#360view: Manchester United need to show Woodward the light

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Woodward needs some help at United.

We’ve been here before. Just 24 hours before the close of the summer transfer window and Manchester United are frantically trying to sign a striker from Monaco with considerable question marks around the deal.

Last year it was Radamel Falcao, this time Anthony Martial. Players at opposing stages of their careers but circumstances the same.

Falcao was a huge bust and has defined the often-overused term, ‘panic buy’. An injury-ridden, costly striker whose best days were unfortunately behind him. But Louis van Gaal felt he desperately needed another frontman and a call to Jorge Mendes later and the Colombian was in Manchester.

What’s remarkable is that despite the struggles of Falcao, Robin van Persie’s minimal impact, Wayne Rooney’s decline, Van Gaal not trusting Javier Hernandez and concern that James Wilson is lacking that magic ingredient to be a top-level Premier League striker, it has taken until August 31, 2015 for the problem to be addressed.

Except it hasn’t really, at least not for now. Martial is a supremely talented young footballer; he possesses superb close control, skills, promising finishing and a sharp turn of pace. But he is 19, has just one proper season behind him and isn’t yet a full international. There remains serious doubts over his strength and aerial ability to play as a genuine No9.

It’s difficult to forsee him having too much of an impact, at least until next season, while being an 80 million teenager after 28 first-team league starts carries its own set of pressures. The fee is a little misleading as the latest TV deals means any approach from an English club immediately increases the asking price by 20 per cent. However, it is still an indication into how highly Monaco value Martial.

So, United do deserve some credit. But while it is pleasing to see them sign and look to develop young talent – albeit with Adnan Januzaj off on loan – holes in the team, not just the squad, need filling now. The finger of blame has to point, once again, at Ed Woodward, United’s transfer guru.

– MUFC: De Gea in limbo after clubs miss paperwork deadline
– #360debate: Are Manchester United on track under LVG?
– Sow: Al Ahli boss Cosmin keeps quiet on striker link
– Nepal: How football has risen from the rubble after quakes

The players the club have either identified and failed to sign or ignored and then seen join a rival for an affordable fee is quite a list. This isn’t a worrying trend, it’s becoming the norm. Either the targets – Gareth Bale – are unrealistic or the execution of the deals – Thiago Alcantara, Toni Kroos and Pedro – is falling drastically short.

It was a fine start to the summer; Matteo Darmian arrived, amid interest from Bayern Munich, plus Bastian Schweinsteiger, Morgan Schneiderlin – who looks an excellent, common sense purchase – and Memphis Depay, but the striking issues were apparent months ago.

Something is also wrong with the system, with Martial an example. Signed by Monaco for Lyon for 5m in 2013, he is being sold at 16 times that price. Why weren’t United’s scouts tuned into his ability when he was flourishing at Lyon’s academy? A club with their wealth and resources should know about each and every promising teenager across the world.

It’s straightforward signing established players, it takes talent and organisation to identify potential few can see. What the last five transfer windows under Woodward have shown is that he needs help. A well-connected sporting director to redesign and refine the club’s recruitment process and get deals done with minimum fuss.

That’s what should now be the Glazers’ No1 transfer priority.

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Off The Bar: Chelsea's curse, ghoulish Gomis & Sherwood's hamstring

Ben Davies 31/08/2015
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It was another eventful week of Premier League football.

Off The Bar sets it’s satirical sights on unique solutions to the shortcomings of London’s two biggest clubs, recoils from another haunting Bafetimbi Gomis celebration and admires Tim Sherwood’s ever-skilful idiocy.

Chelsea to ban letter ‘P’
The terrifying curse of the ‘P’ has struck once again for Jose Mourinho. His weekend defeat at the hands of Alan Pardew means his last seven league defeats have come against managers whose surname begin with the ever foreboding letter ‘P’. Forget his side looking like they have had their talent sucked out of them by extra-terrestrials in an intriguing Space Jam sequel – it’s that lethal letter that holds the biggest threat to Chelsea defending their Premier League title. 

So what to do? Off the Bar suggest they treat the problem like any another issue at Stamford Bridge – cannon lots of cash at it. Roman Abramovich should get out his chequebook and sign the letter P from the Alphabet. With John Stones going nowhere, this seems like a sensible back up plan and redistribution of transfer warchest money to reverse Chelsea’s fortunes.

With P’s image and usage rights signed to the West London club, Mourinho can finally take the P out of the English diction and leave it to rot in the reserves.  Pardew, Pulis, Pellegrini and co have all shown themselves to be admirable adversaries against the Blues, but will they fare so well as Alan Ardew, Tony Ulis and Manuel Ellegrini? Surely it would be an irrevocable knock to them and their side’s confidence, not to mention a disaster for the kitman. The savvy move also means Chelsea fans will save two pounds when they get the name of ex-Barca midfielder Edro ironed on to the back of their shirts. Everyone’s a winner. Except Newcastle’s Aiss Cisse.

– #360debate: Are Manchester United on track under LVG?
– Sow: Al Ahli boss Cosmin keeps quiet on striker link
– Nepal: How football has risen from the rubble after quakes
– GALLERY: 10 players to have transfer requests rejected

OG is the new Benzema
This trend of looking beyond traditional player selection changes to remedy poor form could really benefit Cheslea’s London neighbours Arsenal too. 

The early expectation was that Oliver Giroud would be Arsenal’s top scorer this season but that’s not quite transpired. The initials OG are certainly spot on though. Yes, an up and coming new recruit is currently sitting pretty as Arsenal’s top scorer. His name? Own Goal. We’re not sure where Arsene Wenger picked him up but the prodigious talent has probably ricocheted his way through the imperious French Clairefonraine academy, spun back devilishly on to the Eurostar and glanced off onrushing traffic and through the Emirates gates.

Gunners’ fans have recoiled at the identity of their new top scorer but they and their club should really be embracing him. Goals are goals no matter how they come, and OG clearly has a poacher’s eye for goal — you can’t argue with a 50% goals per games success rate. 

If Arsenal have any hope of challenging for the league title this season they must play to OG strengths and build their team around him, just as they would for any top scoring forward. Bringing the best out of OG means always smashing the ball into a crowd of players and hammering pin-point passes towards Wes Brown’s shins. If all goes well, OG and the more selfless Deflection could be the most prolific forward combination since the heady days of Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp.

Ghoulish Gomis
There’s only one thing that has divided football right down the middle this season, even more than the halfway line itself — Bafetimbi Gomis’ infamous goal celebration. Until now, we’ve kept our own counsel on it — less because we’ve been weighing it up and much more because we have been prone with fear ever since we first saw it rolled out at the end of last season. Our silence is no more. Whilst most football fans cheered his winning strike against Manchester United yesterday, we sprinted to the back of the living room to rock in the foetal position behind the sofa.

The demented eyes, the look straight down the barrel of the camera and the on all fours clawing and clambering is straight out of classic Japanese horror film The Ring. 

Whilst most people see a talented 30-year-old Frenchman scampering around like an cantankerous cat, we see a young possessed girl crawling out of our flat screen TV. It was extra terrifying given it took place against the unadulterated horror show of Romero’s chocolate-wristed goalkeeping.  Off The Bar is all for interactive sports broadcasting (one day we hope smell-o-vision will allow us to sniff Giroud’s heavenly hair. We reckon it’s a mixture of pear and mint). But let’s hope we cut short any ideas of hologram projections — allowing Gomis’ celebrations to extend any further into the living room could be the end of us.

Backheel backfires
Tim ‘Timpact’ Sherwood suffered some severe misfortune on the sidelines this weekend. He tore his hamstring in two after ‘trying to backheel’ a water bottle in frustration at a questionable referee decision. That does sound indescribably painful, but let us first and foremost commend Tim on going down the flamboyant backheel route to show his disdain. Whilst the likes of Wenger go for a bog standard boot to the bottle cap, clearly Tim has a more cultured and continental approach to thwacking drinks containers. It’s a positive thing to see English managers breaking against stereotype to show a bit of flair and emphasis on technique. Bournemouth’s Eddie Howe was bubbling with fury after a late penalty appeal went unanswered at the weekend — we’re looking forward to rolling back over the tapes to see the young English manager punish the water bottle with a delicate Cruyff turn before clipping the nozzle back and forth with a perfectly executed Zidane roulette turn. 

Hats off to you Claudio
Elsewhere on the sidelines this weekend, Claudio Ranieri’s amiability level once again went through the roof like a mistimed Wayne Rooney volley. Normally dressed solely in a dapper suit, this weekend he opted for overlaying said suit with a baggy tracksuit top and an unfeasibly small baseball cap. The outfit appeared to be the result of the manager taking part in a 30-second trolley dash through the Leicester City club shop…in the dark. 

Whilst the adorable look was ultimately an insult to the fashion world, it was a huge compliment to Tony Ulis. Before Ranieri’s calamitous step into the Premier League manager headwear world, we hadn’t truly appreciated the apparent ease and authority with which the West Brom boss pulls off the baseball cap look. For all the praise heaped on the Welshman’s ability to repel relegation, we must always remember first and foremost — no one can don a baseball cap quite as perfectly as he can. Nobody does it better. Tony, this one goes out to you…

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Van Gaal walks out of post-Swansea press conference

Chrisa 31/08/2015
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Swansea handed Manchester United their first defeat of the English Premier League season, rallying with two goals in five minutes in the second half to win 2-1 on Sunday.







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