Aside – 10/05/2012

What next for Manchester United?

I can’t believe I’m about to say this. I don’t actually mind the noisy neighbours winning the league!!!  I am not happy about it, but I can tolerate it for the greater good. Please before you crucify me, hear me out. I have my reasons, you may deem them illogical, but hear me out.

It is no secret that Manchester United has been punching above its weight for the last two seasons. Whilst football pundits sometime talk a lot of tosh, most genuine Man United fans know that the team in the last two years have been the poorest within the last decade – even the 2005-06 team won the League Cup. If we don’t win the league this season, it will be our poorest return in say 20years! I know we got to the final of the champions league last season, losing expectedly to Barcelona, but that really wasn’t due to the brilliance of the teams’ play but more of the winning mentality of SAF and his steely determination not to give up. Similarly this season, his determination and the poor fight put up by the usual suspects is what has left United with a mathematical but improbable chance of still winning the league. Only City put up a fight and were shoe-in to win until the brief exchange of capitulation by both teams resulted into City being in pole position to clinch the title, their first and hopefully last in 44years.

What went wrong with United? The 2006 to 2010 Man United teams have been the most technically gifted United teams in the last decade. Right from 2006, one could tell that there was greatness within those teams and that they were going to achieve something significant. In order to understand what made those teams tick and great in comparison to the present team, one needs to consider the set-up at Old Trafford and what differences exists between both teams or eras.  Between 2006 and 2009, United had a lot of technically gifted players in its first team – players such as Ronaldo, Solskjaer, Tevez, Berbatov, Hargreaves, Vidic, a young Scholes and Edwin VDS etc. As the saying goes, iron sharpens iron, these players pushed each other to be better and to the maximum of their potential/ability at the time. But even more importantly, I would hazard a guess and suggest that the presence of Carlos Queiroz within the coaching set-up contributed immensely to the tactical and technical ability of the United team during this period. Or put another way, SAF had a formidable coach as assistant manager. Queiroz was SAF’s assistant in 2002-03 season and from 1 July 2004 to 11 July 2008. In contrast, the 2010 – 2012 team and coaching set-up, SAF failed to replace the key members of the 06-10 teams or where he replaced them, he failed to replace them with players with similar technical skill. That in itself isn’t all that was less than ideal but SAF also failed to replace Carlos. Whilst Mike Phelan is a good coach, he is no better than Carlos Queiroz. The older SAF got, the more authority (rightfully) he delegated to his subordinates. It was his delegation to Carlos that led to the spat with then captain Roy Keane with Keane expressing his disapproval of Carlos’ apparent power and control over team matters and tactics which in turn led to the sacking of Roy Keane as a Manchester United player and captain. I believe SAF will have given Mike the same authority he gave to Carlos. But Mike Phelan isn’t as good as Carlos Queiroz, this much is apparent. This coaching oversight or gap, in my opinion, is the major failing within the footballing staff at Manchester United.

The team has deteriorated technically overtime. The way they were taken apart by Athletic Bilbao, their struggle against Otel Gulati, Basel and Benfica this season was testament to that. United’s failing in Europe where football is played technically and tactically was painful to watch. They’ve struggled in tactical matches against technical teams in the last couple of seasons. SAF needs to either get more involved in the coaching of the first team or appoint a better technically gifted coach to assist him. This may unfortunately de-motivate Mike, but it is for the greater good of Manchester United and these sorts of decisions must be made. It is akin to letting Paul Ince, Jaap Stam go and replacing them with equally gifted young starts with significant upside for growth given experience subsequently acquired. Carlos Queiroz is currently the manager of Iran’s national football team. I’m sure he’ll be more than happy to receive a call from Sir Alex Ferguson.

Decisions decisions…

Some really tough decisions need to be made this summer. If United somehow win the league, I fear that these decisions may not be made. This is why I said in my opening paragraph that I don’t mind someone else other than United winning the league this season. Of course I wish it wasn’t the noisy neighbours that’ll win it, but that perhaps it may be a blessing in disguise as it will be the biggest of wake-up call needed by SAF and will be good for the long-term. Sheikh Mansour can’t keep spending £1bn every 2 to 3 years, FFP won’t let him.

I believe the following players must leave OT this summer: JS Park, Michael Owen, Dimitar Berbatov, Kiko Macheda, Richie DaLaet, Anderson Oliveira, Ezekiel Fryers (loan), William Keane (loan), Michael Keane (loan), Fabio (loan), Davide Petrucci (loan), Tomas Kuszczak, Rio Ferdinand, Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes. Whilst Scholes did really well for the team in the second half of this season, same cannot be said of Giggs. Besides their great contribution over the years, the real question should be‘will they have the legs to deliver similar next season’? Giggs will be 39 this year and Scholes 38. They will need to compete effectively and deliver against players such as David Silva, Yaya Toure, Adam Johnson, Podolski, Gareth Bale, Luca Modric, Juan Mata and a host of others (equally gifted) yet to be bought by our rivals next season. Are these two the players United will depend on to regain the premiership? Their continued presence in the team will only serve as a stumbling block to the younger gifted players coming through. SAF must make the objective decision of letting Giggs and Scholes go this summer and not the emotional decision of keeping them for one more season. At various times this, season SAF made emotional substitutions especially in relation to Giggs, as there were a few matches Giggs should not have started nor played in and certainly not when Scholesy’s old legs were still on the pitch. Their experiences are irreplaceable, yet their legs can no longer deliver. They’ve been faithful servants, yet they must go when the ovation and appreciation for their talent is loudest so as to preserve their legendary statuses.

SAF should consider getting these players (age) as replacement: Aly Cissokho (24), Shinji Kagawa (23), Eden Hazard (21), Neven Subotic (23), Javi Martinez (23) and Fernando Llorente (27). In addition SAF must do all he can to ensure United hold on to Paul Pogba (19) – the kid is definitely the future and the next box-to-box midfielder to rule world football and perhaps rival Yaya Toure for skill and athleticism.

Following on from above, the table below details my preferred 25 man squad for Manchester United next season:

GK

RB

LB

CB

1. David De Gea 4. Rafael 7. Patrice Evra 9. Jonny Evans
2. Anders Lindegaard 5. Chris Smalling 8. Aly Cissokho 10. Nemanja Vidic
3. Ben Amos 6. Phil Jones 11. Neven Subotic

RMF

CMF

DMF

LMF

12. Antonio Valencia 14. Tom Cleverley 18. Michael Carrick 21. Ashley Young
13. Nani 15. Paul Pogba 19. Darren Fletcher
16. Shinji Kagawa 20. Javi Martinez
17. Eden Hazard

FWD

22. Wayne Rooney

23. Danny Welbeck

24. Javier Hernandez

25. Fernando Llorente

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Aside – 10/05/2012

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