed tactics were reflected on and fine-tuned. For one thing, the default 4-4-2 is more suited to the weaker opposition – Arsenal do not quite fall into that category despite what the Spanish Press might say. The ‘big game’ 4-3-3 is perhaps what Sir Alex would go for, correctly so. As always, the dilemma with playing such a formation means that one or two of their star strikers miss out. One of those not wanting to miss out is the man they call ‘Chicharito’.
Javier Hernandez will surely fancy his chances for inclusion into United’s XI, a player so clinical that it would be seen as criminal that he hasn’t had more game time if he were at any other club. His shots on target to goal ratio in the Premier League stands at an astonishing 0.59/1 – that can also be interpreted with some simple mathematics as nearly two goals for every three attempts.
It’s never easy to predict the line up, especially in a Cup game. As covered, United should play the single forward, which Hernandez will certainly play as. I’d expect Rooney to play on the left with Gabriel Obertan or Darren Fletcher tucking in on the right. The latter, probably and preferably. Darron Gibson is a dead cert in the centre, and should start alongside Paul Scholes and the much-maligned Michael Carrick. It should also be noted that the three-man midfield will suit Carrick just fine. That’s where the game will be won; Arsenal should mirror United’s formation and so the central midfield, naturally, is where most responsibility will be shifted. It’ll be tough for United, but in order for the beast to scare off the other beasts (other sides) and land a mate (trophies) they’ve got to be fearless; and make Arsenal fearful.
Man Utd: Lindegaard; O’Shea, Smalling, Evans, Fabio; Fletcher, Carrick, Gibson, Scholes; Rooney; Hernandez
Over the years, there have been several who have tried their luck at Old Trafford but some have instead long faded away from memory; for those unlucky ones, it hasn’t quite been a theatre for which they can achieve their dreams in. Having the talent is one thing, but having the temperament to go further is another.
It is testing times for both Gabriel Obertan and Thiago Bébé. On the back of a rather unforgettable evening against Crawley Town in the FA Cup 5th round, where Manchester United limped to a 1-0 victory, they are the subject of strong criticism from some sections of the fans and media. Such scapegoating that is hardly justified for two talented players starved of regular football.
They require patience; and much more. They require understanding and some sympathising. Bébé, in particular, is hardly in a position that should warrant such scrutiny. Indeed, he has made only three starts so far (and a further four from the bench, including a game against Bursaspor in which he scored) in his short United career so it is remarkable his future is already being put into question.
Signed from Vitória S.C as a relative unknown, here is a player that arrived at Old Trafford without any sort of match practice, and having played at an even lower level in the Portuguese 3rd division just last year, he surely requires time to settle into (fairly) new surroundings. Bébé’s £7million fee raised a few eyebrows, understandably, but that was hardly his fault and the media attack that followed was hardly justified, most of it happening even before he kicked a football in the red of United. Such a valuation does at least indicate the player’s talents – the same that had Carlos Queiroz (and, apparently, Jose Mourinho) sit up and take interest.
In an article for the Telegraph, respected journalist Mark Ogden pointed out that while the forward does have some ‘raw talent’, his crossing ability is ‘woeful’. Interesting; when asked about that on Twitter, he replied:
“That was his seventh appearance. Shouldn’t Man Utd players be able to cross by their seventh appearance?”
Perhaps, they should be able to. He has great technique – he has shown that at times, so Ogden’s point that he cannot cross is up for debate. For those who have criticised the Portuguese winger, another tweet directed to me sums up the thoughts of the general consensus on the player’s worth.
“Do you see him becoming a player that can turn a game v Chelsea or Arsenal or Real Madrid?”
It’s far too early to say. Although, and this is no comparison of talent, you would have said the same about Cristiano Ronaldo or Nani at this stage of their United career. He needs time; in a few years, who knows? Would he still be a United player? Who knows? And that’s the point of the article – who knows what he could do in the future and who knows how good he is and can be having played so little. It’s far too premature to make definite conclusions at this moment of time. Extra empthasis on the word ‘time’…