Ole Gunnar Solsjkaer should be permanent Manchester United manager- what are the club waiting for?

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In 2 months Ole Gunnar Solsjkaer has done to Manchester United what three other managers and five years could not do, he has them playing the Manchester United way again so why haven’t the board announced him as United’s permanent manager?

What Solsjkaer got the job the whole mood shifted at the club one that had been moody, downbeat and not playing to their strengths under Jose Mourinho. But now it was like the mid 1990s again. Hardly anyone could have believed United would have been able to catch up to Arsenal and Chelsea and are now in 4th place. In December United were 9 points behind Arsenal, now they are a point above them and make no mistake they will fire even more ahead in the coming weeks/months.

But the United board just aren’t trusting him yet. Their argument will be that this is just the beginning- but what manager has done this well? David Moyes Louis van Gaal and even Jose Mourinho showed weakness in their first few months in charge of the club. While it is true that this incredible run will end at one point for the Norwegian, the players love him and respect him and he does have a future at the club. The worry will be if United bring in a big name and it doesn’t work out.

Zinedine Zidane may have been on most fans thoughts to come to United but we have to remember he had problems in the past with the likes of Ronaldo and especially Gareth Bale at Real Madrid, even if he was successful. The key for Solsjkaer’s success is that he is ready for his teams to play attacking football but is also ready for man management. He is happy to love every player that wears United’s famous red jersey and feels like the first proper United man in the dugout since Sir Alex Ferguson said goodbye back in 2013.

It feels that Ed Woodward and co are going to wait to see how United reach against PSG in the Champions League and feels very unfair. Nobody would have thought that United were going to win the Champions League this season. Surely now it was all about a top 4 place and deep runs in a cup. United are still there in the FA Cup and they should do well against PSG, but if they fail the manager should not be judged in this way. Let’s remember that 60 days ago he was in charge of Molde in Norway and dreaming of this job.

Give him the position, his blood and DNA belong at United and Old Trafford. Don’t let the excuse of him finally losing a game, which is going to happen be the moment that the hierarchy make the 4th mistake in 6 years.

Euro Fantasy League Podcast – #27 – Asif Norat on Man Utd

EuroFantasyPodCover700x300Jamie welcomes Asif Norat along for the Premier League section of the show before later being joined by Dave for Serie A & La Liga.

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Marcus Rashford should be happy to be at Manchester United

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Marcus Rashford is making the headlines again after scoring for England this week in their famous 3-2 victory over Spain in Seville. The goal mixed with the win has put some media into hyper drive about the 20 year old, that he is the next best player to emerge from England, but is that so?

Rashford does have a lot to be thankful for and most of that praise has to be lauded onto Louis van Gaal, the previous Manchester United coach. It was van Gaal that saw potential in the youngster and promoted him to the first team and played him. Perhaps van Gaal was reminded of a young Patrick Kluivert and his youthful Ajax team who stunned European football with a superb Champions League win in 1995.

If it wasn’t for van Gaal, Rashford may be playing in the English Championship because Jose Mourinho the current coach of United surely would not have spotted him in the youth set up. Mourinho has a habit of only catching the worlds superstars and rarely goes for youth, tending to loan these players out.

Rashford has proved over the last 3 seasons with United to be a good player but not a great one. Although we must take into account his age we could also look over to France and see that Kylian Mbappe is a year younger and has scored many more goals and won more trophies including the World Cup this summer. Mbappe is a special player and already being touted as a great. Of course we shouldn’t put too much pressure on Rashford but pundits suggesting that the player is a great one is wide of the mark and they are only repeating history and hyping up players to world class level when in reality they are not.

Rashford has never scored more than 7 Premier League goals in a season and this was from 35 games. His total for United is 33 goals from 130 games. If he was in his mid 20s this would be a poor record. But he should get a pass given his age.

No one is suggesting that Rashford is a poor player but the truth is Rashford should be happy that he is playing for a top 4 side in one of the strongest leagues in the world. As for Jose Mourinho he has worked with some of the best forwards in the game and though he can’t publicly say it he will feel that Rashford is not up to the level for his age just yet. Of course there is room for improvement, and for the advancement of Rashford’s career, let’s hope he is given the time to go and prove it before being hyped before his time.

Van Gaal sacked as Manchester United manager

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After just two seasons as Manchester United manager, Louis Van Gaal has been sacked from the position, with Jose Mourinho set to replace the departing Dutchman.
Throughout his time at Old Trafford, the former Ajax, Barcelona and Bayern Munich manager spoke regularly of executing a three year plan aimed at developing a team capable of competing among the best European sides.
However despite not being afforded the opportunity to do that, Van Gaal has been praised in a statement released by United for fulfilling his duties with the utmost professionalism and dignity.
Whilst exuding those qualities and remaining adamant that he was producing an ever-improving team, Van Gaal leaves Old Trafford after an ultimately disappointing stay.
The first year was relatively solid, highlighted by a fourth place Premier League finish to qualify for the Champions League.  However after failing to repeat that this season, finishing fifth in the Premier League, United are set to play in the Europa League for the 206-17 campaign.
That disappointment combined with the turgid and uninspiring style of football which led to it, sealed the fate of Van Gaal, despite the 64-year-old leading United to victory in Saturday’s F.A Cup Final against Crystal Palace. Guiding the Red Devils to lift their first piece of silverware since Sir Alex Ferguson retired as manager in May 2013, is understandably a source of great pride to Van Gaal, particularly given that it represents him having won a trophy in four different countries – England, Germany, Holland & Spain – during his managerial career.
As impressive as that remains, there is no doubt that in contrast to many of the sides previously produced by Van Gaal, his United team lacked attacking flair, dynamism and panache.  That claim is substantiated by revealing that United scored just 49 goals in the Premier League last season – their lowest total since 1989-1990 – during which the team went 11 home games without finding the net in the first half.
Such an inability to breach opposition defences was intolerable to United’s support, a large section of whom became increasingly frustrated at the lack of progress being made towards developing a potentially title winning side by Van Gaal.  That was particularly the case given the club paid out in excess of £250m in transfer fees during his reign.
That was ill fated from its outset according to some reports which suggest elements of Van Gaal’s management style made him unpopular among many of his players.  For instance he is understood to have used video analysis to critically dissect their performances, whilst also having sent disparaging emails to many squad members.
Whilst they continue to hold the Dutchman’s assistant Ryan Giggs in the highest regard, whether United’s record appearance holder will stay at the club remains uncertain, although he is thought to have been made an offer to do so in an as yet unannounced role.
A breakdown in the relationship between Van Gaal and United’s players, combined with the Dutch manager’s inability to mould his players into a unit capable of playing fluent football, dictated that he was no longer considered suitable by the club’s hierarchy in terms of meeting the high expectations of supporters. The man believed to be tasked with endeavouring to do that is the self-proclaimed ‘Special One’, Jose Mourinho.

Manchester United win the cup but Mourinho set to take Van Gaal’s job

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Even when Louis Van Gaal finally won some silverware a black cloud that has seemingly followed the Dutchman’s managerial career at Manchester United remained. Minutes after winning the FA Cup a 2-1 victory over Crystal Palace (their first trophy since Sir Alex Ferguson retired three years ago) Van Gaal’s job was coming to an end.

If reports are right Jose Mourinho former Porto, Chelsea, Inter Milan and Real Madrid manager will be the new manager at United in a matter of weeks. Mourinho’s name had been touted since his sacking at Chelsea in December but it was often felt that the talented coach just wasn’t the right fit for the club. From loaning out young academy players to never having built a new team or legacy at any of the clubs he has managed he does seem the polar opposite to United’s traditions, add to that a man who stays on average 3 years maximum at a club and the choice may seem a little odd for the Red Devils.

Despite that though there is no denying Mourinho’s record as a manager. In 16 years of management he has won 22 trophies including 2 Champions League titles. Indeed it is the fact that Van Gaal failed to qualify for next seasons Champions League which has most probably cost him his job.

Van Gaal’s time at United will mostly be remembered for the manager failing to use the right line ups and blowing near to £200m on players that rarely changed the playing style of a club that desperately needed it. It is no secret that the players found it hard to warm to Van Gaal’s tactics and his stubbornness and leadership qualities were tested. And yet it wasn’t all failure. After all an FA Cup win is still a trophy. But one could well argue that a cup win for Crystal Palace the losing team on Saturday would have meant much more than it does to United who, in hindsight, will look at the cup as a consolation prize.

Van Gaal’s legacy even more than winning the FA Cup will be that he gave some of the youngsters a try. One notable choice was selecting Marcus Rashford who has been superb this season, if the player can get time under Mourinho who could be quite a find, but will Mourinho accept a youngster in his squad over a world renowned striker with a reputation? He hasn’t done in the past, and this could be a worry for the United faithful, only time will tell.

As for Van Gaal he had one more year on his contract and the plan was to retire from the game. He could ride out into the sunset with the FA Cup but then again a sacking if it indeed likely comes seems like a blunt way to end such a prestigious career. Perhaps for one season only the Erdevisie Dutch League will come calling to gracefully give Van Gaal the retirement he deserves.

Van Gaal’s United Remain in Transition

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Following another largely uninspiring season for Manchester United, manager Louis van Gaal’s declared that the expectations of the club’s supporters remain too high.

In the aftermath of Van Gaal’s team closing out their Premier League season with a 3-1 win over Bournemouth, the Dutchman expressed his belief that the Old Trafford faithful should better appreciate their current team’s capabilities.

“We are a team in transition and I have said that since I started. Maybe I need to bring over the message much clearer than I have done. The fans are expecting a lot but I think these expectations are much too high.”

Although Van Gaal did not elaborate on his perception of those expectations, it is rational to establish one of them as being Champions League Qualification. Despite always in contention to meet that expectation, the Red Devils failed to do so, with their fiercest rivals Manchester City beating them to a top four place courtesy of having a superior goal difference.

Subsequently given that in his debut season Van Gaal – whose managerial appointment came three months after the sacking of David Moyes – led United back into Europe’s elite club competition, failing to achieve that for a second successive year, represents a stagnation of United’s on-field progress under Van Gaal, which the Dutchman concedes.

“Our aim in the first year – and also the second and the third – is the Champions League. It is the highest level and a club like Manchester United has to play at that level.”

As such there seems to be a shared recognition between Van Gaal and United supporters that the team are under-performing. It is however on the extent to which that is the case, that the two parties disagree.

Van Gaal emphasizes his team is in a transitional period, whilst a large section of the club’s supporters have expressed frustration that after two years in charge, the former Ajax & Barcelona manager ought to have developed a side better equipped to challenge for the Premier League title and compete on the continent.

Ultimately the team put together by Van Gaal is several steps behind the hoped for target, having finished 14 points adrift of champions Leicester, whilst playing a largely uninspiring brand of football. That claim is substantiated by statistics as during the 2015-16 season United scored the fewest home goals – 32 – completed the most backward passes – 3107 – and the third highest number of sideways passes – 9718.

Subsequently highly justified is the discontent sweeping through United’s support at the team regressing both in terms of league standing and having the ability to play entertaining football. After scoring just 49 goals in the entire Premier League season at an average of 1.49 per game, Van Gaal’s side lacks the cutting edge and invention required to reestablish the club as a major force both domestically and on the European stage.

By downplaying the expectations surrounding his current squad, the Dutchman is being realistic about the difficulties facing United, but the supporters believe that they should be doing much better than they are. The sense of frustration among fans and their negative sentiment are understandable, particularly since over £250m had been spent on transfer signings during Van Gaal’s tenure.

Manchester City’s Champions League hopes out of their hands

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Manchester City were held to a draw by Arsenal on Sunday afternoon, and it’s left them hoping clinging on to a top-four place in the Premier League. The Sky Blues twice surrendered a lead at the Etihad Stadium, and they could be leapfrogged in the table by fierce rivals Manchester United if they win their game in hand this week.

Manuel Pellegrini’s men are currently fourth in the Premier League table with 65 points from 37 this season, but have been in poor form of late which has allowed United back into the Champions League equation. They have drawn two and lost one of their last four games, and could be one point adrift of the Red Devils going into the final game of the campaign.

Manchester United are just one place and two points behind City with a game in hand, but still have a task to get a result away to West Ham. Louis van Gaal’s side will take confidence from having beaten the Hammers at Upton Park in the FA Cup only last month, so they could spark a remarkable turnaround and cause a high-profile omission from the Champions League next season.

Despite the likelihood that City could well be missing out on the prestigious tournament, manager Pellegrini remained defiant that his side can keep their place in the top-four. “It’s not finished. When things are not in your own hands you need to depend on other teams, but in football you never know, we will have our heads up and not give up until the last day,” he said.

“We need to wait for the Manchester United result, then we will think about our last game which we need to win. When you don’t depend on yourself it’s more difficult. It was not the way we wanted to finish the season at home. We deserved to win this game (against Arsenal), we played very well for 90 minutes, but in football you must score the goals,” Pellegrini added.

Manuel Pellegrini will be leaving the club in the summer and his legacy will be greatly tarnished if he caps it off by leading them to their lowest league position for a number of years. Bayern Munich boss Pep Guardiola is replacing him ahead of the 2016/17, but will the Spanish coach be forced to play in the Europa League? Could Manchester United still slip-up this week to hand the initiative back to City?

Why Manchester United still stand a chance of a top-four finish

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Manchester United are currently fifth in the Premier League table with 60 points from 35 games, and need a win in their weekend clash to ensure they don’t lose ground in the race for a top-four finish. Louis van Gaal’s side are four points adrift of fourth-placed Manchester City, but could make up ground on their fierce rivals with the Sky Blues having a tough game against Arsenal.

United, on the other hand, travel to Carrow Road to face Norwich City in the Premier League on Saturday afternoon, and will fancy their chances of coming out on top as a result. The Canaries are fighting for relegation and have home advantage in their meeting with the Red Devils, but their form has been woeful of late. Goals have completely dried up for Norwich and their fate appears doomed.

If Manchester United can get a result at Carrow Road, they will go within one point of Manchester City, who have injury problems and poor form to contend with ahead of their Arsenal clash on Sunday. United have a game in hand on City before this weekend’s round of games, so if City lose to Arsenal, Manchester United will leapfrog them in the table if they win their game in hand.

Going into gameweek 37, Manchester United are coming off the back of four wins and a draw from their last six games in the Premier League, but their away form has been poor with three defeats from four. However, Norwich have lost three on the bounce, and have scored one or less goals in eight of their last nine outings in the division.

Their manager has labelled this weekend’s clash as a must-win, so there’s no doubt of Norwich’s approach going into the fixture. But Manchester United also have a lot to play for, and now they have a fantastic opportunity of pipping Manchester City to fourth if they can win at Carrow Road. Their head-to-head record is rather one-sided too.

United have won 11 of their 15 meetings with Norwich in the Premier League, and have the majority of their strongest eleven fit and available for selection. Norwich have defensive absentees, and have kept only three clean sheets in 2016, conceding a staggering 29 goals for their troubles. A draw isn’t any good for either side, which should make for an enthralling affair.

Norwich could be all but relegated if they fail to win, while United could be out of the top-four race if they come unstuck. However, the Red Devils may well provide a twist in the tale to put City under pressure in the European places.

Why does Louis van Gaal persist with Marouane Fellaini in the Manchester United midfield?

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Manchester United midfielder Marouane Fellaini was one of many players criticised following Thursday’s exit from the Europa League at the hands of bitter rivals Liverpool, and manager Louis van Gaal’s decision to select him in the starting eleven drew more ire from the disgruntled supporters.

The Belgian international has underperformed all season, but surprisingly was picked to start over the likes of Morgan Schneiderlin and Bastian Schweinsteiger against Liverpool. Schweinsteiger was given a 20-minute run-out in the second-half, while Schneiderlin didn’t feature at all from the bench, and fans are questioning why Van Gaal continues to play Fellaini.

It’s clear that Fellaini’s large frame and aerial dominance is something the Manchester United manager is desperate to unleash in the middle of the park, but the former Everton man continues to struggle with all facets of the game. He struggles to play a passing game in tight confines, he doesn’t possess the necessary vision to supply the pacey forwards and he struggles to provide any defensive protection.

In his first season at the club, Van Gaal got the best of Fellaini by having the Belgian operate as an impact player to whip crosses and deep balls into. Fellaini’s aerial superiority saw him scoring and creating chances inside the opposition’s penalty area, but this season has seen the 29-year-old operating in a deeper role to no avail.

For a central midfielder, it’s imperative that said player is tactically aware, comfortable in possession when under pressure, and wins their personal duels to overrun their opponents in the middle of the park. Fellaini doesn’t share any of these qualities, and his lacklustre showings are contributing to Manchester United’s poor form in all competitions.

Fellaini does have brilliant balance when the ball is at his feet which makes him a difficult player to outmuscle, but his decision-making when in possession often sees him giving the ball away. He’s also guilty of giving away so many cheap fouls, and seems to be drawing media attention for having elbowed a number of players this season. It’s hard to see what Van Gaal likes in the player to warrant keeping him in the starting lineup, especially given the talent on the bench that would be more than capable of replacing him.

For the likes of Morgan Schneiderlin and Bastian Schweinsteiger to be kept on the bench for Fellaini is an insult to the pair of them, and provides further ammunition for disgruntled supporters to vent their fury at the manager when United fall short.

Louis van Gaal outfoxed by old-fashioned counter-attacking football from West Brom

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Manchester United suffered their eighth defeat of the season this weekend at the hands of West Bromwich Albion at the Hawthorns, and were forced to play an hour with 10 men too. Manager Louis van Gaal was beat by Albion head coach Tony Pulis and his standard counter attacking tactics.

By no means revolutionary, but nevertheless incredibly effective on the day, West Brom got the ball from defence to attack in quick fashion to catch the United defence off-guard, and the one time Albion got their passes right it paid off. Stretching the visitors on the break, West Brom got the ball wide, whipped in a firm ball to their target man Salomon Rondon, and the Albion striker took one touch before burying his chance on the volley.

The Baggies set up in a very typical 4-4-2 shape, defending deep and compact when not in possession, but getting their creative players on the ball as quickly as possible on the turnovers. United suffered a setback less than 30 minutes into the game after playmaker Juan Mata was sent off for two yellow cards minutes apart, and their rigid structure hampered their creativity against an organised Albion side.

With the strength and intelligence of target man Rondon, coupled with the pace of Saido Berahino, the Midlands side had two strikers perfectly complimenting each other. And with the trickery of Stephane Sessegnon out wide, the three attackers should have been giving the United defence a torrid time. However, Rondon was the only one making an impact which meant he was bearing the brunt of the work without much support.

He did get rewarded for his man-of-the-match display in the second-half with the winning goal, but Van Gaal was left to rue a poor performance from his side, as well as the man deficit. After the game, the Dutchman spoke a lot about Juan Mata’s dismissal, but he must also be disappointed with how his men struggled to break Albion down. Clear-cut chances came at a premium, and when Albion went ahead few though they would spurn the lead at home.

And while West Bromwich Albion have now all but secured their safety in the Premier League, the result could be catastrophic for Manchester United’s hopes of a top-four finish. Having played a game more than 4th-placed Manchester City, who are three points ahead of them, the Red Devils may well now have to settle for a Europa League spot.

Where did it all go wrong for Manchester United against West Brom on the weekend?