Between the Lines

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

Archive for December, 2009

The Nutmeg that Changed the World

Posted by hakanrylander on December 18, 2009

Just a quick message to make sure that you don’t miss this article by Jonathan Wilson in today’s Guardian. A very interesting read about the tactical (r)evolution at Old Trafford during the last decade.

Posted in Manchester United | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

“He who smooths with the hammer spurs on him who strikes the anvil”

Posted by hakanrylander on December 16, 2009

The Guardian’s eminent The Knowledge today takes a look at the crucial question of which football teams appear in the Bible. No mention of United, I’m  afraid.

Posted in Non-United | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Awesome sign of squad strength

Posted by hakanrylander on December 16, 2009

Last night Ritchie de Laet was my MotM against Wolves. Please note that apparently he’s our No 6 right-back (behind Brown, Neville, O’Shea, Rafael and Fletcher) and No 9(!) in the centre-half pecking order (behind Ferdinand, Vidic, Brown, Evans, O’Shea, Neville, Carrick and Fletcher). We must have a pretty awesome strength in depth.


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

Match Report: Sir Alex Ferguson 1 Between the Lines 0

Posted by hakanrylander on December 9, 2009

Ahead of the game against Wolfsburg I tried to figure out the best way to line up considering the severe injury crisis among defenders. But I have to admit that 3-5-2 never even entered my mind. And I wasn’t of course anywhere near suggesting that we use a  very lop-sided 3-5-2, with one of the wing-backs, Park Ji-sung, running his socks off and joining both attack and defence to great effect, while the other, Nani,  had little impact going forward (apart from that cross to Owen) and in customary fashion didn’t track back. I’m still not sure why it worked, but it certainly did. Maybe there’s a reason why Fergie is manager of Manchester United and I’m not.

A lot of the credit must go to Park who, particularly in the first half, found an awful lot of space going forward, and still found the time to defend. Despite the contribution from Park and the Owen master-class my MotM was Paul Scholes who again showed the rare talent to make it seem as if he always had plenty of time on the ball. Several good touches from Welbeck as well.

In the first half I couldn’t see what all the hype surrounding Dzeko was about. In the second I could. But I’m afraid all the signs are that he’ll join Milan.

Posted in Manchester United, Match Reports | Tagged: , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Frank Lampard Jr 2.0

Posted by hakanrylander on December 8, 2009

After our successful visit to Upton Park I reminisced about Frank Lampard’s early days at West Ham. He was a good player, but to me he didn’t stand out among West Ham’s talented youngsters. Both Joe Cole and Michael Carrick looked better prospects. I thought Lampard would be a decent PL player, but I certainly didn’t expect him to develop into England’s most complete midfielder.

I sometimes found Lampard unspectacular, hitting simple sideways passes, but the closer he gets to the penalty area the more spectacular he becomes. And this is of course the reason I’ve been thinking about him this week. Until recently “unspectacular” and “decent” was how I regarded Darron Gibson. But his performances this season, emphasized by two good strikes against Spurs and a screamer against West Ham, makes me wonder if he might in fact be the next Frank Lampard.

At 22 it might be unfair to call Gibson a late developer, but he wasn’t a teenage sensation and keeps on improving in a very impressive way.  I interpret this as a sign that, like Lampard, he’s more willing and able than the average player to learn from coaching. His finishing is already on par with Lampard’s and Gibson is also a strong powerful player (though with Lampard some “analysts” mistake this for fat). Add a bit of Lampard’s crisp passing and tactical awareness and you might have a mainstay of our midfield for years to come.

At the moment he’s not very far off a starting role in central midfield. The headline implies a new and improved version of Lampard. This might be pushing it a bit, but it will be very interesting to follow Gibson’s progress during the next couple of seasons.

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

The Ljajic Deal: Penny Pinching or Smart Allocation of Resources?

Posted by hakanrylander on December 3, 2009

United today backed out of the agreement to sign 18-year-old Serbia Under-21 international Adem Ljajic, otherwise known as “Little Kaka”. The official explanation is that “having closely monitored his development over the past 12 months” the club has chosen not to pursue the transfer.

I have no first hand opinion on Ljajic’s development over the past 12 months and would welcome any input from Serbian readers. But the collapsed deal of course raises questions whether the Glazers have told Ferguson that there is little or no money to spend, and if this in turn indicates that the club and its owners are heading towards a financial crisis.

I do, however, believe that the main reason for opting out of the deal is that Ferguson has other major plans in the transfer market. Over the last few months it might have dawned on him that the he needs to sign a world-class goalscorer (Dzeko?) a goalkeeper (Neuer?) and, considering the different kind of question marks over Ferdinand and Vidic, a central defender (Rodwell?). This would add up to a very substantial outlay. In parallell the development of some of the youngsters already at the club might have made it seem less urgent to bring in another promising teenager (apart from Rodwell, that is…).

The Glazers, by all accounts, can pinch pennies with the best of them, but I don´t believe the Ljajic deal is an example of this. I think it looks more like a smart allocation of resources, having identified more pressing needs.

I hope Ljajic has a successful career ahead of him. But I will probably be disappointed if he does indeed become the next Kaka.

Posted in Financial, Manchester United, Transfer Gossip | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Larry White’s unexpected lookalike

Posted by hakanrylander on December 3, 2009

José Morais, assistant coach at Inter Milan, is dining at the “Il Gatto Nero” restaurant overlooking Lake Como. The restaurant owner, Fausto, brings a photo album to the table and shows snap-shots of famous guests.

“-Klinsmann, Matthaus, Rummenigge, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Britney Spears, Alanis Morisette, George Clooney, Avril Lavigne…

José points to a picture of Mourinho.

-Ah, Mister!

Fausto nods, turns the page and points to another picture.


José bends forward. He doesn’t recognize the old French central defender. Then Fausto corrects himself.

-No, no, no. I was wrong. That’s Cliff Richard.”

(From Swedish football magazine Offside.)

Cliff Richard?

Laurent Blanc?

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“England at last have a coherent model of play”

Posted by hakanrylander on December 2, 2009

Just one article for you to read today. Jonathan Wilson in the Guardian takes a long-term look at England’s lack of a natural left-winger and finds it might even be an advantage. He also explains how to get the best out of both Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney. In many ways the article is an Executive Summary of Wilson’s excellent book “Inverting the Pyramid.” Not to be missed.

Posted in Academic, Non-United | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »