Liverpool fans are seemingly resigned to slipping back into mediocrity, which in September isn't exactly ideal. Plus better Arsenal, Allardyce praise and an excited Saint...
That's the message from a Man United fan in the mailbox. Plus, thoughts on Paul Lambert's new contract, the Alan Pardew dilemma at Newcastle and lots more...
If you have anything to say on any subject, mail us at email@example.com
Van Gaal Instructions
Lots of people have already touched on the hope the appointment of LVG has brought. If we're not winning I'll at least hope we're competing and not regularly getting outplayed along with extremely dull football. So I have a few wishes please Mr Van Gaal:
- Sell Rooney:
Probably the unpopular or shocking choice, but this man ought to be sold. His performances this season do not merit the cash he is being paid. He is long past his best and I believe many players can step up without him. Rooney's big match performances have been rather below par and I think quick transitional football ends up being slowed down by either his poor first touch, lack of pace or because he is too deep getting involved in everything when he doesn't need to be. So... Fresh start sell the 'kingpin'.
- Revitalise Nani:
Another debatable one. I'm not entirely sure Nani will ever be consistent but it has happened before... for one season. I'm being realistic here, Nani can still be quite creative and cause problems for a lot of defenders when his head is in the game and given the freedom to express himself (except for the 30 yard ballooned shots). Long shot here... it may not be possible.
- Give Januzaj the number 7 shirt:
Many great Man Utd teams have had a great number 7 in them... Best, Robson, Cantona, Beckham, Ronaldo... the most recent exponents of the number 7 shirts have been Michael Owen and Tony V. If Januzaj fulfils his potential as it looks like he could do, then he looks to be the only one deserving of wearing it next season. (maybe Mata but he's not quite a number 7)
- Never play Ashley Young again. This needs no explanation.
I am not expecting us to go ahead and retake our crown at the first or even second time of asking, nor do I believe we are somehow entitled to. If Liverpool keep Suarez, Chelsea get hold of the striker they desire, Man City keep Toure and add another, and Arsenal also add a striker and perhaps stay clear from injuries - I only expect all of those teams to improve. But the way we rolled over and got shafted by those teams this season left a very sour taste in the mouth. I'd at least like to give them a serious run for their money!
CJ (I'd love to see Rooney's face if LVG drops his trousers)
More On LVG
Ok, enough with LVG already. At least that's what I expected to have to say 2 days after his appointment was announced. And yet there hasn't actually been an awful lot of informative commentary on it (bar an interesting article on F365 this morning, which was at least some form of real analysis of the situation he faces, even if I disagreed with it's conclusions). Was everyone sick of his appointment before it was even announced?
For example, we keep hearing about his vast budget, with many comments saying he would need £200 million to make the squad competitive. When a big team fails, everyone makes the mistake of predicting failure again unless every single weakness of the squad is ironed out - 6 or 7 positions probably have been weaknesses in United's starting 11 this season. But in reality how many players would we have said Liverpool needed last year to mount a serious title challenge? As they showed, one or two key changes, with a different approach can be all that is needed for huge progress.
United have already made one key change in the manager. One starting left-back and starting centre-back (marshaling either Evans or Jones, with Smalling as 4th choice) drilled in the right way would be a vast improvement on their defensive form this year. An effective ball-winner who can also keep possession ticking over would vastly improve the midfield, allowing Rooney, Januzaj or Mata to do their thing. With these players, are we really lacking central creativity, if the right platform is provided? So there's the 3 signings we really need. As a 4th choice if it's possible, one effective winger can help us not be so dependant on Young/Valencia/Nani when we need a wide option.
Other than that, we have talent in the squad. Some obviously add talent to the team (De Gea, RVP, Rooney, Mata) and others have talent but seriously under-performed last year. Yes Fellaini was terrible, but he's a slow starter in a new environment (see start of Everton career), with a manager whose fear eroded the confidence and effectiveness of more established players there. He has ability playing the right kind of game - why can't he improve significantly with a season under his belt and under a manager like Van Gaal? Surely out of players such as Rafael, Jones, Smalling, Valencia and Nani, even Cleverley there are at least some who we could expect Van Gaal to improve?
So expect 2-3 top class players definitely, maybe another 1-2 backups. 3-4 players to leave. That surely is the upper limit of the revolution at Old Trafford, with a maximum of £100m spent outside of incoming transfer fees. And the great thing is, if I'm wrong and it's more than that, I'll still love it.
Van Gaal Is Tommy Docherty Mk II
In the years leading up to Fergie's retirement, much was made of how United would strive to avoid the mistakes of the post-Busby era, ensuring a smooth transition, a seamless continuation of trophy-winning ways etc. etc. And in fairness, they did manage to avoid the whole promote-from-within, WilfMcGuinness, play-rubbish, call-the-old-man-back-from-retirement thing. Well done United. You managed to avoid that.
Unfortunately, that just meant that they skipped straight to the Frank 'O Farrell stage. Frank was a decent, intelligent, honest (too honest, many said), religious man, hard-working and well liked by his illustrious predecessor, and supposedly cut from the same cloth. A manager who had built a side (Leicester) that punched above their weight without ever actually winning anything. What happened? United won nothing, and the football was rubbish.
So in a panic, they sacked him in shameful circumstances, and went for a big-gun , big-ego manager, with a reputation for attacking football, stern discipline (once sending 6 of his best players home before big game for breaking a curfew), and giving youth a chance.
Yes, Louis Van Gaal is Tommy Docherty Mk II. That puts Ryan Giggs in the Paddy Crerand role, loyal to the old man, groomed to be the successor, the next-man-in-waiting. I expect Giggsy and the rest of the class of 92 to get the same treatment as poor Paddy got and be gone in 12 months.
Not such a bad thing, in my opinion, though I can't see them winning a league title any time soon. But at least the football should improve, eventually.
Karl F, London
Tim Coyler Chelsea fan, asks what City fans think of Yaya Toure and his birthday blues. For me he's one of the greatest players ever to wear the shirt but if this story is genuine and not just a misguided attempt to leverage even more money, then personally I would rather lose the league without him next year than win it with him, and I just hope the chairman doesn't resort to some public love-in to assuage him.
If the adoration of the fans and £250k a week isn't enough then it won't end with a handshake from the chairman. And do you really believe no one at the club wished him happy birthday? What he really means is City didn't prostrate themselves in public. I don't know what Toure wants. We've already named a stand after him, it's called the Bell End.
Steve (2nd March since you ask) MCFC
...Yes this Toure thing is all very embarrassing but has anyone considered that maybe he's not actually that narcissistic but just really quite stupid?
Not all footballers are thick, granted, but I suspect one who would sanction and then defend (!) such astonishingly misguided comments from their agent is probably not someone you'd want on your pub quiz team.
A Sad Saint
Am I the only person (beside Southampton fans, obviously) who feels a little depressed about the rumours concerning the Saints right now? I'm no football-hipster, but Southampton HAVE been great to watch this season and it would be sad if some - or all - of the likes of Lallana, Shaw, Lovren, Schneiderlin and Pochettino left over the summer - despite the perceived benefits for the England team if the two English lads played in the CL next season. And this is despite having a soft-spot for Liverpool and thinking Lallana would be a great addition...
The EPL benefits when there's a handful of 'smaller' clubs around who can be counted on to take points off the 'big boys' and make the title race more interesting; it's surely no coincidence that the last two EPL seasons that had a close finish (2013/2014 and 2011/2012) also saw the likes of Southampton, Everton, Newcastle and Spurs (even Swansea, at times) offering more of a challenge to the big clubs - as opposed to the years when it was a procession for Man Utd or Chelsea. The same goes for the relegation battles in those seasons, as the 'minnows' didn't pick up quite so many points against the supposed 'mid-table' clubs and had to fight it out amongst each other for survival.
So here's hoping that the likes of LFC, THFC and MUFC look elsewhere this summer and give the Saints and chance to build on a great season. Can't they just 'do an Arsene' and solve their problems by bringing-in a load of unknown French teenagers from the likes of Clochemerle AFC's youth team? I know Greg Dyke wouldn't like it but Lallana and Rodriguez seem to be doing okay where they are right now.
Bob Stokes (Bradford City)