Between the Lines

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

Conclusions from United 3 Spurs 0

Posted by hakanrylander on August 24, 2011

1. Phil Jones was supposed to be one for the future, but only two weeks into the new season he is already an Old Trafford hero. On his first PL start for United, at only 19 years of age, he already looked the de facto captain. Reminds me of a young John Terry, with the added bonus that Jones can play a bit. My MotM.

2. When Danny Welbeck scored the first goal he was transformed into a different player. For 60 minutes he hadn’t made much of an impression, but after the goal he was full of confidence, trying scissor-kicks and back-heels and wanting the ball all the time. Let’s hope he can carry that confidence with him for the rest of the season.

3. Ashley Young has taken to Manchester United like a duck to water.

4. Several more United players deserve individual praise, but more important was the movement and fluency of the passing game. This was better than I can remember from almost any game last season.

5. Amid all the praise for United, please remember that Spurs were below par. Especially in central midfield where they lacked both steel and creativity.



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

92 Grounds, 92 Pies, 1 Masterpiece

Posted by hakanrylander on August 19, 2011

It is a simple idea. During the 2008/2009 season Tom Dickinson watched a match at each of the 92 League grounds. This meant he travelled 3,000 miles and put “his relationship, health and sanity on the line”.  Even though the idea is simple it is not easy to turn it into a good read, but Mr Dickinson has managed this brilliantly.

Each chapter follows more or less the same template. The author wakes up (often hung-over), travels to the ground, finds a parking space, gets a ticket (often at a ridiculous price), has a quick look in the club shop, watches the game, chats with some fans and eats a pie. This is repeated 92 times. It sounds boring, but actually Mr Dickinson has written a highly entertaining book. He is witty, has a fine eye for detail and often manages to convey the atmosphere at different stadiums.

Obviously this is a book best enjoyed in small doses. I read a few chapters each day during my summer holiday and it certainly increased my longing for League One and League Two football (which hasn’t been particularly strong until now).

Highly recommended.

Tom Dickinson: 92 Pies (Blackline Press)

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Europe’s Top Midfielders and the Uses of a Lamp-post

Posted by hakanrylander on March 24, 2011

Most fans agree that United need a truly world-class attacking midfielder, who can consistently deliver the brilliant killer pass in the final third of the field. Someone like Sneijder, Ozil or (in our wildest dreams) Xavi or Iniesta.

Maybe we should start looking close to home. In our search for this missing piece in the jigsaw statistics might, as often, provide some surprising answers. When Opta lists the players who, on average, completed the highest number of successful passes in the final third of the pitch during the group stages of the Champions League this season the No 1 spot is held by Iniesta. No 2 is Xavi. No surprises so far. But in third place is – wait for it – Darron Gibson.

Un unsophisticated forecaster uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp-posts – for support rather than illumination.

Posted in Academic, Manchester United, Player Analysis | Tagged: , , , , | 5 Comments »

Who are you kidding, Malcolm?

Posted by hakanrylander on February 25, 2011

Manchester United is not for sale and the owners will not entertain any offers.”

This statement accompanied today’s release of the second-quarter financial results. All very official. But not true.

So far there hasn’t been even the slightest hint of an emotional connection between the Glazers and Manchester United. This means that an old business truth is still valid in this case; all assets are for sale at a price. It also means that today’s statement is nonsense.

The Entertainer?

For a take-over to happen will need an investor with deep pockets and an even more optimistic outlook than the Glazers on United’s future revenues. Which looks unlikely at this moment. But of course our esteemed owners are willing to do business at some level. The club might not be for sale at £1.5 billion. But if they received an offer of, say, £2.0 billion I can assure you that the owners would have a look at it. They might even entertain it.

Posted in Financial, Manchester United | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Arsenal begin to look a formidable obstacle

Posted by hakanrylander on February 21, 2011

Last week’s CL encounter between Arsenal and Barcelona was an absolute delight to watch for any neutral observer. It also confirmed that Arsenal in the last few months have developed into a more formidable obstacle to our domestic (and maybe even international) ambitions. There are three main reasons for this:

-Robin Van Persie is back to full form and fitness. That’s a big difference from last season.

-The squad is probably stronger than ever in depth, with players like Diaby, Rosicky, Arshavin and Chamakh not able to get into the first XI.

-And, most importantly, they seem to have acquired a steely quality that has often been missing. They kept going against Barcelona despite being played off the park in the first half, and came back to turn the game around.

We will face Arsenal in the FA-cup (if they overcome Leyton Orient) on Saturday 12 March and in the PL on Saturday 30 April. Two games that might define our season, and to really look forward to.

For in-depth analysis of Arsenal tactics and formations, look no further than Arsenal Column.

Posted in Manchester United, Previews | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

They saw that the stone was rolled away

Posted by hakanrylander on February 13, 2011

To compare Wayne Rooney’s goal against City with the resurrection of Christ is of course totally ridiculous. Still, it’s an indication of the quality of the finish and the ecstasy of moment that you even consider using such an analogy (helped by his stylish celebration).

It remains to be seen whether this really marks the return of Rooney as a world-class performer. I certainly hope so, but apart from the goal the signs yesterday were, in fact, not too encouraging. He played an important part in the build-up to the first goal and worked his socks off as usual, but this still wasn’t the Rooney of 12-18 months ago when there was great anticipation every time he got the ball.

I think City deserved a point, maybe even three.  For much of the game it seemed that United’s most effective plan was to just give the ball to Nani and hope that he would produce a moment of magic. Full credit to Nani who again confirmed his remarkable transformation from erratic fringe-player to lynchpin. 

A special mention also to Chris Smalling who has been eased in gradually by Ferguson. This was by far his most difficult game so far and he handled the pressure to perfection.

But this game will not be remembered for the accomplishments of Nani or Smalling, but for the moment when Rooney, for a few seconds, gave us all the feeling of rising above mortal constraints.

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

Add to Basket

Posted by hakanrylander on February 10, 2011

I knew that Christian Eriksen was a good player. But I didn’t realise that he was this good! Last night’s game between Denmark and England made me add another name to my Official Summer Shopping List. He impressed me in just about every department; control, composure, vision, set-piece delivery etc. In short, he was the best player on the pitch. And he doesn’t turn 19 until Monday.

Apart from Eriksen, my shopping list for the summer also includes Manuel Neuer and Jack Rodwell. All perfectly possible signings if the Glazers are indeed prepared to splash the cash. But come to think of it, I can’t remember that I’ve ever seen “Glazer” and “splash the cash” in the same sentence before…

Posted in Manchester United, Player Analysis, Transfer Gossip | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

I will not praise that purpose not to sell

Posted by hakanrylander on January 2, 2011

The potentially most interesting news of recent weeks is of course the rumour that Qatar Holdings plan a massive takeover bid of United. The Glazers keep insisting that the club is not for sale,but of course it would be if someone was prepared to pay over the odds. And the Qatar group is exactly the kind of buyer our esteemed owners are likely to be looking for.

Even so I don’t get too excited by a rumour that has all the hallmarks of having been invented at a Fleet Street desk (or the Middle East equivalent). It’s not too difficult to imagine that someone has tried to put two and two together. A: You need an awful lot of money to convince the Glazers to sell. B: Some guys from Abu Dhabi are pouring an awful lot of money into City. C: Their wealthy neighbors from Qatar show a lot of interest in football, e.g. Barcelona and the World Cup. D: A bid for United is imminent. Even a humble blogger could have come up with something like that. And the stories circulating don’t contain any quotes or other facts to make them more credible.

But there is one little piece in this jigsaw that keeps nagging me. Why has Sir Alex offered such a lot of support for Qatar’s World Cup bid? When he did so in January 2010 it could be interpreted as nothing more than normal courtesy when visiting the country, but he praised the bid again in November and I don’t see a lot of (if any) footballing reasons for doing so. Might there just possibly be a hidden agenda?

Posted in Financial, Manchester United | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

The Last Days of the Banks

Posted by hakanrylander on December 7, 2010

"Aux armes, citoyens!"

United legend Eric Cantona has today been named Honorary Chief Economist of Between the Lines. Not perhaps because of his brilliant insight into Economics, but simply because he is, as far as we know, the first United player to have forced  the Eurogroup of finance ministers as well as the European Union economic affairs commissioner to issue statements about his comments about the banking system.

Protest groups around the world are trying to coordinate a world-wide cash-point withdrawal today, December 7, the number of Cantona’s United shirt, following an interview where Cantona told the French paper Presse Ocean:

“What’s the system? The system revolves around banks. The system is built on the banks’ power. So it can be destroyed by the banks. Instead of having three million people going out to demonstrate with a placard, those three million people go to their bank branch, they withdraw their money and the banks crumble. You go to your bank in your village and you withdraw your money.”

This statement has stirred some of Europe’s top economic decision makers into action.

I find the operation you are referring to totally irresponsible,” said Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker.

European Union economic affairs commissioner Olli Rehn said he considered himself a Man United fan, but added: “I think Mr Cantona is a better footballer than he is an economist.”

I’m afraid Mr Rehn might have a point. Personally I don’t see too many benefits from a total collapse of the banking system.

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

Thank Heaven for the Glazers

Posted by hakanrylander on December 6, 2010

General Than Shwe

I certainly never thought I’d write this headline, but the severe misgivings I have about the Glazer regime were sort of put into perspective today by the Wikileaks revelation that Burma junta leader general Than Shwe has been considering a Manchester United buyout. The general was optimistic enough to believe that USD 1 billion would be enough to secure a takover, money that most people think would have been better spent relieving some of the problems of the victims of the cyclone Nargis that devastated Burma.  The mooted price tag was the same as the aid bill to cover the most urgent food, agriculture and housing for three years after the cyclone, as estimated by international agencies including the UN.

Full story in the Guardian.

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