Saturday, 31 January 2015

Man United outgun the Foxes.

Manchester United 3 Leicester City 1

The last time these two sides met it produced a match filled with goals, eight in total, an early entry for goal of the season, defensive mistakes, baffling referee decisions, two penalties, a red card and a win for Leicester City. What would today's match have install for everyone?

That match was back in September. It was, as van Gaal described it, his darkest moment as manager of Manchester United. Now Leicester are propping up the Premier League and the 5-3 defeat of United seems an age away for the blues, but for United the embarrassment is still fresh in the memory, therefore today was a perfect opportunity to put the record straight.

The last match at Old Trafford was the deflating defeat to Southampton followed by two away games, first came the scrappy win away at QPR then the depressing scoreless draw in the 4th round of the FA Cup at Cambridge. A positive response was needed by the team to lift the fans and themselves.

The main team news prior to the match was of a muscle injury to Michael Carrick, which is likely to sideline him for around four weeks. The United starting XI van Gaal put out comprised of: De Gea, Valencia, Jones, Rojo, Shaw, Blind, Januzaj, Rooney, Di Maria, van Persie and Falcao.

No place for Fellaini, Herrera and Mata who would all start on the bench presumably with one eye on the FA Cup replay coming up in mid week.

The players wore black armbands as a sign of respect for the Munich victims who will be remembered this coming Friday the 6th of February.

As the match got underway Robin van Persie started as brightly as the weather as he tried to latch onto a couple of through balls over the top. In the opening minutes it became obvious that Leicester were more than happy to sit back and let United have the majority of the ball and defend in numbers to limit the amount of chances the home side would have. It was a tactic that seemed to be working.

In the first twenty minutes only a tame effort from Di Maria from outside the box was all United had to show for their possession. Then van Persie had a chance following good work by Luke Shaw who crossed from the left but the Dutchman uncharacteristically totally miscued his shot.

Then in the 27th minute van Persie's persistence paid off when Blind hit a ball over the top of the defence which the striker did well to hit home first time to put United 1-0 up. A true case of 'Double Dutch'. The goal seemed to give the home side new found confidence which spurred them on to score again after five minutes.

Robin van Persie turned provider as he laid a delightful pass into Angel Di Maria who let loose a shot which Mark Schwarzer in goal could only parry into the path of an on rushing Falcao who got in-between two defenders to toe poke the ball home from close range. 2-0 ahead and cruising.

Once again Di Maria and Falcao linked up well as they searched for a third goal but unfortunately Di Maria's final ball to the Colombian was behind him and the move broke down.

A minute before half-time and United won a corner on the left which was taken by Rooney, yes that's right Rooney not Jones, as the ball came over Blind flicked it on with his head and the unfortunate Wes Morgan managed to put it in his own net.

The end of the first 45 minutes and United were in total control leading 3-0.

As the second half progressed United passed the ball around with ease as Leicester seemed to have given up any hope of getting back into the game. Adnan Januzaj was beginning to shine on the left as in one particular moment he went past ex-red Simpson as if he simply wasn't there.

Rojo was playing with a growing assurance and Daley Blind hardly put a foot wrong. Blind's anticipation of the play was outstanding and he was definitely having his best game in a red shirt.

David de Gea had had nothing to do until yet another mistake in a match from Phil Jones who after a poor back pass allowed Leicester striker Ulloa a run on goal. Thankfully the Spanish keeper was alert enough to get a hand to the ball just before the striker could do any damage.

Louis van Gaal showed his intentions on 70 minutes when he replaced van Persie for defender Paddy McNair, a clear sign that he wanted to sit on the 3-0 lead. Then Valencia made room for Mata and Wilson came on for the remaining ten minutes at the expense of goalscorer Falcao.

Then as United were coasting Leicester scored a consolation goal in the 80th minute when Wasilewski headed in at the far post from a Drinkwater cross. I'm certain van Gaal will be less than pleased with the lack of marking to allow the visitors their only goal from their only attempt on target.

United offered little in the way of chances with the only clear opportunity falling to the record signing Di Maria who did all the hard work to put himself in a great scoring position then inexplicable ballooned the ball way high.

It ended in a 3-1 run of the mill win for United and a valuable three points which moves them up into third place in the league.

Many positives can be taken from the match. For example the displays of Blind, Rojo, Di Maria and Falcao, and the two strikers scored a goal apiece. Having said that, I was a little disappointed that we didn't go for the kill in the second half to cement our total dominance of a poor visiting team.

The match was won in the first 45 minutes, but I would have liked United to have stepped up a gear and not let Leicester have any glimmer of hope. At times the reds were a little too complacent and against stronger sides we will be made to pay.

On a side note with Carrick out for the next month I wonder why van Gaal went with Januzaj and not Herrera in the midfield diamond formation. A role which I believe the Spaniard is better suited to more so than the Belgian youngster, who once again let the game go on around him without stamping any authority on the play.

The transfer window has been relatively quiet with more activity on the exit door than the entry. Long serving Scot Darren Fletcher looks set to complete a move to West Ham after giving his best years to United, Brazillian Anderson is likely to put an end to his misery with a move home to Internacional and Ben Amos has joined Bolton on a month loan. As regards players in, at the time of writing, only defender Sadiq El Fitouri has been signed from Salford City.

Even though Louis van Gaal stated in his press conference that no new players will be signed in this transfer window the rumours surrounding an offer for German international Mats Hummels still persist as do the reports still linking David de Gea with Real Madrid, the sooner we tie the keeper down to a new contract the better.

Next up is the FA Cup replay with the visit to Old Trafford of Cambridge United who fully deserve their moment in the spotlight, but that's all it should be, a moment. I fully expect United to knock them out convincingly and set out a marker that the side want to win the oldest cup competition. With the teams that are still involved, or more to the point not involved, the cup is United's best chance of silverware. Here's hoping the team and the manager feel the same.

Thanks for taking the time to read.

Miles Dunton.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Man United's Backroom Boys.

Louis van Gaal's coaching team.

So much is known about the pedigree of Man United's assistant manager Ryan Giggs, but not that much is known in England about the others who work under Louis van Gaal. Here I will try and shed some light on the men who have the ear of the Dutch maestro.

Albert Stuivenberg. Assistant coach.

Stuivenberg was born in Rotterdam, Holland in 1970 and played professional football for SC Telstar and HFC Haarlem. He was forced into premature retirement in 1989 due to torn cruciate ligaments. Following the forced ending to his playing career Albert moved into coaching with Feyenoord, where he spent the next 13 years.

His next coaching position after leaving Feyenoord in 2004 was at the Al Jazira Club of Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. His role was to head up their youth system. He spent two years coaching in the Middle East then he was offered a chance to return to the Netherlands to coach the national team under-17's. He twice led the youth team to victory in the UEFA European Under-17 Championship, in 2011 and 2012. This success lead to his promotion to manage the under-21s in 2013.

He joined United In July 2014 while Louis van Gaal was on World Cup duty in Brazil, and immediately set about working alongside Ryan Giggs in the coaching of the first team.

Frans Hoek. Goalkeeping coach.

Hoek was born in Hoorn, Holland in 1956. He started as an amateur goalkeeper at SV Always. He then played in goal at FC Volendam for more than a decade. In 1977 he achieved top flight football for the first time in the club's history.

However, two seasons later they were relegated. In 1983 they regained promotion for the second time only to go down yet again in 1985. That's when Frans decided to quit playing and consequently moved into coaching.

As a goalkeeping coach, he worked at the top football clubs in Europe including Ajax, Barcelona and Bayern Munich. He also helped out the Netherlands and Polish national teams.

Some of the keepers he has coached is an impressive list of number 1's who's who including former United favourite Edwin van der Sar, Stanley Menzo, VĂ­tor Baia, Pepe Reina, Robert Enke, Lukasz Fabiariski, Thomas Kraft, Michel Vorm and new Red Devil Victor Valdes.

He worked closely with Louis van Gaal when he became manager at Ajax in 1991, and then followed him onto Barcelona in 1997. In 2000 he helped van Gaal with the Netherlands national football team, but returned to Barcelona two years later.

Hoek became the Polish team coach for four years, which took in the 2006 World Cup Finals. In 2010 van Gaal came calling again, this time with a position to coach at Bayern Munich. At Bayern, Hoek had the duel role of goalkeeping and assistant coach.

When van Gaal left the Budesliga club to manage the Dutch national team for the second time it was only natural that Hoek went with him. Together they guided the Netherlands to the 2012 Euro Championships and of course the semi-finals of the 2014 World Cup.

Hoek again teamed up with van Gaal again at Manchester United in the summer of 2014, replacing Chris Woods as the club's chief goalkeeping coach.

Jos van Dijk. First-team fitness coach.

Jos van Dijk was born in Utrecht, Holland in 1957. (Not to be confused with Dutch player 1970's Jan van Dijk.)  He has worked very closely with Louis van Gaal since his days at AZ Alkmaar following him to work at Bayern Munich and the Netherlands national team.

Eventually he moved to Old Trafford replacing Tony Strudwick in 2014 as a training physiologist in the summer of 2014.

In his role at United, he uses his experience as a member of the technical staff to coordinate with the medical and sports science departments daily. His main responsibility is the monitoring and analysis of the players’ fitness based on training and statistical data. It's then up to van Dijk to pass all the information onto van Gaal in order for the manager to make decisions around training and individuals.

Marcel Bout. Chief opposition scout.

Bout was born in Haarlem, Holland, 1962.  Bout has worked at various clubs including  Feyenoord, FC Volendam, AZ Alkmaar, SC Telstar, FC Bayern Munich and the Netherlands national football as a coach and advisor.

Bout is another close cohort of Van Gaal's having worked alongside the Dutch coach during his spell with AZ Alkmaar, which yielded the 'Eredivisie' championship success in 2009.

He joined van Gaal at Bayern Munich the following year where he largely worked as a match analyst, scouting their future opponents.

When van Gaal left Bayern, Bout remained with the Bavarianas in the role of assistant manager under head coach Andries Jonker then Jupp Heynckes. He left Germany in 2012 to become an assistant coach, technical analyst and scout with the Netherlands national under-21 football team.

Bout joined Louis van Gaal at Manchester United in the summer of 2014, becoming the assistant coach specialising in opposition scouting.

Max Reckers. Performance analyst.

Reckers was born in Eindhoven, Holland and is the youngest of the staff. He is known by his manager and colleagues as the 'whizzkid' of the coaching team.

His role as United’s performance analyst involves collecting and analysing all the player data. Together with the latest technology Reckers is able to provide a minute level of detail on players’ performances during matches. That information is passed on to the coaches and to the players themselves, in a bid to ensure continuous improvement.

He worked at  AZ Alkmaar, Bayern, Ajax and the Netherlands. He is thought of very highly by van Gaal, who often refers to Reckers as 'like a son'.

There you have it the men most entrusted to Louis van Gaal's inner circle, the men that have been with him through most of his managerial career and most certainly understand what makes him tick.

Let's hope they can work their magic to return Manchester United to their rightful place as champions of England and Europe once again.

Thanks for reading.

Miles Dunton.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Man Utd's FA Cup bore draw.

Cambridge United 0 Manchester United 0

An FA Cup 4th round tie between two sides, one of which is struggling in their league to find any cohesion and rhythm and with no realistic chance of ending the season as champions, the other was Cambridge United.

There was a big question following the victory over QPR last week. Would Louis van Gaal succumb to the shouts of the fans and keep a back four or prove his stubbornness and start with his favourite 3-5-2 system?

Van Gaal admitted this week that he was 'twitching his ass' when watching his side play the 4-4-2 formation, I have the same feeling watching 3-5-2 with Evans, Jones and Smalling at the back.

All was revealed when the starting line-up was announced. A strong line up that consisted of De Gea, keeping his place in goal over new boy Valdes , Valencia, Jones, Rojo and Blind at the back. Carrick, Di Maria, Fellaini and Januzaj in midfield with Falcao and Wilson up front. So the majority of the fans got their way.

A first start for Adnan Januzaj since the beginning of November. There were no places for captain Rooney and Mata in the squad, most likely being rested. Robin van Persie, Shaw and Herrera all started on the bench.

The first half kicked off with the sides playing with a pink ball which gave the match a comedy feel, little did I know how unfunny the match would turn out to be. As expected United started the tie looking to take control. However, it was Cambridge who won the first corner quickly followed by a free-kick. In both set pieces the home side pushed their big players up into United's box, but on both occasions nobody could connect with the ball.

United's first chance came in the 10th minute with good link up play between Blind and Januzaj down the left with the keeper Dunn saving from Blind's effort. If Blind had crossed before shooting Falcao was in a superb position in the six yard area. From the resulting corner bafflement again as Phil Jones took responsibility as he had done against QPR, the result being a poor delivery. I really can't understand what that is all about.

As expected Cambridge went heavy into the challenges especially in the middle of the park but to a man United's players certainly didn't shirk away from any of them especially Marcos Rojo who was putting in a solid display at the back.

United were struggling to get any momentum going, this wasn't helped by the poor distribution from the back. The main culprit was Jones, who once again just didn't play with any quality. Januzaj had a tame effort from inside the box after good work from Valencia down the right. Fellaini picked up the first yellow card of the match for a needless challenge after 26 minutes.

On the half hour mark the home side almost took the lead from a corner as a header from Coulson was just inches over the bar. What a let off for United as the defenders were standing around watching the ball. LvG's bum must have been twitching uncontrollable. Cambridge player Donaldson looked very lively and was causing United a few headaches every time he had the ball at his feet.

Towards the end of the half Angel Di Maria managed a shot on target which the Keeper almost fumbled. That was it as regards chances.

The first half from United was extremely poor with a distinct lack of ideas across the pitch. Boring is not a word I would usually associate with the Red Devils, but that's exactly what the first half was.

James Wilson hardly touched the ball in the whole 45 minutes and once again Phil Jones didn't exactly fill anybody with confidence. Adnan Januzaj was once again flattering to deceive. The biggest problem was that Cambridge were well marshaled in defence and limited United to speculative shots from distance as well as nullifying the threat from midfield.

The second half got underway with no changes on both sides. Man United appeared after receiving an earful from van Gaal and you could tell as they started with a more positive look. They went on the attack with Januzaj at least starting to be more direct on the left by winning an early corner, which was once again taken by Jones, and once again came to nothing. I always believed when a player who was taking a corner raised his arms it meant the ball would be delivered deep into the danger area, obviously to Jones it means something completely different.

A couple of high balls into the Cambridge penalty area came to nothing as Falcao stood no chance in the aerial battles against the taller defenders. He did come very close to scoring when through on goal but his effort was well saved by Dunn.

Wilson's first and last impact on the match was to be shown a yellow card shortly before being replaced by Robin van Persie after 66 minutes. At the same time Herrera came on in place of Fellaini. Could Herrera repeat his heroics of the last round against Yeovil?

Van Persie almost had an immediate impact after he came on with a left footed effort flashing over the bar. Since the two substitutes came into the match United picked up a gear with Herrera linking up with Valencia on the right, but their crosses into the danger area were poor.

For the final 15 minutes ex-United player Luke Chadwick made an appearance for the home side. Would he be able to write a fairy tale ending by scoring the goal to send his old team out and his hometown club through?

Herrera was definitely the busiest of the United players. He combined well with Di Maria to prise open the home defence with a delightful one-two, but again the defenders were up to the task and cleared. When Januzaj finally crossed a decent ball into the danger area there were no white shirts in the box. Phil Jones headed clear from a dangerous Cambridge cross in the six yard box, another let off for the visitors.

Louis van Gaal's final change of the match came in the 85th minute with Luke Shaw coming on for Blind. Cambridge hero Dunn pulled of a double save from Januzaj and Di Maria as they tried their luck in the dying minutes. That was the last of the action as the match finished 0-0.

All credit to the home side for holding United to the draw, but I must admit this was probably the worst performance from the Red Devils this season and there have been a few. Cambridge fully deserved the draw and the money spinning replay at Old Trafford. They will earn an expected £1.5 million from the match. With that much revenue maybe their manager will allow his players to swap shirts with the United stars after the replay.

On the bright side United are still in the competition and should deal with Cambridge when they meet at Old Trafford. For me the problem is the style of play, or lack of it that is. I understand it was a difficult pitch and the size of the ground made the atmosphere more intense, but please with all the expensive talent on display United should have dispatched Cambridge with ease. No excuses.

Let's be honest this is not the first match where the team has underperformed and not been beaten. There are cracks appearing in the manager's philosophy that can't be papered over any more. Those cracks are the players and as the transfer window is nearing it's end something has to be done quickly. We nearly blew our only realistic chance of silverware at Abbey Road. Imagine four months of only playing for a top four finish.

Next up is the visit of Leicester City to Old Trafford in the Premier League. Time to dish out a little revenge after they defeated us 5-3 back in September. I'm hoping the team can put on a performance that will give me something positive to write home about.

Until then thanks for reading.

Miles Dunton.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

The diary of Louis van Gaal.

If Louis van Gaal wrote a weekly diary I would like to believe it would be something like the one below. I would like to apologise beforehand to all my Irish, Belgian, and London friends, Mrs. Van Gaal and people who speak Flemish.

Dear Diary,

My wife was very happy indeed this week because I had a very good time at work. We beat Queens Park Raisins in London. I had to change my system in the second half to 4-4-2. Do not understand why Evans does not comprehend my philosophy after six months, it's not as if he's Irish.

Somebody told me that the United fans were shouting Attack, attack, attack! and asking me to change the 3 at the back, but I didn't hear them because of the two Belgian boys behind me talking non stop. I don't know what language they were speaking but it wasn't Flemish or Dutch. That's why I put Fellaini on just to shut them up.

Of course my two changes won the match. I was a bit scared when Fellaini scored and he started to run towards my seat. I could not move as Giggs and Valdes had me trapped, thank god he went past me and straight into the arms of Adnan. Something very strange about those Belgians.

After the match I did a press interview and was surprised by how big my coffee cup was but not as surprised at the comment the QPR steward made that this would be the biggest thing we would win in the season. Ha ha! Funny man from London.

Talking of funny London men went to Harry Redknapp's office after the match, no wine of course only something that he called 'jellied eels and pickled eggs.' He said it was a delicacy of the Eastenders, my wife wouldn't have liked it as she now only watches Coronation Street.

Next up is a trip to the south again to play Cambridge University in the FA Cup. I very like the cup matches but I'm getting a little bit bored of Giggsy showing everyone the video of 'that goal' against Arsenal and telling us how romantic the cup was when he and Beckham were in it.

Sir Fergie told me to speak to an old player of his who played for both United and the University XI, a man called Dion in Dublin, but I declined as I really do not understand what the Irish say and as Paddy McNair will tell you, they don't understand me!

My wife is not happy the match is on Friday night as that is our Italian night out. I will make it up to her on Saturday by taking her to Rio's restaurant in Manchester. No need to book as I have told my players to sleep early that night.

Spoke to Ed this week about bringing more Dutch players into the squad to complete my revolution. However he told me to wait for the adidas euros then we can buy Messi and Bale. I explained to him that they were not Dutch and that I wanted Martins Indi and Strootman. He has promised to ask Mr. Adidas if they will change their mind. I also asked him to tell them to design an 'oranje' away shirt for next season. This would make it easier for my fellow Dutchmen to pass to each other. It should be no problem as Ed usually gets what he wants.


Sort of translated by Miles Dunton.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

The transformation of Fellaini.

His bush like hair is the same if not a little shorter, he still possesses the same lanky run with his elbows turning like the sails of a windmill. However, there is one distinct difference about Marouane Fellaini and that is the boy can actually play football.

Brought to United from Everton by David Moyes on transfer deadline day in 2013 for far too much money. He was paraded in front of the media, and from the start the Belgium midfielder did not look comfortable if anything a little sheepish in his new surroundings.

In his first season at Old Trafford, he played as if he wanted to be somewhere else, most likely back at Everton, where the demands on his talents were lower. He was probably happy when he was sidelined with a wrist injury as it kept him away from the critical eyes of the fans and media.

When Louis van Gaal marched into the hot seat at United it seemed that Fellaini's days were numbered. Poor form and low confidence combined with the departure of his ally Moyes, it was obvious to all that he would depart for pastures new.

But surprise, surprise that did not happen. Fast forward 6 months and here we have a completely new player at United. A midfielder whose all round game and team contribution has changed a thousand fold. Not only more tactically astute and aware of what's happening in the game, but also contributing with goals.

The biggest question has to be how did this transformation happen? The answer is clear, Louis van Gaal and his coaches must have taken Fellaini aside and informed him that he has a talent that they can use to maximum effect and a future in the new systems being implemented. How else can the change be explained?

Is it really that simple? Yes, because in the modern game the players are too spoilt and sometimes they just need to be told how good and needed they are. The arm around the shoulder philosophy does actually work. There is no other possible explanation to the new found confidence and performance levels in Fellaini's game.

His all round contribution has made it a little difficult for him to be left out of the side, and he seems to be higher up the pecking order than the likes of let's say, Ander Herrera. Also, his more artistic teammates seem to relish it when he's on the park as he does most of the leg work. He has more importantly won the respect of the faithful fans.

It said a lot about his new found self-belief when he scored the opener at Loftus Road on Saturday and immediately ran straight over to the bench to celebrate with his compatriot Adnan Januzaj. He explained that it was because they are best friends in the squad, but I'd like to think it had a deeper message. I believe Fellaini was displaying an empathy for Januzaj due to his lack of chances in the side and telling him 'If I can turn it around so can you.' I would like to think that was the real reason.

I have a simple message for Mr.van Gaal. Whatever you have said or done to Fellaini to produce a completely different player from last season could you please do the same with Evans, Jones and Smalling. That would be just great.

Thanks to all as always.

Miles Dunton.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

QPR downed by two subs.

Queens Park Rangers 0 v Manchester United 2

A week in politics is a long time and so it would seem in football, especially after a terrible home defeat as United had suffered last time out. How the players must have been wishing for this game to come round quickly so they could right their wrongs and put on a display worthy of Manchester United.

Today's opponents QPR have had an awful season so far and at the start of today's clash were sitting one place off the bottom of the league. It seemed to be the perfect opportunity for United to bounce back and reassure all that last week was a blip and nothing more. This they did but of course not the easy way.

Social media had been on fire following the Southampton defeat with the majority of United fans, myself included, calling for the abandonment of the 3-5-2 system. The main reason being that it was simply not working. The three defenders entrusted with the roles at the back Smalling, Jones and Evans, looked out of sorts and out of ideas.

To play that system you need better equipped players and it could be something for the future once van Gaal has all the talent he believes can put his 'philosophies' into fruition. In the meantime reverting to a 4-4-2 (midfield diamond) or even a 4-4-3 formation seemed to be what the fans were calling for. Also, many had the view that Rooney is a striker, so therefore his goal scoring abilities are wasted in midfield.

So what system would Louis van Gaal implement for the trip to Loftus Road. All was revealed when the team was announced. De Gea, Jones, Evans, Rojo, Valencia, Carrick, Mata, Blind, Rooney, Di Maria, Falcao. The manager was sticking with his preferred 3-5-2 after all. Everyone knows about his stubborn streak, so we shouldn't have been greatly surprised.

Falcao was given a chance to impress, after being left out of the squad last week, as Robin van Persie failed to shake off his ankle injury in time. He would be partnered up front by Di Maria with captain Rooney continuing his deployment in midfield. Marcos Rojo made a return to the side at the expense of Luke Shaw.

United started the first half brightly with the midfielders playing high up the pitch taking the match to the QPR defenders who seemed happy to let United come at them. Falcao seemed a little rusty with an early chance from a great ball from Mata, His initial strike was saved by Green, who then made a second save as Falcao followed up his own shot.

QPR came within a whisker after 18 minutes when Zamora lifted the ball over the net, quickly followed by a Jonny Evans mistake, again, which allowed Austin to release a shot that David de Gea was alert to and push to safety. How many times have I questioned the validity of Evans at the back in this formation, he simply is not good enough. This seemed to give the home side an extra impetus in attack.

After the 20th minute United tried to push forward. However due to a lack of creativity mixed with poor distribution QPR broke away themselves. Austin trying a dipping shot from way outside the area which required a superb one handed save from the ever reliable de Gea. Exactly the sort of effort that was needed at the other end.

United should have been awarded a clear penalty after Rooney was brought down by Barton. The only people who didn't see it were the only ones that mattered, referee Swarbrick and his assistant.

The first yellow card of the game was no surprise as Joey Barton was cautioned for a high challenge on United's Evans. This was followed by Mata being booked for a clumsy foul. These offences were seen by the ref.

United ended the first 45 minutes with a couple of corners. It was very strange to see defender Phil Jones take them out on the left, not so strange seeing them amount to nothing. Are we really to believe this has been practiced at Carrington on the training ground.

I've been scratching my head to recall the last time a United center back or for that matter any center back had taken not one but two corners.

Half time 0-0. Once again a poor showing from the Red Devils. In summary QPR would have gone in at the break ahead if it wasn't for David de Gea.

The second half got underway with both sides making changes. United bringing on Marouane Fellaini in place of Juan Mata. Presumably to add steel to the middle of the park.

The brilliant away fans were shouting 'Attack, attack, attack!' seemingly calling for a change in the formation.

The partnership of Falcao and Di Maria up front was starting to gel, no more so than when Angel Di Maria delivered a pinpoint cross, Falcao met it with his head but Rob Green pulled off a brilliant save to keep the scores level at 0-0.

On 57 minutes van Gaal had seen enough and dragged Evans off and threw James Wilson on. At which time United at last changed to a back four set up and immediately the team seemed to be more comfortable in their play. You could also hear a virtual gasp of relieve from millions of fans around the world as they took to the internet to express their delight.

Then on 58 minutes substitute Fellaini got the vital opener. Valencia stormed into the area from the right and crossed to Fellaini who took one touch then slammed the ball into the back of the net from the middle of the box giving Green no chance in goal. 1-0 United.

QPR, as the home side is expected to do, tried to pressure United after the goal. Marcos Rojo became the second United player to have his name put in the book after a needless challenge. One thing was noticeable though, United looked considerably more comfortable on the ball playing with a back four than a back three.

Good forward play from James Wilson on the right almost gifted a chance to Falcao but the ball was flicked away from the Colombian by a defender  just before the striker could add the finishing touch. Already, Wilson and Falcao were having more of an impact together than Falcao had had with Argentinian Di Maria.

Towards the end of the 90 minutes Rangers only managed less than half chances as United controlled the remainder of the game to assure that those all important three points were in the bank. There was still time for De Gea to make his usual last minute near post save. There was time for one last change for United as Ander Herrera came on for Di Maria.

Then James Wilson scored his first goal of the season when United broke in the 94th minute. Bearing down on the QPR penalty area with three against one Wilson had two players to his left but opted to strike as he entered the box. His first left footed strike was saved by the keeper, but he kept his head brilliantly to score with a right footed rebound. A young man showing others how to do it with style.

The game ended 2-0 to United. Overall deserved, but it could have been all so different in the first 45 minutes. Three valuable points and another clean sheet is definitely not to be scoffed at looking at the results of other teams around us.

This was definitely a game of two halves as United changed their formation from the terrible 3-5-2 of the first half to the match winning flat back four of the second. How much more comfortable the players looked after the switch. Sure, the home side could have and probably should have done more to force an equaliser, but the back four, without Evans, remained resolute until the end.

Rooney in midfield was as industrious as ever but is a total waste of a striker, he and Di Maria should have swapped their roles. Rooney's passing was very poor today and every time Di Maria received the ball with his back to goal nothing came of it as he is not accustomed to that position; however, Rooney is.

It's very frustrating to watch, how it is for them to play god only knows. I get the feeling that Rooney would have relished getting stuck into the Rangers defence today. This tactical positioning is really difficult to comprehend.

It was great to see Wilson break his duck this season especially in the confident style he did. In fact the way he kept his composure to follow up and score the rebound from his own fine initial strike showed what regular United followers have been used to seeing from him in the reserves.

Give the lad a chance and he will bury it. A few older players can learn a thing or two from this young man's ability to find the net.

Next up is the fourth round of the FA Cup with United to visit Cambridge United next Friday evening. As I have said before this would seem our best chance of silverware but also a chance to try new things. For examaple, how about giving David de Gea a well earned rest and let's see what Victor Valdes has to offer. In defence recall McNair and Blackett, give Herrera his place back in midfield after his Yeovil heroics and let Wilson continue up front.

There we have it a week that ended on a more positive note than it had started.

Thanks for taking the time to read my thoughts. Until next time.

Miles Dunton.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Man United's January buys.

The January transfer window is open and already Manchester United have made one new addition with the not so surprising news that Victor Valdes has agreed on an 18 month contract to be David de Gea's understudy!

I sincerely hope that is not the only business done by Mr.van Gaal this month as United have a desperate need for new defenders along with at least one quality midfielder.

With all the gossip flying around it got me thinking. Which players have United signed in this window in the past? Who turned out to be a shrewd bit of business? Who didn't fulfill their potential?

Let's take a look.

Lou Macari: 1973-1984 app: 400 goals: 97

The diminutive Scot arrived at Old Trafford in 1973 from Celtic for a fee of £200,000. Bought by manager and fellow Scot Tommy Docherty he became an instant hit, which continued throughout the seventies and into the eighties. He scored in his first game for United against West Ham United in a 2–2 draw.

Nearly signed for Bill Shankly's Liverpool but, fortunately, his head was turned United's way with a little help from Paddy Crerand.

Originally bought as a striker, Macari eventually found his niche in midfield. In a team that included Coppell, Pearson, Hill and Buchan, they soon brought United back into prominence after suffering relegation in 1974.

Doc's Army was a team famous for it's attacking play and kept the tradition of playing attractive football that the fans had been fed on from the Busby days.

He continued in an attacking midfield position under Dave Sexton and reached the FA Cup final in 1979 only to lose in the last minute to Arsenal. When Ron Atkinson took over from Sexton, Macari spent so long on the bench he gained the nickname of 'The Judge'. In 1984 Lou left United to enter the world of management.

Probably most famous for the shot that rebounded off Jimmy Greenhoff's chest before entering the Liverpool net to win the FA Cup for United in 1977. Still a fan's favourite with his honest no nonsense views on everything United.

Joe Jordan 1978-1981 app: 126  goals: 41

Nicknamed 'Jaws' due to his toothless grin, this hard man center forward terrorised defences up and down the country with his fearless style of play, never afraid to fight for the cause by sticking his head into places it had no right to be. This never-say-die attitude cemented him as a terrace favourite. With his big teammate from Leeds, defender Gordon McQueen, they gave United a fearsome look in both attack and defence.

Bought by then manager Dave Sexton from Leeds United for a fee of £350,000 which at the time was a new record for a deal between two British clubs.

Although trophyless during his time at United it wasn't for the lack of trying. He was in the side that lost to Arsenal in the 1979 FA Cup final. Not really at the club long enough to warrant a legend tag, but those who remember him playing will do so fondly.

Diego Forlan 2002-2004 app: 98 (61 sub) goals: 17

Bought to United at a cost of £6.9 million on 22 January 2002 he is probably the unluckiest striker to have worn the red of United as he took an absolute age to get off the mark. Made a total of 13 Premier League and five UEFA Champions League appearances in the 2001–02 season but did not score. His first United goal, a penalty, came against Maccabi Haifa on the 18th of Sept 2002.

In every match, the fans were willing him to score or for him to take every penalty. The Stretford End would have sucked his shots into the net if they could have.

Forlan earned immediate legendary status with a double in a victory at Anfield in December 2002. This was the match that the adoring Old Trafford faithful gave him his own terrace chant to do with the fact he comes from Uruguay and Scousers emotions. In the same season, he finished third in the goalscorers charts behind van Nistelrooy and Solskjaer.

Ironically when he left United to join Villarreal he smashed records with his goals.

Andy Cole 1995-2001 app: 275 goals: 121

Signed by Fergie from Newcastle United, where he had a goal conversion rate of 81%, in a deal of £7 million which included Keith Gillespie, valued £1 million, going the other way.

This proved to be excellent business for United as 'Cole the Goal' went on to head the fearsome attack alongside Dwight Yorke which culminated in the Treble of 1999.

Cole played up front in three partnerships of note Cantona, Sheringham and Yorke. Rumoured to not get on quite so well with Cantona and definitely not on speaking terms with Sheringham, it is his partnership with Yorke that produced Cole's best results. In the treble, season they amassed a total of 53 goals between them in all competitions.

The partnership with Yorke proved particularly potent in the UEFA Champions League. Who can forget how their goals dismantled Juventus in the semi-final 2nd leg in '99 on the way to the glorious final.

Now working as an ambassador for United.

Les Sealey 1990-1991/1993-1994 app: 56

Cheeky Cockney Les Sealey was given his big chance at United when Ferguson dropped No.1 keeper Jim Leighton from the 1990 FA Cup final replay against Crystal Palace.

His heroics in goal that evening against an overly aggressive Palace team turned him into a cult hero with all United fans. After the final, ever the true gentleman, Sealey offered his winners medal to Leighton but thankfully the FA intervened and awarded both players medals.

His cult status was to get even higher a year later when he kept goal in the 1991 European Cup Winners Cup final against Barcelona. United ran out 2-1 winners and it was his save from Koeman's free-kick that kept United ahead in the match.

Signed on loan from Luton Town he left United then returned in 1993 as the backup for Peter Schmeichel but only making a couple of appearances.

Les sadly passed away in 2001 of a heart attack at the young age of 43. A great character and underrated for his talent as a keeper.

Louis Saha 2004-2008 app: 124 goals: 42

Unfortunately, Saha's United career was blighted by injuries, but when he was fit he certainly knew how to score goals.

Saha was transferred to United for a fee of £12.4 million in 2004 having scored 15 goals so far that season for Fulham.

Got off to a great career at Old Trafford scoring seven goals in ten starts. The next season was the start of his injury woes especially to his knee then hamstring. He began partnering  Ruud van Nistelrooy and then the teenage Wayne Rooney.

In 2006, a fully fit Saha was among the goals again and was on a roll. However, the injury jinx returned. When he returned the last time United had a forward line including Rooney, Tevez and a certain Ronaldo. He played mainly from the bench and when called upon did his job. His United career ended when he was sold to Everton in 2008.

A quality striker and his love for United was plain to see, it was only the injuries that held him back.

Patrice Evra 2006-2014 app: 329 goals: 10

Brought to Man United from AS Monaco for a fee of £5.5 million. Evra took his time to settle at the club making his debut in a 3-1 defeat to Manchester City. So poor was his performance in that match Fergie took him off at half-time.

Fast forward eight years and the Frenchman left United having won almost everything in the game. The only trophy to elude him was the FA Cup.

Probably his greatest achievement was winning the double of Premier League and Champions League in 2008.

At left back Evra became an important cog in United's defence forming an understanding at the back with Ferdinand and Vidic. This was the rock that Fergie built his last great teams on. Evra had the honour of captaining United on many occasions and did so with a great gusto.

It was a sad day when he departed for Juventus as I'm sure he still had plenty of playing time in him and judging by our current defence his leadership and defensive awareness are being missed.

Nemanja Vidic 2006-2014 app: 300 goals: 21

Captured by United from Spartak Moscow for a bargain fee of £7 million at  the same time as Patrice Evra.

Vidic would go on to form a solid partnership with Rio Ferdinand in the middle of a defence that was comparable to the double act of Bruce and Pallister over a decade before.

Vidic was famous for his no-nonsense tough man approach to defending and was the perfect foil to Ferdinand's more stylish play. Along with Evra at full-back United enjoyed having a defense that they could build another great side upon. Fergie did just that by winning the double in 2008.

In his later years at the club, he was awarded the captaincy, which was a popular choice with the fans. Again, like Evra he was released to early and could surely have helped the club through the transition period of the last year and kept some much-needed stability.

Henrik Larsson 2007 Jan-March (loan) app: 13 goals: 3

Ferguson managed to bring the world class striker from Helsingborg on loan during their league's offseason. What an impact he had. Not so much for his goals but his persona.

He gave Old Trafford a buzz and would have been a perfect fit at United as a permanent signing, but he had already given his word that he would return to Sweden after the loan spell.

A couple of months after he left United the team went on to win the league and even though he hadn't played enough games he was awarded a winners medal. His time as a Red Devil was short but sweet.

Chris Smalling 2010-Present app: 136 goals: 6

The jury is still out on Smalling who joined United from Fulham in 2010 for an undisclosed fee. Fergie obviously saw something in a player who was playing non-league football for Maidstone United in 2008.

Maybe due to the change in management and systems over the last two seasons his performances have not been to the standard expected of himself or a Manchester United player. His place will come under threat should Louis van Gaal purchase a new central defender this month.

I'm sure he tries his best and I can't fault him for that; however, his best is not what we have been brought to expect at Old Trafford.

Juan Mata 2014-Present app: 34 goals: 11

Mata arrived in a helicopter last January from Chelsea for a fee which was then a club record of £37.1 million.

With the expectation of being the saviour of Man United and David Moyes, the season firmly rested on his shoulders. Sadly, it wasn't to be as United continued to struggle until the end of the campaign.

Under new manager Louis van Gaal, Mata has had ample opportunity to show why he was the fan's player of the season two years running at Chelsea. He has produced the man of the match performances and goals this season and I firmly believe Mata has a valuable part to play in the team.

Part of the new wave of Galacticos at Old Trafford alongside Di Maria, Herrera, Falcao, and Rojo. Together I'm sure they will eventually bring the flair back to the Theatre of Dreams.

There are the January buys from Manchester United's past. I hope you enjoyed looking back and let's see if the next purchases in this or future transfer windows go towards improving the team and become legends.

Thanks for taking the time to read.

Miles Dunton.