Naveen Varshan

Read, write & Coffee. Sports = Food = Relationships = Movies = Knowledge = Life.

Short Story – Under The Pink Umbrella

And then, a large man holding up a pink umbrella stood peering amicably at me. It was a grey evening with a dull sky threatening to rain.

I was walking back home after a hectic day at work, stumbling along the streets. Thunder came marching from far away with increasing tread. A curtain of rain beat down from the kingdom of heaven. I had no option but to take the dreaded shortcut to reach home as soon as possible.

It was a gloomy deserted street with garbage lands flanking the bumpy road. I strode through the street, it was freezing cold and I was already completely drenched. And all of a sudden, the rain drops ceased to plummet on me, an umbrella with a sharp broken handle was held over my head by a man walking beside me, the man who I saw some time back on the other side of the road. I feared the worse but decided that I’ll cross the bridge when I come to it. I looked at him questioningly but he never turned to my side.

He came out of nowhere, he was a dark old man with a chisel shaped face wearing strange torn clothes, and just the whiff of putrid smell on him bombarded my nostrils engulfing the damp pungent smells of rain. I didn’t speak to him, walked as fast as I could shallow breathing and using my hanky to avoid the smell creeping into my nose. He spoke no word, he kept pace with me. Once the rain stopped, he disappeared; it was the end of that street. I did not want to look back, and few minutes later, I reached home.

I went into my house overwhelmed with fear and anxiety, and to the roar of my father shouting over the phone and to the pleasant welcoming voice of my mom from the kitchen. My father was so angry that he struck down the phone as if he wanted to smash it right into the core of the earth, which clearly didn’t happen. That reminded me of my phone, which has gone missing. I quickly realized that I would have lost it in that eerie street while I was taking out my hanky.

It was now a noisy and inky-black night, the wind was sighing and thrashing in the tree tops, and I looked through the window, there stood a man in his pink umbrella on one hand and my phone on the other hand. He was a good man. You can’t judge a book by its cover.


Formations and Tactics for United under Moyes

Originally written/published for:

Sir Alex Ferguson to David Moyes, the new era has begun, change from [4-4-2] to [4-4-1-1/4-2-3-1]?

Every manager has their own style of football, great managers adapt to the needs, but rarely their preferred formation changes. Ferguson used various formations during his time, but 4-4-2 was the foundation on how he managed his team both on and off the field [transfer market].

Similarly, judging by Moyes’ time at Everton, it is quite apparent that he is a big advocate of 4-4-1-1/4-2-3-1, and that does not imply a manager will use the same formation at every club he manages. But looking at how United lined up in the pre-season matches with one man up front supported by a man behind and with wingers on either side, it is safe to say that 4-4-1-1 will be the likely formation Manchester United might play. But this could dramatically change at times depending on the availability of players and strength of the opposition. In 2007/08 season, Fergie used a 4-3-3 with Rooney-Ronaldo-Tevez and a 4-2-4 in 2008/09 with the addition of Berbatov. It was all about adapting to the changes of modern football and making the best use of the players available to the team.

ImageStarting XI (Credit:


The Everton days will tell you that Moyes is not a great fan of flying wingers, he rather prefers to go with central wingers and also the high defensive line will be a change from our earlier styles. In this way, the system is more open and attack minded than the traditional 4-4-2 of English football. While attacking, the formation works like a 4-2-3-1 but reverts back to 4-5-1 when defending. The main aspect of his play is about maintaining the same intensity throughout the game, and this requires a great level of fitness but knowing how the training methods have been so far, we can be confident that the players could well be ready for the challenge once the season starts.


ImageAttack (Credit:

The man up front is an obvious choice with Robin van Persie and the three players slotting behind him and in front of the central midfield will be the key. Marouane Fellaini and Tim Cahill were the players primarily used in the attacking midfield role at Everton under Moyes. If he looks for a similar kind of player with physical and aerial approach, then Welbeck would be the ideal choice. The selection of the players in those three positions will also depend on how he is going to strategize the play.

Last season, the Toffees played with a dominating left side providing assists and goals, and with the right side used in offering width to the system. If that is to be the case, Valencia will be the most likely candidate to take up the right-wing position with Kagawa playing on the left.

With the quality of players available at Manchester United, the possible scenario will be an interchangeable three. The options will be Kagawa, Welbeck, Zaha, Nani, Valencia and Rooney (if he stays). Swapping wings every now and then can cause problems to any opposition, and the movement of the second striker correspondingly towards the side of play will be vital in creating chances and scoring goals.

The central midfielders of Moyes’ blues used to sit deep, spraying passes to the flanks and short passes around the central area. They are more of playmakers, passing into players who are free and thereby initiating attacks.

The importance of full backs cannot be undermined; Baines has been a key figure of the Everton side for some years now. Full backs help in providing width to the play and also can get in crosses for the front four to play on. The extraordinarily successful pairing of Baines and Pienaar is an example, they are responsible for 41% of the total Everton chances created in 2012/13 season. Fellaini and Cahill were not creative players; they were more of simple passers with the ability to score goals. Everton have always relied on the full backs and the central wingers in creating chances for the team. Evra and Rafael excel when it comes to attacking, so as far as the attacking part is concerned, Moyes might not face much of a problem.


ImageDefence (Credit:

When defending, the players will be asked to narrow down and adapt a 4-5-1 formation, and that is how Everton operated. Whenever they lost the ball, the front four are used to pressure the opponents and the work of winning the ball back is given to the central midfielders. Carrick is a ball winner though not many would advocate this, can help in the midfield along with the hard worker in Cleverley. With the full backs thronging in during attacks, it is essential that the two midfielders sit tight and cover up the defence.

The chances of Welbeck taking up the attacking midfielder role under Moyes is high because of the fact that he tracks back exceptionally well and also has the patience and physicality to defend. Fellaini played that role exceedingly well for Everton last season, tracking back whenever the wingers or midfielders were out of position and also was used as the one taking care of the opposition’s deep-lying playmaker. It was the same with Tim Cahill during his eight years under Moyes.

One thing that will be a cause of concern is the left back position. Evra is great going forward but definitely lacks the pace to fall back when needed. The wingers will be asked to support the full backs while defending, this is where a Valencia or a Welbeck could pip others for the winger position with their ability to defend and maintain same energy level throughout the game. But this wouldn’t be much of a problem for Moyes at United, as he would have a wide variety of quality players on the bench to come in and run out the opposition when needed.


Only a Rooney departure followed by a direct replacement with an out-and-out striker like Ibrahimovic or Lewandowski can make this happen (No way).


Moyes with a 4-3-3 formation sounds bizarre. To play with such a formation, United need Rooney to stay and also sign one of Ronaldo or Bale. Manchester United and the transfer window don’t work that way.

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Fellaini to Manchester United? Why not?

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It is not often you can get a player in the transfer window whose special attributes are chiefly what the team is missing (hoping we sign a creative midfielder). Marouane Fellaini, with his immense physical presence can turn out to be destructive and daunting for the opposition, not just in Premier League but also in Europe. United has lacked that bite and steel in the midfield ever since the Roy Keane era. Fellaini is no Keano, but could just be the answer to our worries.

The general consensus among Manchester United fans is that he is overrated and they are not particularly interested in him. This basically stems from the fact that he has been inconsistent, his lack of discipline on the field and him not being a great passer of the ball. In Carrick, Kagawa, Cleverley and Anderson, we are quite adequate in creative midfielders. If Moyes is going in for a defensive midfielder, don’t see why he would go more than Fellaini considering not many are available for that position. The Big Belgian himself has talked about his desire to play as a deep-lying midfielder, makes him an ideal candidate for our need.

Fellaini on his future:

“David Moyes predicts my future as a defensive midfielder, but due to a lack of offensive power, he plays me up front. In the future I want to play as a six or an eight. From there, I can create danger and score goals

Moreover the balance he will give to the Red Devils line-up will be the key factor here. Looking at his strengths and weaknesses will furnish an idea of why exactly he was earlier mentioned as ‘an ideal candidate for our need’.


The former Everton man is known for his aerial ability in the middle of the pitch and is also a great asset both offensively and defensively when it comes to set-pieces. Our midfield on the other hand really does not have anyone who can win you headers, and any ball in the air is more or less going to end up in the possession of the opponents (We should be mindful of the fact that we are no Barcelona and tiki-taka is not Moyes style of play). Set-piece conversion plays a crucial role especially knowing the high amount of set-piece chances we create in a match. While defending set-pieces, United at the best have two centre backs who can mark people and win the battle of aerial balls, the rest are just good at clearing the ball out, so a presence like Fellaini can certainly give an extra dimension to the defense.

He is not a creative player, not a skillful passer of the ball and definitely cannot control the game like Scholes or Carrick. But why would you need a player with the ability to control the play when you already have Carrick, Kagawa, (and probably a new signing) to do so. The drawbacks of these players are the advantages of Fellaini. He can hassle, dispossess the opponents and wear down the opposition to submission. Comparing him to Yaya Toure right now does not make sense but under Moyes, he could just develop to be the next Toure in two years time. Most Red Devils will say yes to Toure if we ever get a chance to sign him, and that is because everyone is aware of the need for a strong, bullish and warrior like midfielder in the line-up. In Fellaini, you get a strong player with great aerial ability, ball-winner, workhorse and positively a menacing presence in the middle of the field. His job will be simple; protect the defense, clear the ball and fend off any threat to the attackers, more of a cleanup act. And let the vision and flair of Kagawa, Carrick, Rooney and the rest to take over and create magic.

However, Kevin Strootman is one the fans would prefer though not many have seen him play yet. It is also looking highly unlikely that he will be joining the Moyes’ boys this summer, with no interest shown from the Champions so far. Playing Phil Jones in midfield is not what fans want to see or rather even Jones himself. Fellaini is not such a bad option after all, at twenty-five years of age working under a manager who knows him pretty well, will only improve him as a player and a person. The two fixtures against City every season will be significant in the title race and do you think Carrick and Cleverley (or Thiago hopefully) can get through the wall of Toure and Fernandinho, they could but will be one hell of a task. Or are you going to believe that these players can stop players like Xavi, Ronaldo, Messi, Mata, Ribery, Iniesta, Bale and the list goes on. No one can actually stop them but a player like Fellaini on his best day can be very intimidating and can slow down their whole game and in turn liberate our attack to blossom.

Manchester United – The pressing need for a Defensive Midfielder

Originally written/published for:

With Thiago’s move to United imminent, the defensive side of the midfield can finally be addressed. A defensive midfielder, who will happily roll his sleeves up, do his team’s dirty work and be the unsung hero.

David Moyes already has an array of talented playmakers at his disposal both deep-lying and attacking ones. Carrick, Cleverley, Thiago, Kagawa and Rooney, all capable of playing as a No.10 and also at the centre of the pitch maintaining possession and spraying passes with incredible vision. This could upshot in an opinion that we have enough midfielders to challenge for the top honors.

However to be successful, the general notion in modern football has been that there should be either a holding midfielder or a defensive midfielder in the team. United in recent years or may be after Keane’s departure has preferred to go with a holding midfielder rather than a defensive one. Hargreaves and Fletcher were considered to be the possible ones who could give us that defensive option in midfield but injuries and illness respectively hampered their progress and in turn left a gaping hole in our midfield. Fletcher was really dominating our midfield in those two years post Champions League glory, which could have made Fergie believe that there is no need for another central midfielder. But sadly Fletcher never turned out to be the way we all wanted and his illness became a constant worrying factor.


Michael Carrick was then called on to play as the one sitting in front of the defense. He played it to perfection last year, holding up the ball and acting as the ‘regista’, the Italian term for deep-lying playmaker, someone who holds his position in front of the back four and opportunistically makes crucial interceptions to cut out opposition threats and also has the luxury and willingness to stray a little farther up the pitch unlike a defensive midfielder. But that is not what we need in front of the defense. Carrick needs a player (volante) beside him who is physically strong, loves tackling and can cover for the full backs when they are caught out of position. The term ‘volante’ is Brazilian football terminology to describe the player who not only shields the defense but also acts as the team’s metronome. This is proved by the fact when Red Devils played most of the big matches with Jones as a midfielder. He was used to mark Bale and Ronaldo, and in another case, Welbeck was used to mark Alonso. These were matches where they played against some exceptional talents and in Champions League most teams are filled with this brand of players.

Manchester United are perhaps the only major team not to play with a recognized central defensive midfielder. Martinez (Bayern), Toure (City), Vidal (Juventus) and Matuidi (PSG) are fine examples of how influential this position is in football. It would be an understatement if you say Bayern would have struggled if Carrick played instead of Martinez. To have success in Europe, it is essential that United buy an apposite defensive midfielder. Moyes will be aware of the fact that signing a defensive midfielder will not only strengthen the team but will also get the gratitude of the fans.

SEHWAG – Will there be a rise from the ashes? Or just legendary flames

There was a time (definitely not a farewell article) when every bowler feared the mere presence of Sehwag in the middle and it could still stay so if he is ready to pull his socks up and put in the yards for the next 6 months. Though Sehwag has had his problems with footwork, he always had his magical hand-eye coordination to lean on, but recently the magic does not seem to be working anymore and with doubts arising over his fitness, eyesight and his desire to continue at the big stage, things don’t look bright for Viru. As for the selectors it has all been just about performance on the field, that is the yardstick they have chosen to measure Viru by and hence the axe from the National team in all formats now, a strong message from the selectors. The selectors might have waited on this issue but the fact India have only two international test matches to go before the big African Safari in November, the selectors had to do it now.

The point that he has no international fixtures before the next away series to prove himself and the selectors wanting to give a run to a set of potential openers before South Africa, Sehwag might have to fight it out during the A-tours that start after the IPL. But even that looks quite unlikely when you see that there is Gambhir waiting in the wings apart from Sehwag. Gambhir is younger, hungrier and looks much more intent on getting his spot back at the national team. So looking at all this, it could basically be about asking the once celebrated opening pair of Sehwag-Gambhir to prove themselves irrespective of their reputation.


Another significant factor to this exclusion could be his poor away form, he hasn’t made a hundred outside the subcontinent in five years. Since Sehwag’s 151 at Adelaide in 2008, he has scored just 523 runs in 12 Tests, at an average of 22.73 with a highest of 67. In Asia, though, over the same period he has amassed 3622 runs at 57.49, at an astonishing strike rate of 94.1. These stats are vitally important bearing in mind that there is just one home series in the next two years and four important away series to South Africa, New Zealand, England and Australia.

There is a profound sense of hope among the people in the purely impractical belief that he could take up the coveted number four position when it finally becomes available. But there is hardly any possibility of this with Rahane warming the bench for past few series as the possible replacement when the Little Master decides to hang his boots up. The chief selector Sandeep Patil stated that the Mumbai batsman was selected as a reserve middle-order batsman and that along with his incredible stats at the first class level, there is negligible chance for Sehwag to make a claim to that slot.

All this comes down to state that there is a very small chance for Viru to return as the menacing opener who once enthralled the audience with his exclusive square cuts and audacious shots over the infield. But the reputation and the fan base he has built up for himself, He could put the pressure on the selectors with some big knocks in the domestic circuit and India-A tours if selected.

Wine gets better with age. The best is always yet to come. But Viru is no wine, He is more of a shot of Vodka. Time will tell if he still has it in him to give us the KICKS !!!

My First Blog

My first blog and this will be short and sweet (I hope!). This summer, blogging is what I have chosen ahead of just spending time with my engineering books, the reason is basically I am more interested in reading than studying, and I want to experience the freedom of expression through an open communication medium than letting myself heard among a known group of people. Moreover it is midnight now and I am trying to express myself for the first time to a larger audience (Yes! you!) than just sticking on to social networking sites where you are just going to have your friends and foes listening to you. Socializing has taken a back foot and now I think it is time for some front foot drives into the blogging world. Bad try with that last sentence, I know! And also with a big ‘A’, this might even be my last blog.

To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly

                 Henri Bergson (1859-1941) French philosopher.

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Nothing wrong in discovering yourself even if there is a greater chance of failure down the road than reaching success. As I type, there is a strong feeling that this is just one of those days where you realize everything you need and even have an idea of what to do but still end up as your normal self the next day going about doing things which will make no sense as time passes by. And its a BYE from the first time blogger! A rather blunt end suggesting there is more to come… (LOL!)

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