That's one question posed in the afternoon mailbox, although it looks like the Japanese playmaker could soon be on his way. Plus, tipping Palace to go down under Warnock...
Plenty of fall out from Manchester United's shambolic 4-0 League Cup defeat, plus thoughts on Van Persie, Arsenal strikers, Benik Afobe, Celtic and Astroturf...
If you have anything to say on any subject, mail us at email@example.com
Has anyone noticed that the people claiming all footballing neutrals want Liverpool to win, are Liverpool fans?
Leighton Taylor, ABL
Almost 60 Years Of Supporting United And...
I've been a Manchester United fan since - oh, 1955 or so. I watched Tommy Taylor and others pre-Munich from the terraces, sitting on my dad's shoulders and surrounded by men wearing flat caps. I lived through the rattle stage and the white picket fence era. I've seen good times and bad times, and my support has never wavered. But right now I've just about had it.
It's not that we lost to Bayern. It's that 28% possession statistic that has got to me. It's the negative, spineless, pusillanimous way in which we approached both games. It proclaims to the players, to the fans, and to the world that we know they are better than us so we're just going to defend and hope a miracle occurs. That's what has got to me. It's just not the Manchester United I knew. No, I don't expect to win everything; but better to go down fighting, producing some good, attacking football, than give it all up beforehand with a sorry whimper. Goodness, even that 6-1 spanking by City saw them fighting to the last.
The players are the same people as last year. Some are mediocre, some are just not good enough. But they believed, and in spite of everything they ended up champions. That has all changed now, and clearly only one man is responsible.
The team selections in general tell the same story. Instead of Mata, Januzaj, Kagawa, and Rafael - anyone with a bit of flair - we are condemned to watch Welbeck fall over again, Valencia do his (one) thing, and Young fire the ball at the nearest defender. Don't get me started on Rooney...
I'm still a loyal supporter. But every time I see David Moyes and (strangely) Phil Neville I think, let's ship the lot out and start again.
Roger (on the Wirral, surrounded by scousers)
Rooney As Captain? Sickening
I despise Wayne Rooney.
The man gets paid an obscene amount of money to be a very good footballer and nothing more. He is in the same wage bracket as the likes of Messi, Ronaldo and Ibrahimovic when he is nowhere near their class in terms of consistency and contribution to their teams.
The last time he had a consistently good season was 09/10 and yet he has somehow been allowed hold Manchester United to ransom. He doesn't hold his position. He chases the ball all over the pitch when things aren't going his way, and fans applaud him for his passion. It's pathetic. A player earning his sort of wage should be influencing 9 games out of 10 instead he goes on a goalscoring run of 4/5 games and then goes on a drought or just gets injured. The last time he won an important game for United was that bicycle kick against City, which came off his shin. These days he probably couldn't get his lead arse off the ground to even attempt it.
It revolts me to think that he will be United captain next season, to wear the same armband that club legends such as Charlton, Robson, Cantona and Keane have. My blood boils at the thought. Equally harrowing is the thought that there is no one else at the club to give it to.
Anthony Feeney, Ireland (United seem to be doing their best Titanic impression, the man at the helm just doesn't seem to see the iceberg.)
The general consensus seems to be that United's Champions League exit is further evidence of their impending collapse into mediocrity, as B.Nolan LFC wrote yesterday. However, as a fan, after Bayern I see green shoots of hope after the dark days of January/February.
In the last few weeks, we have seen Mata playing well, Rooney scoring goals and even Shinji (at last!) Kagawa looking like the player we thought we signed. The young Jones and Smalling have put in impressive displays against the world's best, Welbeck is progressing and even Fellaini has vaguely resembled a footballer at times. Most encouragingly, a style of play seems to be developing with Kagawa and Mata integral (ref: Newcastle + West Ham).
Yes, there are holes in the squad and our centre-back pairing will be no more by the summer, but there is reason to be optimistic for the future.
Stephen (I think people are emotionally desperate for United to fall, rather than looking at it rationally), Gravesend
Why Judge A Manager On Signings?
He should be given the chance to bring his own players'.
Sounds familiar eh? Classic defence of the Moyes regime. But it got me thinking, how does it make sense for a manager to be judged only on the team that he 'built'?
There are truly several gaping flaws in this idea that it surprises me that it is standard gospel for people preaching stability. First off, how many clubs actually have the luxury of finances to have a new manager come in, and chuck their existing assets aside just to build their own 'team'? Maybe a handful, while most other managers are actually forced to work with what they have. It's sounds really senseless to give an unproven manager £200m, and if it doesn't work by then, fire him and be stuck with a hefty compensation and a squad of disenchanted players.
And when you consider that there are managers - Martinez, Rodgers, Klopp, Simeone - out there, so called 'over-achieving' with a squad that was handed down by their predecessors, then it's even more damning for managers like Moyes or Mourinho who often feel the need to hide behind the excuse of not having brought in the players they wanted.
Let's trash this myth of judging managers only after he have spent big amount of money. I suspect deep down, you know it doesn't make sense.
Gabriel, MUFC (The indulgence in Rooney is frankly, embarrassing), Singapore
Manchester United 2014 = Bayern Munich 2007
After reading Tom, Surrey's commendable try at consoling distraught Manchester United supporters (myself included) about why missing out on the Champions League is not be-all-end-all, it got me thinking what happened of Bayern's 2006-07 side that missed on the competition by following fourth that season.
I found some similarities (to be honest, some eerie ones) between Bayern Munich of '07 and Manchester United of '14.
1. Defending champions - eventually finishing outside UCL spots.
2. Knocked out of 3rd round in the domestic cup competition.
3. Knocked out of that season's Champions League at the QF stage (4-2 aggregated loss, yes eerie).
Bayern reacted by having a massive summer overhaul that had them sign nine players (including Monsieur Ribery, Luca Toni and Klose) as well as releasing/selling 10 players (Hargreaves to United, incidentally).
Ottmar Hitzfeld (reinstating midway during the season after Magath was sacked) led the new-look Munich side to a domestic double and SFs of the UEFA Cup the following seaon. Let's hope United take some squad rebuilding lessons from the Bayern's recent past.
Shannon M. (United and Moyes to win the double next season, you heard it here first!)
In Defence Of Moyes At Everton
Reading Sarah Winterburn's article about Roberto Martinez - who has done a fine job at Everton, by the way - leads me to ask another question about Everton this season. Why is praise of Martinez always accompanied by implicit criticism of the job Moyes did while managing Everton. While he is not doing a particularly good job at Utd, but there can be no argument that he did very well at Everton despite playing a different style of football.
Indeed, aren't Everton in a very similar position now to where they were at this time last season? (They're actually eight points better off - and just one win away from their best-ever Premier League points total - Ed) And don't forget when Moyes took over they were on their way to the Championship not the Champions League. And Moyes actually got them into the Champions League.
However, reading the article the inference is that Everton under Moyes never passed the ball (a comment about the two central defenders) and that he never signed good players. But he did, he signed Coleman, Howard, Distin, Mirallas, Pienaar and Baines. That's the core of the current team which does deserve praise. So let's not pretend he didn't sign good players.
As for not giving Barkley a chance (only two starts last season) perhaps Moyes recognised that at his age he was not ready for Premiership football so did not want to threaten his development by throwing him in too early (don't forget he had two uninspiring loan spells in the Championship). Managers in England are often criticised for this but Moyes took a long-term view of the situation which Everton could be now benefiting.
As for actually giving young players a chance I seem to recall Moyes giving a chance to a certain Wayne Rooney.
This is not to take away from anything that Martinez has done and it is clear that he was the right appointment and that Everton maybe needed a change of manager. But many people, and this site included, are guilty of revisionism because it suits the current narrative of Martinez being a good manager and Moyes being a terrible manager. The situation is more complicated than that.
Will Martinez Survive End Of His Everton Defence?
Decent article om Martinez's achievements this year. In the summer I managed to write a letter to F365 deemed interesting/pithy or funny enough to be published that asked, did Martinez get the job because he was a nice guy?
Now it is clear that he is more than just that. He should of course be lauded for building upon what Moyes left behind, he has done an excellent job. Now I have another question.
Martinez could not buy, build or organise a defence in is many years at Wigan. This season he has rightly not messed with the defence in terms of personnel at Everton. Shrewd move. But...what happens when Distin retires, surely in a year's time. What if Jagielka goes off the boil/gets injured or Moyes needs him at United? Disruption to Jagielka's tenure is least likely I admit. What if someone offers enough money for Baines or Coleman? Or those players decide they want a shot at the biggest big time. Will Martinez be able to cope and recruit effectively? His signing of the woeful Antonin Alcaraz suggest not, his whole time at Wigan suggests not. I don't know if he was responsible for signing Stones or not, so cannot pass judgement, but he looks good so far.
So essentially, in a year or two, will the Martinez Everton ascent falter because the defence gets old and/or moves on?
DF (The letter in the summer was probably actually published because there was little else to talk about) AFC
Death of Tiki-Taka? Yes Please
If there is 'The death of tiki-taka' as Jamie, LFC suggests then good. Bring it on. Not just is it more pleasing to watch teams attack incisively and directly but it suits England a lot more. We don't train players to have the technical expertise needed for possession-based football but we do have produce some excellent counter-attacking players. Therefore a move to these kinds of systems actually level the playing field a bit more in international competition. We won't win, or even get near, Brazil 2014 but if we look ahead to 2016 and 2018 we could stand a chance of going beyond our usual quarter-finals. In a direct system any team would want options like The Ox, Walcott, Sturridge and Barkley to call on and we have these types of players in abundance. We are going beyond the headless speedster on the wing (SWP I'm looking at you) and we're getting through players with a bit more craft and guile. Plus it's great to see John Stones in action...maybe we're not quite as rogered in the centre-back department for the future.
We lack a genuine world-class player (no, Rooney is not world-class...just good) but I actually feel optimistic about the years ahead.
Welbeck For Liverpool?
Now that United are well and truly out of the Champions League next season (unless Arsenal spectacularly collapse, and Everton lose both their big games against City and United, and drop points somewhere else, which is actually quite possible), can Rodgers table a cheeky bid for Danny Welbeck? His movement is superb, and he'd provide a different option to Coutinho in games, and can give Sturridge/Suarez a rest with Champions League football on the table for next season.
Imagine having three of the English front four at one club. Chuck in Lallana, Henderson and Barkley (not sure how sound defensively that lot would be, and assuming Gerrard's retirement from internationals) and England have a hugely encouraging front six of Henderson, Barkley, Lallana, Sterling, Welbeck and Sturridge, with Wilshere, the Ox, Jay-Rod, and Walcott floating around the squad when fit too.
Alex (the only other player I'd take from United is De Gea, and possibly Jones.. How the mighty etc etc), LFC
Player Of The Year By Points
In yesterday morning's mailbox, Nathan, AFC, Melbourne suggested a system whereby the Player Of The Year award would be determined by tallying the number of times a player is 1st/2nd/3rd best in a match, over the course of the season.
Thought it was worth pointing out that the league already does this - for the official Fantasy Football game on their website. They pretty much literally follow the exact format Nathan proposed in his letter. Here is what the results would be:
1. Luis Suarez (38)
2. Rooney (35)
3. Sturridge (32)
4. Yaya Toure (30)
5. Gerrard (25)
6. Terry/Remy/Giroud/Rodriguez (24)
Oliver Dziggel, Geneva Switzerland
The Z List
Right, it's Friday, and Luis Suarez is tearing up the league, so I got onto thinking about footballers with Zs in their names (but hopefully don't make you fall asleep). So this is my team - only rule is it has to be part of their name they commonly use (so Ricardo Izacson for Kaka won't count for example).
GK: Dino Zoff
RB: Gianluca Zambrotta
CB: Bernard Dietz
SW: Franz Beckenbauer
LB: Bixente Lizarazu
CM: Luis Suarez (Spain)
CM: Zinedine Zidane (two so gets the captaincy)
FW: Giuseppe Meazza
FW: Luis Suarez (Uruguay)
Subs: Zubizarreta, Zabaleta, Zagorakis, Zbigniew Boniek, Karl-Heinz Rumenigge, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Hugo Sanchez.
Have I missed anyone? Can anyone beat my team with a Q or X team (the X team will have a sexy midfield).
Just a quick not to James, Hull City AFC. I'm not quite sure how to reply properly, but if I may make a few points.
You are aware you lost the vote and the majority of City fans voted in favour of the name change? I personally find it really embarrassing to be at the games (season-ticket holder, east stand) and see a load of people cheering the players bought with Allam's money, watching a club bailed out by Allam's money, with one of the brightest youngish (pipe down at the back) English managers paid for by Allam's money - then sing a song about how you don't like him owning the club.
I appreciate lots of people are attached to the name Hull City AFC, but please bear in mind we always refer to ourselves as 'The Tigers'. We have a massive picture of a Tiger on our club crest. With 'The Tigers' written in big letters underneath it. We play in Tiger colours (everyone has seen that awesome kit from the 90s, right?) and we sing really imaginative songs after a few beers at the games such as, 'Tigers! Tigers! Tigers!', 'East Hull Tigers - West Hull Tigers - North Hull Tigers' and on the rare occasions we're two goals to the good, 'You're getting mauled by the Tigers!'
The point I'm getting at is this isn't in any way a Cardiff situation (a club I wanted to do well after coming up with us last year) where the colours and nickname have been changed, he just wants to incorporate the nickname into the official name. Personally, I'd rather support Hull Tigers in the Premier League, while watching Huddlestone (£5m) Long and Jelavic (£14m) etc etc again all with the Allam's money, than watch Hull City in League Two - called both Division 3 and 4 when I were a lad - for another 10 years getting locked out of our stadium by David Pooh-Face Lloyd and signing Steve Melton and Delroy Facey again.
Look, seriously, I think both the yeas and nays have actually helped each other here to get a perfect (In my opinion) outcome for all of the Hull Tiger AFC City fans. Changing the name would have upset a lot of people, I get it. The Allams selling the club would have been a disaster, they'd have sold all of the playing staff first to get their money back then left us on the verge of bankruptcy in the Championship/League One, we'd be one of the Sheffield clubs, Southampton of a few years ago or even worse - Leeds. And you know we would if they sold. Thankfully, maybe partly due to the 'City Till we Die Campaign' both the name and the Allams are staying. Everybody wins. For now....Da-Dum---Durrrm.
Dan (edgy opinion) Hull City Tigers Acadamicals United. Go SportsBall
Why Thank You
I can't help but compliment you on your 'Oh, Mr. Big Shot with the Girlfriend' header from yesterday afternoon's mailbox. Fantastic. Simply fantastic.
Kudos to the MC.
Kenny, Stateside Liverpool Fanatic