Manchester United's Van Persie shoots and fails to score against Queen's Park Rangers during their English Premier League soccer match in London

Considering conventional wisdom as Manchester United cruise to another victory

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In this week’s gap between Champions League and the weekend’s league action, the debate resurfaced: How bad are Manchester United?

The discussion’s been a constant in recent years, reaching an apex last season when the Red Devils failed to make it out of their Champions League group. That the Red Devils still nearly won the Premier League was little consolation when their May collapse gifted the title to their crosstown rivals.

It’s a strange discussion given Manchester United’s obvious quality and successes, but when you watch matches like today’s against Queens Park Rangers, you see the point. The Red Devils cruised to a 2-0 victory thanks to an early goal from Rafael and an insurance tally from Ryan Giggs, but given how poor QPR was throughout the match, you’d expect a team of United’s reputation to put them to the proverbial sword. Instead, it was just another day at the office for the mercurial titans.

The curious thing about this round of  discussion is United’s recent results. After a fall where their defense seemed as weak as a severed Achilles, United’s only three goals in their last six games. That stretch includes a surprise draw at the Santiago Bernabeu, where the Red Devils held Real Madrid to one goal.

This is a team that hasn’t lost since Dec. 15. Even if the dissection is apt in general, it’s still ill-timed now.

(MORE: This is a spectacular hit from Rafael.)

The complaints seems to have two foundations, neither independent of the other. First, United generally looks unimpressive, as they did today. Against a QPR team playing that badly, an elite team should put up a number. Second, United’s midfield is not as strong as other European powers. In an era of midfield primacy (at least, as far as tactical analysis is concerned), this is a capital offense.

From the linked piece:

The midfield, however, having been the basis for success of Fergie’s previous best teams, is constantly pinpointed as the weak link of the current crop, and it’s difficult to argue against that theory.

source: ReutersI’d like to offer an alternative: Maybe this now conventional wisdom is wrong. Maybe Manchester United’s consistently stellar results (including in Champions League, where there’s been but one, obvious blip) indicate Alex Ferguson knows something we don’t. Perhaps United’s legendary penchant for timely goals is indicative of a philosophy that prioritizes moments over spells.

Instead of the all-clock dominance we see from Barcelona and (most of the time) Bayern Munich, Ferguson may subscribe to a view that prefers spending most of the match waiting to exploit moments. Seventy minutes of conservations, 20 minutes of power, perhaps? Unlike a typical implementation of catenaccio, United seeks to exploit in spells they define rather than in moments defined by others’ failures.

Whether that hypothesis is correct or not, it at least does a better job of describing United’s success. The constant discussion of United’s ironic faults in the face of their perpetual results only highlights the dialog’s faults.

If you’re continuing to try and describe why something fails to meet expectations, shouldn’t you eventually question the root of those expectations? Why do people expect United to fail?

(MORE: Style points, schmyle points for Arsenal.)

The obvious irony here is the dialog itself. Bellicosely describing a team whose grandiosity should be undermined by an obvious flaw, the discussion’s developed an obvious flaw of its own. It’s not considering alternatives. It’s not allowing for another vision, one that would discard narrowly applied tenants and consider something that would more readily explain unexpected results. While exhaustively examining Manchester United, the tactical Zeitgeist has failed to examine itself.

All of United’s faults where on display today at Loftus Road, but maybe they’re not faults at all. No, United didn’t put up a huge win against QPR, but this is a team that’s now 15 points clear in England, just got a result in Madrid, and has been to three Champions League finals in five years.

We might want to reconsider our wisdom.

L.A. Galaxy’s Keane retires from Republic of Ireland duty

DUBLIN, IRELAND - OCTOBER 11:  Robbie Keane of Republic of Ireland applauds the fans during the EURO 2016 Qualifier match between Republic of Ireland and Gibraltar at Aviva Stadium on October 11, 2014 in Dublin, Ireland.  (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)
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Robbie Keane is ending a big chapter in his career.

Fear not, Galaxy fans, the 36-year-old living L.A. legend isn’t calling it quits on club soccer, but Keane is done with representing the Republic of Ireland.

Keane will play one more game for the Boys in Green, a friendly against Oman next week, before leaving the Republic to qualify for the World Cup without him.

[ MORE: Yedlin, Newcastle make it official ]

In a sprawling and understandably emotional — if not moving — statement, Keane says he isn’t going to stop playing for his club anytime soon, and that he hardly dreamed he’d get to this point.

No player has been capped (145) or scored (67) as many times for Ireland than Keane.

WATCH: DeAndre Yedlin says hello to Newcastle United

SANTA CLARA, CA - JUNE 03:  DeAndre Yedlin #2 of United States and Juan Cuadrado #11 of Colombia go for the ball during the 2016 Copa America Centenario Group match between the United States and Colombia at Levi's Stadium on June 3, 2016 in Santa Clara, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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USMNT star DeAndre Yedlin has sealed a permanent move to St. James Park, as Newcastle United has bought the former Sunderland player from Tottenham Hotspur.

Yedlin, 23, will continue his defensive education on a five-year deal under a man who knows how to teach: Rafa Benitez.

[ MORE: Premier League transfer needs ]

The right back was a pivotal part of Sunderland’s survival in the Premier League last season, which coincidentally sent Newcastle down to the Championship.

With Daryl Janmaat off to Watford, Yedlin allows Newcastle to use versatile Vurnon Anita in other roles.

Here’s what Yedlin had to say about the switch to the other side of Northeast England:

“Newcastle is such a big and historic club, and I’m excited to have the honour of playing for them. Hopefully I can do great things here,” said Yedlin.

“I’m excited to learn under Rafa Benitez as well. He has an amazing résumé and I know he will help improve me a lot.

“I can’t wait to get started.”

Oddly enough, as U.S. hopeful Lynden Gooch gets playing town across town at Premier League outfit Sunderland, the last American to play for the Magpies was Oguchi “Gooch” Onyewu.

With club season open, PST assesses the Top 15 USMNT prospects under 23

SHENZHEN, CHINA - JULY 28:  Christian Pulisic of Borussia Dortmund in action during the 2016 International Champions Cup match between Manchester City and Borussia Dortmund at Shenzhen Universiade Stadium on July 28, 2016 in Shenzhen, China.  (Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)
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Friday brings us the beginning of the Bundesliga season, meaning every major league will have started its season.

There are American players throughout Europe worth watching, many of them well-established with their clubs. We know plenty of Danny Williams at Reading, of Fabian Johnson at Borussia Monchengladbach, and Geoff Cameron at Stoke City.

[ MORE: Yedlin, Newcastle make it official ]

But what about the young crowd, the ones we know a bit less about? Let’s call the group Americans under the age of 23, with 10 caps or less. We quizzed our ProSoccerTalk staff, weighted the rankings according to power, and wound up with 15 names from MLS to the PL.

Players were given one point for each mention, and a corresponding value to whether they were ranked first (10 points) or tenth (1 point) by a given writer.

PST’s Top 15 USMNT prospects

15. Jerome Kiesewetter, Fortuna Dusseldorf (1)

The twice-capped forward has six goals in 16 appearances for the U-23 side, and just moved to a new 2.Bundesliga home.

14. Joe Gyau, Borussia Dortmund (1)

The 23-year-old was about as exciting a prospect as any when he tore his meniscus against Ecuador. Now, he’s just getting back on the pitch and a loan may be on the cards.

13. Wil Trapp, Columbus Crew (3)

Of players aged 23 or younger, only one has had a better overall season than Trapp. The 23-year-old just fits on our list, and needs to find another level, but he’s going to be solid at worst.

12. Walker Zimmerman, FC Dallas (4)

The seventh-overall pick in the 2013 MLS SuperDraft, the big Georgian has been outstanding this season.

11. Erik Palmer-Brown, Sporting KC/Porto B (5)

It’s easy to forget about EPB, the 6-foot-1 center back who left SKC on loan in February, but he’s gone 90 minutes in every match since making his Porto B debut in March. Juventus bid $1 million for Palmer-Brown when he was still 16, and they know a thing or two about scouting kids.

10. Rubio Rubin, FC Utrecht (6)

The 20-year-old started Utrecht’s first two matches of the season as a center forward after foot surgery cost him much of 2015-16. No one should ignore his 3 goal, 6 assist season the previous season.

Emerson Hyndman, afcb.co.uk
Emerson Hyndman, afcb.co.uk

9. Emerson Hyndman, AFC Bournemouth (12)

The 20-year-old just moved to the Premier League, and has yet to debut after playing out his contract with Fulham in hopes of greener pastures.

8. Matt Miazga, Chelsea (20)

One decent match followed by a bad half; That’s all we’ve seen from Miazga since leaving the New York Red Bulls for Chelsea last January. A loan seems likely.

7. Ethan Horvath, Molde (22)

The 20-year-old is a full-time ‘keeper with Europa League experience. He should get his chance to impress at the USMNT level, sooner rather than later.

6. Gedion Zelalem, Arsenal (27)

Still hoping for an Arsenal breakthrough, the 19-year-old made 28 appearances on loan for Rangers last season.

5. Lynden Gooch, Sunderland (33)

Gooch drew raves for his work with the Black Cats U-21 team, and has earned playing time under new manager David Moyes. One to watch, and contracted at the Stadium of Light through 2018-19.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - AUGUST 13: Lynden Gooch of Sunderland challenges David Silva of Manchester City during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Sunderland at Etihad Stadium on August 13, 2016 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – AUGUST 13: Lynden Gooch of Sunderland challenges David Silva. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

4. Julian Green, Bayern Munich (37)

With a new lease on life under Carlo Ancelotti, could be set for a breakthrough season.

3. Jordan Morris, Seattle Sounders (41)

There’s a lot of hope for the striker, who is getting the professional refinement he needs at the MLS level. If he sorts out his left foot, he could be a lethal piece of the USMNT future.

2. Cameron Carter-Vickers, Tottenham Hotspur (44)

A year ago, he told Joe Prince-Wright that he had added confidence from captaining Spurs’ U-21 side. He’s staying with Mauricio Pochettino‘s First Team this season, and spent the first two matches as an unused sub.

1. Christian Pulisic, Borussia Dortmund (55)

We don’t have to really say anything, do we? The 17-year-old Pennsylvania kid has made an impact at one of the biggest clubs in the world, and could be set for a loan now that BVB has added Mario Gotze, Andre Schurrle, and Ousmane Dembele.

Transfer needs for Premier League teams

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JANUARY 23:  Anthony Martial of Manchester United and Jose Fonte of Southampton compete for the ball during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Southampton at Old Trafford on January 23, 2016 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
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We are one week away from the transfer window slamming shut on Premier League clubs, some of whom have a lot of glaring holes.

Others? Not-so-much, but all 20 teams certainly have areas their managers would love to see strengthened for the other 36 games of this grueling season.

[ MORE: Schweinsteiger to MLS? ]

It’s hard for some teams to assess at this point, with players coming off busy summers, and adapting to new leagues, coaches and roles. Some teams, like Hull City, are off to a dream start but surely also no illusions. Others, like Arsenal, know things aren’t nearly as bad as they seem after a 1-point start to the campaign.

Although things are indeed bad. Just not relegation bad.

Let’s wait no more…

Arsenal — I’m starting to consider that Arsene Wenger‘s defensive preparations involve using a club to whack at his defenders’ bodies. Depth in the back is key, and Arsenal sure could use that high-profile, effective forward they’ve needed for a long, long while.

Bournemouth — In a pretty good spot now, but an added defender capable of playing any position on the back line is not a bad idea.

Burnley — While the addition of Steven Defour is fantastic, another weapon like him wouldn’t be bad. Honestly, it’s too bad Danny Ings didn’t stick around!

Chelsea — Defensive depth in the center park would be useful. The long time link with Napoli center back Koulibaly isn’t going anywhere.

[ MORE: Jack Harrison in his own words ]

Crystal Palace — All set on target strikers, someone to run off Christian Benteke and Connor Wickham could be useful.

Everton — What’s needed is much different from what would be appreciated, and Ronald Koeman wouldn’t mind an upgrade at goalkeeper, insurance at center back, and depth at striker.

Hull City — Name a position, and Hull could likely use an addition. We’re not trying to be mean, it’s simply the name of the game for the 2-0 Tigers.

Leicester City — With Europe on the horizon, any depth would be useful for the Foxes. Another outside back or a contract extension for Danny Simpson wouldn’t be a bad idea.

Liverpool —  We forget how many players have yet to debut for the Reds, who really don’t have to add at this point (but may, perhaps at left back).

Manchester City — Pep Guardiola has shaken up everything, so who knows what else could happen? We suspect offloading, if anything.

Manchester United — Jose Mourinho would like to strengthen his center back depth, and signing Jose Fonte would certainly help United contend in both England and Europe.

Middlesbrough — The Boro have added plenty this offseason, and might just be done. Though with Jordan Rhodes looking increasingly likely to leave, another forward isn’t a bad idea.

Southampton — An attacking center mid and striker depth will be important, as will confidence in its center back corps if and when Jose Fonte leaves town.

Sunderland — Keeping Lamine Kone would be as big a victory as any player David Moyes could add, though the Black Cats need help almost everywhere. Center back is the biggest concern, Kone or not.

Stoke City — Center back help is needed here, too, but let’s not forget that Geoff Cameron is indispensable and yet to debut.

Swansea City — See above, as Ashley Williams‘ move to Everton really hit Francesco Guidolin‘s team where it was already thin.

Tottenham Hotspur — Depth moves here, perhaps most likely in the midfield.

[ MORE: West Ham to add Swiss mid? ]

Watford — Likely done, though another defender wouldn’t hurt.

West Bromwich Albion — Tony Pulis has made a couple very good pick-ups in underrated QPR man Matty Phillips and Everton loanee Brendan Galloway. That said, he’d love to get better at every spot on the pitch. Anything is possible if the bosses open their wallets.

West Ham United — A striker would help with injuries to Andy Carroll and Andre Ayew. Otherwise, the Irons are sneaky deep everywhere.