Friday, 23 May 2014

A TRIBUTE TO RYAN GIGGS

Last week, amid the euphoria that followed the appointment of a new manager, Ryan Giggs called time on his playing career. It's unfortunate that if happened i  the midst of so much else going on, but his retirement has left a mark on world football. Whichever way you look at it, it's football's loss. Everything about Ryan is put into perspective when you remember that whenever United had an away game in Europe, foreign fans in stadiums you'd never expect afforded Ryan a standing ovation even for cameo appearances. There's not many players in the game, past and present, who earn universal respect and admiration for what they do on the pitch.

'A quarter of a century at one club' is probably the last time we'll get to use those words in the same sentence. Perhaps the gratest tribute to Ryan is that his stats and numbers will never be achieved. His 963 appearance record is certainly one that should last for a few generations to come. Not until human beings evolve to a level of fitness that allows them to play into their 50s at the highest level shall his records be surpassed.

Given the length of time he has spent at United, the number of favourite anecdotes and moments of Ryan are as many as the number fans that can tell them. From his debut freekick goal against Manchester City in 1991 to scoring what is still the FA Cup's all time best goal, there's plenty to say about Giggs. My personal favourite Giggs moment has nothing to do with on pitch action. It was a small pep talk that Giggs had with the players in 2008 revealled by Darren Fletcher.

On that memorable rainny night in Moscow, seconds after winning the Champions League, Giggs got the players in a huddle and told them to win it again the following year. Darren recalls that at that moment, the players looked stunned at the Welshman. They hadn't had 5 minutes to celebrate a momentous achievement but here was Giggs asking them to do it again the following year. That summed up Giggs for me, and if ever you need an explanation to his medal haul, it's that small pep talk delivered in the rain in Moscow to the newly crowned European Champions.

A lot of the players in the game today settle for a couple of achievements and slack off. Giggs had this unquencheable thirst for success that can only be admired. The personal discipline and sacrifice that he had to come to terms with to play into his 40th birthday is something that the modern day professional ought to learn. We are told some players cannot play at their peak past 32 because they started playing at 16. Paul Scholes recently made that observation about Wayne Rooney. Well, Giggs started out at 14 in the youth team and was a first team player by 17 and yet 963 games later, he is still better than most of the midfielders we've got at United currently. His performances in Germany against Bayer Leverkusen and the home tie against Bayern Munich tell you all to know about his current abilities.

It's fantastic that he becomes assistant manager under Luis van Gaal as that rretains the link with the past ahead of the new dawn that awaits United. Fellow professionals regard him as the Legend of Legends, to us fans he will always be THAT guy who has been Tearjng Teams Apart Since 1991.

Knight Him Now!

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

UNITED GO DUTCH

We've known it for quite a while, but earlier this week, Manchester United confirmed Luis van Gaal as their new manager. With Ryan Giggs taking up the deputy position, many Reds cannot wait for next season to start.

For the first time since Sir Alex retired, it really does feel like United are in capable hands. That is not least because of the CV of the current Dutch manager. Luis van Gaal is one of the more respected European coaches in the game.  I guess managing Ajax, Bayern and Barca, helps. Crucially though, he is the closest to Sir Alex as there is on the market.

It's been said that a lot of the current crop have gotten alittle comfortable at Old Trafford and hence the need to move a huge chunk on. When it comes to introducing a philosophy and building a dynasty, none is better than the current Holland coach. It is no suprise then that he was responsible for laying the foundations of the recent Barca and Bayern dominance of European football. His 4-3-3  high pressure, passing game will be a shot to the arm to the uninspiring levels that Unired teached under David Moyes.

The downside is sometimes LVG can get so full of himself that a club can collapse under the pull of his ego----yes, it's that big! From the moment he names his captain, you can bet that it will be box office for Sky.
You do feel though that he is the type of character that Manchester United need to quickly recover from a nightmare season.

From a cynical perspective, his appointment makes for a box office season in terms of his relationship with the media. Most of us had gotten too comfortable with how Sir Alex handled the press that we forgot what it meant to read quotes of assurrance every weekend. David Moyes certainly did his part to ensure we quickly missed the old Scott quickly in that respect.

Ultimately, it's hard to imagine United worse than they were last season. Replacing the fellow that replaced Sir Alex was always going to be eassier than replacing the fiery Scott.

Hopefully we've ridden our storm, or at least the worst of it.

The news of the managerial appointment sort of clouded the retirement of United's man for all seasons. I will not do the injustice of covering his retirement in this post. The next one is dedicated to him.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

FAREWELLS, TEARS AND A GLIMPSE INTO THE FUTURE

It was always going to be an emotional evening at Old Trafford last night. It is unlikely that we will see many of the current crop play for the club again. However the certainities surounding the departure of the club captain Nemanja Vidic and more solemnly the possibility of interim manager Ryan Giggs hanging up his boots made the evening more about them than anyone else.

Vida seemed prepared to give a reasonably worded speech until the Stretford End burst into a chorous of 'Nemanja Vidic, He comes from Serbia, He'll f**kin murder ya'. You could see that it took the words off his head. Sometimes words fall short of expressing one's feelings and that is exactly the tragedy that befell the tough Serb. Being the rock that he is, he probably realised another minute with the microphone would have given way to tears and so he opted to let the fans chant into his speech and leave them with the most heartfelt thank you he could afford.

Up until that point, I had succeeded in holding back any tears, but the floodgates opened when Ryan Giggs paused in his speech to wipe a developing tear from his eye.

We did have a game of football to sit through before all that. James Wilson and Tom Lawrence were handed their club debuts in a bid to show the fans a glimpse of what we can expect moving forward. Wilson in particular took the opportunity with both hands by grabbing two poacher's finishes enroute to becoming an instant social media hit. His brace ensured that he's now scored for the U17s, U18s, U21s and senior side in the same season. You don't build a CV like that in 8 months unless there's something about you. He'll need to keep it up though as one area we're usually fully stocked is the strikers department.

Robin van Persie came off the bench to score a decisive third goal taking his season's tally to 18. In an injury plagued season, that is quite a remarkable figure even by his standards. It almost measures to the conclusion that when fit, he'll make at least 30 as was the case in his debut season. Here's to an injury free 2015 campaign.

The season closes at St Marys on Sunday and the club has chosen to get the season out of the way before they can announce the new manager. Before then, it will be about going through the motions to put to bed an otherwise forgettable season.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

CURTAIN FALLS DOWN ON NIGHTMARE SEASON TONIGHT

It's not yet game 38, but United play at home for the last time in 2013/2014 tonight against Hull City. After having his managerial bubble burst against Sunderland at the weekend, Ryan Giggs will want to end the club's home campaign on a winning note. Ever since he made the switch from player-coach to manager, it always seemed like his playing days were slowly slipping away from him. At 962 appearances for the club, Giggs has put himself in a unique category of legends at the club. I'm sure there's more than one or two United fans that want him to name himself in the team tonight in what could yet be his final appearance at Old Trafford after a career that has spanned a generation.

Speaking of legends, Old Trafford will tonight pay tribute and bid farewell to one of the greatest defenders to don the club's shirt. Nemanja Vidic joined the club 8 years ago and added the grit and determination that a typical Serb is naturally born with. His tough as nails approach to defending made him the world's best defender by 2009 and has since been a force to reckon with. His fearless and brutal approach to the game suprised me up to the day he knocked at Sir Alex's door and asked the then manager to allow him leave England to serve his country in war. It then dawned onto me that flying into challenges with his head was never going to frighten a man willing to engage in the business of live rounds.

Captain Vida might have lost a litre or two of blood during his 8 years with us but he loved defending. He almost seemed disappointed whenever he left the pitch without losing blood. Most footballers break sweat, Vidic broke blood. Perhaps the greatest tribute to his contribution to United is that like Stam, the club will not find a defender like him anytime soon. I'm pleased that he leaves us 15 accolades better off than when he joined, including a Champions League medal won in his home country at the ground of his former club.

The 2014 Revolution that will take place at Old Trafford is also likely to see many players make their final Old Trafford appearance tonight. It's really set up to be an emotional lap of honour for many. Old Trafford has become accustomed to having them with something to show for the season. This time though, the players have a job to thank the fans for supporting the team through a season that will hopefully go down as the worst ever Manchester United will have to endure for as long as the club exists. We've done so poorly that we do not need to improve much to do better next term. It is imperative that we reclaim our trophy next term.

That job starts after tonight as there's every chance we shall officially know the idientity of the new manager by this time tomorrow.

Sunday, 4 May 2014

BUBBLES DO BURST ATTERALL

The narrative of this season has been one step forward, two steps back. It's little wonder that we have maintained a league position of perfect mediocricy this term. Understandably, Ryan Giggs promised all the players game time in his 4 games in charge, but there was always the chance that it could cost him a game or two.

As a player coach, he knows the individual strengths of that dressing room but you do get the feeling that a lot of his judgement of the players is based on their performance under the genuis of Sir Alex. As such, despite an already poor season, he might still be smarting from the shortcomings of some of his fellow professionals.

It's been in the games that demand something extra that have seen us exposed a lot this term. That is where the genuis of Ferguson has been soleley missed since last May. You therefore have to think that the new man in charge next term has got to have that extra brilliance to overcome days like yesterday and the different probelms encountered enroute to the other 6 home defeats.

On a brighter note though, that earlier result in the day involving Spurs had many of us worried about Europa league football. Spurs didn't think they would be let off that easy, now did they? In a season where the club will be under pressure to quickly return to the glory days, the last thing we need on our minds is Thursday night football.

For starters, Europa league qualification starts 31st July. If reports are to be believed that a one Louis van Gaal is destined to be the manager, that gives the old bloke a little over a week to get unveiled, do preseason, sort out the expected squad overhaul and start the new season. It could just as easily end up being as chaotic as the previous summer.

So, no Spurs, 7th will do just fine for us this term. Next up is the final home game of the season on Tuesday against Hull. Old Trafford has been the problem venue this term, but we would all like to close out the season at home with a win.

Friday, 2 May 2014

GAME 2 OF FEEL GOOD FACTOR

The popular line is that Manchester United are currently undergoing a feel good factor with Ryan Giggs in charge of the team. As such, many feel the campaign will end on a shot of adrenaline rather than the assumed genuis of Giggs as a manager.

After dispatching Norwich at Old Trafford in what was surely our best home performance of the season, Sunderland visit at prime time Saturday hoping to cement their place above the relegation zone. For United though, it is another opportunity to see what else Giggs can get out of this side beyond what they produced on his managerial debut.

A similar return to last week will suddenly increase his political capital in his bid to become the next permanent manager or at least the go to guy in the future as and when he is needed to make that step up. A poor result could however confirm doubts as regards his experience at this level. All will be clear at teatime tomorrow.

In terms of what the result could mean for us, it's seemingly academic from hereon. Many fans would rather we won all our remaining games whilst Spurs also won theirs so as to avoid the minor hell that is the Europa league. Given that all efforts will be geared towards reclaiming our trophy next year, we could do without the distraction of Thursday night football.

Anyhow, Giggsy and the boys play at Old Trafford tomorrow and another carnival atmosphere will surely manifest as the feel good factor enters Game 2. If we perform like last Saturday, the question will be asked as to why we cannot have the feel good factor for the 38 games next season.