Paul Scholes

Solskjaer bemoans poor Man United first half performance

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Manchester United seemed to be holding up strong defensively early as Manchester City attacked with the ball in the first leg of the League Cup semifinal on Tuesday.

Then, Bernardo Silva unleashed a moment of brilliance in the 17th minute, and for the next 28 minutes, Man United crumbled as Man City built up a 3-0 halftime lead.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

“From their goal until half-time, that is the worst that we have played,” Man United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer told Sky Sports. “From the first goal to half-time we just could not cope with that setback. We were running in between. The pressure didn’t work and we let them play. Our heads dropped. We just made decisions that we should not do.”

Whatever the gameplan was, it appeared that either the players were incapable of executing it, or they lacked the ability to do so. Man City players constantly found time and space to turn and attack the Man United defense, and Man United struggled to string more than a few passes together at a time in the first half.

The team, even with Paul Pogba fit and in the lineup, lacks a strong, vocal leader like Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes or Gary Neville to get everyone on the same page while on the field. Instead, as Solskjaer mentioned, players are dropping their heads and not pressuring the ball, leading to more goals.

After likely lighting into his team at halftime, Solskjaer said he did get a response from his team.

“That needed sorting at half-time… Someone needed to take the responsibility and we did that in the second half,” Solskjaer said. “When you come in at half-time with that result then pride is one word that you speak about. Make sure you win the second half and you are in the tie. Of course, it’s a difficult task that we have got in front of us but that second half at least gives us something to hang on to. After that second half, we have got something that we believe in.”

Can Man United buy its way back to glory?

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By all accounts, Manchester United is having a woeful start to the Premier League season. However, the front office reportedly believes it can solve the crisis at the club with strategic purchases over the next two seasons.

According to a report in the Telegraph, Manchester United is looking to make eight signings spread through the next two summer transfer windows. The report claims they’ve already created a shortlist of targets and one may even be acquired in the upcoming winter transfer window in January. Players like Leicester City’s James Maddison and Ben Chillwell have been rumored to be on Man United’s radar in recent days, as it looks to improve its squad.

[READ: Maddison pulls out of England squad]

There’s no doubt that Man United’s team is in dire straights. From the days of Sir Alex Ferguson where the team had Cristiano Ronaldo, Ryan Giggs, Wayne Rooney, Paul Scholes, Rio Ferdinand and many others, the current squad absolutely pales in comparison.

This summer was supposed to be a massive one for the club after another season outside the top four. And yet, the only major signing was Harry Maguire. Ironically, one of the summer’s first signings for current manager – for how long, who knows? – Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Daniel James, has been very good when fit.

While on defense Man United is decent, in the final third, the Red Devils are woeful. With Anthony Martial still out injured and the departures of Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez this summer, Marcus Rashford looks too under pressure to handle all the responsibility right now. Man United has only scored one goal from open play in the last five games, and it’s not looking like things will improve that much even when Paul Pogba and Martial return from injury.

So it raises the question: Can Man United buy its way out of trouble? The answer, is maybe.

Manchester City spent boatloads of money, and it did end up with a first Premier League-era title in 2012. Only Micah Richards was from the club’s youth system in the squad. The latest smart purchases from Man City has put the club on a path to long-term success.

And yet, it’s not like Man United hasn’t spent a ton of money over the last decade chasing success. Since Ferguson retired, millions were spent on signing so many players, some of whom turned out to be good, but none turned out to be great. There was Juan Mata and Marouane Fellaini. Then Ander Herrera, Luke Shaw, and Angel Di Maria. Then Memphis Depay, Morgan Schneiderlin, and Anthony Martial. Soon after it was Pogba and Eric Bailley and don’t forget Henrik Mkhitaryan. How much did Victor Lindelof, Lukaku and Sanchez cost Man United?

I could go on even further, but the point is made. Man United has spent tons, and it seems like with no plan.

The only way this new plan works is if they buy smart and buy players who fit well in a system, not just the ones who are shining in other systems.

Rooney: With Guardiola, England ‘could have won everything’

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Between 2000-2008, the England National Team had some of the best individual players in their positions in all of world soccer. Yet they never made it past the quarterfinals in any tournament they competed in, and the “Golden Generation” came to a relative end with England failing to qualify for the 2008 European Championship all together.

According to Wayne Rooney, in a sit down with Roger Bennett from Men in Blazers on the Wayne Rooney Podcast, had England had a better coach, they would have won it all.

[READ: USMNT Roundtable from the PST Staff]

“You look at our team ten years ago and we arguably had the best group of players in world football,” Rooney said. “Rio Ferdinand, John Terry, Ashley Cole, Gerrard, Scholes, Lampard, Beckham, Myself, Michael Owen. Our team then, if we had Guardiola, with that group of players, we would have won everything. No doubt about it.”

If you’re like me and you’ve enjoyed Rooney’s honest chats with Rog, it’s not super surprising to hear him speak this off the cuff about a major moment earlier in his career. There’s a lot to break down from this comment, though.

Rooney’s first manager for England was the Swede Sven-Goran Eriksen. Eriksen, when he took over England in 2001, was coming off leading Lazio – yes Lazio – to the Serie A title, and had previous success with Fiorentina, Roma, and Benfica in Portugal.

He was ultimately criticized for his lack of fire and emotion on the touchline, as he watched England get knocked out of the quarterfinals at both the 2002 and 2006 World Cups, and the 2004 European Championships. The 2004 Euros and 2006 World Cup exits were both on penalty kicks, both to Portugal.

Rooney of course was injured against Portugal in the 2004 tournament, and had been injured in the run up to the 2006 World Cup and wasn’t at his best for that tournament either.

Perhaps the biggest indictment against Eriksen’s leadership – and that of the managers before him – was that Paul Scholes retired from international duty at just 30-years old, despite being one of the best holding midfielders in the world. Eriksen had tried, repeatedly to somehow fit Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Scholes into a 4-4-2, with one forced to play along the wing, and Scholes apparently decided if he wasn’t valued enough, he’d quit while he was ahead.

You wonder if Guardiola, or any coach today, with the value played on a good holding midfielder, would have made Scholes the first name on the teamsheet.

Things didn’t get much better for England after Eriksen, and Steve McLaren failed to qualify England for the 2008 Euros and was run out of town, but the damage was done.

So could Guardiola have won the World Cup with the former Golden Generation? Perhaps. But Guardiola would have struggled to get all these individual talents – many of whom were rivals for their club teams – to play together and play for the flag on their chest.

Listen to the rest of Rooney’s chat with Rog below.

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Absurd Paul Scholes pass has Premier League fans all nostalgic

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Vincent Kompany‘s testimonial on Wednesday featured some big names from the former Manchester City defender’s time in the Premier League, and one in particular put jaws on the floor.

Paul Scholes, whose time at City’s cross-town rivals Manchester United overlapped Kompany’s Premier League journey by four years, produced a moment of brilliance that brought fans back to his time in midfield for the Red Devils. The 44-year-old donned a dark blue shirt for the Premier League All-Stars side at Kompany’s testimonial and wow’d the crowd.

With Robin Van Persie and Robbie Keane breaking forward, Scholes took a square pass from Cesc Fabregas and produced a stunning flick with the outside of his boot that fell perfectly in line for the two strikers on a run. Unfortunately, both Keane and van Persie went for the ball, and they ran into each other allowing Jolean Lescott to recover and end the chance.

The match ended in a 2-2 draw as Benjani Mwaruwari scored a last-minute equalizer for the Manchester City Legends. Martin Petrov opened the scoring for Man City Legends, but the Premier League All-Stars took the lead through goals by van Persie and Keane before the late goal left things all square.

Current Manchester City players David Silva and Sergio Aguero were on hand to participate, as were former City players Samir Nasri, Joe Hart, Kolo Toure, Mario Balotelli, and Pablo Zabaleta. The likes of Edwin van der Sar, Phil Neville, Ryan Giggs, and Thierry Henry suited up for the opponents.

Kompany himself was unfortunately sidelined for the match by a hamstring injury – a cruel homage to the rampant injury history of his long 11-year playing career at the Etihad. He picked up the injury while playing for his new club Anderlecht where he serves as player/manager. The club has started the Jupiler Pro League season on a terrible run of form, without victory through its first five games, but picked up its first win of the season against rivals Standard Liege with Kompany out injured.

Proceeds from the match went to benefit A Bed Every Night, a charity in Manchester dedicated to helping aid the homeless in the city.

Caution king Lee Cattermole departs Sunderland after 10 years

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Lee Cattermole, most known for his thumping challenges, physical style of play, and spectacular ability to rack up yellow cards at a stunning rate, has left Sunderland after 10 years with the Black Cats.

The 31-year-old midfielder was a member of the Sunderland starting lineup that fell to Manchester City in the 2014 League Cup final and played every minute of Sunderland’s run through the League One playoffs this past season that ended in a 1-0 loss to Charlton in the final. The club had suffered consecutive relegations in the two previous seasons and will play in League One again next campaign.

“Sunderland is a special club and this decision has not been easy, but I believe it is the right time to find a new challenge,” Cattermole said in the official club release. “The football club, over my 10 years, has had some fantastic managers, staff and players and I have been lucky to be part of that. I would like to say a big thank you to Jack Ross and his staff, and I wish him and the current squad all the best for the coming season. There are some exciting young players at the club and I will be looking forward to seeing them progress.”

Cattermole joined Sunderland from Wigan in the summer of 2009 and proceeded to accumulate 261 appearances for Sunderland, scoring 10 goals, assisting 11, and collecting 87 yellow cards. He sits eighth in career Premier League yellow cards with 88, accumulating that tally in just 272 top-flight appearances, at least 75 less appearances than anyone else above him in the list and over 100 appearances less than all but two of the top 11. By comparison, Gareth Barry earned his record 123 yellow cards in 679 appearances, while Paul Scholes – who sits fifth – earned his 97 yellow cards in 499 appearances. Frank Lampard earned 59 yellow cards in 611 Premier League appearances, while it took Cattermole just 194 appearances to reach that total.

Cattermole has also earned seven red cards in Premier League play, ranking him fourth all-time behind Richard Dunne, Duncan Ferguson, and Patrick Vierra all who picked up eight.

In the 2014/15 season, Cattermole picked up 14 yellow cards, earning every single one for a foul rather than time-wasting, diving, or dissent. However, of the 10 matches he missed that season – mostly for yellow card suspensions – the club won just one. Last season, in 29 League One appearances for Sunderland, he picked up 13 yellow cards, but also scored seven goals to help the club finish fourth and earn its playoff berth. All seven of his goals either tied a game or took the lead.