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Odion Ighalo’s Loan Extension Is Justified

Odion-ighalo-transfer-news

It’s official – Odion Jude Ighalo’s loan deal has been extended and the first Nigerian ever to play for Manchester United will stay until January 2021, at the very least.

The 30-year old was originally set to spend six months with the Reds, patching up the hole left by the injured Marcus Rashford. However, nobody could have predicted how well he would go on to perform, right from the off.

In just three starts and a few appearances off the bench, Ighalo notched four goals and an assist, equating to a direct involvement in a goal every 63.8 minutes. Whilst many fans, myself included, might have doubted how much he could bring to the team, it is clear that he has given everything for the shirt and his form has looked just as, if not more impressive than even his best seasons at Watford.

Option to Buy

Furthermore, the highly reliable Fabrizio ‘Here we go!’ Romano has also stated that whilst it was previously thought that United were reluctant towards a permanent deal, there is now an option to buy included in the extension. If he makes even half the impact he did in just eight appearances since arriving, it’s likely to be a no-brainer, as the forward has quickly gone down as a cult hero with fans.

Odion-ighalo-man-united

Nevertheless, it’s sure to be a classic case of ‘head or heart?’ when it comes to crunch time, as although Ighalo has made no secret that his move to the team he has supported since he was a child has been a dream come true, Shanghai Shenua are rumoured to be offering him a contract until 2024, worth up to £400k a week.

Head or Heart?

Whilst many might think it sensible for a player of his age to see out his career in China, especially with such a great deal on the table, United seem increasingly happy to keep him a part of squad, despite the return of senior figures and the possibility of new forward signings. Let’s not forget, it wasn’t long ago that a source stated Ighalo ‘would play for free’ and this isn’t FIFA: 30 isn’t that old and with the right motivation, he could still have plenty of playing time left at a high level.

Either way, I don’t think many fans would say no to keeping him as a rotation player in the wider squad. He has already proven himself a more than effective option in the Europa League; his strength and ability to hold up the ball – not to mention an impressive amount of close control – would make him the perfect, old-school number nine to boss lesser defences in the domestic cups, let alone come off the bench in a pinch. I say, if he’s happy to stay, we’re happy to have him.

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A Look Into Manchester United Target Eduardo Camavinga

Manchester United are hopeful of beating Real Madrid to the signature of Eduardo Camavinga, as per The Metro. The Red Devils believe to have the upper hand in the deal, as they would be willing to loan the teenager back to Rennes next season.

The 17-year-old is considered one of France’s most promising midfielders, being yet another talent to emerge from their U21 setup. He has made thirty-six club appearances this season – numbers that simply categorise the teenager in being a class above those in his age range. Camavinga has already established himself in being a key starter for Rennes, helping them qualify for the Champions League for the first time in their history this year.

Although his quick development has seen the label of ‘generational’ be thrown his direction, it’s of no surprise to see the midfielder flourish in such a setup. Rennes have been on the rise under young coach Julien Stéphan, who has established a fresh, young core to his side. The club has always been an ideal stepping stone for French talents to showcase their worth, with the likes of Ousmane Dembele, Tiemoué Bakayoko and Joris Gnagnon all coming through their ranks, before being sold on in the transfer market.

Camavinga looks destined to add his name to this list, with his all-rounded style of play in the middle of the park gaining attention from bigger clubs. The 17-year-old is a composed figure on the ball, always keen to start attacks from deep. His positional awareness, particularly when it comes to defensive screening, is far advanced beyond his years – averaging 1.4 interceptions per game.

Coinciding with this defensive trait, the Frenchman also flourishes in regaining possession and retaining the ball for his side. No player in the entire division has averaged more tackles per game than the teenager this season – 4.2. Yet again, it’s a stat not many would associate with a player that made his senior debut just a year ago.

The Metro state that the Red Devils would be keen to loan Camavinga back to Rennes for a year, as this would be most beneficial for his development. Regardless of United’s sudden intentions for the player, he is simply a talent too good to pass up on.

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Bruno Fernandes and Anthony Martial’s Blossoming Partnership

No Manchester United signing in recent memory has delivered quite the instant impact that Bruno Fernandes has.

The club are undefeated since the Portuguese international arrived in January, winning six of the nine games he has featured in. Fernandes has scored three goals and assisted four during this time too, adding some much-needed creativity into the middle of the park.

Operating in advanced positions within the final third, United have finally found an adequate playmaker, who is capable of transitioning attacks and bringing the side further up the field. The midfielder has filled the creative void left behind by Paul Pogba, averaging 2.2 key passes per game in the Premier League. Given United’s tendency to set-up with high-pressing front-men, Fernandes has been able to feed attackers in-behind, as shown through his average of 0.4 through balls per game.

One player who has specifically benefited from having this energetic figure pulling the strings has been Anthony Martial, who has scored three goals in United’s last five league games. Fernandes assisted the Frenchman’s goal against Manchester City back in March, with a cheeky lob over the Blues’ defenders. The two share a similar attacking mindset that compliments one another, with the duo quickly striking up an effective partnership.

This was always going to be the case for Martial, as a player that thrives with fellow creative sources around him. The Red Devils had the lion share of possession against the likes of Wolves, Watford and Everton before lockdown, registering sixteen shots on goal. Fernandes has injected more attacking intent when United are in possession, he himself has averaged 3.8 shots per game [ranked 1st in squad], but also through his ability to carry the ball forward, manoeuvring the side into more dangerous positions.

Across all competitions, the club have averaged 2.2 goals per game since he was introduced into the team, again highlighting the impact he has had on the side. It’s certainly been a refreshing sight, with Bruno’s arrival elevating the teammates around him. Martial is just one example of such, and the duo’s partnership has helped remount a challenge for Champions League qualification.

With Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford still to enter the picture, United are shaping up to hit the ground running when football returns next month.

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Manchester United’s 20/21 Kit

If you’re anything like me, seeing the first pictures of next season’s strip is more than just another shirt. A kit can go on to denote historic years in football and imprint themselves on the defining memories of entire chapters in a club’s history.

Whilst shirt sales may be more costly and less important than they use to be in this TV-money era, there is still a wonderful sense of childlike excitement whenever we get to see what our team will be wearing next year.

With that being said, I’m sure most of you felt an overwhelming sense of relief at the newest images of the 20/21 strips that were leaked this week. The home kit look leaps and bounds better than the previously rumoured and now infamous ‘bus-seat’ design that had been circulating the internet – although there is evidence of the slightly different coloured streaks still present. As for the away kit, it is neither the ‘snakeskin’ gold, nor the ever-jarring blue, but sees the welcome return of black.

As opposed to defining details like this season’s Treble-inspired crest or the prominent patterns of the away and third kits, these new kits go for a wavey, textured look and classic white accents. The almost fleece-like pattern is weaved horizontally across both shirts, and although the specs are yet to be confirmed by official release, it looks like this design will compliment a tighter, stretch-fit style.

Cut and Paste?

One criticism that can be levelled at both kits is the lack of innovation. Both the home and away kit work off the same, relatively minimalist template, with the only apparent variation being the base colour. What’s more is that not only is the design very simple, but it is actually an Adidas template we’ve already seen only a couple of years ago on the 16/17 away shirt – the memory of which will forever be tied to the Europa League final, for instance.

All in all, these new shirts aren’t a drastic departure from kits seen in recent years – the closest comparisons being the aforementioned 16/17 away shirt and Mourinho’s second season 17/18 home shirt – but they still tick all essential boxes for a good United kit. Besides, if last year’s away kit has taught us anything, it’s that big, bold changes don’t always make for memorable in a good way.

Whilst Adidas might not push the boundaries with their designs and have rightfully faced criticism over their simple templates approach in recent years, when it comes to United, you can’t go too far wrong sticking to the classic red, white and black. The images released look to be the most genuine yet and if they do prove to be the confirmed kits for next season, I’ll happily be copping both.

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Three Players Manchester United Could Include In Jadon Sancho Deal

Manchester United’s top priority target this summer remains to be Jadon Sancho. It’s a story that first began picking up traction last year, with Ole Gunnar Solksjaer now identifying the player in being a key pillar as part of his rebuilding job at the club.

In any other year, it’s a deal that could be concluded pretty easily. The player is reportedly keen on a move to Manchester (via MEN) and with just two years left on his contract, Borussia Dortmund aren’t in a situation to drag out negotiations.

However, the hiatus of sport around the world, due to the coronavirus pandemic, has had a devastating impact on football clubs. It was announced on Thursday that United had already lost up to £28m (via BBC) due to the virus, with the sudden haltering of revenue streams casting doubts over the capabilities of big spending in the upcoming transfer window.

Due to the circumstances, player exchanges could become a common avenue for clubs to pursue this summer. Should United not be able to match the entirety of Dortmund’s asking price, we’ve picked out three separate players that could help push the transfer over the final line.

Dean Henderson (Loan)

United could kill two birds with one stone by adding Dean Henderson to this deal – he’s a player that would not only appeal to Dortmund, but the keeper would also benefit largely from operating in a setup where many other youngsters have thrived in the past.

The Englishman has kept ten clean sheets in the Premier League this season, showcasing his ability to perform on the main stage. Although he is valued by those at United, there is a general consensus that he would benefit from another loan move, before competing for the first-team spot at Old Trafford in 2021.

A year in the Bundesliga would aid his development further – it’s a division that is used as a stepping stone by many young talents, with it being more than likely that Dortmund will be in the Champions League next season too. The German club would likely welcome a new goalkeeper, as they have conceded the most goals out of the league’s top six this season.

Roman Burki has held the number one position for the past five years, but he has been on the decline this campaign. He has the second worst save percentage in the Bundesliga, with his 6.33 WhoScored rating for the season highlighting a need for change. Henderson’s arrival would certainly be classed as an upgrade.

Chris Smalling

Manuel Akanji and Matts Hummels have established a strong relationship at the back for Dortmund, but beyond these two figures, the club severely lacks depth in their defensive options. Both the aforementioned names have featured in all but two Bundesliga games this season, with 20-year-old Dan-Axel Zagadou being utilised on a very pragmatic basis.

Chris Smalling’s future at United was all but confirmed when the decision was made to loan him out to Roma – £80m has since been invested into the now club captain Harry Maguire, with Victor Lindelof, Eric Bailly and Axel Tuanzebe all competing to be his partner. There is now little room for the former, who will be seeking a new permanent home this summer.

Whilst Roma will be interested, due to the Englishman making an impression during his loan spell, there is large doubt over whether any Serie A club will be able to spend this year. Smalling has shown his capabilities abroad this season and Dortmund could certainly do a lot worse when it comes to bolstering their defensive options.

Jesse Lingard

Everything over the past twelve months has pointed to an inevitable Jesse Lingard exit. The Englishman has fallen out of favour under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his teaming up with Mino Raiola coincides with his bleak contract situation – the club are yet to extend his current deal which expires just next year.

It looks as though the 27-year-old would be available should a club come knocking, but due to the fragile economy, it seems unlikely that a straight transaction for the player will occur this summer – hence his inclusion on this list. On paper, this deal would seem the most plausible. Lingard is an energetic presser whose best work comes off the ball, traits that are typically associated with this aggressive Dortmund side.

Lucien Farve also likes to operate with fluid frontmen, who are capable of interchanging and setting up in various roles – it’s a fair statement in categorising the Englishman in being such a player. Although his attacking output has dried up since his best performing season back in 2018, Lingard would also fill a small slice of the void left behind by Sancho, as he is a figure that likes to operate inside the final third.

Dortmund would no doubt look for a more direct replacement for their departing star, but the 27-year-old’s services could potentially be welcomed.

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Diogo Dalot Can Become An Effective Utility Man For Manchester United

Things haven’t gone quite to plan for Diogo Dalot at Manchester United.

Put yourself in the youngster’s shoes in the summer of 2018 – the Portuguese talent was brought to England’s biggest club by his nation’s greatest ever manager, with the only competition for his position being the ageing figures of Ashley Young and Antonio Valenica. On paper, the move was simply a dream and his path into the first-team picture looked very straightforward.

Dalot’s debut for the club further supported this mindset, with the right-back flying down the flank away to Young Boys, performing step-overs and whipping the ball in with a consistent delivery. It was a long-awaited sight for United fans, seeing an energised and attacking defender get down the wing, fuelling plenty excitement towards their new signing.

Fast forward nearly two years though, and Dalot has failed to nail down a starting position at Old Trafford. Any momentum he has managed to generate has been quickly hampered by setbacks, having missed over twenty-five games through injury since the start of last season.

The arrival of Aaron Wan-Bissaka has only pushed the 21-year-old further down the ranks too, with the £50m summer signing offering some defensive stability at the back, playing an integral role in a new defensive line that has improved significantly this season.

With no clear openings in United’s XI, transfer speculation had started to surround Dalot. As per ESPN, Barcelona and Paris Sanit-Germain have been monitoring the defender’s situation, but they also state that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is keen for him to stay. The versatile figure is capable of operating at either right or left-back, with the manager identifying him as effective cover for both spots.

When analysing the club’s defensive options, there are certainly other figures whose exits would be much more justified than the 21-year-old. Through his short cameos, we have seen glimpses of his talent, and his versatility is a trait that can be utilised to effect over the course of a full season. Solskjaer has often used the 3-5-2 formation against the ‘top six’, and the wing-back role is certainly one that plays to Dalot’s strenghts.

Perhaps Wan-Bissaka’s defensive traits could be shifted a little more narrow, granting a chance for a more attacking figure down the right. Alternatively, Dalot is more than capable of actually operating higher up the field – although Jadon Sancho is being pursued, he could be rotated in the RW role.

All in all, the youngster has a variety of encouraging traits, and more than enough to justify keeping him after just two years at the club. During their title winning seasons, United always boasted a couple of ‘utility’ men in their ranks, and Dalot could well become the latest figure to offer his services in such a manner.

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Four Systems To Put Pogba and Fernandes Together

paul-pogba-staying-at-man-united

Football has just returned after almost two months of an abrupt break due to the coronavirus, with encouraging talks that the Premier League will return too, with many English clubs resuming training.

This news has brought great joy for Manchester United fans in particular, as they are excited about the prospect of seeing two of their most talented and brightest players, Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba playing together for the first time.

Pogba has been out of action for over six months with an ankle injury with his 2019/20 campaign looking all but over. Due to the hiatus of football tough, the Frenchman can now play the final few games in the Premier League, alongside his new midfield partner.

But the million dollar question remains, how will Manchester United accommodate both the maestros in the same team?

This is an issue that arises largely out of the similar playing styles of the two midfielders and their shared affinity for the attacking midfield role. Here’s how The Red Devils can play with both Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba in their midfield.

Classic 4-2-3-1: Pogba deep and Bruno attacking

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has always favoured the 4-2-3-1 formation, as it is a system that has brought defensive stability, but also powerful offensive capability. Here, Pogba will be touted to perform his usual role alongside either Fred or Scott McTominay, while Fernandes will be given reign to roam free as an attacking midfielder – the same position he has been playing regularly since his arrival.

This set up will allow the Portuguese international to play closer to the attacking three of Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Daniel James – given that Fernandes has succeeded in ranking first in final-third passes in every appearance so far for United.

As for the Frenchman, he will be able to dictate the play from deep with his stellar passing and dribbling skills. Pogba has been given a free pass to attack and get forward under Solskjaer which he enjoyed last season, bagging five goals and six assists.

McTominay or Fred would be tasked with holding the midfield, staying back and allowing the dyanmic duo to press forward – their security blanket would help prevent the side being hurt on the counter.

4-3-3: Attack, Attack, Attack

Manchester United could do well with a 4-3-3 formation, with two highly talented midfielders alongside each other and they needn’t look far for an example. Just across Manchester, at the Etihad Stadium, it’s a system that helped win City the Premier League title last season – David Silva and Kevin de Bruyne playing side-by-side as twin No. 8s.

Fernandes here would move wide and deliver crosses into the box, similar to De Bruyne’s role for the Blues. Interestingly, the Portuguese international has managed more passes in the box in the league (44), than the Belgian (41), since joining the Red Devils.

Both Rashford and James like to play out wide providing electrifying pace and width, which would push opposition defences back and open up spaces in the midfield, allowing both Bruno and Pogba to play side-by-side.This could prove deadly, considering both player’s passing ability and their deadly shooting, meaning defenders would have to close out on both, without opening up the passing lanes behind them for their fellow attackers.

But for this midfield to work, Solskjaer’s best bet would be to play McTominay or Nemanja Matic in a defensive midfield role. This may seem harsh on Fred, who has enjoyed a fine season, but to start him behind Pogba and Fernandes would leave the midfield desperately short of defensive nous.

Solskjaer will have to scrap his beloved 4-2-3-1 in order to put the 2018 World Cup Winner back into the midfield, meaning there will only be a single pivot.

3-5-2: The Big Game Formation

United have regularly used this formation against the ‘big’ teams this season, as it provides a solid defensive setup, covering the whole back line and cutting off the opponent’s wide player’s.

While Rashford and Martial take the roles of left and right strikers respectively, with Brandon Williams and Wan-Bissaka providing width as they take roles of left and right wing-backs. Luke Shaw would be playing as the left centre-back, a role he has recently taken well too. Fernandes and Pogba would start side-by-side on paper, but when attacking, the former takes up the role of either a winger or an attacking midfielder, getting into positions of his desire hurting the opposition from all angles.

Pogba would be a new addition to this formation considering he hasn’t played most of the season, with the Frenchman playing as one of the midfield three – just as he did at Juventus, he would have license to drive forward into space.
With The Red Devils sitting deep, absorbing pressure and counter-attacking the big teams, Pogba‘s ability to explode from deep with the ball at his feet would take the side’s counter-attacking abilities to new heights.

Again, McTominay would suit this formation well, considering both his midfield partners will be attacking most of the time – with his presence protecting the back line. The deadly duo of Pogba and Bruno would work wonders in this formation, and they without a doubt will be nightmare for the opposition defence all match.

4-4-2 Diamond: Pogba and Fred pivot, Bruno up front

This formation is a personal favourite, and while it may not be the one Solskjaer would go for, it’s surely one worth considering. Here, both Fred and McTominay who are in great form would play, meaning there will be no sacrifices made for accommodating Pogba and Bruno.

This formation will give Fernandes the most freedom to move about and complement the attack with Pogba and Fred proving a threat through an alternating midfield pivot. This midfield would leave Pogba and Bruno with very minimal defensive duties, as an extra midfielder will counter the threat of losing possession. The involvement of Fred would be key, as the Brazilian has the best ball recoveries (315) of any Man United midfielder in the Premier League this season.

However, not having wingers here would mean very less threat from wide flanks and very minimal width to the attack. But United could always improvise in this formation if things aren’t going according to the plan – Solskjaer could move both strikers Rashford and Martial to a wider role and use Fernandes as a free false-9. This would mean Bruno would get more shots on target from close range, while Rashford and Martial would have roles to make runs in behind defences, with Pogba feeding them balls.

To conclude, this will be a tricky nut for Solskjaer to crack but one that could spell ample success for Manchester United. Even though there is still some doubt regarding Pogba’s future, for the time he is at Old Trafford, his integration is pivotal given the skillset and mentality he brings to the pitch.

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Swansea City An Ideal Fit For James Garner

James Garner will be heading out on loan next season, with the midfielder attracting ‘substantial’ interest from a host of Championship clubs, as per the Manchester Evening News.

This report coincides with The Sun, who have specifically named Sheffield Wednesday and Swansea City in being two teams willing to take on the 19-year-old. On paper, the latter looks a perfect fit for the Manchester United youngster.

The decision to loan Garner out has been welcomed by fans, with the midfielder clearly looking ready to test himself in a senior first-team picture, over the course of a whole season. He has registered eight goals in ten games for the U23’s this campaign, often standing out as the best player on the park.

Garner is a cultured midfielder, most comfortable with the ball at his feet, although his attacking movement out of possession has significantly improved over the past twelve months. He has featured four times for United in the Europa League this season, maintaining a 90% pass completion rate, plus an average of 2.3 long balls per game.

Operating deep from the midfield, United will no doubt be looking for a club that can accommodate for Garner’s style of play. As alluded to prior, the Liberty Stadium look the ideal setting for the Englishman to flourish.

Many Premier League readers will best associate Swansea with their 2010 side under Brendan Rodgers, with the Welsh team gaining praise for their possession-based system. The iconic stat of Leon Britton’s 93.3% pass success rate was the best in all of Europe and the manager even brought fellow midfielder Joe Allen to Liverpool with him, labelling him the ‘Welsh Xavi’.

Needless to say, the club boasted pride in their ability to keep hold of the ball. It’s a tradition that has seemingly lived on too, with young manager Steve Cooper implanting his modern ways into the side this season. At just 40-years-of-age, he is one the younger coaches of the division, after spending just under five years with the England youth set-up.

He spent one season with the England U16’s, before spending four years as U17 manager. His time with the latter was no doubt successful, as he became the first ever man to lead them to World Cup success (2017). Garner himself featured for Cooper nine times during his managerial tenure, captaining the side to the UEFA semi-finals back in 2018.

The two already share an existing relationship, making the potential transitioning between teams a rather easy one to conclude for the player. We have already seen Cooper bring the likes of Rhian BrewsterMarc Guehi, and Conor Gallagher into the Swansea setup – players he managed during his England days. The coach certainly thrives with young talents, with fellow top clubs trusting him with the responsibility in nurturing and developing their most promising players.

Alongside such youngsters, Garner would also be surrounded by midfielders like Tom Carrol and Bersant Celina, players that have once been in a similar situation to himself, having come through the ranks of Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City respectively. Fellow Englishmen and starting midfielders George Byers and Jay Fulton would also no doubt offer an arm around the shoulder.

The Championship would provide a good level of football for Garner to gain experience in, and perhaps ‘roughen’ up the lean physique midfielder. Swansea have averaged 51.6% of the ball this season in the league, making them an ideal fit for the midfielder, who will want to showcase his distributing abilities week in, week out.

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Coaching Restructure Key To Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Project

With all the talk of what potential signings could come in for Manchester United next season, as well as how the team might line-up both in terms of personnel and shape, it can be easy to forget that the coaching staff will have just as big a part to play in establishing a blueprint for future success.

Although Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been permanent the manager for over a full season now, his project is still in its relative infancy. He has brought in a combination of top Premier League talent and promising, young, British players, and besides further filling out the squad, I think a shrewd next step would be to look at the coaching setup and how it can be optimised to make the most of the teams collective potential.

If you look back at that first incredible unbeaten run when Ole took charge as interim manager, it was more than just ‘new manager bounce’ – winning streaks like that take more than just luck. Not only were there five-goal thrashings against the likes of Cardiff, but there was also hard-fought, tactical triumphs against Spurs and, yes, a bit of luck too.

Those first twelve games showcased every kind of positive result, including those when you scrape through by the skin of your teeth – none more so than that famous night in Paris that came shortly after. 

However, during this period, the focus felt almost less on the players and more on the bench. With every goal, the camera quickly turned to Ole and co, celebrating and congratulating one another as if every single move had been rehearsed to perfection. The point is, those victories were a team effort not just in the sense of the players on the pitch, but because each member of the coaching staff brought something to the overall game plan, and I believe this relationship should be nurtured.

Michael Carrick

Whilst Carrick often falls under the umbrella of most underrated players – his footballing brain saw greater recognition towards the end of his career and, as is often the way, is certainly more appreciated now he’s retired. Thankfully, his ability to read the game and dictate the tempo of a match couldn’t be put to better use, given the calibre of midfielders he has to work with at United.

Fred has already seen massive improvement – a strong candidate for the club’s player of the season – and his most natural project (at least on paper) in Scott McTominay, is already showing the solid and diligent qualities that Carrick will only further accentuate. However, his most interesting challenge will certainly be Paul Pogba.

Whilst Bruno Fernandes hasn’t put a foot wrong since his arrival, his output seems almost exclusively attacking; Pogba is still talked about as the ‘complete’ midfielder, at least in potential. He combines natural ability and ingenuity with physicality and athleticism; the problem is, he hasn’t hit the levels of consistency at United needed to live up to this reputation yet. 

Pogba often struggles to stick to the basics and play simple, and whilst I would never discourage a player’s flair, much like Fergie’s dispute with Nani, he can can sometimes come across as indulgent and run unnecessary risk. If Carrick can get him to find the balance between control and creativity, we might finally get the Pogba we’ve been dreaming of – the kind we saw at the 2018 World Cup.

Kieran McKenna

Turning now to Kieran McKenna. His greatest strength is, arguably, his connection to the youth setup. Not only does his presence on the bench create a great sense of continuity between the academy and senior squad, but he also has a deeper knowledge of the younger players breaking into the first team and where their talents lie. 

The value of this cannot be overstated, given that many academy products like Marcus Rashford, McTominay, and even still the emerging Mason Greenwood, Brandon Williams etc, are so clearly part of Ole’s long-term vision. It isn’t just that he has coached these boys at various different levels, it’s that his inclusion in this current coaching configuration, echoes the sentiment that they are all contributing to a bigger project that is being built around the team as a whole.

Moreover, McKenna isn’t just a familiar face. Like Carrick, it has been reported by several sources over the past couple of years that he is one of the primary tacticians in the coaching set-up, rigorously studying each opposition in order to inform pre-match preparations. Many inside the club believe he is among the best young coaches in the country, so it only seems sensible to not only keep him at the club but continue to integrate his coaching style into United’s style of play.

Mike Phelan

As for Mike Phelan, his value to the side shouldn’t need much convincing. He is more than just the last remaining stalwart from the old guard, he is a man with decades of experience playing, coaching and deputising as Fergie’s right-hand man. Moreover, he wasn’t just an extension of authority, simply there to enforce the party line: he helped coach and develop the teams that went on to dominate the Premier League for the better part of 20 years. 

Whilst other significant members of the staff, such as Brian Kidd and René Meulensteen came and went, Phelan has outlasted virtually everyone and will almost certainly have learned from each of them, not to mention the gaffer, himself. Even after his dismissal under Moyes, he was more than happy to return not just as a first-team coach, but assistant manager under Ole and show what United had been missing.

As well as having an eye for spotting talent – something that had him tipped to become the clubs first technical/sporting director – Phelan is more than well-versed in old-school, tried and true, footballing philosophies. Furthermore, he also has a real understanding of man-management and how to it’s more important than ever in the modern game.

Simply put, Phelan lives and breathes United and has probably forgotten more about football than you or I will ever know. It’s clear that he is more than willing to adapt and develop his techniques to suit a more contemporary style, and given his long-standing relationship with Ole, not to mention his wealth of experience as number two, he is much more than a slice of the Fergie years.

Many Hands Make Light Work

Lastly, in light of Patrice Evra’s recent appearance on the UTD podcast, where he discussed working through his UEFA A and B licenses, as well the prospect of future management, it became apparent that taking on a coaching role at United is very much a possibility too. Similar to the appointments of Solskjaer and Carrick, not only would bringing Evra into the fold be a fantastic first step in his coaching career, but it’s one I feel would go down extremely well with supporters.

His reputation at United is pretty flawless: he turned a rocky start into a glittering career, making up part of one of the best back-fours we’ve ever had and only left because he was forced too. Moreover, the Suarez scandal only further endeared him to the fans and highlighted the ongoing issue of racism in football, not to mention he has gone on to be a great ambassador for the club.

Better still, he’d be more than just a crowd-pleaser. Like Carrick, Evra hasn’t been out of the game long and although his latter playing days may not have been as fruitful, he still has first-hand knowledge of the modern game, backed up by years of experience at the top level of the previous generation.

The notion of adding yet another wise head, who straddles the old and the new, into the mix is an exciting one, especially given he is yet another that knows United inside and out. More importantly, when you start to add all of these pieces together and look at the bigger picture, what is being built is a team of winners who have genuine expertise when it comes to being part of a successful team, whether it’s as a player or as a coach.

Whatever your opinion on Ole as a manager, he was the definitive super-sub in every sense of the word. The stories of him studying the game, taking notes and learning from Fergie whilst sat on the bench, shows that he has always looked to broaden his field of knowledge and improve his own footballing acumen – I believe his time as a manager, so far, has been no different.

Instead of conforming to the traditional, singular-minded approach, I think it could be a really progressive step to introduce a more collaborative coaching and management set up. This doesn’t stop with the immediate quartet/the addition of Evra either: I think further integrating the likes of Mark Dempsey and, crucially, Nicky Butt, given his instrumental role in the club’s development, would only serve to strengthen the team both on and off the pitch. 

I’m not saying United have to pioneer a brand new way of running a club, but we set a precedent once before by ‘playing the kids’, so who says we couldn’t be innovators once again?

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Will Angel Gomes Be The One That Got Away?

When Paul Pogba controversially departed Manchester United back in 2012, there was a feeling of inevitably that the player would go on to achieve big things.

The Frenchman’s potential was evident for all to see, but he become frustrated over the lack of first-team opportunities, and when he found himself behind Rafael Da Silva in the pecking order, enough was enough.

It remains to be seen whether Angel Gomes has had his ‘final straw’ moment with the club, but everything seems to be pointing in this direction. As per the Manchester Evening News, the midfielder is refusing to sign a new contract due to doubts over his pathway into the first-team. Will he be a Pogba 2.0?

With his current deal set to expire next month, the 19-year-old looks destined to leave the club on a free transfer, after rejecting multiple offers throughout the season.

Gomes’ reluctance to commit to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s project has made him quite the outcast out of his academy peers, with names like Mason Greenwood, Brandon Williams, Tahiti Chong and James Garner all putting pen to paper on new deals. Investing in the youth has been one of the Norwegian’s main priorities since taking charge, alongside integrating such talents into the first-team picture.

In fairness to the playmaker, his chances have been more limited than the aforementioned players. He’s been included in ten senior matchday squads, making just six appearances. Three of these have been starts in the Europa League, a competition that Solskjaer has utilised to give the youth a chance. Gomes has impressed during such camoes, maintaining a 91.3% pass success rate, averaging 1.7 key passes per game.

The teenager’s experience in the Premier League has been a different story though, racking up just nineteen minutes on the field this season. This is where the frustration has primarily stemmed from, particularly given the side’s lack of creativity at times.

Throughout youth level, Gomes has gained praise for his ability to bring the ball forward and create openings in the final third. His low centre of gravity enables him to turn quickly in possession, not being afraid to take an opponent on. In his three Europa games, he averaged 1.7 dribbles per 90 minutes from the midfield.

Such a skillset could have been deployed more this season, particularly when United have found themselves up against a deep block. Their tendency to solely rely on the counter has been the side’s downfall at times, as they have struggled against teams that like to restrict room in the final third. Daniel James, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial prefer running in-behind, with the attacking shape becoming clustered against lower-tabled sides.

The home defeat to Burnley back in January immediately springs to mind as an exmaple, a fixture where Gomes was forced to watch on from the sidelines. Both Andreas Pereira and Jesse Lingard were selected over the youngster that day – a reoccurring narrative that has seemingly pushed the midfielder to the exit doors. Both these players find themselves ahead of Gomes in the pecking order, despite their lack of attacking output on the field.

There has been very little to suggest that this pattern would change next season, hence the teenager’s reluctance to stay. He feels he is at a pivotal stage in his career and ready for the next step, with the club not offering enough encouragement to make Gomes feel like the place to do so is at Old Trafford.

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