Between the Lines

"Of all unimportant subjects, football is the most important" – Pope John Paul II

“Compared with this IPO, Malcolm Glazer’s facial hair seems attractive”

Posted by hakanrylander on August 10, 2012

The Economist today published a brief analysis of the Manchester United IPO on the New York Stock Exchange. The gist is in the headline above.

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The mother of all pre-season friendlies

Posted by hakanrylander on August 10, 2012

A pre-season friendly is not very exciting. The best you can hope for is a glimpse of a new signing or a couple of youngsters knocking on the first-team door. But with United up against Barcelona I just had to be in the stands at Ullevi Stadium in Gothenburg, despite som financial and geographical inconvenience. It is, however, impossible to draw any well-founded conclusions from this kind of game. So, anyway:

1. Shinji Kagawa is our next star player and crowd favourite. He looks exactly the kind of player we, and Wayne Rooney, have been missing. Excellent control and passing. Only two minutes after coming on he was at the heart of probably our best move. Of all the warm-ups during the first half, his drew the loudest cheers from the crowd.

2. David De Gea has reached a new level of authority and confidence. On several occasions he told Rio Ferdinand where to position himself at goal-kicks. Kept a clean sheet as well. But please note that he was not subject to any aerial bombardment or crude physical challenges. It will be a different story in the PL.

3. The combo of Nani and Valencia make us vulnerable down our right. Barcelona made good use of that space.

4. The squad now give Ferguson several good options in all positions, except left-back and central midfield. This is a problem. It is also a golden opportunity for one player in particular. Step forward, Tom Cleverly.

 

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A brief note on Fabio’s principles

Posted by hakanrylander on February 9, 2012

Man of principle?

Fabo Capello yesterday resigned as England manager on a matter of principle. He couldn’t accept that the FA board demoted John Terry as England captain. Capello strongly believes that the manager should decide who is the captain. So why then did he sign a contract stipulating that it is up to the FA board to decide who is captain? Maybe it was the money.

 

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Nigel de Jong and central cohesive sources of stability

Posted by hakanrylander on February 6, 2012

It has been reported that Nigel de Jong has rejected a contract extension at Manchester City that would have given him a raise from £75,000 to £100,000 per week. Apparently de Jong and his agent believe he is worth more. A poor decision I would think. I can’t see any other club paying him more. De Jong is a decent player, but I certainly wouldn’t place him in the select group of players that are so central to their teams’ success that they are worthy of extraordinary salaries. But he set me thinking about which players in the PL at the moment really belong in this group.

In the case of United my list includes just two names; Wayne Rooney and Nemanja Vidic (out for the season). Nani is too inconsistent, Ferdinand somewhat past it and Jones not there yet (but he will be). In the other top-six clubs there are also two players in each team who stand out.

Arsenal: Van Persie, Wilshere (out for the season?)

Spurs: Modric, Bale

Chelsea: Terry, Essien (when back to full fitness)

Liverpool: Gerrard, Suarez

But there is one exception. I have to admit that I put four Manchester City players in this category: Hart, Kompany, Yaya and Silva. All of them have been consistent sources of skill and stability this season. So at least in this particular respect I give City an edge over their main rivals. Enough to win them the title?

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Pavane for a Departed Prince

Posted by hakanrylander on February 1, 2012

Yesterday brought an awful lot of good news. A comfortable win over Stoke City, including a Paul Scholes masterclass and a sensational Paul Pogba PL debut. Darron Gibson scoring a cracker to help Everton beat City. And us snatching a great(?) young defender from our noisy neighbours.

It was almost enough to make me forget Ravel Morrison. Almost.

Ravel is by all accounts one of the most talented footballers of his generation. Top journalist Henry Winter has described him as  “a wonderfully skilful youngster who could grace England’s midfield for years to come” and “better than Jack Wilshere“. Others have called him the new Paul Gascoigne or the new Paul Scholes.

But talent alone is never enough to reach the pinnacles of sport. The long and successful careers of Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes are certainly based on great talent, but also on dedication, discipline and hard work. Morrison apparently lacked in all three of these departments.

A move to London and a new environment might help, particularly if he can loose his gangster entourage. With some first team opportunities he might just rise quickly to star status at West Ham. I will certainly try to follow his progress (or lack of) at West Ham. Time will tell whether he will be remembered as an England great or a talent sadly gone to waste.

Good luck, Ravel.

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Answered prayers

Posted by hakanrylander on February 1, 2012

That’s central midfield sorted then.

OK, I realise that I’m in serious danger of getting overexcited, but Paul Pogba’s first 20 minutes of PL football were nothing short of sensational. In those 20 minutes he managed to convince me that he is (or at least soon will be) the box-to-box midfielder we are all longing for. Skillful, athletic, creative, confident.

His pass completion rate was 100%. This was partly because he played a lot of short safe passes to Scholes and Carrick, but he also tried some more adventurous, most notably a long perfectly weighted ball to Valencia. He almost scored as well. And played with a big smile on his face.

Bloody brilliant.

 

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Sir Alex should go Dutch in January

Posted by hakanrylander on January 1, 2012

Sir Alex Ferguson claims that there is no need for a panic-signing in January. He is just stating the obvious. Is there ever a need for a panic-signing? There is, however, a need for a sound long-term signing that will also alleviate our short-term problems. A top international player, not too expensive and available in January. This might sound a tall order, but I think such a solution exists.

The key is to look away from central midfield. I would love a world-class midfielder like Modric, Schweinsteiger or Sneijder, but such a player is unlikely to be available in January. Instead we should keep Phil Jones in midfield. With Carrick in great form and Anderson and Cleverly returning to fitness we should be sorted until the summer.

With Vidic out for the season and Rio playing every other match at the most, we need to give Chris Smalling a run in central defence. But using Smalling and Jones in central areas will leave us short of cover at right back, particularly as the twins are very injury prone. Thus we need to bring in a top right back. My suggestion is Gregory van der Wiel of Ajax who is also the established firtst choice for Holland, the third best national side in Europe. Ajax recently turned down an offer from Valencia believed to be £8m, but an offfer of, say, £15m would almost certainly be accepted. Van der Wiel’s attacking style would fit perfectly at Old Trafford.

Posted in Manchester United, Player Analysis, Transfer Gossip | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

A Star is Born

Posted by hakanrylander on October 26, 2011

I know this was only 20 minutes with the game already won against Aldershot Town who are fighting for survival in League Two. But in those twenty minutes the game changed from a satisfying but routine dismissal of Carling Cup fodder to an electrifying glimpse of the future. All because of the introduction of Ravel Morrison.

You have to wonder what the coaches told him before he came on. As he replaced Diouf I expected him to stick to the left side of midfield. Instead he roamed all over the pitch and was involved in virtually every attacking move, mainly from a central attacking midfield position. This was not a shy youngster finding his feet, but a star intent on running the show. My favourite moment was when he tried to convince Berbatov to step away from a free-kick on the edge of the penalty area.

Morrison strikes me as the kind of player who would benefit from playing alongside and against top class players, much like Rooney or Wilshere. Sir Alex, however, does not seem to plan a fast track for him to the first team. Possibly because his confidence/arrogance tends to get him into trouble off the field.

Unusually for a player who has featured so rarely in the first team, Morrison has a national cheer-leader in top journalist Henry Winter. Winter has praised Ravel on numerous ooccasions rating him as “better than Wilshere and Rodwell” and he’s at it again in The Telegraph this morning writing that Morrison “flowed across the ground all smooth, confident movement“. I suspect that Mr Winter has been right all along.

I would put him (Morrison) on the bench against Everton.

 

Posted in Manchester United, Match Reports, Player Analysis | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Always look on the bright side of life

Posted by hakanrylander on October 24, 2011

I have to admit that it’s not easy to see the bright side this particular Monday morning. But after a desperate search I’ve been able to find some positives. One of which might even be important.

Bryan and Avram

1. The Glazers were present at Old Trafford. Hopefully they were as shocked as the rest of us. The result is an indication that in the long run it makes a difference if you pour lots of money into a club or take lots of money out. If this became clearer to our esteemed owners, something good might actually come out of yesterday’s defeat. It’s conceivable that they could speed up efforts to reduce debt by listing the club on the Singapore Stock Exchange, or think twice before taking another £100 million or so out of the club.

2. Mark Clattenburg had an excellent game. Referees often get less credit then they deserve, especially when your own team has been heavily beaten. Full marks to Mr Clattenburg. I couldn’t spot a single serious mistake.

3. Coleen looked colourful at Wayne’s 26th birthday bash at Wings Chinese restaurant last night. City stars Gareth Barry and Joe Hart were also attending. Wayne looked less than cheerful.

4. Chelsea lost to QPR, which reminds me of this gem.

 

 

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Unbeaten start to the season, and the symptoms of liver disease

Posted by hakanrylander on September 26, 2011

Andy went to see the doctor. “I’m sure I’ve got liver disease.”

“You’d never know if you had liver disease”, said the doctor. “There’s no discomfort of any kind.”

“Exactly!”, said Andy. “Those are my precise symptoms.”

During the first few weeks of the season we have witnessed a wonderfully fluent attacking game, great new signings, the breakthrough of young stars and even The Second Coming of Duncan Edwards. Seven wins and two draws in all competitions. No discomfort of any kind (at least not after De Gea’s MotM performance against Stoke). Still, the long-term target is to overtake Barcelona, and therefore I worry about two things.

- We give the ball away too easily. This was most apparent against Chelsea, and we were a bit lucky that Chelsea failed to take advantage. A team like Barcelona would punish such mistakes ruthlessly.

- We find it difficult to cope with high pressing. Benfica managed to play this way for parts of the game against United earlier this month, and this immediately put us on the back foot. High pressing is the core element of Barcelona’s defensive system.

In the games we’ve played so far this season these weaknesses haven’t really mattered. But when we come up against Barcelona they will be fatal.

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