United v City: Match Preview

By Brayden May

Manchester United prepare to go head-to-head with arch-rivals Manchester City this weekend as they welcome them to Old Trafford.

Rival managers Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola are set to meet for the first time in England as the pair prepare their sides for the all-important clash.

Both teams enter the match in great form, having won all three of their opening Premier League games this far this season.

City currently sit in first place on the table, with United in third with only goal difference separating the pair heading into the weekend.

United are coming off a 1-0 win against Hull City, prior to the international break, with substitute Marcus Rashford scoring the winner in injury time after a well delivered cross from Wayne Rooney.

pep-guardiola-jose-mourinho.jpgThe visitors meanwhile got a 3-1 win at home last start, with winger Raheem Sterling maintaining his strong early season form with a brace.

Rashford got the winning goal last time out between the pair as he continued his fine start to his young Manchester United career, scoring the only goal of the game back in March, earlier this year.

In team news, summer signing Henrikh Mkhitaryan remains the only major doubt for the Red Devils having picked up an arm injury during the international break, which saw the Armenian international return to Carrington training complex early in order to begin his rehabilitation.

Doubts remain over the availability of Antonio Valencia who along with Marcos Rojo and Sergio Romero arrives back into Manchester just 24 hours before the clash with City.

Luke Shaw will feature despite being sent home from international duty with England after complaining of aches in his leg which he broke in a horrific incident last season.

For the visitors Sergio Aguero is set to serve the first game of his three-match can for elbowing West Ham defender Winston Reid, which saw the Argentinian charged with violent conduct.

Summer signing Ilkay Gundogan and Leroy Sane have resumed full training following injury and are a chance to make their debuts for their new club, with fullback Bacary Sagna also a possibility to return from injury.

City’s new shot stopper in Claudio Bravo may be thrusted into the heat of the derby with it being reported that Guardiola is set to hand the former Barcelona man his debut.

Heading into the 172nd edition of the Manchester Derby, United still have the wood over their neighbours having claimed 71 wins, to City’s 49 and a total of 51 draws coming between the pair.

Jose Mourinho will be hoping to improve his record against Guardiola with the Portuguese currently trailing 7-3 in 16 meetings between the pair.

Captain Wayne Rooney will be looking to continue his strong record in these matches having scored 11 goals in the fixture, the most of any active player.

Fans of both sides will be hoping that the match can live up to the expectations and the hype which has surrounded this fixture since the date was announced.

Old Trafford is sure to be bouncing, and that little bit of extra support should be enough to get United over the line.

Follow Brayden on http://www.twitter.com/braydenmay

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Hull City v MUFC Match Preview

By Brayden May

 
Manchester United travel to Hull this weekend to take on a Tigers outfit brimming with confidence following their unbeaten start to the season.

 
United and Hull both currently sit second and third respectively, with only goal difference currently separating the pair.

 
The visitors head into the game at the KCOM stadium having claimed a 2-0 win at home thanks to a brace from summer signing Zlatan Ibrahimović.

Hull meanwhile, will be hoping to continue their strong early season form having claimed a first up win against champions Leicester before defeating Swansea 2-0 last weekend.

 
The match will be the first meeting between the pair since May 2015, when the Red Devils were held to a 0-0 draw away from home.
In his press conference on Friday, Jose Mourinho said “We’re not looking to other teams, we’re looking at how we perform and how much we are improving. That’s the important thing.”

 
There will be a familiar face in the Hull City dugout, with former Reds’ number two Mike Phelan the current caretaker coach of the club.
Mourinho was full of praise for Phelan during his address to the media, pushing for the 53-year-old to be handed the job on a full-time basis.

 
“I hope he gets the job, but loses the match! It is not fair to make a decision on the manager because he loses or wins a match. I think the reality is that he was one of the most successful assistant managers in the country with invaluable experience,” he said.

 
Phelan knows exactly the size of the task come Saturday afternoon (London Time), “It’s another tough Premier League test for us on Saturday. It will be hard, but the players are relishing the challenge,” he told the media during his press conference.

 
In team news the Red Devils will have a full strength squad to select from with Jesse Lingard a chance to make his first Premier League appearance of the season.

 
Meanwhile the home side will still remain understrength although Harry Maguire is once again available for selection after recovering from an ankle injury.

 
The meeting will mark the ninth team that the pair have come together in the Premier League era with United having won seven, with the Tigers having failed to win a game against the Red Devils in the Premier League.

 
If Hull are able to claim their first ever win against United, they will become the first promoted team since Bolton Wanderers in the 2001/02 season to win their first three games of the season.
Captain Wayne Rooney enjoys a good goal scoring record against the Tigers having scored seven goals in five games against this weekend’s opposition.

 
If Zlatan Ibrahimović can get on the score line, he will become the first Red Devils’ player to score in their first four competitive games for the club since 1925.

 
It is sure to be another exciting clash in the Premier League, but United should be quietly confident of taking all three points this weekend.

Follow Brayden on http://www.twitter.com/braydenmay

Let The Mourinho Reign Begin

By Adam Joseph

No more talk, no more impatiently waiting, no more predictions or weekends without competitive football. Manchester United’s new era under José Mourinho begins today as the Red Devils head to Wembley to take on the Premier League Champions, Leicester City.

The Portuguese boss has his squad fully fit and available for the season opener (Paul Pogba aside), with a disrupted preseason not providing the ideal platform for his new charges to take into their first big test together under Mourinho’s direction.

There is a buzz returning to the club. A fear of their power, their financial muscle and reach in the market, as well as a squad that has slowly started to shore up the weaknesses that have crippled it through the past three seasons.

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Eric Bailly the first signing of the summer may make his official debut, and has impressed so far. The club are still hunting for an experienced defender (such as Ezequiel Garay or Jose Fonte), so it might be the Ivorian debutant partnering the returning Chris Smalling in the middle of defence.

Antonio Valencia has had a strong start to the campaign (with three assists against Galatasaray in particular) and may gain the berth at right back, though Matteo Darmian remains a possible starter. Luke Shaw is a certainty at left back.

Midfield choices will be interesting, and it is somewhat hard to decipher who will be picked as the club’s starting midfield axis. It’ll be a key focus early in the season, with another “very good” midfielder (who could that be!?) set to join the squad in the coming days.

Morgan Schneiderlin and Ander Herrera in particular have a chance to cement claims as important first team players early in the season when competition for places will be fierce but available.

Wayne Rooney will almost certainly Captain the side and will start the game from the number ten role, with the talismanic presence of Ibrahimović likely to lead the line. Anthony Martial and the brilliant Armenian Henrikh Mkhitaryan are likely to flank the pair of forwards, as Mourinho’s brilliant recruits all look set to get their chance to make their first competitive starts.

The team’s tactical set up is no guarantee, though Mourinho’s pattern tactically hasn’t wavered too much over the years. The versatility given to the new squad with the range of options in the front line can make them unpredictable however, and give them the options to game plan for the Champion Foxes.

Leicester may have lost their most important player in N’Golo Kante to Chelsea, but still possess their most potent attacking weapons in Riyad Mahrez (at least for now) and somewhat controversial hitman Jamie Vardy.

United's previous Charity Shield outing
United’s previous Charity Shield outing

The Foxes needed to add depth to a team that was top heavy, with an impressive range of recruits brought in this summer by the club’s clever and in-depth scouting department. Polish attacking midfielder Bartosz Kapustka joined this week after making a stunning impression at the European Championships, though he likely won’t be ready to start quite yet.

Ron-Robert Zieler (a former United youth player) has signed up as Kasper Schmeichel’s understudy and competition, as Schmeichel also inked a new five year deal with the club this week. Luis Hernandez was signed on a free transfer from Sporting Gijon alongside young Spanish striker Raul Uche Rubio from Rayo Vallecano.

Big money was spent elsewhere though, as Nampalys Mendy was signed from Nice in Ligue 1, and will be an excellent replacement for the departed Kante. Ahmed Musa made an instant impression after joining from CSKA Moscow, netting two high quality goals against European heavyweights Barcelona last week.

It can be argued that despite the loss of one of Europe’s best all-action midfielders in the last year, the Foxes have improved their team overall. Barring the loss of any stars before the end of the transfer window, they should be able to show last season was no fluke.

Champions League football will complicate that challenge, though this is why the club have worked hard to consolidate the squad’s depth in the summer. It makes the Community Shield somewhat of a giant unknown for both teams, and perhaps that will create more excitement around a fixture that has somewhat lost it’s spark in recent times.

Fans of both clubs will be excited though, as mixed preseasons mean no team really knows what to expect come kickoff. Does the Mourinho era start with a victory?

Prediction:

Manchester United 2 – 1 Leicester City

Adam Joseph is a freelance writer from Australia. Manchester United fan from back when they were the only team on Australian TV and it was love at first sight. Manchester United, Oklahoma City Thunder, New England Patriots and Carlton Blues fanatic. If it’s sport related, I’ll talk about it.

Follow him on twitter @AdamJosephSport

Goodbye & Good Luck, Giggsy

By Adam Joseph

Twenty nine years. Some people reading this aren’t that old. That is the tenure of Ryan Giggs at Manchester United. Greater even than Sir Alex Ferguson’s twenty six years, the Welshman has played the most games of any Manchester United player with a whopping 963 games. As of this week though, his United career is over.

The former left midfielder announced this week he would seek a new adventure after two failed stints as part of David Moyes and Louis Van Gaal’s disastrous regimes. It tainted his final years at the club, as he suffered from strained relations with the managers he worked under (or in Moyes’ case, played under as well).

There were rumours of sneaky behaviour behind the scenes, with Giggs angling for the manager’s job. This may have contributed to his departure, as the latter days of Van Gaal’s stay at Old Trafford became a wrestle for not only the Dutchman’s sacking, but whether Giggs would be the man to replace him.

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Sections of fans had labelled him a snake, whilst others still saw the flying left winger who had dominated the wide midfield berth for essentially two decades. It was damaging his legacy in some areas and the time had come to find a new challenge.

Many hoped that he could follow the lead of Pep Guardiola and Zinedine Zidane, but after three years of embarrassment the club could not take a risk on an unproven manager with literally no management experience. Guardiola and Zidane had stints with their club’s reserve squads in Liga Segunda, so they are really the exception to the rule not the rule itself.

Now Giggs has to ponder his next move, as the job he wanted was never going to be his. With Jose Mourinho’s arrival, it was continue to bide his time but it seems his pride could stand that no longer. On all levels though and his statement reiterated this, it was time for Giggs to venture out and prove himself elsewhere.

This is also better for the club he has so faithfully served since the age of fourteen. Look at the list of managers who’ve retired after playing under Sir Alex Ferguson: Paul Ince, Steve Bruce, Mark Hughes, Bryan Robson, Gary Neville, Roy Keane and more. Apart from Laurent Blanc (a European, perhaps the exception), none has truly succeeded in management. This is hard to ignore if you are Manchester United.

Playing success is no guarantee of success in management, and this is perhaps a lesson to be learned for those who wanted Giggs to be the next Red Devils manager.

Does an International role interest the Welshman? The England role is probably out of his reach and Chris Coleman’s flying as the Welsh boss so unless he’s branching out to something unexpected that can essentially be ruled out.

So now it is a club role that beckons more than likely. He has been linked in the recent past to roles at Derby County and Nottingham Forest, and perhaps that is the sort of level that will be a good starting point. Part of his statement seemed to indicate that would happen:


“However, the time feels right and, although I have no immediate plans to step into management, it is where I want to be.”

Giggs is a very smart man, and he will wait for the right opportunity. He served the club valiantly as a player, and hopefully the tutelage provided by Ferguson and Van Gaal (both of whom he thanked in his statement) will serve him well in both tactics and experience going forward.

Whether he returns remains to be seen, but it’s a new era for both the former playing legend and the club he represented so valiantly for twenty nine years.

Good luck, Ryan.

Adam Joseph is a freelance writer from Australia. Manchester United fan from back when they were the only team on Australian TV and it was love at first sight. Manchester United, Oklahoma City Thunder, New England Patriots and Carlton Blues fanatic. If it’s sport related, I’ll talk about it.

Follow him on twitter @AdamJosephSport

Manchester United at Copa America

By Brayden May

This year’s tournament saw Manchester United represented by three players who were hoping to become the fourth player from United to have lifted the trophy.

Marcos Rojo and Sergio Romero were part of the Argentina squad which reached the final for the second successive tournament before suffering defeat yet again through a penalty shootout to Chile.

Antonio Valencia was part of the Ecuador squad which suffered a quarter-finals exit t the hands of host the United States.

So how did each of these player’s fare at the tournament?

EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY - JUNE 26: Marcos Rojo of Argentina leaves the field after receiving a red card during the championship match between Argentina and Chile at MetLife Stadium as part of Copa America Centenario US 2016 on June 26, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey, US. (Photo by Omar Vega/LatinContent/Getty Images)
EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY – JUNE 26: Marcos Rojo of Argentina leaves the field after receiving a red card during the championship match between Argentina and Chile at MetLife Stadium as part of Copa America Centenario US 2016 on June 26, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey, US. (Photo by Omar Vega/LatinContent/Getty Images)

Marcos Rojo (Argentina)

The United left back featured in all but one of the runner’s up matches as he finished his tournament with two assists, a reflection of the threat he carries going forward in the wide areas.

Once he made an appearance in the starting line-up, Rojo very much made the starting fullback position his own for the rest of the tournament.

The 27-year-old’s tournament ended on very much a low however as he was sent off in the final.

Sergio Romero (Argentina)

He may be United’s number two at club level but he is very much the first choice for Argentina, starting all six of their matches in between the sticks on route to the final.

Romero held a strong defensive record during the tournament as his side conceded only twice throughout their six matches.

The 29-year-old very much had the hopes of the nation on his shoulders as the final went to penalty shootouts and unfortunately the shot stopper was ultimately unable to lead his side to victory.

Antonio Valencia (Ecuador)

The versatile United winger enjoyed a solid tournament for his country finishing with a single goal and assist from their four games.

His tournament ended on a low as he was sent off in their 2-1 loss to the United States at the quarter-final stage.

@braydenmay

Might It Be Mkhitaryan In Manchester?

By Adam Joseph

Henrikh Mkhitaryan might never be trending higher than he is right now. The Armenian International and Borussia Dortmund number 10 has become the most in demand name in football not named Paul Pogba. The most exciting part about that? It’s looking as if it could be in Manchester.

That’s the red side of Manchester of course, if you believe Di Marzio’s latest reports:

Mkhitartan-Manchester-United

It seems as if after a couple of weeks of pandering about fees, Dortmund will meet United halfway and settle for a fee in the range of €38 million, granting him a move he has pleaded for through his agent since the beginning of the summer.

Whilst nothing is set in stone and it is not official yet, Manchester United fans are googling their potential new man furiously in an attempt to wrap their heads around their new signing by the time he arrives.

Despite loving football, it is not always possible to follow multiple leagues. United fans are Premier League die hards, and the majority of them watch United play, other Premier League fixtures or European Football, depending whose on the television at the time.

The reality is that it can be very difficult to watch foreign leagues. Domestically they play at similar times to your own team, and not many people apart from the most obsessed fans has time to watch teams outside of their own. Sure FIFA and Football Manager can help fans learn names, but truly learning about the Mkhitaryan types can be hard.

Dortmund’s incredible rise under Jürgen Klopp has been something to watch over the years, and even modest fans have found it hard not to notice. For quite a few football fans the German side has become someone for everyone to keep an eye on. They have exciting players, they play fun attacking football and their home games are a sight to behold.

The Armenian might be the perfect embodiment of this style. His versatility is impressive, with the ability to play any position in midfield. His biggest weakness in those is defensive midfield, but United’s options there means he wouldn’t ever be required to be deployed in such a deep role.

More ideally his best performances have been wide, particularly on the right side. Best part about that? That’s a dire need in Manchester, where the right side of midfield has been a problem area of production the last few years. Luckily, Dortmund’s flexible attacker brings that in bunches:

This is why those who know the player are so exciting and are tantalised at the prospect of him joining the club. A player of Mkhitaryan’s quality at the reported price in today’s transfer market? That is a steal.

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The benefit of him being able to play wide is that he won’t cut into the space behind Anthony Martial or Marcus Rashford up front. Additionally, if Zlatan Ibrahimovic joins his space won’t be occupied either, as he has tended to drop deeper as he has gotten older. Then of course there is the Wayne Rooney factor, who will no doubt be somewhere within midfield or attack.

Looking at Mkhitaryan’s raw production alone, it’s easy to see what makes him such an attractive prospect, particularly to new boss Jose Mourinho who seriously needs to add to the attacking stocks of Manchester United, per WhoScored.com:

  • 50 Appearances, 21 Goals, 20 Assists, 13 Man of the Match Awards, 7.87 Rating
  • 2.8 Shots Per Game, 2.6 Key Passes Per Game
  • 1.9 Tackles Per Game, 1.5 Interceptions Per Game

The Armenian is an elegant, modern attacker with an equally good eye for a pass or goal. He’s a brilliant combination of speed and technique, and will fit seamlessly into Mourinho’s plans and into the hearts of the Old Trafford faithful.

Fans may know know him well, that may not know him at all but they will soon. It might be time to start learning his name, as fans will likely want Mkhitaryan on the back of their Manchester United shirts very soon.

Adam Joseph is a freelance writer from Australia. Manchester United fan from back when they were the only team on Australian TV and it was love at first sight. Manchester United, Oklahoma City Thunder, New England Patriots and Carlton Blues fanatic. If it’s sport related, I’ll talk about it.

Follow him on twitter @AdamJosephSport

England’s National Shame

By Mark Payne

As has been noted recently, English fans look back on Euro 96 with a sepia-tinted nostalgia that bears only a passing resemblance to events which took place on football fields that summer. Just two days into this European Championships and the English fans have already shamed the country on the international stage. This is an all too familiar story for some of us.

As England were hosts to Euro 96, their lead up campaign consisted of a series of meaningless friendlies against half-baked opponents. One of these was against Switzerland in 1995 at the Old Wembley. The match finished 1-1, England’s goal scored by Steve Stone, and I was in attendance.

As a keen match-going teenager at that time, I had been to many grounds with United, including Stamford Bridge and Upton Park, but the atmosphere at Wembley that day stood out as particularly bad. There was racism and there was unnecessary aggression that, frankly, is not commonplace at Old Trafford.

And it was a meaningless friendly.

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The following summer I was caught up in the atmosphere of the tournament as everyone else was. I even attended the semi-final where hearts were broken. But my decision had been made. It was United for me and England, as a football team, were always an afterthought.

Events this weekend in Marseille have been deeply depressing. Proceedings and reports strongly suggest that the Russian fans were the aggressors but it would surprise me greatly in the English fans were 100% innocent. My apologies to anyone that offends.

The timing of this could not be worse. With the Brexit vote looming and tensions around immigration and violence in France particularly high, this is almost the worst possible moment for people to behave like idiots.

It should also be mentioned that Marseille is not really the place to be throwing punches. That is a tough old town, which has been dealing with cocky visitors from afar for a millennia or two. When people complain about the aggressions of the local police it is hard to sympathise.

It is notable that England haven’t won a major tournament for fifty years when you consider their footballing pedigree. When you look at how the supporters behave though, it is fair to say that we, as a nation, probably don’t deserve it either.

When it comes to the how best to enjoy the game we invented, the English are the losers every time. A glance at the conduct of Spanish and Brazilian fans is eye opening. The can party without things descending into mindless parochial violence.

Perhaps the combination of England, Russia and Marseille was a little too pugnacious from the outset. A bit like putting Mike Tyson and a swarm of bees in a vipers’ nest. Nonetheless, this has happened far too many times now.

It is our national shame. Still.

Mark is the author of Fergie’s Last Stand, just £4 this June

Follow him on www.twitter.com/markjpayne