Between the Lines

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

Posts Tagged ‘Wayne Rooney’

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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Posted in Manchester United, Player Analysis | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a 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.

 

 

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

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 »

The five reasons why Rooney wants to leave

Posted by hakanrylander on October 21, 2010

Money. When a professional footballer wants to change clubs he normally claims that this is to “fulfil a dream”, “take the next step”, “get a new challenge” etc. In reality, money is always part of the motivation. More often than not it’s the main reason why a player wants a move. I don’t think Rooney is any different in this respect. As he’s one of the best players in the world, it’s not difficult to imagine that he gets frustrated when across town Yaya Touré earns twice as much.

Form. In the previous paragraph I refered to Rooney as one of the best players in the world. But in fact he hasn’t played anywhere near that level for the last six months, neither for United nor England. On form he deserves to be on the bench as both Berbatov and Hernandez have looked better players recently. As what was supposedly a temporary glitch has turned into the longest slump of his career, many of us have become increasingly worried. None more so than Rooney himself. Since the World Cup it’s likely that he’s given some serious thought to which way his professional career is heading. One conclusion might have been that a change of clubs could help him find his feet again.

The Glazers. The owners of the top clubs in Europe tend to put an awful lot of money into the club, or at least not take anything out. The Glazers on the other hand take countless millions out of the club. This has now made it obvious that United find it very hard to compete for the best players. It’s no wonder that Rooney does not believe that United is a club in ascendency. Does anyone?

His private life. Very difficult to know how important this aspect is. It has probably helped destabilize Rooney, but I still think it’s only a minor factor behind his transfer request.

Paul Stretford. Rooney’s agent orchestrated a very similar move in 2004. Read this highly interesting article by David Conn. I think Stretford is at it again.

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

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 »

Milan handed us the game on a plate

Posted by hakanrylander on March 11, 2010

A very good performance from United last night and several positive signs going inte the quarter-finals. On yesterday’s evidence Park (my MotM) is probably our best option as the attacking central midfielder. Fletcher again proved that he has that rare quality of playing better the bigger the game. Valencia dominated the right-wing completety (with a little help from Ronaldinho, see below). Nani had a shaky start but improved as the game went along, and provided the best moment of the match with his superb pass for Rooney’s second goal. As for Rooney himself, another proof that he’s England’s best player.

Even so I think the main reason why United were so dominant was that Milan more or less handed us the game on a plate by poor work-rate and lack of tactical awareness. The most glaring example was that the left-back Jankulovski, one of the weakest individual links, was given virtually no support at all from Ronaldinho. As a consequence, Valencia and Neville could do pretty much whatever they pleased down that corridor. Furthermore, the other attackers, Huntelaar and Borriello, spent a lot of time waiting for the ball rather than take part in the build-up. This was a huge difference to e.g. Rooney and Valencia.

In fairness, Milan probably suffered a lot from the absence of Pato and Nesta. Milan still created a couple of chances early on, and with crisper finishing from Ronaldinho and Huntelaar it could have been a much tighter game. But I’m sure United would still have prevailed given Milan’s weaknesses.

I’m already looking forward to the next round.

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

Those lines that I before have writ do lie

Posted by hakanrylander on January 31, 2010

This game confirmed two things.

1: For a neutral who loves football the meetings between United and Arsenal are the most enjoyable in the Premier League.

2: Between the Lines has been wrong all along about Nani. Regular visitors will be aware that I’ve dismissed him as our most frustrating player and expected him to be sold. If he had been sold this morning I wouldn’t have missed him. Today he forced me to change my opinion. He scored a brilliant individual goal (with a little help from Almunia), but in a way I was even more impressed with his assist for the second goal when he ran with the ball from inside his own half towards the Arsenal defence. At this moment I would have expected the old Nani to miss-hit the pass or make a desperate attempt to beat the keeper from long-distance. Instead he slowed down, calmly waited for Rooney to arrive in the penalty area and then hit a perfect pass. His performance in the first half was the best I’ve ever seen from him. But isn’t this just another of Nani’s false dawns? I don’t think so. I think that today Nani truly arrived as a Manchester United player.

Posted in Manchester United, Match Reports, Player Analysis | Tagged: , , , | 4 Comments »

Six conclusions from United vs Hull

Posted by hakanrylander on January 24, 2010

1. Premier League Top Scorers

  • Wayne Rooney       19
  • Darren Bent            14
  • Jermain Defoe        14
  • Didier Drogba         14
  • Carlos Tevez           12
  • Fernando Torres     12

2. We don’t want Wayne Rooney to get injured.

3. Apart from Rooney the game was dominated by massive protests against the Glazers. It strikes me as odd that the owners make no visible attempt whatsoever to improve their image. They just don’t seem to care. This is rare in the corporate world where companies are normally very keen to put a positive spin on their actions and strategies. Maybe the family members are not comfortable in the media spotlight, but they could at least hire some public relations experts. This could be payed for by the club so that the family would not have to dig into the consultancy fees they are busy putting in their own pockets. The previous sentence  pretty much sums up the way in which the Glazers are now perceived by lots of fans. That the owners fail to respond to this indicates that customer relations is not a priority.

4. The old Michael Owen would have scored a couple.

5. Darron Gibson only played for 20 minutes but still managed to impress me. Maybe I’m getting carried away, but I feel that Gibson will be a very important player for us.

6. And while I’m at it I might as well get carried away once more. Mame Biram Diouf scored a hat trick for the reserves on Thursday. All three goals were very well taken. I’d love to see him start alongside Rooney against City on Wednesday.

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

Four conclusions from Burnley and City

Posted by hakanrylander on January 20, 2010

1. We have defensive problems. Not surprising given the continued absence of Vidic and Ferdinand. Even so I feel that a back four of Neville/Rafael, Brown, Evans and Evra should be strong enough for most games. But Burnley (with a dreadful away record) were often given a lot of space and created quite a few clear-cut chances, and we were lucky that they didn’t manage to convert a couple of them. I also believe that a lack of understanding between Evans and Brown gifted Tevez the winner. They both went wide to cover the cross but if one had stayed in the middle Tevez would hardly have been left with a free header.

2. Wayne Rooney is too isolated. Against City we used the 4-2-3-1 system that I prefer, but Anderson didn’t provide enough support for Rooney through the middle. Rooney did well, particularly towards the end, but he can hurt the opposition more if given more support. Fabio Capello seems to agree.

3. After three brief appearances I’m already optimistic about Mame Biram Diouf. Most of all because he gets into good positions. Should have scored, though, when he got a free header with minutes remaining against City.

4. It was good to see a MotM performance from United old-boy Chris Eagles. He had a couple of decent games for United, but in the end he didn’t quite manage to become a first team regular. It was obvious that he really wanted to make an impression in this game, and he did.

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

“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 »