Red and Write – A Case for the Defence

The Pedro and Otamendi deals hit the Manchester United fanbase hard. After months of replying to the every tweet from the club account with desperate pleas for them to announce the signings of these two players, they have ended up at title rivals Chelsea and Manchester City respectively. The Argentine and Spaniard were seen as the answers to the team’s main issues: centre back and attack. In the past two years, Old Trafford has seen an evacuation of experienced defenders with Rio Ferdinand allowed to leave for free and Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra securing moves to Serie A clubs. In attack, this summer has seen the once talismanic figures of Robin van Persie and Radamel Falcao leave with little fuss whilst the club record signing Angel di Maria left for Paris in a less quiet fashion. At first glance it appears that there are gaps at both ends of the pitch that United must patch. However, this may not be the case.

Louis Van Gaal’s first season in charge was punctuated by defensive mishaps. The enduring images of the season will be the misguided attempt to introduce 3-5-2, the MK Dons humiliation in the league cup and that comeback by Leicester City at the King Power Stadium. The last of these seemed to have a huge effect on the Dutch manager’s attitude and from then on there was a new emphasis placed on physicality and defensive solidity. United then failed to keep a clean sheet in their next five games until Michael Carrick’s return to the team in November against Crystal Palace. This is where the case for United’s defence kicks in.

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Tabula Rasa

AT various times this season you were warned, warned by everyone who puts pen to paper in the name of Manchester United, that it would get worse before it gets better. Yesterday was the beginning of the end of the “getting worse” part. The first game under the stewardship of Ryan Giggs wasn’t the total transformation and complete rebirth that many had hoped for, that was too much to ask, but it showed enough.

There was enough made of the implied change in spirit, mood and dare I say it, direction, that the actual change was always going to be slower. Donkey David banished, the Class of ’92 come back to steer the ship and under the favourite son Ryan Giggs, the direction is always going to be seen as forward even if it isnt.

There’s a pic of Evra smiling, oh and David and he’s smiling too, there’s a picture of Robin Van Persie and, well betya by golly wow he’s smiling. Yes, we get it, everyone is happy, taking special note of the ones that gave clues to the unrest… smiles all round. Message understood. Everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet now, everyone is UNITED  y’know, just in case the subtlety is lost.

For most of the season it’s looked so utterly rudderless out there and there and for all the previous manager may have had an idea what to do it never really seemed that way, so something else, anything else would do.

Happier than the Pharrell song. Smiling. Get it?

Ryan and his team are in a win win situation. There are only a handful of games to play, it’s not possible to achieve much more than victories in all of them; even in that case the points at the end would still be the lowest since Noah were a lad or whenever the stats say, all sources say he isn’t being considered for the job full time so Ryan Giggs and every member of his staff can walk away with their status undiminished. Getting that job is “the proudest moment” and it’s one that will cost Giggs nothing and benefit him greatly.

It’s a tabula rasa, a blank slate, the questions are being asked and plans are being made, somewhere deep inside Old Trafford somebody in a suit is talking to someone in a foreign country about things we don’t know yet, polishing a compass that he holds in his sleeve… all of that will come in its own time.

For now, the change was swift and merciless, and on the face of it, it has worked, the closer inspection is for someone else’s eye. GTS

Doing A Fleetwood Mac

DAVID Moyes looked like a happy man on Saturday evening: United had just won so well he might. There was an important first, David Moyes won a league match with Manchester United and although that sounds small, it really wasn’t. Except to anyone else but him.

The knives were out and sharpened before Saturday night, as far back as the league fixtures annoucement. People are waiting for him to fail, they’d be happy with a stumble or two but they’d be practically orgasmic with failure. The fixtures in the opening weeks give the vultures a few chances for a stumble and paragraphs are probably already ready to be pasted in. Moyes gave a post match interview that acknowledged how important the win was but made light of the weight it could have carried. He was correct, he had won games of football with Everton and had to do the same thing with his new team, albeit more frequently now. He showed and has shown remarkable level headedness because if you listen to some it’s a wonder he gets out of bed to go to work. He replaced an institution and is never going to live up to those previous heights, it seems that for his sanity and his career, it’s best not to go near that legacy and instead do a Fleetwood Mac. Go your own way.

Yes we know it’s on a scale he knows nothing about but he has bitter European dissapoinrment, he has fostered great team spirit and he has managed in a city where the team across the city were on there local perch. Add to that the fact he can pull a good face on the sidelines and gives Geoff Shreeves a jokey stern talking to and he’s doing okay. He doesn’t need any more pressure, he’s doing well to act like there is none on him at all. The pressure he has is that which he always, he is surrounded by people who are steeped in the tradition of Manchester United, it is okay to leaver that to them and get on with his job.

As for Saturday, Swansea played well but not for the first time Robin Van Persie did enough to make the difference, his impact allowed the rest of the team the time and space to go on and get the job done. Danny Welbeck made a great start and his second goal was as delightful as any you will see this month. Part of me thinks David Moyes is on a hiding to nothing unless he wins every game in his first month by three clear goals or some similarly crushing margin. If United had beaten Swansea only by the two quick goals in the first half, people would have been saying well yeah but we weren’t convincing enough, in fact there will still be some this week who are of this opinion. It was three points, we move on and we go again.

Put eleven players on the pitch every time they are required, the challenge will take care of itself.

‘We have gained some confidence from this result, but  it’s only the first game. It is just the beginning.’

So says Pat Evra, so say all of us, GTS

Swansea City (away) W 4-1

Swansea City 1 – 4  Man United
Liberty Stadium.
Saturday, August 17th 2013

Swansea (4231): Vorm, Rangel, Chico, Williams, Davies, Britton, Canas, Dyer, Shelvey, Routledge, Michu.

Subs: Bony, Hernandez, Sung Yeung Ki.

GOALS: Bony 82

United (4411): De Gea, Jones, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Valencia, Cleverley, Carrick, Welbeck, Giggs, Van Persie.

Subs: Rooney, Anderson

GOALS: Van Persie 34, 72, Welbeck 36, 90

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