The new season's started and we've got a number of different talking points: the roles of de Gea, Young, and Cleverley, our defensive injury crisis, City's 4-0 thrashing of the mighty Swansea, and much more. What no one has really brought up is the future of Gibson, Kusczak, and to a lesser extent, Diouf.
Look at that picture. It may seem innocuous to most of us, but in reality it's Tomasz Kuszczak waving goodbye to us. He's had enough, and I'm pretty sure we've had enough of him. What started out as a good signing with bags of potential has turned into a goalie who is not confident in his own abilities. We all know that Tomasz is a decent shot stopper, but we also know too well of his crappy footwork and inability to make decisions. This is a man who is a follower and not a leader. With Lindegaard and de Gea in the picture, there seems to be no room for the seemingly chubby Polish keeper and his strange ways. To make things worse for him, he was left out of the US tour and we haven't really heard much from him recently.
Another person who wasn't taken to America was our favorite misspelt first name - Darron Gibson. A couple years back, we saw a youngster who had a wicked shot break into the team. "It won't be long before he becomes a star." "You watch that Gibson kid," people would say. Then in 2008, he had a coming out party where he got more time on the pitch and scored a few goals along the way, notably against Bayern Munich. This kid was on the way up. But things only went downhill from there. More time in the first team showed his lack of passing ability and creativity. Soon enough, Gibbo became a one trick pony. Shoot, shoot, shoot. That was all anyone ever told him to do. Might as well have joined the police during those riots. But yes, no news on him recently and I guess that means that - barring some Jesus-like ressurection - number 28's on his way out.
Finally, this Diouf guy. Loaned out last year and didn't get much playing time. He was on the US tour and played a couple times, but has been left out of the conversation since the team touched back down in England. To be honest, he's a bit of a mystery to me. I haven't seen him play enough and I'm not sure what to expect of him. Maybe a low risk/high return venture? I'm not too sure about that. He played 26 games for Blackburn last season and only scored three times. Add that to the one goal he's scored for United in 5 games two years ago, that amounts to 4 goals total over two years. What does that mean? That means he's scored 4 more goals than me at Premier League level. My point is, I doubt he'll get much playing time and it probably won't be too long before he quietly gets shown the door at Old Trafford.
So after 90 minutes of Manchester United's 2011-2012 season, we've lost Rafael, Ferdinand, and Vidic to injury. In fact, as of the 90th minute in yesterday's game, we were down to our last fit defenders: Smalling, Jevans, Fábio, and Jones.
Apparently, Vidic was feeling a little sore in his calf before the game, but played anyway cause he's a beast. Unfortunately it got worse for him and he limped off early. No worries there. But when Rio came off with a hamstring injury, we all realized that United were quickly exhausting their defensive options. This only adds to Rafael's shoulder injury in training and Evra, who was already carrying a knock.
So with Rio out for 6 weeks and Rafael for two and a half months, we're looking at long term injuries here. Vida though, I feel won't be out for long. Early estimates are pointing at maybe 2 weeks, but as Ikmal so eloquently put it, "by Thursday he'll probably offer an ultimatum to Sir Alex: 'Play me against Spurs, or I'll kill your family.'"
So where does this leave us? Well with Evra supposed to be back in the team by Spurs, that means we'll have him, Smalling, Jevans, Jones, and Fábio to choose from. To be honest, I'm a tad excited about this. Even Sir Alex admitted that "Phil Jones and Jonny Evans were terrific, absolutely terrific.” I don't think we'll have a problem with these younger players in the team.
West Brom 1-2 United
Before we delve into the events of the match, let me just say that I nailed the starting lineup. de Gea, Smalling, Ferdinand, Vidic, Fábio, Nani, Cleverley, Anderson, Young, Rooney, Welbeck. Aw right.
Now, on to the matter at hand. A bright start for United yielded a pair of corners for us. The spark started to fizzle out after West Brom found their feet and made a game out of it around 10 minutes in, with Somen Tchoyi leading the retaliation. Not long after I type this, Rooney cunningly flicks a ball onto Young and he returns the pass to Rooney who controls and then hits it low, just out of Foster's reach into the goal. 1-0 to the good guys. Hello 2011-2012.
Around a quarter of an hour in, Tchoyi and Vidic go for a ball together and after this challenge our captain looks like he's struggling. It doesn't take long for him to come off as Jevans takes over on the
Also, flahes brilliance from our numbers 10, 17, and 19 as the strikers combine to open up the West Brom defense and play in Nani who blazes over. Beautiful. Also, later on, we get a corner and the ball falls to Nani who manages to come closer this time, albeit via a much harder chance as he volleys the ball on the bounce.
34 minutes. West Brom charge through our defense and the shot lines up for Scharner who fires a vicious shot. de Gea is tested for the first time really and boy does he impress. A one-handed stop in milliseconds. A few minutes later however, another charge into United territory by West Brom leads to a low shot by Long that manages to get past de Gea a la Dzeko in the Community Shield. 1-1.
The rest of the half provides some interesting moments, but nothing too thrilling. The teams go into the break tied and with much to prove.
Follow me after the jump for the second half, and the reaction!
First one of the new season! It has been long awaited, so let's hope it's a good one! There'll be a few changes to the way we do these, although, we'll keep it organic and working to the way that fits best.
Game 1 of 38, and it comes at the Hawthorns. The site where Rooney's revival began last season, Javier Hernandez bagged an unlikely winner and Gary Neville tasted his last few breaths as a United player – being tormented by Jerome Thomas. Happy hunting grounds then!
West Bromwich Albion haven't enjoyed any of the last 7 occasions when Manchester United have visited, 7 straight defeats. Having had a quick squizz of their pre-season schedule, it seems that West Brom were incredibly busy. Playing teams like Kidderminster Harriers, Cheltenham and Ventura County Fusion. I know.
On the Home Front:
There's only the one injury to Javier Hernandez which will definitely keep him out. Patrice Evra doubtful, Carrick and Welbeck slightly doubtful (but, I guess that still counts as "doubtful"). It's not really that big a deal, given the depth of the squad at present and as we'd already speculated in the previous post, there are plenty of guys in the wings to step up to the plate.
Players to Look Out For:
Having brought in Shane Long from Reading, I do believe, for £7m, all eyes will be on him to see whether he can ignite his newly started career at West Brom. They've been hit with some injuries, so I'm not sure who'll feature for them. First game of the season, so any line-up is possible.
Oh yeah, and Ben Foster joined the Baggies from Birmingham, and will probably be vying to deny his former employers a successful start to their title defence tonight.
1. If Sir Alex does opt to play more younger faces this season, starting at West Brom, I wonder if they'll be up to the standard of Giggs, Scholes, Beckham and the Nevilles. Sure there aren't any defenders that spring to mind – maybe that's why he's brought in Smalling and Jones! – but we definitely think this is the perfect season to pad the first team with youth, not stars.
2. Berbatov, will he stick around if he falls behind D-Wel?
So, with the West Brom game only days away, Ikmal and I have decided to try and guess what the starting lineups will be for the first game of the season. We've decided to keep our lineups separate, to see why we've chosen who we have. So without further ado, Ikmal's starting XI.
GK: de Gea
David De Gea: Well, he was brought in to be United's number 1, so I doubt he'd start on the bench. There's a bucketload of support for him, and he's eager to set the record straight, although if he does have a bit of a wobble, Lindegaard will be hot on his heels.
Chris Smalling: There could have been two options for this role, with the hole left behind by John O'Shea and Wes Brown being able to just fill in any gap at the back; I could have seen Jones or Rafael swap in, and were the latter involved, Evans could have probably gone into LB, but Smalling's experience and his fantastic form during pre-season and at the back end of last season will hopefully see him given the nod.
Rio Ferdinand + Nemanja Vidic: First choice central defensive pairing. Nuff said.
Rafael: (Fabio could conceivably play too, maybe even in Rafael's shirt) Rafael's probably more defensively sound, given his attacking usefulness. It's a tough choice between him and Fabs – it's even one of the two differences between our squads.
Nani: No brainer, he's played brilliantly during pre-season and his performance against City warrants nothing less than a starting place against West Brom.
Tom Cleverley: I got in a pretty frustrating discussion with someone about whether or not Cleverley would be good enough to feature regularly in the heart of United's midfield. He may not be able to start against a full strength Barça team, but West Brom would be an ideal place to start. Plus, this'll prove any doubters of his ability. The interplay between him, Rooney and Nani for the second goal against City was pretty mesmerising.
Anderson: I think he's come in leaps and bounds since he joined in 2007. This season could be his annus mirabilis and his physical presence would contrast nicely to Tom Cleverley's slightly less physical, more intricate play.
Ashley Young: Our new number 18 is probably the clear choice after his pre-season performances, not to mention his successes at Villa and Watford. He's slotted in seamlessly (almost) to the team, so it should be fantastically fruitful flank for us. And with Nani, we could see heaps of switching between the flanks, just to give the opposition some hell.
Wayne Rooney: What can I say about Rooney? He may not be hot at the moment, but he hungers for time in the middle, and only gets better the more games he gets under his belt.
Dimitar Berbatov: With West Brom's chief tormentor, Chicharito, precautionarily sidelined due to his concussion, I've opted to name Berbatov in over Welbeck, a) because Welbeck's a bit of a doubt, but b) because Berbatov's got the ability. People have written him off, saying maybe his time at Old Trafford is coming to an end, but I think the contrary. He'll get another couple of seasons, in my book. Also, last season's top scorer? Has to count for a liiiiittle bit.
Not too much difference between his lineup and mine:
GK: de Gea
I went for de Gea because Fergie seems to be defending him a lot. With a less than awesome performance against City, he'll need a shot of confidence and what better way to give him that than the West Brom game? With Smalling having been experimented with on the right side of defense, I see no reason why Sir Alex wouldn't want him out there. He's solid defensively and has proven himself there a few times this past pre-season. Vidic and Ferdinand should get the start seeing as they're the first choice centerbacks and I reckon Fábio will be the one called on for the not-100% Patrice Evra, just cause he's starting to get more solid and is more comfortable on the left than Rafael. As for the midfield, Lazarus and Anderson have impressed over preseason and I'm pretty sure will get the start. Young should slot in to provide some flair down the other flank. The other CM spot was a bit more difficult. I was thinking either Cleverley or Giggs would get the spot but went for Tommy in the end because of the hype he's been getting in the media the past week. Rooney is a definite, and Welbeck to inject some power to the attack.
My fears hunt me down. Capturing my memories... the frontier of loss. They try to escape across where Jesus stripped bare and raped the spirit he was supposed to nurture. In the name of my, in the name of my...
BORN OF A BROKEN MAN, BUT NOT A BROKEN MAN.
BORN OF A BROKEN MAN, NEVER A BROKEN MAN.
Have any of you guys ever had a profound moment? Some kind of epiphany where two things come together in near perfect harmony? That moment happened to me this morning as I left my house, listening to the eternally awesome Rage Against the Machine.
The words above are the first few lines of the Rage song "Born of a Broken Man". As I was pondering United's pre-season, and in particular the red-hot form of Nani, this song started playing on my iPod. BAM! The connection was instantly made. His confidence was missing before, his fears were hunting him down and hurling him towards the frontier of loss. There was no belief in himself, which escaped when the Jesus of his generation, in the form of Cristiano Ronaldo, matured and wished no longer to mentor his compatriot. But now, Nani though born of a broken man, is no longer a broken man. He never was, and now it's our time to see the fruits of that.
I f***ing love Rage.
That's the word that's been thrown around by the media to describe Wesley Sneijder and Inter president Gian Piero Gasperini. It's because both these guys are speaking a lot without saying much at all. And to be honest, I'm getting pretty sick of it all.
After over a month of will he/won't he, I've decided that Wesley Sneijder is no longer what we need. He's just become a desire that may not even be as healthy for Manchester United as we first believed. What we've been longing for is a superstar, and that's what Sneijder is. But a big name won't necessarily guarantee success. Remember Juan Sebastián Verón?
Admittedly I am a big Sneijder fan and like I've said earlier, he'd bring the spark to our midfield that we've been missing. But this protracted transfer saga (yes, it's gone on so long that it can be officially labelled a "saga") is driving me nuts and I'm thinking that Sneijder might not be the Messiah that I've made him out to be.
Sneijder is a "trequartista". A player that sits in the hole behind the striker(s) and creates and scores goals. He is the focal point of our attack and carries the team when going forward. The way that United play, generally an attacking 4-4-2, means that Sneijder would struggle to use his talents as the system would not suit the man. Sure, we play a 4-5-1 sometimes, but that central attacking midfield role is taken up by Wayne Rooney who, although may not possess as much flair as the Dutchman, is much more defensively sound.
And besides, I'm far more excited by this guy - Mr. Tom Cleverley. He's been very impressive over the pre-season and has Sir Alex and Wayne Rooney praising him. I've been a Cleverley fan for a few years and was stoked to hear that Sir Alex wanted to keep him at Old Trafford last year. But with too much competition from the other central midfielders, he was sent out on loan to Wigan and was probably better off there than playing less games in Manchester. Now that we're looking to reignite out engine room in the wake of Scholes' retirement, it seems that the planets are lining up and Cleverley will mature into that void.
So down with eternal transfer rumors! Hail to the Clev!
UPDATE: A couple of hours after I post this, Tom Cleverley is called up to the England senior team. Booyakasha.
Oh tabloid newspapers. To be honest, I don't regard them as "real" newspapers, and it's kinda hard to take them seriously. These guys don't necessarily want to report the news that matters, but rather the news that sells.
The Wesley Sneijder saga, for example, has been going on for almost a month now and it seems to be getting nowhere. Officially, United's brass is denying it, Inter are as well, and the man himself isn't giving anything away. The only thing fuelling these reports are the back pages of The Sun, The Daily Mirror, The Pink Flamingo, and The Blue Taco. (Those last two I made up, but hey, they're just as real as some of the stories the real tabloids are printing. ZING!)
So this morning, a trawl through some headlines left me with a story broken by The Daily Mail claiming that Gabriel Obertan will sign for Newcastle on Monday. For some reason, this seems a tad more realistic than the Sneijder deal at the moment. In fact, with the possible release of Joey Barton, Obertan would be a good fit for Newcastle in terms of providing another dimension of attack. But I just can't shake the idea that because the Daily Mail broke the story, and because it's the only news outlet carrying the story, that it can't be true. At least not yet.
Let's get this straight. I like Gabriel Obertan, and judging by this picture, Patrice Evra likes him too. But I digress. Gabriel Obertan has a buttload of potential. Raw, unrefined, potential. He's quick, reads the game well, and is technically sound. I'd like him to stay another year to see if we can fine tune him and then unleash him upon the Premier League.
Either way, here's to a few more days till the start of the season. It's gonna be epic! no comments
I know there are all these Nike videos telling us how important pre-season is for the players, but as the average fan I must say it's a tad boring.
Well, not to the extent that I'd want a REAL gun being pointed at my head, but you get the point.
Don't get me wrong, pre-season is fantastic for the team. Especially when they all get together and head off somewhere, in this case the USA. Tours like this get the guys ready for the season both physically and mentally, as well as a good "get-to-know-you" session for the new guys like Young, Jones, and de Gea. But it's so GD boring.
So yeah apologies on behalf of TSR that pre-season hasn't been great in terms of content, but trust me when I say that we'll pick up once the season kicks in.