The Red Report: CM, Valencia, pre-season and the original Ronaldo

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 WayStretford-EndBangalore To Old TraffordManUtd24, 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.

We’re off to America again this summer on our pre-season tour – does it matter where we go?

Alan | RedForceRising: Well, since they’re going on a pre-season tour and want to do so without much mayhem, the USA seems a good choice, although Chicharito might just draw bigger crowds than United anticipate. The coaches always rate the facilities very highly and the opposition is a lot more meaningful than Hangzhou Greentown.

Justin| Red Flag Flying High: As a fan it matters as you always think ‘can I build a holiday around watching The Reds?’ For the club though forget the marketing side of things, I’m more interested in are we going to get a good enough standard of game to be able to make any judgements on young players who are given a chance? In the past players like Chris Eagles and Obertan have looked good in pre-season only to be found wanting when it comes to competitive games.

I think the tour of the USA will tell us very little about whether certain players can make the grade but I suppose for the club it increases our ‘global appeal’ I do hate that term. It could be worse though, we could get an NBA player to associate himself with us!

TG | ManUtd24: It’s pre-season so it shouldn’t really matter. And with United’s ever-growing fanbase in the States, it’s not the worst ploy to go over there again given the success of their last visit. It’s marketing decision too and all big businesses need to do it.

Bricki | Stretford-End: 10 years ago I would have said that where we go in pre-season is not important but with the arrival of Mourinho at Chelsea and the fact you needed to hit the ground running to be contending for the title I think the place you do preseason now is vital in order to have players ready to go come the first day of the season. I enjoy us going to America because with the relationship with Nike and the fact Americans know the importance in sport of being fit and prepared we use some of the best facilities around and face opposition that will have players up and ready. I find America a better venue than the Far East in everyway bar the fantastic support we receive in the far east.

Siddarth | Bangalore to Old Trafford: I really don’t think it does, pre-season used to be arranged with the idea of getting the team match fit and prepared for the regular season, but it has now become a marketing ploy. So going to the U.S is probably with the sole intention of raising our profile in the country and increases our fan base. Plus if we go on to a treble this season, after the U.S pre-season, I don’t mind the team going there every season!

Herzog’s Child | Stretford-End: A tiresome, somewhat dull, venture now – and one many reds are beginning to lose interest in. As a night-owl, the KO times don’t bother me too much, but the games are usually fairly sub-standard. Lining up against Barcelona will be a decent outing, I guess, but it’s just another PR-driven exercise, isn’t it? The trip to Munich a few summers ago was far more appealing, I found. It was cheaper to get there, the standard of opposition was fairly decent, the ground is superb and so is the city itself. A little trip like that, followed by a number of fixtures around the U.K. would be more rewarding. There are plenty of clubs around England who are struggling financially, particularly smaller clubs; United coming to town would ensure a decent gate, and finances for said team. I’d rather that than hauling our arses all the way to America again for another laborious stint. Shirt-sales and adding to the – *wretches* – ‘brand’ is evidently more important. Will it affect the team itself? No, not particularly. They’re catered for well, and it hasn’t been detrimental before. It’s just a little boring.

Chudi | The Busby Way: The trip to America is just to fill he coffers and whilst it is after all pre season, I think it is looked at more for it’s financial benefits than it’s health and fitness benefits.

The way the all-star game was being promoted with Henry and Beckham’s names being thrown around shows it is more for the money/Entertainment than the football.

The standard of game we get out there isn’t going to be the best but it should be reasonably challenging as it was last summer.

The game against Barcelona will be something to look forward to though!

Marketing ploy? Yet the facilities mean the players are well prepared for when the season starts.

As per usual we decided to look at a non-United topic. This week we discuss the recently retired ‘original Ronaldo’:

Chudi | The Busby Way: When Ronaldo retired every body was quick to eulogise about him and my favourite quote was :

“Imagine asking God to make you the best footballer in the world… and God listened.”

Ronaldo wasn’t one of my favourite strikers but that doesn’t mean I never rated him highly. I remember being in Canada when he moved to Real and thinking their team is going to be unstoppable!

The hat trick he scored against us whilst crushing was amazing and you just wonder, had he not got those injuries how much better could he have been?

Alan | RedForceRising: My favourite non-United striker along with Roberto Baggio. I had the pleasure of watching several of his performances in his short time at Barcelona and he simply took my breath away. No other player had done that since a certain Ryan Giggs mesmerized me with his mazy runs. In many ways, he was the ultimate striker. The combination of his physical attributes and footballing talent were truly phenomenal. When he ran at defenders, you felt sorry for them, because they were up against an untameable force of nature.

Herzog’s Child | Stretford-End: The finest player I have ever witnessed in my short 22 years. His retirement was saddening, for a number of reasons. There wasn’t a particular sense of finality, as his impact on the game waned in recent times. However, it signalled the end of a career frequently outstanding, but one cut down too early. Sure, bar the EC, he achieved just about all there is to garner, but the ability he harboured should have glowed brighter for a far more sustained period. Many will obviously point to his 3 at Old Trafford, but his best was in his earlier days, at Barcelona. I watch highlights of that period regularly; there’s an almost surreal quality to just how devastatingly incredible he was. One of the very, very few who did have everything an attacking player needs: terrifying pace, skill, the ability to just waltz past players with infinite ease, and a finish that, to me, at least, is yet to be matched. One of my very small thrilling, non-united football memories is the 2002 WC final; when Ronaldo righted the travesty of 1998, by gunning down a plucky German side. He was superb. Messi is rightly regarded as today’s messiah, but Ronaldo, in his prime, was something different again. Did he ever actually miss a 1-on-1? He was almost silly at times, what with the genuine ease he played with. He’d still supply a fairly adequate shift even now, despite the chunkiness – some might even say ‘value.’

Siddarth | Bangalore to Old Trafford: To be honest I never really liked him, but he was probably the best Brazilian striker of his time and he had an ego to match his vast talent. Gifted with excellent skill and pace, also great finishing, he was probably the most complete striker of his generation.

Bricki | Stretford-End: I was at Old Trafford the night that Ronaldo destroyed us and got the standing ovation. A better performance at Old Trafford I don’t think I’ve seen. I would argue that after Maradona he was the next genuine world star and the only player other than Maradona I regret we never got in the red shirt. The world cup at France 98 and then Korea/Japan 2002 will be remembered as Ronaldo world cups for different reasons but in his prime at Barcelona I don’t think a player alive or dead could touch him. A World Class Star that could have been even greater but for injury… a scary thought!

TG | ManUtd24: I loved the man, and still do. He’s a legend of the game and despite eating a pork scratching too many in his decline period he should forever be remembered as a great. He had a brilliant goalscoring record and seemed to always be in the right place in the right time. It was his hat trick, of the epic sort, that had seen a battling United perish in that equally-epic quarter final second leg in the 02/03 season. United won that game 4-3 but it was simply not enough; Ronaldo’s display in that game matched his virtuoso performance in the first leg.

Justin| Red Flag Flying High: Everyone will no doubt think back to the hat-trick at Old Trafford for Real Madrid. My memory of Ronaldo is being in Malia one Summer working, and someone telling me we’d signed ‘Ronaldo.’ When I heard it was that young Portuguese lad, I’d seen against us I was devastated.

I think I said: “He’s good but he’s no Brazilian Ronaldo, I really thought we’d pulled of a coup,” or words to that effect. Little did I know…………



Best of the blogs:

The Busby Way | Rooney Incident Highlights A Changing Society As Well As A Lack Of Sense
Stretford-End | Stretty Debate: Berbatov Or Tevez For Your MUFC Team?
Bangalore To Old Trafford | Perfect Away Game
Red Flag Flying High | Ten Reasons Why Manchester United Are The Root Of All Evil
ManUtd24 | (Analysis) Resourceful Carrick And Rooney Prove Inspirational


That concludes another Red Report. Hopefully this edition keeps you entertained until next time. We’re always open to hear from you so you can catch us on Twitter:

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1 Comment on The Red Report: CM, Valencia, pre-season and the original Ronaldo

  1. I can’t imagine having that strong an opinion either way about pre-season. It’s always been a fitness exercise, now it’s just doubling as a money-spinning exercise. I pay marginally more attention to it than I would to Heat to see where the players have gone on holiday (none) but unless there’s an injury picked up I pay it very little attention.

    As for Brazilian Ronaldo, at his best he might be the most entertaining player I’ve ever seen. More so than Messi, Zidane, anybody you care to mention. He was big, he was fast, and in the mood he was completely unstoppable. I don’t think Messi has yet produced a defining moment in the Champions League or World Cup where he single-handedly put an opponent to the sword. For Argentina it seems to be because they don’t quite know what to do with him the way Barca do and for Barca it’s probably that the best teams have found ways to nullify him slightly but not without leaving themselves open elsewhere, but it’s a risk they’re prepared to take.

    I don’t know that Ronaldo at his best could be stopped because bullying him physically certainly had no effect. If there’s one player ruined by injury I could choose to save and see what they could truly become it would’ve been him, I reckon.

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