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Man Utd: Director’s Cut – Ep 10: He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named

Another pre-season, another squad overhaul for Roy Keane. The build-up into a new season offers the best time to review squad strengths and weaknesses and carry on with the constant rebuilding project that is Roy Keane‘s Man Utd. Last pre-season was all about bringing players in. Both to add quality and to add experience. This time around it’s a bit different. This pre-season was mostly about getting rid of unwanted players to make room for Academy graduates. At least that was the plan.

The giant yearly squad overhaul

Here we simply go through the team, position for position, assessing strengths and weaknesses. Looking for players to off-load and holes to fill.

Goalkeepers

Situation:
With a 1st choice keeper in his prime and a decent back-up who seems absolutely fine with playing second fiddle, there isn’t much work to be done here. Roy Keane isn’t a man who overly complicates things. David De Gea is still one of the best keepers in the world at age 30 with both CA and PA of 4 and Dean Henderson is a solid back-up with a bit more development left in him. There is one issue though, the lack of talents. Dean Henderson will never become 1st choice keeper, not if the team wants to compete for titles at least. Sadly the Academy doesn’t hold any goalkeeping prodigies either. Roy Keane will have to hope for one soon or he’ll need to sign a brand new no1 keeper in two or three years time.
Solution:
Nothing to see here. Roy Keane is more than happy with the current situation. Let’s not fix what isn’t broken.

Left wing-backs

Situation:
Last season’s brightest shining star Lorenzo Pellegrini is obviously the undisputed no1 choice for the left wing-back position. Behind him there’s Luke Shaw, unhappy England international. Pellegrini is better than Luke Shaw in every aspect, which becomes painfully clear when comparing both Man Utd DNA Rating and positional aptitude. Roy Keane loves Pellegrini. Roy Keane dislikes Shaw. Do the math. Behind them there is Brandon Williams, decent but highly unexciting 20-year-old. Behind him things become much more interesting though, with three players aged 16 or 17 that all look like great prospect. Perhaps Brandon Williams can be used as a place holder until one of these players graduate from the Academy!?
Solution:
Well, as you are well aware by now, Roy Keane isn’t really a “keep a player as a place holder” kind of manager. No, Brandon Williams had to go. Roy Keane did try to sell him. And Luke Shaw. He really really did. The problem was that no-one, except for Luke Shaw and Brandon Williams themselves, seemed to think they were any good.

Finally Bournemouth came to the rescue and bought Shaw for a little more than £20M. Brandon Williams on the other hand didn’t stir up any real interest even though Roy Keane offered him out for free. Oxford agreed to loan him in as long as Man Utd paid his entire wage, which Roy Keane happily accepted just to get rid of him.

No replacements were found that were good enough, which left the squad with only one left wing-back. Quality wise this is not an issue since Lorenzo Pellegrini is one of the best players in the team. If he stays healthy and fit everything will be fine and dandy. If he gets injured though…then one of the Academy players better grow up quickly…

Centre-backs

Situation:
There was no shortage of centre-backs. Obviously not. That wasn’t the problem. The problem was that they were not good enough in Roy Keane‘s opinion. Neither quality wise nor regarding personalities. Rúben Dias is the shining star of the bunch with a Perfectionist personality, DNA Rating of 18/20 and a great positional aptitude of 79%. Norwegian Kristoffer Ajer is a decent complement, slightly worse in every aspect but still ticks all the boxes. When looking for back-ups behind these two, Roy Keane was not happy though. After a short spell looking like a great professional Harry Maguire had reverted back to his lack-lustre Fairly Determined self. Without a desired personality his good positional aptitude of 77% just wasn’t enough. Roy Keane could accept the Fairly Determined personality of 17 year old Max Normann Williamsen, but he demanded more from a seasoned veteran. Roy Keane needed to get rid of all bad seeds before they started to rub off on the young ones.
Solution:

No one was interested in signing a lack-lustre former England international though. However, mediocre happy-go-lucky Swedish international Victor Lindelöf garnered enough interest to create a bit of a bidding war. Tottenham won (?) the war and signed Lindelöf in a £52M deal. Crazy money to get for a player that would’ve been 4th choice at best.

Will Fish and Teden Mengi also left the club, but for pennies. They were never going to become good enough for the first team and they weren’t that fun to hang around either. “Congratulations” to Watford and Norwich…

Without any new signings Maguire will act as a back-up together with Normann Williamsen who is promoted from the Academy.

Right wing-backs

Situation:
Quite the sorry sight. Right wing-back was perhaps the position in most need of an upgrade. No1 choice AWB really didn’t make anyone happy. A poster boy for mediocrity was certainly not the player to propel the “New Man Utd” into the future. He had a Resolute personality which was fine and all, but he wasn’t more than half decent on the pitch and he was unlikely to improve. Behind him things looked grim as well, with half decent Ethan Laird being the best (least bad) talent.
Solution:

Wait, what is this? An attacking midfielder you say? Roy Keane saw an attacking wing-back in 19 year old Brazilian wonderkid Reinier. If turning Lorenzo Pellegrini from central mid into left wing-back had worked out, why couldn’t you turn a Brazilian attacker into a right wing-back!? With a positional aptitude of 77% as a wing-back he is actually better suited for the role than current no1 Wan-Bissaka. He looks very exciting, but will naturally need to improve his defensive skills a bit. If he manages to do this, he may very well become one of the world’s best wing-backs in a few season’s time!

Of course no one was interested in signing AWB. The big problem with every game being televised and broadcasted on the internet was that it was terribly hard to fool other managers into believing that the pile of shit you wanted to offload was actually decent. Every manager had seen the Man Utd right back running around like a headless chicken last season. Why would anyone pay for that? Well, he’d simply have to do as a back-up, with fingers crossed that Reinier would stay fit enough to play most of the games.

Box to Box Midfielders

Situation:
Moving one step further up the field things are starting to brighten up for Roy Keane. Blaise Matuidi is as close to a dream player as they come and versatile Italian midfield machine Roberto Gagliardini is a more than decent backup. Happy times! The only issue is perhaps the lack of talents. Matuidi isn’t getting any younger. And the fact that Scott McTominay is getting worse by the minute isn’t exactly making Roy Keane smile either. The hopes that McTominay would develop into a natural leader and future captain for many years to come had been completely put to shame. Now the hopes were simply to get rid of him as soon as his contract ran out, since finding a team willing to pay for him seemed utopian.
Solution:
Nothing. Absolutely nothing happened here. Let’s tackle the problems once they arrive. For the coming season Matuidi and Gagliardini will be more than good enough.

Deep Lying Playmaker

Situation:
If the BTB is the lungs of the team, the DLP is the heart. Rhythmically beating to dictate the tempo of the attacks. And a creature with a healthy heart is a strong and healthy creature, right! And a creature with two, three or perhaps seven healthy hearts must be an outright monster! Right? Right!
With Mateo Kovacic now joined by young Model Citizen Florentino Luís (signed a year ago but loaned back to Benfica for the remainder of last season) Man Utd displayed a bit of international class in the DLP position!

Behind this dynamic duo, competition was absolutely fierce. Highly touted talents like Neto, Kana, Levitt, Thomas and Bellingham competed for perhaps half a spot in the first team squad with a couple of cup starts at the horizon. Some of you may consider this a bit of a problem, but Roy Keane certainly didn’t. He didn’t care one bit about the feelings of the players. He only cared about quality. And winning. Of course. If a player couldn’t stand competition like this it was a simple evidence that he wasn’t of Man Utd quality. And if he couldn’t take the heat now, just wait another season for a new batch of wonderkids to graduate from the Academy…
Solution:
Without a problem you don’t need a solution. Cunt.

Left inverted winger

Situation:
Houssem Aouar had impressed last season. Enough to actually steal the spot in the starting eleven away from Anthony Martial. With Hannibal Mejbri getting better each training session, things were starting to look a bit tough for Anthony Martial. At 25 he couldn’t really afford to get stuck on the Man Utd bench and Roy Keane had no intention of making him a regular starter again.
Solution:

A bit of a controversial decision, not that Roy Keane was a man to shy away from controversy. Anthony Martial had gained a certain stature among the fans and not all of them were convinced that selling him was a wise move. £70M in the bank softened the blow a bit though, especially with Mejbri looking like a younger better Martial 2.0.

Noam Emeran also left, pretty much through the back door. No newspaper articles and no angry threads on fan forums. The most ostentatious fact about the deal was actually that Man Utd managed to get some money for him. Real money! For a player with a Man Utd DNA Rating of 0…

Right winger

Situation:
Tahith Chong had struggled a bit during the second season after quite an impressive first one. He still looked like a solid player though, hopefully with a bit of development left in him, but this certainly wasn’t the team’s strongest position. The alternatives didn’t impress either. Daniel James wasn’t exactly a Roy Keane favourite and Anthony Elanga didn’t look like a player that would turn into anything. An upgrade was much needed.
Solution:
Oh shit. It didn’t matter that Roy Keane sent scouts to all corners of the world. There simply wasn’t a right winger on the market better than Tahith Chong. Nothing to do but hope that he could once again find the form from the first season…because Roy Keane really dreaded the thought of having to play Daniel James.

Deep lying forward

Situation:
A bit like with the BTB position with an exceptionally strong but aging no1 choice in Mandzukic. At 35 he would probably have one more season of top flight football left in him. At the most. The problem was that the alternative Angel Gomes had failed to impress Roy Keane. Miserably. He crumbled under pressure and cried when Roy Keane screamed at him. He had to go, but an old and tired Croatian man couldn’t carry the team alone. Or could he?
Solution:

Bye bye Angel. Go crumble under pressure in Sheffield instead. Or wait. Probably no pressure there, so perhaps you’ll do just fine!? Roy Keane couldn’t care less.

The replacement came in as a bit of a surprise. In one aspect Thiago Almada was completely like Mario Mandzukic. He took his football dead serious, never missed a practice or a chance to improve, which was reflected in his Perfectionist personality. In other aspects he was the complete opposite. He looked like a child standing next to Mario, both because of his young age (with a bit of imagination he could’ve actually been Mandzukic‘s son) and his short stature. Hopefully he’ll impress enough during the season to silence the fans questioning the signing of a midget!?

Advanced forward

Situation:
So, the final position and we go out with a bang! Former young starlet Marcus Rashford was slowly but steadily seeing himself getting passed by the new prince Mason Greenwood. They both had enough talent to go around and would fight it out gladiator style for the starting position this season. Roy Keane cherished the thought of the two young men bare chested, riding lions and fighting to the death.
Solution:

This might seem like a highly unexciting subject of matter. Unknown and mediocre 18 year-old dutch Hoogewerf sold to West Ham probably shouldn’t even cause anyone to raise an eyebrow, right? Wrong! This transfer was actually the one that caused the most negativity this preseason, even more than the Martial one. Roy Keane seriously doubted the mental state of some of the fans, since the chance of Dillon Hoogewerf ever playing for the first team was slightly smaller than the survival chance of a snowflake in hell. Idiots. Cunts. Idiots and cunts.

The squad

With that little tantrum we’ve gone through all of the positions, resulting in the squad below.

When looking at the squad list Roy Keane couldn’t hide a smile. “Resilient…Perfectionist…Perfectionist…Model Citizen…Model Citizen”. This was certainly turning into a version of Man Utd that he enjoyed more and more, even though there were still cunts and rotten eggs left in the basket. Roy Keane simply closed his eyes when jumping from Thiago Almada to Marcus Rashford past He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named in the list, and threw up a little in his own mouth when he realised that Wan-Bissaka was still in the squad. This was in no way a finished product, but the team felt like real contenders for the Premier League title this season!

The first half of the 2021/22 season

So what about the actual season then? Well, Roy Keane had certainly been right in his prediction of the team’s strength.

Premier League

With a surprising loss at home to Spurs as the obvious disappointment in a first half of the season that was otherwise filled with solid performances, Roy Keane and his men celebrated new year top of the league, with a 6 point margin to 2nd placed Arsenal.

Of course seeing the team top of the league put a smile on Roy Keane‘s face, but it grew even bigger when looking at 6th and 10th place. Liverpool and Spurs had looked pretty awful so far, which brought pure childish joy to Roy Keane. He had lost track of the number of texts he had sent to Pochettino and Klopp with a single smile emoji in them, but it never grew tired. Life was good and Man Utd was starting to make a name for themselves again, slowly climbing back to the position where they deserved to be. On top of the footballing world.

Champions League

Man Utd certainly was on top of the footballing world. If you only counted England as the footballing world that is, which is exactly what Roy Keane chose to do. Because in Europe the team looked bad. After only three points in three games things were looking bad for the team, sitting bottom of the group.

But as October turned into November the team started looking like they did in the league. Seven points in the final three games was just enough to secure a place in the knockout stage.

A second place finish in the group meant that a group winner waited in the first round, but Roy Keane didn’t care. If you wanted to win the fucking Champions League you needed to win each game from now on anyway. It didn’t matter in which order they eliminated the teams, did it?

Player performances

Before me and Roy leave you to rest after this behemoth of an episode we’ll take a quick look at how the players have performed so far.

When looking at the average ratings things actually don’t look that impressive considering the team being top of the league and all. Only 9 out of 23 players had managed an average rating above 7.00, but the ones who had, had actually impressed quite a bit. Lorenzo Pellegrini had continued looking like the best player in the world from his left wing-back position with an outstanding 7.55 average rating. New midfielder-turned-wing-back Reinier had looked almost as impressive out on the right. Both Greenwood and Rashford had looked solid up front and Roy Keane couldn’t really tell them apart so far. The best thing so far was that most players had stayed healthy and fit, meaning that the players that Roy Keane wanted to play had played for the most part. Everyone seemed at least satisfied with their playing time, except for Blaise Matuidi who had been overlooked more than once, and young Martim Neto who was the back-up to the back-ups in central midfield. He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named aka Daniel James was happy with his 47 minutes in the first half of the season. Happy? Roy Keane wondered if the lad was just unambitious or if he was a bit stupid as well. At least Roy was happy that he hadn’t needed to use him more than that. That was probably the biggest reason for the team’s success so far…

In the next episode we’ll see if the team can keep their form from 2021 going into 2022 or if they’ll bottle it. Will they win the Premier League? The Champions League? Everything? Or nothing? Will Daniel James play an additional 47 minutes? The only way to find out is to read the next episode. Until then,

Take that you cunt

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