The essence of Manchester United Football Club

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The essence of Manchester United Football Club

First I wanted to say that I know the blog kind of dried out during the summer. The motivation for posting just died out between the youtubeclips and transfer rumors, and spending a lot of time on creating something, without even creating discussion felt pointless. Now, some motivation has come along and I feel like scribbling down some thoughts. If you rather want to read about transfer targets or watch Zlatan dribble on youtube, this post is probably not for you!

Well enough of that, I am back with a vengeance! It’s August, we’re gathering steam and the season is about to get very real, very soon. I couldn’t be more excited. Rios’ testimonial today is the first real test and we’ll actually be able to win Moyes first trophy with the club on Sunday. We should be looking to snowball our form off from here, and I am shaking with excitement.

For the post, I wanted to share some less tactical thoughts, but focus more on something that has been between the lines of all discussion this summer. The United tradition, the United way. What are we, how did we become such a massive club, and how have we kept it rolling?

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Red

The true inspiration for this post, actually stems from finally getting my finger out of my arse and purchasing Gary Nevilles’ “Red”.  I picked it up yesterday, and I can’t put it down. Reading about United from the bottom-up, from someone who is everything the club is about, is one of the most interesting experiences a fan could get without being directly involved with the club. I recommend you to pick it up.

As the book portraits a young, eager big brother Gary, with an even more talented Phil, fighting for balls and dreaming of playing for their favorite club, it got me back to thinking about our roots under Sir Alex Ferguson and Matt Busby. Local lads. The unsung heroes. The Nevilles, the Butts (yes, I know), the John O’Sheas. The players that worked their ass off, day in and day out, just to figure in the squad. Just to be part of the greatness that is Manchester United. In these times of greedy youngsters demanding contracts and forcing their way out of a club, rather than working hard to deserve the increase. The players that stay an hour extra on the pitch, run one more lap, goes to bed early. These, combined with the extreme talents such as Giggsy, Scholes and Beckham, have been the core of the only United team that myself and many other fans have ever known. With the extreme confidence and talented leadership of a certain Sir Alexander Chapman, has been the foundation of this club as long as I can remember, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

johnnevan

Talented outsiders versus the local red

In many ways, this summer has been frustrating. Many of us have been feeling like we have been ski-jumping without skis, falling, not knowing. Ferguson is out. Scholes finally retired. Rio Ferdinand is older, we have a new manager and coaches. Everything is new and scary. This is human nature. Even if we’re sitting here in Norway, Ireland, Holland, the States or in India, it feels scary. The connection to the club leads to worry, but there is comfort to be found. Moyes has already started his continuation of the United tradition. Phil Neville has gained a key position in the staff, his own coaches at Everton followed and Giggs has been promoted to a player/coach. We are witnessing the rocket launching of the new Manchester United era, with David Moyes as the captain and familiar faces around in other important positions. Our squad is already top 10 in the world, and combined with the team spirit that comes from bringing youth players through your own academy or teenagers bought in to breathe and learn the United way will fight harder than any primadonna you could possibly buy. We could very well be challenging for the Champions League in the years to come.  This summer has been filled with rumors of players to cover this and that spot. Will Moyes replace the local lads in Cleverley or Welbeck? For more polished players, it could have a very good short-term impact. We could be challenging already this season. But long term, is this the best solution? To buy a ton of players? I don’t think so. And Moyes seems to agree. He hasn’t done any panic purchases, and it is fantastic for us to see.

Do we need a Garay, or could we put our faith in Evans and Michael Keane? The latter seems to be the United way. It pays off long-term, and to quote the Boss, “young players will surprise you”. What I am getting at is that the core of our club in the past couple of decades have been to phase in our “own” players rather than spending a ton where it isn’t absolutely necessary. We paid out for Berbatov, for Rooney, for Ferdinand. Deals we had to do at the time. But we didn’t buy a RB when Neville retired. Ferguson simply handed the torch over to young Rafael. And by the looks of it, it has been the right choise once again. 

Fernandinho signing 2

Spending crazy cash in panic

We never do this. We tend to make some risky “what-if” purchases like Bébé or Obertan now and then, but never something like the guy in the picture. We would never buy a 28 year old for 30 million pounds if we already had a decent central midfield, with double coverage on the bench. If we had a Jack Rodwell just waiting to break through. And this is one of the things that seperates us. It is the United way vs the oil money/sheikh way. I prefer ours. Even if it means we lose a trophy now and then. When we win them, it feels so damn sweet. We win them our way, and it doesn’t feel like cheating. We keep our integrity, in a way. Reading the Neville biography lit a fire in my passion for the United youth again. We have so many talented kids in our system, and I can’t wait to see them bond together, win stuff (hey, we just won another trophy with the reserves!) and develop into starters or rotation players for the Man United XI.

It means that every now and then, you’ll have transition seasons. I am sure we’ll have one or two of those when Rio, Giggs and Vidic retire. But it is fine. Our younger players have learned the mentality. They already know how to win. They know what not to do. Now they are the ones to carry it on. And I love watching that. The new great team come into life. It was amazing to see Rooney, Ronaldo, Fletcher, Evra and Kieran Richardson play theirselves into the United team. To be able to sell Roy Keane because Fletcher was growing up, letting Giggs rest when needed because Richardson could do a job. We are about to become a new big team, and I can’t wait to see it unfold. Jones, Smalling, Rafael, Evans, Cleverley and Welbeck already have hundreds of games between them, and should be looking to cement positions into their own. Rafael and Evans has come the furthest so far, but the others will follow. Some might not make it, but we’ll still have a core of players that you would call red. You would call them Red Devils.

Manchester United U21 v Tottenham Hotspur U21 - Barclays U21s Elite Group Final

Carrying on tradition

Andreas Pereira, the lad in the picture, with a medal hanging around his neck, is certainly on his way of doing that. Carrying on. Just like when Gary Neville was a youngster, our kids go to Northern Ireland to play in the Milk Cup. And we won. Of course did we win! Our youth teams are amazing. The determination and skillfullnes among our youth players make them the best in the country. And this is the essence of Manchester United Football Club.  And by that, I don’t mean that we should not buy a midfielder or two this summer. I mean that long term, we’ll still be a team that is dominated by players that have been in the club, and intends to stay here, for a long time. A mixture of world class talent, local passion, experience and a burning desire to win. And the knowledge of how to.

In the pre-season tour, local Lingard, Ben Amos and Michael Keane, academy player Januzaj and new startlet Wilfred Zaha were all given a lot of play time. Most of them impressed so much that many fans want to give them a spot on the bench for this season. And I find myself agreeing. Why shouldn’t Januzaj be able to play in 20-30 games this season? We gave Ronaldo that when he was the same age. I hope we do. You won’t develop the best player in the world unless you throw him to the wolves early. Of course you need to give them time, but match them at a higher level than they are getting with the reserves. Let them play the final 30 minutes when we’re 3-0 up against Norwich or the entire Carling Cup-clash against Leeds. Nothing will speed their development in a better way.

The club has always been about winning. We want to win. But we want to do it our way. We are often refered to a “buying club” by other fans, which is something I’ll call bullshit. By the definition of a buying club, you could probably put every team in the world under that category. What I read into it, is teams that buy their way to trophies. Chelsea won the league without a single player that had gone the grades in the club. It cost them around 6 billion pounds to catch up with us, but it felt like cheating. It felt wrong. I wanted to fight fire with fire, but Ferguson knew better. He knew that developing our own players and strengthening from the outside, only where it was absolutely necessary, was the only way. Our wallet isn’t as thick. But we’ve won more trophies than them since the Russian oil money-guy bought them. Which is, in my opinion, just as impressive as what we did in the 90s. We’re competing in a market where we’re strong, but miles behind the clubs that are owned by gazillionaires from the middle-east. But we’re winning. And I am loving every single bit of it. The heart in our team is our best attribute. Combine that with talent, and you will have a whole different atmosphere than a bunch of lads from all around the world, being overpaid and not really giving a damn. Our now noisy neighbour cracked up as soon as there was some drama. We win despite of drama. We get stronger the more enemies we have, and this is the reason everyone from the outside admire and hate us. And I hope we continue that in that fashion.

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Looking Beyond 12/13: Attacking Midfield

Title number 20.

It is a special season. So many goodbyes; so many tear-filled moments and so many shockingly bad decisions wrapped up in a way that can only happen with football. Its been a season of conflicting emotions for us United fans. The fact that Sir SAF won’t be here next season makes it a weird feeling but the show must go on.

5-5.

My oh my, that was an amazing game of football. But, I’m going to concentrate on the strengths they showed at West Brom and not on the weaknesses. Looking at the match, we are sure to be left wondering why we drew a match we were supposed to win. I don’t care about the result but it matters to me how they played and it looks exciting to welcome Moyes at United for the next season.

Shinji Kagawa

Kagawa, the Ninjawa, the Shin-man, had an exciting first half at West Brom. I loved the way he played and his positioning throughout the game. Fact remains that he is a brilliant player for us in the hole. Taking a look at Kagawa’s first season, I see multiple strengths for the future. He is a much stronger player when we counter-attack at pace. His positioning, body balance and passing are his strengths helped by his agility. The weakness I perceive is the lack of body strength to fight for the ball; that is n0t necessarily a weakness that can’t be converted into strength.

With Moyes, I am quite sure we will have a strong midfield built around Kagawa. This would mean that we might possibly see a fast-flowing attack pivoted with Kagawa in the hole. What I am happy about is the supporting midfielders at United; Cleverley, Anderson, Carrick and hopefully Fletcher would enhance the ability of Kagawa to shine in the position.

What we can expect: Very quick counter-attacking football very similar to one played offensively at West Brom  yesterday. We might see more incisive passing near and in the penalty box.

Anderson

Anderson.

He is an enigma. Nobody knows how he shall play when he is in the team sheet. He baffles us as he baffles many other fans around the world. What is he? What does he do for us on the pitch?

I churned through all those unexplainable questions in my head while I watched West Brom versus United. Anderson is not a simple midfielder he is different just like he is well… different. His strength I found was in driving forward, pressing opponents high up the pitch and forcing things to happen. The video linked above shows all of his strong points: positional awareness, good ball skill and a killer through ball. What it doesn’t show is that as the going gets tougher and tougher, he gets sloppier and sloppier. Its like his breathing and performance are linked together and are inversely proportional.

Even then, I find it really good to watch him play especially the way he picks out through balls; long ones at that. No one in the team does that as often as Anderson. I don’t know if he has an eye for it or likes playing those passes. Even then, I love the way he does that.

What can we expect: Strong midfield runs past the opposing midfielder. Gorgeous through balls to the striker running the channel or the striker behind the last man. All of this is if he stays at United for the next season.

Tom Cleverley

The worker ant is an important part of an ant colony. It just works and works. That is an imperfect analogy but it somehow fits him. It fits what Cleverley does for us. To describe his football; it is hard-working and omnipresent. He tries to be everywhere in the midfield, a box-to-box midfielder who can run, run and keep running. With that strong running, he is a simple passer of the ball. He gets the ball on target, makes up the distance to get the return pass and keeps moving on.

The weakness from him is something very similar to Kagawa; a lack of physical presence. In my opinion, he makes up for his lack of physical presence by being a constant harassment on the opposition.

What to expect: Cleverley’s role might be dictated by the opposition be it attacking or defensive. He can’t get too defensive and he’ll be steamrolled by physically strong oppositions which means he will be played in a role that would require constant tracking back and forward.

Here ends the first part of the whole post. I’ll continue it next time with more thoughts on what we can expect from our squad next season.

Questions

1) Describe what you see in our midfielders? Specific qualities, skills?

2) How do you think Moyes might use the above three players?

3) What sort of weaknesses do you perceive when the three play?

Cheers.