Alvaro

In the alternate universe of Galactico, Morata is preparing to go back to Madrid. He is buoyed by the international break having scored a hat trick against Albania and this was followed up with a brace against Israel. Benzema still looks to miss out with an injury and there is no cause for worry and the four previous games without him, Morata has certainly steeped as he scored the winning goal in the pulsating game against Valencia in the 93rd minute. Against Levante, he scored the decisive goal with his first touch of the ball and against Real Betis, his quick reactions ensured Madrid wrapped up all three points despite the fact that Betis pulled one back. He has dragged Madrid to their feet all on his own and are now trailing Barcelona on goal difference alone. There is already talk of a Ballon d’or.

In another universe labelled Mancunia, the fans are camped outside the striker’s home hoping to catch a glimpse of their talisman. He was whisked off in the game against Israel in the 12th minute and was later seen leaving the stadium on crutches. There is talk of him missing three months of competitive football. Twitter has had a meltdown following this rumors. United fans cannot imagine life without Morata. His 14 goals in 7 games places him top of the top scorers’ list comfortably. The premier league has not fazed him at all and United are sweating over his injury and are hoping he can make an appearance against Liverpool.

Coming back to reality, Alvaro Morata is a Chelsea player that Chelsea payed 70 million for. The 24 year old is undoubtedly one of the finest finishers in Europe right now and Chelsea fans have no doubt that they bagged themselves a world class player among their ranks.

morata unveil

Factor in his 20 goals in 43 appearances last season and his numbers certainly speak for themselves. Depending on who you ask, Morata was always Chelsea’s first choice forward. Even this is uttered while paying little attention to the interview with the Guardian in April when Morata was talking about how public rejection impacts a player.

He seems to have put all that behind him and his six goals in 7 PL games shows a striker with an instinct for goal. This has however not been enough to convince his detractors. He started off  on the wrong foot in the Community Shield by missing a glorious chance and also a penalty. This clearly got to him as he lashed out about he has played half an hour of football and missed a penalty and everyone is killing him. Perhaps he should have seen the fierce criticism coming considering how competitive this league is.

He did not retreat to his shell but came out guns blazing and it certainly seems like he is coming out on top. There is no one doubting his qualities as he is one of the most technically astute players to grace the field. He is an all rounded player with a turn of pace, ability to beat a man and a heading ability to die for. This is a player quite tidy in possession as he was dispossessed only 1.2 times per game last season as compared to Diego Costa’s 3.4.  The one area that he is yet to be keenly tested on is his ability to lead the line. At Madrid, he was often used as a substitute in the dying minutes of the game or in games against minnow opposition.

This was one of the reasons he resorted to move to Juventus in 2014, so as to get more first team opportunities. This did not also go well as during his Italian stint, he scored 27 goals in 93 appearances which in all truth is a paltry return for a striker of his caliber. He struggled to adapt and during a training session he once broke into tears. In his first season, Carlos Tevez was the top scorer and in his second Paulo Dybala was the top scorer. He definitely had a problem dealing with the pressure that his role demanded.

mo push
Will he crack again when pushed against the wall? 

His conversion rate of 27% last season was another talking point for the various critics as it seems erratic for a player of his ability. Of his 20 goals last season, only 5 were scored against top ten opposition perhaps highlighting the kind of opposition most favorable to him. Five of his goals in the PL have come against Stoke, Leicester and Burnley.

For a ‘cameo-man’, 70 million seems like a lot but as it is with players and transfers, needs must. Consistency is certainly key and the jury is still out as to whether he is a 20 goal a season striker. His rejection by Manchester United will perhaps fuel him to prove a point as to why he should be taken seriously and considered to be one of the best. First things first, he has to work on his fitness to come back from his injury and not show any sluggishness or after effects because all eyes are on him. For a player who has never played more than 43% of available minutes in a league campaign, the onus is on him now more than ever to prove that he deserves to be labelled ‘world-class’.

Morata

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Indifferent

The most weird aspect of all this is that my previous blog was talking about the same thing that I intended to explore; Wayne Rooney. So I have to deviate slightly. After a 13 year association with Manchester United, Wayne Rooney bids goodbye and returns to his boyhood club. Social media has been awash with a lot of tributes thanking the player for his immense contribution but there was one word that formed a lump in my throat every time I read it. LEGEND. Does Rooney really deserve the legend tag?

rooney signs

This question will obviously shock some people. How dare you question the captain! After all he has done for the club? The over 60,000 fans who graced his 2016 testimonial would certainly have my head on a stick.  He is the record goalscorer for club and country which is mighty impressive considering the club record stood for 43 years. He is sixth in the all time list of club appearances. He has now won every trophy that he was eligible to play for but it is always the 5 PL medals that stand out.

record

He forged one of the most lethal counter attacking forces with Tevez and Ronaldo and in his prime was generally unstoppable. He has only failed to reach the 15 goal mark in two seasons illustrating his goal-scoring prowess. He has played all over the pitch except primarily as a central defender demonstrating his selflessness. Playing deep against Barcelona so Ronaldo would have the licence to roam free has always been the go to case for many fans. However there was one incident that would have escaped my eye had it not been for RedDevilArmada when Rooney let Pogba and Martial take the penalties against Fenerbahce because the players needed to boost their confidence and never gave any thought about the goal scoring record he was chasing then.

rooney clap

So why the hesitation on my part? I do not believe Rooney lived up to the hype following his sensational career start. There are feelings that he took longer than he should have to break the record and was generally on the decline. I am however aware that my sentiments may be blinded by the fact that I am a Three Lions fan and he has never really delivered on the international stage so I will shelve that debate.

In  2010, Rooney issues a transfer request to the United  hierarchy and asks to leave. He questioned the ambition of the club and the direction the club was taking. United had just sold Ronaldo so perhaps this was understandable. He claimed that he was keen on winning trophies and wanted a challenge. At the time he was flirting with Man City, a club that was in its 34th Season without silverware and were doing a bit of ‘kamikaze-spending’ as SAF put it. He had talked to City behind United’s back. 48 hours later, the Glazers tabled a 100,000 pounds a week contract and Rooney signed.  See the connection here? Quite funny that it took 100gs for Rooney to decide United was after all ambitious.

Three years later the greatest manager in the world said his goodbyes and as a parting shot notified everyone that Rooney had once again asked to leave the club. The general feel was that he didn’t take too kindly to losing his striking role to RVP. Mourinho at Chelsea made no secret that he wanted the English international at Stamford Bridge and United did knock back bids from the London Team. Rooney never came out to discourage these reports or to simply assure everyone that he wanted to stay. He was playing the high school girl who’s waiting to go home with the boy who wins the fight. (Un) Fortunately Moyes was desperate enough to offer him a ridiculous contract which included the armband and it was only after this (seeing the zeroes on his paycheck) that Rooney finally came out to state he was always going to stay. United again saved face by not allowing their star player to join a rival and stated that the new era would be ‘built around Rooney’. End result was a long contract that made things awkward within a season and a bloke probably earning what he did not deserve.

What unraveled was that Rooney was past his prime and his move to a midfield role was simply delaying the inevitable by hoodwinking us with those off-pressure cross-field passes. He lost his pace, the ice in his veins in front of goal (or any part of the pitch really) and most importantly his touch. So in my opinion Wayne Rooney was simply a journeyman who simply did not know when to leave.

Jake Lane of FutbolPulse recently stated that stats make someone a great but not a legend. Rooney for me falls in the former. A good player but not a United legend. The hallmark of a legend is someone with a genuine affection for the club and the desire to give your ass and place the club above all else. Rooney never did this and I for one feel he never cared about the club.

So good luck to a loyal *sic* servant of the Manchester United and I sincerely hope your next club is forgiving. The numbers label you a legend, I’ll take a pass.

everton banners getty
You can have him now (getty images)

 

 

 

 

Half-Full Half-empty

After 22 games, Manchester United’s league position reads; 22 games, 11 wins, 8 draws and 3 losses. 33 goals scored and 21 goals conceded, on 41 points and 4 points off a Champions league place.  The stark statistic is definitely the 8 draws that United has had. At first glance it doesn’t seem so bad for a mid-season read but when you consider the fact we have been in 6th position for over a month, then it makes for a weird feeling.

There’s no question that United under Mourinho are obviously so much better than in recent times but it seems the good performances have not fairly reflected in terms of results. United are now unbeaten in 13 premier league games which highlights our growth in terms of quality. However some reporters are referring to it as the most underwhelming unbeaten run since Brendan Rodgers’ 11 game unbeaten run some time back (Ouch!). United are ranked 3rd in terms of shots on target per game, just behind Liverpool and Spurs. However their conversion rate seems to leave a lot to be desired. Against stoke it was one such cameo where we had 25 shots on target as compared to Stoke’s 7. However all that was there to show was the drab 1-1 draw at the Bet365. The examples go on and on.. the 1-1 draw against Stoke, the draw against Arsenal and the Old Trafford blank against Burnley, bar Heaton’s performance.

heaton
When Heaton turned into an Octopus

So why are united not scoring goals?  The obvious pointer would be the (over) reliance on Zlatan. The nexus between Zlat’s lackluster form and United’s inability to score during those times is anything but chalk and cheese. It’s just too telling. Credit to the big swede for coming on and bossing the league from the word go. His performances so far show his caliber and the quality of cloth that he has been cut from as far as the best finishers in Europe are concerned. His current return of 14 goals is nothing short of extraordinary considering his age. His fitness is also outrageous as he is yet to miss a single PL game through injury and has completed all games that he has started. If you take into consideration the fact that he is 35, then that statue can’t come soon enough eh? The next 3 united scorers have a combined goal total of 11 which again shows the Swede’s poaching ability.

karate

However take away his goals and Zlatan sometimes he starts to look like somewhat of a liability. His movement is labored and outside the box his pass in the final third is wanting. His frustrations at not being able to score rubs off on the rest of the team and suddenly the whole squad is fidgety.

frustrated

It is at this point that Rooney was supposed to come in and aid in goals. However this has not happened and his paltry return of 5 goals so far is a disappointment. We knew he was on the decline but not this much man. But take nothing away from his landmark goal last weekend (others will go into the argument of whether it was a cross or he was actually going for the far post). I am guilty of judging players in the now but Rooney’s record demands you go back and look at his achievements in the past 15 years of playing top level football and his record is astonishing. His goals were instinctive and spectacular. Well done Wayne. With Mourinho refusing to protect the future of his captain beyond the summer and with him playing second fiddle, perhaps the MLS would be a decent way to go off.

roo
ROOted

In terms of goals scored, we are 10 goals behind the next team in the top six. This has to change. More players need to take their chances and not just float the ball to the wings to fullbacks who are not trustworthy in terms of crosses.

United are also averaging a 55% possession. This is  no surprise considering the manager. His area of specialty is on the counter and with speedsters such  as Martial and Rashford we can see why he prefers the system as the pace and trickery of the two can get them past most PL full backs with ease. With Ibra hanging up the other end of the pitch, it looks like a solid plan. his treatment of Martial in terms of not even naming him on the bench against Stoke set tongues wagging. Let’s be real though. Stoke wasn’t Martial’s game, in terms of physicality. Mourinho has been known for his tough love character and the last time he tried that it has worked brilliantly with Micki. He also applied the same with Benzema and when the Frenchman came back, he was firing on all cylinders.. de ja vu maybe? Trust the Man.

However we have only won 48% of our aerial duels. At the start of the season, the fact that  we had players like Ibra, Pogba, Jones, Smalling, Bailly, Fella *sic* was supposed to be the return of days past, the days when we bossed them due to our physicality but it seems this is just not happening. We just don’t seem aggressive enough when going for the aerial balls and in a league when winning the second ball is just as important as the first it seems more needs to be done in that department; both defensively and offensively. We have only scored 7 goals from set pieces and with players like Mata, Micki and Herrera whipping in those balls; surely more needs to be done.

Its very unlikely that we are going to get any new player in before the Tuesday deadline but with no new injury concerns, our current squad is more than capable of making us compete on all four competitions. A silverware and possibly a champions league place would be a satisfactory season for Jose. Best part about this is we can still say it’s  his rebuilding season.

it’s difficult to attach one word to our performances so far. The proponents will point towards the addition of quality in the team and the fact that we are actually (almost) playing the united way. The opponents will claim the good performances are not translating to results and the fact that this is a result business so good performances don’t matter. They will also mention fact that apart from Spurs we are yet to claim a major top 6 side scalp.

It also depends with what way you want to view the glass.

 

Side bar; (late) Happy Birthday Jose!

mou