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Is the man dubbed the ‘Next Nemanja Vidic’ worth taking a punt on?



Fans of the long running Football Manager series will be more than familiar with the term regen. For those who actually have a social life, and are therefore unaware of the features of the game; a regen is a regenerated (some say fake) footballer, who is added to the database of the game, (essentially to fill the database whilst compensating for the retirement of real life players) as time passes.

While many of these new players are randomly generated, and often nothing to shout about, some regens take on the characteristics and abilities of their retired counterparts. For instance, when Steven Gerrard eventually hung up the boots and become Liverpool’s Assistant Manager on my game save, a young player named Brett Holness appeared in the Liverpool Youth Squad during the following pre-season. The attack minded midfielder encompassed many of Gerrard’s best attributes and characteristics, and was tipped for great things from a young age. Unlike his real life counterpart, Holness moved to Real Madrid for £37million and became one of the best players in the world.  A story for another day maybe, but nonetheless explains the principle.

The reason for the narrative is that it can be likened to the wishes of Manchester United fans – something that has come as a result of the faltering Defence for well over a year now. Since the loss of Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand, the Reds have not settled on a long term Centre Back pairing. Fans have been teased by the prospect of signing names such as Mats Hummels, Diego Godin, Mehdi Benatia and Ezequiel Garay in recent times. None however have come to fruition.

With the players they have; Tyler Blackett, Jonny Evans, Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo, Paddy McNair, Michael Carrick, Daley Blind and even Luke Shaw have been trialled at Centre Half – all with varying degrees of success. If only finding a suitable replacement was as simple as stumbling upon a Nemanja Vidic regen in the youth setup.

With this turmoil building at Old Trafford, a certain 23 year old, 6ft 4in, Serbian Centre Back watches on. Torino’s Nikola Maksimovic may sound like a good Nemanja Vidic tribute act on paper, but his playing style as well as his Red Star Belgrade roots seems to back up some of the plaudits he has been getting in his native Serbia.

After being signed by Serbian side Sloboda Uzice in 2006 aged 15, Maksimovic patiently worked his way through the youth ranks, and went on to make his first senior appearance for the side in a Serbian SuperLiga game aged 18. Maksimovic adapted well to such a physical league, and stood out from an early age due to his slender build but towering height. In January 2012 he was signed by Serbian giants Red Star Belgrade for around £225,000, and went on to make 35 appearances in all competitions in an 18 month stay with the club.

It became apparent that Maksimovic had somewhat outgrown the Serbian League, and in July 2013 joined Serie A European hopefuls Torino on an initial loan with the option thereafter of an outright purchase. It wasn’t until October before Maksimovic made his Torino debut, but soon became a regular in an incredibly efficient side that included Italy stars Alessio Cerci, Ciro Immobile, Matteo Darmian. Despite a finish above sides like AC Milan, Lazio, Sampdoria and Udinese, an eventual 7th place finish was the somewhat disappointing culmination of a season that at one point promised so much. A welcome silver lining at the end of the campaign came in the form of a European ban for Parma (who finished 6th), meaning that the last Serie A Europa League spot was instead handed to Torino.

Move on to this season, and with the added workload that the Europa League brings, as well as losing two key attacking players in Immobile and Cerci, Torino’s sharpness in Serie A suffered. Head coach Giampiero Ventura however, saw more than enough talent in Maksimovic during his loan spell, and decided to sign him permanently for a fee of around £2million, on a contract until 2018. Maksimovic, likely buoyed by the confidence and spurred on by the responsibility, has flourished.

In 18 Serie A games, the Serbian averages almost three interceptions and four clearances per game. Couple that with a pass success of 87% from an average of 58 passes per game, and it is hard to believe that Maksimovic has not attracted as many big name sides as is the case.

Whilst capable of last ditch defending, Maksimovic really feels at home when carrying the ball out from the defensive third. He has agility defying his physical makeup, and shows elegance breaking out from the back, which is rare to see.

Versatility is a valuable commodity in the modern game, and Maksimovic similarly suits up for it perfectly. The Serbian has played in every position across the back four in his short career, and has also looked equally assured at Defensive Midfield despite only filling in momentarily.

With Financial Fair Play always lurking in the shadows, I believe he would be an astute addition to many sides across Europe, namely Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool, whether it be in the final days of this winter window, or indeed in the summer.

Some argue there must be good reason as to why Maksimovic has not yet been courted by a Champions League side, but I could just as easily point in the direction player like Nemanja Vidic, Thiago Silva, Miranda, Dante and Jeremy Mathieu. All are players who broke through the ‘mediocre barrier’ relatively late in their careers – or certainly much older than Maksimovic is right now. The £7million transfer fee that Maksimovic would likely command (ironically the same as Nemanja Vidic cost Manchester United in 2006) doesn’t represent a financial gamble for a top side at all. I say to clubs: sign him now while you can.

19 Year Old Manchester United fan from Northern Ireland with a keen interest in European Football. Lover of (almost) all sports. Aspiring football writer and trainee football coach. Keen follower of Borussia Dortmund since 2008. Can be found on twitter @CameronStrutt95.

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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Manchester United

Is a Luke Shaw for Danny Rose swap deal a no-brainer transfer?

Shaw and Rose have both struggled at Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur, respectively, this season.



Photo: Getty Images

It looks as though Manchester United left-back Luke Shaw will be leaving Old Trafford this summer. The BBC report the England international will seek an exit after his latest stinging criticism from Jose Mourinho.

Shaw has struggled to win over the Portuguese since Mourinho became United manager. Now it seems the end of the tether has been located and Shaw will make an exit. The 22-year-old, who cost a fee reported by the BBC to be in the region of £27 million in 2014, will not be short of suitors.

Despite his struggles at Manchester United since suffering a horror leg break, Shaw is considered one of the best young left-backs in the game.

The obvious solution should be clear and for Shaw certainly desired. A move to Tottenham Hotspur must be his wish.

Shaw came through the ranks at Southampton and became an England international under the coaching of Mauricio Pochettino. The pair had a special bond and Shaw has confirmed a desire to work with the Argentine again. He wrote in Guillem Balague’s book Brave New World: Inside Pochettino’s Spurs, as reported by Sky Sports:

“I do hope that I can play for him again one day. And I think he really wants me to play under him again.

“He used to call me his son, that’s how good our relationship was. I’ve had lots of ups and downs, but when I was with Pochettino it was only ever up, up, up.”

It is a similar relationship to the one many have suggested Pochettino had with his current Tottenham left-back Danny Rose. That relationship, however, has been in decline. After appearing to suggest he wanted a Spurs exit last summer, and after a battle with injury, Rose has become second-fiddle at Spurs to Welshman Ben Davies.  

Rose, originally from Leeds, is known to eventually want a return north and Shaw will no doubt love a move south. There is an obvious solution on the cards here.

Manchester United would love to bring in Rose and finally fill their problem position of left-back. Shaw needs to leave Old Trafford for a fresh start to his career. Working under the man he once considered a father figure could be just what he needs.

Shaw to Tottenham and Rose to Manchester United seems a no-brainer. Time will tell if either move comes off for these two players searching for fresh impetus in their careers.

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Manchester United

Jose Mourinho should build Manchester United around Marcus Rashford

Marcus Rashford returned with a bang against local rivals Liverpool on Saturday.

Rob Meech



Photo: Getty Images

In his first Premier League start since Boxing Day, Marcus Rashford inspired Manchester United to victory over fierce rivals Liverpool. The 20-year-old’s first-half brace was the perfect way to mark his return to the starting XI, which had been confirmed following an injury to Paul Pogba.

Rashford has been a peripheral figure since Alexis Sanchez joined the club in the January transfer window. But, in arguably the biggest fixture on the Premier League calendar, the England international grabbed with both hands a rare opportunity to impress as United moved five points clear of Liverpool.

There was no evidence that Rashford’s prolonged spell out of favour had affected his self-confidence. His first goal was bursting with skill and composure. After latching on to a long ball from Lukaku, Rashford bamboozled Trent Alexander-Arnold before firing past Loris Karius.

Although his second found the net with the aid of a deflection, once again it was a testament to his sharpness. Despite his limited game time, that’s now 12 goals in all competitions this season for the World Cup hopeful.

(Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Rashford’s stunning contribution will certainly give Jose Mourinho food for thought. The Portuguese has regularly picked Pogba, Sanchez, Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard ahead of Rashford of late, in the attacking trio behind Romelu Lukaku.

While Martial and Lingard have justified their selections, the same cannot be said of Pogba, who at times has looked uninterested. Sanchez too has yet to exhibit his best form in a United shirt since joining from Arsenal.

History has taught us that Mourinho rarely excludes his high-profile players, regardless of form. Had Pogba not been sidelined through injury, it is entirely likely Rashford would once again have been forced to watch on from the bench. Consequently, what transpired against Liverpool might have been a mere fantasy.

United have a proud tradition of producing homegrown players and not relying on foreign imports. Look at the treble-winning side of 1999, whose success was founded upon a British core.

Admittedly, the landscape has changed dramatically in the past two decades. The riches of the Premier League mean a club of United’s stature is able to cherry-pick the world’s best players. But just because they can, doesn’t mean they should. The club’s identity is sacred and, in recent times, United have been in danger of losing theirs.

(Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

The fact that Rashford was not signed for £75 million should not preclude him from being United’s centrepiece. As he reminded everyone in his performance against Liverpool, he has all the talent required to be a fixture at the club for years to come.

However, he needs to be playing regular football. A few minutes here and there will not accelerate his development. On the contrary, it could risk one of this country’s most promising starlets becoming an unfulfilled talent.

Rashford offers United something different from his team-mates. He gets supporters off their seats and electrifies the atmosphere thanks to his blistering pace and trickery, which in many ways is a throwback to the Sir Alex Ferguson era at Old Trafford.

These are qualities not usually associated with Mourinho, who throughout his time in management has always demanded his players to be tactically aware. Rashford is a wildcard, the ace in the pack that can conjure something out of nothing.

Forget Pogba and Sanchez, If Mourinho gives Rashford an extended run in the team, he and United will flourish.

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