Will Power

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Park Singles Out Rashford For Praise

Ji-Sung Park took time out from his preparations for Manchester United's Legends clash in Barcelona on Friday to discuss his faith in the potential of Marcus Rashford.

The 19-year-old striker made more appearances than any of his team-mates last term and was hugely influential in helping win the Europa League, scoring vital goals against Anderlecht and Celta Vigo in the quarter-final and semi-final respectively.

When asked which young player at his former club had impressed him most, the South Korean star told MUTV: "Actually, yes [there is somebody]. Marcus Rashford has done really well. He had a great first season and then people had really high expectations but he showed his quality on the pitch in the second season. 

"He’s improving with that pressure on him and that is quite impressive for me. If he can keep doing things like he is now, and progressing, he can be one of the best players."

Park himself is delighted he is still held in such high regard by the United fans, who fully appreciated his efforts for the Reds between 2005 and 2012, and had a message for the Old Trafford faithful.

"I really appreciate that they still sing my song," he said of the supporters. "I’m really happy to hear that song. I am still an ambassador for the club and really enjoy seeing the fans across the world. I know we have had a little bit of a struggle for a period of time after Sir Alex but we are getting back to our level and I’m really looking forward to the future. 

"We won the European trophy and the League Cup last season and hopefully we’ll keep on doing well. Now the expectation is high to bring back the league title for next season so I say just keep supporting Manchester United and enjoy our moments to be back to our normal level."

Perez: No United-Morata Talks

Real Madrid president Florentino Perez has confirmed that his club has not held talks with Manchester United over the transfer of Alvaro Morata.

It has been reported in Spain that Morata's agent Juanma Lopez has held talks at the Bernabeu to try to negotiate the player's departure.

Lopez also revealed last month that Real had rejected an offer from AC Milan for Morata, who the Spanish club value at 80m Euros (£70.61m).

"I believe we are not negotiating with Manchester United, which does not mean that there are not people around him who are talking, which is normal," Perez told El Primer Palo radio.

"I have read that we have reached an agreement for I don't know how many million Euros, but it is not true."

Former Real Madrid coach Vicente del Bosque, who also managed the Spain national team, believes it will be a "pity" if Morata leaves Spanish football but that it could benefit the player himself.

"The most important thing for Morata is to play, but I believe he is very good at Real Madrid," Del Bosque told AS.

"It is a pity if he leaves, but it has always enriched our football for players to go abroad and be able to play. It will be no problem for the Spain team, although Spanish football would lose a great player."

Morata has emerged as United's first-choice target for a new forward following the injury to Zlatan Ibrahimovic and their pursuit of Antoine Griezmann from Atletico Madrid ending because of the Spanish club's transfer ban.

Credit: Skysports.com

Martial Rubbishes Reports He Wants To Leave Manchester United

Anthony Martial has rubbished a report he has asked to leave Manchester United.

The report, which first appeared on a gambling website and was subsequently circulated by other UK media outlets, claimed the French forward had requested a transfer away from Old Trafford this summer.

But the 21-year-old took to social media to dismiss the speculation, tweeting: "The rumours are false." His post was accompanied by a red dot to symbolise United.

Martial enjoyed a brilliant debut season at Old Trafford, in 2015/16, as he scored 11 Premier League goals and added four assists in 31 appearances following his move from Monaco, which made the world's most expensive teenager.

But his form dipped in his second campaign, under Jose Mourinho, as he was limited to just four goals in 25 Premier League appearances, though his assist total did jump to six.

Mourinho admitted late in the season Martial was not performing up to his expectations and he did not start Manchester United's Europa League final victory over Ajax.

Martial will face increased competition for a starting role next season with Mourinho aiming to add an attacking midfielder to his squad.

United have been in talks to sign Croatian international Ivan Perisic from Inter Milan. If he comes to Old Trafford he would likely compete with Martial to start on the left of midfield.

United CEO Ed Woodward has also been in negotiations to sign Spanish international striker Alvaro Morata from Real Madrid.

Credit: Skysports.com

Gary Neville: Rooney Future 'Could Clog Up Pre-season'

Wayne Rooney's future needs to be resolved to stop it "clogging up" Manchester United's pre-season, says former team-mate Gary Neville.

Rooney, 31, said after his substitute appearance in United's Europa League final victory on 24 May that he had "more or less" decided his future.

The club are yet to say if he will stay for the final year of his contract.

But Neville said: "You don't want to create voids for speculation around such big players."

United's players are due to return for pre-season training on 8 July.

They leave for Los Angeles the following day to start a five-game tour of the United States, which will be followed by matches in Oslo and Dublin.

In 2013, speculation about Rooney moving to Chelsea intensified as United flew to Thailand for the start of their only pre-season under David Moyes.

But the striker stayed, signing his latest contract, which expires in 2018.

Although he broke Sir Bobby Charlton's club goalscoring record at Stoke in January - finishing the season on 253 from 559 appearances - Rooney's involvement receded as the season went on.

Indeed he was only used as an 89th-minute substitute in the Europa League final, with United already 2-0 up.

It had been anticipated the game in Stockholm would be Rooney's last for United.

However, the potential for him to make a lucrative move to China has lessened following the implementation of tighter restrictions on overseas players.

Los Angeles Galaxy are not interested in signing him, and Rooney repeated last month his stance that he would not play for another Premier League club apart from United and former club Everton.

"I am surprised it has not been dealt with," said Neville.

"You don't want that speculation to hang over a pre-season because every single press conference and media session will be clogged up with the issue of whether he is staying or going."

Neville was speaking to the BBC at the launch of an academy at National League North side Salford City, the team he part owns with fellow 'Class of 92' members Ryan Giggs, Phil Neville, Paul Scholes and Nicky Butt.

Credit: BBC Sport

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Promising Points: Jose's Celta Celebration

This week, we're looking back at some of the moments from last season which are making ManUtd.com journalists look forward to the new season with optimism...

Walking towards the tunnel, his right fist already clenched in celebration after seeing his Manchester United team beat Celta Vigo to reach the Europa League final, Jose Mourinho spotted a scarf that had been tossed onto the turf in front of him by a supporter in the Stretford End.

The colours matched those of his motherland but that was just a coincidence - the design actually commemorated the genius of George Best, a man who wore red for his club and green for his country.

The manager paused to pick up the scarf with his left hand, passed it to his right and then twirled it in vigorous triumph as he continued on his way to meet reporters, congratulate players and ultimately unwind with family and friends after an almost unbearably tense finish to the semi-final. All of those people would have a piece of the Portuguese's precious post-match time but this moment, thankfully filmed on a smartphone, was for the fans. With the fans. Of the fans.

The 10-second clip captured by Katie Flynn, a season-ticket holder, was retweeted many more times than her Twitter followers alone could muster, as media organisations shared the material that was missed by the main broadcaster's cameras.

Mourinho's display of emotion was a must-see for supporters beyond those who witnessed it in the flesh and reactions on social media included these:

@AyrtonHS1996: Have you ever seen anything so beautiful?
@richardozzy0: Now that's what I like to see!
@mr_humz: Watched this about 20 times.
@RedVickster: So good to see his passion.
@davedarkone87: Absolutely! He loves this job.
@irishbadboy: That was my scarf!
@Roug3_D3mon99: Great capture. Passion & heart are things you can't accuse Jose of lacking.
@07seanvernon: That's what's it all about.
@TheLegend2seven: Love the enthusiasm. On to the final!
@ROHIT_GGMU: Love the passion of this man! Great things to come in the coming years!
@mohitgadam1: He's doing everything he can to make sure we can win. We have to get behind him and the team.

The urge in that last tweet, to back the men on the pitch, had been made by Mourinho in his programme notes before this and other home matches during his maiden campaign at United. "Let's get behind the players and make it a night to remember," wrote the manager ahead of the Celta Vigo game.

Little did we know that Jose himself would give us a memory to take away from the evening. The way he swung that scarf, punched the air and roared ecstatically to the crowd on Katie's clip came to mind as ManUtd.com staff selected aspects of last season which bode well for the next campaign.

"I think that was fantastic," Paddy Crerand told us this week, after his Monday night show on MUTV.

"When you talk to football fans, they want to see a reaction from the manager and his staff, and the players. It makes them realise that the manager, at that moment in time, could have been standing in that crowd alongside them, jumping up and down.

"He could have been one of them," the club legend added. "The fans love that sort of thing, to know that the manager is as happy as they are."

The 2-1 victory over Celta Vigo was the penultimate match to be played at Old Trafford in 2016/17 and the final home fixture was also won, against Crystal Palace in the Premier League. Could those frustrating home draws which had earlier rendered a title bid improbable already be a thing of the past?

We hope so, and we can hope so with some confidence after witnessing the unity of manager, supporters and players at the business end of the season, encapsulated by those celebrations after the Celta Vigo game. Scenes.

The views expressed in this article are personal to the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Manchester United FC.

Credit: Manutd.com

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Giggs: Rooney Could Stay At United

Ryan Giggs says Wayne Rooney could remain at Manchester United if he is willing to accept he will not play every week.

The United captain endured a frustrating 2016-17 campaign at Old Trafford, becoming a regular on the substitutes' bench under Jose Mourinho.

Rooney admitted at the end of last season that he had "more or less" decided his future, but would take time to finalise his plans.

The 31-year-old is currently away on holiday and yet to confirm whether he intends to stay at United for the forthcoming campaign, leaving Giggs to ponder his former team-mate's future.

"Wayne is a proven goalscorer, give him a chance Wayne will score," Giggs told Sky Sports News HQ.

"It is whether he can put up with not being first choice or whether he can develop his game which I had to around the same age, not being certain to play every game, but playing 25-30 games and contributing.

"If Wayne can do that then I don't see why he can't still be at the club."

Rooney is United's all-time record scorer with 253 goals and has two years remaining on his contract at Old Trafford.

Credit: Skysports.com

Promising Points: When United Beat Chelsea

This week, we're looking back at some of the moments from last season which are making ManUtd.com journalists look forward to the new season with optimism. The first one is that Sunday afternoon in April when the Manchester United players left the Old Trafford pitch with three points, and perhaps a portent for the 2017/18 Premier League, after sweeping aside the eventual champions Chelsea...

It was a display which, in many ways, was the culmination of a season's meticulous work for Jose Mourinho and his United squad.

On the touchline, it was as if the animated manager was trying to kick every ball for his team. Not that he needed to - on the pitch, his players were producing a performance that had been months in the making.

The 2-0 win over Chelsea at Old Trafford in April felt like a return to the 'old' United. It was also a masterclass by Mourinho, a statement of intent against a team that would still, deservedly, win the title race in May. But, more than anything else, it was the first real indicator that the 'new' United could be among the contenders to snatch away the visitors' Premier League crown in 2017/18. Even if Jose's side eventually finished outside the top four, the display on Easter Sunday was a sign there is much more to come in his second season at the club.

Before that mid-April meeting with the league leaders, the Reds' record against the other teams in the top six had been a bit hit-and-miss with the home victory over eventual runners-up Tottenham Hotspur and the expert containment of free-scoring Liverpool at Anfield being the better results among defeats to Manchester City at Old Trafford and Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. The latter result in late October actually led to an upturn in form and a record unbeaten run of matches in the same league season (25) but even with that response in mind, few would have predicted what would happen in the Manchester rematch.

With Zlatan Ibrahimovic rested on the bench between the two quarter-final clashes with Anderlecht in the UEFA Europa League, Mourinho looked to a pair of Academy graduates to lead the attack against Chelsea. Jesse Lingard supported Marcus Rashford up front, and it was the latter who opened the scoring. His calm finish after just seven minutes set the tone and established an important advantage for the Reds, from which there would be no way back for the Blues.

United's near-perfect performance was typified by Ander Herrera who, having created the first goal with a superb pass, decisively struck the second one himself just after the break. Those two moments were brief respites from the Spaniard's main responsibility of the afternoon, shackling Chelsea's main threat, a mission he accomplished so well, he was a shoo-in for the Man of the Match award.

"Herrera really stood out," wrote Reds legend Paddy Crerand, in his column for the next edition of United Review, the official matchday programme.

"His man-marking job on Hazard was genuinely outstanding and I actually felt sorry for the Belgian by full-time because he looked like a beaten man."

While much was rightly made of Herrera's all-action outing, this was truly a top-drawer team display.

"Every player on the pitch was terrific, from front to back," continued Crerand, "although it's fair David De Gea didn't have anything to do!

"I felt it was our best performance in years and the galvanising effect it had on everybody was incredible. When did you last hear a noise like that at Old Trafford? The reaction was huge."

The Reds had not just beaten the champions-elect, but had done so convincingly, and in a way which suggested this would not be a one-off. Another pivotal win at Old Trafford, this time in the second leg against Anderlecht, followed just a few days later with another goal from Rashford - you can read more about that on ManUtd.com tomorrow.

If United can bottle up the kind of form shown against Chelsea and release it on a more regular basis, it can only bode well for 2017/18. Here's to the season ahead.

The views expressed in this article are personal to the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Manchester United FC.

Credit: Manutd.com

Promising Points: Rashford's Big Finish

This week, we're looking back at some of the moments from last season which are making ManUtd.com journalists look forward to the new season with optimism...

Marcus Rashford totalled 53 appearances last season, more than any other Manchester United player, yet it was his outing on Thursday 20 April that best displayed his precocious gifts.

RSC Anderlecht provided the opposition and Old Trafford was the setting, as the Reds deservedly booked a place in the UEFA Europa League semi-finals. It was a night of heightened tension, but not initially.

All was going to plan early on when Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s 10th-minute goal opened a 2-1 aggregate advantage over the inexperienced, wide-eyed Belgians. Safe passage to the last-four appeared likely. But then Sofiane Hanni scrambled home a shock equaliser and nerves began to jangle. Profligacy ensued as big chances were missed, before Marcus Rojo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic suffered season-ending injuries.

The sight of Ibra being partially-carried off by two strong-armed physiotherapists was a huge concern in light of his immense contribution to the team. The Swede had scored 28 goals in 46 games across all competitions by that point and basic maths suggested he would exceed 35 by the close of his debut campaign in England. The focal point of our attack was suddenly gone, at the time of greatest need.

Zlatan had been lost but the tie had not, and Rashford moved up front as substitute Anthony Martial filled in on the left wing. The pressure and responsibility of a Europa League match now rested on the shoulders of a local teenager. It wasn’t the first time, of course, after a pre-match injury to Martial a year earlier had enforced Rashford's unexpected senior debut and a famous brace against FC Midtjylland. Nevertheless, it was a big deal.

Instead of wilting under the pressure, Marcus actually grew in stature and delivered a sensational winner in extra time, when he switched the ball’s direction with the inside of his right foot, sent Anderlecht defenders Serigne Mbodji and Leander Dendoncker in the wrong direction, and dispatched a left-footed shot that won the tie.

In the tunnel, Mourinho lavished words of praise on his increasingly-impressive teen and explained why he had become a trusted lieutenant. “His quality is fantastic,” Jose said. “He had not scored a goal since September but, because of his mentality, because of what he gives us, I have kept relying on him. Some other players don’t realise what makes me trust a player, and Marcus I trust.”

That was a valuable insight into the manager's evaluations of players. Physical attributes like speed and finishing are important, but so too are mental qualities like perseverance and confidence.

“It's a massive thing when a manager like him says that,” Rashford later acknowledged, with the hint of a smile. “The best thing about it is that you've earned it. He didn't just come in and say 'there you go – play every game'. He's made us all work for his trust and respect."

With Ibrahimovic unavailable, Rashford finished the campaign as United’s main striker and scored another crucial Europa League goal in the semi-final, first leg win away to Celta Vigo, when he instructed the more-experienced Daley Blind to step aside so that he could dispatch a vicious free-kick into the net himself. It was an impressive display of confidence from a young player with increasing faith in his own abilities.

“He’s a 19-year-old kid,” the manager said in Spain that evening. “But he’s a 19-year-old kid that’s in love with football. A kid that finishes a training session and stays half an hour more to take free-kicks and to wait for the opportunity. It’s his mentality. He works, he works, and he works.”

Just like his influence, the boy wonder's physique is still growing and Rashford will soon combine more power with his electric pace. Adding meat to the bones is something he is working hard on at the Aon Training Complex.

Such a work ethic meant Rashford was a sure-fire starter for the Europa League final in Stockholm and, although he did not score in the 2-0 win over AFC Ajax, he led the line with maturity and poise.

After finishing the season with 53 appearances, 11 goals and three trophies, the next big challenge for the young forward is to maintain such impressive momentum throughout the anticipated 2017/18 campaign.

As we saw against Anderlecht, Marcus Rashford is not afraid to step up.

The views expressed in this article are personal to the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Manchester United FC.

Credit: Manutd.com

Monday, June 26, 2017

Jose Mourinho's Father Felix Dies At The Age Of 79

Felix Mourinho, the father of Manchester United manager Jose, has died in Portugal at the age of 79.

A former goalkeeper, Felix died on Sunday in Setubal, although the cause of death has not yet been disclosed.

Felix played for Vitoria Setubal, helping the club to victory in the Portuguese Cup final against Benfica in 1965. He also played for Belenenses.

He later became club coach and a director, while earning his sole Portugal cap in 1972 against the Republic of Ireland.

Felix Mourinho will be buried on Tuesday in Setubal.

Jose Mourinho posted a black-and-white photograph of himself as a boy, alongside his father, on his Instagram account.

Credit: Skysports.com

Mkhitaryan's Aims For The 2017/18 Season

Henrikh Mkhitaryan has spoken of his desire to win the UEFA Champions League in 2017/18 and stated a club like Manchester United belongs in European football’s top competition. 

The midfield Armenian discussed his ambitions for the forthcoming season during a Q&A session with followers of his official Facebook page, in which he also spoke about a determination to improve following a encouraging debut campaign that yielded 41 appearances, 11 goals and three trophies.

Here is a selection of questions from fans and Mkhitaryan's answers…

How do you feel going into the Champions League with United? Samsom Ajayi
The Champions League is where Manchester United belongs and we are all happy to be playing in this great competition again. For the new season we definitely want to fight for the title. For the Super Cup, it should be a fantastic game against Real Madrid!

What are your ambitions for next season? Neeraj Nair
I'd love to score more goals and give more assists... and help the team win as many trophies as possible. I will give my best!

How would you describe Jose Mourinho? Felix von Knorring
Jose is a winner. He works so hard to win every single game and to make sure that we are all ready to give 100%. He gives us emotion, and motivation. I have learned a lot from him and will continue to do so.

How does it feel to hear your chant from the stands? Cait LaMancunienne
I love it. It’s great that our fans made a song for me and it gives me a lot of motivation when I hear it in the stadium!

What was your favourite moment of last season? Wahb Dahak
Definitely lifting the UEFA Europa League trophy in Stockholm. We worked so hard to win this competition and it was truly special to be able to do it. Now we are really looking forward to being back in the UEFA Champions League.

What would it mean to win the Europa League Player of the Season award? Patrick Cuadrado
I was so happy to win the Europa League! It was always a target for us all season and to be able to score in the final and to lift the trophy in Stockholm was an amazing feeling. About the award, it would of course be an honour for any player to win it, but at the end what matters is the team.

Which goal did you like the most? Tran Thanh Phong
The scorpion goal was most beautiful, but the winning goal in the Europa League final was the most important one.

What tips can you give my son for playing football? Gary Middlebrook
My tip for success is honestly to believe in yourself whatever you do and work hard. Anything is possible in life if you are confident, positive and hard working.

Do you intend to develop a football academy in Armenia? Nune Marukyan
I’ve thought about it and would love to develop the idea in the future to teach my football philosophy to Armenian children.

Where do you see yourself in 15 years? Donna McMahan
I haven't thought about what I will do after my career, I still have many years left as a player.

You can follow Henrikh Mkhitaryan at www.facebook.com/HenrikhMkh.

Credit: Manutd.com

Park: Best Still To Come From Herrera

Ji-sung Park believes Manchester United fans are still to see the best of Ander Herrera.

The Spaniard, like the former South Korean star, is hugely popular with the Old Trafford faithful and was voted the Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year last month.

Despite an outstanding campaign for the former Athletic Club man, Park, speaking ahead of the Legends double-header with Barcelona, believes more improvement will be forthcoming in 2017/18 as the 27-year-old hits his peak.

"I think he’s worked hard on the pitch," Park told ManUtd.com. "He’s very clever. He is a great midfielder and, actually, I played against him when he played for Athletic Club. 

"It’s really good for the team to have that kind of player and he is really appreciated by the fans for what he has done for the club. He is still improving, actually, and can be even stronger than last season."

Park played in former colleague Michael Carrick's testimonial at the end of the season and was pleased with the confirmation that the 35-year-old has signed a one-year extension to his contract.

"He’s very composed on the ball," said Park. "He can control the whole game. He has the experience, having been at the club for 11 years, and it’s good to have him for another year. He can use his experience and share it, particularly with the young players, so I believe it’s a great deal for him and for the club."

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Law New To Football Museum Walk Of Fame

Manchester United legend Denis Law was inducted into the National Football Museum Walk of Fame earlier this week, together with four other iconic figures from the beautiful game.

The Lawman’s iconic career has been recognised alongside Alfredo Di Stefano, Eusebio, Jimmy Greaves and Paolo Maldini, with a plaque being laid in Cathedral Gardens, Manchester.

Our 1968 European Cup winner scored 237 goals in 404 Reds appearances across two separate spells at Old Trafford, while also playing professionally for Huddersfield Town, Torino and Manchester City. He also remains the only Scotsman to ever win the Ballon D’Or award, given to the world’s best player. 

Law spoke to MUTV about joining the prestigious group of footballers on the Walk of Fame, saying: “I think it is lovely, absolutely lovely. Probably, more than anything, of the five people who have been rewarded today, one of them is my favourite player of all time in Alfredo Di Stefano. 

"The second one was Jimmy Greaves, who was my favourite goalscorer of all time, so to be among those two people, and of course Eusebio and Maldini, cannot be any better.”

Paul Trevillion, whose illustrations will be familiar to football fans thanks to comic book Roy of The Rovers, created the portraits for the Walk of Fame plaques. He said: "Denis Law is one of the greatest footballers to come from Great Britain and deserves to be alongside global greats like Di Stefano and Eusebio."

Herrera In Awe Of United's US Support

Ander Herrera says playing in front of a record-breaking crowd on tour three years ago made him realise the importance of Manchester United to supporters in the United States.

The Spanish midfielder was in the team which beat Real Madrid 3-1 in August 2014, with 109,318 fans watching at the Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor. It was the highest-ever attendance for a soccer match in the country and red shirts in the stands greatly outnumbered the white ones of the opposition supporters.

The two sides will meet each other again in America next month and Herrera is looking forward to it, as well as the other six fixtures on United's Tour 2017, presented by Aon. 

"I remember playing in America a few years ago against Real Madrid, in front of nearly 110,000 people, and 80 per cent of them were Reds!" he told ManUtd.com, shortly before going on his summer holiday.

"That shows how important United are over there, so I’m really happy and excited to be able to play for our fans over there again."

As well as taking on Real, the Reds will also face Barcelona, Manchester City and two Major League Soccer sides, LA Galaxy and Real Salt Lake, during the stay in the US, before further friendlies in Norway against Valerenga and in Dublin against Sampdoria.

Herrera says the tour games will allow the players to prepare well for the new season with the main focus on being ready for the Premier League's opening weekend of 12 and 13 August.

"We're looking forward to the pre-season tour, and some big games," added United's Player of the Year for 2016/17. "I know they are only friendlies, but everyone is excited to play. The most important thing is to be prepared for the first official games of the new season, of course, but it will be nice to go over to America."

Fosu-Mensah Recalls His School Days


Tim Fosu-Mensah is the latest Manchester United player to take part in our 'School Days' feature.

The versatile Dutchman discusses attempting overhead kicks out on the streets, playing football with his pals and offers some advice to aspiring players...

How would you describe your time at school?
It was a nice time and I enjoyed it. I didn’t really like school on its own but, when you were a kid, you’d always use any breaks to play football outside with your classmates. That’s what I enjoyed the most, I think.

Were there any subjects you particularly enjoyed or didn’t enjoy?
I did enjoy learning languages, and maths too. The rest of it wasn’t really my thing!

What were you like as a footballer back then?
At school, we always had little tournaments against other schools. I never played in those, because at the time I was already playing at Ajax. Whenever there was a little break and we played football outside, maybe I was one of the star players [laughs] - it was really enjoyable!

Were you playing with older players at the time?
At my school, we also had two other players who played for Ajax, so we always played together. I think there were others who weren’t playing professionally but had the talent, so it was always very competitive.

Have you always been a defender, even since your school days?
No [laughs], every time I played on the streets I just played as an attacker actually! With it being out on the street, the ground was hard, but sometimes as a kid you still tried bicycle kicks! It was great fun.

Do you still keep in touch with your friends from school?
Yeah, definitely. I still speak to a lot of them because I grew up with them so, every time I go back, I’m still with the same group of boys.

What advice would you give someone at school who wants to become a professional footballer?
I would say ‘work hard, listen to the senior players and always try to improve.’ If something is going well, I think you obviously have to be happy about it, but I don’t think about it too much because it’s important to keep going and keep trying to develop yourself. It helps you get the best out of yourself.

Credit: Manutd.com

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Juventus Chief Scout Javier Ribalta To Join Manchester United

Juventus chief scout Javier Ribalta is leaving the club to join Manchester United.

Ribalta is expected to work alongside United chief scouts Jim Lawlor and Marcel Bout at Old Trafford.

Juventus confirmed on Friday Ribalta was departing after five years to "take on a new professional adventure elsewhere".

Ribalta told the Juventus' official website: "It has been a wonderful few years here.

"My thanks go to all involved with the club, particularly Giuseppe Marotta and Fabio Paratici for the faith they have shown in me since day one.

"I will look back on my time at Juventus with great pleasure."

Planning is well under way for the 2017-18 season at Old Trafford, with Benfica's Victor Lindelof the lone United signing so far.

Credit: Skysports.com

Carrick To Decide On Man. United Retirement Next Season

Michael Carrick says he will assess whether to retire at the end of the next Premier League season.

Speaking to Sky Sports News HQ on Friday about how much longer he plans to continue his professional career for, the 35-year-old said: “I haven’t got an age in mind really, I need to just take it year by year.

“I said that last year, I said it the year before and I’ll say it again next year too.”

The Manchester United vice-captain, who has made 479 premier league appearances, refused to commit to a retirement timeframe, but said he has been inspired by many of the Class of '96 players who continued to play in to their 30s.

He said: “I’ve learnt a lot off of [Ryan Giggs] Giggsy and the likes of [Paul] Scholes and Gary Neville who went on to play until their late 30s. I’ve been lucky enough to see that close to waters and I’ve taken things from that and tried to learn from it.

“It might take me as long as Giggsy, but I’m not too sure.”

Discussing his hopes for Manchester United next season, the midfielder stressed that the club are looking to return back to the Premier League top four.

He said: “We’re looking up and we’re looking to achieve something this year and win more trophies.

“It was a big way to finish to get the Europa League trophy with the added incentive of a Champions League spot. It gives us something to go at next season.

"A club like Manchester United needs to be in the Champions League and challenging for that trophy. You want to be playing at the top and challenging the best teams.”

When asked about the possibility of Cristiano Ronaldo making a return to Old Trafford next season, Carrick said that as of yet, discussion is purely speculation.

Credit: Skysports.com

Robson Recalls Derby Memories

Former Manchester United captain Bryan Robson believes the club's rivalry with Manchester City is much more competitive in the modern era than it was back in his playing days.

The Reds boast an impressive record historically against our cross-city rivals although City have enjoyed more success in the Manchester derby in recent years since being taken over in 2008.

Ahead of the sides' meeting in Houston this summer as part of Tour 2017 presented by Aon, ManUtd.com sat down with club legend Robson, who made 345 appearances for United between 1981 and 1994, to get his views on one of world football's most intense rivalries, past and present...

How fierce would you say the Manchester derby was when you were playing?
"When I played in the derbies, the rivalry wasn't particularly that fierce – apart from when I first came to the club in 1981 because City weren't doing badly at that time and I can remember my league debut which was against City at Maine Road. We drew 0-0 in that game but, after that, I think I more or less won in every derby I played in and didn't get beat, so that was a great little record for me to have personally. I missed out on that real rivalry of a derby but now, because of the investment that's gone into Manchester City they are up there challenging for cups and titles and are a real force now which makes it more competitive."

What was your favourite derby to play in?
"We beat City 2-0 at Old Trafford [in March 1987] and it was quite a comfortable win. It was like a 2-0 going on 6-0 - we played really that day and that would be my favourite one. As far as games at Maine Road are concerned, I played in the one where we came back from 1-0 down to win 2-1 [in March 1983], so that was a great memory. During the 90s when we had [Roy] Keane and [Paul] Ince and [Andrei] Kanchelskis and all of those sorts of players, we were very dominant in the derby games at that time."

How was it walking around Manchester as players the day after a derby game?
"I really enjoyed it! If you won a derby, the one thing you would do is probably go out for a bit of lunch after training the next day because everyone who is a Manchester United fan is happy. They do go quiet if you get beat in a derby but, in my time, we had a decent record so my experiences of walking around town after derbies were always pretty good ones."

How has City’s recent success changed the significance of the derby?
"I think they have made it more fierce because they are a threat, whereas in the 80s and in the 90s they weren't really a threat to United. But since the 2000s and the investment City have made, they are a big rival to us now; it’s not particularly Liverpool anymore. That's a fierce game of course but it's more Chelsea and Manchester City who we would look at straight away and say 'right they're going to be real competitors against us this year to try to win things'."

Harrop To Join Preston

Josh Harrop is to join Preston North End when his Manchester United contract expires at the end of this month.

The creative midfielder enjoyed a first-team debut to remember when scoring the opening goal in the 2-0 win over Crystal Palace on the final day of the Premier League season.

It capped a fine week for the 21-year-old, who hit a hat-trick in the Reserves' 3-2 triumph over Tottenham in front of Jose Mourinho, also at Old Trafford, on the previous Monday night.

Harrop made 25 appearances for the Reserves last term and was the side's top scorer with 10 goals. The youngster will link up with former team-mates Marnick Vermijl, Ben Pearson and Liam Grimshaw at Deepdale after agreeing terms on a permanent transfer to the Championship club.

Everybody at United would like to wish Josh the best of luck in his future career.

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Friday, June 23, 2017

Valencia's Top Five Achievements At United


As part of our focus on Antonio Valencia, the club's staggeringly dependable right-back, we shine a light on his five outstanding achievements with Manchester United...

5: EUROPA LEAGUE FINAL CAPTAIN

With Wayne Rooney and Michael Carrick on the bench, Valencia captained United throughout the triumphant 2-0 win over AFC Ajax in Stockholm, Sweden. It was recognition of the Ecuadorian’s experience and standing within the club at the climax of his eighth season, as well as Jose Mourinho's continued admiration (the boss tried to sign him with former club Real Madrid).

While defensive tasks were few and far between against a frustrated Dutch side, Antonio appeared to relish the responsibility of captaincy and impressed during his 90-minute display. Graciously, he passed the armband to Rooney upon the club skipper's late introduction and allowed him to lift the trophy alone.

Only two days later, Tony V tellingly inked a new contract and said: “Wednesday evening provided the one trophy this club had never won and it was a true honour for me to captain the team for the final. I would like to thank the manager for the confidence he has given me this season.”

4: PLAYERS’ PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Recognition from your peers is among the finest honours in football and Valencia’s 2016/17 Players’ Player of the Year award must therefore rank highly in his career. The 31-year-old made 43 appearances and scored one goal in the campaign, yet those statistics do not tell the whole story.

The former Wigan Athletic winger was the personification of consistency, always producing a seven out of 10 display at least, while providing much-needed reliability in an ever-changing defence. The 21 games (from 64) that he missed were mainly due to Mourinho resting him for bigger occasions.

“Antonio has been so dependable,” said previous Players' Player of the Year winner Chris Smalling. “Not just in an attacking sense, but also when he's defending. Any winger or striker that comes up against him has to get around him. That means they have to be stronger or quicker than him, and neither of those is easy!”

3: AWARDS HAT-TRICK

Valencia took home the three major awards from the 2011/12 awards night after a stellar campaign in Sir Alex Ferguson’s penultimate year as boss. The fans and players voted him as their top man, with supporters also declaring his venomous strike at Blackburn Rovers as the Goal of the Season. Sir Alex also praised the award-winner, saying: “The form he's produced since coming back from injury has been amazing. He's a great professional and he has the qualities that we love in our game.”

2: RETURN FROM INJURY

On 16 September 2010, Valencia broke his leg and fractured an ankle during a Champions League group-stage game against Glasgow Rangers at Old Trafford. It was widely reported that he would miss the rest of the season, but that absence estimate clearly overlooked his miraculous spirit.

To the shock and awe of every United supporter, he returned on 12 March as a substitute in a 2-0 home win against Arsenal and team-mate Rooney was delighted. “I can't tell you how good it is to see him back out there,” Wayne told us that day. “It was Antonio's first game back after six months out and he looked like he'd never been away. It’s fantastic for him to be back playing so soon.”

Valencia tallied another 15 appearances, helping to win our 19th Premier League title and starting the European Cup final. To suffer two serious leg injuries in one hit, yet return as a better athlete, is a feat which beggars belief and marks him out as a curiosity in the kindest possible sense.

1: WINGER TO RIGHT-BACK

Back in September 2011, eyebrows were raised when Sir Alex fielded Valencia at right-back for the first-ever time in a League Cup tie at Leeds United, but nobody is confused to see him in defence now. In fact, he is among the finest players in his position following a detailed education under a variety of managers.

Yes, while learning the tactical and positional nuances of being a top-level defender, Antonio has often called upon the insurance of his staggering pace and power. With arms the size of legs and legs akin to tank tread, he is a physical specimen the like of which Old Trafford has seldom seen.


It’s that rare blend of attributes that sets Valencia apart among modern full-backs and his fine form has prompted Jose Mourinho to say: "I just think Antonio is the best you can have. There is no better right-back in football." Tellingly, the manager has already sanctioned two contract extensions for him - one in January, another in May - the future looks bright for the "best right-back in football".

Reinventing himself so successfully represents, for us, the greatest achievement of Antonio Valencia's United career.

Fabinho Tempted By Manchester United Move

Monaco midfielder Fabinho has admitted he would be tempted by a move to Manchester United.

Jose Mourinho is in the market for a defensive midfielder this summer and has been linked with a move for the versatile 23-year-old, who can also play at right-back.

The United boss is familiar with Fabinho, having given him his debut for Real Madrid at the end of the 2013 season in a 6-2 victory against Malaga. The pair also share the same agent in Jorge Mendes.

During a live television interview, the Brazilian international smiled when asked whether he would be keen to move to Old Trafford, if the opportunity were to arise.

"It's a tempting invitation," he told Esporte Interativo. "I would first talk to my agent, Monaco too, to decide everything right.

"But it's a great club, sure enough, I would think well about it."

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Matteo Darmian Of Interest To Juventus


Juventus are interested in signing Manchester United's Matteo Darmian as a replacement for Manchester City-bound Dani Alves, according to Sky sources.

The Serie A champions are looking for a right-back after deciding to let Alves leave this summer, with Pep Guardiola's City in talks to sign the 34-year-old.

As well as Darmian, Sky sources understand Juve are looking at the likes of Danilo at Real Madrid and Monaco star Fabinho.

Darmian has struggled to hold down a first-team place at Old Trafford since joining in a £12.7m deal from Torino two years ago.

He made just 15 Premier League starts last season and 39 overall across two, and has made 68 appearances for United overall.

He did start United's victorious Europa League final victory against Ajax at left-back.

Credit: Skysports.com

Real Sociedad Bid For Manchester United's Adnan Januzaj

Manchester United have received a £9.7m bid from Real Sociedad for Adnan Januzaj, Sky sources.

The Spanish club's offer is one of a number that United are thought to be considering for the 22-year-old, who spent last season on loan at Sunderland.

Januzaj vowed to prove his doubters wrong after moving to Wearside last summer but struggled with injury, making just 18 Premier League starts, and is no longer wanted at Old Trafford.

The Belgian was handed his United debut by David Moyes, who managed Real Sociedad after being sacked, but Januzaj was sent out on loan to Borussia Dortmund by Moyes' successor Louis van Gaal.

Januzaj did not start a Bundesliga game, however, and was made available again by Jose Mourinho last summer.

The Belgium international, with six caps, signed for United from Anderlecht as a youth player in 2011.

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MUFC Milestones: United's 2017/18 Targets


Our MUFC Milestones series started with a look at Manchester United's various feats in 2016/17 and ends with a look at what the Reds can achieve in the new season ahead...

TITLE NO.21?
Challenging for the Premier League title will, of course, be a primary objective in 2017/18. If the Reds can win it for the first time since 2012/13, it will extend the club's record tally to 21 and put Jose Mourinho in the clear as the competition's second-most successful manager after Sir Alex Ferguson. To date, the current United boss and his Arsenal counterpart Arsene Wenger have been champions three times apiece in England's top flight.

FA CUP CATCH-UP
Following Arsenal's victory at Wembley in May, United are again playing catch-up in the table of FA Cup winners. The Reds' success in 2016 under Louis van Gaal had the two teams tied on 12 triumphs but no.13 is now the target for Jose Mourinho's men if the Gunners are to be matched once more.

NEW NAME, SAME WINNERS?
United's defence of the EFL Cup will be attempted under another new name for the competition, the Carabao Cup. The Reds are currently joint-second in the winners list, having drawn level with Aston Villa and Chelsea by lifting the trophy for the fifth time after last season's final.

FOURTH WOULD BE FANTASTIC
Away from the domestic competitions, the chance to win Europe's premier tournament for the fourth time in the club's history will also be very much on Mourinho's mind. The 2018 Champions League final in Kiev will fall on 26 May - exactly 19 years after United completed the Treble in Barcelona and five days over a decade since the Reds last won the competition with that memorable Moscow shoot-out against Chelsea. As for Jose's personal place in the record books, he will join Bob Paisley (Liverpool) and Carlo Ancelotti (AC Milan, Real Madrid) at the top of the winning managers' chart if he can lift the famous trophy for the third time, and he'll be as intrigued as anyone to see the outcome of the group-stage draw on 24 August.

SECOND SUPER CUP
The highly anticipated UEFA Super Cup clash against Mourinho's former employers Real Madrid is now just seven weeks away, meaning the Reds could soon be winning another piece of silverware in this successful calendar year. The showpiece clash with the La Liga and Champions League winners will take place in Macedonia on Tuesday 8 August, just a fortnight after the sides' pre-season meeting in the United States, and days before the start of the new Premier League campaign. United's only previous Super Cup win came in 1991, when a goal from Brian McClair gave Alex Ferguson's men a 1-0 win over Red Star Belgrade at Old Trafford. A repeat result against Real will surely be the target in Skopje.

1,000 PREMIER LEAGUE GAMES
While many of United's targets for 2017/18 will depend on a number of factors, one statistic that should certainly happen is the club's 1,000th match in the Premier League - currently scheduled for Sunday 13 May 2018, against Watford at Old Trafford. So far, the Reds have gained 2,021 points in the competition since its 1992 inception, with the 962 games breaking down into 604 wins, 209 draws and 149 defeats. 

Credit: Manutd.com

Valencia's United Story So Far

Antonio Valencia has developed into one of the world's top right-backs since joining Manchester United from Wigan Athletic as a winger in 2009.

The Ecuador international is now among the longest-serving players in the Reds' dressing room but he shows no sign of slowing down after eight years of service. He had one of his best campaigns for the club in 2016/17, with a series of consistent displays in defence earning him the Players' Player of the Year accolade. Valencia also finished as runner-up to Ander Herrera for the main award voted for by United fans.

After he signed a minimum two-year contract extension in May, there's the promise of even more to come from Valencia when 2017/18 gets under way. But before the big kick-off comes around, we're taking a look back at his United story so far, season by season...

2009/10 SEASON (49 GAMES, 6 GOALS)
Having turned down Spanish giants Real Madrid in favour of a move to Old Trafford, Valencia immediately became a key player for United under Sir Alex Ferguson. Antonio had notched seven goals in three seasons at Wigan and he weighed in with six goals from the right wing - including one against his former club - during an impressive maiden campaign with the Reds. 

2010/11 SEASON (20 GAMES, 3 GOALS) 
Hopes that his superb debut season could be replicated were dashed when Valencia suffered a serious ankle injury in United's Champions League game against Rangers in September 2010. However, he made a breathtaking return to fitness and form within six months, playing a vital role as the Reds regained the Premier League title. He later started his first Champions League final, as United were beaten by Barcelona.

2011/12 SEASON (38 GAMES, 6 GOALS) 
Valencia's third season at Old Trafford was probably his best as an attacking player, with his excellence on the right wing being rewarded with a hat-trick of awards at the club's end-of-season dinner. He was voted Player of the Year by both the fans and his colleagues, and he also collected the Goal of the Season prize for a tremendous strike against Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park. Sadly there were to be no team honours for Antonio and co as Manchester City pipped United to the league title on the final day of the season.

2012/13 SEASON (40 GAMES, 1 GOAL)
In the summer of 2012, Antonio inherited the famous no.7 shirt, marking another step forward in his rise to prominence. Though his consistency dipped slightly throughout the course of the season, Valencia recaptured top form just at the right time, playing a key role in vital wins at Stoke City and West Ham United to help recapture the Premier League title in April.

2013/14 SEASON (44 GAMES, 4 GOALS) 
The following season was not quite as productive for the Ecuadorian, who had reverted to the no.25 shirt, as the Reds endured a tough campaign under new manager David Moyes. While it would generally be a season to forget for the team, Valencia's season finished positively on a personal note as he signed a new contract with United and received a call-up for Ecuador's World Cup squad.

2014/15 SEASON (35 GAMES, 0 GOALS) 
Another new manager meant a new role for Valencia as Louis van Gaal took charge at United. Sir Alex first seriously noted the winger’s defensive potential just three months into his first season at Old Trafford, and Antonio ended the 2014/15 campaign with 13 successive starts at right-back, admitting: “I quite enjoy it, I’m happy there.”

2015/16 SEASON (22 GAMES, 0 GOALS) 
Just as Valencia was coming to terms with his new role, he was dealt a double blow in 2015/16 with the arrival of defender Matteo Darmian from Torino and a foot injury which ruled him out for over four months. In spite of those factors, plus the emergence of Tim Fosu-Mensah, Valencia ended the campaign with a dozen starts, all at right-back. These appearances included the FA Cup final victory over Crystal Palace, when Jesse Lingard’s winner stemmed from Antonio’s powerful work down the right.

2016/17 SEASON (43 GAMES, 1 GOAL) 
Guided by his fourth United manager, Jose Mourinho, Valencia was resurgent in 2016/17 and enjoyed one of his finest seasons at the club. With his transformation from winger to right-back now complete, Antonio was arguably the Reds' most consistent performer, and was named captain for the Europa League final against Ajax. The defender was later voted Players' Player of the Year by his team-mates, having won the club's Player of the Month award on three occasions during the campaign, and he signed a contract extension at the end of May to keep him at the club until at least June 2019 - the 10th anniversary of his arrival.

Credit: Manutd.com