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Return To Glory : Manchester United

Manchester United's Return To Glory
Started on 20 November 2019 by OohAhCantona
Latest Reply on 16 September 2020 by Lankyman22


Manchester United’s current U-23 & U-18 rosters leave a lot to be desired and it would be fair to say the system is at a low point. Despite dipping into both squads over the course of the season it was never by choice and some serious rebuilding needs to be done. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and any future Director of Football have their work cut out for them, stockpiling in-house talent is likely going to require a mix of youth intake and transfers. This year the youth intake was decent, though most of the players on trial were not offered contracts, there was one superstar and a number of players with first team upside down the road.

CM Danny Ginger (England) - A potential superstar some have dubbed the New Ginger Nut, and it isn’t just because of his bright red hair. Ginger is from Manchester and grew up a rabid United fan, and with his tremendous mix of physical and mental acuity he can play either central midfield role in Solskjaer’s set up. Unlike Paul Scholes he’s 6’-2” and a rather imposing figure on the field. It’s even more amazing that he’s still only 15 and has scouts slobbering all over him, his upside is a Scholes like United legend with a long international career. Solskjaer is very lucky to have landed a once in a lifetime type prospect like Ginger, now United just need to make sure he develops into the kind of player he has the potential to be.

CB David Strange (England) - The perfect future ball playing defender, he has the kind of speed and size to work well in central defense. He’s also a good passer with room to grow and coaches say he has the kind of mindset to work hard and improve his game. He shows solid leadership skills but definitely needs to hone the mental aspects of playing the position, scouts have noted he can sometimes be a little passive and doesn’t use his size (6’-4”) as well as he could when marking. If he can learn to be more physical without drawing fouls and mark opponents as tightly as possible he might have England international upside.

CB László Puskás (Hungary) - To put it bluntly, he’s just a good defender. Scouts believe his future is at CB since he is much better defensively, especially marking and defensive positioning, but he has the ability to play wingback. There is some waffling on this issue because he is solidly two-footed, so the ability to play either wing and centrally is very appealing. His passing needs improvement, he is currently considered a decent ball playing defender, but United’s current tactical setup only asks for BPD to play short simple passes out of the back so it shouldn’t take much for him to fit the role. On the wings he is not suited to the attack, so at the moment he looks more like a bench option as a super utility defender with a second squad ceiling as a central defender. He isn’t as good as Strange, but as a Hungarian he also has some international upside at least as a youth selection.

LB Renato Leônidas (Brazil) - Probably the most intriguing signing, he’s been described as “a mess” and “awe inspiring” by scouts and coaches. A very spirited player who just about always has a huge grin on his face makes it very obvious that he absolutely loves playing football. He has enough flair to go around and shows impressive technical ability along with the most attractive part of his game : speed. He is absolutely incredible with the ball at his feet and despite being labeled as a wingback his future could really be anywhere along the left side of the field, the fact that LB is so valuable is why the organization has him starting out there. There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that he’s perfect for an attacking role, the bigger problem is his ability to work in a team structure within the tactic. If his only job was to blow by opponents and dribble circles around them he has Ballon d’Or upside, but he will need to work on crossing and positioning along with tackling (which is where the “mess” comments come in) if he’s ever going to make the senior squad. If he can’t stick on the wing, as a defender or a forward, it’s likely the team would give him a shot as a center forward since you don’t find a player like this very often.
A central midfielder with the surname Ginger with ginger hair coming through the youth ranks, you just couldn't write it! Hopefully some of these players can make their way through the academy successfully and go on to become useful assets at Old Trafford.
Just caught up on this, you have Man Utd playing decent here! Potential treble/quadruple on the cards...Hopefully you can keep those wins coming in the next few months.
Well I really feel we need to see Danny Ginger here to appreciate this..
2020-01-11 00:47#265133 ScottT : A central midfielder with the surname Ginger with ginger hair coming through the youth ranks, you just couldn't write it! Hopefully some of these players can make their way through the academy successfully and go on to become useful assets at Old Trafford.

I'm getting there in my Fiorentina save, but I managed a regen who could not have a better name. I also found a youth player I HAD to sign just based on his name.


Premier League (A) : Arsenal 2 - Manchester United 1

A solid month in the books closed out with an easy 5-0 win over Middlesbrough in the Emirates FA Cup quarter-final, and then led right into an absolutely brutal month with (9) games scheduled. Even Old Trafford wouldn’t be much help with only (3) games set to be at home. Opening that month with a trip to the Emirates would not make anything easier, and Arsenal were certainly set on making things worse after a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford.

Playing well for almost a month can sometimes make you forget your faults, but Unai Emery certainly didn’t forget United’s problems and had the players to make them pay. Almost immediately United looked lost and Arsenal, specifically Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, ate them alive. Victor Lindelöf and Harry Maguire had their hands full, constantly turning and running full speed to catch up with Aubameyang as he slipped past them on a through ball or a well placed cross. Just 15’ in he would put Arsenal up 1-0 on a corner when Sokratis Papastathopoulos headed the ball down and Aubameyang barely needed to move his foot to tap it in.

The Gunner looked like they might win this game 10-0, but at the half it was still 1-0 which felt like a win for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. A calm halftime talk and gentle pats on the back must have done the job because United came out playing much better, likely due to a more balanced approach that didn’t leave the back line as exposed. They didn’t look like losing 10-0 anymore, maybe a 1-1 draw was in the cards. While they weren’t threatening, the few chances they had came to nothing until 63’ when Marcus Rashford copied Aubameyang’s goal on a free kick. Bruno Fernandes would send a curling free kick into the box that Lindelöf would head down toward the left corner and Rashford would be quick enough to tap it in before Bernd Leno could get to it.

United literally had less than a minute to feel great about somehow getting the score to 1-1. Arsenal would use a smart series of passes to release Aubameyang close to goal for a shot that De Gea managed to block, but the other nightmare stalking the field (Alexandre Lacazette) was right there to knock it into an empty goal. There was a short period of finger pointing and complaining about offsides, but the ref waved it off and United’s day was done. Arsenal controlled the game and nobody could put anything together, they would need to pick up their game or Atlético Madrid would rip them apart.

Aubameyang was a constant nightmare.

Europa League (A) : Atlético Madrid 1(1) - Manchester United 2(2)

Fans and media were very split leading up to this game after United pounded Aston Villa 5-0 at Villa Park. Some were eager to point to the result as proof United were motivated after the loss to Arsenal and Solskjaer had tweaked their tactics to improve their ability to score. Even though the second squad played they were 6/6 on shots by the time they were up 4-0 in the first half and finished 9/8 at halftime. The doubters would point to the level of competition, and the real cynics would point to Arsenal losing 1-0 at Norwich. Either way, Diego Simeone would be his usual self leading up to the game.

“No, I don’t believe in negative football. I don’t agree with the label ‘defensive’, we play hard” bristled Simeone when asked about his penchant for physical play.

The Metropolitano de Madrid would be packed with a raucous crowd ready to send Solskjaer back to Manchester with his tail between his legs. To their credit, the home crowd didn’t quiet when things went horribly wrong just 7’ in the game. Bruno Fernandes would continue his habit of providing great free kicks into the box and Rashford would head it in at the far post for an important road goal and a 1-0 lead. Things settled in a little more predictably after that with Simeone’s 4-4-2 forming a solid defensive block as they ceded possession to United, learning from Arsenal Solskjaer took a more balanced approach and avoided overextending his team to open up opportunities for the dangerous Diego Costa.

The level of caution paid off when United blunted an Atlético attack and came back with a fast counterattack at 30’. Anthony Martial showed off his speed and took the ball from United’s half to Atlético’s third before threading a pass by his defender and releasing Rashford into an area close to the right side of the goal. Rashford showed that today he would be the hero and punched it in between the post, his defender, and Jan Oblak. It was hard to tell who was more animated, Oblak or Simeone after that one. It was looking like Solskjaer might get into the locker room up 2-0 before Thomas Lemar opened Atlético’s account at 42’. A through pass left Lemar clear as United’s back line failed an attempt to catch him offsides and he didn’t miss. The 2-1 lead hid the level of control United had in the first half, maintaining that in the second half would be key.

The second half was marked by an incident that would be familiar to anyone who follows football, Diego Costa struck at 54’ and things nearly devolved into a fight. Diego Costa would kick Jorge in a shameless attempt to slow him down, resulting in Jorge leaving with an ankle injury, and only a length scuffle with Diego Costa professing his innocence saved him from being ejected. Solskjaer was fairly upset that he escaped without even getting booked, but karma has a way of balancing things. At 61’ Saúl put a brutal tackle on Aaron Wan-Bissaka and drew the red Diego Costa should have earned, he also managed to do it just barely inside the box to put Rashford on the penalty spot for a hat-trick. Rashford would stun the crowd, and make people question Solskjaer’s judgement, missing his fourth straight penalty. He didn’t even hit the goal, sending it wide right to a loud cheer from the home crowd.

Why always me?

Simeone would swap to a 4-4-1, but the damage was done. Being up a man helped United close this game out as a huge win for the Red Devils. The only negative came from Wan-Bissaka hitting his yellow card limit, earning himself a suspension for the second leg.

Europa League (H) : Manchester United 3(5) - Atlético Madrid 1(2)

Solskjaer could only hope United’s luck would hold today, two straight games where their opponents had players sent off would help them win in the away leg of this fixture and a 2-0 win at home to Southampton. The two away goals would provide crucial, Atlético Madrid would need to win this game by two and United haven’t lost a game all year by more than one. Atlético Madrid would certainly have the talent on hand to advance, but the odds were not in their favor.

For whatever reason, though a red card was involved, Atlético Madrid completely fell apart. Where the previous game was fairly even this was a classic parking of the bus as United controlled the ball and Simeone’s men just couldn’t do much about it. Rashford scored at 13’ and Atlético Madrid didn’t really seem bothered to do anything about it aside from kick the nearest United player in the shins.

The game dragged on with more cursing than good football and then things got really dramatic in the 77’ not long after Jesse Lingard made it 2-0. Héctor Herrera would put a terrible tackle on Scott McTominay from behind to earn a second yellow, he didn’t even wait to see the card come out and walked right off the pitch. Bruno Fernandes would score an amazing goal on the resulting free kick, curling it around the wall and glancing in off Jan Oblak’s glove. Simeone’s 4-4-1 would make a return, United would bleed out the clock and Diego Costa (of all people) would score in stoppage time to salvage the shutout. Such a solid win in the quarter final would be tempered by the news that Arsenal won and would be United’s opponent in the semi-final.

Emirates FA Cup (N) : Manchester United 1 - Bournemouth 0

The Emirates FA cup has been slowly turning United’s second squad into a cup squad, and now it seems to transition is complete. Mostly thanks to getting kicked into the turf by Atlético Madrid, the first squad would get a rest as the second squad would likely get the honor of seeing out the remainder of the FA Cup.

This would turn out to be one of the dullest fixtures of the day as United’s troubles in front of goal came up at the worst possible time. Despite their usual massive possession advantage the team looked disjointed and out of sink, barely outshooting Bournemouth while piling up yellow cards. It took (118) excruciating minutes for United to finally score, just as Bournemouth looked like they had managed to put the game on equal footing. Both teams exhausted, the ball bounced around the box off a free kick before Daniel James finally sent it toward the goal. The more exciting semi-final would be Norwich-Leicester which would see The Canaries win 3-2 to set up a Manchester United-Norwich final.

Europa League (H) : Manchester United 5(5) - Arsenal 0(0)

With Arsenal running away with the league and a 2-1 win still hanging over Solskjaer’s head, literally nobody saw this game coming. The Gunners came in solid favorites and most pegged a draw, similar to their previous visit to Old Trafford, as United’s best case scenario. Even a 3-1 win against Sheffield United and a 2-0 win against Bournemouth wouldn’t change people’s minds about this game, the Europa League was Arsenals to lose… and then suddenly it wasn’t.

Just 6’ minutes in things really started to turn sour for Emery. A scrum in front of the net ended when Rashford managed to kick the ball past Leno and start his PoM performance. Rashford would practically have the game of his life, turning the tables on Arsenal’s central defenders while Aubameyang and Lacazette had very forgettable nights. David Luiz was first to convert his frustration into a United opportunity at 15’ when he tripped Rashford in the box to give up a penalty. Over the past month this has been disastrous for Rashford, but Solskjaer has stuck with him and this time when Leno went left Rashford went right and his streak of missed penalties was finally over. David Luiz would be the subject of Rashford’s exploits again at 38’ when Lindelöf would send a long ball forward from United’s half to find a streaking Rashford a few steps beyond David Luiz. As he approached the box Rashford hesitated and managed to switch the ball behind him and the onrushing David Luiz, twisting the Brazilian around and getting the ball on the outside of him for a solid shot that thundered past Leno into the right side of the net. A hat trick before halftime seemed too much to hope for, but United were in the middle of dismantling the presumptive Premier League champions.

The second half couldn’t have been much worse for Arsenal. It took them 28’ to register a single shot in the first, and by that time United had (10). It was clear the Gunner had shut down as nearly the entire United team started to rate like they were playing a League Two side. Lingard would make it 4-0 at 59’ and things would start looking dire for Arsenal, they might be able to overturn a 3-0 deficit if they could at least add a road goal, but 4-0 seemed like they were finished. Aubameyang would limp off injured at 62’ and the body language on the field said the Gunners just wanted this to be over. Bailly would head in a corner at 74’ and the beating would finally stop as that would be the end of United’s sudden scoring outburst.

When the final whistle blew few could call this anything but a total collapse on Arsenal’s part. A whopping (8) United players rated 8.0 or higher and (4) of them were 9.0 or above. Rashford’s hat trick helped him on his way to a near perfect 9.6 and the PoM award. The scary thing is that it wasn’t that clear he would take it, with Bruno Fendnades having an incredible game in midfield. He piled up (2) chances created, (3) key passes, and an assist while Mesut Özil was almost non-existent. In the other game Olympiakos would beat Benfica 2-0, bringing themselves one step closer to a date with United in Poland.
That beginning result against Arsenal was all forgiven by the end of the month!
Progression in the FA Cup and almost guaranteed progression in the Europa League with that massive result against Arsenal.


Europa League (A) : Arsenal 2(2) - Manchester United 1(6)

The 5-0 drubbing at Old Trafford set United firmly on a path to win the Europa League, and Solskjaer has obviously shifted focus in the league. Partially due to the timing, but also due to their position in the league, Solskjaer has basically turned over domestic competitions to the second squad so that the first squad can be fresh for Europe. United are basically stuck in 3rd as they can’t pass Manchester City and would need to lose out to let Liverpool pass them. A nice 4-1 win against Chelsea, with the second squad playing really well, would clinch a spot in the Champions League for next season.

This turned out the be the game Unai Emery needed at Old Trafford, but it came too late. The teams were basically even, but the Gunners managed to do more as a team and weren’t as reliant on Alexandre Lacazette or Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang who was out injured. A pile of bodies in front of the net at 35’ gave Arsenal the lead as Dani Ceballos was able to just nudge the ball in, some terrible defending was on display by United on that one. Marcus Rashford would make it 1-1 in a tight exchange between Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Jesse Lingard with the winger able to pick out Rashford and get the ball to him for an easy goal.

With halftime in the books this looked over, while United didn’t look like winning Arsenal didn’t look like winning 6-1 to flip this matchup in their favor. Yannick Carrasco would knock the ball in at 56’ on a corner where the ball ping-ponged around the box and left De Gea unsure of where the ball was. Ashley Young, just on for Wan-Bissaka, would earn a booking at 75’ and put Nicolas Pépé on the spot after an ill-advised tackle on Carrasco just inside the box. Pépé would go right, but De Gea was all over it and Arsenal would be stuck at 2-1. Arsenal would win, much as everyone expected, but it was too little too late. They would feel even more cheated as Benfica would eviscerate Olympiakos 5-0 to win their series 5-3 and book a place in the final.

Premier League (H) : Manchester United 5 - Burnley 0

The final day of the season would be a bit of a snooze for United. Locked into 3rd, with Burnley locked in to survival, this would basically be a dead rubber that Solskjaer would use to keep the first squad fit for the Europa League final. The real drama would be in London as Arsenal’s late season form would put them in a position to lose the league. A final game against Chelsea would put them to the test, a win or a draw would clinch the league but a loss and a Manchester City win would hand the title to them for the third season in a row. The run up to this game wasn’t great, a 2-2 draw with Leicester wasn’t as bad because Manchester City beat Liverpool 3-1 to clinch 3rd for United, and a 2-0 win over Everton didn’t inspire great confidence, but as a dead rubber it wouldn’t matter what the result was.

The biggest storyline that came out of this game, at least the issue that would continue to hang over Solskjaer’s head, would be Rashford’s continuing problems from the penalty spot. After scoring twice in the first half he would have a chance at a hat-trick at 73’, and once again the attempt would be blocked. Nick Pope had already seen (4) go by him at that point, so he didn’t seem too pleased to extend Rashford’s misery. Even with the miss, Rashford would have (36) goals in (35) appearances and finish second to Sergio Agüero in the league with (24) goals. Arsenal would go on to beat Chelsea 3-0 and hoist the league trophy for the first time since 2003-04.

Emirates FA Cup (N) : Norwich 0 - Manchester United 4

The second squad would have the honor of finishing this one out, a packed Wembley wouldn’t expect too much from Norwich based on how United have been playing, but they beat them once before and could very well do it again. Much of the attention would be on Mason Greenwood who has been stellar as United’s second choice CF. He entered this game with (17) goals in (27) games and has looked like Rashford’s equal at points.

“This is their moment” responded Solskjaer when asked about the squad selection “they got us this far, so it only seems right to let them finish it. I’m very proud of them.”

Greenwood would be the man, scoring just 5’ into the game and then again at 15’. Both of them came from excellent through balls, one from Fred and one from Antonio Marin. The goals would steal the PoM from Fred, who would make (6) key passes and create (3) chances on the way to a surprising 9.0 rating. United failed to dominate possession, and the numbers weren’t as lopsided as you might expect, but they were excellent in getting the ball back when Norwich came into their third. Norwich also spent quite a bit of time holding possession in their third which was an odd move for manager Daniel Farke. Marin and Tahith Chong would pile it on late to seal a 4-0 cup victory, United’s second of the season.

A domestic cup double may have saved Solskjaer’s job.

Europa League (N) : Manchester United 2 - Benfica 0

The main show, at least for Manchester United, Europe would be a little more focus on the Liverpool-PSG match up in the Champions League final but that didn’t mean this game wasn’t important. Taking home a treble would lessen the sting if Liverpool managed to repeat as champions of Europe. This game would also be a little odd since a number of Benfica’s players have been or will be transfer targets for United, especially RB Gedson Fernandes and possible LW Rafa. PGE Arena Gdańsk would be absolutely packed with fans in red, too bad nobody thought to coordinate that part of the event.

“This is a big game for us” beamed Solskjaer “to win this a second time in just a few years would be special.”

Apparently only one of the participants felt this game would be important as Benfica appeared to have left their spirit in Lisbon. The Portugeuse side barely had the ball and did little in the way of counterattacking, it only took 10’ for Rashford to put United up 1-0 on a long ball over the Benfica back line. There were shades of Bergkamp as Rashford collected the ball just beyond Ferro and Pedro Álvaro with a deft touch and sent his second touch flying into the back of the net. If Benfica appeared overmatched before that, they basically shut down afterwards. Lingard would score a textbook goal in Solskjaer’s tactics, with Bruno Fernandes taking the ball to the end line on the right and passing the ball back across the box to find Lingard cutting inside for a clear shot at the right side of goal. Anthony Martial would score late in the game to make it 3-0, but VAR was used to disallow the goal.

Benfica looked like they couldn’t go home fast enough. United outshot them 25-9 and GK Odysseas Vlachodimos bizarrely took home the PoM after weathering the onslaught and finishing the game with an 8.4 rating, the only Benfica player to rate above 6.9. Just about everyone on United managed to rate 7.0 or higher with Lingard and Fernandes in the PoM running at 8.3. A complete victory managed to cap an odd treble with both domestic cups and the second tier European cup. If the domestic double saved Solskjaer’s job, the treble might have seriously strengthened his position.

Not quite THE treble, but still an important achievement.
Arsenal was that team that kept biting back this season, fair play to them with their title-winning finish. An excellent double for yourselves, though.
Benfica beaten in a final once again. Always the bridesmaid and never the bride, it seems. However, for United it has been a successful season I would say and perhaps the start of their upturn in fortune. Silverware is always welcome, no matter what competition it heralds.
Arsenal seem to have your number
Oh Man My Favorite Club Benfica Lose Once Again In Final

Look Like The Curse Of Bela Guttman Will Never Leave Benfica Alone
3rd is certainly an acceptable finish for this United squad especially with the FA Cup League Cup and Europa League to your name! Good job all round!

2019-2020 POSTSEASON

The season started with most people unsure if Ole Gunnar Solskjaer would be the manager by January, and it turned into a rather solid season that added a treble of trophies. Silverware is silverware, but United failed to win the league and wasn’t involved in the Champions League. They qualified for the UCL, by finishing 3rd and winning the Europa League, so next season Solskjaer is going to be tested as a long term manager. While the club wasn’t sold during the season, most feel this summer it will get done. Will a new owner want to keep Solskjaer, or will they go for an available manager like Massimiliano Allegri or poach one like Mauricio Pochettino?

Whether or not Solskjaer survives an ownership change the club has taken some steps to bring themselves closer to Liverpool and Manchester City in terms of development. The youth facilities are being upgraded to remain state of the art and Old Trafford will be expanded to 84,500 seats. There is some grumbling that Old Trafford needs to be completely renovated, and whispers that they need a new stadium, but many doubt the Glazers are willing to spend on either of these.

On the plus side, Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood had excellent seasons. Rashford would finish the season with (28) goals in (31) appearances and Greenwood would have (19) in (28) games, finishing 1st and 2nd in scoring for United. Rashford would also be recognized in the Europa League Squad Of The Season, the only United player to make it.

Bruno Fernandes would be the next biggest surprise with a truly excellent season as United’s #10 in the middle, (8) goals and (18) assists in all competitions helped fuel an offense that would have definitely been sluggish without him. Another surprise, at least in terms of goals and assists was Paul Pogba who only registered a single assist in (36) club appearances with (6) goals. He would have (7) assists for France in just (13) appearances, fueling some calls to sell him, but he was healthy all year and represents the foundation of any future plans Solskjaer has for the team.

Solskjaer will likely have a massive pile of cash available to buy new players next year, and the pressure to win the league or get deep into the Champions League will be turned up. Failing to be in the title conversation near the end of the season could cost Solskjaer his job, especially if some other big names get cut loose.

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