In news that will surprise nobody, but in what still is a remarkable hones admission for a modern footballer, Tom Cleverley has admitted his performances this season have been extremely “average” this campaign and that the criticism he’s received this season has been justified so far.
The 24-year-old has struggled to impose himself in United’s midfield and one has to wonder whether Cleverley would be playing at all, had United the luxury to count on a number of quality options, rather than only on the mercurial Michael Carrick, the dynamism of Phil Jones and the occasional brilliance of 40-year-old Ryan Giggs.
Having been hampered by an alrarmingly poor midfield this season and having monitored a left-back for over six months now, Manchester United, if reports are to be believed, are set to splash about £15m on a centre-back, as David Moyes looks to replace the ageing Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic.
The United manager was at the Vicente Calderon in Madrid on Wednesday, where he watched Atletico Madrid vs Porto. Those who hoped Moyes was in the Spanish capital to keep an eye on Koke or Porto’s Jackson Martinez will be disappointed to know that the United manager was instead monitoring Eliaquim Mangala.
Ashley Young has admitted that he’s well aware of having matured a reputation for diving but, while he understands the criticism, he has no intention to apologise for the controversial incidents that have seen him thrust under the spotlight this season.
The United winger came under intense scrutiny earlier this season as he was booked for diving against Crystal Palace, before subsequently winning an extremely soft penalty as Kagisho Dikgacoi, while another of Young’s theatrical tumbles earned United an extremely dubious penalty kick away at Real Sociedad.
In the wake of Friday’s World Cup draw, Brazil finds itself well and truly at the centre of the footballing consciousness once again. This is true for Manchester United fans more than most, with the club currently heavily linked with current Brazilian Footballer of the Year Everton Ribeiro, an exciting midfield talent currently playing for Cruzeiro.
The fortunes of the Premier League’s Brazilian cohort have been mixed, but how well have those from the Samba nation fared at Old Trafford in particular? Unfortunately, the following list is largely one of mercurial, injury-plagued talents who have failed to ever reach the potential they hinted at in their youth. There is, however, one baby-faced right-back exception…
David Moyes has admitted he had to unleash the hairdryer on his players at half-time yesterday, after United produced a shambolic first 45 minutes at home against Shakthar Donetsk and looked in serious danger of slipping up at home against the Ukrainian outfit.
After two consecutive defeats at home, United simply could not afford another mistake and Moyes had harsh words for his players at halftime, which obviously had the desired effect, as United delivered a much improved performance in the second half and secured a crucial 1-0 win thanks to Phil Jones’ goal.
It wasn’t pretty, in fact it was absolutely horrendous at times, but at a time when entertaining football remains at a premium at Old Trafford, United got the job done, which is more than it could have been said of them in recent weeks.
In this season of false dawns, a meagre 1-0 win at home against Shakthar Donetsk can’t and won’t change the state of the squad at David Moyes’ disposal, but at least the Reds have given themselves a good chance to progress in the Champions League, by finishing top of their group, thus, in theory at least, avoiding a potentially tricky draw for the round of 16.
“The past is yours, but the future is mine,” sang Ian Brown in the Stone Roses’ “She Bangs the Drums”.
Six months after another Mancunian icon saw the most successful manager in its history depart, the past remains very much Sir Alex Ferguson’s, while David Moyes’ present is far from the fasts the club had become accustomed to under his predecessor and the future remains an unknown, arguably menacing, entity.
In recent seasons, United have turned to the Premier League for solace after experiencing disappointment in Europe. This season, however, things have taken the opposite course as United have secured qualification to the round of 16 with a game to spare and a draw against Shakthar Donetsk tomorrow will secure top spot in Group A.
Considering the abysmal form the Reds have shown against Everton and Newcastle as they suffered back-to-back home defeats in the Premier League for the first time since the 2001-02 season, Tuesday night represents a timely opportunity to forget, albeit momentarily, about the league, while at the same time making things slightly easier ahead of February.