With Real Madrid playing at the Club World Cup, all eyes in La Liga turn to Atletico Madrid's trip to Athletic Bilbao this weekend. It could be brutal...
Plus Cristiano Ronaldo, who looks 'heart-breakingly well-suited to a Real Madrid shirt' according to one United fan. Plus, words from the good doctor and plenty more...
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Let's Get The Fan Mail Out Of The Way
Being a long time reader of the mailbox and seeing the reasoned arguments of people like Smythe, it's sometimes hard to forget what most Manyoo fans in the general population are like.
So thanks to Manc in SA for helping to redress the balance.
Adonis Stevenson, AFC
...A quick response to Manc SA.
She's not coming back mate.
Sam, LFC, North Yorks
Why United Get Coverage
Steve (a Villa fan) the answer is no the w*nkfest will not stop. The reason is because, how Manchester United get on this season is actually the story of the season and real news for a change. After United's meteoric fall from grace last season all eyes will be on the Red Devils to see how they bounce back. It is also why they are so heavily tracked in the transfer blog. Major questions are bouncing around such as who will United sign to get them back into the top 4? And can they still sign the best players even without European football?
F365 has often covered a team closely when a major shake up happens. I remember they covered Liverpool quite extensively during the end of the Hicks-Gillett era/beginning of the FSG tenure, and were very keen to see the outcome of the Dalglish saga as it was actually news.
In addition, you must forgive Manc in SA for his childish response. This is a trying time for United fans as they have not been in this position in two decades. Unfortunately it can be difficult for fans such as Manc in SA to come to terms with the fact that United just isn't a big club at the moment. Seventh place finish, no European football, and a hire and fire policy have them far from an attractive option.
Brian (WHY ARE WE YELLING?) LFC
...Since we're on the topic of this Man Utd w*nkfest; I don't mind it so much because I understand it's just about clicks and stories about Man Utd tend to get more clicks than other stories. That said, where is the relative lack of pressure coming from? Have people forgotten entirely that Man Utd still has one of the three most expensively assembled squads in the league? I believe their squad cost 30% more to assemble than 4th most expensive Arsenal.
The reason I think this is important is because it highlights last season for what it was; a blip. Last season didn't prove that all the Man Utd players are rubbish, nor did it prove Ferguson was a great manager (he was - but he proved that whilst in charge). All last season showed was that even the most skilled of the idiots still need someone vaguely clever to organise them into a cohesive unit. Moyes was not that man.
The upper management at Man Utd clearly agree with me - why else would they have agreed to take a 30% haircut on their new sponsorship deal if they spend 2 consecutive seasons outside of the champions league?
I'm just saying - it's nice winning friendlies but this season the pressure will be well and truly on Man Utd no matter what their squad size - both at the boardroom level and on the pitch.
Not Unhappy With Lampard
I notice it's not Chelsea fans having a go at Frank Lampard playing for City for 5 months.
I personally have no issue with it - clearly he decided to go to New York for some reason (probably because he quite fancies living in New York). Their season doesn't start for a while so he was given the choice of no football (not something he wanted to do given how close he is to the end of his career), playing in Melbourne (and I can understand why he wouldn't want to do that for personal reasons), or 'playing' for City for a few months.
He chose the latter, and by all accounts has stated that he doesn't want to play against Chelsea. He's unlikely to swing the title in City's favour - if he was Chelsea would have extended his contract.
He's still a Chelsea legend and a few months sitting on the bench for City won't change that.
Tim Colyer, Chelsea fan, London
Some Fletcher Love...
I have to say I am in complete and total agreement with AJ, who yesterday suggested that Fletcher be considered for captaincy. I have nothing but the utmost admiration and respect for the Scot, and can't think of anyone who deserves it more. If he manages to play regularly, it's a no-brainer.
He started off slow, getting loads of stick from the fans, as well as a teammate or two (Keane), but he has proved, like Gary Neville before him, how hard work is as important as so-called "natural talent" when it comes to succeeding at football. Just two years ago, it didn't look like Fletch would ever play again, but look at him now!
With the seniors gone (Rio, Vida etc), he really is the only player the youngsters need to look to for inspiration and if they want to figure out how to "make it". We obviously still need another midfielder, but the fact that we'd have someone as solid as him to rely on even as a back-up is a very comforting thought. What a fighter.
DJ, MUFC (massive Fletcher fanboy) India
...But Glen Johnson Gets Some Stick
Good game last night, quite even. As a Liverpool fan I'm content to tell myself that with Sturridge running behind United's high line it would have been a different result, and that Lambert surely can't be quite so awful in a real game. It did highlight the fact that Liverpool need a new striker, but that isn't why I'm writing in. I wanted to talk about Glenn Johnson.
I don't agree with the abuse he's been getting from Liverpool 'fans' on Twitter, but I have slowly been losing patience with him for the last few seasons. Some players, through a combination of poise, control, movement and vision, always seem as though they have more time on the ball than everyone else. Alonso had this in abundance. Gerrard had it at the height of his career. There are flashes of it in Coutinho now. It's usually midfielders that have this; that's why they are midfielders.
Johnson plays as though he has this. Except
1. He's a fullback
2. He doesn't
3. He's a fullback
It's really frustrating to watch him idly try and take someone on, or lazily misplace a simple pass. He's on a hefty contract that's coming to the end, and Liverpool seem unlikely to offer him anything close to those terms. I tried to starter a rumour linking him to QPR a couple of weeks ago. I suggest people abusing him on Twitter be nice, but do the same.
Joel Bradley, London
Nine Signings, But Still Unhappy
As a Newcastle fan, I always get worried when things seem to be going quietly and, dare I say it, well. This pre-season however is slightly different. Some positives, some negatives lead me to predict a steady mid-table finish with little drama.
I'll start with the positive. We've gone about our transfer business very effectively. Including the two from Nottingham Forest (one for Storey there) we have made 9 signings to bolster the squad. Only time will tell how they pan out. I'm not going to claim to be an expert on any of them having only seen them closely in several friendlies. What I've seen of Siem de Jong previously has impressed me and Colback was worth it just to see the priceless statement from that lot down the road.
In terms of pre-season itself; the results don't matter in the slightest (really annoying listening to pundits state this before dissecting every minute of every game) and the performances have been mixed. Not a lot to take here.
The main concern, of many NUFC fans, is the man in charge. Well the man Mike Ashley allows to patrol the touchline pretending he's in charge. Pardiola (as he should never be known) is little more than a yes man. He is the second longest standing manager in the PL and I'm honestly proud of that in today's football climate. However whether he deserves to be is a different matter entirely. He won't rock the boat with Ashley or show any ambition on the pitch.
The club are happy sitting in mid-table as seen last year when we cashed in on Cabaye, gambling that we were safe while all but ruling out any assault on the top 6. The handling of Ben Arfa has been laughable and despite the recent acquisitions our squad still looks unbalanced.
We need another quality centre back to keep Taylor and Williamson as far away as possible. Yanga-Mbiwa can't get a look in for some reason and is only played at down the right! As is another central player in Sissoko. And despite the 'firepower' we look light up top.
Glad to have gotten that off my chest!
Andrew, NUFC, Gateshead
A Pedant This Mail Makes Him
It may be fine and dandy grammar, but Theo (August 4: "five good pre-season moves does not a Barcelona make"), Lee (July 11: "One great signing, especially if you didn't really need him, does not a successful team make"), Johnny (July 10: "Waddle has shown some perceptive analysis, but this - coupled with avoiding relegation with Burnley 16 years ago being his own experience - does not a coach make"), and many others should just say what they mean instead of trying to sound smart.
One pretentious phrase does not a prat not make you. Just speak English, you invented the language and it works fine without dolling it up to be something it's not (read: French).
Seriously, Google "does not a" and "mailbox" and the list is pages long.