Rooney’s on the wane…….

There are fans that are enjoying Rooney’s form slump. They appear to be excited by every SportBible type update about how long since he scored away from home, or games since his last assist, or any of that stat porn stuff.
Thankfully I’m not one of them. I’ve loved him, I’ve admired him, I’ve given him the benefit of the doubt around all the transfer request rumours and so on, but when you look at the man who’s filling that United shirt currently, he’s not someone who fills us with any level faith or confidence is he?
I don’t say that with a smile on my face, there’s no point to that. It’d be like celebrating your wife’s vow of chastity, you can pretend you like the fact that the back of the net is no longer being hit, but you know the longer it goes on, the more misery you’ll have to pretend you’re enjoying during that barren spell.
I have a reasonable mix of sympathy and anger for his current situation.
From a sympathetic angle I feel for him, his love of the game was used in to get him to play that unique role of box to box goal scorer. Other clubs would wrap their greatest hope of glory in cotton wool and protect them from any chance of harm as they look to use their leading man to guide them to glory, but once Wayne became that after the sale Ronaldo & departure of Tevez, instead of being treated more like a specialist forward there to change the games that mattered, he was used time and time again to paper over the cracks in a frighteningly thin squad. It was amazing how Sir Alex was able to drag such a threadbare squad to glory in his final years, but that he did so was largely down to Rooney’s willingness to play anywhere and everywhere to cover the squad gaps created by the Glazers criminal lack of investment.
Despite that sympathy, there is genuine justification for feeling some anger towards the lad when you look at how he’s treated the body that is the tool of his trade. He’s at his best when he’s playing with that huge passion and intensity, to do that for 90 minutes 40, 50, 60 times a season, you need to be in peak physical condition, I can’t think of many occasions where I’ve looked at Rooney during his United career and felt that he’s in that state.
He’s been a daft lad; as soon as the season’s over he looks to live his life like a lottery winner rather than a gifted athlete.  Drinking, smoking, toffee apples & all the rest, they’re not the things that a driven athlete does if they want to preserve their body to be able to prolong how long it’ll be in peak form for. They’re the things that we do, wage slave people, because we can, it’s our privilege of being of low importance to the machine we’re employed within, when you’re an essential cog in a global machine you MUST be more professional than that.
I live in the naïve hope that the man will come to the realisation that he needs to check himself, before he does indeed wreck himself, but I’m unfortunately lacking in significant belief that Wayne will find the motivation, or method required to reinvent himself as a major player who does the greatest of things on the biggest of stages.
If he can prove me, and the rest of his doubters wrong, and find a way of playing the game that allows him to be a significant force for us again it would be amazing, truly amazing!
Here’s to hoping that he does…………………​

 

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Arnold Muhren on Louis van Gaal: He’s a great guy!

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Jonathan Shrager of Stretty News TV sits down with former Manchester United midfielder Arnold Muhren (1982-85) to discuss United’s Dutch contingent of Daley Blind, Memphis Depay and big Lou.

This Stretty News TV collaboration with Full Time Devils will be the first in a series of interviews with ex-United players to gain insights into our beloved club, both on its rich history and topical matters of today.

Look out for forthcoming SNTV-FTD collaborative interviews with Ryan Shawcross, Luke Chadwick, Raimond van Der Gout, Gary Bailey and Philippe Auclair.

And of course you can catch the extended versions of all Señor Shrager’s insightful interviews exclusively on our YouTube channel.

Muhren, a former Netherlands international, won the FA Cup with Manchester United in 1983 against Brighton & Hove Albion. However, most of the midfielder’s success game at Ajax: two Eredivisie titles, one European Cup (’73) and Cup-Winners’ Cup (’87).

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Match Preview: Everton vs Manchester United

everton-vs-manchester-united

English Premier League
Date: Saturday 17th October, 2015
Time: 15:00 BST
Venue: Goodison Park

One of the most-anticipated games of the weekend takes place on Merseyside on Saturday as Everton host Manchester United at Goodison Park.  Two teams who are in good form over the past five games – United could end the weekend back on top of the Premier League whilst the Toffees could move into the top four.

Louis van Gaal’s side had been on a three-game winning streak before being thumped 3-0 in their final game before the international break. They are still in the top three betting picks on the free expert tips on bettingexpert for the league title but will need to make sure that, in the words of Alex Ferguson, that they are at or near the top by end of December.

For that, they need to start winning again, and Everton on recent form could be obliging opponents – Everton’s past five results have been DWDWD as Roberto Martínez’s side sit two points off the top four heading into Saturday’s fixture.

Everton were comfortable 3-0 winners in this fixture back in April as Manchester United stuttered to a top four finish in the final month or so of the season. Chelsea are the only visiting team to have lost at Goodison Park so far this season, with Manchester City coming away with three points and both Watford and Liverpool holding the Toffees to a draw.

Manchester United have lost two of their last three away league games, losing to Swansea City and Arsenal either side of beating Southampton. Aston Villa are the only side to fail to score versus van Gaal’s side at home this season but David de Gea has kept only one clean sheet in his four league games this season, conceding six goals. It will be a stretch to expect a clean sheet given United’s recent struggles but if you fancy United bouncing back from that 3-0 kicking, use the sign up offer at Paddy Power to get a bonus bet in on United for this game and for the league title as well.

Manchester City have a home game versus Bournemouth and Arsenal are away to Watford meaning United may have to win this weekend to match their fellow title contenders’ points tally.  Chelsea are at home to struggling Aston Villa themselves, but start the weekend 10 points off the top.

Everton vs Manchester United Team News

Everton

Left-back Leighton Baines remains sidelines but Brendan Galloway has made an adequate start to life in the Premier League.  Everton’s defence could also be without John Stones through injury again – Ramiro Funes Mori has started the past two, conceding three goals combined.

Séamus Coleman played for the Republic of Ireland over the international break and is back in line to return to right-back should Roberto Martínez wish to start the former Manchester United target.

Former United player Tom Cleverley is sidelined, as is fellow central midfielder Muhamed Bešić.  Left midfielder Steven Pienaar has been out all season.

Manchester United

Ashley Young played left-back before the international break with Luke Shaw out for the majority of the season.  Louis van Gaal has further problems in defence with both Marcos Rojo and Paddy McNair doubts heading into the weekend.

Daley Blind and Chris Smalling are likely to remain the centre-back partnership but Phil Jones could force himself into the starting lineup after featuring for England midweek.

Michael Carrick remains a doubt in midfield and is joined by Bastian Schweinsteiger and Ander Herrera. That makes Morgan Schneiderlin favourite to start in front of the back four.

Possible starting line-ups

Everton: Tim Howard; Séamus Coleman, Ramiro Funes Mori, Phil Jagielka, Brendan Galloway; James McCarthy, Gareth Barry, Gerard Deulofeu, Steven Naismith, Ross Barkley; Romelu Lukaku

Manchester United: David de Gea; Matteo Darmian, Chris Smalling, Daley Blind, Ashley Young; Michael Carrick, Morgan Schneiderlin, Juan Mata, Wayne Rooney, Memphis Depay; Anthony Martial

Everton vs Manchester United: Key Stats

17 – Wayne Rooney has not scored in his last 17 away Premier League fixtures since last November.

100% – Manchester United have won all four Premier League games when Basian Schweinsteiger has not been named in the starting XI, compared to only one of four when the German international has started.

550 – Gareth Barry would make his 550th Premier League appearance if he features on Saturday.  Only David James (571) has played more often in the English top flight since it was rebranded in 1992.

Prediction: Everton 1-1 Manchester United

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A controversial Yankee in Louis van Gaal’s midfield

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“Old Charlie stole the handle and the train it won’t stop going, no way to slow down.” –IAnderson

The curse (and the blessing) of United being so quickly and rudely knocked off their rediscovered perch atop the Premier League ahead of an international week is supporters have a fortnight to neurotically obsess over whether the 3-0 schooling at the Emirates was an anomaly (fingers crossed) or a disturbing reality check (hopefully not so much). Two weeks to second-guess the manager’s decision to start the–shall we say–pedestrian tandem of Michael Carrick and Basti Schweinsteiger against Arsenal’s fleet-footed attacking five. Two weeks to wonder what is missing from Louis van Gaal’s squad.

For me it’s the type of player who flips the switch. Top clubs have rosters filled with talented players who can and will play the manager’s system. Elite sides have at least one who knows when to tear up the script and improvise with positive results. In Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona dynasty it was Lionel Messi. Xavi, Iniesta, et al would tiki-taka the ball around the pitch for the majority of matches, spreading out defenses until Messi, likely bored senseless, decided it was go-time. Dribbling through five or six opponents he’d attack the box and put the ball past a helpless goalkeeper.

United once had a similar player, if they played a much different system than Barcelona under Sir Alex Ferguson. Of course I’m talking about Eric Cantona. These days that player should be Wayne Rooney. He certainly deviates from Louis van Gaal’s system with alarming frequency. The problem is when Rooney flips the switch for United the lights go off rather than on. He comes back for the ball, no one fills the space he’s vacated, and the movement stalls. Someone else is needed to spark the attack.

Happily that player needn’t be a Messi or Cantona. He needn’t even be a forward. Bayern Munich under Pep Guardiola has adopted a form of tiki-taka which has allowed them to dominate the Bundesliga even more than usual. The Rekordmeister’s version of Messi–Arjen Robben, who is a very credible imitation when healthy–has been unavailable for too many critical European matches. Sensing another, edgier, dynamic was needed if he was going to join contemporaries Jose Mourinho and Carlo Ancelotti as a manager who has won Champions Leagues with multiple clubs, Pep convinced club president Karl-Heinz Rummenigge to sign Arturo Vidal. The Chilean is not one to casually kick the ball around to lull opponents into a trance. Himself a very credible imitation of Cantona, he is more likely to bludgeon foes to death with direct attacks on goal. Whether this version of switch-flipping will bring Guardiola renewed success in the Champions League remains to be seen but a similar player could push United to the top of English football once more.

One positive from a longtime supporter’s point of view in regard to Louis van Gaal’s approach with United is, unlike Pep Guardiola, he has not abandoned his new club’s traditional playing style. He has publicly stated a preference for technically gifted players but rather than installing a form of Cruyffian total football similar to his sides at Ajax and Barcelona LvG has emphasized attack from the flanks, long the modus operandi at Old Trafford. Further with the additions of Schweinsteiger and Morgan Schneiderlin crowding a midfield already boasting Michel Carrick, Juan Mata, Ander Herrera, and Marouane Fellaini, he would in all likelihood consider someone like Vidal one attacking mid too many. On the other hand the Arsenal result illustrates the squad’s need for an effective destroyer.

Upon his hiring that need was specifically identified by the media. Speculation was Marouane Fellaini, already at the club, or Nigel de Jong, who had enjoyed something of a renaissance with l’Oranje in Brazil under Van Gaal, would assume the part. When he played the role at Everton, the Belgian was effective for stretches but would occasionally disappear, a likely reason his new manager has employed him almost exclusively in attack. Conversely, De Jong’s tenacity inevitably crosses the line, exposing him to a dangerous amount of bookings, not to mention suspensions. Roy Keane, in his time at United, posed a similar though not so frequent risk. As well the outspoken Irishman was capable of bombing forward in attack, a dimension De Jong doesn’t possess. Given deficiencies in each prospective player and the endangered species status of the destroyer in the modern game perhaps Van Gaal thought there was no one who could fill the need and opted to try alternative methods to stem opposition attacks. Arsenal are certainly happy with that decision.

There is at least one player who checks all the boxes which would give United a player who could flip the switch from a deep lying midfield position and perhaps even provide a bridge between the manager’s preferred tactics and Wayne Rooney’s instinct to come back for the ball. His name is Michael Bradley.

Yes the Michael Bradley who fell out of favor at AS Roma, chose to return to North America to play against much lighter opposition, had a poor World Cup in Brazil, and is–gasp!–American. Yanks are not highly rated for reasons which range from a poor youth program stateside to the notion US athletes are better with their hands than their feet, making the only good American footballers goalkeepers.

Brian McBride, Clint Dempsey, and Landon Donovan would take exception to the latter stereotype. Of course all three are over thirty and retired now, even if Dempsey isn’t aware he is as he underachieves for Sounders FC in the Pacific Northwest.

Bradley, however, is just twenty-eight and has been the USMNT’s engine for the past six years, excepting the 2014 World Cup, when Jürgen Klinsmann inexplicably attempted to deploy him at the tip of his midfield diamond rather than the base. After earning a strong reputation at Borussia Mönchengladbach and Chievo, Bradley enjoyed a good start in the Eternal City before an injury halted his progress. Upon his return Luis Enrique had assumed the club’s reins, installing the Barcelona style. A marauding defensive mid didn’t dovetail with that system. Reportedly there was interest from other European clubs but Bradley preferred to come back to North America, ostensibly for family reasons and a desire to give back to the game by helping MLS grow into a more competitive league.

It’s also possible, though, he wanted to be part of a contending side rather than a mid-table side. In his second season at Toronto FC his club is on the verge of its first playoff appearance, with Bradley, Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore forming a strong core. When parked in front of center backs the man who, like Rooney, captains club and country is tenacious off the ball. When it’s at his feet he has both the vision to choose the right pass to begin the attack and the moment to bomb forward to achieve the same goal. His diagonal balls would be ideal for both Memphis and Juan Mata. If Rooney came back as Bradley surged the latter would deliver the ball then continue his run into the box looking for the return pass and an opportunity to score. His work rate is such he typically outruns his teammates by a significant margin. As well he is dangerous taking set pieces within range of goal.

Only in the second year of a five to six year deal paying him slightly over £80k/week he would be difficult to pry loose from MLS if Louis Van Gaal were willing to consider him. His style would add another dimension to the United attack, however, a threat up the middle which would force opposing defenders to play more compactly, freeing up space for Memphis, Johnny Kills, and overlapping fullbacks. The chance to play for an elite club, regularly competing both for a Premier League title and a Champions League crown, may be just the motivation that would encourage him to return to Europe.

His signing would be in the same vein as bringing in Schweini, a natural leader and game manager with experience in top European competitions and the World Cup. The difference would be American is in his prime rather than past it and possessing an aggressive style that would place incessant pressure on opponents. If one is willing to ignore Bradley’s nationality, the tactical deficiencies of his current national coach, the level of competition in which he currently plays, and the unnatural size of his cranium, focusing instead on his work rate, enthusiasm, leadership, vision, and technical skill, he might turn out to be the missing piece in a resurgent Manchester United. All that’s required is a certain Dutchman with an open mind.

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Where’s the anger……..?

It shouldn’t be hard to find anger, it’s not as if it’s hidden away in dark corner like the clit is, it’s usually a massive great big thing that you’re obliged to give your undivided attention to.

I don’t want to be one of those Kramer Vs Kramer reds who keeps banging on about what it was like under Sir Alex and how Louis will always be shit just because he’s not him, but when I watch us play such anaemic football as we did at The Emirates, I’m pushed closer to being exactly that kind of red.

I dread to think what will happen Saturday afternoon if we step out at Goodison and offer the same level of limp wristed football there as we did last year on Merseyside, and last time out in London and we’ll receive the kind of beating that’ll be on a DVD being shoplifted from the club shop until the end of days!

When the summer ended I was euphoric. We had shipped out the tumours eating away at the winning mentality Sir Alex had installed in the club. We had brought in a number of players who added genuine and significant quality in areas we desperately needed it in, all looked good to be something close to a credible force again.

Against lesser opponents like Villa, Liverpool & Sunderland we looked like that was the case, but when you look at our performances against Wolfsburg & Arsenal, we looked like boys against men! In both games we got opened up more often that the box of Roses at Christmas (other chocolates are available, this is just an analogy, not a paid for advert), if we play like that again against Everton, then Murphy & Shearer will be killing all contenders to be the first 2 in the studio to rub salt in the wounds of another defeat.

Under the great man, the worst time you could ever play United was after a heavy defeat. Sir Alex’s demand for his players to go out there and show people that the natural order was being restored was evident in everything his players did, it was amazing! We didn’t always have the best players, or depth of squad in his final years at Old Trafford, but what we did have was a spirit that could carry the club to levels well beyond the skill levels of the players at its disposal.

Look at this season, the squad is far superior to the whoops basket of a squad that Sir Alex left the ginger train wreck to manage, if you want to argue against that theory you’re just a fool!

But what it’s showing us is that it’s wonderful to now have a midfield made of Mata, Carrick, Schweinsteiger & other sexually appealing options.

It’s beautiful seeing young players like De Gea, Smalling & Jones mature into something highly beneficial to the club than they were 2 years ago.

It’s arousing looking at the potential in young recruits like Marshall, Memphis & Shaw.

But it’s truly terrifying when you see a United side go out to grind out results like we’re sorry to be a nuisance, that’s not how we do things.

I’ve learned to accept that we’re no longer a counter attack side who’ll kill you with pace down both flanks, it wasn’t easy, but I did it. What I can’t find it in me to do is accept that we’re a side who don’t have that bite, that fuck you mentality where players simply refuse to concede defeat.

Having watched United sit back and smile politely last Sunday at The Emirates, and last season at Goodison as the opposition wandered through us with ease time and time again, I can’t accept watching a United side that players without the anger that was the hallmark of the winning mentality.

I can cope with not winning trophies year in year out if I can see that the lads had given everything in the pursuit of them, but it just hadn’t come off, but I don’t see that with these lads, and that scares me!

 

 

 

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Norman Whiteside Exclusive: Achieving a schoolboy’s dream

Norman-Whiteside

In the build-up to Manchester United trip to Goodison Park on Sunday, Stretty News had the pleasure of conducting an interview with a football legend that played for both clubs.

Norman Whiteside did not just smash scousers but records also. In 1982 he broke Pele’s record for the youngest ever World Cup finals appearance (Northern Ireland vs Yugoslavia) at just 17-years-old and 41 days.

Follow Big Norm (@NormanWhiteside) on Twitter.

Stretty News: It’s a bit irrelevant this week given Saturday’s encounter is in the Premier League, but tell us what winning the FA Cup back in ’85 meant as a footballer?

Norman Whiteside: It is every schoolboy’s dream to play in the FA Cup Final, but to score the winning goal put the icing on the cake. A very proud moment for me and my family.

SN: It was a close game against arguably the best Everton side of all time. Do you think their trip midweek – beating Rapid Vienna 3-1 in the European Cup-Winners’ Cup Final – took its toll at Wembley?

NW: Yes, very much so. For a change Man United were the underdogs in the final – something you don’t hear very often.

Yeah, they ran out of steam. I also remember it wasn’t a great football but we battled on with 10 men.

SN: Much of the talk about the final was about Kevin Moran’s sending off for a mistimed tackle on Peter Reid, who according to Kevin Sheedy got up and asked the referee not to show red. But it was you, a 19-year-old that put the ball past Neville Southall and brought cup success to a great United side. Do you have many other great memories as a United player that rival that moment?

NW: Too many to mention really. Where do I start? I captained the club as a 20-year-old, scored in three Wembley finals & two semi-finals, made my debut at 16 and became the youngest Man United goalscorer.

SN: You went on to play for Everton in ’89 and retired without a league medal. With the significance of the FA Cup at the time you won it (’83 & ’85), did it make up for a lack of league success?

NW: No, not really. Every player wants to win the league, including myself, but it wasn’t meant to be. I am so pleased that my mate Robbo won it as he truly deserved it.”

SN: What was it like to work under Big Ron? Do you think he would be successful in today’s game?

NW: He was great to work for; great at man management and also had a laugh with the players. He had a happy medium you need to be a top manager. And yes, I think he would be successful in today’s game because football people are always football people.

SN: And finally, on the topic of scousers, tell us about taking a certain Liverpool captain for a shortcut…

NW: I do remember standing on a certain Liverpool players’ big toe and another Liverpool player running into my elbow. How silly of them!


 

Brilliant, thanks for your time big Norm.

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