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Man Utd: Director’s Cut – Ep 13: The King and his heir

In the last episode we experienced an excellent start to the 2022/23 season, both domestically and in Europe! Can Man Utd keep this going? Will this be an invincible season? Will they even replicate the quadruple feat of the U18s? Will the young players sink or swim? Will Roy Keane finally lose it? Read on to find out.

The King and his heir

Ok, so this happened. Roy Keane simply couldn’t resist bringing in a fellow Manchester United icon when the opportunity presented itself. At age 37 it was obvious that Cristiano Ronaldo didn’t represent the future, which was also reflected in his 6 month contract. Something he did represent was class. And perfectionism. Two things much needed in the young Man Utd squad. Cristiano Ronaldo had left in 2008 as a young prince and now, after spending 14 years away from the club, he had returned as a king, given the chance to propel the Man Utd team on their new course towards world domination.

At the same time as CR7 another winger joined the club. Montenegrin Dino Susic came in from Belgian side Waasland-Beveren, looking a lot like a young Cristiano Ronaldo.

At the age of 18 he had already played 74 games in the Belgian top division, impressing enough to raise his price tag to a whooping £18.25M. His strengths lie in the attacking part of the game, but he also displays some nice mental skills for a young lad. He will be one to watch going forward!

This was not all the business in the January window as two young Brazilians were brought in as well. Neither of them really necessary signings, but both of them too good to disregard. If you follow my Sántastcico series, one of the names will put a smile on your face!

Sergio is a physically strong defender with good mental abilities and at least decent defensive skills. He has a lot of development left in him and will hopefully improve a lot, trying his wings at this level.

With a Ginga Rating o…ehm…sorry, I got the series mixed up, which happens easily when they get intertwined like this! Let’s start over. Kaio Jorge comes in from Brazilian club Santos FC (of course) oozing with talent. After scoring 76 goals in Brazil, perhaps prematurely released before reaching 100 (ok, ok, I’ll stop now), he had made a name for himself to push hus price tag up to £25M. A price Roy Keane was more than willing to pay. Perhaps he wasn’t the “Next Neymar” (Alright! I’ll stop!), but he offered a combination of Brazilian finesse with brute strength and determination. A combination you don’t come across too often. Did anyone say Hulk?

All of the four signings mentioned above were exciting, each in their own way, but neither of them were expected to offer an immediate impact for the team. Well, except for the King CR7 of course. He had entered the final autumn of his career, squeezing out the last few top class performances his delicately chiseled body had left in it, to try to bring that Champions League trophy back home to his Manchester United!

Champions League

After a group stage where Trabzonspor, Atletico Madrid and Club Brugge all had been beaten twice, Man Utd naturally finished first in the group. After quite an easy group draw the first round knockout draw proved the opposite. Bayern Munich, the German champions for the last 13 years straight (!) was a tough draw, especially with former Man Utd players Chong and Rashford in the team. However, when the teams met last season in the first knockout round Man Utd won, and they went into the tie as clear favourites again.

The difference between being Premier League champions and Bundesliga champions became quite obvious. Bayern Munich didn’t stand a chance.

The quarter final was even easier, with two emphatic wins over 4th place Serie A finishers Inter. Inter manager Unai Emery had just enough time to tell Keane “Good ebening” before Roy Keane told the whole Inter team “Good night” and sent them packing.

Onto the semi final where Portuguese champions FC Porto waited. A tough, but in no way impossible task.

A 22nd minute red card for Kovacic in the first semi final against FC Porto certainly made things tougher for the Man Utd team, but they still proved to be a number too big for the FC Porto team. A 2-0 win in Portugal was followed by a 3-1 win at home to make it 5-1, sending Man Utd through to the Champions League final for the first time since 2011!

And then it was crunch time. The final was here. And with the final the smooth sailing was over, because the opponents were none less than the reigning champions for the last four straight seasons (!) and also the team that had knocked Man Utd out of the Champions League the two previous years. It was the red machine called Liverpool.

The side still shared many similarities with the team that by some were hailed as one of the best ones ever in the 2019/20 season. Jürgen Klopp was still their manager (of course, who in their right mind would sack a manager after four consecutive Champions League titles?), Virgil van Dijk was captain and Mo Salah a potent offensive threat. Leroy Sané, Frenkie de Jong and Paulo Dybala were additions making the team perhaps even stronger! The bench didn’t look that bad either, with Mané, Firmino and Italian starlet Sandro Tonali.

To make matters worse Man Utd had lost to Liverpool just two weeks prior to the final, in the penultimate league game of the season. For the first time in quite a while Man Utd didn’t go into an important game as favourites and boy did they seem to enjoy playing the underdog role!

Attacking duo Sebastiano Esposito and Mason Greenwood put on their best combined performance of the season, scoring three goals in a final game that strangely never even felt exciting! Manchester United were the better team throughout the entire game, winning the Champions League and breaking Liverpool’s European dominance!

On domestic turf things certainly didn’t look worse as we are starting to see the beginning of a dynasty!

Premier League

The dream of an invincible season lived through March but was equally abruptly and surprisingly ended by West Ham on the 1st of April. Man Utd sat top of the league throughout the entire season, allowing themselves one more loss against Liverpool, still winning by a comfortable 8 point margin. This means two consecutive league titles! Impressive! Not quite as impressive was the league finishes of Chelsea, Leicester and Wolves. Three teams that most likely were hoping for more…

The domestic success didn’t end with the league though. No, both the Carabao Cup and Community Shield trophies ended up in the Man Utd trophy room. Not the most prestigious trophies perhaps, but a quadruple is still a quadruple!

This marks only the third time ever that an English team manages to win four titles in the same season, joining the exclusive club consisting of the Man Utd team of 08/09 and Man City from the 18/19 season!

What a season this has been for our Man Utd team! The dream of becoming the top team of England, Europe and the world is slowly but steadily coming true! The rebuilding project has been a constant one for the past four seasons, coming closer and closer to a squad full of players personifying the Man Utd DNA. Let’s look at how these players performed!

Player performances

The new “Sink or swim” mentality proved both a success and a failure. It certainly gave a lot of young players playing time in the first team, but it’s also caused quite a bit of unrest. Nine players aged 20 or younger started more than 10 games for the first team, but it came at the expense of five players’ happiness. All five came to the office of Roy Keane as soon as the season ended, complaining about a lack of playing time. They all got different answers, all according to Roy Keane‘s view of their importance to the team.

Rúben Dias, possibly the best centre-back in the world, felt alienated after playing more minutes than any other player in the team. This basically meant that he would only be satisfied starting each and every game. Well, as you know by now Roy Keane isn’t too happy about players whining, but if you’re the best player in the world at your position even Roy Keane might cut you a bit of slack. Next season Rúben Dias will start just as many games as he sees fit. But if he ever comes complaining again, he’s out. The patience of Roy Keane is not endless, you know.

Sergio (profile in the beginning of the post) and Livio Amigoni, both new and both young, were apparently seeing themselves as more important than what Roy Keane did. When they came complaining over a lack of playing time they were simply told to shut the fuck up, sit down and not speak until spoken to. This worked wonders as both players all of a sudden seemed to realise their place in the pecking order.

Those three were the straight-forward ones. The next two were slightly tougher to handle.

Mateo Kovacic, with over 100 games for the club since his arrival three seasons ago, felt alienated after 30 starting appearances. Perhaps he was feeling the winds of change blowing around him, or he simply wanted to force a move to keen suitors Barcelona, because when Roy Keane told him he was a whiny cunt, he didn’t respond in the intended fashion. He became grumpy and difficult, even daring to talk back at Mr Keane. There’s no doubt that he’s played an important part in the team’s metamorphosis, but central midfield is probably the position that holds the most talent at the moment as well. Perhaps it’s time for him to go, making room for a certain Portuguese talent coming through the Academy (don’t worry, we’ll get back to him in the next Carrington Chronicles post!), time will tell.

The final player coming to the office of Roy Keane may very well be the player that experienced the most negative development regarding importance and playing time through this season.

Left IW Houssem Aouar started 22 games in the 2022/23 season, which might not seem that little to you. Considering that he started 42 games in both previous seasons this is a huge decline though. And what’s the reason for this you might ask? Injuries surely? No, not at all. The reason is simple. The reason is the following.

The reason is Hannibal Mejbri. A player that made 10 starts last season and started this one as a substitute. With every chance he took he looked better and better, more and more confident. He scored goals for fun and assisted as well and halfway through this season he was the new number one out on the left flank. When this season was over his performance was without a doubt the big breakthrough. 14 goals and 7 assists in 26 starts were truly impressive numbers by a 20 year old left winger! He’ll be the no1 left IW going into next season and hopefully for many seasons to come!

Behind him there’s newcomer Dino Susic, yet to make his debut for the club, but still a player the fans are hoping will have a similar development.

With a solid new no1 and an exciting talented understudy there was simply no place left for Aouar. When he got the news from Roy Keane he immediately handed in his transfer request, so he’ll definitely leave the club. The questions are simply when he’ll leave and where he’ll go!?

On a more positive note there were a few standout performances besides Hannibal Mejbri‘s. New striker duo Greenwood and Esposito found each other straight away, creating a partnership resulting in 42 goals and 17 assists between them. Most likely a huge reason for this season’s success, especially considering that they basically carried the team through the Champions League final.

Neither of these players’ performances were deemed the best though. No, Brazilian striker-turned-wing-back Reinier won English Footballer of the Year, Players’ Player of the Year and Players’ Young Player of the Year after 9 goals and 9 assists from the right back position.

He was also crowned the Fans’ Player of the Season…

…AND made the Premier League Team of the Season, together with Jadon Sancho and Mason Greenwood.

Roy Keane won Manager of the Year for the second year in a row, cementing his own opinion of himself as more god than man.

What about Cristiano Ronaldo then? Wasn’t this episode supposed to be about him? Well, he came in looking like a true king, scoring after four minutes on his debut. After that he looked more like an old man than a king. A couple of injuries and ailments prevented him from making a real impact, ending his production at 4 goals and 1 assist in 12 games. He did contribute to a historical quadruple winning season, so I guess it’s mission accomplished, even though it would certainly have suited the narrative better with a hat-trick in the Champions League final!

What now?

So, what do you do after a season like this. Call it quits and end the series? Take a break and rest on a Caribbean island? No, not at all. For Roy Keane there’s no time to rest after winning the quadruple. The other teams will try even harder and will certainly not let the Man Utd ship sail away too far. The ultimate aim is to create a dynasty. A legacy where Roy Keane is mentioned in the same sentence as Ferguson and Busby. Things are sure looking good, but we’re not there yet. And Roy Keane won’t rest until we’re there. Either win or die trying!

Next season will be an exciting one though, with seven (7!) trophies to win! If the team could manage to win six of these they would achieve a feat that no other team has ever achieved! Winning a sextuple would certainly leave a legacy, wouldn’t it?!

Another exciting piece of news is that the board have decided to expand Old Trafford by 16000 seats, creating a stadium worthy of the champions of Europe!

Before we get into the next exciting season we’ll spend the next post focusing on the “Sink or swimmers”, the group of talented young players, currently moulded into the future of Man Utd. We’ll look at how they performed and developed and we’ll also be introduced to the graduating class of the Academy, all eager to swim (or sink) for Man Utd! But until then,

take that you cunt!

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