Between the Lines

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

Posts Tagged ‘Alex Ferguson’

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.

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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 »

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 »

Absence makes the heart grow fonder

Posted by hakanrylander on September 23, 2010

It’s tempting to try to read between the lines of Sir Alex Ferguson’s absence from last night’s Carling Cup game against Scunthorpe. On surface it’s unremarkable that Ferguson chose to travel to Valencia to watch our next CL opponents, and leave Mike Phelan in charge for the Scunthorpe game. But this is in fact unprecedented as it was the first match during nearly 24 years as United manager that he has missed for other than family reasons.

The logical conclusion is that this was not simply a trip to scout our next opponents. At the top of Ferguson’s plans for next summer must be to find a successor to Edwin van der Sar. As Valencia were playing Atletico Madrid it’s most likely that Sir Alex saw the opportunity to take a closer look at David De Gea, and that the young Spanisk keeper now probably heads Ferguson’s shopping list. De Gea would be an excellent signing, but I find it unlikely that he will leave Spain, even though the fact that he plays for Atletico might make a move to local rivals Real Madrid unlikely.

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

The Unofficial Summer Shopping List

Posted by hakanrylander on May 19, 2010

You don’t need to be an expert in neither football nor finance to read between the lines this morning. In “unrelated”(!?) developments the Glazers face an interest rate hike on the already costly PIK-loans, while Sir Alex claims that he’s happy with the balance of the squad and that there may be only one signing this summer. The rate hike increases the pressure on the Glazers to take even more money out of United to pay off the loans. This in turn means that the transfer budget for this summer will be even tighter than most of us anticipated. I expected Ferguson to make two important signings, but my summer shopping list has now been revised to include just one name.

Goalkeeper. There’s no question that we soon need a long-term replacement for Edwin van der Sar, but this won’t happen this summer and I think we’re allright for next season with VDS, Kuszczak and Amos. My only concern is that my prefered choice to replace VDS, Manuel Neuer, will move to Bayern Munich if we don’t snap him up this summer.

Defence. No desperate need for new signings even if I would love a world-class right-back (Lahm, Maicon) and some doubts remain about the fitness of Ferdinand and Vidic’s (wife’s) attitude to life in Manchester.

Midfield. Scholes and Giggs surely enter their last season and there are plenty of questionmarks over Hargreaves, Anderson and Carrick. This means that if money was available we should go for Jack Rodwell. I believe he will be a key player for England in the next decade. A perfect long-term signing, but if the owners only allow one new player it will have to be someone who will offer more immediate support for Rooney.

Attack. Ideally, the player we look for should be able to play alongside Rooney, just behind him as well as wide. And also be able to play up front when Rooney is missing. He also needs to be both goalscorer and playmaker, and be good enough to really make a difference, in short world-class. This, of course, limits the choice somewhat and takes us into a price-bracket where the Glazers might not be at all comfortable. I believe that the player who best fits this description, and might be available, is Sergio Aguero of Atletico Madrid. You have an opportunity to scout him in the Spanish Cup Final tonight.

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Nine Days That Shook the World

Posted by hakanrylander on April 9, 2010

I can’t remember when we last lost three straight games (two of them at Old Trafford), let alone three games as important as Bayern, Chelsea and Bayern. Suddenly we’re out of the CL and will find it very difficult to catch Chelsea in the PL with only five games remaining. It took only nine days for our season to disintegrate.

(Edit: As Morten has pointed out in his comment we did in fact beat Bayern 3-2 at Old Trafford. But somehow it felt like a defeat…)

As Sir Alex will no doubt tell you it’s not too difficult to find “external” reasons for a defeat; maybe the referee favoured the opposition or German’s behaved in a “typical” unsporting way. But after these three games we need to take a long hard look at possible weaknesses in our own team. United did in fact play some very good football, maybe their best this season, in both first halves against Bayern. But in the end they were still knocked out. I believe that a major reason was a lack of confidence.

This was most obvious against Bayern at Old Trafford. United were cruising 3-0 ahead when in a short space of time Rooney started limping, Bayern scored a soft goal and Rafael was sent off. These were bad blows, but not bad enough for the team to withdraw completetly into desperately defending the lead. Until then Bayern had found it very difficult to handle the pressing in midfield and in particular Nani and Valencia running at their full-backs. But United now more or less gave up any attacking ambitions thus making life much easier for Bayern’s weakest link Badstuber and freeing Lahm to get forward in support of Robben.

Compare this to Bayern who in both games showed a remarkable resilience and mental strength. In Munich they were second best for most of the game but kept going and managed to turn the game around towards the end. In Manchester they were outplayed for 40 minutes, but even at 3-0 down their heads didn’t drop and to my mind they had begun to change the pattern of the game even before Rafael was sent off.

This is exactly the kind of strength that has characterized great United teams in the past (the semi-final in Turin 1999 springs to mind). Possibly the team’s self-belief is now too dependent on Rooney. I think the team is strong enough to match Bayern even without Rooney, but somehow the players themselves didn’t really seem to think so.

Finally, a note to Sir Alex. The German players didn’t get Rafael sent off, he did that himself. It was a correct decision by the referee.

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

Glazers prepare to take huge amounts of cash out of United

Posted by hakanrylander on January 19, 2010

It seems that the Glazers are preparing to take even more cash out of United than I anticipated. At least they’ve made sure that the small print in the recently published bond prospectus makes this possible.

The amounts mentioned are quite staggering. According to the terms of the bond issue the owners are allowed to take £70m of the club’s cash reserves, a £25m dividend, half of the club’s consolidated net income (£23m last year), £6m for “administration and management services” and £3m for services provided by holding companies. This adds up to £127m.

This is in addition to the payments of interest that will amount to £45m. Probably a bit more since the rate on the bond is likely to be somewhat higher than 9%.

This could bring the total taken out of United to service the Glazers’ borrowings to £172m next year alone!

Even Sir Alex Ferguson might then feel that our clout in the transfer market has been slightly reduced.

Find out more in this excellent article by David Conn and Owen Gibson in the Guardian.

Posted in Financial, Manchester United | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »

Tick Tock, Tick Tock, Tick Tock

Posted by hakanrylander on January 15, 2010

The recent publication of the financial results for the year to 30 June 2009 and the roadshow promoting a £500m bond issue have again highlighted United’s long-term financial situation. Unfortunately this has made me more pessimistic than ever. It’s no longer a question of IF we’ll get serious sporting problems, but WHEN.

The huge debt of around £700m remains the heart of the problem. The interest payable was £42m in the last financial year and £69m in the previous one, and on top of that family members extracted £20m in loans and “consultancy fees”. In total the Glazer take-over has cost United £325m in interest. So far.

The bond issue document makes chilling reading as it reveals that the Glazers are considering sales of assets to reduce the debt. They explicitly refer to the Carrington training ground, but this strategy might very well be extended to include Old Trafford and Wayne Rooney.

It’s a mystery how Ferguson can believe that the financial situation has little or no influence on his ability to sign and retain the best players. The most likely explanation is that he feels that his best strategy is to try and stay good friends with the owners.

Most United fans seem to accept that there will be no new signings in January, but believe that the club is prepared to spend big in the summer. I´m not so sure. My prediction is that incoming transfers in the summer will not amount to much more than we will receive from the sales of Vidic, Nani and Tosic.

In conclusion, I just can’t see how we can continue to send huge amounts of money out of the club every season and still keep up with Chelsea and City, let alone Real Madrid and Barcelona. The weakening finances will sooner or later affect our competitiveness on the field, which will in turn affect our finances. Sooner or later. Tick tock.

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

The Debt Also Rises, II

Posted by hakanrylander on January 8, 2010

The start of a new decade calls for the long-term view. And whether you like it or not, long-term sporting success in today’s football depends more than anything on – money. Thus my pessimism.

United now owe something like £700m to banks and hedge funds. This in itself need not be too much of a problem. Normal companies often have huge debts without this being particularly alarming. But there’s a crucial difference. Normal companies have debts because they’ve borrowed money to invest in machinery, factories, real estate or whatever. And these investments bring, or are at least supposed to bring, revenues that help pay off the debt. Football clubs also do this. When Arsenal invested in a new stadium their debt rose significantly, but so did their gate receipts on every match day.

United’s debt, on the other hand, is virtually not investment related at all. It was taken on only to finance the Glazer take-over. In effect, the club is paying lots of money every year for the privilege of having new owners. In the year to 30 June 2008 the interest payable was £69m. Most of this money could otherwise have been spent on investments in players, ground improvements etc. Similar sums go to waste every season.

And by a complete coincidence a United manager, for the first time in living memory, finds no value for money in the transfer market. I believe the sad truth is that the board no longer supports Ferguson in the transfer market the way they used to when we signed Robson, Keane, Ferdinand and Rooney. Not a big problem in the short-term. I don’t see any desperate need for big signings in January. But in the long-term there’s no way we can keep up with Real Madrid, Chelsea or City without being prepared to pay big money for top players.

The only solution that I can see is that someone is prepared to pay enough money for the club so that the Glazers can leave with a healthy return on their investment. The sooner, the better.

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

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 »