In Toon Today: Manchester United. The return of the entertainment, leave early and avoid the traffic.

Who Manages Them:   

Louis Van Gaal. If you wanted to turn Manchester United into a soap opera, he’s the gift who keeps on giving.

Since the Dutchman took over an under-achieving Manyoo team and took them back into the Champions League in his first season, he’s constantly had to firefight against an undercurrent of criticism. Last season, senior players complained about his heavy-handed treatment of full back Rafael, punted to Lyon this summer.

(Caption for image at top: “God this is boring.”)

Then there was the over-reliance on video analysis, performance expert Max Reckers who Van Gaal described as ‘like my son’, was berated by the likes of Rooney and Carrick for constantly concentrating on their weaknesses. His public criticism of young full back Luke Shaw and his weight problems was highlighted by Shaw as something which affected his confidence and defender Marcus Rojo claimed that most players were afraid of Van Gaal because of his “bulldog face”.

In the summer while doing his business, old bulldog face heard Angel Di Maria say he had a “smile on his face every day” after leaving Manchester, Real Madrid keeper Navas cried with happiness when his swap deal with David De Gea fell through and Hristo Stoichkov persuaded Pedro not to sign for Manyoo because Van Gaal is “scum”.

manchester united

‘Phil Jones’ 100 Greatest Headers Part 2. We can all remember Part 1.’

Blimey, if he thought things might settle down this season then being dumped out of the Champions League in a group they should have won, and not scoring many goals, has led to that criticism re-surfacing.

Former winger Andrei Kanchelskis said their play was “disgusting” and the players were “robots”, Paul Scholes said the players looked bored and a Manyoo player supposedly told Telegraph football journalist Jason Burt he is “half the player he can be” under Van Gaal. It’s all getting a bit Jose Mourinho at Old Trafford. Even Man United’s sponsor, Adidas, have got in on the act, Chief Executive Herbert Hainer saying:

“With more than 650 million fans globally it is one of the world’s most supported sports clubs. This special club has not only a rich history but also a reputation for success. We are satisfied, even if the current playing style is not exactly what we want to see.”

If that happens at NUFC we’ll know that the FCB has reached a new low. It’s one thing Adidas not being completely satisfied with your sporting output, it’s another thing entirely when Wonga feel you are adversely affecting their brand.

Still, not only has Van Gaal managed to turn everyone against him, he’s also managed to turn Manchester United into the nation’s dullest team, and that’s some going with the likes of us, Fat Sam and Tony Pulis around. Manyoo have scored only 24 goals this season, that’s 10 less than the clubs currently occupying the Champions League spots and 15 less than Manchester City, MOTD at the weekend claimed that Manyoo hadn’t scored in the first half of any of the last 10 games. It’s a far cry from the ‘Theatre of Dreams’ but Van Gaal is keen to take on anyone who claims that the lack of entertainment is his fault:

“There are matches that I have enjoyed,” said the Dutchman, “and there are also matches where I’m very bored or angry because we are not disorganising our opponent’s defence, but that is football.”

So it is Louis, though generally you were employed not to get bored or angry but to get your team to win games like that. That is football management.

Who Have They Bought:

Well not Pedro or Navas obviously but the Red Devils still punted almost £100million on seven players and all should be involved today except young defender Regan Poole, signed from Newport for 150k.

£12.5million ex-Torino full back Matteo Darmian was rested for the FA Cup win over Sheffield United at the weekend, as was £24million midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin, but both are expected to be back today. Both players have contributed to making Manchester the second best defensive team of the season so far behind Spurs, as has lumbering Bastian Schweinsteiger, who might not play today because of injury.

The ex-Bayern legend used to be one of the world’s best but now has to be content strutting around central midfield like a horny pigeon, part of the reason the fee for the German was originally reported to be £14.5million but in the end was less than half that. Schweinsteiger hasn’t been at his best this season and in that is a fitting analogy for Manyoo themselves, past their best, but he has had other things on his mind. In October, he launched legal proceedings against a toymaker marketing World War II Nazi soldier dolls named after him and looking like him. The company themselves said:

“We offer no figures based on the footballer. The resemblance is purely coincidental. The figure is based on a typical German. We believe most Germans look like this. Bastian is a common name in Germany.”

Aye typical bloody German, no sense of humour.

manchester united

‘Bastian Schweinsteiger: Typical German, no sense of humour.’

In attack, £19million Memphis Depay and £36million Anthony Martial, a surprise signing from Monaco who became the most expensive teenager in world football on September 2015 transfer deadline day. Martial plays a lot like a young Thierry Henry, drifts out to the left to cut inside and I’ll be interested to see how he plays today. More so in a few years’ time if what Louis Van Gaal said about him is true:

“The fee is ridiculous. The problem is when Manchester United try to sign a player, it costs £10m more. When we are selling one, the clubs always want to get them for less. He is for the next manager.”

I’ll look forward to seeing what Jose Mourinho can get out of him next month then.

A Special Mention For:                

Wayne Rooney – Once upon a time Wayne was a top quality player, world class, and I genuinely thought he would break Alan Shearer’s Premier League goalscoring record. He needs to score 73 goals to break that record and with Man United in the market for a new striker it is looking less and less likely, Rooney is now 30 years old. Hardly having scored at all this season and looking like he’s put on too much weight, at least Mitrovic will have some company tonight.

manchester united

‘Juan Mata perfects his ventriloquism act with his dummy ‘Lord Wayne’.’

Are We Going To Win?                

It is the team who can’t score in the first half but don’t concede many goals against the team who always lose 1-0, so what are we betting on – 1-0 to them? Second half goal? Rooney to score now that I’ve called him hopeless?

No chance. That’s virtually what happened last year and it won’t happen again. The Red Devils’ atrocious 4-5-1 formation at home to Sheffield United may suggest that Louis Van Gaal and Steve McClaren are kindred defensive spirits but I’ve got a feeling there will be goals in this one. I hope so, the rest of our season is full of games that we can’t afford to draw, we have to go for wins now and Manyoo aren’t the team of old, we have to win games at home against 5th placed teams.

This season won’t be like others where 36 points might be enough to stay up, we’ll need 40, and vice versa for the Reds -it won’t be a season where you need 80 points to win the league, any team with 72 points in May could win the league. Both teams have got everything to play for, Manyoo know they can easily outscore us, one goal might be enough for that, NUFC know that Manchester United haven’t got a lot of pace in their team, don’t get forward quickly and have to play high up the pitch if they want to dominate their opponent. We’ve got the pace to get behind them, it’s a case of whether we’ve got the strikers to take advantage of that.

“We created a lot of chances but we didn’t score and that is our problem.”

Said both managers last week, and the week before, and the week before that. Today could be the day when Newcastle United does something about it. There will be goals today lads, that’s football.

After the Sheffield United FA Cup game at the weekend when Manchester United needed a last minute penalty to win, Louis Van Gaal responded to journalists questions about a half empty Old Trafford celebrating it and many supporters leaving early by saying:

“Maybe [because] we haven’t scored. Maybe the traffic. There are many reasons why someone might leave early.”

There are indeed many reasons why people leave early, but the main reason is the quality of the match.

Enjoy the return of the entertainment tonight or leave early and avoid the traffic. Either way, Howay The Lads.

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