Sir Alexander Chapman Ferguson
For all Manchester United fans, this must be a very tough time. We've been beaten comprehensively against oppositions we should have dominated, picked up one point instead of all three and, let's all be honest, Lady Luck hasn't been smiling in our direction.
We can fit a playing 11 in our treatment table and kick about with three five-a-side teams. Sir Alex isn't growing younger, and all the other teams in the English Premier League will relish playing against a wounded and weary team such as ours.
This isn't the best time we're going through, I'll be very honest, but there's one thing that I have no qualms about, and that is the future. While it sounds easy to be optimistic about the youth coming through the side and the addition of young blood via the Carling Cup, there are some things which we've been overlooking in the past few weeks when things haven't really been going our way.
The Reserve League in the top tier in England is in some ways an extended version of the Youth League. Those who play well in the youth side eventually get loaned out to sides playing in the lower division or start playing for the reserve team.
Ryan Tunnicliffe is currently on loan at Peterborough United, which is being managed by Darren Ferguson, son of Sir Alex Ferguson. He has been promising and has also earned praise from Ferguson, Jr. Oliver Norwood has also been earning rave reviews for his time at Scunthorpe United.
Centre-forward William Keane has averaged a goal every two games or so, ever since he made the big jump from the youth team to reserve team. Let's not forget Ravel Morrison and Paul Pogba either, whose performances have been awarded with substitute appearances in the Carling Cup. Both the aforementioned, however, are not without their fair share of controversies.
Morrison has had his share of running into trouble with the authorities, with rumor being that United were on the verge of not offering him professional terms until Sir Alex personally stepped in and decided to give the lad another chance.
The case of Paul Pogba, however, seems to be a slightly more complicated one. With rumors of his refusal to sign a new contract making the rounds, one wonders whether he wants more regular playing time, or if his head has been turned by the money.
If it is the former, then now is the best time for him to stamp his authority on the midfield, what with all the injuries to Manchester United. If it is the latter, then United simply need to make an offer he can't refuse. Ryan Giggs jumped from the Blue side of Manchester to the Red side, and the rest is history. In this case, we simply can't afford to let history go against us.
Nemanja Vidic has proven himself to be an indispensable part of Manchester United. They've drawn only one game when he played (which was against Newcastle) and in the match against FC Basel, where he was withdrawn near the stroke of halftime, United went on to lose that match. At 30 years of age, a footballer becomes a little more prone to injuries and may take more time to recover.
One of the things that Manchester United has been lacking, apart from a giant hole in midfield, is concentration at the back. In the 2008-09 season, when Manchester United got several 1-0 results, the importance of a centre-back pairing was highlighted along with the same goalkeeper. A lot of people have said that this is a time of transition and that Manchester United will recover soon, but the results don't seem to say so. But all is not lost yet.
Ever since he joined Manchester United, Phil Jones has been playing as though he was born to play for a side that can compete on all fronts and challenge for all trophies. Highlights of this have been the times when he's given David de Gea quite an earful for misplaced passes and the likes. Chris Smalling, who was brought in as cover for Rio Ferdinand, played 33 matches in his first season in Manchester United colors, and that goes to prove that there is a future for the Manchester United defense.
Lapses in concentration need to be avoided most, but there's a stable foundation set at Manchester United for both the immediate future and even five to 10 years down the line. The more de Gea plays with Jones and Smalling in the future, the more favorable it will be for the team
He may be nearing his end at Manchester United, and there are certainly questions about how he's going to get the squad back up and running (especially after key injuries to important squad players), but this is still—STILL—Alex Ferguson we're talking about.
He may have been through many sticky patches in his managerial career, and this is the worst one of the lot. He's had a "My Way or The Highway" policy, but this was brought into question, especially after the Wayne Rooney saga. Even though that was put to bed and Manchester United brought home a record 19th Premier League title, the question marks have still been buzzing.
Whether or not he's towards the end of his career, Ferguson isn't the kind who is going to get overwhelmed by the situation. Don't believe me? Just watch his response and attitude after Manchester United hit the rocks in some cases. They were dumped out of the Champions League in 2005-06, but the next year they almost went the whole distance and won it in dramatic style in 2008. When Roy Keane left, everyone wondered where the club was heading but he turned it around and produced another three EPL titles on the trot.
That may be the past and this may be the present, but he has 25 years of experience to help him out. I wouldn't bet my money on my beloved Manchester United not winning the League this year, not when the odds are heavily stacked against them. They've always been the team that one never expects to win at some point in time, only to come back in such a strong fashion that they swat away all kinds of competition.
The matches in the past few weeks have been a glaring sign of how and why the midfield problem must be solved and how we need both a midfield destroyer and a creative player as well. While it's easy to pull out the cheque book and draw a wish list, it's more difficult to decide what kind of a player would suit the club, what positions he can play in, and whether he can get along with the system of playing or eventually be destroyed by it.
There's also the hype of how local sports pundits from country XYZ would say, "ABC is as good as Pele, Maradona, etc." Everyone likes a piece of the pie, and some of us want to have it whole.
Honestly, it's rare if two or three players can make it through the youth side and finally become consistent in playing week in, week out, let alone think about another class of '92. Wikipedia profiles and fan videos on Youtube are always encouraging, but statistics, however, don't lie.
Wesley Sneijder is ideally seen at No. 10, playing behind the striker. Will he be accustomed to playing in a central midfield role? Will he able to adjust to the ruggedness of the English Premier League? These and many questions come to mind. Also, when you look at the performances of Paul Pogba, Larnell Cole, Ravel Morrison and Jesse Lingard outperforming teams in reserves, the youngsters do deserve a chance to make the cut.
Verdict? Don't buy. These lads will definitely not disappoint if they're given a chance.
There's always talk of who's coming in, but there will now be talk of who will get the ax. There have been players who have either lost the yard of pace which they've always possessed, or have started having more and more lapses of concentration.
One distinct difference is the change in playing position of Manchester United's back four. Rio Ferdinand would always play right centre-back, but that position has been taken up by Nemanja Vidic, who is now ruled out for the rest of the season as a result of an injury sustained in the loss against Basel.
Patrice Evra's form has dipped considerably over the last two years, and Rio Ferdinand is nearing the end of his career. Ryan Giggs can't possibly play on for any longer, as he too is now close to hanging up his boots. A considerable number of players are now in their 30s, which does mean that Manchester United will do some considerable chopping and changing.
In all probability, the changes will be gradual, as Sir Alex knows that a scatter gun approach might end up disrupting the team dynamics. One look at how the English midfield can never support both Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard when they play together, or how Fernando Torres is still having a torrid time settling in to Chelsea's playing style is a testament to how new team members must be carefully selected.
Then there are also youngsters such as Kiko Macheda and Mame Diouf, whose futures will be under scrutiny. No matter what the standings are at the end of the season, expect changes.
Having seen Wayne Rooney's past with disciplinary problems and the likes, there's one thing that clearly emerges from all of the drama: He plays best when there are least external disturbances. One look at the numbers can tell you why.
Before the crunch game of England vs. Montenegro, Wayne Rooney's father was arrested on the grounds of betting. This turn of events affected his performance, and Rooney was sent off in the same match. He was also punished with a ban of three matches, which has been reduced to two. Before Rooney kicked out against his opponent in Pogdorica, he had played in nine matches, scored 12 goals and gave three assists. After that, he was never quite the same. He had played 12 games, scored twice (both of which were against Otelul Galati and were spot kicks) and created no goals.
Hopefully now, with all the drama sorted, Wayne Rooney will return to doing what he does best: Scoring goals and making chances for everyone on the field.
Even among Manchester United fans, there are some players who are simply too "lackadaisical, lazy, passive and never at the right place at the right time," and one of them seems to be Michael Carrick.
Here's a myth buster, however:
In Carrick's last 18 away Champions League games, United won every single won of them. His short effective passes, where he keeps the midfield ticking, almost always go undervalued. He may not contribute by scoring goals, but the pass before the assist mostly belongs to Michael Carrick. He's effective in his own way, and does his best to ensure that he gives his all for the team. His passing percentage in midfield was second best to that of Midfield Maestro Xavi in the entire European campaign in 2010-11.
Another small fact worth noticing is that the departure of a high-profile midfield player has always led to Manchester United getting dumped out of the Champions League.
When Bryan Robson left for Middlesbrough, Manchester United were dumped out of the Champions League in the group stage on December 7, 1994.
Similarly, after Roy Keane left for Celtic, Manchester United finished last in the group, on December 7, 2005.
Now after the retirement of Paul Scholes, Manchester United did not qualify for the knockout stages of the Champions League, on December 7, 2011.
One trait that has always been attributed to Manchester United over the years, and something which Sir Alex Ferguson has instilled in them after 25 years of dedicated service, is a never-say-die spirit and their ability to pull results out, even in the worst circumstances.
No matter how bad it's been, whether the 5-0 mauling at the hands of Newcastle United in 1996-97 after which they won the Premier League, or a 3-0 defeat to Arsenal in 1998-99 after which they won the treble, Manchester United have made it a habit of putting things behind them in order to continue winning.
So, there are eight reasons why Manchester United will bounce back. Feel free to add criticisms, suggestions or comments.
Glory Glory Man United!