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Not A Vintage United Side? Aaaaaaaarrrrrrgggghhhh
This above statement is the most annoying thing I have heard being said about United this season. When people wants to criticise City and Chelsea for their poor league campaigns so far, they seems to justify that criticism by saying how 'poor' United have been, how they are a 'shadow of their former self'. But really how poor is this United side?
They are having a great season. They have more points at this stage than ever before, more points than any other team at this stage in the history of the EPL. So is it the other teams that are very, very poor?
If the argument is that teams in the EPL have deteriorated in quality, should that necessarily mean a change in status quo, bearing in mind that all teams deteriorated. According to their arguments every team has drop seriously in quality, United were top dogs, they dropped, but so did City, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool, who for years were all playing second fiddle to United. So the status quo is still the same. Nothing has changed.
And as United fan, this argument of United not being vintage is one I do not subscribe to. What is being vintage? A quick search at Wikipedia tells me that its primary definition is 'of old, recognised and enduring interest, importance or quality'. It can be used as a noun or adjective, and is usually associated with the quality of aging, enduring or improving over time.
With that definition in mind, I will say that United are very much vintage. We are just as competitive as we have ever been. We are still challenging on three fronts at a stage of the season when most teams in Europe have faded in all but one competition. We are on course for the treble. Runaway leaders in the league. What's not vintage about that?
Sylvester Johnson, Sierra Leone
Oh dear, I don't know how they do things in the Championship but it looks like a couple of Southampton fans at least don't understand the harsh realities of life at the top. A player on a long contract is worth more, that's it. When you're a relatively small club like Southampton, there are plenty of teams that can stump up the cash to take your players.
At Spurs we had Modric on a long-term contract which forced Chelsea and Real to bid respectably for Modric's services but take him they did. I know we held out against Chelsea and we have some kind of relationship with Real but we only just held out against Chelsea when we were competing with them in the League. Bale's contract would force any of the truly big (or rich, but I don't think Bale would go to a purely rich toy) clubs to stump up a serious amount of cash, but that doesn't mean he definitely won't go, even if we get Champions League football.
So, sorry Saints, if United decided for whatever reason they really wanted your bestest player they would take him an a manner remarkably similar to relieving a baby of candy.
Yours with patronising commiseration...
Indie (Bale is going to beat Le Arse back to Woolwich), North London
Can We Have A Flat-Track Bully Please?
With all this talk about flat-track bullies, give my Arsenal a flat-track bully and I hope everyone labels him that. But what's worse than a flat-track bully is not having a bully at all.
To see my side try chance after chance and fail repeatedly with the like of Gervinho missing stonewall sitters, I wish Arsenal had a flat-track bully right now. Even by definition a flat-track bully doesn't step up against big sides, I'm okay with it. Score against the next 15 sides or even Blackburn and Bradford City. FFS!
Carl (This weekend I hope Giroud is our flat-track bully), AFC
Barca Are Missing Tito
You'll probably get a lot of these kind of responses to Asher Ellerman and Toby Sprigings Barca emails but go on I'll waste five minutes on it.
Barcelona don't look good without Pep Guardiola anymore, they look better. They had a brilliant start to their season under new coach Tito Vilanova playing in a more direct style BUT since Vilanova has been undergoing treatment for cancer since the end of 2013, Barca haven't been looking so brilliant. This is because Jordi Roura, the man on the touchline last night and who has been manning the helm since, was a scout last year and has never displayed any kind of interest in taking the top managerial job at Barca: the team are essentially managing themselves.
I know all this from just watching the build-up to last night's game but it has hardly got a mention in any of the match reports I've read. Messrs. Ellerman and Sprigings are clearly not aware of the managerial situation. To me, it seems like the clear explanation for such a poor performance. Am I going crazy?
Angus, LFC, Oxford
...There's usually a load of hyperbole following a defeat by Real Madrid, including many people piping up saying that Barcelona's era of World Domination is over. I think to some degree that Asher and Toby were correct in their morning Mailbox musings, to a point.
Asher mentioned that Barcelona looked 'rudderless' last night attributing to Vilanova's absence. It's no surprise that Barcelona have looked jaded and uncomfortable in the last few months, they usually have a torrid time between January and March. However there's no coincidence that the poor form has continued this year in the absence of Tito Vilanova, currently receiving cancer treatment in New York.
Jordi Roura is hardly a man to offer the 'hairdryer' treatment to his players. He's also the man who can cajole and harass his players into playing well during their dip in form. Should Barcelona have hired an interim manager? Possibly, but I think that would be a huge discredit to Tito Vilanova. Roura surely has to hold his hands up and admit that his line-up wasn't the right one. I'm still unsure why he fielded the exact same team that managed a measly two shots on target against Milan only a week ago. Last weekend against Sevilla, Barca proved they had a plan B by utilising Villa and Tello down the flanks (they came back from 1-0 down to win 2-1).
There was a great big gaping hole where a tactician such as Guardiola or Vilanova would have been standing, barking orders. The changes came too late which smacks of poor decision making. Roura's comments before the game were also out of character, his criticising of the referee before a ball was kicked was something I expect of Real Madrid and Mourinho, not Barcelona. Again, I feel that was only done because of the lack of preparation from Jordi Roura and his fear of being caught out by Real Madrid.
As for the players I think it's harsh to say they have an air of 'what's the point?'. Especially Puyol, the man who has broken bones and skin multiple times for this team season. More often than they show a player's celebration or a replay of a goal, Spanish football coverage loves a slow-mo montage of the anguish on the faces of players after they've conceded. I thought Iniesta and Cesc in particular looked absolutely gutted. Other factors include a lack of ingenuity out wide, Xavi returning to fitness from a thigh injury, and to a degree - bringing in Alex Song instead of a center-back to challenge for a first-team spot.
Will Barcelona ever get back to the dizzy heights of 2009? No, probably not. But I don't think it's the 'end of an era' for this team. They've got incredible talent, a manager with bags of potential (when he returns), and enough spirit to win another Champions League within the next year or two.
At the end of the day the game was lost because Barcelona didn't take their chances in the first leg. Anyway, well done to Madrid. They had a game plan and executed it to the letter. Their transition between defence and attach was brilliant and it was quite refreshing to see a team play against Barcelona that were able to showcase a solid defence without compromising their attacking options.
I'm off to Madrid tomorrow and I'll be at the Bernabeu for the La Liga Classico. I'd imagine I'll see a few different faces starting that match, but I'm hoping Barcelona will at least play with some pride on Saturday.
Kev R, London
Football Fans: Thick
I see the 'Barca are finished' mails have rolled in. Goody.
Just like Wigan have been finished every March for seven years running, United have been finished every year they inexcusably manage to finished outside the top 1, and indeed like Barca were finished when Inter 'figured them out' in 2010. In fact, tallying up the amount of clubs and players that have finished up in recent years, I'm not entirely sure how football is still going.
SHOCKINGLY, managers/coaches/players/statistical departments and other professionals who are paid millions of pounds a year in their positions manage to spot the same trends that we spot. They buy, sell, adapt, refocus and whatever else it takes the curb the slide. Inevitably they do, the status quo remains and as sure as day follows night Arsenal make the top four.
Football fans are a bit shortsighted, aren't they? Pardon me - thick. Thick is the word I was looking for.
Jerry (for genuinely finished see: Owen, Michael), Galway
Who Do You Want To Go Down?
In response to Bryan, THFC USA question 'Who do you want to go down?'
I agree with QPR and Stoke for the reasons already listed but the third club would be Aston Vile - purely because of the joy their fans expressed and general vitriol spouted following our relegation at their ground in 2009. We didn't have any previous beef with them but following their reaction, I would feel extreme satisfaction and joy at their demise.
I was reading your article about Raheem Sterling struggling for form after being thrust into the limelight at 17 and it got me thinking, is it endemic in English football that we push players too young?
I did a little bit of research and only two teenagers made their debut for England between 1963 and 1996 (John Barnes and Lee Sharpe). Since 1996, 18 players have made their debuts as teenagers. That is 35% of the total number of players (51) to debut under 20 since 1872.
Have other countries done the same? Obviously the greats like Pele, Maradona, Ronaldo's and Messi all break through early, but for England, Jermaine Jenas and Phil Neville are on the list. Are the kids getting better or are we so rubbish we rush them through hoping one of them is the next... (insert good footballer here) and ruin them? Does it make no difference at all since England are, if nothing, consistently average in major tournaments and have been since 1966?
In truth, I don't really know what I'm trying to say, I just thought it was interesting.
As you were.
Gary Orford, LFC
Only One Jonesy?
Over the last few years there has been some mails detailing potential sightings of 'popular' contributors to this mailbox. Conor Byrne (I think that's the spelling, couldn't really be bothered to check through countless mailbox editions to verify) being the figment of most people's mailbox fantasies, placing him in tropical island destinations and BBC studios with an entourage of hot girls, a swanky suit and an endless supply of shaken Martinis (probably).
In lieu of this allow me to add another sighting of a recent mailbox contributor, albeit in a slightly less physical world. Jonesy from Melbourne. His input a few days ago on this site was surprisingly level-headed, considering he has managed to royally p**s off people from England to India and the rest of the cricketing world with his loon-like postings on a cricketing website a million miles from here (i.e. not the 365 version). His obvious, single-minded love of all things Australian most apparent when he is posting whilst his beloved band of trundlers are being whipped in their own backyard by South Africa, and India is feasting on them in Chennai!
The virtual world really is shrinking our planet these days!
Christo du Plessis, AFC, Johannesburg (Jonesy being knocked on two different sports websites, got to love the internet)
Changing Rooney's Form Singlehandedly
In reply to Calum's email regarding which footballers would read this site, I'm guessing plenty; They're bound to. Some emails may even act as motivators to some of them.
I remember a few years ago I posted a 'Man U should sell Rooney' comment on a well-known football videogame website - the other football game which used to be the daddy, but isn't anymore...Anyway, this was during a particularly bad spell Rooney was having, and I remember getting slated for the post which seemed to coincide with Rooney dramatically changing his form which made my post look redundant.
The thing is, his form changed pretty much at the exact period of the comment. Therefore, I believe that I had a direct influence on a player who, at the time, wasn't pulling their weight.
Don't mention it.
Kireca (I accept Paypal)
Best Commentary Ever
Surely the best Jonathan Pearce commentary was at the start of England's match away to San Marino in 1993 where, to qualify for USA '94, they needed to win and hope Holland didn't get three points away to Poland:
"Welcome to Bologna on Capital Gold for San Marino versus England with Tennents Pilsner, brewed with Czechoslovakian yeast for that extra Pilsner taste and...England are one down!"
Do I like that.
Football Songs Please
Bit of a random question: I am trying to put together a playlist of football-related songs on Spotify, mostly just to amuse myself or others when they drive with me in my car. I'm trying to include songs which inspired chants, songs written specifically for football, songs often played before matches, etc. My current playlist is as follows:
Just Can't Get Enough (Depeche Mode)
Sloop John B (Beach Boys)
Seven Nation Army (White Stripes)
Ring Of Fire (Johnny Cash)
Fields Of Anfield Road (Liverpool Collective)
You'll Never Walk Alone (Gerry & Pacemakers)
He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother (Justice Collective)
Vindaloo (Fat Les)
Three Lions (Baddiel, Skinner etc)
Give It Up (KC & Sunshine Band)
Does anyone else have any suggestions? I'd love for the list to be as complete as possible.
Oliver Dziggel, Geneva, Switzerland