It is an often repeated mantra that Manchester United don’t buy super stars, they make them.
Ronaldo, Vidic, Scholes, Giggs, Beckham, Solskjaer… the list goes on and on. But desperate times call for desperate measures and after a fragile start to the season and a second consecutive finish outside the top 4 a very real possibility, Ed Woodward ripped up the traditional United strategy and went big. In fact, the biggest British football has ever seen.
But in some quarters, this sudden outburst of spending is seen to be counterintuitive. In fact, it was Louis van Gaal himself who bemoaned the amount of attacking players United’s squad boasted. It was imbalanced and a tricky jigsaw to piece together. Yet, once again the Old Trafford executives have brought in two attacking players and further selection headaches for the Dutch manager to contend with.
So, for the first time in what seems like decades, United fans were left breathless by a summer transfer window. Either the Glazer family had just discovered the addictive drug of Football Manager, or they finally realised that Van Gaal’s squad needed a major injection of cash. Yet, for all the exhilarating action of the final weeks of the window, the previous months had offered little to suggest any excitement.
The early months of June and July began at a calm pace. Dead wood was shed as Alex Buttner was shown the exit and long term targets Luke Shaw and Ander Herrera, of fake lawyer fame, were quickly signed up, albeit for what seemed inflated prices. Nonetheless it was a strong and stable start. Ed Woodward, United’s much maligned head transfer honcho, had identified key areas for strengthening and had acted quickly to shore up defence and midfield.
A year on from the abdication of Sir Alex Ferguson, Manchester United remain in a limbo. The much planned succession led not to an expected summer of triumph but to a ten-month long winter of turgid football, impotent crosses and Marouane Fellaini. Less than a year after a sacking at Old Trafford seemed unthinkable, the fans were as desperate for one as an addict seeking a hit. To rub salt into the gaping wound, Manchester City, the noisy neighbours, smugly conducted their own succession with the proficiency and serenity of seasoned footballing operators. Continue reading
For both teams competing tonight, the season has petered out somewhat in recent weeks. West Ham are luxuriating in the comfort of mid table, neither worrying by relegation nor threatening a late assault on the European places. Whilst this winding down has been a massive positive for West Ham fans, it has been anti-climatic for Manchester United’s, after crashing out of two cup competitions and having sewn up the title weeks ago. Now the aim is to create a dazzling title procession, but will this be enough motivation to defeat a solid West Ham side?
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Pre-season, this derby was billed as the season defining game for both teams. The title race would be so close again that only a gnat’s breath would be able to separate them.
However, never have football ‘experts’ been so wrong. City have stumbled whilst United have stepped up and obliterated the rest. But, as with all derbies, this doesn’t mean the fans care less about this edition of the Manchester derby. Both sets of supporters are still desperate for the sweet elixir of victory.
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Manchester United and Chelsea will contest a replay at Stamford Bridge after the London side surged back from two goals to force a two-all draw at Old Trafford.
United raced into a two goal lead inside the first ten minutes through Hernandez and Rooney, and then created a plethora of chances in the remainder of the half as they attempted to close out the game. However, Chelsea weathered the first 45 minutes and came out strong in the second half, equalising through Hazard and Ramires, before themselves wasting ample opportunities to cap an arguably deserved comeback win.
Ever since Manchester United were drawn against Real Madrid in the first knockout round of the 2013 Champions’ League, the 5th of March has been on every United and Madrid fan’s mind. It is a match that sets the world alight and inspires a thousand clichés of the highest quality. But no cliché can do this gargantuan game justice (another cliché), as two iconic teams, rich in both history and talent compete in a finely poised tie to advance to the last 16.
“Form goes out the window in games like these.” Of course, this is true to an extent, and United fans will be hoping Real’s two Clasico wins aren’t replicated at Old Trafford.
The FA Cup returns to Old Trafford for the first time since March 2011, when an experimental United lineup including a midfield duo of John O’Shea and Darron Gibson overcame Arsenal in a 2-0 win. This time, Martin Jol will bring his Fulham side up, in search of cup success. Continue reading