Mignolet's bad kicking is the reason for Liverpool's success, whilst one man keep notes on F365 mails. Plus England excitement, Arteta and a bad Walsall experience...
There are some harsh words for Manchester City and Manuel Pellegrini in the Mailbox this morning, as well as some rather nicer ones for Tony Pulis and his magic hat...
If you have anything to say on any subject, mail us at email@example.com
Stop Hurting Mata
I just read Juan Mata's blog.
'It hurts even more because...'
STOP HURTING HIM.
Stu (I won't allow it), Chiswick
How Did We End Up Married To Moyes?
After Sir Alex confirmed he was stepping down felt a little bit like the end of a relationship you already knew was over and that in the back of your mind you'd been kind of looking around a bit and wishing you were single.
Suddenly, there was a world of managers out there who you might snare. It was fun, it was exciting. Might chase that Portuguese one, or maybe a Dutch, a Spaniard, maybe even an Italian! The world is our oyster!
Then we landed Moyes. That felt a bit like hitting the clubs and bars, but rather than chasing that gorgeous chick who it might only be a fling with, settling for the slightly chubby, slightly shy but keen Scottish one (no offence!) and waking up the next morning married and bewildered.
What the f*** happened? How did we end up with the bargain basement manager? Van Gaal is hungry for a new club, the delectable Jose (I don't do man crushes but as managers go, he rocks my world) was in the market for something fresh, pretty much any manager would have been interested in fact.
We got a man whose highlight was getting promoted with Preston (and is now bringing one of the biggest clubs in world football to its knees in the fastest time ever).
It makes me cry, it really does.
Rodgers Would Have Been Perfect
Much as it pains me to say it (and the man is a complete, monumental tool with self-regard matched only by a recently fired English batsman), a manager along the lines of Brendan Rodgers would be ideal for United.
There's an obvious and impressive intelligence to how Liverpool play, evidence that manager and players are perpetually learning and adapting, and that they have the confidence and skill to pick and choose when and how to attack teams (hence pressing heavily at the start of both halves). His signings are still 'interesting', but between the Cissokhos and Allens he's bought and developed some wonderful players. And Liverpool have a genuine tactical and philosophical identity, and a defined direction of travel.
Moyes, by contrast, looks ever more like John Major c. 1996. He knows he's done for, his team know he's done for, and all that remains is to determine with what dignity both parties separate, and how great the damage done to United will be.
Firstly, Toby Sprigings, very good!
Secondly, I'm pretty sure that Guus Hiddink is available. This is one of the rare moments in life when he isn't inexplicably coaching a team like Turkey and refusing to break his contract. When people ask who could replace David Moyes, here is someone with a proven record of coming in to a Premier League team and performing a salvage operation at short notice. I think that two things are preventing David Moyes' sacking; that he was Fergie's personal pick and that si- year contract. With no Champions League football next season, what will continue to attract big players is the opportunity to work with a big manager.
It's quite conceivable that we could lose to Arsenal and Crystal Palace away this week, and then we have City and Liverpool at home to follow. How much worse can it be allowed to get? I already think that as far as modern managers go, Manchester United have been incredibly lenient with David Moyes. He'd be long gone at any other big club by now. If the side was even showing a glimmer of improvement week on week he'd be easier to support. As it is, it just seems like a question of whether we're going to let him just ruin this season, or next season as well.
Please Come Back Fergie
Can I be the first to start the 'Fergie come back' campaign, if it hasn't started already. Sir Alex - given that the only reason David Moyes came anywhere near the Man United manager's job is because of your recommendation, you owe it to us fans to come back and resurrect the situation. You are our/the greatest manager but please don't let your role in appointing your successor be the lasting thought that taints your legacy in the minds of dedicated United fans. Please come back and take over for the rest of the season and guide us to an improbable fourth-placed finish. If/once you have done that, please convince Jurgen Klopp to take over United and build a great team once again. He has the age, the profile, the experience, the personality and a footballing philosophy that will hold United in good stead for a long time. Please, please, please come back. It may be already too late but you coming back will give us the best possible chance to ensure that we do not become like Liverpool after the 80s.
Defending Mr Young
Writing today because I've just read another damning comment on one divey little fellow named Ashley Young. In truth, I'd like to point out that Ashley has had his best season so far in a United shirt and has steadily been improving this season. He's not nearly as wasteful on the ball as he used to be, his crosses have improved tremendously (probably from all the crossing practice, mind) and he's not forcing the cut to the inside at every opportunity like he started doing after that walloping goal against Arsenal in the 8-2.
Yesterday Ashley was one of the brighter players in the squad and I was genuinely surprised to see him taken off, maybe as Moyes took too much to heart his attempt to head across goal to RvP instead of trying the keeper on the attempt he flubbed, his one sore spot in the game (although had it come off would have been a guaranteed goal). His crosses into the box were the most dangerous of the 17,000 we had and his linking up with Evra kept the right-back honest as once he went off, Evra was often alone and easily marked into another patented five-step cross. Young provided space that had Moyes got through to his team to try the middle of the pitch would have allowed better runs through the middle as well as overlapping runs from Evra, opening up the defense. Once Evra was seemingly the LW, there was no (illusion of) creativity and Fulham were allowed even further to pile their box with bodies. Once off, there were no overlapping runs of that nature and it became even more obvious we'd ping the ball into the box at will until we got lucky.
Honestly, it was reminiscent of watching Chelsea-Barcelona, where Barcelona kept trying to break them down with neat passing although they were playing nine in the box with Torres hanging out waiting for THAT goal (easy Gary). Trying nothing different even though what they were doing wasn't working or coming close to working. Obviously United are not Barcelona nor Fulham, Chelsea, but the same feelings of inevitability to improbability rushed over me during the game.
Either way, the point is I feel people are allowing Ashley's divey reputation blind them from what has been a solid season for him personally as far as maturity in the position and in a role instead of the 'trying to do too much Ashley' we're used to.
Just my 2c.
Noah P (MUFC) Lantana, FL, USA
The tactics against Fulham were awful, they really were. We have three of the best attacking players in the world and they were reduced to contending 50/50 headers with ageing and inexperienced centre-backs.
However, I can't be peeved off with Moyes (just yet) when the squad he was left with is costing us games. Before the match, Vidic was lauded as an Old Trafford legend; one of the best in the world. But as the team was set up to go and get a desperate couple of goals, I'd hoped the big daft Serbian could handle a single, opportunistic attack against Darren sodding Bent to see the game out. But no. Twice he was caught ball-watching, and two Vidic mistakes cost United two poor goals. That game was a microcosm for Vidic's United career. Can we stop pretending he has ever been one of the world's best? I'd happily accept sixth place if it meant Moyes concentrated on developing the Jones/Smalling CB partnership, and played the effervescent Buttner instead of Patrice 'oh I have to get back AS WELL?' Evra.
George Akdu'gwango. (Darren Fletcher has always been a better Michael Carrick than Michael Carrick)
Big Signings Next...
A lot has been made about David Moyes's repeated professions that he is chasing 'big signings' during the summer. Given Moyes's tactical persuasion, however, I think there may be some misinterpretation of the descriptive adjective. But never fear, word on the street is that Jan Koller can be coaxed out of retirement, and I'd like to see people laugh at our 80-plus crosses per game then.
Danny (and Fellaini too) Pughnited
Conclusions From Old Trafford
- First off, let's get this clear, we were extremely unlucky not to win. I can only assume that, over the summer, Moyes had some self-confidence issues and ended up smashing all the mirrors in his house to avoid having to look himself in the eye, because the good fortune United may have had in the last 20 years has almost been balanced out in a single season.
- However, playing at home against the bottom club, luck shouldn't come into it. Luck should be a variable so small in comparison to the difference in ability that it can be ignored. We should be coming away saying that we were unlucky not to have scored four or five, not that we were unlucky not to win.
- I don't blame Fulham for their tactics. Yes, I've seen non-league sides come to Old Trafford with more ambition, but at the end of the day, they got a result. They allowed us time and space out wide to put crosses in and just backed their ability to deal with them. Now forget the fact that United didn't have a plan B (honestly, attacking through the middle against a team set up that narrowly wouldn't have been easy anyway) the real worry is that Fulham played into our hands and yet we still found it so difficult to score.
- So who to blame? Well, in a world where everyone loves a scapegoat, I'm going to disappoint you all by saying that everyone has to take some blame.
- Moyes, of course, has to take some blame. I have argued and argued that he needs time, but today is the final straw. He just does not seem to be learning. Starting Young ahead of Januzaj (or pretty much any other player) was a crazy decision. He then took over an hour to make any sort of change. He could have brought Januzaj on at half-time. He could have had Mata and Young swap wings so that we actually had a right-footer on the right and left-footer on the left. Heck, he could have told Vidic to go up front so we had somebody in the opposition box capable of actually winning a header! He sat on his hands too long, and when he finally made changes, he was in such a desperate state that he left us completely imbalanced for when we actually had to do some defending.
- As I've alluded to, Fulham allowed us to play our game. They didn't try and stop us from getting the ball wide. They didn't push out to our wingers to make it difficult to cross. So why did we find it so hard to find a teammate with a cross? Well, to address the less alarming problem first, we didn't get enough bodies in the box. The more alarming problem though, is that the quality of our crosses was woeful. We weren't looking up and trying to pick out a teammate. We were just hopefully kicking the ball in the general direction and hoping for a bit of luck.
- Defensively, Vidic and Smalling could have spent the majority of the match with cigars on, but they were tested so infrequently that they seemed to forget what to do when they actually did have to defend. How Sidwell, who must have been one of two Fulham players in our half at the time, ended up in that position, completely unmarked, is anybody's guess.
- And finally, just in case you thought United had a player on the pitch that wasn't in any way to blame, we get to David De Gea. He suffered so much criticism in his first year at the club, that he has now become immune. I wanted to speak up when I thought he did a poor job with two of Eto'o's goals, but I kept quiet. But there is no way anyone can absolve him of any blame for Fulham's second goal. Push it over or push it away. Simple.
City Have Nowt To Worry About
A somewhat misleading statistic in Winners and Losers today has caused me to push up the imaginary spectacles, get out the felt tips (or 'multiple browser tabs' in the modern age) and look further into it, just to confirm my suspicions. The fact that Manchester City are only one point behind their total at this juncture last season would be less alarming if it weren't the case that City fell away fairly massively towards the end of last season.
By game 25 last season, City had W15 D8 L2, so 29% of overall points dropped. During the remaining 13 fixtures they W8 D1 L4, for a percentage of 36% of points dropped. A fairly large drop considering the shorter period of games to do it in. Are City likely to do it though? Well, they are currently W17 D3 L5, with three of those losses coming on or before November 10th.
Their last ten games consist of WWWWWWWWLD, with only the most recent result really being a true disappointment. Their remaining fixtures consist of only two matches against current top four opposition (Arsenal away in March, Liverpool away in April) and only two other matches against relative 'big boys' (Everton away in May, Man United away in March, if we're counting them now!). So City would have to lose all of those matches, and throw away a few more against the rest, to finish any worse than they did last season.
Considering all that, it would be very unlikely for City to even match last year's total, never mind dip below it. Considering this is meant to be somewhat of a transition year (although 'transition years' don't seem to exist for teams of that level of wealth), it seems a little reactionary to suggest they have much to worry about!
One Conclusion On Spurs v Everton
1. If there's no '16 conclusions' article on F365, no-one believes you're going to make top four?
This season has been pretty weird for Spurs fans. Loads of points but it's not strictly obvious how/why. A really solid defence except when it isn't. A scary attack averaging less than two goals a game. three points off top four with a goal difference that looks like a typo.
I can't bring myself to believe in Sherwood, but I can't argue with his record so far. How long do I watch him set new records before I start believing? I have no idea, but I think it's safe to say that I won't change my mind this season, CL or not.
What I do know is: if we're still in touch with the top four by the end of March we'll be making it interesting. It is, of course, possible that we go the entire season without ever playing well. But not many teams do that, and certainly not teams who are somehow stumbling around near the top of the table. There will be a period where we start to look like a team, and if the scouse teams haven't managed to open up a decent gap ahead of us by that point I think we'll be making their lives very uncomfortable indeed.
Oh Tony, You Old Enigma You
Tony Pulis is an enigma. Following the current mailbox trend, I am asking myself, is he a philosopher or a pragmatist? Or is Pulis one of those guys who rides rough-shod over such simplistic categorisations?
Is Tony Pulis' reputation for playing rugby disguised as football deserved? Or is it at least partly a symptom of a man taking a club like Stoke as far as they can possibly go, with a style of play necessitated by the kind of Premier League standard 'football' players that are happy to sign for and stay at said team? The transfer spend in treading water (and upon heads, legs and arms) would seem to indicate not, however, that could just have been a case of supply and demand.
I'm a Northern lad living in Manchester, so am trying not to be disparaging of Stoke as a football club/place to live as I hardly have a leg to stand on; but let's be fair, Pottery Museum aside, it's not exactly a draw for global tourism. Stoke is not fashionable, and probably never will be. There won't have been many players who would sign for Stoke over another option, and so you would be able to cream top dollar for one who was both good enough, and willing to go.
Pulis' philosophy (Pulism? Pulisism?) as of his time at Stoke, seemed one of ultimate pragmatism caused by the above. So necessarily pragmatic, as to become a philosophy? Or is he the man who exposes such ideas as a footballing philosophy as mere snakeoil - another prong to an argument that was so eloquently exemplified by the hapless Andre Villas Boas earlier this season, and also, I fear, by Arsene Wenger and maybe even Pellegrini by the end. I fully expect Mourinho to have overcome the challenge of them both, and for Moyes and Sherwood to overhaul Martinez at the end of the 38th game. Rodgers would therefore be the only 'Philosopher' who hasn't ballsed it up over the course of the season, and lets be fair, his counter-attacking reds are not exactly playing tikitaka are they?
Anyway, I digress, Crystal Palace gives Tony a London address to work from - I for one am looking forward to seeing the side that he cobbles together there next season. I looked at the Palace starting 11 this week and it didn't look like a Pulis side. The least Pulis-like players being Ledley and Ince, who he has just himself signed.
Ben, Nursing a pulissing hangover from Saturday night (still)
Praise For An Old F365er
Great win for us this weekend, up to 14th now, although some tough fixtures coming up. A lot of the media is heaping praise on Tony Pulis and deservedly so, he has done an excellent job of organising a Championship defence to somehow concede few enough goals to allow us a chance to get points each week. I just wanted to highlight a different mid-season acquisition that I feel will play an important part over the rest of the campaign.
That being Iain Moody from Cardiff. In his first transfer window he had a hand in recruiting Tom Ince, Joe Ledley, Scott Dann and Wayne Hennessy. While I am not overly excited by either Dann or Hennessy, they both provide much needed competition for places at this level. Ince and Ledley could be crucial in providing a variety of threats for opponents to face. As was proven very quickly on Saturday when someone other than Jason Puncheon scored. Contrast this to the summer window when we signed players in a seemingly haphazard way resulting in a couple not even being in the squad.
This all provides reasons to be optimistic as it appears our owners have learnt from their previous mistakes pretty quickly and Moody looks to have already shown why Malky Mackay was so annoyed at his sacking. Also, FFS Murray is back!
At what point will there be a re-shuffle and his name changes to 'f*cking' Mezut Ozil?
Shappo (Henderson nicked the umlaut)