That's the real problem they're going to face next year, says one Man United fan who's already looking forward to the end of this campaign. Plus, thoughts on neutrality...
Liverpool fans in the mailbox are not too worried about sour grapes from United supporters, but one admits he's scared the Reds could end up selling their best players...
If you have anything to say on any subject, mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Where's The Experiment, Roy?
I have decided to give you a little help for when you next compile your World Cup Ladder.
You can put James Milner at number 1.
Why? Because regardless of whether he's actually important to the team or not, he'll definitely go. And he'll come on for the last ten minutes of every single match if he doesn't start - I guarantee it.
I've been an ardent Hodgson supporter from day one. Like many others, I felt he was a far more logical and reliable appointment that 'Arry. He was exactly what England needed. And I'm not going to start with any 'Roy Out' banners any time soon.
But he does have one major weakness, which we thought we'd seen cured when he played Townsend in the last two qualifiers - he's horrendously conservative in his approach.
We're approaching a pair of friendlies, one against quality opposition, which is a great chance to blood some new players and get some squad members some valuable experience. When I saw the headline that Rodriguez and Lallana had been called up I was over the moon - finally, Roy had taken a risk!
And then I read the list. Kyle Walker. Ashley Cole. Bloody James Milner. Gerrard. Lampard. Rooney. Danny Chuffin' Welbeck.
No Steven Caulker! No Curtis Davies (the stats support this one), no Nathaniel Clyne, no Tom Huddlestone (Long shot, but still), no Kyle Naughton, no Delph. I'm bitterly disappointed in this squad - Roy said he was going to experiment. But no, the two Saints lads probably won't see more than about ten minutes' football between them. Someone please explain why we need three left-backs in this squad? If anything, Gerrard and maybe Lampard could have gone as 'coaches' - not to play, just pass their experience on as Beckham did in South Africa (however succesful that wasn't!) There's nothing to be gained from including Ashley Cole.
Sorry for the negative rant but I'm bored of Roy's reluctance to experiment. He complains that there's a lack of English talent but doesn't choose it when it is there.
No doubt Roy will choose an experimental line-up for the Germany game-
Hart, Johnson (ooh), Jagielka, Cahill, A Cole, Gerrard, Lampard, Cleverley, Welbeck, Rooney, Milner. Oh.. wait. No, actually I think that's accurate. The experiment is having Johnson back - that's living on the edge where Roy's concerned.
...I see Lallana is the standard 'see I do listen to the fans!' pick from Woy. Rodriguez as well is over-egging the pudding somewhat though isn't it?? Lallana's call-up is overdue, but I'm not sure the same can be said about J-Rod. It's possible his selection is to distract us from the fact there are still players getting in with no justification whatsoever - namely Cleverley and Welbeck for a start. Delph would have been a better choice than Cleverley on current form, and as for Welbeck...well, let's just say the same questions remain.
Picking three left-backs was a nice touch though, I'm sure they'll all come in handy. By all means give Gibbs a go, but surely we could leave one of Cole or Baines at home in that case? Similarly, I'm not entirely sure what Henderson adds to a squad that features Gerrard, Lampard, Wilshere, Carrick, Milner and Barkley. Lampard could make way couldn't he??
I just looked up who we're playing, expecting it to be Western Samoa or someone, but f**k me, one of them's Germany! With this squad!! I'm sure they're quaking in their boots! 'Who is this Jay Rodriguez?' I hear them ask, 'is he some naturalised wonderkid from South America?' Well, not quite. Try Burnley.
Olly Cole, THFC (thought Caulker might have been in with a shout as well, but Woy has only just extended his radar to Southampton so South Wales might be a bit much to ask).
The Irish have Poo On Their Lips
Football, football, football...It's a funny old game. One of two halves. One of elation, sorrow and indifference. It's a game of men for men that want to stay boys forever. You can make what you want of football. You can either treat it as the be all and end all, more important than life and death n' all that, or you can treat it as entertainment. You just can't do both. It's like being handed a cucumber and a tub of creamed cheese and being told to either make lunch or make love. To yourself. If you chose to do the latter and bugger yourself with the cucumber, you're not going to make a sandwich with it afterwards. You'd only end up with poo on your lip and a pain in your tummy. And no one wants that.
This week in Ireland, we have all been walking around with a little bit of poo on our lip at the news that Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane are the new emperor and vice-emperer of Ireland. Ireland's football, that is. Everyone is mighty excited. The nation has fallen sideways in a collective giggle, the likes of which the nation hasn't seen since the black and tans stopped being so mean and gave us our spuds back. Grown men have been marched to the Post Office by their mothers to have their names changed by deed poll from Patrick O'Toole to Royston Martin O'Neill O'Toole. Politicians have holed themselves up in parliament, barricaded the doors and collected every rosary bead in Dublin to make a big holy pile of bead to sit upon and pray. Pray that their jobs are safe and that within 12 months, yer man from the North and the bollox from Cork haven't take over the whole country altogether by popular opinion, rendering them once and for all, literally useless. Televison and Radio is awash with analysis, opinion, opinions on the opions and post-analysis of the analysis. "How de f*ck will dey all get along!!!??", grown men screech at each other. "What if Keano goes buck-ape and punches a crow and the crow turns out to be Seamus Coleman's first cousin from Dingle, only up for a visit? What then?", they hysterically yelp at each other. Eamon Dunphy has been drafted in to literally every show on RTE to offer his professor/groupie like opinion on Roy Keane to the point where he made a cameo on Monday's episode of Home and Away to assure Alf Stewart that this could be the making of Irish sport, the economy and society in general and if all goes to plan we'll have every Irish gobshite in Australia that's been wrecking the place for the last eight years, home by next Christmas. At the latest. Saipan has been mentioned so many times that so happy is the Grand-Mayor of Saipan with the renewed publicity, plans are underway to twin it with Athlone. An honour if ever there was one.
Aye, it's been quite the few days. Lines have been blurred. Buried hatchets have been dug up and flung across pubs, living rooms and gaudy television sets, injuring only the innocent and the reasonable. The nation, as they say, is in a fuckin' frenzy about Friday week's friendly against Latvia to the point where there is talk of the schools finishing early, the pubs opening earlier, work not starting at all and the Guinness to be plentiful and another twenty cent dearer. To Arthur! And Roy! And Martin! Any plans for a referendum on same sex marriages and debates on the effect of water charges on already financially strained households have been cast aside in favour of everyone getting together to try and be really nice to Stephen Ireland and get him back in a green shirt again now that his grandmother is better.
So lads, while ye're all waiting with baited breath to see if Jay Rodriguez makes his debut for England, we'll be having a party the likes of which hasn't been seen in this country since we thought we were going to be the 33rd team in the World Cup that time.
Cucumber bum sandwiches all round.
Kevin Walsh, Luimneach
It's The Saturdays!
I know you've lot have been a bit grumpypants this week, what with Man City having to leave their plaudits at home, even though they have qualified for the knock-out stages for the first time, United fans not allowed to act with mild indifference to an easy away draw, and Chelsea having to pop the fizzy pop on ice and save the celebrations for some time F365 sees fit, well to cheer you lot up I thought I'd let you know The Saturdays at switching on the Xmas lights in Bristol tomorrow, so turn those frowns upside down, and get on down.
David (I found out Mollie's favourite saying is 'Check this bad boy out')
But It Was A Mugging
A brief point to puncture Mark's statistical mooning about Arsenal/Dortmund. Dortmund had 15 shots to Arsenal's four, and none of Ozil, Giroud and Cazorla had a single shot all game.
The game was anything but even. Arsenal were dominated for much of the match, and even if they deliberately sat back to deny Dortmund the opportunity to press and play on the transitions, I'd suggest that any match in which a team's front three can't muster a single shot between them, and in which they only had three shots all game, to the opponents 15, is scarcely even. Arsenal were impressively disciplined, clinical and played an offside trap brilliantly well. But if the generally wonderful Marco Reus (who, just to remind United fans again, cost less than darling Ashley, and earns less than half than him) had remembered how to finish, Arsenal wouldn't have won.
And I'm not desperately worried about Arsenal at United on Sunday. Giroud doesn't have the pace to worry United's centre-backs, and his great strengths (aerial work and intelligent movement) are areas where Vidic, Ferdinand and Evans are strong. Ozil is exquisite, Cazorla excellent, and Ramsey in fantastic form. But I'd back United, if they don't have any brain freezes, to outscore Arsenal.
Backing United Too...
My fellow United supporters in this morning's mailbox. Eesh.
I will not be content with a 2-1 loss to Arsenal at Old Trafford. A draw will be a disappointment but I will accept it, given the relative league positions and current form. But I'm really gunning for a home win this weekend. United have, for several years, had the beating of Arsenal quite comfortably. I know that some circumstances have changed but there is still plenty enough quality in the United side to see off Arsenal. There's no way in hell we should be talking about being 'closer to a reversal of the famous 8-2 than we are to a United victory'.
As for the comment 'Arsenal are winning. David Fkin Moyes is United manager. Feel like burying myself' - calm down mate, Arsenal haven't come out of absolutely nowhere (like City) and aren't our fiercest rivals (like City). And Moyes hasn't even had six months at the helm yet.
Let's just not get hysterical please. A quick glance at a bookmaker's website lists United at 6/5 and Arsenal at 11/5 for Sunday's game.
Personally, I find it hard to begrudge Arsenal their current good standing. They've taken a hell of a lot of flak over the years. In fact the whole 'since Arsenal last won a trophy' stuff really gets on my wick. They've always been a 'nearly' team, so it should be of no great surprise that they've managed to find an extra gear. I still think we should beat them at Old Trafford. Opinions to the contrary only breed negativity, and that's the last thing we need.
Chris, SAF Stand
And It Was Not So Special...
The 'undoable' is beating Barcelona over 180 mins when you're down to ten men for the best part of the second leg (getting a draw in the Camp Nou, which no team had done that season, in the process).
The 'undoable' is beating Bayern Munich in their own backyard, including three penalty saves.
You did what, admittedly last season, Schalke, Wolfsburg, Hamburg and Hoffenheim, have done.
Just enjoy the win - don't invite others to p*ss on it.
Jamie ('bitter' CFC fan).
The Old Arsenal?
If the 'old Arsenal' are back does that mean that come March we are going to see the old complete collapse, going out of every competition in the space of a week?
Stuart Edge (at least they'll actually still be in a competition by March I suppose), AVFC
They Keep On Coming...
Are we now able to class Arsenal as a one-man team? I think so.
United Still British
I'm happy that Gooners finally have something to be happy about, I honestly am. I'm sure the Beat Dortmund Away Trophy will look good in the cabinet next to the Top In November Trophy and, of course, last year's Fourth Place Trophy (sorry, couldn't help myself!). However, Toby B ought not get too carried away and start spouting nonsense. United's successes were built on good British players but not English players? Excuse me while I remember the 1999 side with Beckham, Scholes, the Neville brothers, Butt, Cole, Sheringham, Brown and May. And another current top side that has six British players? Well, United have 10 (not including Zaha...or Januzaj!), but in case people have decided we're not a 'top team' any more then Spurs have seven, Liverpool have six, Chelsea have five, City have five. So you're pretty average, well done.
Why Fergie Rules
It comes as no surprise that a Liverpool supporter would question Ferguson's claim of being the greatest ever. After all this is the man who knocked them off their f***ing perch. I would however like to post a defence as if he needs it. Firstly to everyone blaming him for Rossi, Pique, Pogba. Rossi was not good enough in the Prem. Yes he is doing well in Seria A now but even there he is not playing for one of the best teams. Forlan did great once he left United, doesn't change the fact he was pants for us. Pique is world class but would you break up Ferdinand-Vidic at that point? He suffered from having the best CB partnership of that decade in front of him. In the end Fergie did what was best for the player. And then we come to Pogba, the player of the hour. Yes he is doing amazingly well, yes he was probably better than Carrick, Park etc even while he was at United but he questioned Ferguson, and not only that but he openly rebelled. He was sold because as Ferguson explains you MUST NOT cede control. He had to be God in that dressing room otherwise it wouldn't have mattered how many great players United had.
If the ultimate goal is to win then he did what was best for the club and it is proved by the titles he won. He kicked out Stam, he kicked out Keane, he sold Beckham even though he loved him. You make these tough decisions not because of their talent, or what they have won for you. You do it because running a club is not only about having the best players, it's also about having those players be willing to die for you. If anyone needs an example of the opposite just look at Real Madrid over the past decade.
A Flaw In The Thinking
I'm not going to shout down James (Busby, Paisley and Shankly all had more class than slagging off former players to sell a book, too) LFC's opinion that Paisley and Shankly are greater managers than Fergie. hey are all great managers and he obviously has the right to his opinion, and with him being a Liverpool fan, I would obviously expect him to fight his club legends' corner.
What I would say though is that he does contradict himself a bit by using Paisley's three European Cup wins compared to Fergie's two as a weighty part of his argument, before then saying Shankly, all zero European Cup wins an all, is greater than Paisley. By using that as an argument, surely it would be Paisley > Fergie > Di Matteo > Shankly. Before we start, I am not for one second suggesting Di Matteo is greater than Shankly!
Unsurprisingly, I'm going to say that Fergie is the greatest of them all.
What I would say to any Liverpool fan who can't bring themselves to fully acknowledge Fergie's work at United is to look at what he did at Aberdeen.
To cut a long story short, he beat Real Madrid in a major European final. With Aberdeen!! Just keep repeating that thought in your head to comprehend the enormity of that achievement alone!
Kev The Clarke, MUFC (I thought Fergie's comments in his book about Shankly resenting Liverpool and frequenting The Cliff were more controversial than his comments about Henderson) Skem
A World Record!
I think we saw a new world record for the largest combined total of letters in a substitution last night, as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang came on for Jakub Blaszscszscszykowski. Can anyone confirm?
Olly Cole, THFC (can Arsenal hurry up and be sh*t again please?)
Why It Has To Be Aguedo
What's wrong with 'Neg-ro'?
Following on from the 'Aguedo' moniker assigned by this weeks Champions League Winners and Losers, can I please ask that we start calling ManU's striking partnership 'Van Pooney'?
Andrew (It's like being back on the playground) CPFC
One Swallow And All That
Excellent Winners and Losers section again. I must contest that Ashley Young right now can be accused of 'wasteful crossing'. Just watch the chance where Van Persie hits the post in the second half. Young's left foot ball across was an immaculate as a cross as you will find all month. It crossed my mind at the time of his dive that people would forget how good that cross was. I was right. Young can be accused of a lot of things but that cross should have been an assist and is worthy of credit.
Chris Henderson, BRFC
Do You Know How Much Saido Berahino Earns?
Do you know how much Saido Berahino earns? It's £850 a week. A pittance! Did you know he earns less than a Premier League kit man? And we all know they're basically glorified dry-cleaners. It would take him five years to earn Yaya Toure's weekly wage. Five Years!
But you know this already because we've all been told repeatedly over the last three months about this plucky youngster and the poverty line upon which he stands. I thought we'd heard the end of it, only for the BBC to publish another story a few days ago.
Can we have some perspective on this situation? Yes, £850 per week makes him the lowest-paid regular in the league. £850 per week also equates to £46,000 a year. For a 20-year-old. That puts him in the 85th percentile. For those who didn't pay attention in maths class, 53 million people in the UK earn less than him. He's 20. The average 20-year-old earns somewhere between £12,000 and £15,000 a year.
Poverty line indeed.
I don't want to open the floor to the question of footballers' salaries again. No one likes that. Lets just have some perspective.
Welcome To Our Frozen Hell
Us Icelanders have been in bullish mood since our national team bagged a play-off spot for next year's World Cup. However, never has a game been played outside in Iceland on November 15. The last games of our season are played late September due to... ehh, weather. Now the forecast for the Croatia game has emerged. -10°celsius, snow and 7-10 m/s wind. Feels like -18° c. I'm not sure that UEFA predicted Iceland to still being in the competition and am pretty sure that these circumstances will translate into snapping hamstrings and cramps galore. Just how we like it. Happy days. Welcome Croatia, welcome to our frozen hell.
Bragi (I have a woolly blanket) Skaftason