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Man Utd: Director’s Cut – Ep 8: Stuff that legends are made of

In the last episode we got to follow another Roy Keane squad overhaul that saw players both leaving and joining Man Utd. We are in the middle of a rebuilding process where players considered unfit or simply “too soft” for the Man Utd mentality are replaced with tougher players, more along the lines of Roy Keane’s idea of Man Utd DNA and better suited for the “Triple Triangle philosophy” football, mentally, physically and technically.

The already fairly well-balanced squad with additions of Rúben Dias, Marko Kovacic, Blaise Matuidi, Lorenzo Pellegrini and Houssem Aouar had the Man Utd fans hoping for glory in a way they hadn’t for quite a few years. In this episode we’ll look at the first half of the 2020/21 season.

The Premier League

What a start to the season. The fans that left Old Trafford at 3-0 down to Chelsea missed the comeback of the century. After a couple of tactical tweaks from manager Roy Keane Man Utd had turned the three goal deficit into an unlikely 4-3 victory. This team was starting to rescemble the Manchester United of the golden days. A Manchester United team that always came back and scored in the final minutes of extra time. A team that was almost unbeatable at Old Trafford. Could this be the season when Manchester became red again? Could this be a title winning season?

The Manchester United team rode on the wave of confidence that the comeback against Chelsea brought with it. Seven straight wins had the fans hoping for greatness, hopes that certainly hadn’t diminished after the 5-2 win at home against fierce rivals Man City in game week six. Just when the fans started dreaming of an invincible season the Man Utd bus (I’ve had to take break from the naval analogies, for both yours and my own mental health) hit its first road bump. A surprising loss away to Watford was followed by an emphatic win at home to Liverpool which got the fans hoping again. Another loss in the next away game, this time against 17th placed Burnley got the fans a bit worried. Is this a thing? Are we going to struggle away from home, even when playing inferior teams? Unfortunately as the season continued this proved to be a thing. Indeed. The next five away games against middle-of-the-pack or bottom half teams only brought in 8 points and with a loss of form at home as well the team slipped from top of the league to third place as 2020 became 2021. Third place after half the season wasn’t bad, but with the amazing start still fresh in mind this was a bit of a disappointment for everyone.

The European campaign

There he stood. The boy they called “the future of Norwegian football”. Ready to take the 11th minute spot kick. A penalty kick was the perfect way to round up the strangest 10 minutes Roy Keane had experienced as Manchester United manager. A 4th minute straight red card for Gagliardini was followed by yellow cards for Matuidi in the 7th and 9th minute. Apparently having to play with nine men against eleven wasn’t enough of a disadvantage. A little more than a minute after the second sending off, young winger Adam Hlozek caused a penalty and there we were. Roy Keane knew what was going to happen. A Norwegian boy without mental strength, with ice cream where there was supposed to be steel. There could only be one outcome. He smiled to himself as Dean Henderson dived in the right direction to palm the weak shot away. When the young blonde boy buried his face in his hands Roy Keane had to resist the urge to run in and break his leg, just like he had broken his father’s leg 20 years ago. He felt pity for the boy, but he also felt hatred. 80 minutes later when the referee blew the final whistle there was no pity left. A red 8 man army had struggled for the the last twenty minutes of the game after a third red card, this time to Victor Lindelöf. To no avail. In that time the Norwegian boy had scored twice, bringing victory to RB Salzburg. Now Roy Keane really hated Erling Haaland.

The early form in the league really spilled over into the Champions League group games. An amazing 5-1 win at home to Barcelona was followed by a solid 4-1 win against AEK in Greece. Then it came. The ominous game against Red Bull Salzburg, where boy wonder Erling Haaland awoke feelings inside of manager Roy Keane he had thought were forever gone. Flashbacks of Haaland Sr appeared in the mind of Roy Keane as he saw the disgusting blonde manchild celebrate the win in front of an extatic home crowd. Luckily this game didn’t make Roy Keane go completely insane (…) as both he and the team managed to bounce back with 7 points from the final three games, securing a 1st place finish in the group stage.

The squad

Lots of strong performances through the first half of the season. New additions Kovacic and Pellegrini had looked outstanding and Marcus Rashford had scored in more than half of his starts. A few of the wingers had struggled a bit, but overall the players had performed well. With the arrival of new players fitting the “Man Utd DNA” profile some of the players who played important parts last season had found themselves in much more peripheral roles this season though. Most players had accepted this new shift in playing time and squad importance. In fact all players but one. Harry Maguire had struggled accepting a back-up role to Ajer and Rúben Dias. With only five starts and 459 minutes of playing time halfway through the season Maguire went to manager Roy Keane demanding more playing time. Unsurprisingly things didn’t go exactly Maguire’s way. He did not only come out of the meeting with a solid promise to NOT get any more playing time. He also got his name written down in Roy Keane’s little notebook. The little notebook marked with the single word “Enemies” on the front. In the media the verdict was that most likely Harry Maguire would soon be playing his football in another club than Manchester United.

Roy Keane was fully aware of the fact that Harry Maguire was an English international. He was also very much aware of the fact that Maguire was brought in for a record high £80M before last season. He knew, but he didn’t care. If Harry Maguire doesn’t accept to play second fiddle he’ll be out of here in no time. He could have cost a billion pounds and Roy Keane still wouldn’t have cared. No player is bigger than Manchester United. Then the strangest thing happened. Harry Maguire adapted. Over this time period and after these interactions Maguire’s personality changed from Fairly Determined to Professional! Roy Keane couldn’t believe his eyes. Harry Maguire had always been a nice bloke, but now he was the first one out on the training pitch ahead of every training session and the one who stayed the longest afterwards. Roy Keane, a man not easily impressed, really enjoyed the change in Harry Maguire. Keane pulled out his notebook and for the first time ever he did it to erase a name. Harry Maguire was no longer on the naughty list. Roy Keane was pleased with Harry Maguire, but he was even more pleased with the way he himself had handled the situation. He took the improved personality of Harry Maguire as the ultimate evidence. The Roy Keane way of doing things obviously worked wonders. If he could turn Maguire around, imagine what he could do to the rest of them. He only needed to be tougher on them!

That’s it for this episode. Next time we’ll look at the second half of the 2020/21 season. Will Man Utd be able to fight for the Premier League title? Will Roy Keane force more players into professionality? Will more names be added to the death list? Will Roy Keane break Erling Haaland’s shin? Join me next time to find out. Until then,

take that you cunt!

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