Man United players have every reason to question Louis van Gaal

Manchester United’s defeat to Danish minnows FC Midtjylland in the Europa League on Thursday night represented a new low in Louis van Gaal’s reign at Old Trafford and a real indication into just how dire things are for the historic club.

Reports in the press since have suggested that senior figures in the playing squad are questioning their manager, with former Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho favoured to come and host football training drills to get the team back winning.

Despite Van Gaal possessing an enviable track record, experience and tactical acumen, it is clear after 18 months in charge that the club is not moving forward under his stewardship.

Ryan Giggs and Louis van Gaal
United fans have become accustomed to a certain brand of attacking football, which has been sacrificed in the name of progress by the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss.

In the first half of the season when the Red Devils were not playing well but grinding out results, the stale nature of performances could be accepted to some degree.

However, with flat showings being compounded by embarrassing results of late, Van Gaal is surely on his last legs in Manchester.

It is not an issue of not having the right quality of players, needing extra endurance training or issues of luck – the Dutchman simply isn’t getting the best from the personnel at his disposal.

At this stage, Van Gaal has had adequate time and expenditure in the transfer market to turn things round, with it now time for a change.

Whether Mourinho is the man to bring United back to the glory days remains to be seen, but one thing is evident – just how good a job Sir Alex Ferguson did over such a long time at the club.

The Chelsea tactic that could be a masterstroke for Man United

A broken leg for Luke Shaw in the recent Champions League defeat to PSV Eindhoven has given Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal a major cause for concern, with the England international facing a significant lay-off.

Without the former Southampton star, who was starting to come into his own at Old Trafford, the Red Devils boss must decide the best personnel in his back four to continue the form that has propelled the side to the top of the Premier League.

The natural replacement appears to be Marcos Rojo, who has played consistently for Argentina at left-back and could slot into the role.

Matteo Darmian

If Van Gaal sees fit, the South American could even be used as a centre-half, with Daley Blind slotting in at full-back as he has done in the past.

However, a potential ideal solution comes in the form of a tactic that Chelsea have used over the last 18 months.

The Blues have successfully deployed right-back Cesar Azpilicueta on the alternative flank, where the Spaniard has been one of the team’s most consistent players.

Against Sunderland at the weekend, Van Gaal opted to play his usual right-back Matteo Darmian on the opposite flank, with Antonio Valencia coming into the team on the other wing.

This has worked for Chelsea, and with the Italy international having experience of playing as a left-back for Torino, the tactic could be ideal to plug the significant gap left by Shaw’s injury.

The next Martial? Man United want another exciting Ligue 1 star

Manchester United’s summer capture of young French forward Anthony Martial has reaped dividends, with the former Monaco man fitting into the Old Trafford starting XI excellently, offering pace and a goal threat to Louis van Gaal’s attack.

However, it may well be that the Red Devils have not finished their Ligue 1 raid, with reports today linking the club with supremely gifted Lyon attacker Nabil Fekir.

The France international is part of a prodigious crop of young players to have come through the ranks at the Stade de Gerland in recent years – which ironically includes Martial.

Nabil Fekir

Last season Fekir’s attacking partnership with hotshot Alexander Lacazette was a key element to Lyon finishing in second place and powering their way back into Champions League football.

If there is any truth in United’s potential interest in the 22-year-old, the Old Trafford faithful should be excited as he is technically superb, creative and has proven that he knows where the back of the net is.

Fekir is currently on the sidelines having damaged his cruciate ligament while on international duty and as such he will not be back in the action until next year.

If he can regain his best form for Lyon in early 2016, the attacker will surely feature for France in next summer’s Euro 2016 competition on home soil – with United sure to have a close eye on his performances.

Manchester United pen new striker deal

Manchester United have announced that up-and-coming striker James Wilson has agreed a contract extension at the club on their official website.

The 19-year-old forward is a product of the club’s fabled youth academy and has made inroads into the first-team squad in recent times.

Although the teenager is a fringe figure this season under Louis van Gaal, a new deal to keep him at Old Trafford until 2019 has been agreed.

James Wilson

The gifted centre forward has made 18 senior appearances for the Red Devils, scoring four goals, but finds the substantial obstacles of Wayne Rooney and Anthony Martial blocking his path into the starting XI in 2015-16.

It is clear that Wilson has a bright future in the game and it is an embodiment of United’s supposed dedication to youth that the starlet has penned a contract extension.

The next step in his burgeoning career is clearly a loan move to a Championship club, with regular first-team football a necessity for the attacker to progress.

Why Angel Di Maria will win the Manchester United fans over

Ahead of the recently completed season, Manchester United’s objective was to regain a place in the Champions League, which Louis van Gaal has achieved.

The bar may well be lifted slightly higher next term as the Old Trafford that spend their hard-earned money at to watch their team crave a return to the glory days.

Although the campaign has had its fair share of positives, one of the perceived negatives of the season was the form of Angel Di Maria.

Signed for an extortionate transfer fee from Real Madrid, this Champions League-winning attacker’s arrival was treated with excitement from the Red Devils fans but the Argentine had a season to forget.

By the end of the campaign Van Gaal was preferring the much-derived Ashley Young ahead of the club’s record signing, which shows just how far the mighty have fallen.

Angel Di Maria

Despite the fact that the Argentina international has not shown his best form at the Manchester club as yet, it would be foolish to write Di Maria off.

Although transfer rumours are starting to swirl around stating that the South American could leave the club, United will not be ready to cut their losses on the star just yet.

It is worth noting that despite the fact Di Maria has not been at his best, the former Madrid man offered up ten Premier League assists; the most of any United player and more than Eden Hazard, Sergio Aguero or Alexis Sanchez.

A key issue over Di Maria has been the question over where he is best deployed, with Van Gaal guilty of chopping and changing the Argentine’s position in the team.

Ahead of next season, with the South American having more time to acclimatise to the club and his new surrounds, the Rosario Central youth graduate will surely be ready to start 2015-16 with a bang.

The old adage that form is temporary and class is permanent applies here, with the skilful winger having the ability to be a Premier League star if he can get back to his best.

Unleashing the Argentine in a fluid attacking system that is based around possession and swift counter-attacking could well get the best out of this star, who on his day is one of the best attacking midfielders in the business.

Should Manchester United make Radamel Falcao’s move permanent?

A summer of rebuilding at Old Trafford has seen Manchester United appoint a new manager and bring a host of new players to the club in an effort to reclaim former glories.

One of the most eye-catching additions was the loan capture of Colombian sharpshooter Radamel Falcao from Monaco, with the South American brought to England to make United a more dangerous side in the final third.

The former Atletico Madrid attacker has had a slow start to life in the Premier League, with injuries stopping him from hitting the ground running.

Reports have emerged that United have the option to make Falcao’s switch permanent at the end of the season, but is this wise?

Radamel Falcao

There is no doubt that on his day, fit and on form, Falcao is one of the most deadly strikers in the world game.

He has a proven goalscoring record in a number of European leagues and could be a man to fire United back into title contention.

However, the Colombian has a poor injury record in recent times and there are concerns that he is harbouring the long-term consequences of a serious knee injury.

With the extortionate fee being mentioned to make his move permanent, wouldn’t United be better served spending the money on a world class defender or two?

For every Eric Cantona or Ruud van Nistelrooy that has been part of the Red Devils’ success in the modern era there has been a Steve Bruce or Rio Ferdinand that has played just as an important role.

United have a wealth of attacking talent at Louis van Gaal’s disposal at the moment but are lacking experienced and proven defenders.

Given that Robin van Persie, Juan Mata, Angel di Maria, Adnan Januzaj, youngster James Wilson and Wayne Rooney are in Van Gaal’s squad, with Javier Hernandez on loan, the Colombian’s signing is not something that is really needed.

However, with United shipping goals in the Premier League and down to their bare bones at centre-half, the powers that be at Old Trafford would be better served spending big money on the solidification of the team’s rearguard.

Assessing the English sides’ chances in the Champions League

After the hectic domestic festive season fixture list, the focus on Champions League football is set to return, with the knockout stages to be played next month.

England have four representatives in the final 16 teams, with Manchester United, City, Arsenal and Chelsea all eyeing up a place at this year’s Champions League final in Lisbon.

The Premier League sides have been given stern challenges in the next stage, but what are their chances of progression?

Chelsea vs Galatasaray

Jose Mourinho has experience of lifting the Champions League crown with Porto and Inter, and will be charged with bringing Europe’s top trophy to west London this season.

Didier Drogba

The Blues have been handed the task of 180 minutes against Turkish champions Galatasaray, with a number of familiar faces set to feature for the opposition.

Didier Drogba will return to face his former club, while ex-Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini is at the helm of the eastern European outfit. With a former Mourinho favourite in the form of Wesley Sneijder also in Gala’s ranks, it should be a test for the London side.

However, despite Galatasaray’s progression at the expense of Juventus in the group stages, Chelsea will fancy their chances of making the quarter-finals.

Arsenal vs Bayern Munich

Defeat to Napoli in their final group stage fixture has come back to haunt Arsenal, with the Gunners facing European champions Bayern in the next round. That said, Arsenal fans will have rushed to buy Champions League tickets when the draw was made, as the tie should be of the highest order.

Pep Guardiola’s star-studded squad will be motivated to retain their crown, and eliminated the north Londoners on the way to the title last term.

Arsene Wenger will be buoyed on by his side’s win at the Allianz Arena in the tie last season, and will look to improve on home soil this time round.

In what is set to be an explosive encounter, the Emirates Stadium side will need to be at their best to progress.

Manchester City vs Barcelona

A real glamour tie, this one pits a new force in European football against one of the perennial mainstays.

Yaya Touré

The sheer quality on both sides will make this a top-notch encounter, with Lionel Messi and co’s visit to fortress Etihad sure to be an eye-catching clash.

Yaya Toure will feature against his former club, while City’s credentials will be thoroughly put to the test at Camp Nou.

The winner of this tie will be confident of making it to the latter reaches of the tournament, and the clash could go either way.

Manchester United vs Olympiakos

The easiest of the four ties was handed to Manchester United, who face Greek side Olympiakos over two legs.

With domestic form the cause of agony for David Moyes, the Scottish manager will hope for a comprehensive progression through to the quarter-finals of the European tournament.

The opposition have one deadly striker in their midst in the form of Kostas Mitroglou, who has the ability to end United’s dream on the continent.

Despite a hostile environment in the away leg, anything other than a United progression would be something of a shock here.

United need Reus more than Arsenal do

Borussia Dortmund winger Marco Reus is in high demand after an impressive start to the new season, with the German club recently admitting that the attacker has a release clause in his contract. This has shortened the football betting odds on the talented forward making a move to the Premier League.

As such, both Arsenal and Manchester United have been linked with a move for the former Borussia Monchengladbach man, with his release clause thought to be in the £30 million region.

Arsenal’s link to the prodigious attacking midfielder is understandable, as Arsene Wenger has been steadily adding players from Germany to his squad over the last 12 months.

Lukas Podolski, Per Mertesacker, Serge Gnabry, Thomas Eisfeld and Mesut Ozil are all on the books of the north London club already.

Marco Reus

However, with the Gunners in real need of an out-and-out striker to take some of the load and responsibility away from Olivier Giroud, Wenger should have other priorities in the January transfer window.

Reus’ considerable abilities mean he would be an excellent addition to any squad, but given the presence of Santi Cazorla, Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Podolski and Ozil, another attacking midfielder is not necessarily what Arsenal need if they are to win silverware this term.

United on the other hand need a player of Reus’ ilk more than the Gunners do. The Premier League champions are over-reliant on Wayne Rooney to provide the craft and creativity to break teams down, while their wingers have been hit and miss over the last 12 months.

With the pursuit of a creative central midfielder falling flat, it has been up to Rooney to link United’s midfield and attack. The likes of Nani, Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young have failed to impress of late, while Shinji Kagawa has been limited in his chances to play.

Reus’ addition would be a real boost for the Premier League champions, as he would bring energy, guile and technical quality to Old Trafford. His tendency to cut inside off his wing and play intricate passes with his number ten, Henrikh Mkhitaryan at Dortmund, would be a key bonus of signing him, as he could link up with Rooney in a way that United’s current wingers do not.

Kagawa still has a lot to prove at Old Trafford, and offering him in part-exchange could well be a mistake. Alternatively, should United meet Reus’ release clause and bring him to Manchester, two former Dortmund stars on the flanks for the champions looks like a mouthwatering prospect.

Januzaj is United’s new star – but they risk losing him

Manchester United fans have a new hero after 18-year-old winger Adnan Januzaj bagged a quickfire brace against Sunderland on Saturday to ensure victory in his first Premier League start.

Red Devils manager David Moyes has suggested that the teenage sensation is good enough to live up to the hype and could be the next Wayne Rooney in the making. However, the current Premier League champions are walking on a tightrope over Januzaj’s future, as he is out of contract at the end of the season. As such, Januzaj will be free to sign for a new club come January, with a pre-contract agreement with a domestic or European rival a real possibility. If it is not already, one of United’s main priorities must be to tie the prodigious talent down to a new, long-term contract. The likes of Chelsea, Manchester City and Real Madrid are said to be interested in the young Belgian and could land a windfall similar to those available on pocket fruity if they can turn Januzaj’s head.

Adnan Januzaj

United have been in a similar position before. Paul Pogba, who made waves in the Manchester club’s famous youth academy, was earmarked as the long-term successor to Paul Scholes. The young French star’s blend of physical and technical abilities, along with his creativity, meant that the Le Harve prodigy looked ideal to replace the outgoing English midfielder.

However, with Pogba in a similar situation to the one that Januzaj finds himself in, the player opted to spurn a new contract from United to move to Juventus at the end of the 2011-12 season.

A year later he is a France international, driving force in the Italian champions’ midfield and a player that United would love to have in their side. The players that the Red Devils looked to sign over the summer had similar abilities to the young star that they let slip through their fingers.

Januzaj is in a better position currently than Pogba was. The Frenchman found first-team opportunities tough to come by, whereas Januzaj now looks set to play a considerable role in Moyes’ plans. With other United wingers struggling for form and fitness, Januzaj can be a key man for the Old Trafford side this season. However, if United do not move quickly to resolve his contract situation he could be playing for one of their rivals this time next term.

Rooney won’t be handing in a transfer request at Manchester United

After United’s 0-0 draw with Chelsea last night, Jose Mourinho urged Wayne Rooney to come out in public and state where he wanted to play his football this season. However, the chances of the England international handing in a transfer request are very unlikely.

Whether Rooney is unsettled at Old Trafford or not, and whether he wants to play for Chelsea or not, he will not say it in public. With a handful of days left in the transfer window, Rooney would limit his chances of first-team football.

Wayne Rooney

What would happen if he stated he wanted a move but United refused to sell? He would be shooting himself in the foot with the fans that sang his name last night and compromise his chances of playing regularly for the Premier League champions.

Mourinho is right that players transfer to and from rivals on the continent all the time – unfortunately for him it happens very rarely in England.

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