Let’s start with the obvious. Ferguson retired. Moyes got fired. Van Gaal was hired.
Players always come and go in football clubs but usually when you have a winning team there is some continuity. I’m sure there are thousands of articles written on the subject by person’s far wiser than myself but one thing is certain, I have never witnessed a clean-out of playing staff at Old Trafford like the one we’ve seen in the last two seasons.
Most fans won’t say too much about Ferdinand, Vidic and co. moving on because of their age but the clean-out didn’t stop with the over 30’s. We’ve seen a ruthless streak from LVG with the sale of his former Dutch captain van Persie and many others including Nani, Anderson, Evans and Cleverley. Some might argue that these players were past their best or never achieved the lofty heights expected of them but it’s the speed with which they have been moved on that took most supporters by surprise.
Even a die-hard supporter of more than 30 years like myself has raised an eyebrow on more than one occasion when LVG signed, or sacked a player. It’s not because it didn’t happen under Big Ron or SAF but because he’s almost completely rebuilt the side from what we would describe as pensioners in such a short time. So the Angel di Maria signing didn’t work out, he was exceptional when he first arrived and whatever transpired between the burglary and his dramatic loss of form is irrelevant. LVG set the tone with his signing. It was a signal of intent. Manchester United are going to transform under his stewardship and will spend the money to do it if required. By now his departure to Paris isn’t news unless you’ve hidden in Bin Laden’s cave.
We should not forget there have been some diabolical signings in the last three decades too. Just think of Massimo Taibi, Veron, Forlan or Bebe to name a few. The media were never so quick to get on the manager’s back as they are today.
Of course, today the English game is the biggest league in the world in many respects and every move by even the smallest clubs attracts the attention of TV and internet reporters. With this in mind it is hardly surprising that the move of Angel di Maria to Old Trafford attracted a lot of attention.
Enter Anthony Martial. A youngster from the French league who cost anything from 36 to 58 million pounds depending on whose report you read. Looking back at his very brief United career, 4 goals in as many fixtures, including one at Liverpool, which makes him an instant legend, the price tag seems quite reasonable.
Of course the proof of a good signing is over the length of his contract and not the month of September but the signs are promising.
Louis has moved a lot of Fergi’s old stock on. In fact the dressing room barely resembles the title-winning squad of 2013, never mind David Moyes’ dreadful lot. A few key players are still around, David de Gea (24) most notably. The improving Chris Smalling, now in his prime at 25. Ashley Young (30), Valencia (30) and Wayne Rooney (29) of course just to name a few but essentially the starting eleven has almost completely transformed.
Consider the following:
Anthony Martial (19); Andreas Perreira (19); James Wilson (19); Adnan Januzaj (20); Luke Shaw (20); Paddy McNair (20); Tyler Blackett (21); Memphis Depay (21); Jesse Lindgard (22); Marcos Rojo (25); Daley Blind (25); Matteo Darmian (25); Morgan Schneiderlin (25); Ander Herrera (26); Juan Mata (27); Fellaini (27); Bastian Schweinsteiger (31); Michael Carrick (34);
Schweinsteiger is a majestic midfielder who has won just about everything and no doubt the idea is to replace the often under-rated Carrick who is reaching that period in his career where two games a week is a bit much and injuries take forever to heal. I would go as far as saying that Schweinsteiger is even better than Carrick. The Englishman is often criticised for playing the ball side-ways or back too much, the German by contrast is always moving forward. His strength in possession and movement off the ball are the things coaching videos should be made of. I hope his legs last the length of his contract because he brings an urgency and a calmness at the same time with his impeccable technique and vision.
We were truly disappointed with the collapse and subsequent defeat in the PSV game but the team has benefited from the return of De Gea with some defiant saves from the Spaniard. Was Louis right not to play him before the contract debacle was resolved? It doesn’t matter. We realised just how good he was in his absence and his return to the first team is like a top signing. I hope there is a minimum release fee clause if Madrid come knocking again.
There’s something glaringly obvious from the list of players above. Admittedly, LVG didn’t sign all of them but with one exception they are all very young. One could argue that they are still learning their trade but the game has evolved. It’s all about speed and fitness these days, at least in England.
This week a young team played in the Capital One Cup and dispatched Ipswich Town. The team was lead by captain Rooney who opened the scoring but much more impressive was the confidence displayed by Perreira to take a free kick which Mata would usually take, and more importantly, to slot it. Into the last quarter of the game and LVG brings on the loping French signing who just can’t seem to put a foot wrong. 4 games, 4 goals. A legend in the making.
Next up is Sunderland, a team who already, like their neighbours Newcastle, look destined for Championship football next season. Fill the midfield with experience and let the youth run wild Louis, the points are there for the taking!
We’ll miss Luke Shaw while he recovers from the broken leg but we’re going to be entertained by some brilliant young players this season. Will we win a trophy? It’s a bit early to say and maybe there are a few too many mistakes in these youngsters this season for us to be real contenders but the future looks bright.