Category Archives: Manchester United

Which club had the best transfer window?

The transfer window slammed shut on August 31, and clubs around Europe finalised their incoming and outgoing signings for the 2021/22 season.

It has been one of the most high-profile transfer windows in recent years, with billions spent on some of the biggest names in world football moving on to pastures new.

Most notably, two of the best-ever players in football history moved to new clubs. Lionel Messi ended his 16-year senior career at a financially stricken Barcelona and joined European powerhouses Paris St Germain. Superstar Cristiano Ronaldo also moved clubs, leaving Juventus and joining former team Man United instead.

With squads across Europe’s top leagues finalised in recent days, we look at who had the best transfer summer transfer window, and who may lead the picks for major titles this season.

Paris St Germain

French giants PSG did not hesitate to move for some of Europe’s big names once they became available this summer. They quickly moved for Euro 2020 Golden Glove winner Gianluigi Donnarumma, signing the former AC Milan goalkeeper on a free transfer. The Ligue 1 side then added Gini Wijnaldum from Liverpool and Sergio Ramos also both on free transfers.

However, PSG business did not stop there, and they produced the transfer coup of the summer bringing in Lionel Messi from Barcelona on a free transfer. The Argentinian superstar will link up with former teammate Neymar, world-class forward Kylian Mbappe and compatriot Angel Di Maria to form one of the most threatening attacking line-ups in Europe.

PSG also signed young wing-back Achraf Hakimi from Inter Milan for £54 million to bolster their wide options for the coming season. At just 22-years-old, Hakimi has already made 179 senior appearances for Borussia Dortmund, Inter and Real Madrid.

With several exceptional additions to their already talented squad, PSG will be a force to be reckoned with this season. After a disappointing 2020/21 season, where they missed out on the Ligue 1 title and exited the Champions League in the semi-finals, expect PSG to be back amongst the major honours this season.

Chelsea

Champions League winners Chelsea left their transfer business late during the summer window. The Blues were linked with top players, including Erling Haaland early in the transfer window. But they didn’t move until the final weeks.

It was worth the wait as the West Londoners signed prolific striker Romelu Lukaku from Inter Milan for around £100 million. The signing was big business for Chelsea, who sorely lacked goals in the Premier League last season. Lukaku will provide the attacking threat to compliment Thomas Tuchel’s highly organised and defensively astute Chelsea side.

Chelsea then added experienced midfielder Saúl to their ranks on deadline day as he joined on a season-long loan from Atletico Madrid. It was another clever signing by the Blues, who added more know-how to a team that lacked experience last season with the likes of Mason Mount, Timo Wermer, Kai Havertz and Hakim Ziyech all finding their feet in English football.

Man United

Ole Gunnar Solskjær has built one of the most talented squads in the Premier League with the additions of Cristiano Ronaldo, Raphael Varane and Jadon Sancho during the transfer window.

The high-profile signings are a sign of intent from the Red Devils as they hope to launch a competitive title challenge against top-flight champions and rivals, Man City.

Sancho and Ronaldo will add an extra edge and provide competition for an already prolific attack of Marcus Rashford, Mason Greenwood, Edinson Cavani and Anthony Martial. Varane will add world-class experience at centre back to partner Harry Maguire. The French international will also provide further depth with Victor Lindelof and Eric Bailly.

With additional depth and competition, United should be more competitive in the 2021/22 season after falling 12 points short of the Premier League title last season.

Real Madrid

Real Madrid’s incoming transfers were overshadowed by the departure of some household names at the Bernabeau. Centre back duo Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane both departed after long-term careers at the club.

However, Los Blancos have made some clever signings to replace their outgoing players. The Spanish giants brought in experienced defender David Alaba for a free from Bayern Munich, and they signed sought-after prospect Eduardo Camavinga for £28 million from Rennes.

The pair bring European experience with them to Madrid. Alaba made over 400 appearances for Bayern, won 10 Bundesliga titles and two Champions Leagues. Despite being just 18-years-old Camavinga also arrives with plenty of top-level experience in Europe and Ligue 1. The centre-back already made 88 appearances for Rennes across three seasons and will likely continue to develop at the Bernabeau under Carlo Ancelotti.

The two signings show a shift from the Galactico years and the £100 million-plus spending on Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Eden Hazard. Instead, investment in Alaba and Camavinga shows a more frugal approach by Madrid to re-build a new squad with a blend of experience and youth.

Manchester Switch for Most Valuable Premier League Club

Pep Guardiola

As they continue on their quest to lift the title for the second year in a row, it seems that there have also been other knock-on effects thanks to the success of the once Manchester underdogs, Man City, it appears that now Manchester United has also lost their most valuable financial Premier League Club crown and it has passed to the worst team possible for them, local rivals Manchester City as reports.

A new study into football finance has made some shocking revelations that upend the perceived placement of the Premier League teams and now rank Manchester City at the top. Climbing by £385m the team is currently valued at £2.364bn which easily leaves them in the highest spot. Manchester United has taken a hit of £376m and now has a value of £2.087bn, but leaves the comfortably in second. The loss is thought to be lower profits and a higher wage bill. It is also interesting to note that the top six ranking clubs make up for nearly three-quarters of the total value of the whole league. The other four clubs in the top six are Spurs, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal which ironically are the six teams ranking first on the table, although not quite in that order.

The study used figures from 2017/2018, and while the numbers might change by the end of this season, the placings are not predicted to change all that much. Only the two Manchester clubs have a value over two billion; every other club comes below this. The next three clubs all saw a jump in value, it was just Arsenal that dropped, and this is down to the fact they were not in the Champions League that season. They have values of Spurs (£1.837bn), Liverpool (£1.615bn), Chelsea (£1.615bn) and Arsenal (£1.368bn). Which to be fair are still some pretty vast numbers. Interestingly it is Burnley that sits in seventh and have a value of £398m some considerable way behind the top six, but they were not to be the “most sensibly run club in the Premier League financially”. Overall looking at the cumulative value of all the clubs in the league there was a 1.6% fall which equates to £14.7bn.

Speaking about Manchester City the notes from the study state that the reason they are at the top is due to higher revenue and lower wages, a profit of £39m from selling players, and the fact that this then removed some of the highest earners from the wage bill. “The ownership model of Sheikh Mansour, which effectively means that the club is debt free, means that there are no loan interest costs and no dividends are paid to shareholders either,”

The study, which was carried out by the University of Liverpool’s Centre for Sports Business Group also notes that calculations were based on data with the factors of “Account revenue, profits, non-recurring costs, average profits on player sales over a three-year period, net assets, wage control and proportion of seats sold.”

Why Manchester United must offload Paul Pogba this summer?

paul-pogba

Why Manchester United must offload Paul Pogba this summer?

have had quite a few problems ever since Sir Alex Ferguson announced his retirement but the latest one that’s plaguing them is the whole situation with their prodigal son Paul Pogba.

The flamboyant Frenchman is a graduate of United’s prestigious academy but he departed the club a few years back and went out and made quite a name for himself. While he was at Juventus, he caught the club’s eye once more and he returned to Old Trafford in spectacular fashion for then world-record £89 million price tag – which is definitely not cheap by any measure.

It might sound like a crazy thing to suggest but when a club – or anybody, really – pay such a hefty amount, they expect positive results in exchange. And barring an occasion or two, Pogba has rarely ever lived up to his billing and it has now come to a stage where people are debating as to whether he should stay with the club or just move on. There is absolutely no doubt that he is insanely skilled and gifted as a footballer but there is a stark contrast between what he is capable of and what he is actually doing for the Red Devils.

Fortunately enough, United are in a decent place right now but more often than not, the club have been criticised for putting up unnecessarily defensive displays. The blame for that cannot be dumped entirely on Pogba though – it has to do more with Jose Mourinho and his tactics and all that (which can probably be a different topic for a different day). However, one cannot deny that Pogba has not had a hand in some of the terrible performances United have put up this season.

Yes, they are in still in the reckoning for a Champions League spot and are poised to finish the season on a strong note. But these internal problems concerning players have eaten up all their chances of posing a strong title challenge this season. One might argue that it is just a one-season thing and that they will be a lot more composed next time around. But United fans will agree that this is something they have been repeating every single season and it is high time that somebody is held accountable.

The mark of a good footballer is his professionalism and dedication. Unfortunately for the Red Devils, Pogba has shown neither. In fact, his many failures at the club have just given way to a load of excuses which, honestly, just seem like a big cover-up to hide the fact that the Frenchman is not the right choice for United.

As an attacker, he was regarded as one of the best (I use ‘was’ because let’s be honest, we have not seen much of his attacking skills at United) but ask him to drop a bit deeper to play alongside Nemanja Matic at a time when Ander Herrera was injured and – BOOM – Pogba plays in a haphazard manner which is cringeworthy, to say the least.

pogba

For a long time, it has been mentioned that Pogba is not all that strong at defensive duties and that is understandable. But to make a slip-up as huge as the one he made against Tottenham Hotspur was simply abominable. Spurs obviously exploited and scored the first goal within seconds. If Pogba cannot adjust for one single night and play with Matic in a deeper role to fill in for an injured teammate, then perhaps, United must just move on.

We are living at a time when outstanding football talents can be found at every nook and cranny across the world and it becomes unjustifiable to continue keeping a player like Pogba, who has failed on so many levels. It just seems to be a tirade of excuse after excuse whenever his inefficiency is brought up.

Earlier, it was said that Matic was purchased from Chelsea to play the deeper role so that Pogba would have greater power up front. Fair enough, Matic has done a brilliant job ever since he arrived at Old Trafford but the Frenchman – even in a preferred attacking role – could not do much to impress, besides just the bare minimum.

Now, once more, United are in the not-so-unfamiliar rut of scanning the market to sign a new midfielder in the summer. Why? To help Pogba with greater freedom and flexibility up front.

These excuses have gotten ridiculous to a point where it seems like the best option for United would be to just let Pogba leave. How many more players should Mourinho purchase just to “bring the best out of Pogba”? As a professional, he needs to be adaptable to any and every situation and that is something we have just not seen from him in a long, long time. If United are to harbour any serious hopes of winning the title anytime soon, they need reliable assets and at present, Pogba is nothing but a liability.

Hence, it is time for Red Devils to quit making excuses to cover up for Pogba’s poor performances and to just cut the cord and let him leave this summer. They need players who are genuinely in the team to win and not somebody who can merely boost their T-shirt sales.

Top 50 Young Players – Part 4 (20-11)

Top 50 Young Players – Part 4 (20-11)

With the season set to draw to a close, a lot of clubs will be scrambling around to scour the market and find new talent worth signing. In the last couple of seasons, a lot of starlets have taken the world of football by storm and here we will take a look at Part 4 of our Top 50 countdown comprising of youngsters from 20-11. You can check out Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 as well.

20. Max Meyer – Schalke 04

Regarded as one of the most talented midfielders in the world at present, Meyer thrives in the role of a deep-lying playmaker. He can affect the game like nobody else and seems to have a penchant for pulling the strings quite effortlessly to dictate the proceedings in the middle. At 22 years of age, he has attracted attention from some of the top clubs across Europe, including Barcelona and Chelsea. Whether he continues with Schalke or not remains to be seen but there is absolutely no doubt that Meyer is earmarked for a bright future.

19. Wilfred Ndidi – Leicester City

In such a short time, Ndidi has managed to establish himself as a key player for the Foxes. Ever since Claude Puel took charge, Leicester have miraculously managed to turn things around for themselves and Ndidi has played a crucial role in helping them doing that. Despite being just 21, Ndidi has displayed admirable skill and technicality playing alongside Vicente Iborra in the heart of the midfield. By the end of the season, Leicester will definitely start receiving offers for the talented star.

18. Youri Tielemans – Monaco

Tielemans is like the ideal midfielder and that is quite a huge deal for a player who is just 20 years of age. His passing range is absolutely top-notch and he is quite adept at surging forward and displaying his attacking prowess. Back at Anderlecht, the player scored goals day in and day out and was quite a strong talent. He has a long way ahead of him but if Tielemans continues playing this way, there is absolutely no doubt that he can make it far.

17. Julian Weigl – Borussia Dortmund

Weigl played a starring role for Dortmund during Thomas Tuchel’s tenure and he continues to be a crucial part of their team. Despite being a defensive midfielder by trade, Weigl can do quite a lot in attacking situations as well. At 22 years of age, Weigl is the heart of the Dortmund midfield and he is quite effective at pulling the strings to dictate proceedings while also maintaining a sense of fluidity in the game. Germany has produced some of the finest superstars of our times and Weigl certainly looks set to follow that path.

16. Thomas Lemar – Monaco

Lemar shot to fame last season when the defending Ligue 1 champions staged an incredible feat to win the trophy. He is extremely versatile and can play on either wing as well as through the centre. He is an out-and-out attacker and is one of Monaco’s most creative players. He continues to get targetted by big clubs in and around the Premier League and a move outside the Ligue 1 can work wonders at helping him develop and take his career to the next level.

15. Andre Silva – AC Milan

The 22-year-old has scored in all of his Europa League appearances so far this season. He has proven his mettle in the Serie A as well and he is deservedly regarded as one of the most exciting young strikers across Italy. However, he has found his time limited with the Italian giants this season. His finishing skills are absolutely impeccable and he is quite a well-rounded player. Known for his lightning-fast dribbling skills, Silva is fast on the verge of becoming one of the most sought-after strikers across the continent.

14. Gianluigi Donnarumma – AC Milan

Donnarumma has endured a turbulent couple of months with Milan due to contractual issues and a couple of poor performances but there is no denying his talent. Despite being just 18 years of age, the young star is considered the heir apparent to Italy’s legendary goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon. He has earned several accolades for his displays in front of the net and one look at his lightning-fast reflexes and skills is more than enough to determine that he is one to keep an eye on.

13. Giovanni Simeone – Fiorentina

Son of Atletico Madrid manager Diego Simeone, the young Simeone has managed to make a name for himself. The 22-year-old has earned rave reviews for his performances as a striker and he can hope to achieve a lot in his career if he continues this way. He has scored 8 goals and provided 3 assists so far this season – which is not a bad figure for a young striker. In addition to that, Simeone is also a delight to watch on the field.

12. Moussa Dembele – Celtic

Dembele has been in the news for quite some time now and for all the right reasons. He has been in sensational form for the Scottish giants and at 21, he is regarded as one of the brightest attacking talents across leagues. In 23 appearances across competitions this season, Dembele has scored 9 goals so far. He combines his insane dribbling skills with his finishing capabilities and can often find the back of the net, making it all look so effortless.

11. Marcus Rashford – Manchester United

Rashford rose to prominence at Old Trafford as a teenager and has been a regular part of the first-team ever since. Now, at 20, he is regarded as one of the deadliest attacking options across the Premier League. Adept at scoring goals and creating as many opportunities, the young star is a fan favourite among the United faithful and with good reason. He was one of their most reliable players at a time when the club was performing poorly and he continues to be a pivotal figure for them up front.

Top 50 Young Footballers Final Part – (10-1)

kylian-mbappe

Top 50 Young Footballers Final Part – (10-1)

To round off our countdown of the Top 50 young stars in the world of football at present, we now have our ultimate top ten list which includes some of the brightest and sharpest talents across leagues. It is definitely not easy to be a rising starlet at a time when football teams are chasing after superstars but now and then we see a truly exceptional player break through.

With that in mind, here is our list of the top ten.

10. Harry Winks – Tottenham Hotspur

At 22 years of age, Winks is rightfully regarded as one of the most promising young talents in the Premier League. He usually plays as a midfielder alongside Moussa Dembele or Eric Dier but he has been missing from action lately after picking up an injury. However, for a good majority of the current season and the previous one, Winks has impressed quite a lot of people and for all the right reasons. Blessed with a mature understanding of the game, Winks can contribute equally to the attack and defence and often acts as a glue to hold the two aspects of the team together.

9. Renato Sanches – Swansea- on loan from Bayern Munich

Currently serving a loan spell with Swansea City, the 20-year-old sensation is earmarked for a bright future and after taking a look at his performances, it does not come as a surprise. Known for his energetic performances, Sanches is quite a top-quality box-to-box midfielder and he does have an eye for scoring goals as well. He rose to prominence playing an important role for Portugal in their journey to securing the Euro 2016 title, which eventually earned him the Young Player of the Tournament award.

8. Dele Alli – Tottenham Hotspur

Alli is often at the receiving end of criticism for being too aggressive at times but the fact is that he is one of the brightest English talents at present. Having struck up quite a solid understanding with Harry Kane, Alli is a creative hub for goals and boasts of excellent attacking intent. Blessed with quick feet and efficient ball control, the young star has only gone from strength-to-strength for Spurs. In fact, he put in a particularly sublime performance when they played Real Madrid in a Champions League encounter this season and there seems to be no end to his potential.

7. Matthijs De Ligt – Ajax

Ajax are renowned for producing some of the best talents in the world of football currently and De Ligt is no different. He is quite the epitome of a true-blue ball-playing central defender and at 18 years of age, he has attracted quite a lot of attention from some of the biggest clubs across the world. He can make some important interceptions while also displaying some gutsy blocks and tackles and he is quite a key part of the Ajax team. The player also boasts of a penchant for finding the back of the net and he is quite a package.

6. Marcus Rashford – Manchester United

Rashford burst onto the scene with the Red Devils at a time when they were terribly struggling for pace and attacking intent. He got the goals and assists and immediately became a fan favourite at Old Trafford. Since then, he has managed to establish himself in the first-team and has retained his spot even though the club boasts of having some excellent attackers in the team. At just 20 years of age, he can truly reach great heights if he continues this way.

5. Leroy Sane – Manchester City

Anybody who has followed the Premier League season will be aware of the kind of brilliance Manchester City have displayed to rise to the top. And the 22-year-old attacker has played quite a hand at helping them reach where they are. Pep Guardiola’s men have been renowned for their blistering attack and Sane has simply been sensational for the club. He has already smashed 11 goals and provided 12 assists for the club and he looks set to finish the season on a strong note.

4. Gabriel Jesus – Manchester City

Jesus came into the team as a young, raw talent but currently, he plays like a top-class striker. One of Guardiola’s most trusted players, the 20-year-old has been in impeccable form for the Sky Blues and his performances were strong enough to keep City veteran Sergio Aguero out of regular action. Even now, the player continues to maintain his stronghold on his spot and he has even worked well with Aguero whenever Guardiola employed a two-striker formation. He has a long way ahead of him and he truly has the potential to become a lethal force to be reckoned with.

3. Ousmane Dembele – Barcelona

The 20-year-old is yet to make a name for himself at Barcelona due to injury troubles and all that but anybody who has seen him play for Borussia Dortmund will know that he is a dangerous player – for all the right reasons. He has quick feet and is very fast but boasts of excellent ball control at the same time. His crossing skills are absolutely top-notch and from what we have seen, he never backs down from a challenge. His passion and skill will take him far and it will be interesting to see how he fares for the Catalan giants.

2. Justin Kluivert – Ajax

Son of Patrick Kluivert, the 18-year-old has been a true revelation for the Dutch giants. He is a winger by trade and can play on either flank and is quite a threat despite being so young. Kluivert can capitalize even on the tiniest of gaps provided by the opposition and exploit the same relentlessly. The Dutchman can prove to be a nightmare for even the best defenders and he continues to get linked to a host of top-level clubs across Europe. Whether he chooses to move or not remains to be seen but there is no doubt that he is earmarked for a dazzling future.

1. Kylian Mbappe – Paris Saint-Germain

Mbappe rose to fame after AS Monaco’s spectacular Ligue 1 victory last season and his shine has not dulled even after completing a sensational, big-money move to Paris Saint-Germain at the start of the season. He is composed in front of the goal and is tactically intelligent as well, which is quite commendable since he is so young. At just 19 years of age, he can dribble and boss his way through the toughest of defences and he is already a force to be reckoned with. The young Frenchman has already scored 15 goals and provided 11 assists for PSG this season and he looks unstoppable.

Jose Mourinho – The Lone Ranger Of English Football

jose-mourinho

Jose Mourinho – The Lone Ranger Of English

If there was ever a list of the most misunderstood managers in football history, Jose Mourinho’s name would probably be on top. People either love him or hate him and there seems to be no middle ground for the Portuguese tactician. Having coached some of the biggest teams across Europe, Mourinho is undoubtedly one of the most prolific and skilled managers of our times.

He might come across as brash, argumentative and arrogant but he is also charismatic, passionate and it is quite evident that he genuinely loves the beautiful game. To that end, the word ‘misunderstood’ seems to do ample justice to Mourinho. They say that the true mark of greatness is when one learns from and improves their mistakes and that is something the manager has done on a couple of occasions.

Back when he was in charge of Chelsea, Mourinho was accused of not allowing enough chances to youngsters. Of course, the Blues’ loan policy itself does not provide much scope for that to happen and yet a lot of fingers were pointed at Mourinho. However, he continues to be one of their most successful managers and whether or not Chelsea fans like to admit it now, they were all gaga for him at one point.

One can understand as to why they may not view him with as much reverence now. After all, he is managing one of their biggest rivals in the Premier League. And at Manchester United, Mourinho has proven that he is not one to shy away from allowing youngsters to flourish. Be it Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, Jesse Lingard or Scott McTominay, the manager has been extremely generous with providing them opportunities and that has reflected in the way these players have blossomed.

Lingard was labelled a failure and among a lot of other things and yet, he is one of United’s most influential players this season. There has been a lot of talk about how Pep Guardiola has transformed Raheem Sterling but not many have credited Mourinho with the way he has brought Lingard out of his shell. The Man City star was touted as one of the most exciting talents even a couple of years back but the Manchester United academy graduate could never get things going for him at Old Trafford. However, at present, Lingard’s impact has been unparalleled and Mourinho deserves full credit for the same.

jesse-lingard

Even when it comes to transfers, the Special One has made a difference for United. Before he took charge, the Red Devils were struggling to land a deal for Marouane Fellaini from Everton and now, they have signed the likes of Alexis Sanchez, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Paul Pogba. What he has done for the club so far is quite impressive even if a good majority of the fans seem to be cribbing about what he has not done.

One of the biggest complaints the fans have about him is the fact that he often resorts to using unnecessarily defensive tactics – especially against the big teams. More often than not, Mourinho has been blamed with accusations of ‘parking the bus’ and ‘playing boring football’. To be fair, Old Trafford has always been used to watching intense counter-attacking plays under the tutelage of the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson. However, times change and it has been quite a while since his retirement. Since then, David Moyes and Louis van Gaal changed a lot of things at the club and now Mourinho is doing the best he can.

While they have played defensively on several occasions this season, one must bear in mind that this was most frequent when the likes of Pogba and Fellaini were injured. United’s midfield situation is far from ideal and to have two of their key midfielders out at the same time, really affected their fortunes. Regardless, there have been numerous occasions when Mourinho employed intense attacking tactics to guide United to victory but nobody seems to want to talk about that.

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On some level, the media often downplays Mourinho’s best work to make him seem like the villain all the time. For example, the United manager recently mentioned in his press conference that he did not need to act like a ‘clown’ to prove his passion for the Red Devils, which was understood to be a veiled reference at Chelsea manager Antonio Conte’s passionate displays of emotion. To that, Conte responded by pointing out that perhaps Mourinho is suffering from senility. Now, one needs to recognize the difference between healthy (or unhealthy) banter and personal attacks. What Mourinho said fell into the former category whereas Conte’s remark turned it into a more personal battle.

In response to the senility comment, Mourinho brought up the instance where Conte received a four-month ban in August 2012 for failing to report the alleged match-fixing at Siena during the 2010-11 season. The United manager explained that he would never be caught in such a situation and immediately, the media started painting him as the bad guy, even though it was the fiery Italian manager who first indulged in making personal attacks. Once more, Conte was let off while Mourinho was labelled rude, insensitive and what not.

To sum up the Special One’s career, he will forever be known as the manager that was outspoken and brash but perhaps not many will know of his true influence and impact. He is aware of the fact that not many people adhere to his decisions and tactics but he is brave enough to follow his own path and act as a solitary soldier even when the whole world questions him – and that is what his legacy will be about in the years to come.

A Tale Of Two Unlikely Heroes Of The Manchester Derby

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A Tale Of Two Unlikely Heroes Of The Manchester Derby

One’s position in football is an aspect of the game that every single player is rather conscious and possessive of. Considering the kind of rigorous training they have to undergo, it becomes all the more necessary for them to identify and maintain the position they are good at.

Some players are a bit more versatile and can be deployed in one or more positions around their area. For example, a midfielder could play either as an attacking, central or left midfielder whereas a forward could play as a striker or on the wings. Similarly, in defence, a centre-back could play as on the left and right depending on the situation and what the manager requires.

Very rarely though, a bunch of players crop up that are mercilessly dragged out of their comfort zones to be deployed in positions that are totally opposite to their natural style. Even more rarely, these players actually manage to excel.

Normally when a footballer is taken out of his position, they look like a fish out of the water – gasping and struggling to breathe. And then there are same that soldier through and come out on top. The Manchester derby in December last year was one match wherein we got to see two such remarkable players battle it out for their respective teams far from their natural positions.

Ashley Young and Fabian Delph – both deployed as left-backs – have been playing outside their intended positions throughout this season so far. Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola are renowned for their charisma and tactical intelligence but both of them are also quite capable of extracting the best out of their players and that is exactly what they have done with Young and Delph.

Manchester United v Manchester City - Premier League

To take a winger and a midfielder out of position and make them play in defence is something that seems bizarre, to say the least. In fact, most players may have even protested or failed to deliver results and yet the duo continue to impress for respective Manchester clubs.

Luke Shaw was brought to Old Trafford from Southampton for the sole purpose of playing as a left-back but after an injury forced him off the field, United were left with a few makeshift options but none of them produced effective results. And then stepped in Young to make things look a lot stronger on that side. His experience and wing play proved to be crucial and soon enough, he became the Red Devils’ top choice for makeshift left-back. There has been no looking back for him ever since and he continues to be a solid presence at the back.

Delph endured a similar fate at Manchester City as well. After having played only 7 times in the league under the Catalan manager last season, he seemed to be out of favour but the midfielder impressed greatly when he was recalled to fill in for Benjamin Mendy at left-back. What started off as a trial ended up being his constant position for a good majority of this season, and judging from his performances, Guardiola has very little to worry about Mendy’s absence right now.

At the beginning of every season, football fans and pundits earmark a couple of games to watch out for and the Manchester derby is highly likely to have made into every list. However, at that point, nobody might have thought that Young and Delph would emerge as two key players in that encounter. With the power of Young and Valencia on either flank, United have developed a counter-attacking style of play on each side, which goes back and forth between the duo at the back to their wide attackers at the front.

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City’s formation is also quite similar – Kyle Walker surges to link up with Raheem Sterling on the right while Delph and Leroy Sane do the same job on the left. And in a situation like this, the two most unlikely full-backs in the form of the two Englishmen have gone on to dictate proceedings in clubs like Manchester United and Manchester City.

Two clubs with an intense rivalry that dates back to ages and yet both seem to be embroiled in a similar situation when it concerns their left-backs. However, both of them need to be applauded for their unselfish sense of adaptability and commitment to their respective teams. It almost seems like their former duties as a winger and a midfielder have only prepared them for this moment. Young’s spectacular crosses yielded goals for United against the likes of Crystal Palace and Newcastle United. His accuracy and trickery provide quite a lot of activity and support for the Red Devils from the left side.

Delph, meanwhile, has used his strengths to adapt better to his role at City. Call it Guardiola’s tactical wizardry or just a sheer stroke of luck, the former Aston Villa man’s prior role as a midfielder has turned him into a strong option at left-back – perhaps even stronger than the injured Mendy.

It will be interesting to see what Guardiola does once Mendy returns from injury. Considering the way Delph has been performing, it would be criminal to drop him immediately. At United, however, Shaw is fit and raring to go but he has hardly been allotted game time so far. It is impossible to peek into either Guardiola’s or Mourinho’s heads to see how they feel about this but one must laud them for their man management skills.

Regardless of what the future holds for Young and Delph, nothing can take the magic they conjured this season away from them. They say when the going gets tough, the tough get going and both of them have proven to be one of the toughest players in the Premier League right now.

Top 10 Strongest Players In FIFA 17

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EA SPORTS has today unveiled the top 10 best players in the shooting and shot power department for FIFA 17!

With the release of FIFA 17 right around the corner, EA SPORTS will be revealing a number of player ratings throughout early September.

There will be surprises, omissions and discussion as the ratings are revealed. Feel free to join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook to voice your own opinions with the hashtag #FIFA17Ratings.

As you can see below, Tottenham new boy, Victor Wanyama, comes in at the fourth most physical player in FIFA 17, with fellow Premier League player Marouane Fellaini taking the top spot in terms of physicality.

Adebayo Akinfenwa has again retained his title of being FIFA’s strongest player. One of Stoke City’s summer inclusions, Wilfried Bony, finds himself in fifth position in terms of strength whilst Leicester City’s record signing, Islam Slimani, is the eighth most physical player in FIFA 17.

The Latest football betting suggests that Paul Pogba will be one of the strongest players when FIFA 17 releases this September.

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Top 10 Strongest Players

  1. Kendall Waston – Vancouver Whitecaps – 74
  2. Florian Ballas – FSV Frankfurt – 67
  3. Colin Bonner – FC Dallas – 60
  4. Hakeem Araba – Falkenbergs FF – 62
  5. Jannik Vestergaard – Borussia Monchengladbach – 79
  6. Wilfried Bony – Stoke City – 81
  7. Abdoul Ba – RC Lens – 65
  8. Roman Torres – Seattle Sounders – 72
  9. George Elokobi – Colchester United – 63
  10. Adebayo Akinfenwa – Wycombe Wanderers – 64

Top 10 Physicality Players

  1. Tchani – Columbus Crew – 70 (88 Physical)
  2. Nemanja Matic – Chelsea – 84 (88 Physical)
  3. Islam Slimani – Leicester City – 83 (88 Physical)
  4. Diego Costa – Chelsea – 85 (88 Physical)
  5. Anderson Esiti – K.A.A. Gent – 75 (89 Physical)
  6. Jelle Van Damme – LA Galaxy – 77 (89 Physical)
  7. Victor Wanyama – Tottenham Hotspur – 78 (89 Physical)
  8. Callum Paterson – Hearts – 68 (90 Physical)
  9. Cheikh N’Doye – Angers SCO – 77 (90 Physical)
  10. Marouane Fellaini – Manchester United – 78 (90 Physical)

Data Courtesy of EA SPORTS, the Lead Partner of the Premier League.