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Mail on Rojo, Smalling, full-backs and Man United’s right-wing problem
1. That was far from an ideal result but I’m not too bothered, all things considered; if you’re going to lose a match then that one was definitely the one to pick. If my understanding of the rules (and maths) is right, we only have to avoid losing by more than three goals against CSKA to go through, so it’s not a disaster.
2. When a player who hasn’t featured in a competitive match for seven months comes into the team and is far and away your best defender, you know your other defenders aren’t much cop. Rojo was excellent last night, and his initial form wasn’t far away from the level he was at before the injury. Glad to have him back.
3. That, Chris Smalling, is why Gareth Southgate has no choice but to omit you from his World Cup squad; you’re just not very good. Pop quiz: Guess which United player has featured in every game in which we have conceded this season. We literally haven’t conceded in a competitive game when he wasn’t in the team. That can’t be a coincidence. Bin him off now and use Tuanzebe as the fourth-choice defender for the rest of the season (at least) – I guarantee he would be far better than Smalling.
4. Speaking of defenders: this full-back issue has to be addressed. I like Blind a lot, but unfortunately that doesn’t make him play any better and he was culpable for the goal last night. Darmian hasn’t looked good since his first few games at the club. Granted, neither player is getting regular football, but others in the same situation are still making greater contributions when they do play. I wouldn’t be sorry to see either moved on. And the Luke Shaw is getting really embarrassing. Just sell him already because it’s pointless what we’re doing now.
5. I don’t have any problems with Jesse Lingard, though. There is definitely a place for him in the squad and last night is definitely the sort of game in which he should feature. Unfortunately, he wasn’t at his best last night but you can never fault his energy and work rate, he would just be better as an impact player for the majority of times. If he’s happy with that then great.
6. But the right wing is definitely a problem. We haven’t had a consistently good supply line from the right since Nani’s last good season. Mata is not a winger and Mkhitaryan is obviously in woeful form, so I think that position is a priority to strengthen. Just go and chuck money at Arsenal for Sanchez (not sure if he’s technically a right winger but he’s way better than what we have) or even have a cheeky bid for Mahrez, who I think would work in our system.
7. The main problem with the squad is that there are a few too many players who I would class as backup/early round of the League Cup type players. Smalling, Blind, Darmian, and in an ideal world your best two full-backs wouldn’t be a pair of 32-year old converted wingers (as well as both players are playing, it’s not sustainable in the long term – and imagine what PSG’s attack would do to them!). I don’t expect any of these issues to be addressed in January but next summer we should definitely be prioritising stronger options for both full-back positions and right wing. If we could get one of those in January then great, but neither United nor Jose normally use that window so I won’t hold my breath.
8. The most pressing problem is finding a way to get the best out of Lukaku, and/or how to play both him and Zlatan together. If we are going to play both of them then the 5-3-2 would definitely be better, with Mata, Pogba and Matic in the middle, but the 4-2-3-1 we seem to play normally doesn’t strike me as suitable, as it requires Lukaku to go out wide, which is just daft. If it’s just Lukaku then we simply have to start getting the ball to him in the box more often, otherwise he just ain’t gonna score.
Onto Brighton next, which will be a difficult game, so we will have to play much better than last night, and we will need to start better than we did against Newcastle. I’m looking forward to it though, which is not something that has been true too often since Fergie left.
That was like the Moyes days again
Wow. What a stonking pile of garbage that display was. The second half especially was as bad as it ever got even under Moyes. No thrust, no speed, no end product and got comprehensively outplayed by Basle.
Moreover, if that defensive combination ever starts a game again, there will be riots!! Smalling deserved every bit of the public bashing handed out by Southgate. He is sh*t and thoroughly deserved to be left behind and won’t be going to Russia for sure. Darmian represents everything wrong with the Italian national team right now and long gone are the days where we were elated at buying a first-choice Italian defender. As for Blind, he too needs to be sold and is a liability in defence. Another player who is an integral part of big European team which failed to qualify for the World Cup.
Lingard. He is the poor man’s version of Theo Walcott. He is that rubbish. As for Herrera, sell him too as he has regressed badly and can’t be trusted to run the midfield against average sides, let alone the top teams. He can instagram his way out for all I care.
Basically, apart from Martial and Romero, every single player had a poor game. Again! A tougher group and we would be struggling to qualify for the knockout rounds. At least Liverpool fans get guaranteed entertainment one way or another unlike the dredging dross we get served time and again.
Rahber (disgusted) India
I seem to have noticed that when Herrera doesn’t play, Man Utd play attacking exciting flowing football and score a lot of goals whereas when he does play, Man Utd play stodgy, boring and lack of ambition football?
All that talk of Pogba being the difference, it turns out it’s Herrera. And not in a good way.
That loss is all on Mourinho. When Zlatan came on no one had any idea where they were playing. As such we played without a recognised right sided player (nominally I think that was meant to be Lukaku), got overloaded on our right side when there was no tracking back.
This is why he wanted Griezmann in the summer. We don’t have anyone who can play in that right-forward role effectively.
If we failed to qualify after four wins I think it would be a huge blow to the team.
Calum, MUFC, Wokingham
Timi’s Wednesday ramblings
* For Utd that was a performance from last year and it’s the key difference between us and City. Lots of chances, no end product in the first half and at the death a sucker punch that Jose himself would have been proud of. Basel always seem to do this to us.
Utd are still not officially qualified but by my maths they need to concede at least eight goals for both Basel and CSKA to pass them on their individual head to head record at Old Trafford and CSKA will be through if they score four. Even with Nicky Butt and Phil Neville playing, if that happens we deserve Thursday night football.
In the end we must remove our rose-tinted glasses and say that is still our biggest weakness and it’s probably systemic. Pogba is back now I don’t buy that we need Perisic, Rashford and Martial has flourished. We need someone very good to play on the right which will probably be number one on our to-do list next season.Till then it ‘s looking like second place behind the best Man City team of all time and the way they have played it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.
* Hallelujah finally I can watch a CSKA match without being told about Akinfeev. All I’ve heard for a while is how the CSKA goalie hasn’t kept a clean sheet in about 427 games or about the time Noah was looking for spare parts for his boat and two of everything. He finally managed it on Wednesday.
It’s probably poignant that it happened against a pretty hopeless Benfica side while the poor performances of Borussia and Monaco have been heavily criticised these guys have gone under the radar they where top seeds for Fox ache.
* Besides Man City the scariest team this year is most definitely PSG. The only other 100% record another seven goals and yet again all three of the strikers scored they’ve probably scored as many goals as entire Champions League groups but with due (no) respect to some of the teams in the group the real tests probably start here with….
* The return leg against Bayern, they’ve quietly been going about their business this year and have amassed 12 points without really pulling down any ones trousers and spanking their bottoms (You know like PSG and Man City) . There has been a marked improvement since they dug Juup Heyneckes out of the freezer and F365’s shoo-in for either European match to watch or Game to Watch on 4th of December is going to be a doozy.
* On one side the ref killed the game with the red card and first penalty on the other hand on the other hand Qarabag could have parked the largest bus they could have found in Baku Chelsea were going to score slowly this 3-5-2 is gathering pace – Saturday’s late show is going to be very interesting.
I would be remiss to not comment on Qarabag’s general improvement sure the score was 4 0 but it was tight till the very soft sending off which is more than I could have said about their first performance at the Bridge. Their European journey is done for the year but they have definitely gained from and will probably surprise more people in the years to come.
* What a bunch of late comers. So that’s what Atletico are (still) capable of? That Greizmann goal will be a contender for goal of the tournament or year. Staying in the Champions League doesn’t seem so far fetched although their fate is now in the hands of a Qarabag team who right now don’t care…. then again stranger things and all that.
* Sporting have really used Olympiakos to prop up their points tally this season of the Portuguese big three they’ve always struck me as the ones who never really made an impact at a European level. They are probably closer this year than they have been in a long time but having to win the last game at the Nou Camp is a big ask things might have been different if they had hung on to that lead against Juve in October however.
* There is a recurring team in this group stage and it’s that all of last year’s quarter finalists have been Shite/Underwhelming. Leicester did not show up, Monaco are out already Dortmund out of the Champions League, Atletico’s fate is in Qarabag’s hands Bayern and Madrid have been overshadowed by other teams in their group.
The other two members of that group met yesterday and the result was once again underwhelming a bit like most of their performances so far this season this is Barca’s second straight goalless draw on this competition they have fewer goals combined than Ronaldo.
As it stands only half of them will still be in the competition knock-out stages and only one will go there as group winners. More and more you feel a cycle is ending….who’s got next ?
Liverpool need a defensive leader to help Hendo
Well apparently it’s once again time to tear down Jordan Henderson, his defending, his passing, his leadership, his whole way of life probably. I don’t know if it’s the social media trappings recently identified by old mate Chicken, or bias on my own part, but Liverpool – once known for its introspective fans – seems to have gathered a huge amount of knee-jerk, #Wengaoutfam type fans, happy to distil performances or an individual’s value to 140 characters or less of miss-informed vitriol.
Look, I’m not entirely naïve to the fact the Henderson has struggled at times, and does seem to be particularly unable to effect the tempo of game when good sides have really worked us (City, Spurs, Sevilla for 45), or able to disrupt these sides in full flight. IN these scenarios is stats and impact disappear. However I’m not convinced about the arguments that he is a terrible leader. Let’s break it up into footballing Henderson and captain Henderson.
As a footballer, a defensive midfielder he is not. But he does at least have the best passing range (Coutinho aside) in the Liverpool side. He does dwell on the ball too often, but he is the best recycler of possession we have currently. He is a fair tackler, but is poor at marking and tracking players to lay said tackles. He struggles to read counter attacks, and while his positional discipline is excellent (more on this later) he doesn’t really protect a back four consistently. The thing is he’s actually good going forward, he has a great shot, a good eye for a forward pass (despite not using it at CDM), and has the engine to be a classic B2B contributor in a top side, this is the role he played in the 2013/14 season, and it’s where he needs to be. But he is being played out of position and it shows. It is currently necessary though, those who keep saying Can can play at the CDM don’t watch closely enough: his positional discipline is atrocious (though it is very gradually getting better), his passing can be very erratic when passing long on the ground, and he loves a run from deep far to much to be in any position with the tag line “protect the back four”.
It seems clear that Klopp at the moment, with this squad, is not really deploying someone in this role anyway. Yes Henderson is at the 6 when we have the ball, but the three midfielders are obviously drilled to defend together, hunting in packs, or dropping as unit when the press is broken. Obviously they’re not there yet, but patience, the current performances reek of Klopp’s second season at Dortmund, I’ve every faith in his long term vision.
As a leader I think he is simply good. Not great, but good. He has great discipline, team-first attitude, and is clearly very respected about the club. He plays with his heart on his sleeve and is obviously not shy about at least attempting to control his charges on the field. The problem, leadership-wise, is the lack of another leader. Matip is a decent defender but seems quiet, a good second CB. Lovren will bleed for a club but has zero discipline. Honestly if you look at Henderson as a poor man’s Gerrard (in just about every asset) what we desperately need is a commanding CB (think Hypia, Kompany, Ramos) to lead the club and the defence and leave Henderson to what he’s good at, playing box to box and being an able lieutenant, Carra to Gerrard. That being said the concern about his future is warranted, even if you could bring in such a player, do you take captaincy off Hendo? And who comes in a CDM (not Keita, he’s not a bloody defensive mid LFC facebook fans!) to allow him that B2B role (assuming Coutinho and Can move on in the summer)?
IT will be interesting to see his role going forward, Klopp clearly has a lot of faith in him, but I think a lot if the questions about his ability and leadership would disappear if we sign (or procedure) a defensive leader.
Rowan (how old is Maldini’s kid, can we have him?) Hansberry
My word did you just see Cavani’s volley for 6-1 just now?
No one is topping that tonight.
My word did you just see Alves’s goal just now for 7-1?
No one is topping that tonight.
Jon, Spurs (seriously Europe should be quivering)
…used to be the best kept secret in the Premier League. He’s irreplaceable for Huddersfield and you’ve just stuck him in the shop window.
£25m at least. B*stards.
Eriksen way too good for Tottenham…
So after seeing City manage to play David Silva & KDB in the same team week in, week out, along with Gabriel Jesus and Aguero up front, it got me thinking that United really need to look at that as an example. I mean you can’t really think of any players as good as those four in the Prem at the moment (Maybe Pogba, Hazard, Salah & Cesc at a push in terms of technical brilliance and form). Especially Silva who has been amazing at City for 7+ years now and considering he is tiny, he makes it look so so easy on and off the ball, and is a player who could even make it in an all time Premier League XI.
However if it is one player I would LOVE to see at United, it would have to be Christian Eriksen. Not only is he a silky Danish genius who got his country into the World Cup with his unbelievable tekkers, he has been doing it for Spurs for over 3-4 years now without any real recognition. Yes that may be because Alli and Kane as young Englishmen who are doing incredibly well, but what I love about Eriksen is his all round game very similar to Silva. The guy can shoot, pass, dribble, has eagle like vision, take free-kicks and set pieces amazingly well with that whip and just makes the game look very simple, never over complicates it, in which Mkhitaryan can do now and then, but probably has much better stamina overall. You could even dare say Eriksen is the modern-day Michael Laudrup with his fantastic touch and vision, however Laudrup was on the winning side of 5-0 El Classico wins with Barcalona & Real Madrid, so Christian could still improve for sure.
However, I have no idea why Barca never tried to sign him instead of Coutinho when Liverpool clearly didn’t want to sell, but I say if Spurs somehow do not get Champions League this season (even though the same could happen with United, but have high hopes for a Top two finish), United should just throw all the money they can to get Eriksen and probably bid farewell to Mata if that happens (Although he would be missed, the guy is a true gent).
No sympathy for the troll
Now whilst I agree with the sentiment in Steven Chicken’s article about internet trolls, I feel he has picked the wrong example to base his article on.
Of course abuse, homophobia and anti-semetism should always be condemned, but let’s not forget the this ‘journalist’ is actually a professional internet troll. Trolling is a wide-ranging term, but a classic troll behaviour is to upset groups of people with purposely provocative statements. This chap is employed by the online arm of one of the UK’s largest news organisations to generate clicks by doing just that and as such, part of the problem.
Call me harsh, but for me this story can be summed up by: troll gets trolled and has existential crisis.
Now the reaction, as I said already, is totally uncalled for. But sadly, that’s what the internet is these days and everyone knows that. People think they can say unacceptable things because they have the protection of anonymity and that’s not going to change unless massive changes are made in how the internet is policed, meaning giving up certain freedoms for improved security. This is a massive issue which I don’t think we can solve in the mailbox.
Isn’t it nice though that we can have a forum to discuss stuff like this on without people geting abusive.
Adonis Stevenson, AFC
…I am not buying the argument Arsenal or any club for that matter are responsible for a smaller section of fans who spit vitriol online, in this case towards Adam.
I found the Arsenal tweet super funny, and well meaning. It was appropriate response to a completely biased journo who i cant believe is paid to write such garbage.
Also, Adam is a journalist who should have known better than to try and humiliate Arsenal fans, and I guess irrespective of the banter from Arsenal FC would still have got hate from them.
Secondly, in today’s world, he or anyone giving an opinion on any topic can expect backlash irrespective of how balanced the opinion is, in this case most of the hate, banter towards him is well deserved (not the racist/semitic/phobic comments or threats of any kind).
All I am trying to say is people are responsible for what they say or do online. That includes Adam who is supposed to be a balanced journo, and also the people themselves who abused him online.
If Adam does not want this kind of hate then he needs to learn to be a balanced journo and not be a needling p***k trying to get response out of people (he did get a response though!!) Or just quit social media.