Some supporters sound oh so confident on Louis Van Gaal's excellence. Plus thoughts on shirt sales, best signings, football sevens and a good deal more besides...
Are pre-season tours really a problem? Liverpool went to Australia last summer and it didn't prevent them from having a good season. Plus, thoughts on LvG and keepers...
If you have anything to say on any subject, mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Sheffield United's thrilling victory in the game of the season last night gives me a good opportunity to tell you about my mate John. If anyone knows a more bizarre football fan, I'd like to hear about it.
John knows his football and, when he follows a team, he is passionate about them. But his allegiances change as often as managers leave clubs.
It started off ok - for the first 25 years of his life, he supported Chelsea (but we have seen a picture of him in a Holsten Spurs top). However, once Abramovic came in, he seemed to go off the club. For a while, he changed his allegiances to Wolves - no explanation given.
However, in recent years he has jumped all over the place. But there is a theme to the clubs he now supports - Burton Albion, Derby and now Sheffield United. Yes, he supports whoever Nigel Clough manages.
Where this comes from, no-one knows. But he follows the teams across the country. He knows all the chants, he knows the teams inside out, and he knows all about the board at each club he supports. He was passionately railing against the American influence in the Derby boardroom, but now he is talking about how last night's victory for Sheffield United will be important in raising confidence for the big match at the weekend against Shrewsbury.
Oh, he also changed into a suit when playing Championship Manager because he reached the cup final.
Does anyone have a mate as odd as this?
Jaimie Kaffash, AFC, north London
For United fans anxious about whether David Moyes' reprisal of Everton can beat Fulham on Sunday (probably not), the following might provide moral support:
Curious, I think, how even in the early '90s United ripped teams apart with quick passing and overloads in the middle. Not much relentless crossing from deep there though. I wonder why?
p.s. Nice to know that hedge fund managers are sufficiently confident of Moyes' continued failure to be shorting United stocks.
Don't Pity Them
In reponse to Girish, AFC, Chennai, and others I have seen in the mailbox recently, why are people feeling sorry for Manchester United in light of their current struggles? Or even looking for a reason to start hating them again? We hate them because they are Manchester United? Has everyone forgotten the years and decades of their dominance in just a few months!? Remember? The gum chewing, the countless goals scored in Fergie time, penalties given by Howard Webb, disallowed Pedro Mendes goals, and Patrice f*cking Evra (among many others)?
If United manages to steal 4th, bring in a few world class players this summer, right the ship, and start winning titles again, you will be ashamed of your astonishing soft-heartedness, I guarantee it. Do you think Fergie would have ever felt bad for your club? They need to be beaten down now, while they are in chaos, with a manager who has no idea what he is doing and players that aren't much better.
I personally will stop finding United's decline funny if, in 15 years, the club is facing liquidation.
Paul (ABU on my tombstone, my grandkids won't even know what it means), MA Gooner
Apparently Moyes Isn't The Only Problem
Transition: The period of time during which something changes from one state or stage to another.
Fergie to Moyes
Champions to Also-Rans.
Poor competition to enormously strengthened rivals.
Patient loyal fans to clamours for ANY proven winner.
Jealous ABU's to glorious schadenfreude.
Financial power weight to comparatively frugal.
Begrudging respect to laughing stock.
Unbeatable to vulnerable.
The biggest problem Man U has is that for every mistake that has been made there are things that maybe couldn't be accounted for. For those pinning blame on Moyes, there are those who could probably have seen it coming and are pragmatic about what the next couple of years will hold. The team is underperforming in comparison to last year, others team are in comparison over achieving, but the determination to pin down the reason on one person, and fire him it seems (he'd unquestionably would have been drowned by now in ye olden days) continues unabated, like that will solve every wrong. Perhaps the famous loyalty Fergie spoke of never was. A belief they were told existed rather than existed. Do you think that's air you're breathing.?
I was never one to think Fergie deliberately put Moyes in charge to make him look good, but I am rapidly thinking he is partly to blame for the mess he has left behind. It may just be the shouty ones, but some Man U fans are so unconditioned to the demands of support, and expectant of success being delivered on a plate, they resemble the fat floaty people in WALL-E.
Chris ITFC, Liverpool
Still Preaching Patience
Ah thanks very much for that. In trying to encourage a bit of sensible long term thinking I completely forgot that United won the Premier League last year. I take it all back. Sack Moyes because we haven't romped home to the title again against an Arsenal side that was the best team in 2013, a reinvigorated (and lucky) Chelsea side who have spent £100m since Mourinho's arrival and a City side that was pretty much there but spent a truck load in the summer anyway.
I was going to go into each team in detail and show you why patience is required but I can't be bothered. The average length of a players stay at United is currently something like 5 and half years. That's among the highest in Europe, along with Barcelona though admittedly bumped up by Giggs. That means, because United have only had Fergie in charge in that time, most of our players have known only Fergies methods and his style. We can question Moyes' decision to change the coaching staff but what we can't question is that all the players have had to adapt to a whole new coaching setup. This may not be a problem at other clubs where coaching and playing staff turnover is higher but I'm sure it has an effect at United. The one player that's used to Moyes is not used to the club and has been injured all season.
Some managers will come in and turn a club round in their first season. Fergie did it at United but in the process of building his team they slipped from 2nd in 1988 to 11th in 1989 and 13th in 1990. Now I'm not going to guarantee you that Moyes is going to do what Fergie did for United. He probably can't. But if you accept that, even though we were champions last year, the squad needed rebuilding around a few key players then Moyes needs time to do it. We've signed less players than the sides above us, we have at least 5 players that are verging on retirement and our midfield is rubbish and was rubbish last season. Van Persie has spent a long time out injured where he was fit pretty much all last season.
Moyes deserves time because that was what he was given when he took the job based in his years at Everton. I didn't agree with him taking over but now that he's here he has to be given a chance to form his own squad despite all the flack glory supporters that can't stand their mates taking the piss out of them every week. Steve Round equally deserves that chance.
And also yes it is up to the fans to support the team. With 75,000 inside the stadium it should be a cauldron. Whilst I agree that the team aren't playing well so it's difficult to get excited I think as most of our difficulties are coming at home the fans have a part to play. Think Seattle Seahawks 12th man. Fergie isn't around to scare the other team any more but the fans still are.
Ashley (still 7 points behind) Metcalfe
Return Of The Player-Manager
Does Garry Monk taking over at Swansea mean we finally have a return of the infamous player manager?
I definitely hope so!
Attack Still Jose's Weakness
With the Jose Mourinho love-in (and hate-in) going on all over the place after the win at Man City, I thought I'd try for a reasoned response to the game, because I think it showed both his strengths and his weaknesses.
Obviously, he knows how to construct a team and game-plan to shut down an opponent. Although Lampard is a favorite of his, he realized that Lampard no longer has the athleticism (if he ever did) to combat Yaya Toure in the middle, and so Matic and David Luiz got the job. He also made sure Willian, who never seems to run out of energy, played in the middle, where he could also close down Toure.
A similar success story (as it has been all season) was the choice of Azpilicueta at left back. Early on Mourinho figured out that Ashley Cole couldn't cut it at top level any more, and realized that Azpilicueta's calm, solid play suited his style perfectly. Azpilicueta doesn't offer much in attack, but he works hard and rarely makes a mistake, and for me he was the unsung hero of the night, holding off Jesus Navas pretty much every time down.
Mourinho also won the psychological battle, as he so often does, by making just about everyone believe he would park the bus. It's possible City just weren't ready for the counter-attacking onslaught that occurred. Have you ever seen a top team look so utterly clueless in defence?
So far, so good. But Mourinho has his weaknesses, most of them being in attack. The signing of Samuel Eto'O has been something short of a success. He's chipped in occasionally, but has more often looked off the pace. Overall he has not combined well with his teammates (unlike Torres, who seems to be more aware of what's going on around him), and was distinctly average on Monday night. He should have buried that chance late in the first half. A better choice of striker would have made a significant difference in Chelsea's season.
Moreover, the success of such players as Willian and Ramires in shutting down opponents conceals the fact that they are neither creative players nor reliable goalscorers. Ramires, in particular, was poor in attack against City, fluffing opportunities on a regular basis. Willian was a bit better, but he is not the man to make a killer pass. He has one assist all season, and that was in the 87th minute against a Hull City team that had opened up to try for an equalizer. He has two league goals. Ramires has one.
Just about everyone said that Chelsea could have won by four or five on Monday. Agreed. But the reason they didn't was because of the limitations of Mourinho's approach. With the obvious exception of Hazard (who by the way was crucial in the goal buildup-watch the way he beats DeMichelis on the left of attack, then comes all the way over to the right to get the pass from Ivanovic), Chelsea didn't have good attackers up front. Had Silva or Dzeko taken their good chances, or had Toure been a few centimeters closer to goal on Kolarov's cross, City would have had a draw, and we would be writing a very different story.
Peter G, Pennsylvania, USA
With the sacking of Michael Laudrup and his subsequent replacement by a man with no managerial experience (or obvious credentials aside from familiarity with the club and geographical proximity) in Garry Monk, this begs the question; in recent seasons has there ever been a less inspiring group of PL managers?
I'm sure that there will be people with more time and commitment (and possibly logic) who will be able to point out the various flaws in my argument, but in any case here goes....
1) The exceptions - Mourinho, Pellegrini, Wenger, Martinez, Pochettino, Rodgers. Arguably at least two of these have a distinct advantage of significant financial backing, however it would be difficult to make the case that they haven't performed well this year. Mourinho has slowly started to shape Chelsea into the kind of team that he has steered to success previously in his career and Pellegrini has City playing some of the best football since the Arsenal team of Pires, Henry etc, as well as finally getting City into the knockout stages of the CL. Speaking of Arsenal; Wenger continues to admirably balance the books at the Emirates while attaining CL football ahead of other strong challengers while Rodgers and Martinez have the two Merseyside clubs looking coherent and with reason for optimism both this season and in the future. Pochettino may be a slightly dubious choice to package with the aforementioned, but I feel that he has accomplished enough in his time on the South coast to be considered in this group.
2) The 'I'd rather gouge my eyes out than watch their team' managers - Pulis, Allardyce, Lambert. I understand that keeping Palace up would be an amazing achievement and therefore Pulis won't be interested in winning any plaudits for style, but at Stoke he showed that he really doesn't have any interest in developing a team's style or is just incapable of getting anything out of flair players like Tuncay. For Sam Allardyce; see the above, but over a longer period and now with a much bigger club whose fans must be weeping at the fare that is served up every week in conjunction with an inflated sense of accomplishment. Lambert flies under the radar due to his young squad, but Villa regularly play some dreadful stuff.
3) The unlikely options - Sherwood, Monk, Moyes. Not really sure what any of their clubs were thinking about when they appointed any of the above. Clearly it's a little early to judge (especially Monk who hasn't taken charge of a game yet!) but given the relative strengths of the positions these clubs were in at the end of last season you have to wonder why they would take the options that they have. Replacing Ferguson was always going to be almost impossible, and I was no AVB fan, but for Man Utd and Spurs I believe that their realistic ambitions of a successful season are undermined by the men they've chosen to lead them. And Swansea have gone from a manager with experience of managing and playing in Europe to a complete novice.
4) Miscellaneous - Poyet, Meulensteen, Mel, Solskjaer, Hughes, Hughton, Pardew, Bruce. Poyet actually could have gone in the first group, given the way that he has galvanised (using the 'proper' football cliché there) Sunderland. Bruce also has done well in his first half season in the PL with Hull, but his time at Sunderland wouldn't suggest that he will take them to the next level. F365 has already documented the money spent by Hughton on not very much, Hughes hasn't stayed anywhere long enough to make a judgment one way or another since he seems to think himself better than the clubs he's been at, and that then leaves Meulensteen, Mel, Solskjaer and Pardew. Pardew seems to alternate between being very good and very bad and the others haven't really been in situ long enough to make a judgment but don't necessarily get the pulse racing or have a track record of success. I think a recent article on F365 summed up the paradox of clubs having more money than ever but actually arguably serving up less entertainment than ever, but whether these managers are victims of that or contributors to it is open to interpretation.
Well, that's my view in any case, and having slated the incumbents at more than half the PL clubs now I guess I'll just sit back and take the abuse.
Seb () Hardy
League Cup Curse
The last two winning managers of the league cup have now been sacked within a year of lifting the trophy and the one before that ended up getting his club relegated. The year before that United went on to throw away a title they should have won after winning the league cup.
Is this competition cursed now or what!
What are the odds on City losing the title if they win the cup, or Sunderland going on to get relegated if they win it?
Stuart Edge, 17, AVFC