Date: 23rd January 2011 at 3:00pm
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Welcome to the eleventh issue of The Red Report, the round table discussion of all things Manchester United by your favourite United blogs: The Busby Way, Stretford-End, Bangalore To Old Trafford, ManUtd24, United Youth, and Red Force Rising.

Unlike English football, we’ve had a winter break…but we’re back and discussing Rafael, Eikrem and Darren Bent this week.

Few would argue that Rafael is very much now first choice in the United side, his progress this season has been praised by team-mates and staff at the club. We share our own thoughts on his development and the sending off/FA charge last weekend:

Chudi | The Busby Way: The FA Charge against Rafa was ridiculous and I’m glad sense was seen and he wasn’t punished further.

A lot is being made of the challenge that saw him get his first yellow and it was bad but to be fair he did get some of the ball. The second yellow was ridiculous and in such an important game, I can see why he lost his rag after being sent off.

Rafa has come along leaps this season and the defensive side of his game is matching the offensive, he’ll be an important player for years to come.

Doron | Stretford-End: This season he’s been the best right back in the league. He’s the best young right back in the world at the moment. Anderson said in a recent interview that within two years, Rafael will be recognised as the best right back in world football. That’s all hopefully to come but for now he’s successfully passed the Neville/Brown/O’Shea challenge and made the right back spot his own. This season defensive sense, strength and a slight hint of arrogance have brought about maturing performances – strange to use the word mature when he’s only 20.

I don’t mind incidents like his sending off at Spurs. Every player has their moments. I’d rather Rafael played with passion and heart than try and remove something natural from his game. He was correctly charged by The FA but he’ll learn from it, that’s for sure. He seems to have cut out the general rash diving into tackles and I thought he didn’t get the praise he deserved for nullifying Bale – the flavour of the season, world extraordinaire – twice this season (and Nasri too). Bigger tests await but for me he’s one of the first names on the team-sheet every game now.

Kyle | Stretford-End: Was his sending off absurd? Yes. That was one of the more ridiculous yellow cards I’ve seen this season, especially on a second yellow. It seemed Rafael did everything he could to avoid contact, and was unfortunate that he couldn’t prevent his momentum from bringing down the Tottenham player. A warning would’ve been more than sufficient, especially with the young Brazilian trying to avoid making contact. I would’ve been frustrated in his shoes as well. It was a very light sending off, but that doesn’t give you the right to argue with the official. Rafael his still young, and with experience he will learn to keep his temper in check; although hopefully not too much as I feel that energy contributes to his play. Also, this may be a bit off topic, but it doesn’t help when an experienced player like Wayne Rooney is alongside him yelling to the point of getting a yellow for dissent. Rooney is no longer a teenager; at the age of 25 and in this seventh season at Old Trafford, Rooney should be at a point now where he can start setting an example for younger players like Rafael.

Siddarth | Bangalore to Old Trafford: Rafael’s sending off was an absurd decision to say the least and his reaction didn’t surprise me, and I think any player would have been frustrated if they were at the receiving end of such a silly booking! But his argument with the referee wasn’t the right thing to do, and the FA charge was justified I think, and the punishment handed out to Rafael seems fair enough.

Rafael is only 20 and so far this season has been among our best players. A minor setback for him and like before I’m sure he’ll come out a better player from all this. Rafael has certainly cemented his place in the team as the no. 1 right back and hopefully will remain so for the rest of his career.

TG | ManUtd24: Rafael’s been excellent this season – just ask Wes Brown, John O’Shea and Gary Neville. He’s shown ever so much down that right flank and his work at the back has significantly improved. A problem remains however; his naivety – often it helps his game, but sometimes it doesn’t. This view might be very unpopular but I think Rafael deserves to be charged. Was it a red card? That’s debatable; his second challenge against Spurs which led to his sending off looked quite harsh – but his first challenge (which he was subsequently booked for) was something of the ugly sort and, on another day, he would be off. But his reaction was totally unnecessary; the Respect campaign was put into place to stop that kind of thing. He needs to learn that, and he will, and ‘respect’ the officials. That applies whether or not he feels aggrieved.

Alan | RedForceRising: Rafael has improved significantly in the past 6 months after initially being frozen out of the squad during the first 6 weeks of the season. Maybe it was Ferguson’s way of punishing the player for his sending off against Bayern, maybe it was to give the player time to get himself together. Whatever the intention, it’s worked and Rafael is now unquestionably the first-choice right back, which I am very thankful for. John O’Shea may be committed to the cause, but his mediocre displays just highlighted how much Rafael has to offer.

Sir Alex was deemed to have spoken to early when he mentioned that Rafael is not making rash decisions this season, only to get sent off against Spurs, but the gaffer has a point. Rafael’s decision-making is much, much better this season and he is a lot more composed in the penalty area. His displays against Gareth Bale have been a very good and a good measure of how his defensive game has improved, while his attacking forays against Spurs were indicative of the attacking potential this lad possesses. What he needs to do is stop making the unnecessary challenges like the one which resulted in his first yellow against Spurs. A fullback is likely to pick up bookings, but not in the middle of the pitch, when there are team mates behind you who can help out.

We possibly have one of the best young players in the world at our club, there are various opinions on how he should be nurtured but his progression this season is enough for us all to agree that little needs to change.

Our second topic is Magnus Eikrem. There seems to have been little actually said about him since he left to sign a three year contract at FK Molde with Ole. We share our thoughts on his move and whether we agree with it…

Kyle | Stretford-End: I really need to quit watching the Reserves because all the players I have high hopes for end up moving on. Magnus Eikrem is a fine player and the fact that he was never given a chance in the senior sign is almost criminal. He excelled in the Reserves, and in my humble opinion was ready to take the next step. Alas, he was never even given so much as a few minutes in the Carling Cup. The one concern I always had was that he lacked the strength required for Premier League football, but that is something that can be worked on. All the attributes for success were there, but it seems that potential will go unfulfilled at Old Trafford. I think he’ll have a brilliant career at Molde under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, and I certainly wish him the best of luck. I’ve never been this sad to see someone go who hasn’t even made their debut. Hopefully the reports of a buy-back clause are true because I honestly believe he has the ability to be a star.

Alan | RedForceRising: In internet parlance, I am disappointed! Not as disappointed as when Giuseppe Rossi left the club, but disappointed nonetheless. Eikrem is the best midfielder I had seen come through the ranks seen Fergie’s Fledglings. He had a great range of passing and contributed goals. He seemed more polished than Rodrigo Possebon and had a level-headed maturity about him, which would have seen him improve steadily. All those positives, and yet he wasn’t given a crack at some first-team game time. To me it doesn’t seem to bode well for the other youngsters when the reserves best player is sold without a senior appearance to his name.

TG | ManUtd24: It’s a shame to see let a talent like Magnus Eikrem slip through our fingers. While he might have not played as many games in a competitive environment as he might deserve too; it’s unfortunate to see the back of him. That’s not to say that his move to Molde FK isn’t a bad thing – he deserves to play regular football and will benefit under the guidance of Ole Solskjaer. Maybe, after a good season or two with the Norwegian outfit, Sir Alex can prize him back.

Siddarth | Bangalore to Old Trafford: The one player in the reserves I swore would be a regular in the first was Magnus, and unfortunately he never got a chance to show what he can in the premiership! The fact that Sir Alex never gave Eikrem a chance in the first team still surprises me. But I know better than to doubt the judgment of Sir Alex.

Eikrem has already started his career at Molde in style, reportedly putting in a Man Of The Match performance in his first appearance for the club in a friendly. Under Ole Gunnar Solksjaer, Eikrem is sure to blossom and I won’t be surprised to see him become one of the main players in the Norwegian national team. Hopefully rumors of a buy back clause on Eikrem are true and we get to see Magnus play for United in the future.

Doron | Stretford-End: I’m honestly stuck in two minds. Eikrem was the first player I profiled for Stretford-End – he seemed the most obvious choice because to me, he was the most talented player in the Reserves. There is little doubt he was rated highly internally, he was given a squad number and made the substitute’s bench a few times; the biggest praise he got was from Ferguson himself who in October said the club wouldn’t send him on loan because they wanted him to challenge the first team for places. His departure therefore seems odd. His contract was up in the summer and so having not signed one it was clear he’d leave with Ole and it’s a good move for him. He gets to go back home and play under a coach he knows well. If he does well then he may get a good move at some point in the future.

On the other hand though, would he ever have made it at United? I want to believe he would because we give kids a chance, he always stood out in Reserve games and he was able to combat his weakness, his lack of strength, by dropping deep or sitting high he always bought himself an extra yard of space to work in. However, I’ve discussed Magnus many times with Ian – @manutdreserves, who has seen more Reserves and Academy games than I probably ever will. Ian quite rightly tells me that players like David Jones used to stand out like Magnus did and therefore we were right to get rid of Eikrem. I remember David Jones but never quite felt he had the same quality as Magnus. I’ll always trust Ian on this one and although I think he does underrate Eikrem a bit he certainly has a point; maybe we’ve all overestimated him too?! Either way, I highly recommend a quick read of Ian’s thoughts on Eikrem’s departure. Time will tell, hopefully Magnus will have a good career and maybe with luck and hard work will end up back at Old Trafford. If not, well at least I was entertained by him for the few years he was at the club, it’s just a shame he never got a proper chance.

Chudi | The Busby Way: The sale of Eikrem was one that baffled me. I was a huge fan of his at such a young age – he looked so classy and mature. Whilst we don’t know the inside details I hoped he would at least have been given a chance in the first team. He was getting to the age where he needed to be playing football so a move with Ole to Molde made the most sense. His performance on his debut is an indication of what he is capable of so I’m pleased we supposedly have a buy back clause!

In general, most of us seem to feel it’s a shame he left without getting a first team opportunity but if he’s good enough then over time he’ll prove that.

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