Friday, 18 September 2015

Shaw To Return

Whether you're a Manchester United fan or not, Luke Shaw's horrific injury on Tuesday night is something you would never wish on anybody. You could be the most cold-hearted individual out there, but watching the close-up footage of that challenge is enough to send shivers down anyone's spine. After starting the season so well for both club and country, the 20-year-old is now likely to miss the rest of the 2015-16 campaign and possibly the European Championships next summer. It is a deeply devastating situation for the young man to find himself in.

After a disappointing start to his career in Manchester, which was mainly hampered by injury, Shaw had started to show the form that had interested a number of big suitors in the Premier League and in Europe, including both Chelsea and Real Madrid. United, however, were willing to gamble on the young Englishman, paying Southampton around £27 million and Shaw himself approximately £120,000 per week in order to lure him to Old Trafford. It was clear he had the talent, but whether he could live up to that huge price tag was a different story altogether.

At first Shaw struggled. During his first season at United the full-back only managed 20 appearances in all competitions. Due to injury and also down to the fact that his manager Louis Van Gaal suggested that he was not fit enough to secure a regular starting place, Shaw in the end did well to compete in that many matches. Then when he was starting to slowly get back to match fitness he was kept out of the side, particularly from March onwards, by fellow team-mate Daley Blind who was impressing in the left-back position. So Shaw had to wait. However, when his time did arrive, he was arguably United's best player.

During United's pre-season tour of America, a new-look Shaw was playing brilliantly. Stronger, sharper and faster, the young Englishman was replicating the performances he delivered time and time again in a Southampton shirt. United fans were finally beginning to see, if they hadn't already, what this kid was all about. Shaw continued this remarkable form into the start of the new Premier League season, playing in every game and arguably being United's stand-out performer in each match. However, on Tuesday night, against PSV Eindhoven in the Champions League, Shaw's season was ended in drastic circumstances.

After a brilliant trademark burst into the box, Shaw was challenged by PSV defender Hector Moreno. At first glance there didn't seem to be a problem, but as the ball flew out for a corner and Shaw remained completely unmoved on the turf, it was obvious that something serious had happened. Shaw suffered a double leg break and after receiving oxygen on the pitch for near enough ten minutes, he was then taken to hospital where he underwent surgery. After watching the replay, United could have easily been awarded a penalty and Moreno arguably could have been walking back to the dressing room. It was a forceful and rather reckless challenge that went unpunished. The Mexican did play the ball, but in this day and age and the way football has changed over the years, the sheer force of the challenge would have been enough for many referees to brandish the red card. However, according to former United captain Roy Keane the tackle on Shaw was a fair one. He said "I thought it was a brilliant challenge. I love the physical side of the game." The physical side of the game is fantastic but considering the consequences of Moreno's tackle it is a quite unbelievable thing for Keane to say. There's physical, and then there's ending someone's career, something which the Irishman has done intentionally over the years. Maybe I shouldn't be that shocked by Keane's opinions after all.

Fortunately, Shaw's injury isn't a career-ending one. Hopefully he will be back to full fitness for the start of next season. Although it is possible, it is highly unlikely that he will return during this current campaign. The 2-1 defeat to the Dutch champions was severely overshadowed by what happened to the England full-back on Tuesday night. It is good to hear that Moreno has apologised for the tackle but it is even better to hear that he has visited Shaw in hospital. It was the right thing to do and he will be applauded for it. Unfortunately, it doesn't improve anything for a 20-year-old lad who has had his season dramatically cut short. I, along with every single Manchester United and England supporter, am extremely gutted for the young man. To have worked so hard to finally get to where you want to be, I can only imagine how disappointing it must be for him. Age is on his side though, and I am sure he will bounce back from this and establish himself as his club and country's first choice left-back for many years to come. The whole nation will be wishing him a safe and speedy recovery. Get well soon, Luke.

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Magical Martial Debut

Anthony Martial took the Premier League by storm yesterday after his stunning solo goal ensured victory for Manchester United against Liverpool at Old Trafford. A 3-1 result means United are now five points adrift of rivals City, and although he only came on as a second half substitute, 19-year-old Martial enjoyed a moment that he will never forget.

Anthony Martial lit up Old Trafford yesterday evening
He has been the subject of conversation since September 1st, when Manchester United broke the bank to make the Frenchman the most expensive teenager in football history. A staggering starting price of £36 million that could well rise to an even more astonishing £58 million, there was certainly pressure on the young man to hit the ground running, even if his new manager Louis Van Gaal insisted that there wasn't.

At only 19, I don't think anybody expected the youngster to make an immediate impact. It would surely take time for him to settle in England and adapt to the new surroundings and expectations at his new club. At such a young age, it would surely take him at least a couple of months to fully adjust to the physical demands and high intensity of the Barclays Premier League. How wrong could we be? Martial made quite an introduction.

Sir Alex Ferguson watched
on at Old Trafford
Louis Van Gaal opted not to start his deadline day signing against Liverpool on Saturday evening, even after club captain Wayne Rooney was ruled out through injury. Instead, the Dutchman decided to start Marouane Fellaini up front on his own, leaving Martial on the bench. After a dull first half, United took the lead through a superbly worked set-piece, converted in the end by Daley Blind. A perfectly weighted pass by Juan Mata was finished fantastically by the Dutchman, curling the ball high into the top corner of the net and far out of reach of Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet. It was 2-0 in the 70th minute when Ander Herrera converted a penalty after being brought down in the area by youngster Joe Gomez. With the game seemingly out of sight, Christian Benteke scored a wonderful overhead kick for the visitors in the 84th minute to give his side a glimmer of hope and a chance to rescue at least a point. However, just two minutes later, the most expensive teenager in world football took centre stage at the Theatre of Dreams.

With United under real pressure for the first time in the match, Martial delivered a moment of pure brilliance. Latching onto a ball from Ashley Young, the youngster weaved majestically through the Liverpool defence, past both Clyne and Skrtel, before slotting the ball low into the bottom corner of the goal to send the Old Trafford crowd wild.

Martial scored his stunning solo goal in front
of the Stretford End
The hype surrounding the youngster these past couple of weeks hasn't seemed to faze him at all. A hefty price tag and a move to one of the biggest clubs in the world is enough to dramatically affect anyone's mind, let alone a 19-year-old forward who has been branded the new Thierry Henry and the next star of his generation. Martial's debut strike yesterday certainly drew comparisons with the Arsenal great, and I am sure that the former Gunner would have been proud to have scored that goal himself. It is very early days of course, but if Saturday is anything to go by, then Manchester United fans have potentially found themselves their next golden boy. At 19 years of age, scoring on your Manchester United debut against Liverpool at Old Trafford, in front of more than 75,000 people, really is what dreams are made of. It doesn't get much better than that.

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Manchester United - Top Ten Premiership Comebacks

Manchester United are well-known for their late, late comebacks. Particularly during the Sir Alex Ferguson years, United's never-say-die attitude was a significant reason as to why they were so successful. Countless trophies were won not only because of the quality in the side, but also because of the togetherness and determination of the team to never give up until the final whistle. Here we look at United's top ten Premiership comebacks.

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Who is Anthony Martial?

Anthony Martial joined Manchester United from Monaco for £36 million on transfer deadline day, a move that made the 19-year-old the most expensive teenager in football history. With the transfer fee potentially reaching a staggering £58 million, every single United supporter wants to know what the young Frenchman is all about. This article takes a closer look at his career so far.

The following statement is from Manchester United's official website:

George Best made an immediate impact at Old Trafford and
Martial will be hoping to make a flying start
to his United career too
"He began his career in the junior ranks of CO Les Ulis, where Henry and former Old Trafford favourite Patrice Evra both started their illustrious careers. At the age of 14, Martial joined Lyon and became a regular for the France Under-16s, scoring nine goals in 17 games. More strikes followed for the Under-17s (nine in 13 games) and Under-18s (three in four games) as his reputation continued to soar at international level. Domestically, he also plundered over 30 goals for Lyon's Under-17s as it became difficult to contain the hype surrounding his promise.
Although he broke into the Lyon team in 2012/13, making four appearances, more experienced strikers such as Lisandro Lopez, Alexandre Lacazette and Bafetimbi Gomis, who scored the winner for Swansea City against United in August, naturally barred the way to the starting XI. However, Martial's excellent potential was so obvious Monaco paid €5million for his signature in a transfer that rocked French football.
Martial would love to get his hands on one of these trophies
before his debut campaign is over
The attackers competing for a starting place included Radamel Falcao but Anthony still managed 11 league appearances, scoring twice as the team finished runners-up behind Paris Saint-Germain in Ligue 1. Falcao’s loan switch to Old Trafford at the beginning of 2014/15 enabled Martial to take over the mantle as the main striker and he responded with nine goals, while also only missing three league fixtures all season. Monaco later finished third and even reached the Champions League quarter-finals.
Although Martial did not score in Europe, he did set up a goal for former Reds striker Dimitar Berbatov and impressed against United's Premier League rivals Arsenal in the competition's second round. The performance at the Emirates Stadium was one of his finest as the Gunners suffered a shock 3-1 defeat.
Martial is already off the mark for 2015/16 after netting against Young Boys in the Champions League qualifiers, though it was Monaco’s exit from the competition at the hands of Valencia that reportedly opened the door to broker a deal for a player who had only signed a new contract in early July.
He is capable of playing as a right-sided attacker and his youth-team pedigree suggests he will become more prolific in front of goal as he matures. A fan of Brazilians including Ronaldo and Sonny Anderson as a schoolboy, he has elements of South American-style flair in his game and should prove popular with fans."
Anthony Martial is Manchester United's third most expensive signing
after Angel Di Maria and Juan Mata
It is clear that Martial is highly rated not only in France but also across the rest of Europe and even South America. He has bags of ability and has the potential to become a world-class superstar. Being likened to Arsenal great Thierry Henry is a compliment in itself, and if the young forward performs even half as well as the Premier League legend once did, then the Old Trafford crowd will have a new name to shout about.
It will be interesting to see where he features in Louis Van Gaal's plans. So far this season the United manager has played one striker in Wayne Rooney. With Martial capable of playing as an effective winger, will he take the place of either Mata or Memphis? Or will the Dutchman alter his formation and play the Frenchman up front with the England captain, with Rooney reverting to his traditional number ten role that many regard as his best position? My feeling is that Martial will fill the void left by Adnan Januzaj, after the young Belgian moved to Borussia Dortmund on a season-long loan. Rooney will drop back and play just behind the youngster, not straight away, but gradually once Martial has adjusted to his new surroundings and has started to adapt to the high intensity of the English game.
I hope he does well for United. Having a £36 million price tag hovering above your head cannot be easy for any footballer, let alone a 19-year-old boy who has just signed for one of the biggest clubs in the world. If he is given time to settle in England and is well looked after by United, then from what I have read and heard about him, I am sure he will do very well. If you're good enough, then you're old enough. After all, age is just a number.

The promising youngster will soon have to get used to
speaking to the media at Old Trafford

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

De Gea's Deadline Day Disaster

To put it bluntly, deadline day was a complete and utter shambles as far as Manchester United fans were concerned. Their club's outgoings on the final day of the transfer window were more than questionable, and with only one new signing arriving through the doors at Old Trafford on Tuesday evening, it has left even the most upbeat followers of the club astounded and bemused. The proposed David De Gea transfer to Real Madrid epitomised this overwhelming feeling felt by almost every single Manchester United supporter.

A transfer that has dominated the news all summer, it was surely only a matter of time before Spanish goalkeeper David De Gea achieved his dream of moving to Real Madrid. It wasn’t until Monday, the deadline day in Spain, that negotiations finally started between the two clubs. A deal had been reached late in the day in excess of £29 million - £18 million in cash for De Gea, as well as Real goalkeeper Keylor Navas, who Madrid valued at £11 million. The deal looked likely, and United fans all around the globe were beginning to accept the fact that the 24 year-old would be making a permanent move back to his homeland for a fee far below their valuation of him.

Late on Monday night, however, reports started to surface that the deal had fallen through. La Liga had not received the relevant documents on time. United and Madrid blamed each other, neither wanting to admit that it was their fault that the transfer had failed to take place. The Spanish club chose not to appeal to the league, which makes you wonder whether they intentionally withdrew from proceedings themselves at the very last minute knowing full-well they could get their man for free next summer. What was clear though, was that the deal was dead. David De Gea’s dream move to the Spanish capital is now on hold.

From start to finish, this whole situation has been a complete disaster. Club legend Peter Schmeichel described the saga earlier in the week as an “absolute joke” and it is hard to disagree with him. Louis Van Gaal has known for some time that De Gea would not be signing a new contract. He has known for some time that his first-choice goalkeeper wants to move to Real Madrid. He also knows that he could have either sold him in this window and received a slight profit for someone they paid just over £18 million for back in 2011, or let arguably the best goalkeeper in world football leave on a free transfer next summer at the tender age of 25. As it stands, the latter is almost certain.

Let’s face it, nobody involved with the football club wanted De Gea to leave. United’s player of the season for the last two years, he has shown time and time again that he has the potential to go on and become one of the best goalkeepers in history. But this has been a nightmare for both the player and the club. Van Gaal, after claiming that his number one was not in the "right frame of mind" to start any of his side’s six games in all competitions so far this season, now has a decision to make. Does he bring De Gea straight back into the side now that this summer’s transfer window has ended? Will the Spanish goalkeeper immediately return to the form he has shown for the last two seasons during the current campaign, or will his thoughts still be with Madrid? Sergio Romero was exposed against Swansea on Sunday afternoon, and although he hasn’t done terribly, it is quite clear that the Argentinian is nowhere near the Spaniard’s exceptionally high standards. You would expect De Gea to return to the starting eleven and act professionally. After all, he owes it to himself more than anyone else to reach the heights of last season and prove why Madrid were so adamant on making him their major summer signing and their next Galactico. Who knows, if he returns to the form he has shown so often, United may end up finishing higher than fourth place this season. De Gea won points on his own last year, and with a more assured defence in front of him this time around, expect him to shine once again in the United shirt.

The outcome is inevitable. In a year’s time David De Gea will belong to Real Madrid. For the time being, however, he needs to get over the disappointment of this summer and focus on doing what he does best, and that’s performing on the pitch. United may lose him on a free transfer next year, but for at least one more season they will have questionably the world’s best goalkeeper back in their side. His first start of the season won’t be far away, I’m sure of that. It wouldn’t come against Liverpool at Old Trafford on September 12th, would it?