The mailbox wants to know if Brendan Rodgers has the stones to drop Steven Gerrard. Plus, thoughts on Wayne Rooney's display, sitting down, and thanking United fans...
It's a Mailbox containing Manchester United fans taking defeat to Leicester pretty well, plus some long thoughts on Gerrard and Liverpool, plus Southampton congratulations...
If you have anything to say on any subject, mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org
16 Man United Conclusions
* While van Gaal's system was suited to the World Cup, where he extensively researched the opposition, he may need to fine-tune it to the Premier League. United's nervous start which saw them all over the place at the Stadium of Light is a cause for concern. They were fortunate to be level after 15 mins.
* A lot of credit is due to Keane, Blackett and Jones who were comfortable in the second half.
* Chris Smalling is already showing signs of improvement from last season. In the center, he looks mobile, granted uncomfortable at times but much ahead of the warped, flubber-type, un-handsome wreck vs Olympiakos last season.
* Defensively, United aren't anywhere near good enough yet. They need a) to finetune their system and b) personnel.
* Alan Curbishley pointed out that United's center-backs are too nervous to push out and thereby license the wingbacks to actually get involved with the midfield and attach. Hence, United seem to play with a flat five at the back. They need personnel back. Who?
* Johnny Evans - excellent with both feet, quick across short distances and experienced. Marcos Rojo - bred in the 3-5-2, he is quick, powerful and exciting. Phil Jones - has been superb, showing pace, ability to pass, cover ground on the RCB position. Notice how his side has seemed secure against Sunderland and Swansea. It is Blackett/Young's side that has been vulnerable.
* Tyler Blackett is one for the future. Tall, imposing, neat with passing, he needs to get as many game sunder his belt this campaign.
* Tom Cleverley - Well. It's been senseless, the amount of criticism he's received. From the quick, zippy, neat game changer against City in the Community Shield to this - it's been strange and disappointing. But, he was much above average against Sunderland. He went toe to toe with Cattermole, kept the ball moving, made runs, asked for the ball, and saw a lot of it in the middle. I don't see him going anywhere. He will be our third-choice central midfielder, and I'm very comfortable with that.
* Fletcher - not good enough. For all his heroic recovery, which deserves so much respect, he's not good enough in that hole. His workmanship far exceeds his quality on the ball. Did Snejider work up and down, left and right at the World Cup? No. We need quality in that hole to dictate tempo, make clever passes and interceptions. Michael Carrick, when fit, screens, passes and does all the above. he will be significant when he return - mark my words.
* Young - not good enough. Encouraging pre-season but he's okay for the bench. Alas, the pace and precision in competitive Premier League is paces ahead of the pre-season friendlies. United need Luke Shaw back. (And btw - NOT a dive!)
* Valencia and Rafael are our wing-backs on the right. Van Gaal will have ot make a choice depending upon how good each is defensively. Valencia is better going forward, and has developed in his defensive attributes as well. Has he already outdone Rafael?
* Herrera may need a season before he start zipping across the pitch and making a fool out of big midfielders the way he did at Bilbao, but when fit, he and Carrick one thinks are United's best, most tenacious, creative and mobile middle two.
* Louis - dare you sell Danny!? Danny welbeck is born and bred United, big, quick, fit, good in the air and runs graceful center-backs into clumsy, hasty Pascal Cygans! He showed his qualities when he came on. Apart from being a blunt finisher, he is an excellent third striker.
* Rooney needs support. When he decides to take the game on by himself, he spreads himself out too thin and loses quality. He was lethargic, over-elaborate and untidy against Sunderland.
* Mata has been given a massive chance to be our man, in the hole behind the strikers. so far, he's been alright. But, not good enough. He needs support from a more stable midfield too. But should such workman-like displays continue, van Gaal will consider Januzaj, Kagawa, Rooney to play in there.
*Hernandez looks truly out of place in this system. I see him on his way out.
Akshat Pande, Man United fan, Mumbai India
A Few More...
1) Ashley Young shouldn't play for United. Much less as a left-back. Nor Tom Cleverley. Fletcher cannot be first-choice player even in a midfield trio.
2) We just cannot play three at the back, especially when we don't have non-specialist wing backs. Three at the back requires a good defensive midfielder/water-carrier - Carrick and Herrera might be good for this purpose, but certainly not Fletcher and Cleverley.
3) Di Maria signing signals an intent to shift to 433, which is obviously good because 352 will not work with these trashy players.
4) 433 also eases the pressure on the requirement on the number of defenders - I would love it if they sign another center/right-back (Nastasic, pwease?), but Daley Blind might be excellent as well.
5) Signing Vidal would make this team more palatable and with a starting midfield of Vidal, Herrera, Mata, Di Maria it start to look much better. Same with De Jong.
6) I am sure, LvG is flummoxed at how pathetic the squad quality at the 'biggest team in the world' is. At least he knows what he is doing, unlike a certain Scottish mid-table manager.
7) All blame for this current predicament goes to Fergie - right from the window, when they bought Berbatov, there have been a flurry of exceptionally unremarkable deals. (Bought - Berbatov, Valencia (to replace Ronaldo), Young, Bebe; Missed out on - POGBA, Hazard, Lucas, Varane).
8) We are certainly not getting good deals in the transfer market. The hope is only now to get good players. I am pretty sure Bayern, Barca etc would have shaved off a few million from the Di Maria price.
9) United will surely finish in the top four if only they can sign two-three more players (Vidal, Blind, De Jong)
Bala (Gotta believe in Van Gaal - No other hope) MUFC
And Some More...
* That was certainly an...interesting match against Sunderland. I think a 1-1 draw is a fair result based on the balance of play and that neither side really created that many clear-cut chances.
* Sunderland looked very dangerous on set-pieces and were absolutely overloading the box. I don't know if this was because they weren't worried about Man Utd's limited counterattacking ability or if they just thought the risk was worth it.
* Danny Mills' commentary was rather vehemently anti-United. I think his best quote was 'unlike Netherlands, United don't have Arjen Robben'. Thanks. For. That.
* Buckley looks like a decent signing for Sunderland. He has pace and if he can improve his end product he could be a decent bottom half Premier League footballer.
* Man Utd's injury problems don't seem to be allaying themselves. Already with 80% of the first-team defenders and 60% of the first-team midfielders out of the squad, they then lost Smalling in the first half. Considering the number of defenders Man Utd have on their books even bigger teams would be struggling in defence with that many losses.
* Phil Jones was pretty immense in both of the first two games. I think this is going to be a good season for him where he stands above many of his compatriots. His tackling, work rate and interceptions have been top notch, as well as being increasingly effective at bringing the ball out of defence (a benefit of the formation).
* It looks more and more like Di Maria will be signing for £60m. That's an incredible amount of money (pushing summer spending past £130m). Is this catching up with big(ger) spending rivals from recent seasons? Is that kind of signing available because of the new £75m a season kit deal? Is it because the savings on Vidic/Ferdinand/Evra's wages equate to £10-15m a season? Is it just a statement by the board?
* I think we are seeing the weaknesses in the new formation for United, and that is in the wide areas. All of the best players are in the middle, meaning that when it goes wide to the wing-backs they can either cross it from deep into a crowded penalty box, or pass it into a crowded middle third. Unless Valencia and Young/Shaw could consistently take on and beat a man then they are always going to face this situation and be double teamed when moving forward. I think this might end up being shelved this season, especially with the prospect of Di Maria coming in...
* Speaking of Di Maria, the commentators today were struggling to see where he might fit in the current 3-4-1-2 formation, and I think it's a valid concern. Unless he gets played in central midfield which is unlikely even if he has played there for Madrid and Argentina, he will have to displace someone.
* Mata continues his excellent scoring and assist stats which have been pretty great ever since he joined. Rooney is captain, Van Persie is an LVG favourite and Di Maria would be a massive risk as a wing-back. The most obvious response to his signing seems to be to move back to a more traditional 4-2-3-1 formation. Shaw, Rojo, Jones, Valencia at the back with Fletcher and Herrera sitting slightly deeper in midfield behind a front four of Rooney (shunted to the left), Mata, Di Maria and Van Persie sounds like a pretty saucy team with plenty of potential to do well.
* I guess we can simultaneously put to bed the 'world class players don't sign for Premier League clubs' and 'Man Utd never buy world-class players' memes. A very impressive signing if it goes ahead.
* If he ends up signing for PSG or something now I'm going to look pretty damn stupid having written this email, if it gets published.
Calum, MUFC, Reading
Mata In Midfield?
I have seen posts where people argue that LVG will have to change formation to accommodate Di Maria and choose between RVP and Rooney. But for me 4-4-2 works just fine with both the crucial cogs present. With this formation you have the option of two wingers down the flanks (one of them Di Maria) and also Mata gets to play in central midfield along with Herrera. Also any of the so-called two strikers can play a withdrawn role and help in the midfield as and when required which I guess in most cases would be Rooney. Also you have a seemingly aggressive formation (two strikers) and powerful presence in midfield. Plus whatever the case, for me the old-fashioned four at the back is always a better option.
£64m for Angel Di Maria is worse business than Liverpool paying 35m for big bad Andy Carroll!
Having watched alot of La Liga over the past few years, I struggle to see why people rate him so highly. He was easily the worst attacking player at Madrid last year?
I know people will bring up the fact that he has a lot of assists, but it wouldn't be hard to do with the quality around him. Just pass to Ronaldo and he will do the hard work. I find him incredibly frustrating to watch because it's obvious he has bags of talent but is also very inconsistent.
It's going to be mighty craic reading all the United fans hype him up to be the bestest in the whole wide world, Only for them to realise he's just another version of Ashley Young.
Shane (Is this mandatory?) Tipperary
...Di Maria is this year's Özil; the answer to a question that no-one was really asking.
A New Low
So when we all assumed he was chasing Vidal, it turns out LVG was loving Angel instead.
Bradley (I've just quoted Robbie Williams, United's decline has affected me more than I realised) Kirrage
LVG Right To Ban Summer Tours
It's still only early days in the new season but clearly the only person being pragmatic about United's current season is Van Gaal himself. And he is right to ban summer tours on the basis that it has created unrealistic expectations for fans and pundits alike.
Last week several pundits marked United as potential winners (above Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea) and many fans think this year will be United's year - because they have no CL football and LVG. It just smacks of hyperbole of the highest level.
It will take more than signing Di Maria (although I rate him highly) because it takes a team and team philosophy to turn things around and it will take LVG at least six months to get that process going and a year for it to have impact. Besides, imagine being a current United player and having a past legend, Scholes, who hardly said a word in his playing days mowing you down in the press.
Not only that, it is clear that Tottenham are starting to gel under Pochettino, Everton are looking strong and last year's top four will still be in contention, so the top six aren't going to fall off. Yes, there will be some dropped points as they play each other, but chances are, the way United are currently playing, United will drop a lot of points to last year's top six.
If anything, United fans should be looking down the table to see who will be nipping at their heels. No pace, no energy, no industry, no ideas. And I believe this is going to be one of those years we see Van Persie out injured more frequently, enduring a tougher summer playing in the World Cup.
Tough times for sure, and on current form, doesn't look like things are getting any better. Too bad they seemed to be doing so well on the summer tour as it has clearly set very high expectations and it will be all downhill from now to the end of the year.
Florentino Perez: Snake Oil Salesman
They say the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he(/she?) never existed. Well, well...I give you Mr Florentino Perez. He's not quite the devil now, but the man must be one seriously slippery character in a negotiaton.
Once again, an executive at an English club has been wooed by the snake oil salesman that is Florentino Perez. This year Mr Woodward is funding James Rodriguez, last year Mr Gazidis made a healthy donation towards Mr Bale.
I'm not saying that Ozil or Di Maria are bad signings, but if it was the case that either United or Arsenal intended to purchase this player in that particular transfer window, why wait until Real have done their business and are seeking expensive refinancing?
Lee Cattermole's Nipples
I'm sure everyone will be talking about how spending 77 million on left-backs and 60 million on an unneeded player is idiotic in Monday's mailbox, but can we also please take a moment to salute Lee Cattermole's high waistline. His shorts are pulled up to his nipples. It's brilliant.
Rich (don't you dare call me Weggy) Wegrzyn
What's So Bad About Giroud?
Since the intrepid shower of 12-year-olds and competition winners I support contrived to lose 5-1 to side managed by Steve McClaren and are now rooted to the Championship table, I'd rather talk about something other than that car crash. So, on to Olivier Giroud.
I simply cannot understand the sheer amount of hate that man gets. Having an Arsenal-supporting flatmate, I watch a lot of their games and he and his friends are forever bemoaning the fact that their team has a what seems to be perfectly serviceable striker. One sadly misguided chap even smiled with satisfaction when hearing that Giroud had picked up an injury yesterday and might be out next week-despite the fact that he'd just saved them a point (and some blushes).
I mean, if he were severely under endowed in the talent stakes, like a Heskey, or supremely not bothered, like a Berbatov, I'd understand the hatred (or, of course, if he were just a bit of a twunt like El Hadj Diouf). However, Giroud scores plenty of goals, he always puts in a shift at the very least and I've never known him to kick badgers at groups of grannies. So, what's with all the bile, Gunners?
Joe (Baffled) FFC
No Moaning At Giroud Here...
After reading 365's assessment of Arsenal's false 9 formation (which I agree failed horribly) I decided I'd had enough of the Giroud slating. In fact the whole Arsenal attack is better than it's being made out by fans and media in my opinion. Giroud, Walcott, Podolski, Sanchez, Sanogo, Campbell. That's a good amount of options when they're all back, and I can't really see Arsene signing anyone better than Giroud this window.
We maybe could have signed Costa who is a lot better, but he's too similar to Giroud and there's no point in having two main strikers that play the same way (won't be able to play together and no plan b etc).
We have good strength in depth up front when everyone's back too, with four accomplished forwards compared to Chelsea, who are an injury away from Torres or Drogba who will struggle to play a full 90 mins with his fitness.
Man City have Aguero who is struggling for fitness, Dzeko who I would put on par with Giroud, Jovetic who can't be judged this early on, and that other bloke from Spain whose name I forget. That's four main options and I wouldn't say our main four are far off from that.
It's not that I'm saying we are better than all these teams, and I'm sure they'll beat us in an embarrassing way in most of the big games, but up front isn't where we fall short on quality or numbers.
P.S. - Great example on how to have non-sexist, racist or homophobic banter below.
Tyran, West London Gooner (If we needed a world-class striker we would have kept Bendtner)
...I really hope people (Arsenal fans especially) realise what Giroud brings to the team. He - like any other player will have games where he is pants. It doesn't make him a terrible player. His faults need to be complemented with other players merits and vice-versa.
Wenger tried Sanchez in the middle, but with his stature, the midfielders couldn't play the ball up to him. I personally feel the XI for Arsenal will feature Sanchez, Giroud and Walcott as front three. These players will rotate that centre position during the game. I think that could be the winning formula.
It was a lucky escape...them players need to get sharp and fit quickly.
Dhruv (AFC) A minor improvement from last season