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English Premier League

Can David de Gea be the man United need?



Manchester United dropped out of the FA Cup this week, an Old Trafford defeat by Arsenal leaving them destined for a second consecutive trophy-less season. Louis van Gaal’s team, very much in a period of transition, struggled for inspiration on an occasion that Manchester United teams of old, title-winning teams, would’ve dragged themselves through by sheer force of will.

There were a several isolated good performers. One being Wayne Rooney, who scored a fine captain’s goal to equalise, playing as the loan striker in a 4-5-1. The other was goalkeeper David de Gea, who made two outstanding saves in the second half to keep his team in it, having been sold short by Luis Valencia for Danny Welbeck’s goal, which turned out to be the winner for Arsenal.

De Gea had a slow start to his Manchester United career, initially struggling to adapt to the differences in style of English football – looking suspect under the high ball in particular. A first choice keeper and Europa League winner with Athletico Madrid, his credentials were strong, and as such, he was under intense scrutiny. He’s established himself as the clear first choice at Old Trafford, and has collected well over 100 appearances in a little under four years with the club.

He’s filling big shoes. Another Manchester United goalkeeper was at Old Trafford on Monday night, Peter Schmeichel was there with the BBC as pundit and official ball drawer. Schmeichel saved a Bergkamp penalty in that FA Cup semi final replay against Arsenal in 1999, with the team on the way to a treble. Schmeichel will be forever associated with that successful United team of the late 1990s. An imposing figure, who at times looked bigger than the goal, steely and determined, his trademark starfish jump, arms and legs wide, shutting off every angle.

Peter had ‘it’ that year (as did much of the rest of the team), but the bigger story is in the numbers, eight years, 300-odd appearances, and 113 Premier League clean sheets. That’s stability, dependability.

The best keepers carry that aura, that seemingly supernatural ability to perform the impossible, to bail out a team with save after save, before springing back to your feet and scream in the ear of the centre back who dared let an opposing player turn him and forced you to clean up his mess.

Manchester United have had that on and off for the last twenty years. Schmeichel’s departure at the end of that treble-winning season saw several pretenders arrive and depart, including a World Cup winner in Fabian Barthez. The weight of the Stretford End (and the heat of Sir Alex’s hairdryer) is difficult to handle.

Edwin van der Sar was the eventual successor, but by the time he joined in 2005 he was already well into his 30s – if not a fading light, then one that was already burning its brightest. Van der Sar gave United five good years – longer than could’ve been envisaged when he joined – but what he did not offer was that long term stability and dependability. To put it into context, the season before a young goalkeeper, barely 22-years-old, had joined Chelsea – Petr Cech has only this season been replaced as first choice at Stamford Bridge.

In de Gea, United found a talented successor to van der Sar – and a young, raw talent at that – at 24 he is settled, he has done has adapting to life in England; in the keeping parlance ‘he knows where his posts are’. If all goes well, he should be between those posts for another ten years.

United’s wider transition will take some time – three more years of rebuilding, former captain Roy Keane said on Monday night – but with de Gea in place they can look up the field.

The trouble will come with trying to keep him. He is often linked to a return to Spain, and Monday night’s performance reignited talk of a move to Real Madrid, where Iker Casillas is showing signs of decline.

That’s the problem with stability and dependability, once that stable, dependable individual has gone, what do you do? Succession is key and good goalkeepers are in short supply. Chelsea’s transition from Cech to Thibaut Courtois was executed as flawlessly as could be expected, with the elder man remaining as a well-qualified understudy. Another important role. If Manchester United were to lose de Gea, they would have to begin the search for a long term option again. But in the meantime, they’ve always got Victor Valdes.

Arlen is a Reading fan. Which means he knows a lot about losing in play-off finals, 0-0 draws, and disappointing FA Cup away ties.


Jack Wilshere’s injury shows why Arsenal shouldn’t renew his contract

The 26-year-old has been struck down by yet another injury.

Jake Jackman



Photo: Getty Images

Jack Wilshere will be pleased with the progress that he has made since returning to Arsenal from his loan spell at Bournemouth.

He was initially nothing more than a squad player that was out in the cold at international level too, but the midfielder worked hard to gain more game-time in North London.

Across all competitions, he has played more than 30 matches and his form earned him a call-up to the England squad.

It looked like he was getting a once-promising career back on track, but almost like clockwork, he has suffered an injury to set him back once again.

Gareth Southgate confirmed that he wouldn’t be travelling to the Netherlands for Friday’s match and the quotes were reported by Sky Sports.

“It is not a specific injury and over time they flare up and they need to settle down over a couple of days.

“We are hopeful it will settle down pretty quickly. It’s an ongoing problem and it’s not something new for him. He’s very disappointed not to be involved in the game.

“He’s trained well though but if you think about the journey he’s had in the last two years and his big injuries then he’s progressing really well.”

Although it is encouraging that it isn’t a serious injury, it is a reminder that Jack Wilshere remains a risk for both club and country.

(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

It is difficult to build a team around a player that is susceptible to miss matches and the quote from Southgate is a worry as he refers to an ongoing problem.

Arsenal have had a difficult campaign and they will be planning a rebuild over the next 48 months as they transition away from the Arsene Wenger era.

They will have to make tough decisions on many players at the club and Wilshere’s future will be brought into focus over the next few weeks as his contract expires at the end of the season.

There have been numerous reports regarding contract talks between the two parties and there is hesitancy on both sides.

This latest injury suffered by Wilshere and the comments from Southgate referring to an ongoing problem show why it is Arsenal who need to end this association.

Wilshere can’t be relied on to stay fit and to feature prominently in a busy schedule. Arsenal will have ambitions of challenging at the very top of the game and will likely be involved in European competition every season. They need to have a squad of players that are reliable and the 26-year-old isn’t that.

Aside from that, Wilshere represents what Arsenal have become over the last decade. He is a player that had a lot of potential, but he has failed to fulfil it and been very inconsistent at the highest level. Of course, he isn’t to blame for the club’s problems, but he is also unlikely to offer the solutions.

This season has been a nice farewell campaign for him. It would have been sad if his Gunners’ career had ended after being shipped out on loan to Bournemouth.

He has returned to earn some of his credibility back, but the club need to move on and progress if they are to get back to the top of the English game.

A lot of contentious decisions will need to be made and the first should be the release of Jack Wilshere this summer.

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Manchester United

Why Jose Mourinho’s treatment of Luke Shaw has crossed the line

The Portuguese manager has been highly critical of Luke Shaw this season.

Rob Meech



Luke Shaw
Photo: Getty Images

The fractious relationship between Jose Mourinho and Luke Shaw plumbed new depths when the left-back was substituted at half-time in Manchester United’s FA Cup victory over Brighton & Hove Albion. The 22-year-old had been handed a rare opportunity to impress at Old Trafford but lasted only 45 minutes.

Speaking about Shaw in his post-match interview, Mourinho said: “Luke, in the first half, every time they came in his corridor, the cross came in and a dangerous situation was coming. I was not happy with his performance.”

The differences between the pair now appear to be irreconcilable. Shaw, who was signed by Louis van Gaal in the summer of 2014, has been used sparingly by Mourinho. The former Southampton starlet has made just 18 Premier League appearances under the Portuguese in a career that has been blighted by injuries.

Being substituted at half-time is almost as embarrassing as it gets for a player and Shaw’s mood will not have improved after being publicly criticised by his manager. It’s certainly not the first time Mourinho has chosen to talk candidly to the media about his concerns with the 22-year-old.

(Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Some players require an arm around the shoulder to perform at their peak, while for others it takes a kick up the backside. Mourinho, opting for the latter, does nothing without reason and has clearly tried to spark a reaction from Shaw, without success.

From being one of English football’s brightest prospects after making his World Cup debut aged just 18, Shaw, who has seven England caps to his name, is in danger of not fulfilling the potential that convinced United to spend what was then a world-record fee for a teenager.

Mourinho’s tactic of singling out individuals who have not met his standards is in stark contrast to Sir Alex Ferguson, who never blamed his players in public. It has divided opinion among pundits, with Southampton legend Matt Le Tissier claiming the United manager is ‘destroying’ Shaw.

Mourinho is an expert at using smokescreens to distract from his side’s unconvincing performances. And this latest controversy has moved the narrative on from United’s shock Champions League exit at the hands of Sevilla.

(Photo by Lindsey Parnaby/Getty Images)

Tough love is one thing, but the sustained, public attack on Shaw is unacceptable. If Mourinho genuinely believes he is not good enough to represent United, then fair enough. But to continually vilify the youngster’s performances is a step too far and one that could irreparably damage Shaw’s confidence.

This is not to say that Shaw is a completely innocent bystander. Mourinho’s predecessor, Louis van Gaal, also questioned his desire and general conditioning when he joined United four years ago. Indeed, the Dutchman signed Shaw up to a tailored exercise regime in an effort to improve his fitness.

But while van Gaal’s treatment had the desired effect, Mourinho’s has done the opposite. Being publicly humiliated on a routine basis does neither party any favours.

In all likelihood, Shaw’s disappointing United career will come to an end this summer. A fresh start away from the toxicity under Mourinho is exactly what he needs.

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English Premier League

Keanan Bennetts has perfect opportunity to impress Mauricio Pochettino this week

The left-sided star has a chance to impress in first-team training during the international break.



Photo: Getty Images

With the international week in full flow, plenty of teams in the Premier League have seen their squads diminished by call-ups to national teams.

Tottenham Hotspur are one such side. Nonetheless, with most of the first-team squad away with their respective nations, work continues at Hotspur Way.

In order for Spurs to have a full complement in training, plenty of young talent needs to be pulled in to the ranks.

Mauricio Pochettino will, therefore,e get a chance to see some of his young players training with regular first-team players such as Fernando Llorente, Erik Lamela and Lucas Moura.

(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

One player who will be training with the first-team this week is talented wide-man Keanan Bennetts, according to London Live.

The 19-year-old left-winger has been catching the eye for the club’s youth team in recent weeks, making the news after scoring a fantastic goal for the under-19s against Monaco in the UEFA Youth League last month.

Bennetts has also been attracting interest for his positional dexterity. The wide-man has played at left-back in recent times and it could be that is his future best position.

This week he will be up against some excellent players such as Lamela and Moura, who did not receive selection to the Argentina and Brazil national teams, respectively.

If he can prove himself with this calibre of player, Pochettino will have to take notice.

(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

It is coming to a point in his Tottenham career when Bennetts has to make such an impact. The teenager is out of contract at Spurs in the summer and needs to ensure he is kept on for at least one more season.

Tottenham fans who follow the youth teams are certain he is deserving of such a chance. If he can show Pochettino what he is capable of this week, then a new deal will surely be in the pipeline for the talented wide-man.

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