United confirm first January signing

Manchester United have officially confirmed the signing of former Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes, who has signed an 18-month deal with the club with the option to extend it for a further year. The 32-year-old had been training at Carrington since October in a bid to recover from a serious knee injury that had seen his proposed move to Monaco collapse last summer and has impressed Louis Van Gaal enough to convince the United manager to offer him a contract.

“It is a real honour to sign for Manchester United. I would like to thank Louis van Gaal and the club for allowing me to do my rehabilitation and to train with the team at the Aon Training Complex,” Valdes said when the signing was made official. “From my short time here I can already see this is a very special club. I worked with Louis van Gaal during my time at FC Barcelona and to have the opportunity to work with him here at Manchester United is a dream come true.” 10931607_10152705428612746_1916307796303094935_o Valdes, who has won 21 trophies during his career at Barcelona, will be David De Gea’s understudy, with Ben Amos and Anders Lindegaard set to leave the club. “I am delighted Victor has signed for the club. Victor is a very experienced goalkeeper and his record speaks for itself. I have said on many occasions that Manchester United will always be interested in the best players,” said Louis Van Gaal. “Victor has remained very professional throughout his rehabilitation from injury and has been very impressive during his training sessions with the first team over the past weeks. He joins the club as the number two goalkeeper and is a great addition to the first team.”

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United in De Gea talks

1203791-25145109-2560-1440Manchester United will “accelerate” talks with David De Gea to extend the Spanish goalkeeper’s contract in a bid to fend off Real Madrid’s interest. The 24-year-old has only 18 months left on his contract and has not ruled out the chance of returning to Spain, even though he also admitted feeling at home and settled in Manchester, and United are determined to tie De Gea to a long term deal, thus avoiding any offers from Real Madrid. < p align="right"> On Wednesday, United confirmed the signing of Victor Valdes, with the former Barcelona goalkeeper agreeing an 18-month deal at Old Trafford as he looks set to become De Gea’s understudy, while Anders Lindegaard and Ben Amos have been told they’re free to leave the club as early as this month. Speculation that De Gea might leave United in the near future increased on Wednesday night, when reports emerged that Newcastle goalkeeper Tim Krul had been linked with a move to Old Trafford. Losing the Spaniard would be a massive blow for United, given De Gea has emerged as one of the best goalkeepers in the world and has arguably been the best in his role in the Premier League this season, bailing United out in more than one occasion. However, United have had an excellent relationship with Jorge Mendes, De Gea’s agent, and remain confident the former Atletico Madrid man will put pen to paper.

United confirm Valdes signing

1400x931384-e1414160419961Manchester United have offered Victor Valdes a two-year deal, with the 32-year old set to become David De Gea’s number two at Old Trafford this month. The former Barcelona keeper has been training with United for the last two months to recover from a serious knee injury that caused his proposed move to Monaco to collapse earlier this season and he’s now set to join United as free agent. < p align="right"> The news comes as the Daily Mail reported on Tuesday that Ben Amos and Anders Lindegaard have been told that they can leave the club as early as this month. The former has been at United since he was 11-year-old but has only made seven senior appearances since making his debut against Middlesbrough in the League Cup in 2008, the last one coming almost three seasons ago, while the latter has been linked with Molde and a possible swap dealing involving Norway goalkeeper Orjan Nyland and has not played this season.  

Three areas United must strengthen in

Southampton-v-Manchester-United-Premier-League (4)Louis Van Gaal’s first six months at Old Trafford have been difficult to judge. It feels as if United are still to fully reap the benefits of the summer spending spree, as injuries have hampered all the new arrivals, forcing Van Gaal to constantly reshuffle his team, though after a difficult start United are unbeaten in 10 games in all competition and sit third in the table. However, while the unbeaten run has included seven wins and United are on track to achieve their target of returning to Europe next season, their performances have been unconvincing and have betrayed a vulnerability that must surely be addressed if a title challenge is to be mounted next season. < p align="right"> Van Gaal has been tight-lipped over United’s transfer business in January but the feeling is that he’s unlikely to bring in new faces this month, which means United could be set for another overhaul in the summer, albeit not one as drastic as the one in 2014. Here’s three areas United must strengthen in.

1) Centre-back

Orange is the new black, 30 is the new 20 and centre-back is the new central midfielder. At least as far as United are concerned, that is. United’s defensive deficiencies this season have been all too well documented and ruthlessly exposed and while only City, Chelsea and Southampton have conceded less this season, that is due to David De Gea’s outstanding form, rather than to defensive solidity. Jonny Evans has regressed enormously and must now be classified as a liability, while Chris Smalling remains too prone to making mistakes and struggles against physically stronger centre-forwards. Phil Jones has looked the more assured of the senior centre-backs – a telling fact in itself – but has managed only nine appearances, one less than Marcos Rojo, who succumbed to injury just when he was starting to look more at ease in his role. Tyler Blackett and Paddy McNair have got potential but remain too inexperienced at the moment and while Michael Carrick has done an outstanding job when asked to fill in at centre-back, that deprives United of having him where he’s at his most influential. Ron-Vlaar-523646 United have been repeatedly linked with Mats Hummels, with the Borussia Dortmund centre-back looking more likely to leave the Westfalenstadion than he did in the summer, largely because of his side’s horrendous form this season.
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Rooney scoops award

Manchester-United-v-NewcastleWayne Rooney has been voted Manchester United’s Player of the Month for December, as United ended 2014 in third place on the table on the back of an eight-game unbeaten league run. With 46% of the votes Rooney finished just ahead of Michael Carrick and Ashley Young, both influential figures during United’s streak which included six consecutive wins across the last two months of 2014. < p align="right"> Having missed the first game of the month against Stoke, Rooney returned to the starting XI for United’s trip to Southampton, which saw the Reds clinch their second consecutive away win. On a difficult night for United, Rooney assisted Robin Van Persie’s winner, before turning finisher against Liverpool and Newcastle, as he picked up three goals in two games as well as assisting Van Persie’s third against the Magpies. Despite being deployed in a deeper role than usual, Rooney was at his influential best in December and even attracted comparison with Paul Scholes for the way he timed his runs in the box. Dan

Moyes: “Januzaj reminds me of Cruyff”

70921.3David Moyes has compared Adnan Januzaj to Johan Cruyff, claiming the Belgian is a special player, who’s mature despite his young age and desperate to succeed. Januzaj has had limited opportunities under Louis Van Gaal this season but was arguably the only positive of Moyes’ spell in charge at United, as the Belgian established himself as one of the best young players in the Premier League and earned himself a spot in Belgium squad for the World Cup. < p align="right"> “Some youngsters get overawed. Not Adnan. I realised that when he came to train with the first team soon after I joined. I decided to take him on tour with the first team within minutes of watching him,” Moyes told Four Four Two. “He wasn’t timid but hungry to succeed. He was one of the tour’s bright spots. He possesses a level of self-assured arrogance, which is a positive as he’s not too arrogant. “On the contrary, he’s a bright lad who is mature for his age. He’s a wonderfully gifted player with great balance and the ability to go past people. When I see his poise on the ball, he has characteristics of Johan Cruyff.” Dan

United to sell striker in the summer

chicharito-javier-hernandez-real-madrid_3198642Javier Hernandez will leave Manchester United this summer, regardless of what happens to Radamel Falcao, with Louis Van Gaal adamant that the Mexican is now surplus to requirements at Old Trafford. According to a report in the Telegraph, Chicharito will be allowed to leave at the end of the season even if United choose not to make Falcao’s move to Old Trafford permanent, with the on-loan Colombian striker set to cost the club in the excess of £40m. < p align="right"> Having played the first game of the season against Swansea, Hernandez was allowed to join Real Madrid on loan but has struggled to make an impact in Spain, with Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale all ahead of him in the pecking order and has scored just four times in 14 appearances in all competition. With the 26-year-old entering the final year of his contract next season, United’s decision to cash in rather than losing him for free is perfectly understandable, though it remains to be seen whether they’ll manage to attract any suitors for the Mexican, who scored 20 goals in 45 matches in all competitions in 2010-11, his debut season in the Premier League. With 18 goals in 36 appearances, Hernandez was instrumental in United’s cavalcade to their 20th league title in 2012-13, but the Mexican had very limited opportunities under David Moyes last season and is clearly not in Van Gaal’s plans.

Fletcher out to end Cup hurt

Manchester-United-v-Crystal-Palace-Premier-LeagueDarren Fletcher has said him and his teammates are desperate to lift the FA Cup this season, 11 years on since they last lifted English football’s oldest trophy. Fletcher was in the squad that beat in the final Millwall in 2004, but tasted the feat against Arsenal 12 months later and was on the losing side against Chelsea in the first final at the new Wembley stadium in 2007. That was the last occasion United reached the final, before twice falling in the semifinal in 2009 and 2011 and Fletcher insists United have to put the record straight this season. < p align="right"> “It’s been too long since United have won this competition,” said the midfielder. “We really want to win it this year and hopefully we’ll look back on our result here [at Yeovil] as one of the most important ones if we go far in this competition.” Having been knocked out of the League Cup in August and with Chelsea and Manchester City only a blip on the horizon, the FA Cup is United’s only realistic hope of silverware this season and Fletcher believes Angel Di Maria will be crucial to his team’s chances of reaching Wembley in May. “It was a touch of class to dink it over the goalkeeper, a fantastic goal, so credit to him,” Fletcher said of the Argentine’s goal on Sunday, which clinched United’s 2-0 win. “He showed exactly what he’s all about. “We’ve missed him, but hopefully he’s back now and he can kick on in the second half of the season and be the really important player we know he’s going to be. “He’s learning quickly and he makes great intelligent runs as well. He always wants the ball. He gets kicked and he just keeps getting up, he’s that strong.
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Gerrard: “I had a United shirt as a kid”

Steven Gerrard has been pretty much on every single newspaper over the last couple of days, since he announced his decision to leave Liverpool at the end of the season and relocate to the MLS. It turns out that the last bastion of proper football, the Liverpool icon and just about to the greatest player to have ever played the sport, wasn’t such a keen Liverpool fan when he was younger and even had a United shirt. < p align="right"> “Up until the age of eight I could have supported anyone,” Gerrard told Four Four Two. “When I was younger I had all kinds of different kits: Tottenham, Norwich, Real Madrid, Barcelona… I even had a United kit. “We had a few Everton fans in the family who were trying to get me down the Blue road, but once I started understanding the game and listening to my dad and brother talk about Liverpool’s great history, that was it.” Undoubtedly people on Merseyside will claim Gerrard never said such words and that is all a conspiracy.

Five things we have learnt from Yeovil vs United

Yeovil-v-Manchester-United (1)After getting knocked out in the third round last season, United managed to book a spot in the fourth round of the FA Cup but only after struggling than expected against League One side Yeovil Town. It might have been United’s 11th consecutive game unbeaten but that was just about the only positive to take away from a trip to Devon. Here’s five things we have learnt from Sunday’s 2-0 win. < p align="right">

1) Three men and two steps back

For over an hour, United’s display against Yeovil was bad to the point of being embarrassing as the reds succeeded in making their abysmal effort looking like a good performance. United were hurried into mistakes by a side bottom of League One, struggled to get a foothold in the game and could have and should have gone behind either side of half-time, when the score was still 0-0. Amid a pedestrian midfield and strikers who saw nothing of the ball, United’s achilles heel was again their three-man defence, which looked and behaved like its usual self: unorganised, shaky and utterly unreliable. Paddy McNair, Tyler Blackett and Chris Smalling suffered Yeovil’s physical impact, but a direct approach has to be expected by lower league sides and United’s inability to cope with everything that was throw at them was frightening. Van Gaal’s has been criticised for persisting with a 3-5-2 formation but the decision might now be no longer in his hands, given that all of the four wing-backs at his disposal are injured. It might be a blessing in disguise, however, given United looked more comfortable when they reverted to a four man defence following the introduction of Jonny Evans, with McNair and Blackett deployed as make-shift full-backs. Yeovil-v-Manchester-United (3)

2) Darren Fletcher is finished

The fact this has been repeated ad nauseam over the last couple weeks doesn’t make it any easier to accept that one of the players United fans have most appreciate in the last decade has now become a liability. Against Yeovil, Fletcher was again horrendously off the pace, mis-placing simple passes – a sin he shared with almost every single one of his teammates – and struggling to ensure any sort of protection for United’s wobbly back three. Things improves slightly when United reverted to a 4-1-3-2 formation with Fletcher deployed just in front of the back four, but not even that can disguise the fact that the Scots is no longer capable to meet the demands of football at the level United should aspire to play. His commitment in returning to play football after such a terrible illness was a brilliant example of defiance and determination and, particularly for that reason, Fletcher doesn’t deserve to be publicly humiliated against a fourth division side.
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LVG wrong to complain about fixtures pile-up

Aston-Villa-v-Manchester-United-Premier-LeagueHolland legend and former Barcelona manager Johann Cruyff has said Louis Van Gaal has made a mistake by choosing to criticise the hectic festive season programme in English football, given he’s the one who chose to manage an English club.

Van Gaal said that the number of games teams were forced to play during the Christmas period had a negative impact not only on players’ fitness and teams’ results but also on the supporters.

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“Everybody knows the body cannot recover within 48 hours,” he said last month.

“Therefore there is a rule within UEFA and FIFA that you cannot play the games within two days. The scientists have proven it, everybody knows it and, in spite of that, we have to play.

“It is the culture of England. I don’t mind, but it’s not good for the players, for the health of the players, and it’s not good for the game.”

Former Ajax legend Cruyff, however, didn’t share his compatriot’s point of view.

“If you choose for (a job in) England, then you choose for their successful system, which is based on the proposition that the stadiums open as soon as the fans are available to watch, which is the holiday period,” Cruyff said in his column on popular Dutch newspaper De Telegraf.

“Playing football between Christmas and New Year is a war of attrition and thus in favour of physically stronger teams.”

It’s not the first time that Cruyff, who has had a strained relationship with the United manager, has criticised Van Gaal’s decision-making at United since the former Holland manager took over in July.

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All or nothing for United in the cup, says LVG

Aston-Villa-v-Manchester-United-Premier-LeagueLouis Van Gaal has warned Manchester United that they face an “all or nothing” scenario when they face League One side Yeovil Town in the third round of the FA Cup on Sunday. With seven wins in their last 10 Premier League games, United travel to Huish Park as the overwhelming favourites and the Dutchman has stressed they “will go into the match fully prepared” to avoid any potential upsets. < p align="right"> “In the Netherlands we have a saying: “Death or the Gladioli” which means all or nothing. It’s a Gladioli game. You are dead or you receive the gladiolus flower and in cup matches it’s always like that,” said Van Gaal. “We will go into the match fully prepared.” Van Gaal saw United humbled 4-0 by another League One side, MK Dons, early in September and he’s keen to avoid any further embarrassment on Sunday. “We know from our early exit in the Capital One Cup that league places mean nothing in the cups,” added the United manager. “You can win and you can lose and of course we have to win. The FA Cup the shortest way to success so we are very interested and I think my players are also.” “Against Milton Keynes we have lost, so what we have learned from that game is what we always learn of games that we lose – what we have done not the right way.” Van Gaal has experienced cup upsets before, when his Ajax side were knocked out by Cambuur, while he suffered a 3-2 loss at third-tier Novelda when in charge of Barcelona in 2002.
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LVG: “Lucky” United must improve on the road

Stoke-City-v-Manchester-United-Premier-LeagueLouis Van Gaal has admitted Manchester United were lucky to escape with a 1-1 draw against Stoke on New Year’s Day, as he watched his side struggle against the Potters’ physicality. United fell behind to an early Ryan Shawcross goal and while they fought their back into the game courtesy of Radamel Falcao’s second goal in two games, they never looked comfortable and were forced to hang on for large spells of the game.

“Stoke City deserved more the victory. I cannot say we were the better team,” said Van Gaal. “We started very badly. When you concede from a set play that you have prepared and they scored the same way we had told, that was a big disappointment. “But it is difficult to defend when we are not so tall. Steven Nzonzi is taller and Crouch is taller so it is not so easy. We have to play always those kind of games because the opponent is always taller than us. “It is not the first goal we receive like that.” However, when asked if he planned to bolster his defensive options in the January transfer window, Van Gaal replied: “No, we want to play another kind of football than Stoke City.” The draw extended United unbeaten run to 10 games, but the Reds have drawn three of their last four games and have won only twice away from home this season.

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United hoping to provide perfect hangover cure

Manchester-United-v-Stoke-012After the cans have been cleared away, the taste of ale scrubbed from your mouth and you’ve snuck out without her, noticing football fans can get back to the important things in life. The best thing about January 1st is the promise of football. While everyone else is focusing on a new year and a new start, Macaulay Culkin swears that this is the year he gets his life back on track and Rene Zellweger promises no more plastic surgery in 2015, United fans will hope to nurse a hangover with victory at the Britannia stadium. < p align="right"> Manchester United Team News Rumours are circling that Angel Di Maria was onboard an Air Singapore flight as information on his injury has completely dried. That either means it’s no concern to Louis Van Gaal, or as is more likely we won’t be seeing the Argentinian for a long time. Antonio Valencia picked up a knock at Spurs so Rafael is likely to take his place, Luke Shaw also returned from injury in the week. United could well field a back four, providing more stability than fans have seen in recent weeks. Marouane Fellaini and Adnan Januzaj have also recovered from sickness, but Van Gaal hinted neither are match fit. The boss also confirmed that Ander Hererra has been back in training this week. Stoke City Team News Phil Bardsley misses out on the clash and Stoke will be assessing Bojan for a slight hamstring strain he picked up in the last match. Key men United have not struggled for firepower this season, but against Spurs the forwards displayed what can only be described as poverty shooting.
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Five things we’ve learnt from United vs Newcastle

Manchester United players might have add Christmas Day off but there was no post-festivity hangover as they brushed Newcastle aside, claiming a seventh win in the last eight games and consolidating their third spot. Here’s five major talking points from Boxing Day, ahead of United’s trip to North London tomorrow. 1) Wayne’s world Few players have divided opinions among United fans as Wayne Rooney has done. A misunderstood legend in the making or a player who’s held the club to ransom twice and never quite fulfilled his potential? Whichever side of the fence one might be sitting on, refusing to acknowledge the impact Rooney has had on the team this season is something only the staunchest of detractors would indulge in. On the other hand, not even the biggest fans of the United number 10 could have quite fathomed the transformation he has undergone over the first five months of the Louis Van Gaal era. Deployed in midfield alongside Michael Carrick and with Juan Mata in the number 10 role, Rooney enjoys a tactical freedom he’s probably never experienced before, for the former is the designated defensive midfielder and the latter is the creative hub of the side. That Rooney combines superbly with both is testament to his qualities, while his desire to burst into the box from a deep position shows shades of the old Rooney, the one who flourished in the side that won three titles in a row between 2006 and 2009. He might not be the best midfielder United have had since Paul Scholes, but Rooney’s new-found maturity could shape this United side for the foreseeable future. 2) Attack, attack, attack Since the end of the transfer window, pundits and fans alike have marvelled at United’s offensive potential, while bemoaning their defensive frailties. The attacking weapons at Van Gaal’s disposal are world class but, due to a combination of injuries and ever-changing formation, United struggled to supply their strikers with the ammunition they require to thrive. Since beating Arsenal away, however, United have scored 14 goals in six games, scoring three in four of their last home games and failing to score more than once only against Aston Villa on Saturday.
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United take a trip to the manager Circus

Manchester-United-v-NewcastleRealistically Tottenham have become a team with the same manager merry-go-round as Real Madrid, but with the London side it’s been more like aiming for Kate Upton covered in chocolate but ending up with Kerry Katona and a half empty bottle of curry sauce. This preview is written with Mauricio Pochettino currently at the helm, but keeping in mind this could change by Sunday. So when United face Neil Warnock’s side on Sunday they will be coming up against a team with a leaky defence, questionable performances but the ability to grind out results. Sounds familiar.

United have continued their fine form, victory against Newcastle was a marked improvement to the away game at Aston Villa before Christmas and has only increased the whispers of a title challenge. So when they go to White Hart Lane to face Tony Pullis’ side confidence should still be high. Manchester United Team News United successfully got through the last fixture against Newcastle without sustaining any injuries or suspensions. This was largely helped by the game becoming an exhibition match so Van Gaal will hopefully have close to a fully fit team. Unfortunately the team has stood firm with its policy of training amongst landmines in Syria so Angel Di Maria has been added to the injury list with a problem with his pelvis. Adnan Januzaj and Marouane Fellaini could return after suffering what LVG described as “Belgian sickness”, Luke Shaw has also recovered from an ankle injury. Spurs Team News Edith Piaf’s Spurs will be fielding close to a fully fit 11 as Hugo Lloris will not miss out despite suffering a cut to his mouth in the previous fixture against Leicester and Ryan Mason could return to the first team. Key men

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Midfielder edges closer to United exit

Tom-Cleverley-517051Manchester United could pocket £7.5m for Tom Cleverley when the transfer window opens in January, after Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert confirmed he would like to sign the midfielder on a permanent basis.

Cleverley joined Villa on loan on transfer deadline day, after Louis Van Gaal deemed him surplus to requirements and the 25-year-old could now make his switch to Villa Park permanent, a decision which is unlikely to upset many United fans, who have grown disillusioned and frustrated with the midfielder.

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“We’ve got the option to buy in January. I will definitely try. A lot will depend on finances,” said Lambert.

“We’ve had one or two discussions with (chief executive) Tom Fox and Randy. If something comes up and he thinks it’s right for the club and affordable, I’m pretty sure he will look at it.

“I will have a discussion with Tom. I’ve never really had that with him. He’s still a Manchester United player. I’ve got him for a season anyway.”

Lambert added that Cleverley was reaping the benefits of playing regularly, after only having limited opportunities at Old Trafford over the last two seasons.

“Tom’s been great around the place.

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Fergie: “LVG is a great manager”

Southampton-v-Manchester-United-Premier-League (4)Sir Alex Ferguson has insisted that Louis Van Gaal has done well to stir Manchester United in third place, given the number of injuries he’s faced since the start of the season and the former United manager remains convinced the Dutchman is the right man for the club. Speaking to BT Sport, Fergie said that Van Gaal should be judged only once he has a fully fit squad at his disposal, by when United are likely to fully click into gear, according to the former United manager.

“First of all, Louis Van Gaal, I don’t know how he can expect to get the best results with the injuries he’s had,” said Ferguson. “Once they get the players back they’ll be fine. And when he gets the best players back, you watch United, because he’s a great coach, he’ll do well. “I’m not interested in what’s happening with the players he’s brought in because they’ll need time. When I took Patrice Evra and Nemenja Vidic in the January of the same year, they were all over the place. “It took five months to get used to playing for Manchester United, the culture, the history of the club, and these new players will be exactly the same. They’ve still got great players.” Following a shambolic season under David Moyes, United are aiming to return to the top of English football and Van Gaal has previously stressed the importance to establish a philosophy at the club. Asked which philosophy United stood for, Fergie said that the club should embrace the spirit of the Class of 92, which “brought back the history of Manchester United”. “Many people have different interpretations of what I’ve made Manchester United over the last 26 years, with great players – Rooney, Ronaldo, Cantona, Keane, Robson, Schmeichel, there’s too many to talk about,” said Fergie.

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Fergie: “Carrick is the best midfielder in England”

Michael CarrickSir Alex Ferguson has described Michael Carrick as the best English midfielder during an interview with Clare Balding for a BT Sport Christmas Day special. Fergie, who signed Carrick from Tottenham Hotspur in the summer of 2006, claimed the 33-year-old is the best English central midfielder at the moment. The former Spurs man has been influential in United’s six-game winning run that came to an end against Aston Villa on Saturday, with Louis Van Gaal deploying him at centre-back in some occasions. < p align="right"> “I think Michael Carrick is the best centre midfield player in English football,” said Ferguson. “I think he’s the best English player in the game. I think Robin Van Persie, the World Cup had maybe taken a little bit out of him, but you watch him in the second half, he’ll be fine. “Rooney is back flying and Rooney will always get you a goal, and that’s always an advantage when a team has got a goalscorer in a team. “The one that’s most pleasing to me of the present lot is David De Gea. When we bought him he was a kid, he was skinny, but he had an ability. He’s got special talents, and it’s shown.”

Five things we’ve learnt from Villa vs United

Aston-Villa-v-Manchester-United (2)United failed to make it seven wins in the last seven games and seven wins in seven visits to Villa Park, as they could only drew 1-1 with 10-man Aston Villa on Saturday. Here’s five things we have learnt from the trip to the Midlands.

1) End of the road for Fletch

United fans love Darren Fletcher. How could we not? While not technically gifted, he represents everything we love to see in a United player: commitment, desire to win, loyalty to the shirt and so forth. Sadly, however, one gets the feeling that the Scotsman is still at the club purely on the basis of being a nice narrative after overcoming a serious disease and that is not how the final years of Fletcher’s career should unfold. Against Villa, Fletcher was a passenger for the 45 minutes he spent on the pitch and United almost immediately upped the tempo after he was replaced. Daley Blind, Marouane Fellaini and Ander Herrera were all out with a combination of injuries and illness but despite the lack of alternatives, United can’t expect to dominate games by playing Fletcher. What Fletcher has achieved in the game and the resilience he showed to fight his way back into the first team are nothing short of commendable, but the curtain on his United career must surely come down at the end of the season.

2) Lo Lo Lo

Radamel Falcao’s career at Manchester United has been a saga since he first arrived in Manchester, with his loan deal not announced until after transfer deadline. The Colombian’s performances and injury problems have since been heavily scrutinised amid rumours that Louis Van Gaal is far from convinced that Falcao deserves a permanent contract. Finally handed a chance to leave his mark on the game as he started only his second game in over two months, Falcao did not disappoint as he netted a brilliant equaliser and showed signs of getting back to full fitness with a solid performance. The former Atletico Madrid striker still lacks the sharpness of two seasons ago, but his finish was superb and he was much more threatening than Robin Van Persie and Wayne Rooney and Van Gaal must hope the goal will give Falcao the confidence required to kickstart his season.

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