This transfer window has been quieter than a Bjork convention, but here are ten examples of why panicking in January could be a recipe for disaster. Oh Fernando...
It's been a month since Danny Welbeck started a PL game and, sorry Daniel, we have barely noticed. It's difficult to see him forcing his way back into this team...
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Quiet Realism/Optimism Amongst United Fans
There were a couple of questions to Man United fans in this morning's mailbox, here are my responses:
To Dave H. Toxteth: No. I don't know which fans you've been talking to but, here in Manchester, most United fans that I've spoken to are still hurting from last season, almost to the point of pessimism. Your average United fan of course hopes that we can have a better season than last and, based on the way the team has been playing in pre-season (results aside), feel that we have a reasonable chance of doing that. Very few people think it's a given; we've seen how our team capitulated last year and many of the teams around us have strengthened too. The difference in this season is that we have an experienced elite-level manager at the helm instead of Moyes. We're not going to be challenging for the title at all for at least two years, but it's not cocky or even unreasonable to believe that we can and should be aiming for a top-four finish with the players at our disposal.
To Albiceleste, Eire: The major difference between the current United and Spurs teams is potential and history. This United team, with one or two exceptions, are proven title winners. We have seen these players perform at their best and, when they did, they won the league. They had a shocker under David Moyes but he's no longer there and the players already appear to have had that malaise lifted from them. We have strengthened two problem positions and the window is still open. Oh, and the little dig about Herrera; 11th or 12th choice is harsh to say the least and implying that is a bad thing is like calling the girl who finished 11th or 12th in Miss World a minger.
Spurs' best finish in the Premier League is fourth, and there aren't too many players still in their squad who were around when they achieved that feat: Kaboul, Lennon, Dawson, Rose and Walker are the only ones left. While it would be folly to write off Spurs' chances altogether, they have got a very difficult task ahead of them to get the players bought last year integrated into a new manager's way of playing. Spurs are a sacking club as well, whichever way you look at it, so even if Levy's stance has softened and top four isn't the bare minimum, there is always going to be that pressure hanging over Pochettino, even if it's just from the press. Spurs definitely have the potential to be a very good team but that's all it is at the moment; unrealised potential. United have been there and done that and it's more a case of rediscovering lost form, rather than building it up from nothing.
I'm sure you're just beating your club drum (as is your right) but if you think that United's is a 'very, very average squad of players' then I'd be worried. That same squad finished just five points behind Spurs' (scoring nine more and conceding eight less) with one of the worst managers in our history in charge. Don't write us off yet.
...Everton have the same team as last year (which admittedly beat us twice), Spurs are no better and Liverpool have lost their main man.
We on the other hand have one thing we lacked so much last year - belief.
Absolute minimum of fourth this year though I admit I'm personally expecting a bit more than that if I'm honest.
Conrad Wiacek, MUFC
...Dave H in Toxteth asks if United fans believe we will 'walk' back into the top four. I wouldn't put it like that but yes, we do, because:
* The nucleus of the title-winning side of two years ago is still there.
* Add Mata, Herrera and hopefully a defender or two to that nucleus.
* A manager who instils confidence in the players instead of doubt and lack of confidence.
* Six fixtures at the start of the season that are all winnable.
For the record, I don't think United will win the title, I think that is between City and Chelsea but don't write United off on the back of one bad season under a manager who clearly wasn't up to the task.
In fact, how about you actually back up your argument with why you think United won't be in the top four instead of asking a bunch of rhetorical questions? I agree with you on one thing though, an unpredictable season would be good!
Paul Milton, Man Utd (unsurprisingly)
...Dave H and Albiceleste like many fans of opposition clubs can't seem to understand the optimism amongst United fans. I don't think it is that hard to explain. United under Moyes, were a club without direction, they seemed to have no idea what was the team strategy, in turn every single player looked terrible. Suddenly opponent fan started telling us and believing that our title winning squad was not at all good and how everyone of our players were overrated. If anything some of our fans also started believing that narrative and you had fans claiming we needed 7-8 players to compete for top four, let alone the title.
Enter Van Gaal. Suddenly our players are playing like they did under SAF, full of confidence and belief, suddenly we once again see the players we saw, that helped beat City to the title by 11 points. Herrera has come in and looks quite a player and Shaw is a typical United signing, a young talented player and we played some fantastic football winning against good teams in pre-season. Yes it's pre-season, but last pre-season we looked terrible and were losing against unheard of teams and that terrible football carried into the season.
And lastly Van Gaal is a world-class coach, if he feels the players he has are good enough to compete, we United fans believe his assessment as we did our last great coach in SAF. Also most of us have a sneaky suspicion that we will end up with a defender or two and one marquee signing before the window closes. Woody will probably pay 10 mil more than he should (per signing), but given the money the club are making off sponsors, most of us are fine with overspending.
Lastly from our perspective things can't go any worse than last season even if we fail to sign any additional players. Under Van Gaal we will play exciting attacking football, especially since he has found a system that allows RVP, Rooney and Mata to play together, we will blood youth players(a United tradition) in defense and fans will enjoy exciting games. Needless to say United fans are very optimistic.
Mata Not In Top Bracket?
Dear Albiceleste, Eire...
You make a fairly realistic (not quite compelling) argument as to why Spurs should be considered contenders for the much-coveted fourth spot in the league, mainly focusing on the fact you perceive Tottenham's squad to be comparable to ours. So far, so good.
However, you then go on to state that United had 'maybe three top-level stars' among which you manage to omit Juan Mata.
If you take out Chelsea, City and Arsenal, the likely top three in my opinion...how many top-level stars currently play in the Premiership, if Mata is not considered within this bracket?
Mark Dave (hoping we pip Liverpool to fourth) Realistic MUFC Fan
...Whilst I do not wish to be tarred with the 'arrogant United fans expecting to walk it' brush I do have to take issue with the thoughts of Albiceleste, Eire on Spurs being better than United. I appreciate that we will not be able to cruise back into the top four and that Spurs could potentially challenge for it depending on additions, but the biggest worry is surely that finishing in the top four would mean finishing above at least one of Chelsea, City, Liverpool or Arsenal. At the moment Liverpool looks the most likely due to the loss of Suarez but nobody really knows how they are going to do, or indeed, what the squad will look like on September 2nd. Arsenal look an entirely different proposition this season and should have enough to finish top four.
What I would argue with most though is this idea that United only having 'three top level stars' makes us worse than Spurs. The most obvious point to make is that Spurs arguably have only one top star (Lloris) but perhaps more relevantly and significantly, who still thinks the team with the most 'top stars' (the criteria for which is very much open to interpretation in itself) will be the best team? We saw from Van Gaal's Netherlands team in the World Cup that with the right system you can work wonders with players you wouldn't class as top-level performers ordinarily. There is understandable optimism that he can do the same at United, particularly if we bring in a couple more (an experienced defender and a midfielder with defensive capabilities). We now have a front three of Van Persie, Rooney and Mata, all of whom will presumably largely be operating in their preferred positions in this system. That is dangerous in anybody's book. I'm not sure how Mata escaped mention as a top player either. He was coming into serious form at the end of last season and in his preferred role I can see him having a stormer this year. Saying Herrera is Spain's 10th choice central midfielder isn't as shocking as it sounds because everybody knows how many great ones they have, and after seeing them this summer you could argue players like Herrera should have been given a chance over the old guard.
There is work to be done and we won't find it easy to get back up there, but with the additions of Shaw and Herrera (so far) and most importantly Van Gaal (along with a new system) I don't think there will be many who agree that Tottenham are looking more dangerous than United at this moment in time.
Tom - MUFC (Cheshire).
Since When Did United Want Arsenal Reserves?
Thomas Vermaelen may currently call the captain's armband his own but he is captain in name only.
His link to Man Utd has got me thinking - when was the last time United were linked to an Arsenal player you could actually call an Arsenal reject?
Generally we've sold United players we didn't want to see leave. In the 1980s Frank Stapleton and Viv Anderson moved from Highbury to Old Trafford while more recently Robin van Persie has followed the same career trajectory. In return United have sold us Mikael bloody Silvestre.
But this would be the first time I can remember United being linked to a player we have no more use for. Is this a case of how the mighty have fallen or LVG seeing us something none of the rest of us can see?
Graham Simons, Gooner, Norf London
Where Does Cuadrado Go?
I have never written in to Football365, even though I have read it for several years now.
Having been looking closely at the transfer gossip everyday, it seems to be every day Manchester United get linked with Cuadrado, even though I think he is a fantastic player, I don't understand how he fits into this 3-5-2 formation that Van Gaal is so desperate to play. As I understand Cuadrado is a winger and a very much attacking winger at that. So I cannot understand where he will play in a 3-5-2 unless he plays in the wing-back position, but personally I think a formation like that to work you need wing-backs who are going to run up and down the pitch, and I am unsure whether he fits into this role.
I guess I could be making myself looking like a right idiot now, but any enlightenment on this issue would be useful.
Owen Ellicott, LFC
An Old Favourite To Kill The Arsenal Vibe
I'm going to kill this vibe right here. Arsenal have signed one player of use: Sanchez. It's funny because ManYoo fans are (rightly) getting stick for their imbecilic belief that a team that finished seventh last year will simply walk back into the title-contention places. The same applies to Arsenal fans: a team that hasn't finished inside the top two in a decade, is suddenly a title contender? Based on what? Sanchez is a great player. But what else has happened? A kid from Southampton, and a Colombian Freedom Pass keeper. Oh and obligatory mediocre French defender.
Last year, Arsenal's problem was getting humped by the big boys due to a glaring gap in the centre of midfield, and a centre-back susceptible to pace (Mertesacker). All Arsenal's pre-season goals conceded have come from set-pieces - sound familiar? Wenger still cannot coach a defence! So I assume Wenger has addressed that gap in centre midfield? Oh what's that? Arteta will be zimmer-framing his way through again next year? Oh and Mertesacker will run through treacle-chasing Aguero again? Still. At least Podolski could take a 'selfie' of himself at the fourth place celebrations, having played five minutes all season...
Stewie Griffin (the FA Cup win is like LSD to Gooners)
Arsenal Don't Need Loads Of Players
TheJez01, are you really saying Liverpool's squad is better than Arsenal's? Er, okay.
Anywho. Arsenal have about four or five (or six) players that can play on the wings, one great international player and two exciting young players for the one striker position. I hope I don't need to talk about the absurd number of players we have in midfield.
In defense we have two left-backs, an excellent centre-half pairing, a great right-back and a promising young player that can cover in the centre and on the right. We're missing a third-choice centre-half now that Vermaelen is on his way out, but that's one signing out of the 'one or two' Wenger mentioned. The mythical defensive mid might be the other.
Now, we could maybe use more quality in the striker position, so we have a """"world class"""" striker and Giroud can be our sub, but that's a question of quality, not the number of players we have. As far as numbers go, we have decent squad depth.
Andy, AFC (though Man City still win the squad depth competition-quantity AND quality)
Well Done Billy K
Just read the piece about Bill Kenwright talking about how big a deal it was for them to sign Lukaku this summer. Don't know the guy and personally I'm a Man U fan but it is quite refreshing to see Everton doing so well and it all being done with a man who clearly loves the club at the helm.
The fact that he is ringing the players after they have signed contracts etc shows that he is clearly as excited as all of the Everton fans about what is going on. If Stones & Barkley can continue to develop and Coleman plays at 75% of what he did last year for the next few years I think there is a real possibility that they could break into the top 4. Nice to see so many young English / British guys getting in the squad too.
Really really really really hope they finish above Liverpool this season, preferably by one point after a Steven Gerrard slip in the last game results in a Liverpool loss!
I read two letters about Spurs this morning, and although neither of them said it, I pictured both contributors, fists clenched, shouting 'this is our year!' at the top of their voices, whilst gazing lovingly at their DVD of the 4-4 draw at the Emirates.
Here's to St Totteringham's Day
Anger About Celtic
Letting Celtic through to the CL playoffs is absolute b***s***.
I appreciate UEFA need a strict line on player registrations, and Legia being too stupid to do their paperwork properly is nobody else's fault.
But the whole point of football competitions is to find out who's - you know - better at playing football, right? Of the two sides, Legia were clearly the better side and more deserving of a play-off spot; if an ineligible player has a part in that happening, then fine, void the result.
But three mins from a nondescript sub at the end of a two-legged tie? Worth kicking out a whole club, all players, staff, fans from the Champs League, on the basis of an admin error? Not for me Clive.
As for Celtic, I assume plenty of reimbursement to supporters who attended the void game will be on the way?
...If Celtic were in Guy Richie's classic Snatch at this point Bullet Tooth Tony would be compelled to say 'You Lucky B**tard!'
...Am I the only one who is really disappointed by UEFA due to their appalling decision to re-instate Celtic back to Champions League?
Sure, Legia Warsaw made a mistake to field an ineligible player. But it was only for three minutes for God's sake! It did not really change the course of the match!
I know law is a law. But we are humans, so are UEFA board members. They should punish Legia Warsaw, no doubt about it. But to knock them out from Champions League after demolishing Celtic? That is so unfair.
UEFA, wake up. Bring Legia Warsaw back to the competition.