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The Re-Anglicisation Of Manchester United

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Manchester United – the pride of many an Englishman, but not a team totally made up of Englishmen.

Well, I’ll have some news for you – I’m here to change all of that!!

[The narrator wrings hands sinisterly and allows an evil laugh to escape his mouth]

Now, for Wayne Rooney, Michael Owen, Paul Scholes, Michael Carrick, Owen Hargreaves, Rio Ferdinand, Wes Brown, Gary Neville and Ben Foster, what I have just announced isn’t bad news.

But, for Dimitar Berbatov, Anderson, Ryan Giggs, Antonio Valencia, Park Ji-Sung, Nani, Darren Fletcher, Nemanja Vidic, Jonny Evans, Rafael, Patrice Evra, John O’Shea, Edwin van der Sar and Tomasz Kuszczak, what I have just announced is very bad news.

All the non-Englishmen will be immediately transfer-listed and banished to the reserve team to await their fate on the transfer market.

[The narrator cannot help but let another evil laugh escape from his mouth]

English-born players (or naturalised Englishmen) will be recruited to fill the gaps in the Manchester United squad which have been created by my new policy.

Of course, this may result in an initial decrease in the quality of those players in the first team squad and Manchester United’s results may suffer as a consequence, but this is an unavoidable side effect.

[The narrator allows a mischievous smile to cross his face]

There is also the possibility that an extreme side effect of this policy may be the relegation of Manchester United from the Premier League.

[Lightning crashes, thunder rumbles and an evil “Mwahahahahahaha” echoes through the bowels of the Old Trafford stadium]

*** *** ***

I have two criteria set that govern my ability to bring new Englishmen into the Manchester United squad:

  • All new cash signings must only be from Premier League clubs.
  • All new signings from non-Premier League clubs can only be as free transfers or Bosman transfers.

Thus, I am not allowed to trawl the Championship or any lower league – accompanied by my chequebook – with the intention of snapping up as much young English talent as I can find and slipping them into the youth or reserve teams to see how they develop.

As a result of the above criteria I have to be realistic about my transfer targets. There’s no use in firing in bids for the likes of Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, John Terry, Joe Cole or Gareth Barry because it is obvious that players of this calibre will not be sold by their current clubs.

What I have to do instead is target the smaller clubs and pick up as many players as I can from them that are as close as possible to international standard for England.

My starting transfer budget is £60.0M, but I will have to sell the unwanted players in order to fund the purchase of enough decent replacements.

My first requirement is that I have an all-English first team squad in time for the Community Shield match against Chelsea on 9th August 2009.

From the Community Shield onwards, only Englishmen will be able to play for Manchester United.

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Quiet for so long and then BAM, Spav hits you with another masterpiece in the possible making.

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Good thing you didn't pick Arsenal, you'd never be able to start :D

Good to have you back. Spav!

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Thanks, fellas. :)

I thought the thread title would catch Mark's eye // Thanks for the qualified support, Gav ;) // 10-3, yes, Arsenal would require some sort of gradual phasing in over at least a whole season.

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For my first bit of transfer work it’s off to Aston Villa to make bids for two players who are both currently transfer-listed:

Nicky Shorey – D/WB L – £3.7M

Craig Gardner – D R, M C – £3.0M

Both bids are accepted and contracts are quickly arranged and I now have Shorey as a new left-back to replace Evra whilst Gardner will offer cover at right-back and in the midfield.

At the negotiation stage Martin O’Neill indicates that he is also interested in signing Fletcher and Nani, so I advise him to get his bids in soon.

*** *** ***

The next day Bolton is my destination as another bid is made:

Matty Taylor – WB/M L – £7.0M

Initially Gary Megson doesn’t want to play ball and he refuses my opening offer of £5.5M, but after some negotiation I move it up to £7.0M which he agrees to accept.

Taylor happily signs the contract and I now have a left-sided midfielder to replace Giggs and Nani.

*** *** ***

Central defence is a key position and a quality signing is required. I travel to Stoke on the following day to make a bid for a former Old Trafford youngster:

Ryan Shawcross – D C – £14.0M

Tony Pulis fights hard to keep his talented centre-half and my initial bid of £10.0M has to be raised to £12.0M and then £14.0M before I convince him to let Shawcross leave the Britannia Stadium.

Once again, there was no problem on behalf of the player in accepting terms, so now I had my replacement for Vidic and this gave me my preferred option of now being able to use Brown at right-back and teaming Shawcross with Ferdinand.

*** *** ***

My road trip takes me to Edinburgh on the fourth day where I find an Englishman playing for Hearts:

Andrew Driver – AM L – £2.9M (plus Tom Heaton in part-exchange)

Promising left-winger Driver is one for the future, but I needed to throw in reserve team goalkeeper Heaton at a nominal value of £700K in order to get manager Csaba Laszlo to approve the deal.

Driver gladly signs his new five-year deal and as a result he gives me cover on the left wing for my earlier signing Taylor.

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Author’s Note: Before anyone points out the obvious error in my story so far, let me offer an apology and an explanation.

I had intended to make cash signings only from fellow Premier League clubs, but I had a brain explosion and bid for Andrew Driver of Hearts without even thinking about it. It was only when I came to write down the details for this story much later that I realised what I had done. So please accept my apology for breaking my self-imposed rule and I promise that it won’t happen again.

Cheers, Spav.

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But Andrew Driver....oh, I see.

Great start, Spavlasaurus (better than 'leton) you better do well though or you'll have me all over your nuts on both forums.

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Of course, non-English players need to be heading out the door and my first transfer sale is to Premier League rivals Chelsea:

Dimitar Berbatov – F C – £24.0M

Carlo Ancelotti was the first manager to reach my valuation of the Bulgarian striker, so off he goes, pumping up my transfer kitty at the same time.

*** *** ***

My main transfer target is Aston Villa’s Ashley Young, but Martin O’Neill doesn’t want to sell and my initial offers of £20.0M and £25.0M are rebuffed. When my second offer of £25.0M is refused, Aston Villa indicates that they will require at least £36.0M before they sell the English international winger to me.

As not every pound that I earn in transfer revenue goes into my transfer kitty I find that I am currently unable to match Aston Villa’s valuation of Young, so I have to abort my mission until I can offload some other players.

*** *** ***

Arsene Wenger has been sniffing around my transfer-listed players and he decides to make a bid for one of them:

Anderson – AM C – £7.25M

I felt that I was being a bit generous to Arsenal with the fee that I agreed, but at the same time I had a feeling that Anderson may have been one of those players that was hard to shift for a high price, so I did Arsene a favour by letting him go on the cheap.

*** *** ***

The money from Anderson’s transfer allows me to approach Martin O’Neill again and I offer a structured deal to Aston Villa:

Ashley Young – AM RLC, F C – £35.0M

O’Neill wants to hang out for the extra £1.0M he initially requested, but the Aston Villa board overrules him and accepts my offer.

At £56K per week Young’s wage demands are not exorbitant and I soon have my man agreeing to a four-year deal to make him my key signing of the first transfer window.

*** *** ***

Almost unnoticed on the same day as Young’s transfer was another piece of business that I had kept quiet on the side:

Carlton Cole – S C – £3.1M

Gianfranco Zola and the West Ham board didn’t seem to rate Cole highly and my initial bid was all that was required to get the English international striker on the way to Old Trafford.

As with my other transfers, the wages and terms that Cole requested were easily accepted under the wage structure that the board had imposed on me, so the transfer went through without a hitch.

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Getting a few good players in there, Spav - I would recommend Gary Cahill or Michael Dawson for your last DC place. I must admit my surprise at the non-purchase of Leighton Baines and/or Stephen Warnock at LB, though :p

Looking good so far right now Spav - if this is as good as your previous works, it'll be a treat to read. :)

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As always Spav I'll be following this one, be interesting to see who you shall bring in to wear the shirt

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With only loan bids arriving for a couple of players I decide to go with them just to get the loan fee and send another two non-Englishmen out of Old Trafford for at least the remainder of the season:

Park Ji-Sung – AM RLC – £925K loan fee (to Wolfsburg)

John O’Shea – D RLC – £825K loan fee (to Wolves)

Both the South Korean and the Irishman have clauses in their loan agreements that allow their temporary clubs to make the moves permanent if they wish to do so, Park for £5.25M and O’Shea for £4.6M.

*** *** ***

One club is prepared to put its money on the table though and that is Sporting Lisbon who fancy themselves a new centre-half:

Jonny Evans – D C – £5.0M

Evans leaves for Portugal with a final blast for me, claiming that he was forced out of the club. He’s an astute boy, is that Jonny!

*** *** ***

After offering many of the transfer-listed players to clubs, I start to get some replies. The next one to go is off to Italy:

Patrice Evra – D/WB L – £13.25M

AC Milan is the new home of the Frenchman and their manager Leonardo creams his pants as he welcomes Evra to the club, stating that he will take the Rossonieri to great heights.

*** *** ***

A day later and a Scotsman makes the sacrifice so that my transfer budget can be replenished:

Darren Fletcher – M C – £11.25M

It seems that Fletcher can’t wait to get as far away from Old Trafford as he possibly can as his new club is Russian side Zenit St. Petersburg.

*** *** ***

After interest in the player is displayed by several clubs it is Arsenal and Arsene Wenger who get their man with the next outgoing transfer:

Nani – AM RL – £7.0M

The number of transfer-listed players sitting in the reserves now drops even further with the departure of the Portuguese winger.

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Whilst all this wheeling and dealing has been going on there has been some football as well. Manchester United played a total of seven friendlies between July 20th and August 5th resulting in four wins, one draw and two losses.

On July 20th Shorey, Shawcross, Gardner, Taylor and Driver all made their debuts in a 4-0 away win at Bury. Owen, Rooney, Scholes and Shawcross got the goals whilst Owen fractured his arm and will miss for weeks as a result. Shawcross was superb and won the MOM award.

On July 23rd we visited Newcastle Town and eased to a 6-0 win. There were no debuts from new signings as Rooney grabbed a hat-trick and Scholes, Welbeck and reserve team defender Chester helped themselves to a goal each. Rooney was a no-brainer for the MOM award whilst Welbeck also showed that he could step up to the first team this season.

On July 29th we played the first match of a four-team friendly cup at Old Trafford against Real Betis, with Porto and Argentina’s Racing Club being the other two teams. Young and Cole made their debuts, but in a sign of things that are perhaps to come, Real Betis took the match 3-1 with goals by Nacho and Achille Emana (2). Shawcross scored our goal just before the break making it 2-1 at that time. Although we outshot the Spaniards 17 to 7 it was clear that they performed better as a team and were more clinical in their finishing.

On July 30th we backed up to play Racing Club who had lost 2-0 to Porto in the other match. Our powers of recovery were clearly better as we battered the Argentineans 6-0 to record a confidence-boosting win. The goals flowed regularly throughout the match with Cole and Shawcross scoring in the first half and Ferdinand, reserve team midfielder Hewson, a Fernando Lopez own goal and Gardner all adding to the total in the second half. Gardner’s goal was particularly spectacular as he fired in from thirty yards to top what had been a MOM display, but in his exuberance to impress me he picked up a second yellow card in the 85th minute and was sent off.

On July 31st we visited feeder club Antwerp in Belgium and had little trouble in registering a 2-0 win thanks to a brace from MOM winner Rooney.

On August 3rd we had quality visitors to Old Trafford in the shape of Italian side Fiorentina. Mindful of our earlier loss to Real Betis we started cautiously, but the Viola took full advantage and went 2-0 up through Mutu’s penalty and Gilardino’s header. I took off the shackles at that point and was pleased to see the team pull the score back to 2-2 as Welbeck and Cole scored either side of the half-time break. With Rooney sitting out this game it was good to see Cole step up and control the forward line, winning the MOM award for his efforts.

On August 5th our final friendly was the biggest of all with Inter Milan visiting Manchester for a blockbuster match. In what was a close contest Inter triumphed 1-0 thanks to an 85th minute own goal from our keeper Foster who turned Destro’s low right wing cross into our net with his legs as he came out to narrow the angle. Although Inter had 55% of the possession we had matched them in shots on goal and I wasn’t too upset by the defeat as a result.

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So this was the moment when I would finally see what my transfer machinations had achieved for Manchester United. I had enough English players in my first team squad to ensure that I didn’t have to delve into the reserves to plug any holes, but there were still shortcomings with the team that would need to be addressed before I could really feel comfortable. My main concerns were:

  • Only two keepers – Ben Foster and Ben Amos
  • Only three central defenders – Rio Ferdinand, Wes Brown and Ryan Shawcross
  • Only one right winger – Ashley Young

I had just less than four weeks remaining to see who else I could add to my team of Englishmen. In the meantime Chelsea was awaiting us at Wembley for the 2009 Community Shield match.

*** *** ***

9th August 2009 – FA Community Shield

Our former striker Berbatov was waiting for us as we faced Chelsea at Wembley in the traditional season curtain-opener. It was a match which never rose to great heights with Ferdinand and Shawcross keeping Drogba and Berbatov quiet, leaving Lampard and Ballack as Chelsea’s most dangerous weapons. For us Rooney was subdued, meaning we had little in the way of genuine danger to cause our opponents. The only goal of the game came after 60 minutes when Brown miscontrolled Foster’s throw-out, giving possession to Essien who fed the ball in behind Brown for Ballack. The German’s cross was then fired in at the near post where Drogba headed it past Foster to give Chelsea a 1-0 lead which they would hold onto until the end of the match.

Shorey was the pick of my players, but the other new boys Shawcross, Young, Taylor and Cole all did okay without being outstanding. Of the original players Rooney and Brown were slightly disappointing whilst Foster, Ferdinand, Carrick and Scholes all put in a standard day’s work.

Chelsea 1 Drogba 60

Manchester United 0

Foster; Brown (Neville), Shawcross, Ferdinand, Shorey; Young, Carrick (Gardner), Scholes, Taylor; Cole (Welbeck), Rooney.

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I'll let you off losing the first game, but the Title best be coming to Old Trafford otherwise I will be far from happy Mr.Spav

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Mark, I fear you may have set your sights too high for this season.

Stoehrst, thanks for the scouting advice. Cahill - Bolton want too much, Huddlestone - don't need another DM, Milner - Aston Villa want far too much, Johnson - Middlesbrough are not a Premier League side.

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Looking for cover for Young on the right wing I headed back to Bolton and snatched another of Gary Megson’s team:

Kevin Davies – AM RL, ST – £5.75M

At 32 years of age Davies is no spring chicken, but he’s a good honest toiler and his versatility means that he can play on the wings or up front where I am currently understaffed.

As an aside Gary Megson quickly put some of the transfer fee to use as he signed Ronaldo (yes, the old fat one) from Corinthians for £2.5M.

*** *** ***

15th August 2009 – Premier League

The all-English Manchester United’s first league match was at Sunderland’s Stadium of Light and it took just 7 minutes for the team’s first goal to arrive. Taylor’s free-kick from the left was met by the head of Rooney, Gordon parried it and Shawcross tucked in the rebound. After 27 minutes Shawcross headed against the crossbar and Mensah fouled Rooney as he attempted to meet the rebound. A penalty was awarded, but Taylor wasted the chance by dragging his spot-kick wide of the right-hand post. Sunderland offered little in response and they were furthered hampered after 62 minutes when Mensah picked up his second yellow card and was sent off as a result. It wasn’t until the 83rd minute that the game was made safe though when Rooney robbed Cana and fired in a twenty-yarder that gave Gordon no chance. Deep into injury-time substitute Gardner outdid Rooney when he rifled in a superb effort from thirty yards to make the final score 3-0 to Manchester United.

It was a generally a strong performance across the entire team with Shawcross winning the MOM award for his fine work in defence and his first-ever goal for the club. Cole was the only player to put in a below average performance, but it is still early days yet.

Sunderland 0

Manchester United 3 Shawcross 7, Rooney 83, Gardner 90+2

Foster; Brown, Shawcross, Ferdinand, Shorey; Young (Davies), Carrick, Scholes (Gardner), Taylor; Cole (Welbeck), Rooney.

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19th August 2009 – Premier League

A very defensively-minded Burnley came to Old Trafford and although the final scoreline suggests that it was a close match, Manchester United actually controlled the match with 64% possession and had 29 shots to just 2 by Burnley. Rooney, Cole, Scholes and Taylor had all had good chances and Cole had hit the post before the opening goal arrived from the penalty spot after 28 minutes. Carlisle fouled Cole and this time Taylor found the mark with his spot-kick low into the bottom right corner of Jensen’s net. Chances kept arriving for United, but were either directed wide or over the goal or straight at the keeper Jensen. Burnley’s defensive mindset increased in the 59th minute when Caldwell received his second yellow card and headed for an early shower. Jensen was stopping anything directed at his net and when he didn’t the woodwork came to his rescue by denying Ferdinand’s header and Rooney’s close range toe-poke. In the end United had to settle for a 1-0 win, but three points is three points.

Jensen was the obvious MOM with his string of saves, but United performed well as a team and no-one failed to do their job. A hamstring strain for Young will keep him out for the next three weeks.

Manchester United 1 Taylor (pen) 28

Burnley 0

Foster; Brown (Neville), Shawcross, Ferdinand, Shorey; Young (Davies), Carrick, Scholes (Gardner), Taylor; Cole, Rooney.

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Every little bit helps when it comes to topping up the transfer kitty and QPR decided to make their donation to the re-anglicisation fund:

Richie De Laet – D RLC – £1.7M

It’s nice to help out those smaller clubs in the Championship and QPR manager Jim Magilton seemed genuinely happy when I let him have the Belgian defender for his initial asking price.

*** *** ***

With central defenders being nigh on impossible to sign cheaply I instead decided to make a midfielder my last purchase of this transfer window:

Leon Osman – AM RC – £6.25M

The former Everton midfielder is a player that I’ve always thought was underrated, but he’ll do nicely as a squad player for us and David Moyes was quick to let him go.

The only downside to Osman’s transfer is that he has already represented Everton in the Europa League this season and will therefore be ineligible for Manchester United’s Champions League campaign.

*** *** ***

29th August 2009 – Premier League

A wrist strain forced me to bench goalkeeper Foster and give 19yo Ben Amos his league debut against Blackburn.

This game turned out to be a straightforward victory against a side that was clearly lacking in ability. The first goal arrived after 11 minutes when Carrick sent a long ball from the right over to the corner of the penalty area on the left and Taylor magnificently volleyed it home first-time with his right foot to make it 1-0. Rooney and Shawcross came close to adding to that fabulous strike in the first half whilst Amos made his first decent save from Gamst Pedersen’s low shot after 42 minutes. Brown and Taylor tested Robinson’s reflexes at the start of the second half before a strong run from Shorey down the left wing pierced Rovers’ defence after 59 minutes. The left-back’s cross was pulled back low for Rooney to control and then hit low inside the near post to make it 2-0 to us. Strong defence kept us in charge for the reminder of the game with Owen and Carrick both coming inches away from adding a third goal.

Taylor was deservedly today’s MOM as we notched up our third consecutive league win to maintain our 100% record since the start of the league campaign.

Manchester United 2 Taylor 11, Rooney 59

Blackburn 0

Amos; Brown, Shawcross, Ferdinand, Shorey; Davies, Carrick, Scholes, Taylor; Cole (Owen), Rooney.

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On the final day of the transfer window Sunderland decided that they needed a Brazilian wingback:

Fabio – D/WB L – £3.9M

I had expected his more illustrious twin Rafael to have been the one who made a moved, but the money was more than welcome for a player who had never made a first team appearance. Thanks, Stevie Bruce!

*** *** ***

With no further transfers possible until January I now had my first team squad settled and the following Englishmen would lead Manchester United on to glory (or disaster) in the first half of the 2009/10 Premier League season:

|---------------------------------------------------------------------------------| 
| Name            | Position    | Nat     | Height  | Weight  | Age     | Value   | 
|---------------------------------------------------------------------------------| 
| Ben Amos        | GK          | ENG     | 184 cm  | 79 kg   | 19      | £650K   | 
|---------------------------------------------------------------------------------| 
| Ben Foster      | GK          | ENG     | 188 cm  | 79 kg   | 26      | £4M     | 
|---------------------------------------------------------------------------------| 
| Wes Brown       | D RC        | ENG     | 185 cm  | 78 kg   | 29      | £5.75M  | 
|---------------------------------------------------------------------------------| 
| Gary Neville    | D R         | ENG     | 180 cm  | 77 kg   | 34      | £550K   | 
|---------------------------------------------------------------------------------| 
| Craig Gardner   | D R, M C    | ENG     | 178 cm  | 71 kg   | 22      | £3.1M   | 
|---------------------------------------------------------------------------------| 
| Rio Ferdinand   | D C         | ENG     | 188 cm  | 82 kg   | 30      | £17M    | 
|---------------------------------------------------------------------------------| 
| Ryan Shawcross  | D C         | ENG     | 196 cm  | 88 kg   | 21      | £14.5M  | 
|---------------------------------------------------------------------------------| 
| Nicky Shorey    | D/WB L      | ENG     | 175 cm  | 67 kg   | 28      | £3.7M   | 
|---------------------------------------------------------------------------------| 
| Matty Taylor    | WB/M L      | ENG     | 178 cm  | 77 kg   | 27      | £7M     | 
|---------------------------------------------------------------------------------| 
| Michael Carrick | DM, M C     | ENG     | 183 cm  | 75 kg   | 28      | £9M     | 
|---------------------------------------------------------------------------------| 
| Owen Hargreaves | DM, M C     | ENG     | 180 cm  | 76 kg   | 28      | £10.25M | 
|---------------------------------------------------------------------------------| 
| Paul Scholes    | M C         | ENG     | 170 cm  | 68 kg   | 34      | £1.4M   | 
|---------------------------------------------------------------------------------| 
| Leon Osman      | AM RC       | ENG     | 173 cm  | 67 kg   | 28      | £6.25M  | 
|---------------------------------------------------------------------------------| 
| Ashley Young    | AM RLC, F C | ENG     | 175 cm  | 65 kg   | 24      | £35M    | 
|---------------------------------------------------------------------------------| 
| Kevin Davies    | AM RL, ST   | ENG     | 183 cm  | 82 kg   | 32      | £5.75M  | 
|---------------------------------------------------------------------------------| 
| Andrew Driver   | AM L        | ENG     | 176 cm  | 69 kg   | 21      | £2.4M   | 
|---------------------------------------------------------------------------------| 
| Michael Owen    | F C         | ENG     | 175 cm  | 70 kg   | 29      | £3.9M   | 
|---------------------------------------------------------------------------------| 
| Wayne Rooney    | F C         | ENG     | 175 cm  | 78 kg   | 23      | £25.5M  | 
|---------------------------------------------------------------------------------| 
| Carlton Cole    | ST          | ENG     | 190 cm  | 77 kg   | 25      | £3.1M   | 
|---------------------------------------------------------------------------------| 
| Danny Welbeck   | ST          | ENG     | 185 cm  | 73 kg   | 18      | £5M     | 
|---------------------------------------------------------------------------------| 

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You got some good signings there. Wouldn't mind trying something similar in one of my saves

It's quite good fun, but only if you're prepared to risk failing with your "beloved United". As for me, I have no qualms about wrecking the Red Devils.

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2nd September 2009 – Premier League

Foster is back in goal and Osman appears on the bench as we travel to Wigan. Once again the scoreline appears close, but the final result hides the true gap between the teams. Wigan could not get one shot on target for the entire match as the Manchester United players defended stoutly, harried constantly and pressed hard when their hosts had the ball. Scholes and Carrick had the best chances of the first half without any luck, but it took only three minutes of the second half for us to break the deadlock. Scholes cleared a Wigan corner and Owen picked up the loose ball to fire it out to Rooney on the right. As my star forward raced down the wing Owen hared into the middle and he arrived perfectly on time to volley Rooney’s cross past Kirkland to make it 1-0 with his first goal for the club. In the 67th minute Kirkland pulled off a world class save to deny Rooney’s header from finding the top corner of the Wigan net. A few minutes later I gave Osman his debut for Davies and as a precaution I replaced the tiring Owen with young Welbeck. Taylor hit the outside of the post late on, meaning that the number of decent chances we had spurned could have given us a four-goal win instead of just the 1-0 that was finally posted.

Rooney snaffled up another MOM award for his fine display, even though he didn’t get on the scoreboard today.

Wigan 0

Manchester United 1 Owen 48

Foster; Brown, Shawcross, Ferdinand, Shorey; Davies (Osman), Carrick, Scholes, Taylor; Owen (Welbeck), Rooney.

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The best news for Manchester United prior to this match was that Owen Hargreaves got through 62 minutes of his first game in 11 months when he turned out for the reserves in a 1-1 draw at Burnley. Hargreaves had been out with a cruciate ligament injury, but he proved his fitness in this game and will probably get a spot on the bench for Saturday’s trip to Birmingham.

12th September 2009 – Premier League

Hargreaves was on the bench as expected, but otherwise it was the first choice eleven that had performed so well so far. The opening goal after 17 minutes was simplicity itself as Scholes speared a pass out to Young on the right wing and he just chipped it in behind the Birmingham defence. Rooney bustled past Johnson, collected the ball and drove it under Hart to make it 1-0. With the nerves settled we played some great football. After 38 minutes Young was involved again, clipping the ball inside for Rooney who nodded it into the path of Owen. It was vintage Owen from that point on as he sprinted clear, rounded Hart and tapped the ball into the unguarded net to put us 2-0 up. Straight from the restart the Blues went backwards and Carr was caught dallying on the ball by Taylor. The winger prodded the ball to Rooney and he chipped it to the far post when the unmarked Owen headed home for his second goal to push United out to a 3-0 lead. The second half was not as productive, but we were never in danger of losing, even when Ridgewell scored the first goal we’d conceded in league play this year as he headed in Lee’s free-kick after 61 minutes. Ferdinand and Rooney went the closest to further goals whilst I was able to give Hargreaves twenty minutes at the end of the match.

Another MOM award came the way of United as Owen won the plaudits this time, just ahead of his strike partner Rooney.

Birmingham 1 Ridgewell 61

Manchester United 3 Rooney 17, Owen 38, 39

Foster; Brown, Shawcross, Ferdinand, Shorey; Young, Carrick, Scholes (Hargreaves), Taylor; Owen (Davies), Rooney.

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13th September 2009 – Premier League Table:


|-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| 
| Pos   | Team        | Pld   | Won   | Drn   | Lst   | For   | Ag    | G.D.  | Pts   | 
|-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| 
| 1st   | Tottenham   | 5     | 5     | 0     | 0     | 13    | 4     | +9    | 15    | 
|-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| 
| 2nd   | Man Utd     | 5     | 5     | 0     | 0     | 10    | 1     | +9    | 15    | 
|-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| 
| 3rd   | Everton     | 5     | 5     | 0     | 0     | 7     | 0     | +7    | 15    | 
|-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| 
| 4th   | Liverpool   | 5     | 3     | 2     | 0     | 7     | 2     | +5    | 11    | 
|-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| 
| 5th   | Chelsea     | 4     | 3     | 1     | 0     | 10    | 1     | +9    | 10    | 
|-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| 
| 6th   | Fulham      | 5     | 3     | 1     | 1     | 10    | 7     | +3    | 10    | 
|-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| 
| 7th   | Aston Villa | 5     | 3     | 1     | 1     | 5     | 4     | +1    | 10    | 
|-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| 
| 8th   | West Ham    | 5     | 3     | 0     | 2     | 6     | 6     | 0     | 9     | 
|-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| 
| 9th   | Arsenal     | 5     | 2     | 1     | 2     | 4     | 5     | -1    | 7     | 
|-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| 
| 10th  | Hull        | 5     | 1     | 3     | 1     | 7     | 8     | -1    | 6     | 
|-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| 
| 11th  | Man City    | 5     | 1     | 2     | 2     | 7     | 7     | 0     | 5     | 
|-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| 
| 12th  | Sunderland  | 5     | 1     | 2     | 2     | 6     | 9     | -3    | 5     | 
|-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| 
| 13th  | Portsmouth  | 5     | 1     | 1     | 3     | 7     | 10    | -3    | 4     | 
|-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| 
| 14th  | Blackburn   | 5     | 1     | 1     | 3     | 6     | 9     | -3    | 4     | 
|-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| 
| 15th  | Wigan       | 4     | 1     | 0     | 3     | 3     | 4     | -1    | 3     | 
|-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| 
| 16th  | Wolves      | 5     | 1     | 0     | 4     | 3     | 6     | -3    | 3     | 
|-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| 
| 17th  | Stoke       | 5     | 0     | 2     | 3     | 3     | 7     | -4    | 2     | 
|-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| 
| 18th  | Bolton      | 5     | 0     | 2     | 3     | 1     | 6     | -5    | 2     | 
|-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| 
| 19th  | Birmingham  | 5     | 0     | 1     | 4     | 1     | 9     | -8    | 1     | 
|-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| 
| 20th  | Burnley     | 5     | 0     | 0     | 5     | 2     | 13    | -11   | 0     | 
|-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| 

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Ironic that the first league goal you concede is from an Englishman? :D

KUTGW Spav.

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five out of five Spav, keep it up boss

I thought you'd like the look of that table, Mark. :D

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The Champions League draw had placed us in Group F against Sporting Lisbon of Portugal, Fiorentina of Italy and Standard Liege of Belgium. Fiorentina and Sporting Lisbon looked to be our main opposition, but I expected the team to be able to qualify from this group.

*** *** ***

16th September 2009 – Champions League Group F

Hargreaves started for the first time in a year, allowing me to push Carrick into a more attacking role. The team started slowly though and Sporting had the best of the first half, topping it off with a goal after 23 minutes when Caicedo drove in a left wing cross that Ferdinand failed to cut out and leaving Postiga unmarked to sidefoot past Foster to make it 1-0. A shoulder injury forced Brown off after 30 minutes and Neville was bought on in his place. Despite improving after the break, Sporting’s defence was determined and we were struggling to find an equaliser. The key change came in the 67th minute when I replaced Owen with Cole. The new man’s strength caused Sporting problems and on 82 minutes Cole bustled down the right wing before chipping in a delightful cross which Carrick headed home for the equaliser. Cole then wasted a glorious chance to win the game after 88 minutes when he headed over from close range, but the substitute made up for it in injury-time when he swept in Rooney’s low cross via the post for his first goal for the club as we triumphed 2-1 at the death.

Sporting Lisbon 1 Postiga 23

Manchester United 2 Carrick 82, Cole 90+1

Foster; Brown (Neville), Shawcross, Ferdinand, Shorey; Young, Hargreaves, Carrick, Taylor; Owen (Cole), Rooney.

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Any plans to re-Anglicise the backroom staff too?

No, not at this stage. I am just concentrating on the playing staff at the moment.

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19th September 2009 – Premier League

The first big Premier League match of the season saw us in second place versus Tottenham as the visiting league leaders. Despite a first half in which both sides had equal possession and a similar number of shots on goal it was Tottenham who led at the break. Foster punched Modric’s fiercely in-swinging corner into his own net at the near post after 23 minutes to put Spurs 1-0 up. Modric then supplied the cross for their second goal as well, drilling in a chest-high cross to the near post where Keane headed home to make it 2-0. The game turned our way in the 47th minute though when King was sent off for going two-footed through the back of Scholes, leaving United with a man advantage for the majority of the second half. Almost straight away Rooney took Carrick’s pass and sent in a low shot from twenty yards to pull in back to 2-1. In the 59th minute it was Rooney who made it 2-2 as he picked up Scholes’ pass, dribbled past Booth and Dawson and sidefooted it home via the post for the equaliser. Scholes, Rooney and Cole all had chances to win the game late on, but Gomes decided to be a hero in the Spurs net and save everything we threw at him.

Our 2-2 draw allowed Everton to go top instead as Tottenham slipped to second and we fell to third on the Premier League table.

Manchester United 2 Rooney 54, 59

Tottenham 2 Foster (og) 23, Keane 44

Foster; Neville (Hargreaves), Shawcross, Ferdinand, Shorey; Young, Carrick, Scholes, Taylor; Cole, Rooney.

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22nd September 2009 – League Cup 2nd Round

Like most of the big clubs I will treat the early rounds of the League Cup as a chance to try out the fringe players in my squad. As I don’t have a large squad this isn’t going to entail too many changes, but Amos, Osman, Driver and Davies all get a start with youngsters Morrison, Hewson and Thorpe sitting on the bench as we travel to Championship side Newcastle.

Wayward shooting was the norm for this match as neither side could get anything much on target. The one exception in the first half was Guthrie who smashed the ball against our crossbar after 19 minutes whilst Davies, Carrick and Hargreaves all gave Magpies keeper Krul easy saves to make. In the second half Amos saved smartly from Nolan after 55 minutes before we took control of the match for the last half-hour, although failing to score as Davies (twice), Hargreaves and Shawcross all wasted decent chances. Extra-time produced little in the way of excitement and it was obvious that the game was going to go to a penalty shootout.

Harper saved Taylor’s effort as we went first and Newcastle then took the lead through Coloccini. Carrick followed up with another effort into the body of Harper as we missed again and then Carroll showed how it was done as he calmly slotted it low to Amos’ left to make it 2-0. Youth-teamer Morrison showed the older men how to score as he drilled his kick high into the roof of the net to put us on the board, but Gutierrez made it 3-1 with his effort straight afterwards. Shorey blasted his kick straight down the middle as Harper went right to make it 3-2, but Ryan Taylor coolly sidefooted Newcastle’s fourth spot-kick past Amos to win the shootout 4-2 for the Geordies.

Newcastle 0

Manchester United 0

Newcastle wins 4-2 on penalties

Amos; Brown, Shawcross, Ferdinand, Shorey; Osman (Morrison), Hargreaves, Carrick, Driver (Taylor); Davies, Cole (Welbeck).

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26th September 2009 – Premier League

Our 2-2 draw with Tottenham last Saturday had allowed Everton to take over top place, so we visited Goodison Park for an early kick-off knowing that a win would take Manchester United to the top of the Premier League for the first time this season – at least until Tottenham played Chelsea later in the day.

It’s a great start too, as Ferdinand pumps the ball forward in the 6th minute and Taylor collects it thirty yards out from goal. As the ball drops from his chest Taylor hits a right-footed volley that dips into the top far corner, giving Howard no chance of saving it and putting us 1-0 in front. After Bilyaletdinov bought a good save out of Foster in the 22nd minute it was Taylor who had the ball in the net again after 32 minutes, only for it to be ruled out for offside. We’d controlled the remainder of the first half reasonably easily and did so for most of the second period as well, but the security of a second goal wouldn’t come. Neill’s header was tipped onto the crossbar by Foster after 55 minutes as Everton looked for an equaliser whilst Cole and Rooney both shot wide from good positions. Just as it looked like I would have to endure the nervousness of a one-goal lead right through until the final whistle we finally managed a second score. Brown hoofed a long ball forward in the 82nd minute and Distin controlled it poorly on the edge of the box, allowing it to run free to where Scholes hammered it first time from twenty-five yards. The shot caught Howard unsighted and flew in at his near post to make it 2-0 to United and send us to the top of the table.

In the late kickoff Chelsea and Tottenham drew 1-1 at Stamford Bridge, meaning that we retained top spot at the end of the day as well. The team comprised only of Englishmen was now top of the heap in England!

Everton 0

Manchester United 2 Taylor 6, Scholes 82

Foster; Brown, Shawcross, Ferdinand, Shorey; Young (Osman), Hargreaves (Scholes), Carrick, Taylor; Cole, Rooney.

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29th September 2009 – Champions League Group F

We’d already met Fiorentina in a pre-season friendly and drawn 2-2 with them, so the team knew something of their playing style. The Italians had also won their opening Group F match by a similar scoreline to ours, that being 2-1 against Standard Liege.

A massive downpour made the pitch slippery and slick, but we used the conditions to our advantage when Shorey overlapped down the left after 17 minutes and drilled a low cross into the box. Rooney slid in from some distance at the near post to prod it past the keeper Frey and we were 1-0 up. However those same conditions allowed Fiorentina to equalise after 25 minutes when Vargas hammered in a low skidding shot from twenty-five yards that surprised Foster at his near post and bought the score back to 1-1. By the time the game had reached half-time the rain was starting to form puddles on the pitch, making it difficult for both teams to play attractive football and leaving me wondering if the referee may end up abandoning the game. Thankfully the rain eased off after the break, but good football was still at a premium. The first half goalscorers Rooney and Vargas both had the best chances in the second period as well, but keepers Frey and Foster respectively saved their close range chances. In the end the two group favourites drew 1-1 in a match that probably pleased me as much as it did my counterpart Cesare Prandelli.

Manchester United 1 Rooney 17

Fiorentina 1 Vargas 25

Foster; Brown, Shawcross, Ferdinand, Shorey; Young, Hargreaves, Carrick (Scholes), Taylor; Owen, Rooney.

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3rd October 2009 – Premier League

The same line-up that had drawn 1-1 with Fiorentina took the park for the biggest Premier League match of the season so far as we hosted Chelsea. Former United man Berbatov could only make the Chelsea bench as Iaquinta was preferred as Drogba’s strike partner.

Drogba had the ball in our net via his head from Lampard’s cross after 6 minutes, but he was clearly offside and thankfully the linesman picked it up straight away. After Rooney had come close with his 12th minute header I thought we had taken the lead in the 23rd minute when Carrick’s cracking shot from twenty-five yards thundered against the crossbar and bounced down on the line. The players all appealed for the goal but the linesman and referee both waved play on. Judging by the way the team harangued referee Mike Jones I’d say the ball probably did cross the line, but he wasn’t changing his mind. Nobody’s mood was improved in the 31st minute either when Rooney skilfully diverted Hargreaves’ low shot onto the post with Cech well beaten, only to see the ball rebound into the grateful keeper’s arms. Chelsea’s chance to despise the woodwork came in the 43rd minute when Drogba prodded Bosingwa’s cross onto the post from close range, meaning that the sides went into the break still locked at 0-0, though not for want of trying.

Berbatov replaced Iaquinta at the break and immediately he had his revenge on me for forcing him out of the club. The Bulgarian forced his way past Shorey and crossed to the near post where Drogba got in front of Brown to head Chelsea 1-0 up in the 47th minute. Foster then saved well from one of Lampard’s trademark long range efforts as the team showed they weren’t going to give up at all. In the 62nd minute Young skinned Ashley Cole on our right wing and fed a delightful low cross between Carvalho and Ivanovic for Rooney to strike a first time shot past Cech from twelve yards to bring us level at 1-1. At last Young was showing the form that had prompted me to make him my key signing. A few minutes later the former Aston Villa man beat Ashley Cole and Ivanovic and crossed for Owen who miskicked badly and screwed his shot wide from just ten yards. That prompted me to send on Cole, but it was Chelsea who had the best of the final fifteen minutes. The closest they came was in the 83rd minute when the crossbar saved us from Carvalho’s powerful header from Lampard’s corner. A perfectly-timed Shawcross tackle also robbed Ballack as he was just about fire at goal from close range in the 88th minute, leaving the final score tied at 1-1 and forcing me to admit that it was probably a justifiable result for both teams.

Manchester United 1 Rooney 62

Chelsea 1 Drogba 47

Foster; Brown, Shawcross, Ferdinand, Shorey; Young, Hargreaves, Carrick, Taylor; Owen (Cole), Rooney.

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I like this - and it looks like the league could be won but the cup competitions will be more difficult.

KUTGW :thup:.

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