The debate over the importance of pre-season continues, including a league table from last season for stats fans. Plus travelling to watch your team and Blackpool...
We have some conclusions from Louis van Gaal's perfect start, plus a dismissal of fantasy football, worries about La Liga's greediness and thoughts on Real with Ham-ez...
If you have anything to say on any subject, mail us at email@example.com
A Lone Voice In The Din (Assuming He's Not Being Sarcastic)
The thing that's always impressed me about Manchester United is the way they stand by their manager. Not for them the chop and changing of Chelsea or howling at Hodgson like that fickle lot down the road.
Managers need time and the proper football fans of The Theatre of Dreams know this.
Scof Mann, Manchester
Just to let you know, Manchester United this season has not yet stopped being funny. When a team dominates for so long, and has a host of (not all) unpleasant bad winners for fans that now are showing themselves as bad losers, it is indeed very funny to watch them fail.
I'm not even sure relegation (which obviously won't happen) in future seasons would stop it all being funny.
I can't believe this website's quite frankly mental agenda against United. Firstly you are reporting that we lost 2 - 0 to the worst of all the last 16 teams! That can't be true! They even sold their biggest goal threat to Fulham! They clearly can't be any good! What's that? Roy Carroll in goal? Easy win. Surely! Yet you persist with this atrocious story that Young played yet didn't recieve any kind of penalty? I quite frankly find that hard to believe. From now on I will be sourcing my footbaling news from reputable websites. I knew I shouldn't have gone line dancing last night.
Leeroy MUFC, Kent
I believe this should cover it;
* Enough's enough...
* We expect...
* We deserve...
* We want...
Followed by many (...many) paragraphs on poor old Davie Moyes.
Many United fans seemed to expect, or be resigned to, a blip at the start of the season. A transitional year. The thing is, their so called 'transitional year' seems to have been either 2nd or 3rd in the league, a cup trophy, along with quarter or semi-final runs in the rest. This kind of horrendous abberation would then summarily be followed by unending years of treble winning seasons.
Here's a friendly message from the rest of the football supporters in the country; Sometimes, just because you're the champions, you may not stay the champions. That's why the first team to ever have won a football match aren't currently holding the Champions league trophy. Sometimes a good team can be overtaken by a better team, or many better teams. Sometimes a good team can slide down the league into the dreaded mid-table obscurity. Some teams, even after being good for a long time, can eventually be relegated, if that 'transition' goes wrong. Sometimes, you wake up on a Saturday morning and realize that you're on a bus to Brentford, and that the best part about your day will be a lukewarm hotdog. That's life for a lot of football supporters.
Take it on the chin. You are not owed anything by the Celestial Football Gods. Alex Ferguson didn't sign some sort of pact in blood and stardust to keep you on top forever.
So come on in, the water's sh*t.
My wife just said "you can't even blame Nani"
Things are that bad.
...There's been a number of times this year when I've thought we were having a watershed moment where we had sunk as low as possible and yet somehow we keep managing to plumb new depths. I have genuinely never seen a more inept display in my life. Carrick and cleverley were useless and gave it away most of the time and everyone looked like they were terrified of the ball.
As bad as the players were (and they were bad beyond comprehension) for me the main blame lies with Moyes and his negativity, lack of tactical awareness and poor team selection. I am now 100% in the Moyes out camp and cannot watch the utter dross he is serving us week in week out.
With his tactics we felt it was better to try and contain Olympiakos but we can't even do that as all we did was pass it backwards until we were forced to hoof it forwards and then try and defend. League One clubs play a much better brand of football than we do.
Team selection was shocking. Cleverley, Young & Valencia = terrible performance. We have 11 days till our next match, why not play our best team?
David, it's time for you to go!
Sly, Davie, Sly
David Moyes has been given his fair share of criticism this season, and fully deserved. But I think, in the interests of objectivity, we need to present both sides of the story and give credit where it is due.
More often than not, when a manger gets relieved of his duties during a season, the assistant manager or first team coach takes over as caretaker. It is suddenly clear that Moyes is a genius and he guaranteed himself longer in the job than he would have gotten by hiring such an inept support staff Woodward wouldn't dare sack him and let Round our Famous English World Cup Ladder Number 50 take over.
Sly David, very sly...
Brandon (I expected them to overturn the first leg loss to Sunderland but surely they can beat Olympiakos at Old Trafford), LFC, JHB
Having watched the game last night in its painful entirety, and having given it careful consideration, in a moment of perspicacity I came to the following conclusion. That Chris MUFC chap may actually be on to something you know.
Chris ITFC, Liverpool
Dear David Moyes,
I'm in Lanzarote so sending this from my phone is costing me a fortune so please listen carefully.
Go f*ck yourself.
Paul, Playa Blanca
...Please United board, please say you've seen enough and that you'll finally act now? I can't take any more of this.
P.s I thought all the talk in the summer was of Rooney being a world class striker and that he isn't a midfielder?
The Moyes Challenge
Here's a little game- who out there can name me a managerial performance in the Premier League era convincingly worse than that of David Moyes.
To make it easier (and head off the mindless apologists who believe that his squad is worse than Sunderland's), pretend that the target the board set him was to finish 5th, with a couple of decent performances.
Even then, I still think he's hard to beat!
Alex (a United season ticket holder if you can believe it)
Moyes, Fergie And Cats
Ferguson and Moyes aren't a world apart in their qualities. They're just handling different beasts.
Ferguson was like a zoologist working with a tiger cub. He took on something that had massive potential but was still controllable and malleable. His flaws as a person and a manager were never a problem because the club grew with him, and around him. He had such a complete hold on the machinations of United that once the tiger was fully grown, it listened to his every command. Consider the club's impotence to force an earlier end to his personal, undignified spat with the BBC.
Moyes is a cat lady pushed into the enclosure with a stick and a bit of meat, tasked with getting a Bengal to roll over. I don't believe he is significantly any more or less inspirational and naturally talented than Ferguson, but his task is impossible given his experience and skill set here and now. The club is now just too big, the attention too rigorous, and the media and fans too expectant to allow such an indulgent appointment to succeed.
Fun to watch though. Who doesn't love a good Attenborough documentary?
Rich H, Vancouver
United = Everton
That's it. I've had enough of this nonsense.
I was one of the supporters who wanted to stand by Moyes. I wanted to give him time after the multiple humiliating defeats at Old Trafford. I wanted to say that we were unlucky to get beat 3-1 at Stamford Bridge. The defeat to Sunderland was a result of nerves and some horrible penalties, totally the player's fault, I wanted to say. I wanted to blame Kagawa for not showing up this season, Cleverley to squander the promise he once showed, Fellaini for regressing so far, Giggs for getting older still, Valencia for going from one-footed to no-footed and Ashley Young for being Ashley Young.
But as Patrice Evra made Joel Campbell, who hasn't made a single appearance for Arsenal, look like Pele and Ronaldinho's love-child as he blasted in their second, I finally gave up. That was the straw that broke this camel's back.
It's not that we lose. It's not that our manager and his staff are tactical dinosaurs. It's not even Tom Cleverley. It's the total loss of any fight we had in Fergie's era. We plumbed lows in his era, suffered wretched defeats, but we fought most of the way (apart from the Barca finals). Last night, we had Chris Smalling slipping around on the turf, misplacing every other pass and encapsulating the entire squad's total lack of anything resembling confidence. Apart from Januzaj, Van Persie (when he's bothered) and Vidic, who in this squad shows any gumption? This time last year, people were talking about record points totals and heroics at the Bernabeu. This year, our manager is aiming for fourth place. Every time the pressure is on Manchester United, our players wilt. We don't just lose, we crumble.
I expected us to regress. I did not expect us to become David Moyes' Everton.
AB MUFC (Too depressed to put anything witty here) Atlanta, Stateside
She's A Keeper
After the game, my girlfriend asked me if she should bother coming over to mine, citing that I'd probably want to compose a depressing essay.
I told her to come on over, as if I were to write said essay it would never be published as every second word written would be f**king, the other most likely being sh*te.
Conor (She's a Keeper), Drogheda
Rooney and RVP shoehorned in to the starting 11, which means 442, which means Carrick and Cleverley in a midfield 2, which means Young and Valencia, which means Smalling and Valencia combining down the right...THAT is where I draw the line. As a result of not curing the team of it's biggest ill, we now have an epidemic.
Not only has Moyes protected our Wayne at all costs, he lined up a bumper contract for him and Rooney will doubtlessly become our captain this summer should the Chosen One still be at the helm. Which all ensures Rooney will learn nothing from his days as club anarchist. I'll forever rememeber Moyes' reign for eliminating Fergie's 'No one is bigger than the club' mantra, developed over 20+ years, in about 2 weeks.
John (should have been Rooney), Mayo
Hold The Schadenhorses
The mailbox will surely be full of a mixture of "Moyes out!!" and general laughter, but I write with a note of caution.
At half time in the 2005 Champions league final, I sent my friend a text saying "If Carlsberg did European Cup finals..." it wasn't meant to be prescient, I was indulging my sarcastic nature and it came back to bite me on the balls. They're not out yet...
(by all means let the laughter begin on the 19th of March!)
Course Of Events
Here's what I think happened:
1) David Moyes oversees his first United training sessions, and watches them playing like United, or as best
they can without Fergie there to shepherd them.
2) David Moyes bottles telling them he has a new/different/better way for them to play, and instead opts for the
best fudge of what they were already doing that he can come up with. Adds a few wrinkles in doing so.
3) Players decide David Moyes is weak.
4) Players get bored of playing for David Moyes.
5) Wazza/Paul Stretford look into his eyes across the table and accepts the role of leader/right-hand man to galvanise
and rejuvenate the stuttering team, for only 300k per week for five years.
6) Paul Stretford rings Jurgen Klopp and after a few sentences commiserating all the Bayern poaching he's had to endure says, 'So listen . .'
Chris Smalling: Shopping Trolley
I think Olympiakos need to be investigated for installing a shopping centre trolley locking system mid way in their half and in Chris Smalling's boots.
You'll probably be inundated with United mails today, but I've been reading and watching many people comment on all aspects of Liverpool's shambolic defence while somehow forgetting that Mignolet should be put on the spot too. Not neccesarily for his high profile mistakes (Man city for e.g) but for his consistant inability to dominate his area.
Skrtel's had his issues but he's been far and away our best defender this season. Kolo has been unwittingly switching to his car salesman avatar on pitch, but he is a decorated veteran of this league. Flanagan has been as solid as Glen Johnson has ever been, and Cissokho is sh*t but it's not like we've had a decent and fit LB since...well I can't remember.
The point is on paper this should be a half-decent defence. They haven't helped themselves recently but they've had a lack of a good screen in front since Lucas' absence (don't get me started on Gerrard), and they don't have a trusted keeper behind them. Mignolet is an excellent shot-stopper, but after watching Skrtel berate him again for failing to come out I've got to agree with the man with no vowels. He doesn't even dominate the 6 yard box, the CB's are panicked anytime a cross comes in between their line and the goal. This is keeper territory and any GK worth his salt should be claiming it. Mignolet doesn't come out and flail like other poor keepers, he just doesn't come out at all!
Mignolet is young and I think he can become top class. I would never begrudge him the odd mistake, but a consistent fear of leaving his line is something that desperately needs to be coached out of him.
Sid (although I did once suggest replacing Reina with Boruc back in 2006)LFC
A Half-Gloating Wolves Fan
As you can imagine I've kept pretty quiet on the subject I'm about to discuss for very obvious reasons - people in glass houses and all that. However the mail from Richard (pride of the Midlands, we're having a laugh), Cambridge pushed me into a half gloating response.
Now I'm a Wolves fan and it's fair to say that over the last few years we've had very little to shout about and much of our recent decline can be traced back to a horrible February day in 2012 when our Tesco carrier bag friends (West Brom for those of you not versed in Black Country "humour") visited Molineux and roundly handed us our arses on a plate with a 5-1 drubbing - this led to Super Mick being given the boot and a snowball effect of poor management recruitment and an embarrassing drop from the top table followed by a comedy leap from the championship.
The point I'd like to make is that throughout this time our Albion supporting rivals have gloated that their club is superbly run and had a solid long term strategy for steady success whilst they've sniggered at our admittedly funny malaise. Forgive me Richard from Cambridge if you're not one of these gloaters but it gives me a warm sense of smugness to see that the grass indeed isn't greener over the fence at the Hawthorns. Whilst our ship is by no means in perfect working order yet, it looks as though the gap between us that looked to be ever widening has started to close and, who knows, we could have a Black Country derby in the Championship next season, where, if we're brutally honest, we both probably belong until we really do get our respective houses in order.
Andy (Bully's gonna get ya), Birmingham
Purely by chance I came across the etymology of 'pundit' this morning. It comes from a Hindi phrase meaning 'learned one.' Remember that next time you're listening to Paul Merson trying to form sentences.