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POOR MANCHESTER UNITED LIMP TO A 1-1 DRAW WITH NEWCASTLE AT ST JAMES’S PARK

Playing for the first time in 16 days, United struggled against a very game Newcastle United side.  Newcastle was full of confidence Monday night and it showed with Allan Saint-Maximin bagging an early goal in the 7th minute. Despite United having the lions share of possession for most of the match, the visitors were unable to create any real attacking threat. Having no competitive matches in 16 days added a lot of ring rust for everyone on the field save David De Gea.

FIRST HALF

De Gea continued his lights out performances, stopping two would-be goals for Newcastle. De Gea made an important save on a Miguel Almiron strike pushing the ball over the crossbar. De Gea appeared to be the only player on the pitch for United who looked like he actually came to play. The whole team looked disjointed and unable to play together. Bruno Fernandes, Marcus Rashford, Scott McTominay, and Fred all had terrible games. Each gave the ball away with almost every touch and seemed unable to complete even the simplest pass. It was a really poor showing for everyone in a United shirt.

SECOND HALF

In the second half Ralf Rangnick took off an inept Fred and an ok Mason Greenwood for Jadon Sancho and Edinson Cavani. For most of the second half Newcastle were able to create chance after chance on the break every time a United player gave the ball away. St James’ Park was loud and energetic throughout the match making it really difficult for the visitors. Newcastle would rue their missed chances earlier in the match in the 71st minute when Cavani makes it 1-1.

The one decent pass Fernandes made was the one that got things started for the goal. The Portuguese midfielder hit a ball over to the right for Diogo Dalot. Dalot crosses a knee high ball to the wide open Cavani who sees his first time shot blocked. The rebound falls right back to him and makes no mistake the second time putting the ball in the back of the net.

United looked completely off the pace in the match and absolutely did not deserve to get a point from this one. Everyone except De Gea was poor and did not deserve to be playing in a United shirt. Rangnick needs to make some tough decisions and bench some players who shouldn’t be anywhere near the first team right now. The upcoming Burnley match is a perfect time to give some hungry players some minutes and bench under performing ones (I’m looking at you Rashford, Harry Maguire, and Fred).   

 

United Draw Atletico; Fascinating Match Set After Re-Draw

Champions League

Manchester United drew Atletico Madrid in the first round of the knockout stages on Monday. An error involving United occurred in the first draw, causing the re-draw.

During the first draw United were drawn Villarreal, but because they played in the group they are not allowed to compete against each other in the first knockout round. Balls were not placed back correctly, the draw continued and UEFA eventually decided on a re-draw.

United might be a little lucky. On the first draw they were paired up with PSG, a team that has had made the Champions League a top priority and probably favorites even before Lionel Messi signed.

But, the error’s were egregious.

United’s Opponent Quick Preview

The La Liga champions are a tough out for any team. Atletico were knocked out by eventual champions Chelsea in their last UCL campaign, but defeated Liverpool two seasons prior, just before the COVID lockdowns.

Atletico this season have started a little slow and were easily beat at the weekend to city rivals Real Madrid 2-0. Two early goals in the first and second half and a good performance by Courtois all but put an to any talk of them defending their title away at the moment.

Atletico sit in fourth and are 13 points behind Real, so Diego Simeone might shift his eggs to the UCL basket. Before they face United in February they have some important matches with league rivals that are fighting for top four.

They also have some fairly easy matches as well like Man Utd and could be coming to the UCL tie inform.

Atletico will host the first tie February 15th.

Man Utd v Norwich City Preview

Norwich V Man United

Man Utd take on Norwich City later on today in the evening matchup. Man Utd might be feeling good about themselves after the appointment of Ralf Rangnick.

Rangnick handed key players rest during the week in a meaningless Champions League match and with an easy set of fixtures upcoming during the festive season there might be plenty more to celebrate at Old Trafford than the holidays.

Man Utd’s Opponent

The Canaries, the definition of a yo-yo club. Norwich are one of the most prominent yo-you clubs having gone back up and down the last three seasons. If they get relegated it will be four seasons of up and down. If relegated they would defiantly be a favorite to go back up.

The Norfolk side have been tidy since Dean Smith took charge, but got smoked last weekend at Spurs. A team Norwich should loose too. Dean Smith is 1-2-1 since taking charge and seems confident he can get a result against Man Utd based off of Aston Villa’s performance against the Red Devils when Smith was in charge before he was sacked.

A decent amount of talent in Norfolk. Max Aarons is highly rated right back and has been linked with top clubs like Bayern Munich. Todd Cantwell was once linked away also and was priced at around €20mil at some point, but has struggled this season.

Finish striker Teemu Pukki has a goal in him every now and then in the Premier League, prolific in the Championship. Ben Gibson, the center back has been solid for the club since singing from Burnley. Billy Gilmour is a talented holding midfielder on loan from Chelsea.

Kieran Dowell is one to watch off the bench, the ex-Everton man has settled in Norwich since signing in 2020 and American international Josh Sargent has yet to score in the league, but works hard off the ball. Both were on the bench against Spurs. Andrew Omobamidele is a talented teenager defender and recent Irish international.

Smith, who was only out of a job for hours, has kept it tight opting for a 5-3-2. Norwich need points and are tied at the bottom with all other relegation zone sides with 10 points. Norwich, Newcastle and Burnley trail Watford by 3 points, but Norwich have a horrendous goal differential with -23, basically an extra point.

Man Utd

Rangnick has the ability to take it to the Canaries early because of the freshness of the players, they could look to press early and get a quick goal to force Norwich out of their shell. A goal might not deter the Canaries from parking the bus with the hope of a late equalizer.

Norwich gave up an early goal to Tottenham, the 10th minute and when they decided to push for the equalizer they were punished.

Despite having 60% possession against Spurs, it was Spurs who had the better chances. The Canaries could only muster one shot on goal to Spurs’ seven.

Man Utd’s worst enemy defensively this season seems to be themselves. Mistakes could give Norwich opportunities. It will be interesting to see who Rangnick decides to play in the full back positions. Diogo Dalot and Alex Telles might be picked over Luke Shaw and Aaron Wan-Bissaka. A combination of the two is also likely.

Man Utd and Rangnick must win these games, especially against teams that are bottom of the table. Norwich have let in 31 goals this season and can not be given confidence. The longer they hold on the more inspired they could be to see out the draw.

Big run of games for Rangnick even though most of the teams are in the bottom half of the table. No need to remain past the season if you can not beat Norwich.

Crystal Palace Travel North To Old Trafford on Sunday

Manchester United v Crystal Palace

Manchester United host Crystal Palace on Sunday in the Premier League.

One interim period is over. Welcome the new interim period. Michael Carrick took charge of his third game for Manchester United and secured an important victory for his side who are hoping they have turned a corner. However, it will be without Carrick who has stepped down from all club duties with Ralf Rangnick taking charge of his first game this weekend.

Crystal Palace are the visitors to Old Trafford this Sunday and if recent history at the Theatre of Dreams is anything to go by, Palace might be in for a good afternoon. United have not beaten Palace at home since September 2017 when Juan Mata, Romelu Lukaku and Mauroane Fellaini (twice) found the net in a 4-0 romp for Jose Mourinho’s men.

However, Palace have been victorious in their previous two visits with some late magic. United will need to stay focused for the entire game if they are to grab all three points.

Palace’s Form

This year Palace are a completely new entity under former Arsenal and French midfielder Patrick Vieira. Having arrived from Nice in the summer, some questioned if he was ready for the Premier League having struggled in his final season. However, the London club have gone from strength to strength after a huge turn around in the squad.

The Eagles currently sit in 11th place six points above the bottom three but just five points off United who are currently 7th. With just three wins it is impressive they are so high up but Vieira’s men do have seven draws this season; he will be hoping they can turn those draws into victories very soon.

Currently without a win in three games following defeat to Leeds United and Aston Villa (and a 3-3 draw with Burnley), Vieira will be keen to get back to winning ways as they have not tasted victory since the start of November against Wolverhampton Wanderers.

One thing Palace do not lack and that is goals. Against Leeds midweek was the first time they have failed to score since their defeat to Liverpool in mid-September.

Palace Team News

Vieira has played either a 4-3-3 or a 4-2-3-1 this season, a similar formation to that of United’s, and will not be panicked to change drastically following the two defeats. It will be interesting to see who he starts with up front to challenge Victor Lindelof and Harry Maguire; who returned to the side on Thursday and put in a strong performance. He could be tempted with the strength of Christian Benteke or the wiry nature of former Manchester United man Wilf Zaha.

Once again United find themselves against a quality midfielder in on loan Chelsea man Conor Gallagher. The England midfielder has been the most consistent player for Palace this year and he will be a real threat to Fred, Scott McTominay and Bruno Fernandes. United should know about his gameplay having played against him twice last season against West Bromwich Albion.

Palace just have the one injury at the moment with tricky winger Eberechi Eze still out injured. However, Danish defender Joachim Andersen is set to return.

Arsenal Preview

Arsenal v Man United

Manchester United take on Arsenal in the Premier League on Thursday at Old Trafford. A big match for both sides trying to keep pace with the top four.

Arsenal currently sit 5th, but are tied with West Ham on points for 4th, but losing out on goal differential. Arsenal are five points clear of United who have 18 points in 8th place.

Arsenal will be able to see what they are going to have to do on Thursday because West Ham play on Wednesday. There could be no way for Arsenal to crack into the top four if West Ham wins, so the focus will be keeping teams below them at-bay and keeping pace with West Ham with a win over United.

Arsenal would get a huge boost if they can crack the top four, especially after a slow start to the season. Arsenal were unbeaten in 8 matches before getting handled by Liverpool, but bounced back against a slow-starting Newcastle side at the weekend.

The road has been rough on Arsenal this season, only two wins against Burnley and Leicester. Brentford, Spurs, Liverpool and City took care of Arsenal on their ground.

United on paper are probably the better team, but they have to be weary against Arsenal. A team that has not taken many big scalps this season, but have taken care of business against teams that they should.

Arsenal’s Spending

Mikel Arteta received funds to revamp the squad this summer and with their current form might get another reinforcement or two this upcoming winter window.

Nuno Tavares, Takehiro Tomiyasu, Ben White, Aaron Ramsdale and Martin Odegaard are a few of the players bought this summer that have featured recently for the Gunners, all with good sized fees.

Ramsdale has been great in goal. Tavares is still a little raw, but has been holding off Kieran Tierney. Tierney has been a bit injured already this season and has made the bench the last couple of matches.

Arteta has been lining up this season in a 4-2-3-1, but came out in a 4-4-1-1 against Newcastle. Tomiyasu is not a marauding full back so it could be a back three at times. Tomiyasu dropped a dime for the second goal at the weekend against Newcastle. Bakayou Saka covers a lot of space on the right, but could move around to find space.

Veteran strikers Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang are supported with some good young creative talent. Saka, Odegaard and Emile Smith-Rowe have good starts to the season. Smith-Rowe was recently called into the England squad because of his form.

Thomas Partey and Albert Sambi Lokonga provide cover the center backs and are solid professionals as well. Lokonga was also bought this summer from Anderlecht and his slide into the first team. Arteta has put together a decent side that is flexible.

There is firepower off the bench. Lacazette usually comes off the bench, Eddie Nketiah, Nicolas Pepe and Gabriel Martinelli have a goal in them off the bench.

Spending over €150mil has helped as they now sit in 5th and are threatening for Champions League spots even though the season is still early.

The approach is slightly different from most big clubs, but is how Arsenal has done business before in the past. Not necessarily going all out for big named signings, instead getting solid well scouted players with decent sized fees. White is the exception probably because of his English fee.

The Gunners fell off a bit the last few seasons, but they have reloaded well and could be challenging for the top four come April and into May.

United Should Track These 8 Promising Players In The RB System

RB Leipzig

United Interim Manager Ralf Rangnick has had a long and solid career managing in Germany. Lokomativ Moscow was his most recent employer, prior to that he spent a lot of time in the Red Bull set up.

From 2012-219, Rangnick served in the Red Bull system, starting as director of football in 2012 and later managed RB Leipzig in the 2015-2016 and 2018-2019 seasons. A lot of talent has come in and out of the Red Bull system the last few seasons.

He must be aware of some of the current talent in the system obviously and have connections still in that system.

It seems that Bayern Munich have also exploited that connection with Julian Nagglesman, an ex-manager at Leipzig. They have signed Dayot Upamecano and Marcel Sabitzer, two terrific talents in recent windows.

Those connections could yield United some terrific talent.

8 is a decent sized list, but there is a lot of talent in the system and three teams: Leipzig, Salzburg and New York.

Christopher Nkunku

Nkuku has to be the first player listed. There are plenty of good talents, that will be discussed later but none that look more promising right now than Nkunku.

The French attacking midfielder is currently going through his best form of his career and is easily the best outfield player at Leipzig at the moment. Nkunku has the 13 goals and 6 assists in 19 matches, all competitions.

Nkunku has yet to be called into the French national team. The recently turned 24-year-old plays in a loaded French position, attacking midfielder. Also, like United, attacking midfielder is not a need at the moment.

Nkunku currently is value at around €47mil. A fantastic talent that looks like he will continue to get better. Probably not a fit for United at the moment, but could be playing against United in the Premier League one day.

Nordi Mukiele

Mukiele could be one of the most realistic players on this list that could start for Manchester United right now, slide in the lineup. That has more to do with the recent run of form of Aaron Wan-Bissaka.

Wan-Bissaska is a great defender. Recently he has had made some big mistakes and there is a consensus that he does not add much going forward, he could be on his way out if he does not grow into Rangnick’s side. I do think Wan-Bissaka could, it is hard to give up on a player that cost so much also.

But, if Mukiele was on the bench, he would get a shot. Even, Alex Telles is getting a shot at left back while Luke Shaw deals with injuries and poor form.

Mukiele has started the last few seasons at RWB/RB for Leipzig. The 24-year-old’s recent form has seen him called up by France. This season, Leipzig have played four at the back, with Mukiele being a more traditional right back, but Leipzig switches it up.

Mukiele likes to get forward and in 84 league appearances he has 8 goals and 6 assists. Decent for a full back, not spectacular. Nordi is a good defender and might not be far away from Wan-Bissaka in that respect, but makes up for it by being better going forward.

Nordi Mukiele is valued at €27.5mil according to Transfermarkt. United could sell Dalot and fund the rest to buy Mukiele.

United need competition for Wan-Bissaka.

Dominik Szoboszlai

The Hungarian Prince. It is unfortunate that Szoboszlai plays in a stacked position at United. Bruno, Jesse Lingard, Jadon Sancho and Donny van de Beek play and could play the 10.

A good amount of players on this list play in that position, but Szoboszlai is young and United could be losing Lingard on a free soon, there could be some space for a younger player.

Szoboszlai could make the bench of any top club in Europe probably and develop into a starter for most. At only 21-years-old the Hungarian is turning heads in the Red Bull system and in Europe.

The Hungarians had a good summer at the Euros, despite Szoboszlai not being pivotal to their success in the summer, he had a decent tournament.

At Leipzig he has fit in well. This season he has 3 goals and assists in 12 league games. A couple of cup goals and a penalty in the Champions League with Neymar in his ear, rounds out his goal contributions for the season so far.

Karim Adayemi

Salzburg have had a great success rate at producing solid forwards lately with the gem being Erling Halaand. Patson Daka and Hwang Hee-chan are playing well for their Premier League Clubs lately.

Adayemi was in the shadows of some of those guys the last couple of seasons, mainly because he is only 19-years-old, but turns 20 at the beginning of the year.

The 20-21 campaign the forward scored 7 goals in 29 games, not bad for being so young and Daka being the main striker. This season he has hit the ground running with 11 goals in 15 matches in the Austrian Bundesliga and 4 goals in 7 Champions League matches.

His form has caught the eye of the German national team. Adayemi netted a goal on his international debut in September against Armenia.

The youngster is from Munich and would likely choose the Bavarians in the long run and they might get a nice deal for that past business with the system. United have a lot of good young talent at forward, but if the price is right for United, you can never have enough talented forwards.

Luka Sucic

The 19-year-old has a nasty left foot. For being as tall as he is (6ft 1in), he has great control with the ball at his feet similar to a Szobalzai, likely a similar career path as the Hungarian.

The Croatian international, one cap, has been turning some heads and rumors are already popping up of teams interested. It is very likely he goes to Leipzig, especially if someone calls knocking for the Hungarian Prince.

AC Milan are interested in the young talent. Still too early to tell, but if he keeps getting games in Salzburg and in Europe, more teams will begin to circle.

United have Bruno Fernandes as an attacking midfielder and if Bruno gets dropped it is not going to be for another attacking midfielder. Plus, Jadon Sancho and even Donny van de Beek can play the 10. Sucic is one to keep an eye on.

The Americans

The American market is getting bigger. Christian Pulisic to Chelsea, Weston Mckennie Juventus and Sergino Dest Barcelona are three of the biggest transfer moves by Americans in football history. Clubs see the opportunity of cashing in on American players.

Those seeds have been planted for awhile with some clubs. Bayern Munich has great relations with FC Dallas. Mckennie came through the FC Dallas academy. Red Bull sporting group has been invested in New York for awhile and a couple of decent players have been produced.

NBC Sports just recently signed a deal with the Premier League to extend their coverage of the league in a deal worth around €2 billion the next 6 years. United could cash in on more on that market.

United have not had an American since Tim Howard.

Tyler Adams

Adams was linked to Arsenal in the summer. Adams plays a RWB/CDM role at Leipzig. In the system he can move to RWB and then transition to CDM depending on the instructions. Similar to things Mykel Arteta likes to do at Arsenal.

Adams is flexible and has done that for a couple of matches with the USMNT under Greg Berhalter. With the USMNT you will see him primarily operate as the 6, shielding the two center backs. The RB role in the USMNT is deep, so he might not be used like that with them going forward, unless an emergency.

United need a 6. Someone who could shield the defense and get the ball out of his feet quick to start counters. Adams is the only American on this list with a serious shot of playing for United because of the need at that position.

Caden Clark

The young American burst onto the scenes in MLS in his debut season, in America rookie season. His season started of hot with a couple of goals.

An appendicitis put him for a bit during the season. His season was ultimately good enough for Leipzig to come calling. American coach Jesse Marsch will get a look at him soon. The season ended recently for NYRB, Clark should be in Germany.

The soon to be 19-year-old has a lot of work to do yet. The attacking midfielder will have to fight for playing time against a lot of talented players at Leipzig in a similar position.

Brenden Aaronson

Aaronson is not at Leipzig like Clark or Adams, but could be soon after a good year at Salzburg and decent performances for the USMNT has the stock of the 21-year-old from New Jersey rising.

Since breaking out for Salzburg and the USMNT in the least year, Aaronson has 34 league appearances with 6 goals and 8 assists. 7 Champions League appearances with 2 goals. In World Cup qualifiers he has 2 goals and appearing in all matches for the USMNT.

Aaronson is fast, really fast. Majority of the time he plays on the left, but can play in the middle also. High work rate offensively and defensively. Not always the focal point in attack, but finds away to insert himself into the game.

Similar to Dan James, but a better crosser and a slightly more precise finisher. At the least he gets his shot on target, but has squandered good opportunities like most players.

Honorable Mentions

Josko Gvaridol, Angelino, Brian Bobbery, Dani Olmo and Noah Okafor.

Manchester United’s Stormy Fall

Ole and Backroom Staff

Written by Artyom Tonoyan

Manchester United had a very stormy fall. Prior to the victory over Villarreal, the Red Devils have lost 5 of their last 7 matches in the Premier League, are hesitant to pass the Champions League group and have been eliminated from the League Cup.  

Watford defeated Manchester United with a negative difference between goals scored and conceded in the Premier League. Manchester United scored 20 goals in 12 rounds of the Premier League, conceding 21 times.  It’s impossible to close our eyes to such results, because they stem from the terrible quality of the game.  Let’s take a look at the main reasons for this situation.  What is happening with Manchester United and what factors influenced it?

 With the arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo, there has been a noticeable change in the way Manchester United operates without the ball.  The team became passive and less cohesive.  Manchester United gives opponents time to prepare for offensives and allows them to move into more dangerous zones.  Simply put, Manchester defends worse and does not control the course of matches.  

The Red Devils conceded first in nine of their last 12 games.  This negates the progress of the past seasons, when we have deservedly praised United.  Previously, it was possible to effectively hold the defense by switching between high pressure and positioning mode.  No one fell out of the pressure, everyone acted intensively and harmoniously.  It was a strong argument in big matches, where it gave efficiency along with fine tuning of the formation to match the opponents’ play.  

This season there were difficulties with pressing, and further along the chain, the entire defensive play of the team worsened.  The contrast can be seen both visually and statistically.  In the 20-21 season, United on average allowed only 1 expected goal per match, and now allows one and a half.  

The intensity of pressure on the opponents has decreased, and attempts to prevent the start of an attack on another third of the field have become less frequent.  The average number of such pressing actions decreased by 18% – a fall from fifth place in the league by 16. Overall pressing success across the field sank.  This is how the numbers express the influence of Ronaldo on the team’s game, or more precisely, on its actions to contain opponents and return the ball:

Pressing actions on another third in the season 20-21: 35.3.

 Pressure actions on another third in the season 21-22: 29.

 PPDA for the season 20-21: 10.95.

 PPDA 21-22: 12.7

 Manchester United rivals XG 90 minutes in 20-21 season: 1.03 (4th).

 Manchester United Rivals XG 90 mins 21-22: 1.52 (15th)

Cristiano himself performs less than 6 pressing actions and occupies low places in this component both in the team and in relation to all the forwards of the top leagues.  Very few people allow themselves to be so off without the ball.  When Ronaldo is focused on tackling and pushing with all his might, there is a transformation of the team in defensive action.  

You can remember the first matches of Ronaldo after his return, as well as the game with Atalanta.  But even there, attempts by Krishtin were not enough.  Why Solskjaer was never able to agree with Ronaldo on this matter is an unanswered question.  Cristiano’s offensive benefits often outweigh the defensive difficulties.  The task of the Portuguese coaches and partners is to adapt to all mechanisms, which few people succeed in.  Ronaldo’s passivity can be compensated by his fellow attackers. 

But so far only Cavani and Fernandes are plowing for two from the front line of Manchester United.  With both of these players on the pitch, United is good at pinching opponents in his side, despite Ronaldo being cut off from defense.  His work is shared by Edinson and Bruno, covering the center and semi-flanks.  A striking example is the confrontation with Tottenham.  

Bruno and Cavani chose the most optimal moments for pressing, directed it, blocked the pass lines to the defenders and entered the selection if the passes passed.  The pressure of the Red Devils was aimed at pinning the opponents on the flank, where fullbacks rose high and helped to take away.  Tottenham was not ready for the game under pressure, Atalanta also had difficulties.  United’s problem is that Cavani is often injured, and without him the passivity and imbalance of the team return.

 The quality of United’s game is also affected by injuries and the suboptimal shape of all defenders.  Rafael Varane spent a little more than half of the maximum possible time on the field by mid-November.  Harry Maguire was also injured, and his return to the match with Leicester was hasty.  

For an important game against Man City, Victor Lindelof was not ready.  Everything is aggravated by the fact that none of the defenders in the fall has gained optimal shape for themselves.  This manifests itself in a large number of individual mistakes and shortcomings – the terrible imports of Maguiar with Leicester, the weak opposition of Bayi Zapata in the return game with Atalanta, the helplessness of One-Bissaki against Foden, the turbidity with Shaw against Liverpool.  

The enumerations can be continued, but the output will not change.  Individually, each United defender makes an already dire situation worse.  Problems of a different nature are observed: both a lack of understanding of how to act, and psychology.  For the sake of fairness, we note that the poor play of the defenders is also associated with the looseness of the top lines.  So everyone needs to add.

United’s conspicuous shortage of quality defensive defensive midfielder-destroyer.  When Ronaldo plays the lone striker, he needs a defensive plowman behind him to bring the balance back.  This should be not only a hardy, but also a tactically trained defensive midfielder, who would cover more space, be successful in martial arts and not make mistakes in decisions – when to advance himself, and when, on the contrary, to go down and secure the advanced center def.  

In these components, problems are observed for everyone with whom Solskjaer covered the support zone.  It is unclear what the sporting director and head coach were counting on when this position was left unchanged in the summer.  The team has a shortage of defensive players and an overload of wingers, and the career of the promising Donny van de Beek is also crumbling.

Continuing the restrained criticism of Solskjaer, we note the following: one gets the impression that Ole and his staff have begun to prepare the team for matches in less detail and react less well along the way.  In a number of matches, the players did not understand how to react in a situation, whom to advance to, whom to transfer to partners.  A relatively recent example is the City derby.  

Aaron Wan-Bissaka concentrated on playing according to Foden, while Cancelo received huge spaces and either no one moved to it at all, or Fernandes belatedly.  The tactical decision of Solskjaer framed the team and during the disastrous first half, the coach did not react in any way.  There are at least 2 analysts in his headquarters who simply could not help but pay attention to this.  Wan-Bissaka suffered in meetings with Liverpool and Atalanta, when they also lacked clarity of instructions and mutual safety net.

With summer transfers, Manchester United greatly raised the expectations of fans and the media.  Many in all seriousness recorded the Red Devils as the main contenders for the Premier League championship, despite strong competitors.  

All these expectations gradually put pressure on the team, and after a series of unsuccessful matches, they were replaced by a powerful stream of mud.  Few people did not smash Solskjaer and his team.  All this affected the team and destroyed the atmosphere inside.

The Norwegian coach could not save Manchester United.  After losing to Watford, the club decided to fire him.  All that remains is to say a big thank you to Solskjaer.  He has done a great job here.  He brought Manchester United to the Europa League final, won a derby against Guardiola, and rid the team of Marcos Rojo…  But Ole is not yet ready to fight Guardiola, Klopp and Tuchel. 

ERIC CANTONA PAINTS HIS MASTERPIECE

Eric Cantona

Written by John White for Manchester United Then & Now

We all have our very own special memories of Eric Cantona playing for Manchester United.

I would like to share my own with you from a game I was so privileged to be at.

A man can be an artist in anything. In food. In writing. Whatever. It depends on how good he is at it. Eric Cantona’s art was scoring goals. He was about to create his Masterpiece.

The famous Italian artist, Leonardo da Vinci, painted the Masterpiece of his life, the “Mona Lisa,” between 1503 and 1506. It was an archetypal Masterpiece of the Italian Renaissance. On 21 December 1996, Eric Cantona put his football easel to use and painted his own Masterpiece, an iconic goal. It was an archetypal Masterpiece of the Premier League. The Italian Master put his art on canvas. Cantona’s canvas was the Old Trafford pitch. Da Vinci was also an Engineer and Inventor who conceived many ideas way ahead of his time on earth (1452-1519), conceptually inventing the parachute and the helicopter. He even drew the first ever plans for a submersible vehicle. Eric, United’s French Master, was also an Inventor, creating many goals in his mind before executing his plans and scoring a goal. He sank the hearts of many defenders.

On 21 December 1996, Sunderland visited Old Trafford in the Premier League. United were the reigning Champions of England and holders of the FA Cup. Sunderland were playing in their maiden Premier League season having won Division One by four points over Derby County in season 1995-96 who were also promoted to the Premier League. Sunderland’s style of play was aggressive, but totally committed to winning which reflected the demands and style of play their manager, the former Everton midfielder, Peter Reid was known for during his successful playing career. In season 1984-85, Reid won the PFA Players’ Player of the Year Award and came fourth in the World Soccer Player of the Year Award which was won by Juventus’s talismanic French captain, Michel Platini.

It was United’s 18th Premier League game of the season in defence of their trophy, having won 7, drawn 7 and losing 3 of their previous 17 Premiership games. The three losses all occurred consecutively: 5-0 away to Newcastle United, 6-3 away to Southampton (scorers: David Beckham, David May, Paul Scholes) and a 2-1 loss at Old Trafford to Chelsea (scorer: May). United were sitting in third place in the table.

Sunderland were maintaining their own among the “Big Boys” when they faced the Double winners who had their very own talismanic French captain, Eric Cantona. In their first 17 outings they notched-up 5 wins, 5 draws and 7 losses. Six days before they made the trip to Manchester, Reid’s side beat Chelsea 3-0 at their famous Roker Park home. Sunderland nicknamed “The Black Cats,” did not move to the Stadium of Light until the 1997-98 season.

The Manchester United team which played Sunderland was:Peter Schmeichel, Gary Neville, Denis Irwin, David May, Gary Pallister, Paul Scholes, Phil Neville, Ryan Giggs, Nicky Butt, Eric Cantona (Capt), Ole Gunnar Solskjaer Subs: Brian McClair (for Pallister, 46 mins), Karel Poborsky (for Solskjaer, 54 mins), Ben Thornley (for Giggs, 63 mins)

United’s “Baby Faced Assassin,” Solskjaer opened the scoring in the 36th minute. Two minutes before half-time Cantona scored from the penalty spot against his former Nimes teammate, Lionel Pérez, who was in goal for the visitors. Solskjaer made it 3-0 three minutes into the second half. The Black Cats were getting a mauling and it was United who were doing the purring. The visitors’ midfield was run ragged by a rampaging United who looked like they would score every time they attacked a beleaguered defence. Alex Ferguson’s side were producing the style of play which saw them win the Double the previous season. And in Eric Cantona, they possessed a player who knew what it took to win a game, and win it in style. Butt was rewarded for his endeavours in the United midfield when he scored to make it 4-0 in the 58th minute. There was still 30 minutes to go but the game was effectively over. There was no need for any United player to exert themselves any further and they would be forgiven if they took their foot off the pedal knowing they had another game in five days, Nottingham Forest at the City Ground. But Cantona wasn’t finished with Sunderland, he had them on his own ball of string and he was going to tease them further.

With 21 minutes of play remaining, Cantona collected a pass on the halfway line with his back to the Sunderland goal. Using his strength and sublime skill, he spun around Kevin Ball and Richard Ord and passed the ball to McClair who was making his way into the Sunderland half. Ord kicked thin air when he attempted to tackle Cantona. Ball and Ord had hopelessly failed to pin Eric down throughout the game, both players fully aware that he was the one player who made United tick. But they could get nowhere near him. “Twister,” a movie about extremely violent tornadoes was released in 1996 and trying to pin Cantona down was like trying to stop a tornado from wreaking havoc in its’ path. Cantona could be equally as destructive. McClair and Cantona did a quick one-two, McClair’s lay back feeding Cantona who was just inside the penalty box. Cantona composed himself, looked at where Pérez was standing and cooly chipped the ball over his fellow Frenchman and into the net off the inside of the left hand post. It was the deftest of touches, a dink which was executed to perfection, a work of art. But Eric had one final stroke of the paintbrush left before his Masterpiece was complete. Still standing on the same spot, collar turned up, hands by his side, Cantona slowly rotated 360 degrees to accept the adulation scoring such a spectacular goal deserves. There was no expression on his face as he raised his arms in the air. McClair hugged him as if to say: “Thank you Eric for allowing me to be part of such a beautiful goal.” The United fans were delirious with delight, they had just witnessed a very special goal from a uniquely special player. But Cantona just looked around him as if to say to the fans: “I am Cantona. What else did you expect me to do?”

It would have been so appropriate if the stadium announcer had played Carly Simon’s song “Nobody Does It Better,” in recognition of Cantona’s extraordinary, but perfectly executed, chip which he celebrated inauspiciously, but with so much impudence.

“Nobody does it better, Makes me feel sad for the rest, Nobody does it half as good as you, Baby, you’re the best, And nobody does it better, Though sometimes I wish someone could, Nobody does it quite the way you do, Why’d you have to be so good?”

Cantona’s celebration after scoring such an iconic goal was voted the Premier League’s greatest ever celebration. Cantona was aged 30 at the time. Pérez was wearing No.30 on his back. United won the game 5-0 with Eric giving the United fans an early Christmas present.

In 1935, the second edition of the world famous golf tournament, the US Masters (in 1934 it was known as the Augusta National Invitational Tournament), was held at the Augusta National Golf Club, Augusta, Virginia, USA, a moment occurred in the fourth round of the tournament, which became Golf’s fourth Major, which went down in the annals of sporting history. The American golfer, Gene Sarazen, who snubbed the inaugural tournament the year before when it was known as the US Invitational, trailed leader Craig Wood by three shots after 14 holes of play. At the fifteenth hole, a Par 5 covering a distance of 530 yards and named “Firethron,” Sarazen found himself 235 yards from the flag. He took out the 4 wood from his golf bag and fired his shot at the hole. Sarazen’s shot was hit lower than Cantona’s measured chip, it never rose higher than 30 feet off the ground, and it carried the water hazard and skipped its way towards the hole, and then dropped inside it.

Watching the game, O.B. Keeler, an actor and a writer, described Sarazen’s shot: “The ball bounded once, twice and settled to a smooth roll, while the ripple of sound from the big gallery went sweeping into a crescendo, and then the tornado broke.” However, Grantland Rice, a founder member of Augusta National, then famously summed it up best of all by calling it: “The Shot Heard Around The World.” Perhaps Rice was alluding to the celebrated sportswriter Keeler wrote: “The ball bounded once, twice, and settled to a smooth roll, while the ripple of sound from the big gallery went sweeping into a crescendo. And then the tornado broke.” Lovely words but it was the foremost voice of his generation, and a founding member of Augusta National to boot, Grantland Rice, who summed it up best, a clever use of words to allude to the start of the American War of Independence in 1775 and which lasted until 1783. Sarazen’s albatross shot, a double eagle in golfing terms, could not quite match Cantona’s chip towards the Sunderland goal but it did ensure that he pulled on the famous Green Jacket to identify him as a US Masters Champion.

Eric Cantona’s beautifully lobbed dink over Pérez to score may not have reached the ears or eyes of the world as Sarazen’s shot some 70 years before did, but it reeked havoc in the Premier League. Cantona’s goal sent vibrations throughout the other teams who must have been thinking just how can you stop Cantona and the Genius that he is. “Why does the eye see a thing more clearly in dreams than with the imagination being awake?” Leonardo da Vinci

Many years after the game Pérez recalled the albatross moment his side went 3-0 behind during an interview with SunSport. Pérez who was at Nimes with Cantona in 1991, said: “This goal (Cantona’s lob) shouldn’t exist. We were losing 3-0 after 48 minutes and Eric had stopped playing. He stayed in the middle of the pitch and didn’t run any more because the game was over. Then there was one moment, when Ryan Giggs crossed and he had a shot which I saved. It was the only save I think I made in the game. Eric then said to me, just in a funny way, ‘Lionel, you should have left it!’ But I didn’t want to be smiling with him when we were losing. Before the match, one of my friends rang me from France to say he’d seen Eric playing against Chelsea and Frank Leboeuf was very friendly with him on the pitch. I thought, ‘I’m not going to be kind with him because I don’t want any French cameras seeing that. I don’t want to be that man laughing when we are losing 3-0’. So I just blanked him when he was joking with me. And after I blanked him he started to run everywhere because he wanted to f*** me! He started to be mental. He was like, ‘F****** hell, he doesn’t want to give me an answer. If this guy doesn’t want to talk to me, he’s going to see what I am made of.’ I am very sure that if I answered him, he would have stayed calm until the end of the game. But, instead, his attitude really changed.”

During a UTD Podcast Cantona was asked about his floated goal over a dumbfounded Pérez. The United Legend said that his goal was an act of revenge and explained why. “I never celebrate a goal in the same way, because every goal is different. The energy is different, everything is different. But maybe I did this celebration, I don’t know, it’s nice to take the energy of all the fans, you know? And sometimes it’s even more. Maybe it’s because the goalkeeper, he was French. Before the game, in the tunnel, I came to him to shake his hand and say hello to him because I hadn’t seen him since I left (Nimes). It was the last club I played for in France. And he didn’t want to shake my hand. So maybe I scored this goal because of that! That’s the biggest humiliation for a goalkeeper, and this kind of celebration too. Because he’s angry and you don’t run anywhere. I just stand there. Look at me.”

Pérez added: “Even now, every time Eric is on the TV in France, I have phone calls from friends because they show the goal all the time. I’m on TV a lot, but it’s not because of me unfortunately! I smile because I always remember all my family were over to see me for Christmas and came to watch the game. My Grandma was there and after the game she said, ‘Have you seen all these French flags? They are for you.’ It was funny because she didn’t realise they were not for me, but for Eric!“

Leonardo da Vinci was also renowned in the fields of chemistry, geometry and mathematics. Cantona’s goal against Pérez had the chemistry of his one-two touch move with McClair, the geometry of Cantona knowing the properties of the space around him and a perfectly calculated chip towards goal that even the eminent mathematician, Albert Einstein, would have been proud of.

Leonardo da Vinci once famously said: “Marriage is like putting your hand into a bag of snakes in the hope of pulling out an eel.” Eric Cantona said: “I am in love with Manchester United. It is like finding the perfect wife.” Cantona was as slippery as an eel and had an electric shock to go with it.

The Mona Lisa hangs proudly in Le Louvre Museum, Paris, France. The painting’s novel qualities include the subject’s expression, which is frequently described as enigmatic, the monumentality of the composition, the subtle modelling of forms, and the atmospheric illusionism. The enigmatic Eric Cantona was born in France and an image capturing his iconic goal against Sunderland hangs proudly in the hallowed corridors of Old Trafford.

Did You Know That?

During the COVID-19 pandemic no football was played and so BBC TV’s Match of the Day programme on a Saturday night decided to get Gary Lineker, Alan Shearer and Ian Wright together via a three way teleconference from their own homes to talk about football. A number of shows were produced along with a “Top 10” style theme to them. One such show was “Top Ten European Imports.” Each player selected their Top 10.Shearer’s Top 3 were: 1. Roy Keane, 2. Thierry Henry, 3. Eric Cantona (Cristiano Ronaldo was No.7)Wright’s Top 3 were: 1. Roy Keane, 2. Thierry Henry, 3. Cristiano Ronaldo (Eric Cantona was No.4)

During the discussion about Eric Cantona, the following was said:Ian Wright: “For me. He was the ultimate talisman in a football team.”Shearer: “If you are going to play with your collar up you’ll have to be some player. And he was.”Lineker: “He’s quite the individual though wasn’t he? Quite a personality. On the field and off it.”

Wright had nothing but admiration for Cantona and he recalled the goal against Pérez fondly: “It’s so majestic. He could have been a Gladiator in Roman Times. That’s how he celebrated. He had such an aura about him.” Wright then recalled how his Arsenal teammate, Marc Overmars, failed so badly in attempting to copy Cantona after the Dutch winger scored the only goal of the game at Old Trafford on 14 March 1998. Arsenal’s 1-0 win effectively sealed the 1997-98 Premier League title for The Gunners. Wright held his hands up in the air and said: “Did you see when Marc Overmars tried it? It was ridiculous. It was like watching an Oompa Loompa doing something.” Shearer burst into laughter.

Wright then turned his attention to Cantona’s celebration after scoring and said: “You know something? I still feel that the Cantona celebration is the best because only he could do that celebration. He is the only one who could exude that kind of arrogance and confidence (Shearer could be heard agreeing). It was beautiful to watch. It was a beautiful thing to watch. They should do it in slow motion so people could ………….Do it in slow motion so people can watch it in slow motion. Just watch the magna ……. the majesticness of him.”

JIMMY MURPHY – PATRIARCH OF THE BUSBY BABES

Written by John White for Manchester United Then & Now

Thirty-two years ago today one of the most important men in the history of Manchester United passed away aged 79.

Names such as Harry Stafford, John Henry Davies, James W. Gibson, Sir Matt Busby and Sir Alex Ferguson are iconic figures in the history of the club since it was formed as Newton Heath Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway Football Club in 1878.

However, one man has gone unrecognised despite the huge contribution he made in making Manchester United the world’s greatest football club.

That man is Jimmy Murphy.

A Patriarch is the male head of a family or a tribal line. He is a person regarded as the father or founder of an order, class, etc. Originally, a patriarch was a man who exercised autocratic authority as a pater familias over an extended family.

Sir Matt Busby is regarded by the vast majority of Manchester United fans as “The Father of Manchester United,” an accolade the Great Man so rightly deserves. Busby built three great teams during his 25 year reign as Manchester United manager, 1945-69 & 1970-71, and guided the club to 5 First Division Championship titles, 2 FA Cup wins, 5 FA Charity Shield wins (2 of them shared) and the Holy Grail for Manchester United, victory in the 1968 European Cup final. But, Sir Matt’s achievements were not solely down to his own personal managerial capabilities. Many of the players who brought these trophy successes to Old Trafford were not bought in the transfer market or signed on a free transfer. Busby’s three great United sides, 1945-55, 1956-63 and 1964-68 would never have achieved the feats they did had it not been for one man. That man is Jimmy Murphy, the Patriarch of the Busby Babes.

The Welsh word for a Wizard is “Dewin.” Translated it means: “Someone who is dazzlingly skilled in any field.” Jimmy Murphy was Matt Busby’s right hand man, but more importantly he was a Dewin, because he was the Sorcerer in charge of the Manchester United Youth Team who, when he believed one of his apprentices was good enough, would have a word in his good friend’s ear and suggest to Busby that: “I have a boy who is ready to become a man.” Time and time again these words from Murphy rang true when one of his young charges was not only was given his chance in the United first team but then went on to cement his place in a Busby side, often usurping a more experienced, but crucially in Busby’s mind, an older player in that position on the pitch. Busby was loyal to his players but held no sentiment when it came down to who was the best-fit in his starting eleven. Busby’s mantra was that if you were good enough, then you were old enough to play in his team. As far as Busby was concerned, without loyalty, you win nothing. And, if a young player, who Murphy said was good enough to play in the first team, performed well in his debut for the club, Busby had no hesitation in investing his trust in that individual and giving him every chance to show him that he merited his place among the starting eleven for a game. Busby was above all else, loyal to the club’s young players. He was never a manager who looked for a quick fix to produce results on the pitch and spend the club’s money, particularly after the Munich Air Disaster on 6 February 1958, which claimed the lives of eight of his brightest stars. Busby, guided by Murphy, looked to the youth of the club that they had been nurturing for many years to take the club forward season by season, and their unequivocal faith in the trainees reaped dividends.

“Never tell a young person that anything cannot be done.” G. M. Trevelyan

James Patrick Murphy was born on 8 August 1910, in Pentre, Rhondda, Wales. He attended Ton Pentre Village School and as a young boy played the organ in his local Church. At primary school he played football for Ton Pentre Boys, Treorchy Thursday Football Club, Thursday Football Club, Treorchy Juniors and Mid-Rhondda Boys. Aged 13, he represented Wales in a schoolboy international against England in Cardiff, Wales. On 1 February 1928, the boy from the Rhondda Valley signed for West Bromwich Albion, aged 17. The Baggies, the nickname of West Bromwich Albion, were a Second Division team at the time after being relegated from the top flight the previous season. They had finished rock bottom, in 22nd place. The young Murphy was welcomed to The Hawthorns by their long standing manager, Fred Everiss (club manager from 1902-48) and made his debut in a 1–0 defeat away to Blackpool on 5 March 1930 in the Second Division. He played one further League game in season 1929-30. The following season, 1930-31, The Baggies won the FA Cup after defeating local rivals, Birmingham City, 2-1 in the showpiece final at Wembley Stadium, London, and were promoted to the First Division when they finished runners-up to Second Division Champions, Everton. However, the 20-year old Murphy was still trying to gain a starting position in the West Bromwich Albion side, being limited to just two League games.

Season 1931-32 was his breakthrough season when he ran out 27 times in the First Division (finished in 6th place) and played one game in the FA Cup, the Baggies exiting the competition in the Third Round as holders. From 1931-35, Murphy made 149 appearances for West Bromwich Albion in the League and FA Cup, helping the club to achieve four consecutive Top 10 finishes which included fourth place in season 1932-33. In season, 1934-35, he won an FA Cup runners-up medal when Sheffield Wednesday beat West Bromwich Albion 4-2 under the famous Twin Towers. Jimmy was the only player in the side who was not English.

Prior to the start of the 1939-40 season, Murphy left The Hawthorns and signed for Swindon Town. The badge on his shirt went from a Throstle to a Robin. However, within weeks of joining The Robins, the outbreak of the Second World War meant his football playing career came to a premature end when he was at his prime, aged 29. From 1933-38, he was capped 15 times by his beloved Wales.

During the Second World War, Murphy was giving a speech about football to a band of troops, and Matt Busby was in attendance. Busby was so impressed by Murphy’s speech that, when he accepted James W. Gibson’s (Chairman of Manchester United) offer to become the manager of Manchester United in February 1945, he made Murphy his first signing. Jimmy was given the title of “Chief Coach” from 1946 until 1955, during which period he was in charge of the club’s trainees. He became Busby’s assistant manager in the summer of 1955 after he guided the club’s Youth Team to a third consecutive FA Youth Cup final victory.

“Youth has no age.” Pablo Picasso

In August 1948, Murphy welcomed his first trainee to Old Trafford when he greeted a 15-year old boy who had just left school in the hope of fulfilling his boyhood dream of playing for Manchester United. That boy was Geoff Bent who was born in Salford, Manchester on 27 September 1932. One of the next trainees to arrive was a boy born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Jackie Blanchflower, who joined the club as a 16 year-old in May 1949. The Belfast teenager, younger brother of Danny Blanchflower, who famously captained Tottenham Hotspur to the First Division Championship title and FA Cup glory in season 1960-61, the first club to win the coveted “Double” in the 20th century, was quickly followed by Dennis Viollet and Jeff Whitefoot. In the summer of 1949, a 19-year old who was born in Gorton, Manchester on 8 September 1929 signed on trainee terms. His name was Roger Byrne. In the early 1950’s, Manchester United became the team in England to sign for if you were a young player who wanted to learn the game and develop your skills with a view to playing football for a living.

“You have to grow from the inside out.” Swami Vivekananda

Jimmy helped his young players become men, to grow from the inside out. In 1950, Bill Foulkes, David Pegg and Albert Scanlon left school to be tutored by Murphy. At the end of the 1950-51 season, Busby signed Johnny Berry (aged 25) from Birmingham City for £15,000. Within a year after Berry’s arrival, 15-year olds Duncan Edwards and Eddie Colman were taken under the genial Welshman’s wing. In season 1952-53, Murphy was able to select a Youth Team side which now had two new 15-year old additions, Bobby Charlton and Wilf McGuinness, who both signed as trainees in January 1953. Busby also had a new centre forward in the shape of Tommy Taylor, aged 21, who was signed from Barnsley Football Club in March 1953, for a new British record transfer fee of £29,999. At the end of the 1952-53 season, 18-year old Liam “Billy” Whelan joined Murphy’s talented Band of Brothers when he left his local club, Home Farm in Dublin, Republic of Ireland to move to Manchester.

“They hadn’t come here to fear. They hadn’t come to die. They had come to win.”

Stephen Ambrose, from the book “Band of Brothers”

Four more future first team players arrived at Old Trafford in season 1954-55, when Shay Brennan (aged 15), David Gaskell (aged 14), Kenny Morgans (aged 15) and Mark Pearson (aged 15) joined the club as trainees. Nobby Stiles from Collyhurst, Manchester, aged 15, joined Murphy’s Boys in September 1957, and three months later Harry Gregg was signed from Doncaster Rovers for a new world record transfer fee for a goalkeeper when Manchester United paid £23,500 for the 25-year old Northern Ireland international goalkeeper. The 14-year old kids and 15-year old kids who left school to embark on a new journey, a path to becoming a professional footballer and Jimmy Murphy was their father figure at Manchester United.

“These kids are looking for direction, for identification. Kids join gangs because they need a father figure or they want to be part of a group.” Jesse White

Gregg made his debut on 21 December 1957, a 4-0 home win over Leicester City in the English First Division (scorers: Scanlon 2, Charlton & Viollet). Busby’s team that day was Gregg, Foulkes, Byrne (captain), Jones, Edwards, Colman, Morgans, Scanlon, Charlton, Taylor and Viollet. Incredibly, only Gregg and Taylor had not been promoted to the first team on Murphy’s recommendation, after starring in his famous Youth Team. Jimmy Murphy had an eye for a Manchester United player which was very similar to an Amsterdam based diamond merchant using a Loupe to examine the quality of the stone under the microscope. A diamond merchant uses a Loupe, a magnifying device, to see small details more closely. Expert Watchmakers also use a Loupe, such is the highly professional requirement for the attention to detail which is paramount when making the perfect timepiece. Jimmy’s Loupe was his football brain. He didn’t need a magnifying glass to show him that he had a trainee under his charge who was good enough to play for the Manchester United first team. Murphy’s Loupe just came down to one simple fact, which was, did he have a young player, a flawless diamond, who he considered to be good enough to replace a more senior player in Busby’s starting eleven. Obviously, Murphy’s recommendations to Busby coincided with a first team players’ performances over a certain number of previous games which had Busby thinking about changing things around in his squad. But when a Youth Team player was given his big chance to impress in the first team, it was Murphy who made the young boy’s dream come true.

“You have to believe in your dreams, to reach out for your dreams.” Lailah Gifty Akita

Jimmy Murphy knew only too well the abundance of talent which he was so privileged to have at his disposal. Although he would never admit it, Murphy’s FA Youth Cup final winning side in season 1953-54, would probably have beaten Busby’s starting eleven in United’s last English First Division Championship game of the 1953-54 season as the Welshman’s junior team included Charlton, Colman, Edwards, McGuinness, Pegg and Scanlon. He taught them how to win.

“Winners never quit and quitters never win.” Vince Lombardi

Busby’s team which defeated Sheffield United 3-1 at Bramall Lane, Sheffield on 24 April 1954 was: Jack Crompton, Bill Foulkes, Roger Byrne (captain), Allenby Chilton, Henry Cockburn, Jeffrey Whitefoot, Johnny Berry, Jackie Blanchflower, John Aston Snr, Dennis Viollet and Jack Rowley. Scorers: Aston Snr, Blanchflower & Rowley. Crompton joined United as a trainee in 1944; Chilton was purchased from Liverpool; Cockburn signed as a trainee in 1943; Berry was signed from Birmingham City, Aston Snr joined United as a trainee in 1938 whilst Rowley was acquired from Bournemouth & Boscombe Athletic. Foulkes, Byrne, Whitefoot, Blanchflower and Viollet were all products of the club’s nursery system and were nurtured in their football upbringing by Murphy. Jimmy believed in his Boys.

“There is no greater power and support you can give someone than to look them in the eye, and with sincerity/conviction say, ‘I believe in you.” Ken Poirot

One of the top rated movies during the 1950s was called “Angels in the Outfield.” On 6 February 1958, six of Jimmy Murphy’s Boys became Angels when the Munich Air Disaster instantly claimed the lives of Roger Byrne, Geoff Bent, Eddie Colman, Mark Jones, David Pegg and Liam Whelan. Fifteen days after the crash Jimmy lost a seventh Angel when Duncan Edwards took his last breath as he lay very badly injured in his hospital bed in the Rechts der Isar Hospital, Munich, West Germany. Seven shining stars from his Youth Team lost forever along with their teammate, Tommy Taylor.

“Only in the darkness, can you see the stars.” Martin Luther King Jr

Jimmy was heartbroken, in pain following the loss of the eight Manchester United players. All young men who just wanted to play football. Young men who Jimmy trained with, ate with, talked to but most of all, young men he was a Patriarch to.

“There have been so many times I have seen a man wanting to weep but instead beat his heart until it was unconscious.” Nayyirah Waheed

Sadly, Jimmy passed away on 14 November 1989 aged 79. He is the only Assistant Manager to take a team to the FA Cup final, which he did three months after the Munich Air Disaster (Manchester United lost 2-0 to Bolton Wanderers in the 1958 FA Cup final). Jimmy is also the only Assistant Manager to take a national team to the World Cup finals (he coached Wales at the 1958 tournament in Sweden) and during his Manchester United career, he was offered the manager’s job at Arsenal, Juventus and a top coaching job in Brazil. However, he turned all of these down for his friendship and loyalty to Matt Busby and his love for his Boys in his Youth Team.

“He was the best coach I could have wished for. Jimmy was knowledgeable, enthusiastic and had a passion for the game that few others possess. All of his work turned me from an amateur into a professional and a team player.”

Sir Bobby Charlton

Did You Know That?

There is a Blue Plaque on the wall of Jimmy Murphy’s childhood home, at 43 Treharne Street, Pentre, Rhondda, Wales. There are plans to name the K Stand at Old Trafford in honour of Jimmy overlooking the part of the pitch where he used to play

United’s Season So Far

Manchester United

The rollercoaster of Manchester United continues. It has not been an impressive and dominating start that many people predicted for the Red Devils. Currently they are in free fall and are still a million miles away from Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea in terms of challenging for the title. Can anything be done to stop the rot?

Pre-season started with a lot of promise with more signings brought in to bolster the first team squad quality. Signings of Jadon Sancho, Raphael Varane and Cristiano Ronaldo really showed intent to the other teams in the league. However, all how come with a lot negativity.

Signings

Firstly looking at Varane he has excelled and looked to be settling at the heart of defence but has really struggle with injury. The French world cup winner has only featured nine times (one appearance from the bench) in all competitions which is not good enough for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to be able to solidify the defence.

Secondly, Jadon Sancho simply has not played enough. Solskjaer has not given the opportunity for Sancho to prove what he can do. Each time the England winger has been used it has either been from the bench, played for around an hour and more disappointingly it has been from the left hand side. Sancho was signed as a right winger and that needs to be where he plays.

Then there is Cristiano Ronaldo, the man who has dragged United out the mud on what seems like a thousand times in the space of three months. He has helped with the goal scoring but has he helped with the style of play? What is the style of play this season? Questions are lingering over Solskjaer and he needs to know what is best with a 36 year old Ronaldo. He will score but will he press if you want him to?

United’s Style

 It has been such an inconsistent start to the season and there are clearly glimpses of magic from this United team. Thrashings of Leeds United and Newcastle United showed that they can do it but backs against the wall performances against Southampton and Wolverhampton Wanderers will not cut it. To win a league title you do not always have to beat the best sides, it is about picking up the wins against the lower league teams.

One thing that has changed under Solskjaer’s United is that when they do concede a goal there is not panic and there is the faith they can restore it quickly. However, it is now becoming where they look like they could concede five goals and look nowhere near scoring one.

United can be are one of the best on the counter and they can string some fantastic balls around the edge of the box. Solskjaer has made United more entertaining especially after the previous three stewardships. However, the start this season has not felt flowing it has felt very haphazard with players leaving their positions wide open. Against Liverpool and Manchester City it was embarrassingly easy for them to dominate the game and the lack of belief was evident from the players.

Ole’s Credentials

The question remains over the manager and will continue to do so for as long as he is in charge. Many believe he does not have the credentials to take United to the next level and it could be the case that he has reached the ceiling of his capabilities. However, he has proven that he can get United challenging in his previous two full seasons in charge by reaching semifinals and the final of the Europa League. But it is hard to see that being enough when things are this low.

Reverting back to the point about the style of play, Solskjaer needs to know what he is playing and how he is going to play it and be firm in that decision. Changing a style of play each week against the top teams to match their style rather than one you are comfortable is always going to end up disastrous, just as it did against Liverpool with United pressing high up and trying to play out from the back against the best pressing side in the country.

Solskjear clearly needs some help and looking to improve his coaching staff would not be the worst thing in the world. Coaches like Carlos Queiroz and René Meulensteen know the club well and could be a great signing to help build on the restructure of the club behind the scenes.

Are The Players Up For It?

The chips are down, once again, so Solskjaer needs players to fight for the shirt and get it right. It is looking far too easy for some to give away the ball and not be bothered about winning it back. Approaching the winter period, it is vital to pick up some wins and some good wins at that to build confidence but Solskjaer needs to get his system right and the players need to fit around that.

The inconsistent performances of Captain Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw, Paul Pogba and Aaron Wan Bissaka is killing the team. The same can be said about the limited midfield pairing of Scott McTominay and Fred, both capable of doing one thing a defensive midfielder is required to do but not both things.

If Solskjaer is being let down by his side he is reluctant to look to his quad and he needs to change that. Keeping it fresh is important and with results coinciding with poor performances he needs to be more ruthless and give squad players a chance to prove themselves.

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