Greenwood has a blank page to show a new maturity this season

Mason Greenwood has been the talk of the press for the last week in England, after being called up for the national team and then dropped.<!–more–>

It was a lesson for the boy. He’s a young player with lots of ability, but this will be a moment of realisation that he is not bigger than his club, his country or the game, and that he has the eyes of the football world on him. That happens when you play for England or Manchester United, the biggest club.<span class=”Apple-converted-space”> </span>

Fair play to Mason. He’s apologised, and so in the moment we can put it down to immaturity, and hope he doesn’t make the same mistake twice. You can’t afford to take anything in the game for granted, because football has a way of kicking you when you least expect it. So when you have the opportunity, you must take it, and appreciate it. Don’t throw it away, Mason.

At the end of the day being dropped is a small price to pay for a long term hopeful benefit. That will hurt him, it will certainly hurt his pride, and Gareth Southgate made it clear why he was dropped. So you have to hope that will wake the boy up.

I know United were not pleased and will be dealing with him in their own way. Me personally? I would have sat down with him and told him that yes he made a mistake, and he let himself down most importantly of all, but that he had an opportunity to turn it around – the test is for him to get his head down and work his socks off to show everyone he has learned his lesson. He can put it into his game to show everyone a new maturity to go alongside his talent, which is obvious and never been doubted.<span class=”Apple-converted-space”> </span>

Only Mason can do that and let’s hope that he does. There’s nothing like a new season for a blank page, hopefully a new chapter for this young man with plenty of positive moments to come.

Don’t Put Too Much Pressure On Sancho

So Manchester United finished third, but Arsenal’s celebrations when winning the FA Cup were a little bit of a reminder that third place is not a trophy.

It was a reminder that United paid the price for rotating their squad in the semi-final. And now people are asking the question, if United don’t win the Europa League, could that mean Arsenal, who finished 8th, had a better season?

The FA Cup – as great a competition as it is – is a handful of games to win. You get into the Europa League for that.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s task has been to take United back into the Champions League, that is the competition United have to be in. Every process has to begin somewhere. The end goal for United is to challenge Manchester City and Liverpool for the league, and to do that with a team that plays entertaining football. That process begins with showing strong enough consistency to qualify for the Champions League. They got over the line there, and hopefully this is the stage we build to move forward.

The men at the top will allow Ole to have money, but we can trust in Ole that he will bring in players he needs and not just the attractive names who are up for sale. He is choosing his players to improve the squad in a deliberate manner, he is vetting the players, and just as we can place faith in him to choose the right ones, we can hope that the ones he has already signed can continue to kick on from promising first years.

It’s been said that these differing expectations when we’re in this process means we’ve lost sight of what’s deemed a good season. It has never been like that at Old Trafford. I think Ole and the players should be applauded for an exceptional job in the mini-season and we can look at this time and say it looks more like United than it has for a long time. The football is looking better, the players are now seeming to understand what the club is about and how high the standards are, and many of them are playing with confidence.

At the start of the season United’s aim will be to win every trophy available to them. They are expected to win every game. That is the level of expectation at the club. That doesn’t mean that’s realistic, but you have to appreciate just how far we have come.

And we can be excited about the future. That has best been summed up in the performances and the emergence of young Mason Greenwood. Many players played a crucial part, but for me, Mason stood out. He was electric. It will be interesting to see how he performs next season.

As always, though, people become more interested in the players coming in, and the big news is that Jadon Sancho is close to moving from Borussia Dortmund. He is young, English, and he has so much talent, but once thing that we must not do is get carried away.

He’s still young enough to not be the finished article and although he is established at the top level we only have to look at Daniel James who looked as if he would be a starter in his early weeks only to have some struggles. Mason’s emergence meant Daniel could have a breather, but the point remains.

Jadon will come with a price tag, a level of expectation for him to live up to. In the past we have had Angel Di Maria and Memphis Depay to name just two who have come in and were going to be the creative saviour for United on the wing. Time and time again we’ve seen players come in for big money and then not perform, and it has generally come at some significant cost for that player to be moved on.

I hope that won’t happen with Jadon but you will understand my apprehension – that’s not based on his talent, but the expectation that is already going to be put on his shoulders. He is clearly the player Ole wants, though, and as I said, he is being careful with his transfer policy – a big reason for us to feel confident.

Give Ole Time And Patience

Well, what a game yesterday, and what a performance from Sheffield United.

I see a lot of impatience from supporters when it comes to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and the job he is doing. It is not easy for him because being at Manchester United means you get evaluated and criticised on a game-by-game basis and most people know that the job he is doing is going to take time.

People want instant success and they want it with the culture of everything good that United stand for, but as I’ve said so many times over the years, you can’t just say it’s the case and then make it so.  It takes time, patience and a little bit of luck.

Yesterday’s game, despite the various disappointments, was an example of all of that. Brandon Williams didn’t have the best game of his young career but he was kept on and scored a vital goal. Mason Greenwood has been used sensibly and came on to score. Some people would still rather Sanchez or Lukaku had been kept at the club; hopefully, though, United will stand to benefit more in the long term from Greenwood’s experiences this season. Yesterday was not a great showing for most of the game, but it was nonetheless a good experience for these young lads who contributed so much to a positive response.

They were the bright spot of a game which looked pretty poor, I must admit, in a classic match of two halves. United were awful in the first half and although some of that was down to having a threadbare midfield, the defending was poor and I saw strikers only interested in playing for themselves when their teammates desperately needed them.

When Ole made the changes, United bucked up their ideas and got a positive result from a game where it looked like they might lose, and lose heavily.

If they had lost, predictably the press would have been on Ole’s back. But I’ll say this for sure — however tough it is at the minute, this is much more the United way of doing things than it was under Mourinho. Ole has made mistakes, he’ll continue to make mistakes, nobody is perfect. But he is trying to win games, trying to do it with exciting players, and he is bringing through young players at the club.

Of course it’s Mauricio Pochettino and not Jose Mourinho that people will be mentioning when it comes to Ole’s job being under pressure.

Nothing really surprises me in football anymore, but I’m relatively amazed that Daniel Levy made the decision he did last week — I would have been more inclined to invest more time and money in Pochettino, he deserved it after the work he has done on the budget he has had. Now Jose has come in and will spend to take advantage of a stable set up in London. How long will everything be rosy in that garden?

I just hope people continue to give Ole time to do his work. There is no guarantee it’s going to go right in the long term but the sort of team spirit that was shown from the kids in getting a turnaround result yesterday is the sort of thing that takes time to work on.

We have to believe in young players and we have to continue moving on the players who are just not good enough to play for the club anymore.

I’m not blind, it’s not perfect. I wonder and I doubt that the coaching staff around Ole are tactically good enough to manage at this level. I wonder that about Ole himself. We got out of jail yesterday but football is about the right preparation as much as it is the right reaction and against better opponents, we won’t be so lucky to still be in a game after being exposed like we were.

Patience then becomes the key word in seeing how it will unfold – will Ole get that?

Video Promoting Bishop Blaize Event


Saturday 10th August
The Bishop Blaize, Stretford

Join us for a night of fun, laughter and revelling in
Manchester United nostalgia at The Bishop Blaize
with legendary United winger Gordon Hill.

He’ll be recounting his times at United – dressing room tales,
shenanigans with team mates, that glorious 70s team of Doc’s Red Army,
the ’77 Scouse Busters Final, The Doc, the lot!

Andy Mitten will be extracting all the inside stories.
Comedian John Stiles (Nobby’s son) will be providing more laughs

More details and tickets here:

The Wrong Direction

So it’s back to winning ways for Manchester United and Jose Mourinho. It’s always good to get those wins, that’s the aim of the game, but as we know, that’s not all that matters at United.<!–more–>

The pressure is on Mourinho and you may well know my view on the manager. I am still not convinced. There is the suggestion that the penny has dropped and he is starting to play attacking football. I will need more evidence for that I’m afraid. But he has to change, otherwise he will be gone.

It is a new game he has to play and learn, to please the United fans who expect their team to play exciting football and attacking football. We will see.

It was good to see United get off to winning ways in Europe but, I’m sorry to say yet again, the number of foreign players in the United team just as all English teams worries me. The number of English players in the league went under 33% a couple of years ago and hasn’t improved.

United had Chris Smalling, Luke Shaw and Marcus Rashford last night – 3 from 11, even lower than 33%.

People are raving about Diogo Dalot at right back, another foreign import. They hope he will do what Matteo Darmian couldn’t do and dislodge another foreign right back, Antonio Valencia.

Meanwhile, the impressive Ethan Laird, who has started the season so well for the academy, will have all three of those in front of him and probably won’t even get a chance in the League Cup next week. It’s the same up front for Mason Greenwood. Don’t get me wrong, United do it better than most, and I wouldn’t <em>especially</em> criticise Jose Mourinho for this as he’s no different to any other manager with this, but in years gone past those exciting players would be given a chance against Derby.

I think that this is very destroying to our game, and the future of young players, when you see young players from other countries coming in and being bought by clubs which leaves our players not getting a look in. They have to look at the Championship, or lower leagues, to get game time.

Gareth Southgate is making the right noises when he says he is looking at the situation. I look at the games very closely and in my opinion around half of the foreign players are not good enough — and by that, I mean, they’re not good enough to justify blocking the pathway of so many young homegrown players — but, in some cases, the manager had them at their clubs abroad and so brings them in because they’re familiar.

The Premier League is just about money. That’s not new. Richard Scudamore is a joke. Our national teams at a younger age are doing great — world champions in two age brackets — but these players never get to see first team football because of the foreign players.

We should be capitalising on the good mood from the World Cup to build for a better future.