Welcome to the thirteenth 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, Red Flag Flying High and Red Force Rising.
“Business end of the season” or “squeaky bum time” whatever you call it, we’re there! Central midfield, Antonio Valencia, pre-season and the original Ronaldo are all on the agenda…
Should United look to sign a CM this summer given the youngsters at the club?
Chudi | The Busby Way: Midfield is one of the few areas I think we need to improve in properly. I think the secret is out regarding our youth and academy stars, everyone is now aware of the talent we have coming through at academy/reserve level with the likes of Tunnicliffe, Pogba, Morrison and Petrucci seemingly the first names those in the know, as well as those who don’t, draw on whilst Cleverley is showing his worth on loan at Wigan.
We don’t know how these youngsters will take to the Premier League, it is a completely different ball park to the reserve and academy and not all are capable of making the step up.
Personally I would like to see us give youth a chance, as there is obvious talent there but you do wonder if these players are at the standard where they can fit seamlessly into the team and play in the big games and hold their own?
Of course there is only one way to find out and it would mean that we don’t have to go and splash big cash on someone else.
Herzog’s Child | Stretford-End: Unquestionably, yes. We’ve all witnessed an unsettling declination across our midfield this season; it’s a problem that – after manifesting in particular last season – was not addressed in the summer, and we’ve suffered greatly as a result. A quick scan of our current midfield tells its own sorry tale – have any of them played consistently well? Nothing bar odd tit-bits. Carrick, recent signs of improvement aside, hasn’t been himself for a few years now – and probably won’t be consistently unless he’s surrounded by quality. Scholes still shows signs of his mercurial self, but it’s too late to be relying too heavily now. Fletcher’s, ahem, virus has come at a bad time, even if we haven’t been effected too much. Still, he’s had his own – somewhat mysterious – struggle this season, which in itself created enough problems. Who else? Gibson and Anderson, to me, aren’t up to it. The former is too immobile, and lacks the personality needed to make it; the latter needs to shift a few pounds – and learn to pass/shoot, also. Sadly, I don’t foresee any miracles for either. Not the answer, long-term.
The wealth of talent within our young battalion is immensely comforting. Ravel Morrison, as most viewers of his performances will know, is an astonishing talent; a cert to make it, if – *sighs* – he wants it himself. Recent signs are encouraging, at least. He’s the big hope. Tunnicliffe is another smashing player; the one of the main 3 who really appears to have the stamina, attitude and personality to give it a real go. An unpopular view, perhaps, but of the 3 I think Pogba still has a fair bit to go – though that’s only natural, given the length of time he’s been here. Tremendous ability, but I feel it can be used a bit more effectively. He tends to dawdle at times, and can appear a little awkward, which holds him back a little, in my eyes. Still, lad’s got time to fill out, and he’s clearly a terrific footballer. So yes, high hopes, indeed.
However, that said, it’s not enough – not next season, anyway. Next season’s the time to try and test them. Ryan, in particular, I expect to see shifted out on loan – to, eh, Peterborough presumably…*cough*. Ravel’s obviously needed to be kept in close quarters, but his style has a maturity that should ensure he’ll cope well. A smattering of league cup and F.A. Cup outings would be nice. My only worry is that attention is bound to encircle his every move – for the right and wrong reasons, obviously. Pogba should get a few outings, too. With hope. But we can’t expect too much from them next season; similarly, we cannot expect this season’s midfield to carry mounting serious challenges on all fronts. Sounds a bit arsey, maybe, but we’ve somewhat overachieved this season, given the litany of squad-issues. An experienced, proven central midfielder is needed. Actually, make that two: Hargreaves will almost certainly bid farewell, Gibson – I hope – also. And I’m tending to think Paul will, too. Names like Rodwell and Henderson do not interest me; The 3 we have in waiting are our own talents, who should be trusted and have – in their recent displays – merited a chance. Bring in proven quality, but ensure those coming through are given a decent shot of it.
Alan | RedForceRising: That’s a resounding yes for me. I know that Paul Pogba, Ravel Morrison, Tom Cleverley and Ryan Tunnicliffe are garnering rave reviews, but so was a certain Magnus Eikrem. Some will say that the four I’ve mentioned are possibly further along in their development at the age they’re at, but we need a central midfield player NOW. There is talk of Hargreaves being offered an incentivised one-year contract and I would welcome it, but his match fitness is unknown. Scholesy seems to be on his last legs at times. Anderson and Carrick blow hot and cold. Fletcher is not reaching the heights he reached in 09/10. Gibson has had maybe two solid matches all season.
That’s simply too many uncertainties for my liking. Ideally, it would be nice to sign a player who can pick a pass like Luka Modric or maybe even Andrea Pirlo who is supposedly out of contract in the summer.
Justin| Red Flag Flying High: I honestly don’t think we need to sign any midfielders at all. I know this sounds crazy but I genuinely believe the likes of Cleverley, Morrison and even Pogba could do a job next season. I know I’m probably the only United fan in the world that thinks it but I even think Darron Gibson may prove his detractors wrong.
If Anderson could get a consistent run and Fletcher regain the form he’s capable of more regularly then the midfield may not be the problem everyone thinks it is. Mind you if Michael Carrick plays like he did against Chelsea- we’re golden.
Siddarth | Bangalore to Old Trafford: I think we should buy at least one more midfielder, an experienced player. But I think we should refrain from getting youngsters, especially over priced and over hyped English players! The likes of Ravel Morrisson, Ryan Tunnicliffe and Paul Pogba look like they will be exceptional players in the future, so why hamper their progress into the first team with overpaid players from other clubs. Even Petrucci looks very good since his return from injury, while Matty James and Drinkwater have first team experience in the championship too. So hopefully Sir Alex decides to give the youngsters a chance.
TG | ManUtd24: Well, that’s an interesting question. I think we might need just the one central midfield, but I wouldn’t lose sleep if Sir Alex decides to restore faith in his current crop and the youngsters coming in. Paul Pogba, Ryan Tunnicliffe and that man Ravel Morrison have promising futures ahead of them and certainly, by the looks of it, are what we call ‘United quality’. Let’s not forget Cleverley either. Which might be the drawback of a new signing – how can we allow such talents to develop in an environment where they play so little?
Bricki | Stretford-End: With the new contracts for Carrick, Anderson and Fletcher we seem to have secured the heart of our midfield. With the potential for Scholes to retire I can see players from the reserves/academy starting to be given chances. The only person who may fall out in the overall mix is Gibson. If Gibson was to depart I would bring another player in but if he stays then I would be inclined to promote from within. The general consensus is that we need a creative midfielder but if Ferguson is planning on using Rooney deeper like the last few games I don’t see that need to invest in the area.
No clear answer from the bloggers – maybe one player of a certain age, what’s sure is that we don’t want our talented youngsters to go forgotten.
Our second topic is Antonio Valencia. Quite simply, discuss…
Justin| Red Flag Flying High: Antonio Valencia’s return seems to have galvanised the team already. Rooney’s certainly reaping the rewards and there seems to be a bit more energy among the players than there was a few weeks ago. Nani has been awesome but United now have two fast skilful wingers capable of getting past almost any full back.
As for Valencia’s stint at right back in the Champions League, what can you say? A master-class.
Bricki | Stretford-End: As I wrote in January, the return of Valencia could be the thing that swings the title race for us and could event turn 1 trophy into 2 or even all 3. He offers a wing play that we don’t really have at the club anymore, an old school up and down winger who can support the full back as needed. His return also allows for Nani to get a break and gives us options out wide we did not have a month ago. I am surprised however at how well he has done since he returned, I expected only 45 min appearances not the 90 min solid efforts he has put in.
Couldn’t be happier that such a nice guy is back and not lost any skill/pace.
TG | ManUtd24: It’s great having him back. He was superb against Chelsea when he moved to right back and thankfully he seems to be suffering no ill signs from a long lay-off on the sidelines. He gets the best out of Rooney, too – was there any coincidence that Rooney scored a hat trick against West Ham with the Ecuadorian on the pitch? I think not…
Siddarth | Bangalore to Old Trafford: Getting him back has been a huge boost to our title challenge! Having him back, it gives us options on the wings, and gives us more variety in attack. It great to see that Antonio hasn’t lost much of his pace or any other attribute due to his horrific injury. If anything it seems to have made him mentally stronger! It’s great to have Tony V back.
Alan | RedForceRising: The return of Antonio Valencia has been an absolute blessing. He’s made such an impact since returning from injury and his hard work down the right and willingness to help defend seems to have lessened the workload of his team mate and made United more solid as a unit. His tactical awareness and work ethic allowed Sir Alex to play him as an emergency right back and the sight of both Nani and him down the right wing was simply awesome. If he could learn to be less predictable in his attacking play and a bit more selfish when he’s in a good position to shoot, he could just be the spark that drives to major success this season.
Herzog’s Child | Stretford-End: Someone deal that lad a drug-test. Blimey, he’s a machine, isn’t he? Oddly, despite the seriousness of his injury, I didn’t have many concerns about his return. ‘Nails,’ is the correct term of endearment, I believe. There’s a certain ‘right, let’s just do it’ attitude about him; he’s everything that Nani is not, in a way, and infinitely more likeable, as a result (that said, both are clearly wonderful options to have available.). His delightful little understanding with Wayne has already ignited – to both their credit – and he’s looking as physically strong and imposing as always, incredibly. He adds a great balance to the side, as he sticks to his role. Obviously he’s not as skilled a player as Nani, but he doesn’t do anything silly, just steadies ship. His conversion to RB on Wednesday night showed another lovable trait he harbours: discipline. Much applauded for his shift and sprint, his defensive side – often overlooked – is distinctly well honed, also. It’s been no shock that his return has also heralded two of our best away performances this season. To think he’s just returning, too, is also very warming – how bloody good will he be at full fitness? He’s great – a real trooper, who just gets it and does what’s needed. No fannying about, just produce. A smashing outlet.
Chudi | The Busby Way: Valencia’s return has come at the perfect time, I remember writing don’t expect too much too soon from him but he has slide back into the team like he never left.
Last week against West Ham he was on his game and ran Bridge as well as anyone else he came up against ragged and against Chelsea he put in a good shift as a winger and as a full back too.
It may be presumptuous to say that Rooney’s improved form has something to do with Antonio’s return but the two have coincided and when his crosses start finding Rooney then he’ll get even better than he has been.
For all the stick he and we got when we signed him and the comparisons with Cristiano Ronaldo he has taken the role and made it his own and his now importance can’t be understated.
What an absolute bonus it is to have him back – like having a new signing.