Watch Man United signing Daniel James training in Dubai to stay sharp for Old Trafford bow

David Cooper 24/06/2019
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[Photo credit: @ManUtd/Twitter]

Manchester United‘s only signing so far this summer Daniel James is gearing up for his first Premier League campaign with a little pre-season training in Dubai.

The former Swansea City player posted a video on Twitter that shows him being put through his paces under the scorching sun in Dubai.

James is training with Kaizen 3 Performance, a company that conducts off-season training for professional athletes and tweeted a clip on Sunday that revealed their work with the Welsh winger in Dubai.

The 21-year-old has signed a five-year contract, with the option to extend for a further year, to become manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s first signing at Old Trafford.

The deal is worth a reported £15 million plus add-ons.

James, a graduate of the Swansea academy, scored five goals and made 10 assists in 38 appearances during an impressive 2018-19 campaign in which he broke into the Championship side’s first team.

Another United youngster in Scott McTominay has also been spotted training in Dubai with images of his workout take in front of the iconic Burj Al Arab.

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Man United and Alexis Sanchez cannot offer each other what they need to thrive

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Copa America 2019 has made bewildering viewing for Manchester United fans.

The forlorn Alexis Sanchez endured at Old Trafford has been utterly transformed back on South American soil.

A decisive side-footed volley in the weekend’s 2-1 triumph against Ecuador sent Chile into the knockouts with a game to spare and moved him onto two goals in two excellent Group C matches. This equalled the haul from 27, universally wretched, run-outs for his employers in 2018/19.

The 30-year-old is bedecked in a red shirt for both sides, yet the contrast couldn’t be starker.

A binary reaction to this upturn is obvious.

Either it points towards brighter days to come from the malfunctioning forward in 2019/20 at the Theatre of Dreams, or it’s a golden opportunity to place an unwanted figure in the shop window. Especially when the shedding of divisive wages worth approximately £500,000-a-week are involved.

Both points are pertinent. Both points, however, neglect important issues about United’s future.

Why were Sanchez’s struggles for the Red Devils predictable even at the time of his January 2018 addition in exchange for Henrikh Mkhitaryan, and why has the Copa brought out the best in him?

Until this issue is addressed, ruinous transfer market stumbles will continue.

Enlightening source material for reviled executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward, in the continued absence of his fabled first director of football hire, are quotes from Chile boss Reinaldo Rueda when pressed about the disparity in displays.

“He has the motivation, affection and some relationships that he has in the national team and maybe he didn’t have them in Manchester,” the 62-year-old told reporters.

“He arrived at a difficult, inopportune moment, perhaps in the most unbalanced United in recent years.”

Sanchez’s abject failure on club duty and exceptional output in the international arena is – seemingly – as much about environment, as it is ability.

He is far from alone at United. Midfielder Paul Pogba excelled when winning World Cup 2018 with France and wantaway striker Romelu Lukaku has netted 25 times in 22 Belgium fixtures since his £75 million purchase from Everton in July 2017.

This is not to absolve Sanchez of personal responsibility. Misfortune with repeat injury, especially ankle and hamstring issues, cannot outweigh the fact that one goal in his first 11 United fixtures upon arrival is scandalous compared to the heights witnessed at Arsenal.

Whatever the cause, he began nearly half of his United appearances last term on the substitutes’ bench for a reason.

For Chile, his last 28-consecutive caps have been earned as a starter. A run that stretches back to June 2017’s Confederations Cup, containing 12 goals.

Regular stationing on the left wing has remained a constant, for club and country.

How he is utilised and entrusted to perform, however, is night and day.

Illumination about why he shines for Chile and suffers for United is not hard to find.

At the Copa, mistakes are followed by “affection”. This support is key for a footballer characterised in media reports as a loner.

Sanchez is averaging – per match – 1.5 dribbles, two bad controls and three shots.

In the Premier League, alone, last term, these figures stand at: 0.7 dribbles, 1.1 bad controls and 0.9 shots.

A lack of regular starts cannot account for the cavernous gap between outputs for club and country.

This United, clearly, do not tolerate the successful philosophy of former IBM chairman Thomas John Watson Sr. that: “The fastest way to succeed is to double your failure rate.”

The tumult that Sanchez was thrown into is crucial.

Sanchez, at his best, is a lightning rod that randomly shoots out bolts of electricity. Constrain him and he short-circuits.

Arsene Wenger granted such space and 80 goals in 166 fixtures followed. The seasoned proving grounds of Udinese were similarly stimulating.

Adherence to the demanding ‘Cruyffism’ of Barcelona and deference to Lionel Messi led to mixed results. The pragmatism, to put it kindly, of Jose Mourinho at United accelerated a downwards spiral that replacement Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been unable, or unwilling, to correct.

Sanchez is now the poster boy for the risk-averse culture that has permeated Old Trafford since the summer 2013 exit of the bold Sir Alex Ferguson. It does not only apply to the Chilean; its denaturing effects are mirrored in the struggles of Mkhitaryan, Paul Pogba, Angel Di Maria and several others.

Alluring artisans have been pursued by the administration at a time when foot soldiers, for better or worse, would have better fitted footballing requirements.

When club and player cannot offer what each needs to thrive, disappointment always follows.

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Return to traditional transfer methods can help Ole Gunnar Solskjaer restore Man United

Matt Jones 19/06/2019
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Manchester United critics and fans seem to be in unison. United are in trouble and have never been more in danger of slipping into relative obscurity, at least in the Premier League era.

They are the undisputed kings of the competition overall. The Red Devils have reigned as champions of England 13 times out of 27 seasons since the Premier League was introduced in 1992/93 – United were inaugural champions, quenching a 26-year thirst for a top-flight title.

And yet, since the great Sir Alex Ferguson retired following his delivery of that 13th trophy – and 20th domestic league title in total – in 2012/13, a decay has set in at Old Trafford. The stadium itself is creaking.

But the malaise that has been allowed to set in within the walls of the dressing room following Ferguson’s departure has now left the great empire he built crumbling.

Football is cyclical. Every club is going to go through good and bad times, this is inevitable. What also seemed to be inevitable was the view of the United hierarchy that success could be sustained forever. In reality, the success Ferguson engineered has only introduced complacency.

David Moyes was the “Chosen One”. After that experiment blew up in the club’s face, they went with the tried and tested method of bringing in big names – both on and off the field.

Louis van Gaal and then Jose Mourinho were appointed to return United to glory. Bigger fish than Moyes, they were able to land the likes of Angel Di Maria, Radamel Falcao, Victor Valdes, Memphis Depay, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Paul Pogba, Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez.

Sanchez has been a disastrous signing for United.

Sanchez has been a disastrous signing for United.

The jury remains out on Pogba and Lukaku – both of whom are being linked with moves away this summer. All others bar Ibrahimovic – a free transfer at the tail end of his career – have been monumental flops.

But with the signing of Daniel James, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer clearly wants to go in a different direction this summer. And while fans may moan at a lack of marquee acquisitions, or at least a pursuit of them, players like James are exactly the names required in order to tackle an issue abundantly clear – a colossal rebuild and restructure is required.

Too often in the past six seasons, Ed Woodward has chased the easy fix. In the wake of Ferguson’s retirement, a summer in which David Gill’s departure can also not be overstated, United have met every obstacle by throwing money at it and hoping their issues go away.

In truth, what was really required was a pressing of the reset button.

But United were petrified of falling behind – burned a little perhaps by the hiring of Moyes. They hoped big names like Van Gaal and Mourinho would steady the ship. But the club sank further.

They have been left behind by smarter recruitment strategies implemented by rivals. Even though Manchester foes City have spent equal amounts assembling a far more coherent and successful squad, they too have simultaneously been planning for the future.

Bernardo Silva wasn’t a star when he arrived at the Etihad Stadium two summers ago, but he enjoyed a breakout 2018/19 campaign and is now even taking limelight away from Cristiano Ronaldo at international level for Portugal.

Critics laughed at Jurgen Klopp when he paid Hull City £8 million for unheralded left-back Andy Robertson the same 2017 summer that Silva showed up in England. The 25-year-old is now probably the best in the world in his position.

A club that has always prided itself on promoting from within and investing in youth has betrayed its own traditions and, consequently, lost their way as a result.

Whether you look back to the 1999 treble-winning side or go back further, to the Busby Babes, United have always forged their own path. The Red Devils’ greatest rewards have always come as a result of teams assembled with home-grown stars or young, emerging talents at their core.

In addition to the famed ‘Class of 92’ emergence, the club has always been adept at identifying young talent and nurturing it. Roy Keane was 22 when he joined United in the summer of 1993. Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo were both 18. Rio Ferdinand was 23 when he arrived, as was current manager Solskjaer. Ruud van Nistelrooy was 24 and Patrice Evra and Nemanja Vidic both 25.

A summer in club football is always a long, drawn out process involving incessant and often trivial transfer rumour tit for tat – especially when involving the top teams. And, having endured one of the worst seasons in the Premier League era, United’s 2019 summer transfer window will be picked through and poured over like never before.

James Maddison has been linked with a move to Old Trafford.

James Maddison has been linked with a move to Old Trafford.

But the early signs are encouraging. As well as James, United’s targets have universally been identified as emerging Crystal Palace right-back Aaron Wan-Bissaka (21), creative Leicester duo James Maddison and Youri Tielemans and West Ham’s towering French centre-back Issa Diop (all 22), as well as Sporting Lisbon’s bustling ball of midfield creativity, Bruno Fernandes (24).

If all of those deals were to come to fruition, positivity would surely swell among United’s fanbase once more.

There’s a begrudging recognition that it is going to be a few more years before the Red Devils rise to a Premier League title challenge again. But a successful summer will allow them to maintain a grip on the coattails of England and Europe’s elite.

The Theatre of Dreams, for so long a silver screen highlight reel of silverware for United, has, in the last six years, become the scene of a plot twist, where the only show playing has been the success of their fiercest rivals.

United have been living a nightmare, but a triumphant summer could yet lead to a blockbuster comeback.

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