Thursday, September 19, 2013

Dazed and Confused

"Been dazed and confused for so long it's not true
Wanted a superstar, never bargained for you.
Lot's of people talking, few of them know
Soul of Man United, was created in midfield!"

This has been the sad song sung by my Manchester United brethren since the close of the transfer window. United fans worldwide, feeling exposed by the retirement of the deity that is Sir Alex of Ferguson, were crying out for that big money signing that would act as a statement of intent - confirming the Red Devils are still the big boys on the block. After all, Manchester City finally succumbed to Roberto Mancini's sage advice and retooled in the off-season. And Chelsea brought back 'The Special One.' It was vital that we responded in kind.

And we did...kinda...sorta.

Despite being linked with everyone from Cesc Fabregas to Kaka to Avala legend Tome Divljak, United closed their transfer activity by parting company with $27 million for the signature of Moyes' favourite Toffee Marouane Fellaini.

And the outcry that followed was immense...with more vitriol thrown at Moyes than chemical weapons in Syria. 

Now I'm not going to defend the shambolic nature with which we managed the transfer window. At times it seemed as if the good folk running the Labour party were providing strategic direction at Old Trafford HQ. From the very public courting of Fabregas, to the Spanish 'imposters', the initial ridiculously low bid for Fellaini and Leighton Baines to overpaying Everton with seconds to go before the window expired. It was a public embarrassment. Considering the club is under new management with Moyes and Woodward, hardly the stuff that instills confidence in a very demanding supporter base. 

However...the outcome on the playing field is perfect. 

Our greatest weakness over the past number of season has been midfield, something that's been on the agenda since the retirement of Rampaging Roy Keane. Seba Veron had all the skills, but couldn't quite adapt to the pace of the Premier League. Anderson has bitten off, quite literally, more than he can chew. Djembe Djembe would have been great if his on field performance wasn't as ridiculous as his name. Owen Hargreaves was made of porcelain, and Darren Fletcher shit himself, leaving Michael Carrick the uninspiring constant over the past few seasons. 

The arrival of Marouane Fellaini was exactly what I wanted. Fellaini is a proven Premier League and international performer - an all action presence who can mix it up physically, but who also has the capacity to play great technical football and score goals.

Since the transfer deadline expired all I keep hearing is 'he's not a United player'. I couldn't disagree more. He's exactly what we need. Not that I wouldn't have minded a Mesut Ozil or Bastian Schweinsteiger. But if it's about addressing a weakness in the team, Moyes has done it. 

Let's break this down.


David de Gea might not be the best keeper in the EPL right now, but he's certainly in the conversation. Any flaws he might have can be negated by the fact he's only 22 and has tremendous upside. With wanting to sound like a real homer, I think in de Gea we have the future best keeper in the world.


The backline, when fit, is rock solid. Vidic and Ferdinand, ably supported by Jonny Evans, make up the best centre back troika in the league. Evra's return to form and Raphael's continued improvement make for a pretty deadly fullback pairing. They might enjoy going forward a little too much, but they still bring more to the table than they take off. And in Jones and Smalling we have two young guns who can fit in anywhere across the backline. The defense is deep, versatile and very talented.


Up front there's RVP - the best striker in the Premiership. Rooney might be a fat, balding former granny shagger...but he's still capable of 20 goals a season. Welbeck has proven himself to be, at the very least, Emile Heskey 2.0 (I can't believe I convinced myself that this is a high compliment). And Chicharito is a great ace up the sleeve - the perfect super sub.


Michael Carrick continues to anchor the middle. I've been his biggest critic over the years, but will grudgingly concede he's a steady presence who makes few mistakes. He doesn't win many games, but he'll lose fewer. Fellaini can now partner with Carrick in front of the defense. This releases much of the tackling burden from Carrick's slender shoulders and allows him to concentrate on excelling as the boring steadying presence with his passing. Meanwhile Fellaini brings a physical authority and some much needed muscle that has been sorely lacking. On the wings we can choose from Valencia, Young, Nani, Zaha or Adnan Januzaj - who I've seen little of but has impressed me. Cleverly is decent but far from the finished article. And Giggs should be available to support the seconds in the League Cup, as well as supporting the players wives. All in all this is a pretty impressive and deep group.


The key to bringing this all together, and the reason we didn't need an additional big money splash it the transfer market, is Shinji Kagawa. It seems that Moyes is the only man in football who doesn't rate the Japanese international. Forget other game changing attacking midfielders...we've got one.

Just imagine a 4-3-3 formation with Carrick and Fellaini anchoring the midfield, Kagawa operating ahead and RVP, Rooney and Welbeck up front. Or a 4-5-1. Carrick and Fellaini once again at the base of a triangle with Kagawa. Two traditional wingers (Valencia and Zaha ideally) on the flanks bombing forward and crossing for RVP. This gives you the tactical flexibility of Rooney on the bench, with the capacity to change up any game.

When I think of all the options I'm excited enough to let Samuel L Jackson talk me into opening up a new Bet365 account with a lazy hundred on the Devils to repeat. We won last season by 11 points for goodness sake. And that was with half the team perpetually injured.

Unfortunately though David Moyes is in charge...and Kagawa has been handcuffed to the bench. I don't know if he lacks imagination, tactical nous or just plain balls, but his safety first approach that guided Everton to multiple sixth places won't win us the title. Heck, with Ozil at Highbury and Spurs reloaded it might not even get us Champions League qualification. 

The performance in Europe midweek was refreshing, and provided a blueprint for how good Manchester United can be this season. Now Moyes and his charges face their toughest test to date - the Manchester derby.

Come on you Reds!!!

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