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Man Utd: Director’s Cut – Ep 5: Not here to make friends

In the last episode Roy Keane only managed to bring in three new players to start rebuilding his Man Utd squad and got a message that will probably lead to financial despair. In other words, he’s doomed. Or is he? After all, he is a god among men, at least in his own eyes.

Roy Keane didn’t expect much going into the first pre-season friendly. He had tried to implement his new “Triple triangle philosophy”, but the players had looked more than a bit lost during the practise sessions. A new tactic, a new squad, new owners and a new manager. Perhaps this was exactly what to expect. Perhaps the players were simply stupid and lazy. Either way, he needed to whip the players into shape immediately. With the new board demanding Champions League qualification (ie a top 4 finish) straight away there was neither time nor patience for a tentative start to the season.

Slowly but steadily the squad seemed to adapt to the high standards in training and matches set by Roy Keane and his staff. A decent 1-1 result against Russian side Krasnodar was followed by five consecutive wins. New signings Ajer and Mandzukic became regulars straight away with Gagliardini making solid performances off the bench. The younger players looked more comfortable with each minute on the pitch and the individual players sted to become something that looked more and more like a team for every pre-season game.

Going into the 2019/20 Premier League season media pundits predicted a 6th place finish, slightly below the board’s expectations. Roy Keane on the other hand wasn’t aiming for neither 4th nor 6th place. He was craving titles and glory. How else would he build a dynasty if not with titles? How else was he going to become a legend?

This is where things were starting to become difficult. In our lives, both you and me want and crave things that are currently unattainable because of practical limitations. Maybe you want to buy a Tesla, but with your current salary you can’t even afford a bike. Maybe you want to take that blonde girl with the nice smile out to dinner, but she’s your brother’s wife. And so on. You get the picture. So, what do you do when you’re faced with this sort of problem? Either you give up (which in all honesty would be both quite boring and a bit surprising in this case considering this being a long term blog save and all) or you make a long term plan to reach your goal. You get an extra job or even two to save up for that precious electrical car you want. You start plotting to have your brother die in an “accident” to get to that desirable sister-in-law. Roy Keane was in a similar situation. In Roy Keane’s case the problem was neither money nor women though, obviously not. He wants to win the Premier League but he hates most of his players. Simply because he thinks that they are shite. They lack grit, the fire to win, the willingness to sacrifice everything for the club. They lack the Man Utd DNA. Therefore he is planning ahead. And rebuilding. Players need to leave and new players need to come in, either through transfers or careful development through the Academy. This is the long term plan. But for now, he just needed to survive. A 4th place finish is needed for this rebuild to not be nipped in the bud.

Starting eleven against West Ham

When looking at the starting eleven for the first game of the season Roy Keane saw only three players he really wanted to keep. Scott McTominay and David De Gea were basically the only two players in the squad Roy Keane inherited that lived up to his expectations of true Man Utd players. New signings Mandzukic and Ajer, signed along the lines of the new transfer strategy, increased the total numbers of players that fit the bill to four. Maguire and Pogba were ok for now and Rashford was at least young enough still to be developed to fit into the mould. Martial, James and Wan-Bissaka were simply useful place-holders. That left Shaw. Roy Keane disliked Luke Shaw. He saw him as lazy, fat and useless. The only reason that Roy Keane started Shaw was the simple fact that he disliked Diogo Dalot even more. This was certainly going to be a season of trials and tribulations.

First half of the season

The domestic cups were no success. Far from it. The board actually called Roy Keane in for an emergency meeting after being knocked out in the Carabao Cup 3rd round and the FA Cup quarter final. After making it clear that the domestic cups were on the bottom of his list of priorities, the board decided to let him keep his job if he reached the final of the Europa League and finished top 4 in the Premier League.

The performance in both Premier League and in Europe have been well up to standard. The team has struggled a bit away to the top sides, but besides that it’s been an amazing run so far. The undisputed highlight of the season so far is of course the emphatic 3-0 win at home against fierce rivals Manchester City.

Except for a slight hick-up away to Celtic the group stage of the Europa League has been smooth sailing and Man Utd are through to the knockout stage.

Considering that Roy Keane was captaining a ship with broken masts and a mismatched crew (oh how I leave these naval analogies) it seemed close to a miracle that he reached port at the end of the year. It had actually been smooth sailing for most parts of the first half of the season and Man Utd had from time to time looked like a team to be proud of once again. That was ON the pitch. Off the pitch there were thunderstorms and krakens and pirates galore.

Firstly, we have the financial situation. With massive monthly repayments the club immediately went into debt and this is a situation that has grown increasingly worse as the months has passed. In half a season the debt has grown into a staggering £76M.

This hasn’t really become a major issue yet. The board seem fine with watching the red numbers increase on a daily basis, but eventually this will have implications of some sort. Perhaps the money coming in towards the end of this season will cover the current debt and that’s the reason the board seem undisturbed about this. If that’s not the case perhaps Roy Keane will need to start selling players to stay out of the red. We’ll simply have to wait and see. What it does mean though is that there is no money to reinforce the squad at this moment. The current players at the club are the players that need to step up and reach at least a 4th place finish.

“Not here to make friends”

With the arrival of Roy Keane as manager and the implementation of the “Triple Triangle philosophy” fans, opponents and the media have needed to adjust to a new kind of Manchester United. Many concerned journalists have asked questions about the physical nature of the Man Utd style and some have even called it “unnecessarily aggressive”. Roy Keane is having none of it. If you can make the opposition scared of you, they are likely to perform worse. It’s as simple as that. It’s all about winning. It’s not about being nice.

And it’s certainly not about making friends.

A number of managers have tried to reach out a hand of friendship and others have tried to intimidate. Roy Keane is having none of it. He doesn’t want friends and he never forgets an enemy.

Currently two managers have done enough already to be classified as enemies of Roy Keane; Jürgen Klopp and Neil Lennon. Simply by talking back and acting like they are better or just as good as him. Fools. The list of enemies doesn’t end there though. One player has also done enough to qualify and that’s Diogo Dalot. He had the audacity to come asking for a new and improved contract years before the current one ran out. That’s bad, but it’s not enough to become an enemy of Roy Keane. To refuse to fire your agent when Roy Keane tells you to, tell your manager that he has “handled this poorly” and then walk away is more than enough on the other hand. Just wait for the transfer window to open Diogo. No-one is bigger than Roy Keane the club.

Player performances so far

Halfway through the season most players have performed above par. Even Luke Shaw and Diogo Dalot have managed 7+ avg ratings. The goals and assists have been spread out to a pretty even distribution with nine players with three or more goals and nine players with three or more assists. David De Gea has played the most, every single minute of the first 27 games (thank god, since Roy Keane didn’t bother bringing in a back-up) and Axel Tuanzebe has played the least with 546 minutes spread over seven games. No-one is unhappy with his playing time and no-one has been a disaster. So, pretty much so far so good.

One player has stood out so far though, but in a positive sense.

From his position to the right in midfield Tahith Chong has three goals and four assists to his name. Impressive. What’s even more impressive is his team high average rating of 7.37, especially when you take into consideration that this is his first season in the first team squad. He has also developed nicely during training, making a smooth transition from youth to senior football. It didn’t take many games for him to become Roy Keane’s no1 choice out on the right flank at the expense of Daniel James and hopes are high that he’ll keep delivering during the second half of the season. To remain in the managers long term plans he’ll certainly need to improve his mental attributes though.

As you are well aware by now the board demanded a 4th place finish in the league at least, which doesn’t appear unattainable at all considering the current first place halfway through. There are some strong teams right behind Man Utd, which means that this will most likely be a close race all the way to the finish line. Considering that the board also demand a Europa League final it will probably be tough to compete with the deeper squads when fixture congestion hits. Of course Roy Keane will do everything in his power to bring the club silverware straight away and he has a cunning plan. He will focus 100%. On both competitions. Players will probably break along the way. Hopefully the team won’t. Pain is temporary, glory is forever. Until next time,

“take that you cunt”

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