Memphis lights up Old Trafford when Man Utd & Van Gaal need him most

The Dutchman evoked memories of Wayne Rooney’s Champions League debut with a stunning double against Club Brugge on a night when the hosts were forced to come from behind

Memphis lights up Old Trafford when Man Utd & Van Gaal need him most

Manchester United were not expecting to have to come from behind in the first leg of their Champions League qualifying play-off against Club Brugge but that is the position in which they found themselves with barely eight minutes on the clock.

Michael Carrick’s inadvertent boot past Sergio Romero stunned Old Trafford, with memories of ordinary performances here under David Moyes and last season under Louis van Gaal flashing before the eyes of the stunned United fans in attendance.

The goal, which came courtesy of a Victor Vazquez free-kick further emboldened the Belgian club’s set of loyal supporters, who were comfortably outsinging their English counterparts before most of the home contingent had even taken their seats.

“Who the f*** are Man United?” they sang in word-perfect, if salty, English and it was going to take something rather special to subdue them. “Where the f*** are Man United?”, the home fans might have wondered at that point.

Step forward Memphis Depay; made, on this evidence, to supply both goals and electricity for Manchester United for many years to come.

Club Brugge were daring to dream of something more than the hiding they expected their side to take beforehand, but then Memphis demonstrated just why Van Gaal was willing to shell out some £25 million for his signature. He had scored goals for fun the Eredivisie for champions PSV Eindhoven last season, and doing it for one of the world’s biggest clubs came perfectly naturally to him on a night they needed someone to take command.

First, a close touch took him past the attention of a Brugge defender, before a calm side-step gave him all the space he needed to slot home past Sebastian Bruzzese for his first official United goal.

Memphis took flak for his inability to find the net against Aston Villa on Friday night from a relatively straightforward opportunity but dispelled any lingering doubts that Ed Woodward had been sold a pup not long after.

PSV fans might be well used to the sight of Memphis picking the ball up on the left side of the attack and finding the opposite corner with a shot. How sweet for United fans, though, that they were treated to one of his trademark breathtaking strikes so soon into his United career.

They had not seen a Champions League debut as good around these parts since Wayne Rooney hit a hat-trick against Fenerbahce in 2004. Now Memphis is the man leading his captain by example. Still, Rooney cannot get into the flow of games this season.

There was one moment in the second half when it all came together for the England man. His expert touch-off into the path of Depay deserved the finishing touch. As it was, the Netherlands international snatched at it and missed the chance to emulate Rooney with a debut hat-trick in this competition. No matter, there will be plenty of those in the red shirt.

There were a few hairy moments for United to endure, not least when a foul was called on Romero with the goal at the mercy of Obbi Oulare in the second half, but Memphis’s cross, nodded in by Marouane Fellaini deep into injury time, might now have sunk Club’s rebellion for good.

Let’s call this a coming out party for Memphis. Van Gaal cleared the striking decks at Old Trafford this summer with the forcible removals of Robin van Persie and Radamel Falcao. A lot will depend on those broad shoulders of Memphis should Rooney’s toils continue.

He did all which was asked of him and more in his first big test. Here is a self-confident, self-confessed “dream chaser” who thinks it an inevitability that he has ended up at a club as important as this one. For a club seeking rediscover their place at the top of the natural order, such swagger is certainly welcome.

Advertisements

Mourinho: Pogba is the Eiffel Tower & Chelsea can’t have him

The manager is a long-term admirer of the Juventus midfielder but claims he has faith in his Premier League title-winning squad

Mourinho: Pogba is the Eiffel Tower & Chelsea can't have him

Jose Mourinho has compared Paul Pogba to the Eiffel Tower and suggested the Juventus midfielder is a footballing landmark that Chelsea are unlikely to get their hands on.

The Portuguese manager has been a long-term admirer of the midfielder, pinpointing the France international as a key target for Chelsea over a year ago, but faces competition for his signature from a number of Europe’s top sides.

Mourinho, who has added just loanee Radamel Falcao and goalkeeper Asmir Begovic to his squad so far this summer, feels Pogba would boost any team, but remains confident in the collective strength of his squad.

“Pogba is not to put pressure on people,” Mourinho says. “Pogba is one of the top players in the world. Pogba goes to any team and improves that team automatically. If he stays at Juventus, Juventus will be very strong again. If he goes somewhere else he will improve immediately a team. This is not our case.

“We are changing [Petr] Cech for Begovic, we are changing Didier [Drogba] for Falcao and we are changing kids by other kids. I think everybody has an interest in Pogba. But there are things you can do and things you cannot do. I love the Eiffel Tower but I can’t have the Eiffel Tower in my garden. I can’t even have the Eiffel Tower of Las Vegas.”

Falcao was viewed as a surprise addition by some following the striker’s poor form for Manchester United last term, but Mourinho feels the Colombian’s fitness woes are behind him heading into the new season.

“When a player is injured or has bad consequences of a big injury there is sometimes nothing you can do. We made ourselves sure that was not the case with Falcao because if that was the case he would not be with us.

“He didn’t perform [at United] for many reasons. Some players don’t perform with me, some players don’t perform with Chelsea, they go to other clubs and they perform. This can happen. So we know that Falcao is in good conditions related to the surgery he had before he went to Man United.

“We believe that he can with us and to replace a big player like Didier we wanted to go with another big player with experience, ready, so these three strikers for us – Falcao, Rémy and Diego. We are very happy.”

Despite Manchester United spending over £80 million on the likes of Bastian Schweinsteiger, Morgan Schneiderlin and Memphis Depay and Manchester City signing Raheem Sterling for £49m, Mourinho feels his title-winners are still the team to beat.

“I told the players that we are the same team and the others are not the same team. I cannot stop opponents to make an assault to the banks and spend millions and millions. I cannot stop that. I cannot stop [that] the others have a feeling that we are playing against the champions.

“The others are spending. The others are buying a lot to try to be better than us and the fact that we are the same – we are changing a goalkeeper for another one, a striker for another one.

“It’s a big challenge. To be better with the same people, the players have to be better individually than they were last year. So when they think: ‘Oh last season I did great’ this season it is not enough.’

“John Terry – great season. This season it is not enough. Must be better. Fabregas – I don’t know how many assists last year. Fantastic. It’s not enough. Because the others are going to improve with the players they are bringing and we have to improve by ourselves with our work.”

Forlan: Man Utd must do more to support Falcao

Former Manchester United striker Diego Forlan has sympathy for Radamel Falcao over his problems at Old Trafford.

as_falcao1

Forlan believes Falcao has been put under too much pressure to perform since returning from his knee injury.

“There was pressure on him to make it back for the World Cup last summer with Colombia,” Forlan said in his column in The Nation. “Maybe too much, it was unrealistic.

“Falcao had played very little football when he signed for Manchester United, the world’s greatest football club.

“Because Falcao had built this huge reputation and because he was earning a lot of money, great things were expected, but it was never going to be straightforward.

“Nobody comes back from a serious injury and is the same after a month or even three months. Psychologically, you need to build your confidence back up and you hope there are no complications. Even in a settled side it’s hard.”

Man Utd dropped to Cambridge’s level, fumes Van Gaal

The Red Devils manager lamented that his side “made the same error as against Yeovil and QPR” by being lured into playing the game that their opponents wanted

Man Utd dropped to Cambridge's level, fumes Van Gaal

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal is frustrated that his side played so far under their potential as they drew 0-0 with Cambridge United in the FA Cup fourth round.

The Red Devils were held at bay in difficult conditions by the League Two side, with the Dutchman concerned that his players allowed themselves to drop to the hosts’ level rather than attacking the game as a squad of their stature, though arguing that “every aspect of the match is against us”.

“We made the same error as against Yeovil and QPR,” he fumed to reporters. “We played in the same style as the opponent and that we don’t have to do. That was our error.

“[In the] second half, we played much better. We played on the floor and that’s a different style. It was a pity we had to wait again until half-time but, in the second half, I was pleased.

“But we didn’t score and I have to give credit to this club, of course. Cambridge United played very well, very well organised with heart and they fought ’til the end but we could have scored, I think, and now we have an extra match.

“We’re still in the cup and that’s the most important thing. I’ve seen before the big clubs lose against small opponents. It’s because every aspect of the match is against us,” Van Gaal continued in trying to explain the stalemate.

“We have to come here. The pitch is not so good, that can influence that you play in another play style. The opponents are always giving a lot more than normal. Defending is always easier than attacking. You have seen the referee, it’s always the same. Everywhere I’ve coached these games, always the same.

“I know it’s very difficult to beat such an opponent in such circumstances. I said the same before Yeovil Town. We know everything is against us but you have to survive and I know also that attacking is much more difficult than defending.

“But in the first half we passed 45 minutes without doing what we have to do. Second half, okay, we could have scored, [Robin] van Persie could score, [Radamel] Falcao could score – but the goalkeeper was good.

Van Gaal: Falcao must settle for substitute role

The Manchester United boss has backed his philosophy that all players must prove their fitness in reserve fixtures before they will be considered for a starting position

Van Gaal: Falcao must settle for substitute role

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has reiterated that Radamel Falcao will not be offered a place within the Red Devils’ starting line-up before he can prove his fitness.

The striker picked up an injury in October which ruled him out for one month, and has since made just two appearances from the bench against Hull City and Stoke City.

And the Dutchman has refused to steer from his philosophy of his players regaining match fitness in the reserve squad before being considered for a Premier League starting spot.

When asked whether Falcao’s omissions have been fitness-related, he told reporters: “Yes, match fitness. He has trained now maybe two days after the match [with Hull]. So we had the match against Stoke on Tuesday when he played for 15 minutes.

“Then we had the training sessions after Tuesday. And before Tuesday I didn’t train – I trained the box exercise. You know the box exercise? Yeah? It is not a training session.

“We had to play again within two days after the Hull City game, then I have to recover the players. Then I cannot train him. After Tuesday I can train him. And we have trained very well on Wednesday.

“Then we had the training sessions after Tuesday. And before Tuesday I didn’t train – I trained the box exercise. You know the box exercise? Yeah? It is not a training session.

“We had to play again within two days after the Hull City game, then I have to recover the players. Then I cannot train him. After Tuesday I can train him. And we have trained very well on Wednesday.

“Then Thursday they are off. I can say to him to train but, no, we have trained before that. Then on Friday we had a training session. So he has trained in two training sessions. But a bigger contribution is to play in the second team for 45 or 60 minutes or even 90 minutes – what Jonny Evans has done already.

“But I cannot do that because I need him because [Wayne] Rooney was injured [for Stoke]. James Wilson was injured also [for Hull]. I have to adapt to the needs of the selection. Then I selected him in spite of the fact he can only play 20 minutes at that level because the rhythm of the game in the Premier League is the highest.”

Since joining on loan from Monaco, the striker has bagged just one goal for the Old Trafford outfit and when asked whether he could start against Southampton on Monday, Van Gaal dismissed his chances.

“I’m not interested. He has to follow my philosophy. Do you understand that? Yeah, I’m here because of that”, he said.

LvG: Van Persie is not playing well.

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal says Robin van Persie is struggling for confidence in front of goal and admits the striker had “a very bad game” against Arsenal last weekend.

Robin van Persie: Manchester United striker is struggling for form

Van Persie only touched the ball 13 times against his former club, three of which were while taking corners, before Van Gaal replaced him with 18-year-old James Wilson for the last 15 minutes.

Indeed, in the whole of 2014, the Dutch striker has scored only eight goals in 21 Barclays Premier League games.

Van Gaal said: “I do think 13 is few for a striker. I want to improve that. You can count his touches on the ball but more important is how he is playing.

“It was a very bad game for him. That is why I changed him. When I change a player, it is not because he is the best player on the pitch. You are doing something wrong. I believe in the players. When I change them, normally, it is because they are doing something not good in their performance.

“When you pick up this match it is easy to put a question about 13 touches. Okay. But strikers do not touch the ball often. That is their profession.

“Now I have a surprise for you. I had an international striker, Mario Gomez. He touched the ball nine times during Bayern Munich matches in my time.”

Asked what Van Persie needs to do to get back to the level of being the best striker in England, the United boss added: “It is a question of confidence, or maybe scoring a wonderful goal at the right moment.

“You know how strikers are. They have to score goals. They feel like that. It is not that I am asking that. I have said they have to be an attacking point and help our team in the third and fourth phase. For me, it is not important who scores. The team has to score.”

Van Gaal also warned Van Persie that he will have to fight for his place as he prepares to welcome Radamel Falcao back to his squad after injury.

Falcao’s loan spell at Old Trafford has been disrupted by injuries, but Van Gaal is hopeful he will be in the squad for today’s visit of Hull.

Asked if Falcao’s return would increase the pressure on Van Persie, Van Gaal said: “Every player in my selection has to fight for his position and I shall always take the best of the players and it must also be suitable for the mix of players. So it is also an obligation of a player that he does that.”

Real Madrid ace Ronaldo urges Man Utd to maintain faith

Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo has told Manchester United fans not to lose hope.

as_ronaldo1

Ronaldo is convinced his former club will soon return to the summit.

“I really did love being at Manchester United,” he told the Daily Mail. “Believe me, they will be a good team again, I’m sure of it. It is a great club.

“Bad moments and good moments. Manchester is passing through a bad moment. Last year it was a horrible season and this year they haven’t started well, either.

“But I do think they did well to buy Di Maria and Falcao. I think the team will be much better. I want to see them better because it is such a fantastic club and they deserve to be better.

“Falcao is a very good signing. He is a very good player.”