Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Mirror Mirror on the wall...

David Villa and Wayne Rooney should be a double act to fear, but the Theatre of Dreams is a one-man show.

Weekend press reports linked Manchester United with a massive £35 million bid for the Valencia hot-shot. If the story came to fruition, two of the sport’s deadliest hit men would be paired together.

With a chasing pack containing Real Madrid, Barcelona, Chelsea and Manchester City, the acquisition of the Spanish international will test the negotiating skills of chief executive David Gill. However, he shouldn’t waste his breath.

While undoubtedly amongst the greatest centre forwards in the game, the similarities between Rooney and Villa make the transfer superfluous. Even though the club is in the chase for domestic and European supremacy, squad improvements have been flagged up in different areas.

Villa’s reputation as one of the most ruthless centre forwards around demands respect. An outstanding record for Spain of 37 goals in 55 internationals has made him the apple of coach Vicente Del Bosque’s eye, while his midweek Europa League hat-trick saw him reach 22 strikes in 34 appearances for Valencia this campaign.

Crucially, this ratio has been claimed playing exactly the same role and style as Rooney. Whether in the more common 4-5-1 with David Silva, or 4-4-2 with Nikola Zigic, ‘El Guaje’ has used expressive technique and a goal-poacher's instinct to find space in the penalty area to bury any chance that has come his way.

The new and improved Rooney has thrived performing the same function. A new desire to float ominously in the area after casting off the shackles of Cristiano Ronaldo has been rewarded with 33 goals in all competitions, with none coming from outside the box.

Two ‘fox in the box’ players together leads to the hope of every chance created being snaffled away. Instead, the frustrating sight of two thoroughbreds banging heads appears.

Rather than buying an expensive replica of Rooney, the priority for the Scot should be to buy ready-made replacements for his old guard. Next term should be the last for legends Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Gary Neville.

The trio’s sterling service and advancing years demands top drawer acquisitions to fill in. With a medal collection containing the same volume of gold as the vault in the Bank of England, no premium can be placed on their successors.

In particular, the desire to bring in a natural left winger blessed with Giggs’ lightning pace and ability to hug the touchline is high on the agenda. With the purse-strings tightening at United, big money moves for Benfica’s Angel Di Maria or a wild-card approach for Bayern Munich’s Arjen Robben should take precedence.

The £80m resting in the club’s accounts after the sale of Ronaldo is burning a hole in the fantasy pockets of fans and left space for a new star name. No matter his spotless reputation, Villa is not the answer if United choose to flex their muscles in the summer market once again.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Talk of Revolution...

... is nonsense. Not since the heedy days of the Summer of '95 have we seen a mass clearout of the Man United locker room. The ripening of the alents that are Giggs, Scholes and Neville, as well as the form of young fringe players such as Anderson, Gibson, Possebon, Diouf etc has once again led some of the English tabloids to predict a mass overhaul. Replacing half the squad is no easy task, and once again the writer of said piece has obviously been playing a bit too much FM, and has produced names that only a City-esq billionaire could fathom.
The cost of acquiring players like Angel di Maria, Ribery, Cole( even on a free, his wage demands will no doubt be sky-high), Moutinho, Veloso,Hamsik, Jovetic,Defour, Luis Suarez, Benzema, Huntelaar, and the much mooted liverpudlian Rodwell, would no doubt be unattractive, given most of the aforementioned will appear and possibly shine this summer at the world cup.  Although the Glazers, Mr Gill and Sir Alex all maintain that there is money to spend, surely not over 100million.

More pressingly, is the small matter of  'inhouse youth development'. True, our Brazlian quartet have not seen as much game time as they would have liked, and the two midfielders, Anderson and Possebon have struggled to make the bench, let alone the starting XI for many months. All 4 have suffered from various injuries, lack of form and fitness and the pressure to perform at United coupled with a lack of game time is no doubt hindering their development. However, their continued presence in and around the squad gives United   ready made replacements for when Scholes retires, as does the presence of the da silvas for the inspirational Neville. Judging and developing players, especially strikers, is a job frought with danger. In the past ten years, we have seen a number of gifted players leave United's grounds after failing to gain the required match time and experience to really flourish at the very top level. Guiseppi Rossi and Diego Forlan left the club and became international class strikers, with the former establishing himself as the torchbearer to which a younger generation of italian internationals flock, the other now a twice La Liga top-scorer and reigning Golden Boot of Europe. Unfortunately for both parties, United are a club of such magnitude that the cyclical progression of the devlopment of players as they grow and mature cannot be adhered to, as the size and following of the club demand that they chase trophies left, right and centre.  Although Manucho is yet to excel in europe, he put in a good show at the recent ACON, and it would be churlish to say that he will not progress. The situation facing Sir Alex and his coaching staff come the summer, is what does he do with players like Diouf, Macheda, Welbeck and to a lesser extent King and Keane? No doubt he'd like to strengthen his "first team" forward stocks, but to what cost? Macheda has yet to make an appearance for United in the league, Welbeck has made half a dozen, and will make no more, Diouf has 5 appearance and 1 goal so far this season, while Joshua King made 1 appearance during the Carling Cup and made the trip to moscow in the champions league at the peak of our midseason injury crisis.

So does he keep them, and give them the odd 5-10 minutes at the end of a sown-up game (or in Macheda's case, when we are down and needing a goal) when resting Rooney or Berbatov, Owen or whoever else and predominantly play them in the reserves?
Or does he loan them out to other Premiership clubs, where they struggle to make an impact? (how much time did Simpson get at Newcastle last season? J.Simspon get at Wolves? Wilshere at Bolton? )
Or does he loan them out to a Championship club, like Tom Cleverley , and hope they show that they are a class and a half better than everyone else, then rejoin the first team squad having gained experience beating lesser opponents?
Or does he sell them for a quick buck, and leave their destiny in their own hands?? I fear the latter option, both for some our strike force, and the almost forgotten loanee, Zoran Tosic, whose FC Koln side are slowly stabilizing themselves after a winter slide down the table in the Bundesliga.

Last time i counted, United had over 35 proffesional footballers plus a few promising teens on the books. more than enough to have a strong tilt at 5 trophies next season.

PS:: Just to indulge the FM-player inside me; here's my own ManUnited wishlist. 
  • Phillip Lahm (RB-already making noise in Germany that he is unhappy with the ethos of FC Hollywood, and thinks that the team is heading nowhere, may be persuaded by the departure of Ribery to jump a sinking ship.)  Don't know why most defenders are cheaper than attackers, as really good defenders are rarer. i'm thinking something over 20mil to get Bayern to let him go, although that might decrease if he continues to sour his relationship with his employers. Although they may actually take his advice and convince him to stay.
  • Stefan Jovetic (Attacking mid/forward- will most probably leave Fiorentina, given his own good form and the most probable lack of European football on offer to him next season.Though may stay another season to attempt to return la'viola to european competition to avenge the injustice dealt by FC Hollywood's referee) Given the size of  his current employers, a bid of around 20mil would probably see him leave.
  • Marek Hamsik (attacking midfielder/winger- sure to have some sort of impact at the world cup with Slovakia, and is amongst their most creative players, and is sure to leave napoli for a bigger club if they do not make it into the Champions League.) Given the inflated nature of the market, nothing less than 30mil will prise him from Napoli.
  • Axel Witsel and Steven Defour. Both play central midfield, both are talented youngsters who could explode onto the scene if given the right guidance. Could be bought on the cheap as neither have WC commitments, and could put in a really good preseason if an early transfer goes though. Defour has successfully overcome that much publized broken leg, and probably still has that message from Sir Alex under his pillow..

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Vidic Madness

 Vidic to AC Milan  Resigned to loosing Vidic Denials fail to Convince

Articles like this one i found on the mirror football website really annoy me. We don't need Hunterlaar, we do need Berbatov, and Owen has a job to do this, and next year. Vidic is an integral part of the squad, and Sir Alex is no fool, he won't let him leave. Even when the player himself says he and his wife are happy, and have nothing to complain about in Manchester,the journalists don't drop the story, and the latest rumour, combining the "Hunterlaar to United" and "Vidic to warmer climate" might be a smoke and mirrors, like the Ronaldo saga last season, but this is ridiculous.

1) Why would Sir Alex really look to get rid of Nemanja Vidic, he is without doubt our number 1 "attacking defender".With Chris Smalling playing like a young version Rio Ferdinand, Johny Evans looks more likly to one day fill the SERBS boots.
No doubt Johny Evans has done an excellent job filling in, but at his age, he still requires someone to learn from, and letting Vidic go at such a critical stage of Evans' development would see him struggle to attain the heights that he could one day reach, and leave United without a serious longterm defensive option.

2) The more pressing concern is the average age of our defensive line and the length of time required by players to recover from injury.
Other than Patrice Evra and Ritchie de Laet, all of our defensive unit have had injuries over the past 5 months, and it has not been simply an age related problem,
James Chester, Rhys Brown, Rafael, Fabio, Cathcart and the more experienced
players are picking up more niggles and are consequently missing more games due to near constant injury threat.

With Red-Nev now 34, Rio 31, Brown 30, Vidic 28, O'Shea 28 and Evra 28, there is a very real problem that all our experienced defenders are getting closer to the "wrong side" of the big "3_0". And our young bunch, are exactly that, very young, Evans is the oldest of the group at 22, Smalling, Cathcart, Chester, Dudjeon, Gray, Brown and the younger Evans are all 20 or 21 and very inexperienced.

Loosing a player like Vidic, especially when Gary Neville is also expected to retire this May, is down-right daft, even if we go out and splash the cash on Gary Cahill, Simon Kjaer or Chiellini, we'd lack defensive cohesion, and selling him to a European giant would confirm most United fans worst fears, that United have become a selling club.