Sunday, 17 July 2016

Jose's Winning Start

Wigan 0 Manchester United 2

This was not just any old run of the mill pre-season friendly this was a match that all Man United fans had been eagerly anticipating since the announcement of Jose Mourinho's appointment as the new manager.

There was certainly more focus on the manager by the fans and the press than the action on the pitch. As the away support blasted out Mourinho's name relentlessly the cameras followed his every move and gesture as he spent more time on the touchline than van Gaal had in his entire spell as United manager and there was no clipboard in sight.

On the pitch there were many important landmarks, Mkhitaryan and Bailly made solid debuts, Wilson made his return from loan and many academy players were given a run-out with the chance to impress their new manager.

But none were more important than the fact that defender Luke Shaw played his first match for the Red Devils since the horror injury he endured ten months ago to the day. Shaw didn't look like a player who had overcome a serious injury as he never shirked from some crunching challenges. All credit to the 21-year-old and let us hope that this will be his season and one that he fully deserves.

On the game front, United won at a canter and Mourinho made full use of his available squad to ease them through what in all fairness was a training exercise designed to increase fitness levels. There will be tougher clashes ahead during the tours of China and Sweden.

Will Keane will hold the distinction of being the first player to score under Jose Mourinho's reign and his goal was followed by a superb strike on the turn from the impressive Andreas Pereira to make the result a comfortable 2-0 victory over a Wigan side who never really tested goalkeepers Sam Johnstone and Joel Pereira.

New signings Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Eric Bailly slotted in nicely and judging by their performances the fans will be licking their lips for the rest of the season.

With Mourinho reportedly keen to keep his squad for the new season down to a minimum it will be interesting to see how many players from this friendly will still be at Old Trafford come the end of the transfer window, especially when you consider all the big name players who featured in the Euro 2016 tournament have yet to return.

Many of the youngsters will simply return to the under 21's or academy, but it is highly likely that some of them will face more loan spells away from the club or even be released. With the anticipated strike force quartet of Ibrahimovic, Rooney, Martial and Rashford to be the preferred choice of the manager then it's doubtful that scorer Keane and James Wilson will want to hang around.

The same can be said about the defence. With the return of Shaw and the acquisition of Bailly, what does the future hold for the likes of Rojo, McNair, Blackett and some of the many young defenders that played at the back during last season?

United seem to have an abundance of players to call upon in the attacking midfield slots. However, it is the defensive midfield area that needs reinforcing as Carrick and Schweinsteiger will not be able to play a whole season due to age and inevitable injuries so with just Schneiderlin to call upon there is a need there.

Mourinho obviously has a plan and we will all have to wait and see what transpires, but for now it's a first win for the new man in charge and there is a positive vibe once again around the club as they embark on their pre-season tour of China and a little matter of the coming together of Jose and Pep.

The good times seem to be back and long may they continue.

Thanks for reading.

Miles Dunton.

Friday, 8 July 2016

Summer Lovin' At Man United.

The weather in Manchester may not be hot, but the activity around Old Trafford certainly is and if the rumours are true it could get even hotter.

So far new manager Jose Mourinho has given back the Manchester United fans that happy feeling again in his short time at the helm and has gone a long way to erase the memories of the last few seasons.

Mourinho didn't waste time implementing his United revolution by signing a quality defender in Ivory Coast international Eric Bailly from Villareal then plucked superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic on a free transfer from PSG. He followed that up with the news that the first Armenian to ply his trade in England had been secured when he tied up the transfer of highly-rated Henrikh Mkhitaryan, or simply Micki, from Borussia Dortmund.

A press conference to unveil the new Red Devil manager was one that exuded confidence, which is no more than you would expect from Mourinho, as he laid out his agenda to bring back the good times in front of the world's press and watching fans.

The last few weeks have been buzzing with the transfer activity surrounding United which could reach a whole new level if the rumours surrounding a world record bid for Paul Pogba become a reality.

Figures approaching £100m have been thrown around like confetti in the press for a player who left United on a free transfer after a huge fallout with then manager Alex Ferguson.

Fergie later admitted that Pogba's agent orchestrated the move to Juventus for the then 19-year-old midfielder in his own interests rather than the players and he was disgusted by the manner in which the whole messy situation was resolved.

There are two sides to every argument and it can be said that bygones should be bygones and a club as big as United should always try and sign the big name players. On the other hand, it could be put over why are the club willing to pay so much money for a player who turned his back on them for the lure of money.

Of course, other world class players have been linked with a big-money move to United in the past and nothing materialised as their agents only used the club to up the price to lure other more lucrative moves to rival clubs. This could turn out to be the case with Pogba as Real Madrid are also reported to be interested.

However, there is one important factor to consider and that is players do want to play for Jose Mourinho. Consider this, if van Gaal or indeed Moyes had still been at the helm would the likes of Zlatan have joined or even Pogba be considering a move to United? The answer has to be a resounding no especially with no Champions League football. But Mourinho has that pulling power not seen at United since Ferguson.

Whatever happens in the Pogba saga the future of the club looks to be in very safe hands with Mourinho and the upcoming season should see United return to the days of when they were challenging for the biggest honours.

Thanks for reading.

Miles Dunton.

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Jose Mourinho Meets The Press.

It was a calm, confident and assured new Manchester United manager who sat in front of the world's press at Old Trafford.

After almost half an hour Jose Mourinho had laid out his plans for his revolution at Old Trafford in a manner that suggested he was relishing the tough task ahead.

However, it wasn't what he said, but more what he implied during his first question and answer session as the new man in charge of resurrecting the Red Devils.

Mourinho was careful enough not to mention anybody by name but everyone knew who he was talking about. He started by confirming that he wasn't a manager who hid behind philosophies, a dig at his predecessor Louis van Gaal. He then took aim at Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger when he reminded everybody that some managers had not won the league for ten years whereas he had achieved it one year ago.

Next, it was his old adversary Pep Guardiola's turn down the road at Man City when Mourinho stated that he had twenty rivals not just one. He also brought age into the mix when he claimed that at 53 he was more motivated than older managers at the end of their careers which could have been a reference to van Gaal, Wenger and any manager over 60.

Mourinho then proceeded to tackle the Wayne Rooney dilemma by confirming exactly what many United fans have been saying for the last three years and that is the captain is not a midfielder but a striker who the new manager will utilise as a number 9, 10 or even a 9.5 but never 50 metres away from goal where his scoring talent is wasted. Music to the ears indeed.

He addressed the elephant in the room in an honest manner and that was the departure of Ryan Giggs after almost 30 years by admitting that the Welsh legend would only have stayed on as manager but the board had decided to appoint a manager with experience over sentimentality.

When asked about his transfer plans Mourinho confirmed that he had four players targeted to fill in what he called specialised positions but didn't confirm any departures. However, he was very clear on his stance that players should not play out of position. Another shot across the bow of van Gaal's baffling tactics.

Even though Mourinho had a serious look about him the session did have humour built into it, especially when he had to ask his press assistant if the club had finalised the deal with a third player to which she replied 'No, not yet'. He followed that up by replying to a question about whether or not he had received any advice from Alex Ferguson and that the Scot had told him to bring an umbrella and his usual good taste in wine.

The only time that he seemed to become slightly riled was when one journalist questioned him about his past record on promoting academy players. True to his style Mourinho had come prepared with a list of 49 players he had brought up through the ranks at his previous clubs. End of debate.

Overall, it was a Mourinho who seemed to be very much at home in his new surroundings as he said all the right things that will certainly go down well with the Old Trafford faithful. Sure, he will face tougher press conferences as the season unfolds, but at this one, he was in full control of the proceedings.

He appears to have grasped the enormity of the job in hand and the early signs in the transfer market show that he understands exactly who and what is needed to inject a sense of urgency and aggression into a side drained of confidence over the last three seasons.

Only time will tell if the special one is indeed the right one to bring success back to United but all the signs point to a successful partnership between manager and club. Confidence breeds success and Mourinho is not short of that characteristic.

Finally, In Mourinho's own words 'Giant clubs must be for the best managers.'

Thanks for reading.

Miles Dunton.

Saturday, 2 July 2016

Ryan Giggs: End Of An Era.

Farewell To United Legend Ryan Giggs.

All good things have to come to an end and after being at the club since he was 14 Ryan Giggs has decided that it is the right time to call it a day at Manchester United, for now.

When Sir Alex Ferguson first cast his experienced eye over Giggs flying down the wing as a youngster, he likened the sight to a dog chasing a piece of silver paper blowing in the wind so effortlessly was the way the young Salford lad moved.

Almost 30 years later and the most decorated player in world football is leaving his only club for pastures new. His roll call of trophies is truly amazing 35 in total including 13 Premier Leagues, 4 FA Cups, 4 League Cups and 2 Champion Leagues. Add to that his total of 963 appearances for the club and you can see how difficult a decision it must have been for him to break his association with his beloved United.

In his time at the club, he had held the position as player, captain, player/manager and assistant manager. But did he stay too long in his last post under van Gaal? Should he, in fact, have been given the responsibility of manager before the Dutchman or even after?

The answer in my opinion to both those questions is no. He has to take heed of the lessons he learned under Fergie, Moyes and van Gaal and turn them to his advantage. Sometimes it's better to learn from mistakes, especially other people's.

After witnessing at close hand how the good, the bad and the ugly managed the club will certainly stand him in good stead for his future in management.

In van Gaal's case, most fans were optimistic when he was appointed especially with the signings and the changes he made. The main one being the appointment of Giggs as his assistant, which I believe was made with the intention of getting the United fans in his corner. Giggs said all the right things while working with van Gaal but you could tell he wasn't convinced about the so-called philosophy. How could he be?

When you look back at the last two seasons their body language towards each other looked uncomfortable. Sitting together on the bench week in week out they hardly communicated and Giggs looked far from happy and quite frankly appeared to be as bored as the fans.

Many people argue whether or not the position of manager at a club the size of United should always be awarded to experience rather than to a player for sentimental reasons.

Moyes came with nearly a decade of trophyless seasons behind him at Everton and in the end van Gaal's vast championship winning experience counted for nothing. Sure the Dutchman ended his reign with the FA Cup, but little else, so the debate will undoubtedly continue.

42-year-old Giggs is Man United through and through and if he doesn't know what style of play the club needs then nobody does. He has that winning mentality that he honed under Ferguson but now the board has once again gone for experience in the shape of Jose Mourinho. So he needs to cut his teeth at another club and stand on his own two feet, build up his backroom staff and prove his worth. Then in the future, he will return a better manager for it.

United have produced many players that have gone on to earn a decent reputation in management without exactly setting the world alight. The likes of Giggs' old teammates Robson, Bruce, Ince, Keane and Hughes have all enjoyed respectable careers at various clubs. However, none of them have what it takes to be considered for the hot seat at Old Trafford.

Maybe Giggs is different, maybe he has got that special ingredient to become a great United manager. Let's wait and see.

Hopefully, it's not goodbye only see you later Giggsy!

Thanks for reading.

Miles Dunton.