Saturday, July 31, 2010

The sad demise of the United season ticket...

There was a time not so long ago that United season tickets were cherished family heirlooms. The tickets were passed through the generations from father to son or else to friends of the family. Back then securing a season ticket, even one on loan, was nigh on impossible, because they were as rare as hens teeth.

At that time United knew full well that among the list of season ticket holders were the names of several thousand dead men - these former supporters might well have gone on to a higher place but their cherished season tickets still bore the name of the deceased; it was for this reason United offered a ticket amnesty to those in possession of what used to be regarded by the holder as their most prized asset.

These were the days when being a Manchester United season ticket holder actually meant something - for one thing, you knew that if the Reds were lucky enough to reach a final at Wembley then in all probability you'd be there. There used to be three classes of United supporter: Season Ticket holders, League Match Ticket Book holders (LMTBs) and then we had your casual day-tripper or JCL (Johnny Come Lately).

Well, the Glazers' have completely ruined all of that and now anyone can get a season ticket, the demand that has gone. United are in a sorry mess where its finances are concerned. Instead of shopping with the big boys in the transfer market, Ferguson is left scratching around for bargains (Michael Owen) and promising youngsters - but in fairness the United manager is doing a remarkable job. But with little or no money to spend on new players, it's fair to ask how much longer can the United manager keep the club at the top? Ferguson is akin to an engineer who is being told by his employers to work without oil - sooner or later the engine will fail - it's a question of when and not if.

While Ferguson is still rightly held with the highest regard by the fans' for his work, many have decided enough is enough. Last season the supporters launched the quite brilliant Green and Gold campaign and we've seen the results this July when United announced they couldn't sell all their season tickets. At that point it became clear the club's much talked about season ticket waiting list had vaporised. The existence of such a list isn't really in doubt, but its worth has been brought into serious question. The waiting list has been used as a tool to put the frighteners on fans who might have been wavering on whether or not to renew their season ticket, but from now on chances are, the so called waiting list will be completely ignored by such fans.

Read all about the club's unprecedented attempts to sell its tickets.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Ferguson doffs his cap to Glazer (again) and effectively says £700m debt is nothing to worry about..

It was always going to happen at some point during United's mini Tour of North America: Ferguson was going to be asked about the Glazer family, and like a well trained lap-dog, the United manager did not disappoint his owners. It isn't really big news, because every time Ferguson has publicly spoken about the Glazer family he has backed the club's owners. It was a set-piece question and the answer was predictable.

Fergie didn't exactly say the owners huge debts are not a problem for United; instead he skirted round the issue when appearing to suggest it is the norm for owners of big football clubs to run up massive debts.

Now is not the time to judge the Glazer family, that day will come in time when the full story unfolds; no one, not even our illustrious leader can know what damage could be done to United's long-term future because of these debts.

While we do not know what the future holds in relation to the club's finances, on the football field we the fans' can judge Fergie and his squad at the end of the season. Only then we will know if the lack of transfer activity at United this summer was the right course of action, but on this point we might well be blaming the Glazer family and Fergie because he says he's never been refused when he's asked for money for new players.

All-Stars v United highlights: Goals give fans' growing confidence about young guns...

Well, after losing somewhat controversially against Kansas City Wizards earlier this week United have bounced back in fine style when trouncing the MLS All-Stars by winning 5-2 in Houston last night. The result is a good one, because no one likes losing and no matter if this is just another meaningless pre-season friendly; players need confidence and looking ahead to the Premier League season this is exactly the level of performance we fans' expect from United.

Going into the All-Stars game, Ferguson had insisted this was by far the most difficult looking fixture of the summer tour, but as things turned out it was a rout.

United raced into a first-half two-nil lead thanks to the sharpness of Kiko Macheda. The Italian's first goal saw the young striker latching on to a poor All-Stars pass and following an incisive run at the heart of the All-stars defence, the United striker finished coolly from just inside the box.

Macheda's second goal came about from a Nani corner from the left and once again there was a lapse of concentration in the All-Stars rear guard as the Italian was left unmarked inside the penalty area; but, take nothing away from Macheda whose quick movement in the box enabled him to divert the ball into the corner of the rigging with a well headed effort.

United were not having it all their own way though and Edwin Van der Sar had to be at his best when making several good saves to deny the All-Stars. Former Aston Villa striker Juan Pablo Angel took the eye and caused United's defence problems throughout.

Obertan picked up an injury and was replaced by Cleverley on just 23 minutes; going into the game there was injury fears concerning Darren Fletcher, but the Scot started alongside John O'Shea in central midfield.

The second-half started brightly when the All-Stars nearly opened their account and only another fine stop from United's Dutch 'keeper denied Marshall's point blank header.

Rafael went close following a trademark run but his finish was disappointing. The MLS finally got the goal they'd deserved following another lapse in concentration, this time by Darren Fletcher who was beaten too easily when failing to track his man inside the box as Brian Ching headed home.

On 70 minutes Darron Gibson scored with an impressive 25-yard curling effort over the All-Stars defensive wall that gave Rimando no chance. United fans will be hoping to see a lot more of those from the Ulsterman should he be given the opportunity this season.

Just a few minutes later, Tom Cleverley scored undoubtedly the goal of the game with a brilliant piece of skill from just inside the All-Stars penalty area; the move started when Darron Gibson collected the ball just outside the All-Stars box then he passed it to Fletcher who in turn played it over the top first time - what followed was reminiscent of Paul Gascoigne at his very best - Cleverley controlled the ball with his first touch and at the same time he turned away from a defender and with his second touch he coolly slotted it over Rimando's legs into the corner - it was simply quite brilliant.

United's new Mexican striker Chicharito wasn't to be out done and he got his name on the score-sheet on his debut when making it 5-1 with a well taken effort that looked suspiciously offside.

Dwayne De Rosario scored a late consolation goal to make it 5-2 on what was a very entertaining night. While the goals were great, Ferguson will be concerned about some of United's defending which will have to improve greatly based on what we've seen on this tour. On the positive side, the manager will be absolutely delighted with the performance of his young players against the All-Stars.

Match Facts:

Attendance:70728 - A record for a "soccer" fixture.

Venue: Reliant Stadium, Houston, Texas.

United: Van der Sar; Rafael, Brown, J.Evans, Fabio (Scholes 72); Obertan (Cleverley 23), Fletcher, O'Shea, Giggs (Gibson 52), Nani (Chicharito 62); Macheda (Welbeck 62). Subs not used: Amos, Kuszczak, Berbatov, De Laet, Diouf, C.Evans, Smalling. Booked: J.Evans

MLS All-Stars (4-1-4-1): Ricketts (Rimando, ht); Alston (De Rosario, ht), Olave (Gonzalez, ht), Marshall (Conde, 63), Pearce (Donovan, 74); Joseph (Davis, 74); Le Toux (Convey, ht), Morales (Moreno, 63), Schelotto (Ferreira, ht), Pappa (Larentowicz, ht); Angel (Ching, ht).

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

25-man-squad rule influencing veterans' retirement plans at Old Trafford?

The Premier League's new 25-man squad rule comes into play in the 2010/2011 season and let's be honest until now we haven't given it much thought; but we can be fairly certain it has given Ferguson a lot to think about.

The new rules mean that clubs have to submit their final 25-man squad list at the end of each transfer window; the first list has to be in by September 1st, 2010. Changes can only be made during the transfer window.

The new rules also stipulate that no less than eight players' have to have been registered with the club for three years prior to their 21st birthday.

We have created a colour-coded overview of the existing United squad, which shows player registration dates and their dates of birth.

Having looked at the current year and beyond, it looks like United will have problems over the next few seasons in relation to the eight players under 21 criterion.

Having studied the overall picture, you have to wonder if the new rules have had any bearing on Ferguson's decision to persuade veteran stars like Scholes and Neville to play on for at least one more season. Giggsy is a slightly different case given he was the most consistent of the home grown trio last season and so he was always going to continue.

Fergie has to omit 16 names from the list below and there's a suggestion Owen Hargreaves and Anderson could be left out of United's initial 25-man list due to injury.


Date signedDate of birth
1. Amos01/08/200810/04/1990
2. Anderson02/07/200713/04/1988
3. Berbatov01/09/200830/01/1981
4. Brown01/08/199613/10/1979
5. Carrick31/07/200628/07/1981
6. Cathcart01/08/200606/02/1989
7. Chester01/07/200823/01/1989
8. Cleverley01/08/200812/08/1989
9. de Laet 08/01/200928/11/1988
10. Drinkwater01/07/200805/03/1990
11. Eikrem01/07/200908/08/1990
12. Evans. J01/07/200603/01/1987
13. Evans. C01/07/200830/07/1990
14. Evra10/01/200615/05/1981
15. Fabio da Silva01/07/200809/07/1990
16. Ferdinand22/07/200207/11/1978
17. Fletcher01/08/200001/02/1984
18. Gibson26/10/200525/10/1987
19. Giggs01/12/199029/11/1973
20. Gill01/07/200915/09/1990
21. Hargreaves01/07/200720/01/1981
22. Hernandez01/07/201001/06/1988
23. Ji Sung Park05/07/200525/02/1981
24. King01/07/200915/01/1992
25. Kuszczak02/07/200720/03/1982
26. Macheda01/09/200722/08/1991
27. Nani02/07/200717/11/1986
28. Neville29/01/199318/02/1975
29. O'Shea01/08/199930/04/1981
30. Obertan08/07/200926/02/1989
31. Owen03/07/200914/12/1979
32. Possebon01/07/200813/02/1989
33. Rafael da Silva01/07/200809/07/1990
34. Rooney31/08/200424/10/1985
35. Scholes29/01/199316/11/1974
36. Smalling01/07/201022/11/1989
37. Stewart01/07/200908/04/1991
38. Valencia30/06/200904/08/1985
39. Van der Sar01/06/200529/10/1970
40. Vidic04/01/200621/10/1981
41. Welbeck01/07/200726/11/1990

Key: Eight players' under age of 21 rule;
Names in Red or Orange will never qualify for the Under 21 rule.
Names in Green qualify.
Names in Blue will qualify - providing they stay with United.

Monday, July 26, 2010

'Transfer target' turns down United in preference to City?

According to reports in Italy, Mario Balotelli is on the verge of joining rivals Manchester City. The Inter Milan star will join City for an initial fee of £24million.

Balotelli has been linked to several Premier League clubs over the last few weeks and the Italian media are claming the player turned down United whose financial terms were said to be higher.

If the deal goes through Balotelli will be linking up with his former manager Roberto Mancini.

Full story

Kansas City Wizards give Man United Lite bloody nose...

Oh dear, it's all going horribly wrong on the club's US tour - mighty Manchester United have been humbled by the 10 men of Kansas City Wizards. It was only a few days ago that recently formed Philadelphia Union nearly caused an upset - that potentially mini disaster was averted thanks to Gabriel Obertan who scored the only goal of that game. United were not so lucky last night against Kansas City Wizards as they went on to lose by the odd goal in three.

It was only a week ago that Ferguson was claiming his squad was ready for the big kick-off when praising his youngsters 'who've all gained more experience in the past 12 months', however, just a few days later and following this somewhat embarrassing reverse the manager appeared to blame the defeat on the lack of experience in the back-four "I thought the inexperience of the defenders showed in the first 15 minutes". Ferguson told reporters.

There will be those who will tell you this result does not matter and it doesn't in the big scheme of things; pre-season games are used to bed-in new players as well as providing the manager with an opportunity to give the squad valuable game time. Ferguson will hopefully have learnt a thing or two about some of those who featured and it is to be hoped the manager's confidence in these young players is not misplaced.

All credit to Kansas City Wizards - they turned up and did their bit and with only 10 men. The result is a very good one for the MLS, but it's questionable if it means anything at all to United; whether or not alarms should be ringing about the genuine depth of quality in the squad is a moot point.

The sordid details, aka match stats:

Davy Arnaud (11), Berbatov (41, penalty), Kei Kamara (42)
Attendance: 52,000
Venue: Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas
Sent off: Jimmy Conrad
Booked: Gibson, Giggs

United: Amos; Rafael, Smalling, J.Evans, De Laet (Fabio 76); Nani (Obertan 69), Scholes, Gibson (Cleverley 69), Giggs; Berbatov (Welbeck 76), Diouf (Macheda 69). Subs not used: Van der Sar, Brown, C.Evans. Booked: Giggs, Gibson

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Two reasons why United fans should be cheerful.....

Good news at last, according to David Gill (aka Pinocchio), Nemanja Vidic has shaken hands on a new deal. The big Serbian defender has yet to confirm this news and so if true, it will hopefully end the speculation linking him with a move to Real Madrid or worse still Man City. According to United's official website, the new deal was agreed three to four weeks ago - which begs the question: if that is so, why wait until now to release this news?

There's more good news to report relating to David Gill, the United CEO recently told the media season ticket sales were on track - not so, because the club has announced tickets are on general sale for the first home game of the season - which means you do not have to be a season ticket holder to watch the Newcastle United game at Old Trafford on August 16th. Reports suggest season ticket sales could be down by between 5,000 and 10,000.

It is the first time this has happened since matches became all ticket affairs at Old Trafford - it is very big news. However, the move will almost certainly ensure it is a full-house.

Nonetheless, this is a very significant step in the right direction on a number of levels.

Firstly, the fans' Green and Gold campaign is definitely working, no matter what the likes of Gill or anyone else says about the current economic climate.

It is the first real concrete sign that season-ticket holders are voting with their feet and by default it is a rejection of the Glazers'. As we saw last season the majority of home fans' who visited Old Trafford are very unhappy with the owners.

The club's mythical 60,000 waiting list for season tickets has been exposed for what it is, a totally worthless piece of fiction.

Many supporters would like to see a return to pay on the day, whether that will ever happen is actually doubtful, but still some of us old-timers live in hope.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Is Ferguson really in the dark over big money move?

United are midway through the US tour and Ferguson has been speaking to the press in response to questions about the future of his star defender Nemanja Vidic. The Serbian has been constantly linked with Real Madrid over the last few weeks. Reports recently claimed that Vidic's agent had been told not to speak to anyone about the impending move - since then, it has gone quiet - but nonetheless, it seems likely the player will be joining Jose Mourinho at his new club - it is thought to be a case of when and not if.

Ferguson didn't speak at length, but he did respond to questions about Vidic's future when admitting he could offer no guarantees "I can't clarify it at all," said the United manager.

Asked if Vidic will still be a Manchester United player next season Fergie added "I believe so".

It is inconceivable that Ferguson does not know what is happening regarding Vidic's future, however, the very fact that the manager responded to questions could be viewed as encouraging amidst talk of a possible contract extension.

Vidic is every bit as important to United as Wayne Rooney - all successful teams have leaders down the spine of the side and there's no doubting the defender's importance in the back-four. It is therefore vital Vidic's future at the club is assured.

No matter if Real Madrid come knocking with £30m - United would not go out and replace the Serbian, like-for-like, because as we saw following the sale of Ronaldo, only a fraction of the Real Madrid money was used to strengthen the team.

United paid the price for not adding to the squad last season when going backwards when losing seven Premier League games, being dumped out of the FA Cup by a third division club and performing poorly in the latter stages of the Champions League.

As things stand and despite what Ferguson says, the decline is likely to continue and that is likely be the scenario even if Vidic stays because the manager needs to bring in more quality.

If Vidic leaves this summer, we could see United not qualifying for next season's Champions League. If anyone believes United will not be badly affected by the loss of Vidic they are kidding themselves and bluntly they do not appreciate Vidic's importance to the team.

Ferguson's problems are likely to be compounded the loss of Rio Ferdinand as his continued problems could well spell the end for the new England captain.

Many United fans will not be looking forward to the prospect of Ferguson relying on rookie defender Chris Smalling alongside Jonny Evans, but it is looking inreasingly likely that will be prove to be the case.

Ferguson missed out when not competing for the services of Simon Kjaer who has signed for Bundesliga outfit Wolfsburg for just £10m - the same fee United shelled out to acquire Smalling. Steve McClaren had reportedly told his new employers "to do all they could" to bring the 21 year-old Danish International to the German club. Ferguson recently told the media that he'd bought at the right time - presumably in reference to the deals that saw Javier Hernandez and Chris Smalling coming to United.

Given the choice though, surely many fans would have preferred United to have signed Kjaer who looked very useful during the World Cup. Having played in Serie A for Palermo and at the World Cup this summer, the Dane had more experience than Smalling, but like Smalling he too lacks the experience Ferguson usually looks for when recruiting central defenders.

It wasn't that long ago that Ferguson was preaching the virtues of signing central defenders who'd proven themselves and had learnt from making their mistakes along the way. In his autobiography "Alex Ferguson - Managing My Life", this is what Fergie had to say about Steve Bruce, his former captain "there is, no point in being effective at the front if you are rickety at the back... I would have to find a centre-back partnership that would turn out consistently, week after week.
"The number of games Bruce had played for Norwich City was greater than the aggregate appearances of Paul MgGrath and Kevin Moran combined. Far from being a risk, the big Geordie was a banker"...

Clearly, Ferguson shouldn't need to be reminded about the importance of harnessing experience and quality at the back in equal measure, but if Vidic leaves to join Real Madrid, United could well be rickety at the back...

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Video highlights: United beat the Union - but only just...

Manchester United were in action last night when they took on Philadelphia Union at the Lincoln Financial Field. Philadelphia Union were only formed two years ago - they make FC United look like a well established club - but currently they lie third from bottom of the Eastern Conference standings. However, the MLS outfit had already taken Celtic's scalp with a 1-0 victory, nonetheless, what should have been a comfortable victory was anything but, as United were made to work hard for their second win of the US tour.

Gabriel Obertan scored a well taken goal late on and Substitute Dimitar Berabatov was unlucky not to add to United's tally with a fine effort that crashed against the Union crossbar following a sharp turn inside the box.

Kiko Macheda and Danny Welbeck were paired up front and at times they showed touches of promise; Welbeck's movement was good, but his finishing let him down.

United v Philadelphia Union Video highlights

Tom Cleverley took the eye in central midfield alongside Paul Scholes, but worryingly for Ferguson, United's defence was too easily breached on a number of occasions but Union failed to take advantage.

Philadelphia Union: Knighton; Fiscal, Arrieta, Califf, Harvey; Le Toux, Coudet, Miglioranzi, Fred; Moreno, Mwanga.

Manchester United: Kuszczak; O'Shea (De Laet, 77), Brown (Smalling, 61), J. Evans, Fabio (Rafael, 61); Obertan, Cleverley (Fletcher, 61), Scholes (C. Evans, 61), Giggs; Welbeck, Macheda (Berbatov, 61).

Attendance: 44,213

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Tell us which United youngsters are good enough to hold down a regular first-team place...

As the summer drags on and with Fergie hinting there will be no more signings this summer, it looks like the manager will be true to his word when stating he will keep faith with the youngsters at the club.

The supporters would love to see Fergie make one or two big name signings, but if it doesn't happen, now seems like a good time to ask who is likely to make the first-team this season out of the young players at the manager's disposal.

Fergie doesn't often get it wrong when allowing young players to leave United, but he got it really wrong with Gerrard Pique - in all fairness, there probably wasn't much the manager could do once Barcelona came knocking - but nonetheless, you wonder what might have been if the Catalan defender had stayed at Old Trafford.

There's been no better to time to be a young player at Old Trafford in the last 15 years, not since Beckham, Scholes et al were given their chance to prove their collective worth.

So the big question is, who out of the current crop of young players is good enough to hold down a regular place in the first-team?

Javier Hernandez and Chris Smalling are likely to be thrust into the limelight, they will be expected to make the grade given their transfer fees - £10m and £7m respectively.

The coming season should be a big one for at least one of the da Silva twins; Rafael was outstanding last season at times and many supporters would like to see the young Brazilian starting every week ahead of Gary Neville.

Although we only saw fleeting glimpses of Gabriel Obertan and Kiko Macheda, there are high hopes for both of them.

We'd like to know who the fans' are backing to eventually hold down a regular first-team place by submitting your votes in our poll which is located in the right-hand sidebar of our home page. Voting will continue throughout the season until the end of April.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Fergie: "No more signings". It's the news United fans have been dreading ..

United fans have been waiting patiently to hear news of at least one big signing, but going Ferguson's off most recent comments it doesn't look like the club will be signing any proven quality this summer. United's last big name signing was Dimitar Berbatov - that was back in 2008 - and what a disappointment he's been.

To the dismay of many United fans, Ferguson decided for whatever reason not to sign Joe Cole. The former Chelsea star was available on a free transfer and given the United manager doesn't have much room to manoeuvre due to a lack of transfer funds the decision not to enter the Cole race simply did not make any sense.

When Ferguson didn't throw his hat into the ring when deciding not to bid for Cole's services, many supporters believed - wrongly, as things appear to have turned out - that the United manager had his eye on bigger targets.

Reports have been linking United to German midfield maestro Mesut Ozil and Fiorentina ace Stevan Jovetic. Ozil had a fine World Cup campaign and not surprisingly he is very hot property, but the clever money is on the Werder Bremen star joining either Bayern Munich or Real Madrid - there is very little prospect of Ozil joining United.

Stevan Jovetic destroyed Liverpool in last season's Champions League and that performance announced his arrival on the big stage; since then just about every top European club has been linked with the Montenegrin international.

Even if United were able to compete on transfer fees, the reality is there still would have been little or no hope of either Ozil or Jovetic signing for United this summer, because there is too much competition and United have always struggled top convince European players to come to Old Trafford - especially when the player in question is wanted by so many rivals.

United have also been linked with a possible move for Wesley Sneijder, but the Dutch ace appears to have ruled out moving anywhere; instead he will stay with Inter Milan following a fabulous season under Jose Mourinho.

With little or no money to spend and with so many problems within his ageing squad Ferguson can look forward to one of the most difficult seasons in his career. The only bit of positivity for United supporters - on the domestic front at any rate - is that only near neighbours Man City have spent heavily this summer.

Ferguson has undoubtedly made a major mistake in not signing Joe Cole, because he was the ONLY top player within his reach. United will pay the price for failing to strengthen this summer because everyone knows you do not stay at the top without continual improvement and that simply is not happening at Old Trafford right now, quite the reverse...

United were simply not good enough to chase down Chelsea in the title race last season. But the West London club had their own problems when losing Michael Essien and Mikel through injury. Despite allowing Joe Cole and Ballack to leave this summer, Chelsea still have the strongest squad in the Premier League and they will be the bookies favourites to retain the trophy.

While Ferguson is unlikely to make any surprise signings, there's likely to be more bad news when Vidic signs for either Real Madrid or worse still Manchester City.

Forlan eyeing Premier League return?

Let’s face it; the World Cup wasn’t a great success for any of the Manchester United players. Early knockouts, time on the bench and a heavily-criticised lack of goals led to a collective disappointment for United’s World Cup contenders. Naturally, Alex Ferguson was quick to defend his frustrated players and went on say that Wayne Rooney will rule the World in 2014.

Whatever happens in 2014 remains to been seen but one things for sure, World Cup 2010 belonged to a man with a strong Manchester connection; Diego Forlan. Although his importance wasn’t overlooked by critics before the tournament, in his Adidas F50 AdiZero's the Uruguayan striker essentially upstaged the ‘big names’ at the World Cup to win the prized ‘Golden Ball’ award for the tournaments best player.

Simply put, the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka, Didier Drogba and Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney just didn’t make the impact they were expected to. 2010 wasn’t a tournament for prima donnas and the players who were willing to roll up their sleeves and work hard for the team were the one’s that truly stood out.

After his impressive World Cup performance, Diego Forlan won’t look back at his time at Old Trafford as the next high-point in his career. Following a £6.9 million transfer from Indipendiente, Forlan was expected to set the Premier League alight. But like so many players entering the Premier League from a different footballing culture, he failed to adapt. It took Forlan 8 months to score his first goal; a penalty in the Champions league against Israeli club Maccaiba Haifa!

Based on his form at the World Cup, it’s hard to imagine how a player of Forlan’s caliber went 27 games without scoring a goal. Once Forlan found the back of the net, his goal scoring record improved but he fell way short of expectations and finished his United career with just 10 Premier League goals. A move to La Liga saw Forlan emerge as a real force in European football leaving Manchester United fans wondering what could have been.

That’s exactly the sentiment that Forlan reflected when he recently said that he and Rooney could have formed a “devastating” partnership if United had decided to keep him. Manchester United demand goals from their strikers, the Emile Heskey and Dirk Kuyt types would never be suited to Old Trafford. With such an ability to attract new players, there’s always another goal scorer that Alex Fergusson can give the next chance to.

Although Forlan felt he was starting to find his feet when he was sold to Villarreal, the move away from Manchester United reignited his career. In the wake of the World Cup, Forlan has hinted that he would be interested in a move back to the Premiership. Even if it doesn’t happen this season, at 31 Forlan still has enough time to make a return. If he could finally adjust to English football, a second chance at Old Trafford would make a remarkable final chapter in Forlan’s extraordinary career.

Written by Olly; player, and World Cup-crazy soccer fan. Olly works for SoccerPro where you will find the new Manchester United Jersey for the 2010-2011 season.

Monday, July 19, 2010

United's failure to sign Joe Cole leaves fans' asking questions...

So then, Joe Cole has finally signed for rivals Liverpool on a four year contract. This news will be greeted with utter dismay among the Red Army, because we had been led to believe Cole's family wanted him to stay in London. Clearly, that was not the case and now United fans will want to know why the club didn't sign the former Chelsea midfield player. Could it be the case United can longer even afford to meet the wage demands of a top international like Cole? But if that was the situation, how come cash-strapped Liverpool have been able to meet Cole's wage demands?

In the absence of any explanation, the fact that Cole was available on a free transfer and United haven't even tried to sign the Londoner is damning. It speaks volumes about the dire financial situation at Old Trafford. Failure to make any serious attempts to land Cole will rightly be seen as one of the most worrying developments following the Glazer family takeover back in 2005.

It beggars belief that Ferguson would not want to sign a player of Cole's undoubted ability; if that scenario filters through to the fans via United's friends in the media it will be viewed with utter contempt and rightly so.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Evra and Vidic 'set for Madrid move': Now is the time for a tactical rethink...

According to the latest transfer speculation, Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra could be joining Real Madrid. Mourinho has tried and failed to sign Ashley Cole, because Chelsea have blocked any move; would United do the same should Madrid come knocking for Evra and Vidic? The answer to that is probably not - certainly not in the case of Vidic who we are told wants away.

It might be a different case with Evra, but do not rule it out - not many players turn down the chance to play for Real Madrid. Evra like Vidic is a big fan's favourite, but everyone has their price and of course what the player wants is usually key.

Despite Ferguson's optimism about what lies ahead, the manager has a lot of problems to address with an ageing squad and serious concerns in just about every department.

You cannot build a house on unsound foundations and United's back-four has been the bedrock of successive United teams under Ferguson over the last two decades. However, with concerns about the future of Vidic, Ferdinand and now Evra, is now the time for the United manager to rethink his tactical plan in a bid to make the most from the players at his disposal?

There is a compelling argument for Ferguson to switch to a 3-5-2 formation. Assuming Ferguson will be without Vidic, Evra and Ferdinand (through injury) the manager doesn't have a proven reliable alternative centre-back pairing. Added to which the Da Silva brothers are more suited to attacking.

Given the options at Ferguson's disposal, playing three central defenders would give Ferguson more cover down the middle and at the same time the Brazilian fullbacks would augment United's porous midfield, it would also give the duo more licence to attack.

The problem is, new formations take time to perfect; the players need to understand their roles. Ferguson should be using this summer's tour to plan ahead for the coming season; even if Evra stays, there is a strong case for reverting to 3-5-2. There's the added bonus of being able to play with two strikers as well as five in midfield where Ferguson arguably has the most problems.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Ferguson lining up Vidic replacement?

The speculation surrounding the future of "want away" Nemanja Vidic continues unabated; if we are to believe reports, the Serbian will soon be playing for Real Madrid under Jose Mourinho. If the rumours prove to be true, United fans will be disappointed with the defender who they've grown to admire since he signed for the club back in 2006. However, Vidic's standing among the fans' went down when midway through last season reports claimed the Serbian refused to play when pulling out at the last minute - supposedly because of 'injury'. On at least one ocassion Ferguson was said to be 'baffled' by the late no-show.

The latest transfer speculation suggests Ferguson could be eyeing Bruno Alaves as a replacement. Porto's 28 year-old centre-back is also being linked with Zenit St Petersburg, with talk of a £12.5m move. Some United fans will no doubt be underwhelmed at the prospect of signing Alaves, but he is probably better than some of Ferguson's existing options.

Replacing Vidic is just one of many problems facing Ferguson; the United squad is ageing and the manager has little room to manouevre in the transfer market due to lack of funds. United have been labelled as Real Madrid's feeder club by rival fans' - and being honest it is hard to argue with that. United are becoming a selling club, one that has to sell before the manager can strengthen.

Ferguson has put great stock in the fact that his younger players will have benefited from the previous twelve months experience, but that assertion is open to question; Gabriele Obertan was given few opportunities to prove what he can do. Danny Welbeck was sent out on loan and now there's talk of a permanent move to Sunderland. Kiko Macheda and Fabio da Silva were both missing through injury for much of the last campaign. Darron Gibson has been given ample opportunities to prove what he is capable of, but the Northern Ireland international doesn't appear to fit into any obvious slot in the engine room; he lacks pace, doesn't tackle particularly well, his passing is so-so; on the positive side, he has a decent shot - but for sure he is no Paul Scholes.

Like Gibson, Anderson has been given ample time to prove his worth, but he too has fallen well below expectations, so much reports claim he could soon be sold.

When you factor-in the constant injuries to Owen Hargreaves - who has not gone on tour this summer due to a 'new injury' - and the speculation surrounding the future of Michael Carrick there are serious concerns about the United engine room.

Up front Berbatov has been very hit and miss, but worryingly for United fans, the team might have to rely on him for the first few weeks of the season if Rooney suffers from his dreadful World Cup campaign and a disappointing season end.

It's fair to say Rafael da Silva (should be in the team every week), Jonny Evans and Atonio Valencia all did extremely well last season. Nani showed great improvement once he stepped out of Ronaldo's shadow.

United have signed two unproven youngsters in Javier Hernandez and Chris Smalling from Fulham. Hernandez could take time to settle, but he looks as though he has the quality to succeed based on his performances at the World Cup for Mexico.

Comparing players is always a dangerous business, but the Mexican is a predator - a player who comes alive in the opposition's penalty area; he is a bit like former Sunderland striker Kevin Phillips - both in his stature and his style of play. Smalling has only been a professional for a couple of years and it will interesting to see how he copes with playing for a club like United.

Ferguson has no alternative but to be positive about his squad's prospects for the coming season, but as ever, results will be key and the manager's summer optimism will be tested once the battle commences and the talking stops.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Transfer intrigue: Wesley Sneijder and Fergie's double Dutch talk...

The last two summers have been extremely disappointing where incoming transfers are concerned and as a result Manchester United have gone backwards following the loss of Ronaldo and Tevez. So when Inter Milan's Massimo Moratti went on record last week claiming United's interest in Wesley Sneijder was 'very real', we the fans' took note; for an all too brief moment, there was a glimmer of hope that at last Ferguson could be about to make a major signing.

Arjen Robben added to the intrigue when going on record saying he believed Sneijder would sign for United. Alas, the hopes of many a frustrated red were dashed at a stroke when the player confirmed he was going nowhere. Then Fergie added his two-penneth when saying "I don't know where those reports about Sneijder came from. How can anybody turn me down when I haven't even made a bid?"

Ferguson's reaction to news of this apparent snub was interesting, because, for one thing, United are regularly linked to players from just about every continent on a regular basis (but not that often this summer). So why did Ferguson react? Could it be that the United manager is feeling the strain with rivals Man City spending so heavily for the second season on the spin? We are unlikely to discover the answer to that question until Fergie writes his next book...

Anyone who saw Sneijder during the World Cup will appreciate the brilliance of the Dutch midfield star. Yet, according to Fergie, United have a stronger squad than last season; the logic being the younger players are a year older have more experience - but no mention of veteran stars like Giggs, Scholes, Neville and Van der Sar all getting older. Fergie didn't exactly say he wouldn't want Sneijder in his squad, but nonetheless his claims that the current squad is stronger are likely to be questioned over the coming weeks, because it simply is not true.

United have serious problems in just about every department. The spine of the team is need of major surgery. It is expected Vidic will eventually join Real Madrid and if that happens United will be relying on Rio Ferdinand and the likes of Johnny Evans, Wes Brown and unproven new boy Chris Smalling. Ferdinand's days in the top flight could, worst case, prove to be numbered given his persistent injury problems.

In central midfield the situation is even worse, with talk of Michael Carrick being off-loaded in a fire-sale back to his native North East with a move to Sunderland. United look like losing around £12m on any deal for Carrick which just goes to show what a poor piece of business that was when the club paid Spurs £18.5m.

Paul Scholes has today hinted he might not retire at the end of next season... Scholes is by nature a shy boy, he doesn't speak to the press that often and when he does it is through gritted teeth. You wonder who it was that persuaded Scholes to drop hints about pro-longing his retirement - is this the work of United's spin doctor? If so, are we the fans' expected to jump up and down with glee at this news? As good as Scholes still is, he does not represent the future. United most definitely need to sign at least one player of the calibre of Wesley Sneijder, because the fact is Gibson isn't good enough and neither is Carrick.

As far as the forward line is concerned, reports claim United have been trying (and failing) to off-load Dimitar Berbatov. Rooney, had a disastrous World Cup (as predicted on this blog before the tournament) and as a result United could suffer this coming season. Ferguson could be left relying on Javier Hernandez, who could prove to be a useful signing if he settles quickly, but those hoping for miracles might have to wait.

As things stand, there is a very real danger Man City (among others) could finish above United next season and if that happens Ferguson's comments about being stronger will rightly be ridiculed. United are on the road to nowhere with the current squad.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Fergie fiddles while Old Trafford burns?.....

Judging by the lack of transfer activity since the window opened, it looks like Manchester City will be the only Premier League club who spends big this summer (Why oh why did the Arabs buy that shower?). There has been some transfer speculation with talk of possible moves concerning United, but so far there's little concrete to report on.

If we are to believe the mainstream media, Michael Carrick could be sold back to Tottenham (no doubt for an undisclosed fee if it actually comes about). According to another recent report, Anderson could offered in part-exchange for Paris Saint Germain's St├ęphane Sess├Ęgnon; the 26 year-old Benin international is said to be 'hot-property' with Europe's 'top clubs' in the hunt for his signature.

Anderson has been linked to Benfica and Lyon with rumours of yet more swap deals involving Angel Di Maria and Hugo Lloris respectively, however, Angel Di Maria has agreed to sign for Real Madrid, so that one is a dead duck.

What is not in doubt is the fact that Ferguson needs to pull his finger out and get busy in the transfer market. United are in desperate need of a midfield play-maker; Inter Milan's Sneijder has been linked to United (again) but surely it is a case of 12 month's too late? Fergie should have made his move last summer when the Dutchman was available for a knockdown 15m Euros.

Fabiano has been linked with a possible move, but can United afford the brilliant Brazilian striker? No doubt United fans will have been hugely impressed with Javier Hernandez who scored that spectacular goal against Argentina at the World Cup in the knockout round of 16. The way things are looking, United's hopes next season could well rest on the shoulders of the young Mexican striker and rookie centre-back Chris Smalling. It remains to be seen if Vidic will be sold to Real Madrid, but you really shouldn't bet on him being at United next season.

United also let it be known Joe Cole will not be signing and we have yet to be told exactly why that is; it might well be for family reasons, but we need to know all the same.

All in all, like last summer it looks like being a very disappointing transfer window as far as new signings go. United went backwards last season following the loss of Ronaldo and Tevez. With Giggs, Scholes, Neville and Van der Sar all adding another year on the clock, United will undoubtedly go even further backwards this coming season if we do not make some important signings this summer. Fergie - we trust you, but please pull your finger out and get busy.