You might notice that we haven't included a single mail about teams in pubs, because most of them were terrible. Instead we have a disgruntled Fulham fan and Scouse maths...
If we were Alan Pardew, we'd feel a whole lot better if Rafa Benitez took a job far away from the Premier League. He looks the most vulnerable to a Spanish coup...
If you have anything to say on any subject, mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Can't Count On Giggs And Rooney...
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7...was that 7 or 8? 9, 10, should I count that one? 11, 12, I think that's 14, 15 must be about 20, 21, 22...
This was me last night losing count of the amount of times Giggs and Rooney gave the ball away.
Paul (it mattered to the people who paid to go), Manchester
Rating The United Players
Congratulations to Celtic. Not really sure they'll make much of an impact in the next round, but well done and good luck nonetheless. Now that's out of the way, what on earth is going on at Manchester United? I know that there's a much more important and bigger game coming up at the weekend, but seriously. How many times does Sir Alex have to play that stupid stupid wingerless diamond formation before he realises that not only is it a ridiculous system, but that Manchester United do not have the necessary personnel to play such a system.
* David de Gea - Not much to do other than fish the ball out of his net from a rather impressive shot. So highly do I rate his shot-stopping that I half expected him to save that.
* Phil Jones - Great to see him getting some games under his belt. Still get as nervous as an MP invited to Newsnight when he falls over though.
* Chris Smalling - Solid and mature display. Didn't do anything wrong defensively, though tried too much going forward.
* Scott Wootton - Didn't rate him the last time he played for United, still don't rate him. If there was a natural back-up to Rafael (not Marnick Vermijl) Phil Jones would have been playing CB.
* Alex Buttner - Sort of like the Ji-Sung Park of full backs. Lots of industry with very little quality. Not frightening Evra into upping his game as much I would have hoped.
* Tom Cleverley - Ran around a bit and got injured.
* Nick Powell - Plays best as a more advanced midfielder, not a quasi-winger.
* Ryan Giggs - Offers nothing to the team anymore. His reinvention as a CM ended when teams realised that he was useless in the middle of the park. Presumably only playing to babysit the younger players.
* Wayne Rooney - Much discussion over the years has been about 'what is Wayne's best position?' Well, watching him tonight saw him pop up as a right winger, defensive midfielder, advanced attacker, etc.
* Javier Hernandez - With no real creative midfielders to slide some split the defence, and no wingers to throw in some crosses, what is the point in playing Chicharito?
* Danny Welbeck - Remember when he was scoring goals, linking play, looking a real dynamic forward? That was at Sunderland. What happened?
* Paul Scholes (sub) - Gave away the ball for their goal, and looked like his mind was on Sunday (as did the majority of the team). That United haven't replaced him adequately is almost as baffling as his continued presence in the team.
* Federico Macheda - What is the point in playing four strikers? Well, three strikers and Danny Welbeck. Well, two strikers, Danny Welbeck and Federico Macheda. It disappoints me every day that United haven't conned £7m out of someone for the Italian.
* Darren Fletcher - Looked more like Fletcher 2004 than 2008, which is to say his best 'Bambi on Ice' impression. Will have to be better on Sunday.
With the derby on Sunday looming large, it was really important that United try and get a win. It's more important than ever that Antonio Valencia or Nani is fit to play with *cough* Ashley Young. Despite City's European failings they still haven't lost domestically, and I really think that a draw will be a positive result.
Still, I suppose things could be worse, we could've hammered our lesser opposition until they were crying yet still somehow contrived to fail to progress from the group. Oh...sorry.
Why Man United Will Beat City
With last night's game, there is at least one thing obvious. Giggs and Scholes might be used to impart valuable experience to young members of the squad in cup competitions, which should have been the case since 2010. Anyways, last night was also an indication that Sir Alex will indeed look to use the 4-3-3 (4-5-1) tactic for Sunday. Here are my reasons why United will beat City on Sunday and keep a clean sheet.
1) Mancini has had trouble with 4-3-3 (4-5-1). Also, Sir Alex either due to compulsion or lack of options has had to field the same formation/even the starting XI for the last 10 matches (barring a couple of changes here and there).
2) The playing XI at United is already fixed (De Gea, Rafael, Evra, Evans, Ferdi, Carrick, Fletcher, Anderson, Young, Rooney and Van Persie) and they know their role since they have been doing it for season long, while a look at Mancini's squad/team for Sunday is asking more questions than answers. Barring the goalkeeping department, City have a dilemma for their centre-back pairings (Nastasic or Lescott). They have more full-backs than Liverpool have wingers and their centre midfield has only one certainty. i.e. Yaya Toure. All the four strikers are uncertain (Tevez maybe) of a start or the role of super sub. All in all, this squad is having too many fringe players expecting to play a significant role while the best palyers too few a place on Sunday.
3) United have Van Persie fresh and Rooney definitely gets better playing twice a week. In contrast, City only has Yaya Toure rested, and their top players had a full 90 minutes on Wednesday.
4) City are under tremendous pressure, having to justify their Champions League exit and the fear of defeat to city rivals will be more than Mancini's inspiring words to become the league leaders.
5) Sir Alex will not make last year's mistake of allowing City to express themselves. Instead, Rooney, Van Persie combination will be the scoring highlights of the day.
6) Mancini will give in to the temptation of starting Dzeko and will eventually substitute/admit his mistake too late in the game.
7) Tip of the weekend - Jonny Evans to emerge as the next captain after Sunday.
Sagar Deo, MUFC, Mumbai
The Bhoys Have It Good
Who would you rather be on December 20?
Arsenal will face one of:
Man United will face one of:
Celtic will face one of:
Do Celtic have the easiest draw???
Chelsea Should Embrace The MegaDrive
Amongst all the inevitable laughter/embarrassment, it's worth thinking about the prospect that we could actually do well in the Europa League, if we put some effort into it.
If we hadn't won the Champions League, like say an Arsenal or a Tottenham, and weren't looking likely to in future (like an Arsenal or a Tottenham), then last night's result would be devastating. As it is, we've been presented with a slightly different challenge for (hopefully) just this season, with a great reward at the end.
That reward is, if we win the Europa League, we become the first club in England (and only the second club in Europe) to do the clean sweep of European Trophies - European Cup/UEFA Champions League, UEFA Cup Winners Cup, UEFA Cup/Europa League and UEFA Super Cup. Liverpool can't do it and Manchester United cocked up their chance last year.
There's a certain kudos about saying you're the first to do something. It can go against you (like being the first holders in the current format to go out in the group stages and everything), but we were the first London club to lift the trophy, so I think we should give the Europa League our all on Thursdays, so we can be the first to do that other thing I mentioned just before.
Some Chelsea fans might look at it as if they've taken our shiny Xbox away and replaced it with a dusty old Mega Drive, but there were some decent games on the Mega Drive - difficult to complete, but just as rewarding when you do.
Michael (6-1, Even Torres Scored) CFC
Thank god the Shakhtar game didn't finish as a draw, I don't think I could have taken weeks of fellow Chelsea fans complaining about conspiracy theories.
James (Thursday nights, Channel 5) CFC Laaaandon
Why Don't Chelsea Buy Balotelli?
I'll admit that I'm a Balotelli fan, albeit mainly in footballing terms - I can take or leave the 'japes' and whatnot.
I keep wondering if he'd be a good fit at Chelsea. He's powerful, skilful, gets right on the nerves of the think-of-the-children brigade because of his attitude and furthermore quite a few Manchester-based fans can't see what the fuss is about this early in his career...
New Drogba, anyone? Okay, maybe not a direct replacement but still: A player of that physique and talent, a player disliked by enough of the type of people who like players running full pelt 110% of the time and all that...I'd give him a chance at Chelsea.
Stu (6-1? We could have scored 10. #rafaout), Chiswick
How Do Terrace Chants Get Started?
You included a mail of mine yesterday afternoon asking whether Liverpool fans deserved their status as 'wags' on the terraces. I was going to go on and discuss something else but I thought I'd probably chanced my arm as much as I reasonably could because it was getting a bit long as it was. So I thought I'd leave this for another time and treat it as a separate issue, even though it still concerned fans' songs.
You see, despite asking many, many fans of a variety of clubs over many years, I've never received a satisfactory answer to these questions; How do songs or chants on the terraces actually start? What prompts a large group of people, who don't know each other despite sharing a common cause, suddenly burst into song? And how does everyone suddenly know the words to sometimes quite complex lyrics on new songs? What instigates the singing of one song over another and why isn't a decent sized stadium just a bedlam of noise or a modern-day Tower of Babel as one section sings one song and other parts of the same group of supporters sings another?
And what about those synchronised hand-clapping sessions? The same questions apply, really.
The most sensible answer I ever got was from a Chelsea fan (yes, I was surprised as well) who claimed he'd seen people handing out leaflets outside Stamford Bridge on a few occasions that had some verses printed out and the well-known tune it should be sung to. Yet I never saw this occur at Old Trafford when I was pretty much a regular and the others in my personal survey say they have never seen such a thing occur either. Yet new songs cropped up all the time. So I would appreciate some help here, please.
I simply can't get my mind around the process of how an individual or group of mates can get together, write a song or chant and then it arrives on the terraces all polished (as much as these songs can be polished) and ready to be picked up by thousands. I'm probably going to kick myself when I eventually find out the answer as it will probably be quite simple. But I throw it open as this has intrigued me for years and I would love to finally have it explained.
Choreographing synchronised hand-clapping must be even more of a problem because it is one thing to hand out song sheets and the popular tune to which the new words are to be sung but how on Earth do you possibly get across a series of hand movements. I'm serious here - how would you even start to get this across? Yet new songs and clapping routines all just seem to pop up as complete packages quite often.
Now that I have thrown this open to the broad expanse of knowledge that is The Mailbox, I feel fairly confident that I will finally get a satisfactory answer after all these years. I just hope the answer is not too simple otherwise I, and the others I have asked - across a broad spectrum of club support - are going to feel foolish.
And let's not forget the tunes themselves. How many young fans, and I suspect they are the ones doing the majority of the singing, could possibly know the theme to the TV series Robin Hood from the 1950s or 1960s used in that 'Ryan Giggs, Ryan Giggs running down the wing' Old Trafford favourite?
PS. It's possible all this stuff is now freely available on-line. I wouldn't know. But, even so, I would still ask anyone who knows how all this happened in the late 1960's or early 1970's, pre home computers, to comment.
Lager Lager Lager
Apologies if someone has already made this point but I haven't seen it mentioned so I thought I would. There are a number of reasons why atmospheres have faded at football matches but surely a huge reason for this is alcohol, or the lack there of. To drink at a football game these days you have to stay under the concourse which means most fans these days are fairy sober. In the days when you could drink on the stands this wasn't the case. And what's one thing drunk people like to do? (No, not fight) Sing! Now I dont know about you but when youre sat next to someone at a game and they don't sing it makes you too self concsious to sing yourself. It's human nature. When you're drunk this is often not the case.
Most away fans on the other hand, having made a long coach journey to the ground, are p*ssed as newts. This accounts for a lot of the reason for their noisiness, together with the us against them attitude of course. I've only been to one German game, which was in the 1860 Munich at the Allianz Arena last season, but you were allowed to drink in your seat. Which if this is the same all over Germany could also account for why their atmospheres are better, not just the standing. Most rugby league games have a better atmosphere these days, again you're allowed to drink on the terraces...
I'm not promoting alcohol or for one minute saying fans should be allowed to drink in their seats (though this would be safer than bringing back standing), as we all know that sadly there are idiots out there who would spoil it for everyone. I'm just saying that its one big reason for the lack of atmosphere and one people will have to get used to.
Now, can we all stop complaining and just watch the game...