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Tag Archives: Manchester United

There was much consternation at the “theatre of dreams” on Sunday when Tevez made everybody know that his manager wasn’t too keen on making his deal a permanent one. Of course most of the fans love him for his industry and committment, but his manager has always been very reluctant to pay another 22 million pounds to secure his services.

First and foremost, I believe Fergie is not convinced about the 32 million pound evaluation of player who hasn’t scored very many this season. Add to this the twisted technicalities involved in paying an agent this giant sum of money. This has never been done in the history of the game.

There aren’t many roles that Tevez can perform in this current United squad. In order to accommodate Tevez and Berbatov, Rooney has sacrificed himself on the left side of midfield. There aren’t many permutations possible for Fergie to accommodate all of his big four at the same time. When they play together the only player who can play on the wing and help his team defensively is Rooney. The formations that Fergie has used in the past two seasons have been quite variegated. 4-4-2, 4-3-3, 4-3-2-1, 4-2-3-1 etc. But the only formation that can accommodate all of the big four is 4-2-4 which is very attacking.

Quoting Paul Doyle of the Guardian,”Tevez is a rich man’s Dirk Kuyt”. I agree with him on this(with no disrespect to Kuyt). If Tevez goes, who can Fergie bring in? Of course he would want a striker who is versatile and somebody who can do the dogs work. Although most of the United fans will disagree with me, Tevez is not indispensable to United. Fergie developed this squad around Ronaldo and Rooney with oldies like Giggs, Scholes and Neville to guide them.

Options that Fergie might consider if he decides to let Tevez go:

1. David Villa: Similar to the Tevez issue, but a much better number 9 than Carlitos. Tevez is not a no.9 or even a no.10. He is a bit of both. We have Berbatov who is exactly that and after Van Nistelrooy’s departure, we need a number 9 who can score 20-25 goals a season. Ronaldo is doing that job for now.

2. Benzema: One might question Rooney’s role when Benzema is in, but he is known to have precocious adaptibility and might be a great choice to play along side Rooney, Berbatov and Ronaldo.

3. Valencia: A winger who can defend and go forward but will he able to replicate the goal scoring rate of Ronaldo or Ronney?

4. Ribery: This might happen if Ronaldo decides to leave. Ribery will be asked to fill the void left behind by Ronaldo and Ribery is bound to have his critics in his first season because it is a very tough task to replicate Ronaldo’s goal scoring from the wings.

Mind you, this is just a list that sprang to my mind. Fergie is capable of even stunning a seasoned Football journalist with a master swoop for somebody who is real established star. Watch out for transfer activity next season. I have a feeling there will be only one signing but nevertheless a huge one.

A Barcelona-Manchester United final is absolute box office. But after witnessing scenes of utter despondence at the bridge, I am not sure whether Barcelona merited a deserved place in the final. A combination of refereeing blunders, Drogba’s ineptitude in front of goal and Hiddink’s ultra conservative style made sure Chelsea bowed out in controversial circumstances. Honestly, Barcelona were really running short of ideas and were quite blunt in terms of their creativity. Of course, it is not wise to judge them over the two legs of the semi-final. But when they are deprived of space and moved out of their comfort zone, they don’t seem to have a plan B in place. They are a one-dimensional team although that style is quite attractive to many people around the world. One of the reasons that made them less imaginative was the way iniesta was asked to play. Because of Iniesta’s position, Xavi also became less influential because both of them when together are quite creative. Sergio B and Keita didn’t use the ball usefully as Iniesta, Toure and Xavi would have done. They just kept passing it around without any conviction and their first shot on target was in the 92nd minute. It was quite apparent to see that the game was played so bloody narrow that it looked like a death procession. Messi and Iniesta had come in central.

I can now type the starting line up for barca in the final.

Barcelona(4-1-2-3): Valdes; Puyol, Pique, Toure, Sylvinho/Keita; Sergio B; Iniesta, Xavi; Henry, Eto’o, Messi.

The problem with the style that Barca adopt is that the opponent runs so much off the ball that he gets tired in no time. When they eventually get the ball they are reluctant to thrust themselves to go forward as the physical demand on their bodies is extreme. There are two secrets to beat Barcelona’s passing carousel; First one is to do what United did to them in last year’s semi-final; 2. Attack them from the wings and use high energy central midfield play to disrupt their rhythm. United will mostly play Rooney on the left side with Ronaldo upfront and Park on the right with 3 defensive midfielders shielding the back four if their adopt the conservative approach. If they go for Kamikaze football, it will be a 4-3-3 with Rooney and Ronaldo the flanks and Tevez/Berba in the middle to test their suspect central defense. Playing a 4-4-2 against Barca will be ineffective because if Barca lose the ball, then there will be 3 players who will be in an advanced positions to receive the ball immediately rather than 1 or 2 which makes ball retention a bit more complicated.

Porto’s performance in the first leg of the quarter final gives amazing insights into how the game will pan out if United go hell bent for leather. But I don’t see three really physical strong forwards as Porto had. Messi and Eto’o are anything but physically imposing and add to this the fact that Xavi and Iniesta aren’t monsters either. Barca will go into the game with the simple thing in mind that tactical approach becomes simple if they retain the ball for long periods and keep passing the ball until United get tired. I think the game is going to be decided when Barca don’t have the ball. United won’t be sitting back and Fergie would demand a high octane start from Rooney and Ronaldo in particular with Anderson buzzing around in the midfield showcasing his power game in the midfield playing in an advanced role. Fergie will ask Evra to bomb upfront even though it leaves gaps behind for Messi to exploit. But this is where Fergie can win the tactical battle by playing one of his defensive midfielders constantly on the left side (Like Fletcher) to help Vidic tackle Messi and ask John O Shea to be more conservative while going forward. Attack Barca on the left while keeping the shape on the right. This would mean Rio marking Eto’o by playing in a more advanced role in defense and Fletcher and Vidic double teaming on Messi on the left and O Shea marking Henry on the left. To make Xavi and Iniesta less creative, United have to be more aggressive in the midfield and move the ball at pace. The absence of Toure in midfield will also cost Barca a tackler which will be vital to deprive Rooney and Ronaldo service on either wing.

I might be totally wrong in saying that Park won’t start. But if Park starts, then United will line up almost the same way as they did against Arsenal at Emrates (4-3-2-1) with Ronaldo up top on his own. I prefer starting with Berbatov to play behind Rooney and Ronaldo in between Xavi and Iniesta and in front of Sergio B because he is very similar in style to those three and can be a great asset to United while starting off attacks.

All this is a bit confusing as there are 4-5 ways in which United can line up which is what makes this final tough to call tactically. And my strong feeling is that they will make it a real physical battle in the midfield. Barca targeted and almost physically abused Henry in the Paris final in 2006 by kicking him all over the place. Fergie will go any distance to retain the cup this year. Thats for sure. Your thoughts please.

Here is my list of people who would be in the run in to replace Sir Alex once he decides to retire. Whoever it might be, it is going to be a gargantuan task to emulate him at the throne of a football club which has been institutionalized to success. One thing that will certainly happen is that the board won’t be haphazard in decision making regarding the manager. The board boasts of some legendry names like Sir Bobby, Brian Robson, Paddy Crerand etc. Sir Alex will decide who is going to succeed him and I am taking it for granted that his presence will be ‘inspring’ but at the same time quite intimidating. This club counts continuity and tradition as two of its major strengths in modern football. The way Sir Alex and his coaching team have gone on to assemble a squad for probably the next two generations speaks volumes about their foresight and vision. The decisions that the club will take administratively and from a footballing perspective would need to get the nod from board members most of whom will be former footballers and coaches.

Here is the list: (in no particular order)

1. Carlos Quiroz:

Although the current coach of Portugal national team, I cannot look beyond him at the moment. A stunning tactical mind who has built generations after generations of amazing footballing talents during his time at Portugal and United. The man who was the secret behind Portugal’s golden generation of Figo, Rui Costa, Nuno Gomes etc is aslo credited with bringing in a more tactical approach to United’s play. As a fan, I have watched the way United’s play has evolved over the past 5-6 years; from being a typical English club playing anything but the possession game to a continental side playing with two defensive midfielders. The new found tactical awareness and more suave possession style was no doubt Quiroz’s contribution. Sir alex in his old days would have never gone on and bought somebody like Carrick. Sir Alex was called a ‘tactical anarchist’ by Vicente Del Bosque after United elimination from the CL at OT after a 4-3 win over Real Madrid. But United play more with a settled rhythm and poise rather than going for the jugular in Europe now and that change in atitude is down to new coaching methods and ideas brought in by Carlos. The sort of players that have been inducted into the squad and the new wave of coaching style and personnel that represent United’s current generation are brain children of the man himself. If he hadn’t got a call from Portuguese Football association, he would have stayed to become the next manager at OT. He had no other incentive to be an assistant at OT for such a long time after having managed Real Madrid for an year. He is very highly rated by Sir Alex, Sir Bobby and the players.

2. Eric Cantona:

This choice is purely a sentimental one although the ‘King’ himself has said he would even only contemplate about management only if he had a chance to replace Sir Alex at OT. Cantona’s awareness and flamboyance as a player has never been in doubt but I am not sure how he would fare as a manager. Sir Alex is a terrific man manager and a motivator; but he has never been called a ‘master tactician’ like a Capello or a Jock Stein. Sir Alex as Schmeichel says, is not as good a coach when compared to his man management capabilities. Cantona would be able inspire every one his players just by his sheer presence. Interesting but a less probable choice.

3. Michael Laudrup:

I really expected him to become Sir Alex’s number 2 when Quiroz left after his second stint. An amazingly gifted footballer who played under Cryuff’s ‘dream team’ Barcelona. No doubts about his abilities as a world class footballer; Romario, Cryuff, Raul, Zidane are some of his admirers. His coaching career has been a success and he is known for his innovative formations and playing with fast wingers. He took Getafe to the final of Copa Del Ray and did a fine job with limited resources at hand. I am not sure how he will like the media frenzy that would be around him if he is given the nod. Aged 44, a perfect choice for footballing reasons as he would bring in new ideas to the table. He would be my personal choice probably for the reason that I love players like him. But great footballers don’t necessarily make great managers. So watch out.

4. Laurent Blanc, Ryan Giggs, Roy Keane:

All of these players who have played under Sir Alex might be considered. I am not sure how the board will decide on candidates with relatively very less coaching experience. But would be interesting anyway.

5. Jose Mourinho:

At the top his managerial career at 46, absolute box office but also a real good tactician. Somebody Rio Ferdinand believes, would have the ‘balls’ to manage at a place like OT where the hunger for success is unbound. The only concern with Jose is the way he plays the game. Right from the days of Sir Matt to Sir Alex, the club has had a tradition of playing the game with panache and grace. Sir Bobby thinks Mourinho might lose the battle to become Fergie’s successor in that he plays the game with too much conservatism and although he is inspiring and has an aura, his principles and United’s might not go hand in hand. But still, a very realistic choice.

Other possible candidates in the fray might be David Moyes, Alex Mcleish, and Mark Hughes.

Any other choices and merit of the above candidates is open to debate.

Anybody who has been watching center-backs in the premiership this season with particular interest will vouch that Vidic has been nothing short of stunning. Now that was till the Liverpool game; Vidic endured a torrid evening against ‘Himself’ more than the celebrated attacking duo of Torres and Gerrard. It was as if the art of ‘self-destruction’ had been mastered by Vidic on an eventful Saturday afternoon where he would have had a feeling of deja vu of his first start in the United shirt.

Vidic and Ferdinand are a great center back pairing because of the way they complement each other. Ferdinand has more ability on the ball and he is the one to bring the ball out of the defense. Vidic is more of a tackler; the attacking source in the defense and with his reading of the game and great ability to position himself to attack the ball, he has been consistent and very hard to deceive. Vidic usually is the last man before the goal-keeper as Ferdinand positions himself a little ahead of Vidic so that he can take the ball into the midfield. But on Saturday, I thought they defended way too deep and this made it hard for them to take a breather. The midfield pairing of Carrick and Anderson were also deep and that didn’t help either. And without Berbatov, there was nobody to link up with the forwards. The midfield duo were so conspicuously outnumbered and outmaneuvered that they had to drop deep which in turn nullified the attacking threat that usually pose going forward if they had insurance at the back.

Liverpool never played with a high tempo. Leiva and Mascherano did well to keep the ball and all they could muster before Vidic allowing the ball to bounce from Skrtel’s kickout was nothing. The irony of the game was that United were ‘shite’ and Liverpool were comparatively ‘less shite’.

And this game also exposed United’s perennially under performing central midfield. There is no steel in there and they got away with it against Inter. The way they lined up on saturday also didn’t help. Finally, Torres was inspiring in that he played through pain and simply overran Vidic. He single-handedly changed the tempo of the game and hats off to him for his endeavor and desire. United didn’t play with the usual desire or commitment. Somehow one got the feeling they were going through their motions instead of going for it. They seemed jaded and have to wake up fast to ‘salvage’ their season.