Mails: At what point do we blame players?

Date published: Friday 27th November 2015 2:53

Watch some football and write some mails this weekend. Send them to


Van Gaal has ruined Fridays…
That Friday feeling – the weekend is coming, work will soon be a distant memory dulled by beer and a glorious couple of days stretches out, plump with potential. Football and fun, food and friends, ale and aliteration.

But you know what, Fridays feel a little less TFI it’s Friday and a little more Well Ok Then it’s Friday. And I blame LVG. I have written in before about the fact that I think he has done what he needs to, but I will not be sorry to see him go, and his comments this week are exactly why. As you say in the Big Weekend article, when asked about the lack of goals, he said “It’s not a consequence of good performances and bad performances. We didn’t score and the next game you can score out of nothing.”

He doesn’t think of goals as an aim, as something he should be trying to create, but as something that just happens and is more likely to happen if you have the ball on the half-way line.

He is wrong about that, and also, I believe, about our defence being so good. The stats many be good but would you back United to hold onto a 1-0 lead against a decent side pushing for a goal? More often that not, Mourinho’s Chelsea of last season would, but not this United. We keep the ball on half-way hoping we can win 1-0, and until we score the other side are usually happy to sit back, stand around watching us do nothing with the ball and hope to nick a goal.

He also expects strikers to score from every chance. Imagine how he would have felt about Andy Cole? Players will always miss chances, but they cannot afford to do that when we have so few opportunities. Gerd Muller would struggle in this side.

The weekend is not all about football, but when that form of entertainment has been so substantially downgraded, there is a tiny shine that has been taken away. Which is the most damning indictment of the LVG era. Fergie, Busby and many of the other great managers understood that people worked hard all week looking forward to the football, and they deserve to be entertained. I look forward to when United adhere to that great tradition again.
Andreas (I suddenly want a Crunchie bar – I’m so excited….) Hunt


A defence of Van Gaal. Ish.
LVG has received a lot of criticism this season, and some of it has been legit (I’m talking here about his selections and substitutions). One stick that has been used to beat him with that I find dubious, however, is the lack of goals Man United has scored under his guidance.

As we know, possession game is based on patience and concentration. Not losing the ball and progressively moving further and further up the pitch until an opening inevitably presents itself. Once that opening presents itself, however, the coach, and whatever mentality he has drilled into the team takes, a backseat. A footballer who plays in an advanced position on the pitch has an instinct for where the goal posts are and no amount of coaching can do away with that instinct. The fact of the matter is that Lingard and Martial should have put away at least three of the four or five clear chances they had at goal during Wednesday’s game, and if they had, we would be looking back at a comfortable win that secured Man United Champions League knockout football…but alas, we aren’t. We are back at square one questioning a style of play that has had proven success in the biggest leagues in the world.

There must come a time where the players must be held accountable for floundering when they should be using their God-given quality to put the ball in the back of the net. At risk of oversimplifying the huge gulf in quality between Barcelona and United, Barca are succeeding primarily because they make better use of the chances that present themselves.
Buchule, East London, RSA


To Rooney’s biggest apologist
Guy Shrimpton, give it a rest FFS! Yes we have all read your comments on every single article that mentions Rooney and you rate him as the bestest player in the world but unfortunately you back your opinion up with bollocks.

Rooney was moved back into midfield to make room for Fellani up top, not because he is ‘better’ at creating chances Rooney’s job is as a striker which he is obviously failing at otherwise he would be too valuable to move! We lost all forward impetus after the substitutions, not just because of Rooney being moved back, also nobody has ever classed Fellani as a ‘superior forward option’ so God only knows where you pulled that nugget of wisdom from though I’m pretty sure it was south of your trouser belt.

Rooney wasn’t the only disappointment on Wednesday but your continual backing of him when EVERY man and his dog can see he hasn’t been performing for way too long now really grates. Rooney is meant to be a ‘world-class’ superstar (I hate that expression) but he hasn’t performed anything like one in years which is why he gets criticised so much and rightly so.

Rooney is meant to be United’s talisman, the player who makes it all happen, but he just doesn’t do it anymore and the sooner he pi**es off to Qatar or the MLS the better, God only knows why we didn’t bite Chelsea’s hand off two years ago, instead we had to put up with Moyes elevating Rooney to untouchable status with a totally undeserved and unwarranted bumper new contract.

Fergie knew what he was doing trying to push Rooney out and I would rather trust his opinion that somebody who has probably not even been to Old Trafford and forms all his opinions from watching 30-second segments on MOTD.

Yours disgustedly,
Badger (don’t have FB so need to rant at Guy here!)


The concept of genius
In response to Alex Stokoe’s mail about LVG and trying to suggest what might constitute genius, the greatest description I ever saw was from Richard Rorty. He claimed genius was ‘the accidental collision between a private obsession and a public need’. In practical terms that would mean that Arsene was a genius when he arrived, nixing Mars bars left right and centre and providing us with a supple new style of play each weekend, but isn’t any more because public appetite demands something else of him now (winning, namely). Klopp is a genius because he is exactly what Liverpool need, Mourinho isn’t anymore because it looks like anyone could do a better job than that poor, dark-eyed sod right now.

Conclusion? Genius is fleeting and ephemeral so enjoy it when you see it because the public’s wants change quicker than a man’s worldview.
Neil (first time published?) LFC
Don’t doubt Scholes

This is the video I show anyone who doubts how good Scholes was. Barcelona 2012. Just watch it, it’s five mins of football greatness. It was Scholes showing what he could have done if he’d played in the two finals, one last performance before his adoring fans (ie the Barca players). It was Messi who got his shirt after the game, by the way. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many 60-yard passes in one game.

Let’s be fair about this. He isn’t Roy Keane picking anyone who fell out with Fergie in his best United team, or being the only man in the world other than the ref who thought Nani should have been sent off. He’s a great player who is asked for his opinion on a very boring United. What’s he going to say? Great sideways passing? Loving the lack of goalscoring chances? Go down the Shearer road and say United will be disappointed with that? Speaking of Shearer, his analysis on the weekend was that United weren’t very good but won. Does that man watch football?

The only problem I have with Scholes lately is that after slagging Rooney off last year saying he’s past his best he’s since done a 180 and now thinks he can do no wrong.
Silvio Dante


Let’s just sodding move on
You may have noticed there used to be a debate about whether Gerrard and Lampard could play together for England. Despite the answer being a painfully obvious ‘No’ in 2000, ‘No’ in 2001, ‘No’ in 2002′, and ‘No’ in every excruciating year after that, I was looking forward to people finally not talking about this any more now that they’ve both retired from international football (and real football, if we’re being honest).

Well, lucky us: not only has this discussion failed to go away, but now the Scholes flank of the debate has been opened up again as well. So for my 2p: As far as I remember, the last genuinely great, exciting, powerful England team was the Hoddle 1997 version with Scholes, Wright and Shearer smashing goals in.

Soon after this, more good young English players emerged, and so the usual English terror kicked in about having to crowbar every half-decent player into a starting XI. So we ended up with some godawful 3-5-2 mashup featuring David Batty trying to combine with David Beckham. Shortly after a Liverpool player and a West Ham player came through and the midfield went down the toilet for 15 years.

But the key thing is: this is in the past. None of these players are related to me and I have no problem with other people slagging them off. Can we just leave it alone now please?
Neil Raines


Sadamel Falcao
A propos of nothing, and prompted by James Wilson’s loan move to Brighton, I thought I would send a mail about Radamel Falcao.

I am sure I am not alone in feeling sad about seeing his decline from ineffective benchwarmer at United to ineffective occasional benchwarmer at Chelsea.

I wrote in a couple of years ago bemoaning the fact that he was the typical modern footballer being whored around clubs in Europe by the King of the greedy agents, Jorge Mendes, and it would ultimately be to the detriment of his career.

Now, I am in no way blaming Mendes for his decline, but not being settled at any club and constantly being on the move hasn’t helped him reach the absolute pinnacle of the game.

Back in 2009-11, when he was playing for Porto, this guy truly was one of the most devastating forwards in world football, He seemed destined for greatness. He had all the attributes of a world-class striker. He then made a move to Atletico Madrid, where he continued his form, and who could forget his dismantling of Chelsea in the Super Cup final. Here was a guy at the peak of his powers, and when he looked set to take the next step in his career, he moved to…Monaco.

One would have expected him to move to one of the superpowers of world football, and I believe if he did, his career now would be remembered differently.

When he signed for United following his injury problems, I was genuinely excited, it’s rare enough your club gets the chance to sign players of that calibre. Jim White’s pronounced pronunciation of his name only added to that, and it was strange seeing him in a United shirt, same as Schweinsteiger now (I hope I wont be sending a similar mail about him in the coming years).

It was such a shame that he looked a shadow of the player we all saw in previous years.

And even when he signed for Chelsea, I thought United should have kept him, but wished him well (unlike Di Maria buts that’s another mail).

It’s sad now to see he can barely get a kick and when he does, he kicks it wide.

I can’t see it working out for him there and hope he can rediscover some form somewhere. His highlight reel from 2009-2013 is awesome. Pity it’s being eroded by events since.
Dave (BAC)
PS. Any chance of an Icons piece on Marco Van Basten? Another cut down in his prime.


More Scouse maths
Minty, LFC is clearly missing the point of the saying ‘cut your losses’ when asking for 25m for a crocked Sturridge, that by definition would be a 10m profit on him. Despite the fact that he’s a wonderful player when fit any club willing to pay more than the 15 Liverpool paid for him considering his injury record the past 12-18 months would have to be crazy.
Sean (sorry for being so pedantic) THFC, Dublin


…£25m? You’re having a laugh mate. He’s an excellent player when fit which, apart from Liverpool’s nearly year, is usually about 3% of the season. Given that he commands somewhere far north of 50k a week, you would be lucky if anyone took him for free. You are cursed to be paying his wages for rest of his contract while he teases you by coming back into the side scoring six goals in four games before fading into the background again.

In his current state he’s just a burden, always in the back of the coach’s mind stopping him from buying a replacement in the hopes that he someday stays fit. Think Wenger with Walcott/Wilshere/Diaby/Rosicky or van Gaal with Phil Jones.

I did like the ‘made of crisps’ part though, but I would have said jam or something less crunchy.
Dan, Ireland MUFC (He’ll probably never get injured again now)


But he’s worth the wait
People with short memories appear to have forgotten that when Sturridge is fit he is a fabulous player and will add to any team. If he only plays 10 games this season, he will probably score six or seven goals. For a team struggling to put the ball in the net having even the odd cameo appearance from him could prove crucial

Everybody raves about the Suarez season nearly driving us to the title, but forget that it ran out of steam ‘co-incidentally’ at about the same time Sturridge was out for an extended period.

In short. quality of game time over quantity should be the priority here.
Andrew, Swindon (Ed the Raven bloke may also want to go by the quality over quantity maxim!)


…I really feel for Sturridge. The man is broken. It’s not even the same injury again and again. He’s a master at the new injury. He’s like that poor chap on the board game Operation.

I wouldn’t ship him out though. He’s just too damn good when he’s on the pitch. He’s on a lengthy enough contract. I’d be happy enough to give him as much time as necessary and see if we can make a fit footballer out of him. I recall RVP having a lot of injuries when he was younger at Arsenal and I remember thinking he’d never be able to play for a season. Now while you can’t compare players injuries like that as everyone is different with different injuries I just hope Sturridge can get that run. If at the end of his contract there’s no improvement then let him go and wish him well.

If he could stay fit Liverpool and England would have one of the world’s best goalscorers up front. The difference a fully fit Sturridge could make to Liverpool and England is huge and it is really disappointing that it looks like the football world will not get to see him play regularly.
Gough, LFC, Dublin


Simple Simon
It took a long time for me to forgive Mignolet after that sh**-show at Burnley last season when he let the ball run out stupidly. I think I’m done after giving away that indirect free-kick last night.

No-one actually enforces that six-second rule. It’s just this agreement that you don’t be a knobhead and take the absolute p**s with it. I still can’t believe he got done for it. Jesus wept how stupid do you have to be? He can count right? You’d think he’d be able to count.

That’s it. I’ve had enough of the flat-faced w**k-wagon.
Kris, LFC, Manchester


Talent in the lower leagues? Not much
This might seem like quite a cynical email and it’s not. There has been a lot of talk around Jamie Vardy and his rise from non-league football. Indeed in the last few years we’ve also had Rickie Lambert rise through the divisions as well and Delle Alli go from playing in league Two to being an England international. As such people are asking if clubs should be looking at the lower leagues/non-leagues for talent.

What I would say on the matter is that most clubs now have massive scouting networks and huge youth academies. Back in the early 90’s Eric Harrison of the class of 92 fame said if a player is good enough we will have watched him by the time he is 14 and that was 20 years ago. Basically I’m trying to say most players who are good enough to play at the top level are signed by academies as teenagers. Yes, some will slip through and then work there way back up, but as a rule the reason why Jamie Vardy is such a rare case is a mixture of a scout missing him and bloody hard work going through the leagues, unfortunately/fortunately with the money these academies spend these mistakes won’t happen often and that’s why when it does happen it’s something worth writing about and not the norm.
Bernard [I’m sure we also all remember someone from when we were young who could of made it if the scouts had seen him but the truth is he wasn’t good enough] MUFC


On Johnny on David Pleat
John Nicholson on David Pleat
. A fair assessment of my all-time fave co-commentator. Unerring ability to tell us not only what substitution a manager is going to make, in five minutes, but, more importantly, why. He can tell you why a player is dominating the match and how his opponent can curb it. One of the few co-commentators I leave the volume on for. I have been saying this for 20 years now, and for 20 years I have had to convince people that I am not being secretly ironic.
Alex Stokoe, Newcastle upon Tyne


…Loving Johnny Nic on David Pleat, especially waving back to the radio and saying “Hi Pleaty” – knew it wasn’t just me!

Pleaty’s mispronunciations that he mentions have always been a massive favourite of mine. I would also like to add Dimitar Berbolov and Yossi Benyanoon to Pascal Shimbomba and Dirk Kurt. And I know they aren’t really mispronunciations but the way Alan Green excitedly squeaks the names of Skrrrrtel and previously Wiltrrrrrrrrrd (Wiltord) have provoked much enjoyment and mimicry from me.

Would like to hear anyone else’s favourites as there are clearly loads out there and…well it’s Friday.
Jack Griff, PFC


Enough for the day
Well, that’s it for work this week. Can’t concentrate anymore as keep re-reading the latest Footy People on TV, David Pleat, including the classic line…

‘before returning to Northampton Town where he committed a series of thefts of poor quality underwear from washing lines. He was a bit of a naughty boy, I’m afraid, killed a man and ate him…’

I easily picture him saying it with that ‘I’m afraid’, and it just cracks me up. Seriously people, check it out. Oh, happy days
Mike Woolrich, LFC


Asking Daniel Storey to write more? Really? More?
I read your site daily, and have done for almost a decade since I first came across it one awesome morning. I rely on you for a balanced and entertaining take on all things football and on the mailbox for an insight into the mind of hundreds of footie fans from across the spectrum…from the apparent columnist Edquoththeraven to the eternal miserabilist troll that is Stewie ‘Spud’ Griffin.

This morning I realised that I actually spend far more of my time reading about football than I do watching it. This may not be a revelation to most folk but to me it made me realise that football is about far more than just 90 minutes, two managers, 22 players and a w##ker in the black, it speaks to something deep within all of us, a tribal connection that we associate with in this increasingly connected world. It provides release from every-day tensions, it is escapism and it is beautiful.

But often when reading Winners and Losers I spend half my time flicking to another tab and Googling things until I work out what Mr Storey is referring to. Any chance you could elaborate more my good man, so I can stick to reading your lovely prose and avoid clicking on anything posted by the Daily Mail in my desperate quest to find out just what it was Santiago Arias did to Jesse Lingard (that sounds like the plot to some Dallas-type soap).

I love football, but I don’t have time to watch much any more (70-hour working weeks will do that to a man) and I need someone to present me with a nice highlights package from all the discussion and, yes, melodrama that surrounds this most beautiful of games. Help a brother out.
Alay, (seriously not expecting to get published, just want more), N15 Gooner

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