This transfer window has been quieter than a Bjork convention, but here are ten examples of why panicking in January could be a recipe for disaster. Oh Fernando...
It's been a month since Danny Welbeck started a PL game and, sorry Daniel, we have barely noticed. It's difficult to see him forcing his way back into this team...
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One does ponder as to when these 'easy fixtures' are going to start for Utd?
...This Di Maria bloke must be one heck of a defender.
...Sell them, sell them all.
Dudley, Dar es Salaam, TZ
...I'm really happy we have Van Gaal and I do believe he will get it right.
However it's majorly depressing that we've only played 3 matches this season and already our only hope of a trophy is the FA Cup.
...LVG has said it will take a year to sort things out at OT. Sounds ominously like 'next year is our year' to me.
Nine More Points Than They've Got In The League
It looks like the Big Red Circus, featuring exclusively clowns and donkeys, is going to be in town for a little while longer yet. Unsurprisingly, I have several points about last night:
1) First, congratulations to MK Dons; that was a fully deserved win in front of a fantastic home support. The first 15 minutes looked like they were in for a long night but they rallied, controlled the game at times and took their chances when they came - they should have definitely had a penalty as well (Evans handball). Not only that, but their manager seems like a genuinely nice, likeable bloke; I sincerely wish them luck for the rest of the campaign.
2) Now, onto United. Why did we play the kids? By all means have them on the bench but when you're a side struggling for form and fitness, coupled with trying to become familiar with a new formation and system, you simply have to start your best team. Rooney, as captain, should be starting every game this season unless he's injured.
3) If there was any doubt about which players will be either leaving or not playing this year, that match blew it away. Hernandez, Anderson and Zaha for sure, probably Welbeck as well. Also failing to impress were Powell, Evans, Januzaj and Keane, with even de Gea looking shaky.
4) Jonny Evans. For a while now, I've been holding on to the idea that maybe he can step up to the plate now that Ferdinand and Vidic have gone. That hope didn't last long. What he was thinking for the first goal I will never know, maybe it was cockiness, a "it's only MK Dons" attitude. Whatever it is, that kind of performance was inexcusable, no matter how long you've been out. It also irked me that he had the temerity to give grief to one of the younger lads for losing possession later in the match. Pot/kettle, Jonny.
5) It was a shame that Kagawa had to go off so early, I was hoping that he could have impressed last night as I don't want to see him leave. Odds are that he probably will now, which will be a big shame.
6) Can we please stop playing Januzaj in central midfield now? He is wasted there because he doesn't/can't defend and doesn't get the opportunity to use his greatest asset: running at defenders.
7) How long are we going to persist with this 3-5-2 in competitive matches? Get it right in training first, then try using it in a real match. Mancini was rightly slammed for it when he tried it because the players simply weren't familiar enough with the system to be able to execute it well enough. I'm not even sure we have the quality of players to do it with the first choice 11, never mind the reserves.
8) Van Gaal keeps asking for patience from the fans and he'll get it but the thing about trust is that it goes both ways. We have to start to see improvement and progression soon because we're off to a worse start this year than we were under Moyes. We haven't even won a single half of football yet after 3 games and when one of those is against League One opposition, that is absolutely appalling. The 3-month turnaround van Gaal initially projected has now been extended to a year - should we expect to see any improvements at all this season? At this point, finishing in 7th position looks like a big ask, never mind the top 4.
9) It took 72 minutes and the introduction of a 17-year-old (with only 1 senior appearance to his name) for us to have a shot on target. I'm lost for words to describe how bad that is.
10) No wonder Di Maria didn't want to leave Real Madrid, he must be wondering what the hell he's gotten himself into this morning.
Doubting Van Gaal
Why won't any pundit?journalist/interviewer just ask the simple question "what is the philosophy?", given LVG mentions it most interviews?! Does he just mean 3-5-2? I am hoping it is more than just a formation.
Which leads me to my second question: what is the benefit of the 3-5-2 formation for United? I get that it allows us to play 2 strikers and a number 10 behind, but so does a diamond 4-4-2, and a 4-3-1-2. Am I missing something or doesn't 3-5-2 actually mean our weaknesses are accentuated? It needs 5 defenders and 2 central midfielders, 7 positions where we do not have fantastic quality.
Having just heard LVGs interview, far more concerning than his use of the word philosophy was the almost moyes-like "we created many chances" and "I couldn't have expected more from the players". Eek!
...I was having a discussion with a mate on opening day and offered the view that perhaps Moyes was not utter rubbish, but that Sir Alex was just that good. It was dismissed with the counterpoint that Moyes has won nothing and Van Gaal has a great track record etc., which was hard to argue at the time given the recency effect of Moyes' tenure and the World Cup (albeit a half-hearted argument about how weak Netherlands' round of 16/QF opponents were).
However, Van Gaal's record since the 90s (nearly 15 years ago, hard to believe) has been mixed at best. Yes he won an Eredivisie title with AZ, but Steve McLaren also won it with a smaller team. He also had some success at Bayern but by no means unqualified. I visited the Allianz a couple of times during his tenure and experienced turgid affairs and crowd dissatisfaction with the manager, and both of the die-hard Bayern fans I know don't rate him.
Time will tell, but early returns suggest Sir Alex's boots will be too big to fill for all but the truly elite managers in football.
Hernandez Is Woeful
No disrespect to MK Dons they really were excellent, but I have to ask, would Javier Hernandez even make into their side?
I think not, he really is utter garbage. I refuse to believe we might sell Danny (although by no means perfect, atleast occasionally looks like he has played football before) Welbeck and not him.
Still on the brightside Wilson and Pereira look like the players we are told they might be and this could be the end of the 3-5-2 experiment. Back to 4-3-3 please Louis.
Mark Endicott, MUFC
Van Persie Should Be One To Miss Out
It's the elephant in Old Trafford but it seems as though no-one wants to say what is blindingly obvious. RVP needs to go.
I know, I know he's one of the our few world class players (Mata, DDG, Rooney being the others) but he simply doesn't fit into system and his presence in the squad is forcing us to play two up front (to keep both him and Rooney happy) despite the fact we don't have the other personnel in the squad and playing two strikers simultaneously weakens us in midfield and defence.
By playing two up front we lack balance. RVP isn't like Suarez, Torres, Sturridge, Aguero, Welbeck or Rooney. RVP is in the mould of van Nistelrooy, Ibrahimovic or Falcao.
When he plays as the no. 9 he wants to operate in certain areas of the pitch and having another no. 9 (in this case Rooney but it could be Chicarito) alongside him means he can't do that. I remember reading an article on your marvellous site about Falcao posing similar problems for coaches at Atletico a few seasons ago. They found he actually scored more often when he was playing alone upfront.
What scares me though is that United could have sent him off to Madrid, knocked some money off the Di Maria price and got rid of a player who doesn't fit but instead it looks like an opportunity missed.
Ibrahim Ali Khalid. MUFC.
Glum Arsenal Fan
If missing the big picture was an Olympic event, arsene Wenger would be a world beater. Here we are again clutching for dear life at the hope of gaining access to the champions league. Giroud and Ramsey are out, but I for one think that a year away from UCL would do the team a world of good.
With fewer commitments we could finally have an outside shot at the league. Oh wait, the only out and out forward available is Sanogo.
We are doomed.
Evan (pessimism is contagious) Switzerland
Against Modern Astroturf
Alberto Moreno's injury in the game at the Etihad was a result of turning his ankle on the much firmer surface of AstroTurf, which I was amazed to see comes right up to the touchline. Whose bright idea was that? I haven't seen it that close to a pitch before (not that I was looking) but, is it just me or is that policy an injury waiting to happen?
Simon, LFC, Qatar
Big Up Benik
With Giroud injured perhaps it is time to call home Benik Afobe to the Emirates? There must be some kind of release clause to be activated such as "if he scores at least two goals against Manchester United in any competition" or "if there are no other reliable options in the first team due to injury or the like".
I hope it is. If not, I am just happy and proud the Academy had a bit of contribution in crushing United yesterday.
Jon (Arsenal, big surprise)
Nice to see that Celtic eventually got what they deserved and have been eliminated again. It won't make up for the way Legia Warsaw got royally screwed over by UEFA.
But at least Celtic won't get to be in the Champions League this year.
Some form of justice at last.