Is Smalling The Best In Premier League?

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Kneejerk No. 11
Watching United’s CL qualifier as I type this. Can I be the first to say that Mike (Smalling) is close to being/already is the best centre-back in the league?
Adi, Chicago (Helmet on, prepared for abuse)

At Last…A Worthy United No. 7
Been thinking this for a while, just never thought to manifest it into words yet, but I suppose now is the time to elucidate my feelings. The number 7 shirt looks like it belongs with a special player again. Previous incumbents of the jersey since the last worthy one ranged from depressing (Owen), to didn’t want to be here (Di Maria) or just plain frightened of it (Valencia).

Depay is far, far from the finished article. He lacks composure in front of goal, his shooting is wayward at times and his game intelligence can be improved. However, I remember seeing how a young boy with dazzling feet, make his debut for Man Utd some 12 years ago, turn into a phenomenon and made opponent sh*t themselves at the sight of the number 7. Seems like those same ingredients of pace, dribbling and shooting power are present in the current incarnation, only this one is already built like a pitbull, stocky and muscular.

As the media is always ready to let the world know, that number 7 is the magical number for Man Utd fans. It elicits memories of players like Cantona, Ronaldo, Captain Marvel and perhaps the greatest holder of all, Georgie Best. This number invokes feelings in me I cannot explain and it is usually reserved for players of great flair, hence why I was grinning like the Cheshire cat last night. Should Depay reach his full potential, he can join the pantheon of greats to have add magical dust to what is a number of reverence to Man Utd fans, keeping this wonderful tradition alive.

Of course, there is the chance he’ll bugger off to Real or Barca once he develops but I’m going to try and enjoy the ride in the meantime.
Aaron Sik

…Eric Cantona + David Beckham + Cristiano Ronaldo = Memphis.

I wanted to add Bryan Robson into the mix but it’s only been three games. It’s ridiculous to expect the world from a kid every week and in the coming season there will be weeks where Memphis will have little impact on games. However, the goals and assist last night showed that Memphis has the ability to combine some of the best attributes from the our greatest modern day number 7s. The swagger of King Eric, the crossing ability of Becks and the explosive power to devastate a game like Ronnie. Plenty of bang for the relatively moderate buck spent by United.

On a side note, kudos to Club Brugge on how they bought the game to United and had everyone worrying about the return leg. The third goal gives a much needed cushion but if they play like that then United definitely have work to do ‘In Brugge’.
Parmjeet Dayal (Luke Shaw motors on like the Roadrunner)

The New Thierry?
We’ve all heard of exciting young players being described as the next ‘so and so’. Ryan Giggs was described as the new George Best, Paul Pogba as the next Yaya Toure/Paddy Vieira and so on. Often players never live up to the hype, I once heard Phillippe Senderos referred to as the natural successor to Tony Adams. We all know how that panned out.

However, I’ve not seen a player to remind me of another so compellingly as Memphis Depay does of Thierry Henry.

Watching him against Brugge and I’m struck by the similarities. Pacy, powerful and with an ability to create goals by himself, if I was Louis Van Gaal I’d be locking Memphis into a room with a boxset of Henry’s highlight reels.

To the many United fans out there worried about a dearth of strikers at the Club or the poor form of Rooney, fear not. I feel once Memphis gets into his stride, the second coming of Henry will be upon us.
Eoin (I envy Utd yet look forward to seeing the Dutchman play) Ireland

Some Man United Thoughts
– Firstly, Memphis, take a bow son. Two cracking goals and a delightful assist, he couldn’t have done more to impress. Anytime I watched him before it seemed like everything good attacking-wise went through him and last night we saw that. There’s a real hunger in his game and it is great to watch.

– A few years ago we couldn’t buy a goal from midfield, at the moment it’s our most likely source.

– Rooney has been getting stick and it has mostly been justified. Last night he looked a bit better, some decent touches and a few shots. He needs a goal but he’ll be fine. It always takes him a while to warm up. I’d still like us to sign someone else, if even just for proper competition for places.

Daniel Storey makes some valid points about the defence, particularly when he suggests we forget the figures and use our eyes. Bizarrely, all four had decent games last night; individually they were great. Smalling in particular looked immense and strong in the tackle. Blind brought the ball out well and the two complimented each other. However, defending as a unit there were issues with too much space in behind. Memphis and Mata are hardly known for their defensive prowess and with both full-backs pushing on we were exposed at times because of this, which in turn pulls the CBs wider than they would like. Improvements can be made at the back in terms of leadership and organisation but I suspect the balance throughout the team was more of an issue last night.

Overall, we created more and I’m mildly pleased with how this season is going. Still improvements to be made but we’ve only played three games. Played three, won three. Can’t really complain.
Garey Vance, MUFC

…Shaky performance, should have scored more goals, defence looked a little vulnerable at times, and undoubtedly there are legitimate concerns about how United would fare against a genuine elite European club in current form.

But Memphis. Wow. We’re not going to win the Champions League this season, but it really is warming to be scoring goals like that under the floodlights at Old Trafford in Europe. Not quite his debut, but comparable in impact to Rooney’s hat-trick against Fenerbache (remember that, and weep at what’s become of him).
Chris MUFC

In Defence Of United Defence
Surely I cannot be the only person who read last night’s F365 match summary of United having ‘some uneasy defensive moments’ with incredulity. Daniel Storey followed that up with some more scepticism and implored us to ‘use (y)our eyes’. He then proceeded to list three illustrations of the fact that ‘United looked disorganised and unconvincing in defence’: Brugge’s only shot on target, a cross across the face of the goal and a brief lapse in concentration from Sergio Romero. That list itself is scraping the barrel pretty desperately and I’ll tell you why: these are the only instances that can be found in the entire ninety minutes of any ‘mistakes’ made by United’s defence (barring the goal, obviously).

Had this piece been written after the Tottenham game, Storey would still have a leg to stand on, but any mockery of Gary Neville’s claims using our last two games as evidence is laughable. Every single member of our back four had a stormer last night. Luke Shaw looked to be the weakest link at the back but that was because of how attacking he was playing and even then, Daley Blind (who has been a revelation at centre back) covered extremely well for him. At no point were the Belgians (or Villa before them) on top of our defence and for the first time in a very long time, I wasn’t nervous every time United’s opponents had the ball. Granted this was Brugge and Villa, but the defence can only defend against the attack its up against. Without their captain and a first-choice centre-back, I’m pretty sure Brugge will concede in the reverse leg, so I’m happy with our chances of progression.

The rest of the mockery of Neville in the piece hinges on the thesis that ‘United owe much to the form of De Gea (and the profligacy of the opposition)’. First, De Gea is still a United player and will be manning the sticks starting September. Second, a goalkeeper is part of the defence. And thirdly, our opposition are not contractually obligated to be profligate. And lastly, and this is something that Storey and others (but not Neville) missed, is the fact that Van Gaal and Woodward have taken steps in this summer to bolster the screen in front of the defence. With the imperious Schweinsteiger regaining complete match fitness and Schneiderlin putting in consistent performances alongside, our midfield would be among the best, if not the best, in the League. With Europe’s best young defender Phil Jones on the way back, I am happy with our defence. Of course, we are a couple of injuries away from playing Paddy McNair and Jonny Evans in central defence, so fingers remained crossed.

Unimpressed With United
Just finished watching the Man U – Brugge game, have to say I was unimpressed by LVG’s men. Sure, Depay scored two, against the might (read – sh*t defending) of representatives from the Eredivisie’s little sister. I’d wager that Kezman, van Wolfswinkel, and Altidore could have done as well. So I’d like to offer a preemptive ‘don’t mess yourself’ to the Man U fans that will be flooding the mailbox with hype.

Also, (and I know the Mancs won’t like hearing this), Schweinsteiger has left me underwhelmed thus far. Yes, he lays deep and does a decent job distributing, but his fitness looks severely lacking, contributing to a sense of his general attitude that gives me the feeling of Gerrard in L.A. or Lampard in NYC, playing out a last fat paycheck. Maybe he got confused where Man USA play?
Paul, AFC
PS. The commentator after the third goal said that LVG had “timed Fellaini’s introduction to perfection”…umm, what? Lumping it up to the big man because it is becoming increasingly evident that his only striker can’t cut it? Rinus Michels, look out.

Blaming Storey For Failure
Just read Daniel Storey’s piece on Tottenham, and was pi**ing my sides laughing (in my Stats class). Lo and behold, the teacher of the class not so politely tells me to leave the class. Thank you F365 I already had freaking attendance shortage in his class.
Soumalya (Memphis is the sexiest Number 7 since CR7) MUFC

Dear Everton...
Now that I heard that Mourinho is preparing a 40 million bid for Stones, I plead you to reject it outright. I cannot wait to see his face and tantrums in the next match.

Swansea did it on the pitch. Man City did it as well. It’s your turn now. You have the power to destabilize him even more off the pitch.

Wield it, for the love of god. And humanity.

Yours truly,
A Liverpool Fan (I promise to never be hostile against you)

No Pace At Chelsea
I’ve read much glee and derision at the state of Chelsea’s start to the season but, whilst I can’t profess to have widely studied the written world around the matter (I’m not the ombudsman after all) I’m surprised that there’s little if any mention of the lack of pace at Chelsea.

Now they’re not a slow team in general, pace doesn’t necessarily make a football player and it wasn’t necessarily a problem last year, but I imagine there’s not a player in their squad that would enter a conversation discussing the quickest footballers in the league. The ‘out’, the variation, the constant lack of assuredness from a defender with a quick opponent lurking, the ability for mistakes to be capitalised on/recovered from and the chance that comes from nothing that occurs when serious pace is threatened; none of this is present in Chelsea’s team. Willian, Hazard and (when he plays) Ramires are not half-paced by any means but their speed is unlikely to cause much concern in the opposition’s pre-game training, whereas Sterling, Sturridge, Walcott, Wellbeck, Sanchez and Young (despite what LVG says) and others will do.

When squad balance is analysed, surely the presence of such attributes need to be a consideration.
Dave, from Chalford and on holibobs

No Crisis At Chelsea…Yet
For the attention of Falooda, NY – the season is only two games old. There is nothing to ‘blame’ Jose for. Chelsea haven’t had a fantastic start to the season, which seems to be largely because:

1 – The club decided on a short pre-season approach that’s left the side not at full fitness, in the hope that they’ll then be fitter at the end of the season (Jose has said this). It is, of course, WAY too early to judge whether that’s a good idea or not (I suspect it won’t be, but you can’t judge definitively after two games).

2 – One of Chelsea’s games – out of two remember – was away at Man City. Where most teams will lose. And Swansea isn’t an easy game either. Fixture lists even themselves out over the course of a whole season.

3 – Some of Chelsea’s transfer business is yet to be done, in large part because the selling clubs of the players they’ve wanted haven’t wanted to sell. Chelsea are hardly alone in this – look at Real Madrid, for instance. I would be surprised if Chelsea don’t make at least two significant signings before the end of the window.

4 – It’s also way too early to judge whether Chelsea’s transfer policy is wise or not. Even F365’s complaint is that the back-up isn’t good enough – but the problem so far has been the first team, not the back-up.

I concede that Jose made a mistake with the scape-goating of the medical department (presumably because he regrets the club’s decision to have a short pre-season and is blaming the medical advice), but that’s only really become nasty because of the sexist response of the press. I expect both Carneiro and Fearns to be reinstated in due course, and I’m willing to forgive this particular mistake.
Tim Colyer, Chelsea fan, London

The Moment Of Zen
Yesterday I was in the mailbox with something about Carlisle United’s journey down to Plymouth Argyle, for a match they lost 4-1. Having got my information from Iain McIntosh’s Twitter feed, it seems only right to highlight something else he posted.

Whether they were impressed by the dedication of those United fans, or by the buzz McIntosh created on their behalf, I don’t know, but league sponsors Skybet tweeted that they would cover the cost of the coach they were travelling on.

Jon Stewart used to have his Moment of Zen, I like to think of this as our Moment of “you know, not everyone connected with football administration or gambling is a total c**t all the time”.
The literary Ed Quoththeraven, CPFC the Glaziers, Notts