Mails: Jose was following Fergie’s blueprint for Euro aways

Date published: Thursday 22nd February 2018 3:09

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More thoughts on United
All the talk about Mourinho’s approach in the mailbox this morning (“negative”, “scared”, “release the brakes”, etc) got me thinking about the differences in coaching in football and American football.

In the NFL, teams have offensive and a defensive coordinators, with a head coach to oversee them. If a head coach is from an offensive background, he’ll hire a good defensive coordinator and give that person more responsibility and freedom than the offensive. Obviously football isn’t split into these phases as clearly – the same players have to contribute to both – but JM strikes me as the equivalent of an excellent defensive coordinator, promoted to head coach but ignorant of the need for good offensive input.

Some teams have managed to win the superbowl with one side much better than the other, whether it’s a superstar quarterback carrying an average defence or a supreme defence carrying a pedestrian offence – but the teams that consistently compete have always recognised the need for balance. Even the Patriots with Tom Brady at QB have had dominant defences supporting him. So I completely agree with Big MUFC – he’s a manager with a great record of winning early in his time with a team, but he’s never managed to get a consistent balance between attack and defence without just leaving the attack to do their thing.

If I were a Man Utd fan, I’d be livid with his attitude as well – he’s taking no responsibility for coaching the attacking players to better themselves.

As someone who just likes to see exciting football, Man Utd are about the last Premier League team that I’d choose to watch.
Ollie, Bristol


Just a quick one to any United fans still beating a drum for Jose.

Do you – honestly – think that any of the other top six managers wouldn’t be able to get better performances from your squad?

Imagine Klopp with Sanchez, Rashford and Martial!

Or Pep or Poch with Pogba and Lingard.

It’s definitely Jose. Not the players.
Dan, London


…Musings from last night:

1. Valencia is finished, his legs are gone and I think he knows it. Cannot support the attacks and is struggling to cover the CB’s.

2. Ashley Young at left back has to stop. Actually Ashley Young Man Utd footballer has to stop.

3. Is Jose over achieving with this United team ? Last nights back four consisted of 2 former wingers over 30 and our 3rd/4th CB pairing ? this has been the case since Bailly got injured. Bailly and Jones looked solid. Definitely 2 fullbacks have to be purchased.

4. Midfield do not support the attack, there is no Scholesy run into the box, there is no 30 yard thunderbastards…

5. Why do Matic & Pogba have to take 4-5 touches before passing.. it is killing any tempo the team can build…

6. What is scary is Jose doesn’t look too bothered when Utd perform like this… he actually seemed to be happy. We gave up 20+ attempts to Sevilla & we had 1 shot on target….

7. The best signing United could make right now is Pochettino or Luis Enrique.
Paul MUFC (Dublin)


…If there is a footballing god of fate we should expect to see Vincenzo Montella sprinting along the Old Trafford sideline in a couple of weeks celebrating a Seville away goal, as dear old Jose looks on forlornly. Here’s hoping!



…Apologies if the point has been made already, but Man Utd’s problem surely lies in Mourinho’s approach to European away legs. BT were banging on last night about preserving a clean sheet for the home leg and “keeping Sevilla at arm’s length”. Let’s leave aside the fact that, but for the last c 15 mins, Man Utd did no such thing and relied on their superhuman goalkeeper.

Mourinho has played for a 0-0 away for years. Even when in vogue 10-15 years ago it stank. Now that teams are fitter and more sophisticated going forward, it reeks. Will Sevilla be tired by the travel? Short of an Icelandic volcano, no. Will they be intimidated by Old Trafford? Of course not – they wouldn’t be by any English ground, except maybe rarely Anfield and even more rarely Stamford Bridge (see Napoli 2012 for a rare example – they admitted as much afterwards). Will Mourinho let slip the dogs of war? I wouldn’t hold your breath.

At Chelsea we saw this against Atletico in 2014. All going swimmingly when Torres scored, then they equalised and it went up in smoke. For Atletico read PSG, read Liverpool (twice), read Barcelona 2009 (not Mourinho’s management, but his team). Chelsea did best when we went for the jugular away in the first leg (Liverpool 2009 is the best example). But Mourinho simply won’t do it.

All well and good if you genuinely can defend flawlessly for 180-plus minutes. As soon as the other team nick an away goal, you just look like the fool who’s willingly surrendered the chance to score goals that count double.
Sam, CFC SW6


Boom, boom
If it’s offensive football he likes, probably should have stayed at United. On last night’s viewing, their football is far more offensive than anything Arsenal ever serve up.
Alex G, THFC


Backing for Jose
It was only after reading the Mailbox earlier that it dawned on me that I had turned the match over early last night and missed the part when Sevilla scored four thereby effectively knocking United out of the CL. Nope, I just checked again and it did in fact end a 0-0 draw, away from home in the last 16 of the CL at a stadium that Sevilla have only lost once all season (bizarrely not to highflying Liverpool, who ‘only’ drew against them home and away). Had Lukaku or Rashford scored one of their decent chances then it could arguably have been seen as a great away European result. Obviously ifs and buts count for nothing, so we drew 0-0 and will only know after the second leg if this was a good result.

In terms of the performance, it was far from inspiring and we are clearly struggling for goal scoring form. However, to play (red) devil’s advocate, we had plenty of those types of performances at this stage of the competition under Fergie; check out the match reports for our CL last 16 games against Marseille (0-0 in 2011), Inter (0-0 in 2009) and Lyon (1-1 in 2008) to name a few. The game plan was always the same – keep it tight, don’t concede and hopefully score a goal or two. For instance, before the Marseille game Rio tweeted (according to the BBC match report, I don’t stalk Rio) ‘looking for a solid, composed team performance” and “an away goal or two would be nice as well as a clean sheet”. We didn’t score last night but it was a solid and (mostly) composed performance with a clean sheet secured thanks to the world’s best shot-stopper.

You can take this as backing for Mourinho in general but it’s not a blind or rose-tinted backing (I don’t want to turn this into a Guy S and Rooney situation). It is clear we are not clicking going forward and I am not satisfied with our recent performances. But he will get my support as long as I feel we are moving forward and progressing, whether that be in terms of performances or results or (hopefully eventually) both. We are due a big performance though and with Chelsea on Sunday it could not be a more apt time to deliver. The anger and frustration has been bubbling for a few weeks now; so much so that Mourinho’s team talk should consist of a pre-match wrestle to settle differences followed by three simple words – “Lads, it’s Chelsea”.
Garey Vance, MUFC


…The better control you have over the variables, the more predictable the result will be. Mourinho has always been about controlling the variables. Even before yesterday’s game, Manchester United were the favourites to go through to the quarters.

Does that make for sexy, fluid football? Of course not. But judging by the man’s record it’s extremely effective. United are second in the league and favourites to enter the quarter finals. Tottenham, the team many fans in this morning’s mailbox praised, are currently 5th in the league.

I’m not a huge fan of JM but to say he’s too scared or he’s lost it is just bull. In fact, it’s a pretty ballsy move to have so much confidence in United’s home form to play a two-legged tie this way. On a psychological level, Sevilla threw everything they got at Utd and came away with nada- how confident do you think they’ll feel going to Old Trafford now?

Maybe judge him after the second leg.
Liam Gabriel Hoskins (He knows what he’s doing) AFC


…Typical doom and gloom in this morning’s mailbox I see.

Now I am open to correction, but I think United have won only THREE times away in Spain in competitive outings for some 60-odd years (saw it among the ether of reaction online last night so cannot confirm its validity). That of course spans the Busby and Fergie era- so from purely a historically point of view a draw isn’t a disastrous result.

Considering the fact that the team is woefully under-performing recently too, and the fact they weren’t duly troubled apart from that double De Gea intervention before half-time, then I think the pitch-forks should remain in storage until at least the conclusion of the second leg.

I mean what do United fans expect? Jose’s “pragmatism” and safety-first approach in big matches (and a CL last-16 tie is a big match regardless of the opposition) is probably one of the most well-documented truths of the modern game. He won two frickin’ Champions League’s with underdogs by this very approach for god’s sake.

The worst thing that happened was City and Liverpool blowing away inferior opposition last week as it gave United fan’s a false sense of entitlement and clouded expectation that they should be doing similar.

And last night’s result definitely has an air of recency bias to it as well. Sure Fergie wasn’t adverse to shutting up shop on the road in the knock-out stages of the Champions League for years. I still shudder at the memory of painfully boring games vs. Villarreal. Someone sarcastically remarked that Jose is turning Sanchez into a decent full-back earlier- well Fergie once deployed Welbeck on man-marking duty on Alonso.

I must be among a select few United fans not appalled by the result last night. Considering the tactical imbalance, uninspired form, injuries and apparent strife surrounding Pogba, it could be a hell of a lot worse. Even among all the forensic scrutiny and usual fall-out, you would have to be an eternal pessimist not to believe that they will get the job done at Old Trafford.

Ceding more ground in the top four race this weekend would be a far bigger concern.
Brian, Wexford


…Ok, first things first, I am a United fan and not in any way a Mourinho apologist but can we all just calm the f**k down.

I have been following them since the 80’s – you want to know what a dour United looks like, try that period and indeed the first 3/4 years of Fergie’s reign. That’s right, Fergie took a few years to actually win silverware, let alone several in the first season. We constantly hear “bring back Fergie” or “this would never happen under Fergie” but you are so wrong and it did happen under his helm and it lasted years, not months. Do we really need to be reminded that an FA Cup goal from Mark Robins saved Fergie’s job and ultimately resulted in the sustained domination that lasted some 20 years? One Goal Saved Him!!!

Now yes, I won’t see the likes of Fergie again in my lifetime (I’m 43 now and will probably be dead by the time someone achieves his incomparable record again, even if they start from now) but what I have seen so far is a manager who has won things for my club and many others have no doubt about his pedigree to continue doing that. He has, after-all already proved he can.

The problem is the immediacy of today and the instant gratification we are all accustomed to. Everything and anything can now be gotten at a push of a button. Nothing wrong with this of course, technology has allowed us to do this and advance, but it has also allowed us all to become vocal in our displeasure at not being instantly appeased. This displeasure filters from your keyboard to the internet, the internet to the masses, the masses to the supporters who spend hard-earned money to follow United and from those supporters to the team the manager who will ultimately feel this innate pressure and will naturally become nervous underperform.

Ah but you say United and Ferguson were famed for this “Attack, Attack, Attack” approach, a quick search of Wikipedia (I know, I know) tells me that Mourinho has a higher win percentage (61%) than Fergie (58%) and a comparable 22/23% draw percentage. Loss statistics also see Mourinho slightly ahead.

Statistics of course don’t tell the whole story, but the way the world reacts (supporters and journalists and even ex-pros who should know better, alike) you’d be led to believe that Fergie never lost or drew a game. And before anyone says, “ah but they weren’t negative in their approach,” go and re-watch those two Champions League finals against Barcelona in 2009 and 2011 for a lesson in ultra-defensive tactics resulting in losses.

So here’s a novel idea, let’s celebrate the fact that a nil-nil draw in Europe’s elite competition (one we have been out of for 2 years and where the last time we couldn’t even get out of the group stages) means we still have a chance to progress. If we go out, be angry if you must but also be mindful of where we are compared to where we were with Moyes and VG.

Getting behind the team, in modern times, starts with your keyboard, the rest will follow…
Shanos, Manyoo, London


The goalkeeping Messi
Is De Gea now as good a keep as Messi is an outfield player?

I actually think he is.
Conor (LFC)


Slating Sanchez
Do you remember not too long ago Arsenal fans were slated as the ‘didn’t fancy her anyway’ gang ahead of Sanchez’s move to Utd?

It seems, now, like we were just offering you a little advice to curb your excitement slightly as he can be excruciatingly painful to watch.

He will give you some great moments and I mean great moments. He can definitely win you a trophy or two. In-between that though, my God he will wind you up! He drops deeper and deeper when you’re on the back foot because he doesn’t trust the pass to come to him, not when he is high up the pitch. If you think he can blister away on a counter attack, think again! Of all the great counter-attacking Sanchez goals you saw on MOTD there were infinitely more spurned opportunities – solely down to his inability to shift the ball without first beating a man, or at least attempting to. He tops the tackled chart for last season alongside Zaha (128), ranked 1st in 2014/15 season (117) and 2nd in 15/16 season (100).

I thought it was a dejected Sanchez at Arsenal and that’s why he played that way but watching him at Utd he is no different. There’s no denying that he is an incredibly gifted player, but his work rate is often misinterpreted as great team worker – he’s not, he’s just after the ball because he wants it to himself.

He was harmless at Arsenal, as he was only keeping Iwobi out the team. At Utd though, he’s stopping two young and extremely promising players in Rashford and Martial from getting valuable playing time.
Mike, AFC.


…Could it be that Man Utd signed Alexis Sanchez for circa £35m (this seems to be the most agreed on figure for the swap with Mhikitaryan) so they could sell him for £60m/£70m in the summer?

It’s the only thing that makes sense bearing in mind how he’s currently fitting into the team at the expense of Martial. And we know how Ed loves a deal.

Kind regards
Dan P (Bristol)


Why would Poch want the United job?
I always enjoy reading mails from people like Eamonn after yet another dreadfully boring United performance. My favourite part is the inevitable Jose out, Poch in concluding remark as if Poch would even want the job. Right now he gets to live in London with a settled team structure that supports his vision with equal parts patience and money. Why on earth would he leave for a team that only offers the latter when he’d almost be certain to be looking for a job in a year or two after an inevitable bad run of games where the team are catching up to his coaching? What United need to be doing is looking for the next Poch from Holland or Portugal or wherever, someone with the next generation of coaching ideas that will beat Guardiola the way he beat Jose. Saying Jose out, Poch in is exactly the mindset that got you mired in this mud in the first place. Here’s hoping you never figure that out and bounce from manager to manager for a few decades like Liverpool have and Arsenal inevitably will.
Niall, Denver



Spurs don’t need a second striker
There is a general consensus that Spurs absolutely must have a specialist back-up striker to Harry Kane, in case he gets injured. I propose that this is utter nonsense…mostly. Simply put: Tottenham start the season in 4 competitions. Without considering injuries, Harry Kane is going to play every game in the BPL and UCL. The other striker is limited to the League Cup and the FA Cup (until Spurs reach later stages).

This means, the back-up striker will be out of form, out of sync with the team, and generally off the pace of the game. Let’s not pretend it’s Llorente’s fault. He scored 15 goals from 33 games for Swansea last season, and is proven at La Liga, Serie A, and UCL standard. It is clear when he plays consistently, and in a team that plays a brand of football that suits him, he can be extremely effective. Perhaps he could return to Bilbao soon, who at some stage, must surely require a replacement for the eternal, 37 year old Aritz Aduriz (8 goals from 16 starts in La Liga, 7 goals from 7 starts in the UEL)(Llorente is only 32 in comparison).

My point is this: do Tottenham really need to have this type back-up striker? Harry Kane by all means can hold the ball up like the stereotypical big strikers do, and adds in a turn of pace to get around the defender so he can face the goal. What Tottenham needed was another Son. A winger/attacking midfielder that can play striker. Along the lines of a Lars Stindl, or Kevin Volland, or Kylian Mbappe (obviously the last name is an unrealistic target, but a good example of the type of player I am referring to). This means rather than simply warming those extremely comfortable seats behind the manager, the striker/winger could very well have played a part in around 10 to 20 Premier League matches.

With the introduction of Lucas Moura, Tottenham have a list of Eriksen, Alli, Lamela, Son, and Lucas (Nkoudou out on loan) who all can play behind Harry Kane. So perhaps another signing is too much. In the striker position, it should be Kane option 1, Son option 2. Last season, after Kane’s injury vs Millwall, Son scored 7 goals and registered 2 assists before the main man’s return. Before even that, in the 2016/17 season, Spurs ended Man City’s winning start to the season with a 2-0 win. Son and Alli terrorised the Citizens. For almost a month, Kane was injured. There appeared to be no difference in result: Tottenham kept winning and playing dynamic football.

Beyond Kane and Son, there probably should be an option 3, but why must it be a bigg’un? Tottenham do not play a style of football that provides opportunities for big forwards. The main tactic is to draw play central, move the ball quickly wide to a fullback, and laser a ball across goal. Seldom does the ball lift off of the deck. For some reason, when Llorente plays, Spurs are more adverse to aiming for his 6’4 frame! Spurs should either aim for a similar player to Son, if there even is a need for another purchase, in the 3rd striker option, or simply give Shayon Harrison or Kazaiah Sterling, or whichever young forward at the club is most deserving of an opportunity, some minutes. What’s the worst that could happen playing in the I Don’t Carabou-t It Cup?

Tottenham don’t need a Kane-like back-up; they just need Son.


Taking issue with winners and losers
Chris Smalling is not good enough to start for a side aiming to win major trophies. I’ll get that out of the way straight away to ensure there are absolutely no doubts as to where I am coming from. However, it is rather misleading for F365 to post on the Champions League winners and losers article a video clip that is clearly deliberately zoomed in to hide the fact that Smalling was dragged across to cover another attacker.

You could argue that Smalling should have communicated better with those around him, to ensure that the defender ahead of him (Matic) was adequately covering his man, and/or that Valencia had tucked inside to cover Muriel, but he didn’t just go for a wander as that video clip suggests. I expect a full retraction and apology forthwith.
Tom, Manchester


Mailbox conspiracy
Are your devoted readers honestly suppose to believe that the only people who wrote into the mailbox since yesterday were people saying negative things about Man Utd? I’m not a Utd fan but they didn’t even lose so bias much? You’d be thinking it was them who lost to league one opposition, their manager had a meltdown and one of their star players attacked a fan this week.

I see Daniel Storey had a negative Man Utd article posted barely 10 minutes after last nights game finished. Even The Flash couldn’t write an article that fast, seems like it was pre-written (with just the score added) to slam Utd whatever their result.

The CL winners and losers column also has Man Utd as losers (plus pretty much every player bar De Gea). THEY DIDN’T LOSE! If any other English team got a 0-0 draw away at Sevilla it would be considered a decent result.

When a team getting an away draw against a strong team in the Champions League knockout stages is worth more negative coverage than the league leading ‘bestest team in Europe’ losing and behaving badly does you really have to start questioning things.

You can’t get up in arms when people write in about bias on this site anymore as it’s clear you are and it’s all in writing today on your site 365!

(All this is more interesting than the mind-numbingly boring mails about VAR that have populated most of the mailbox lately I guess.)
William, Leicester


Missed matches
After reading Steven Chicken’s article on missed great matches, have two that spring immediately to mind from last year’s Champions League.

Matched with a girl on Tinder, was all going well, and managed to get a date out of it too. Didn’t think much of her suggesting the following Tuesday night to go out for a few drinks until it was too late – the night of Man City 5 Monaco 3. Sat in a dark, edgy cocktail bar in Putney (that obviously did not have BT Sport), I was reduced to checking my phone every time I went to be served or she went to the toilet to see the goals fly in. Not a great start to this budding relationship, but nothing terminal.

Fast-forward a couple of weeks later, and I had just finished at a house viewing on a Wednesday night, and was on my way back home to watch the second leg of Barcelona v PSG. However, as I was on the bus back, I got a text from the aforementioned girl asking if I wanted to swing by hers instead. Seeing that Cavani had got the crucial away goal, and that Barca had next to no chance of pulling off a comeback, I agreed, and spent the rest of the evening watching Grey’s Anatomy with her – a show I have never watched before or since. It was only after retrieving my phone well after full-time that I found a number of missed calls from my flatmate (who was ringing to try and get me to find any way to put the match on), the Whatsapp group chat having exploded, and that I had missed one of the greatest finales of all time.

Sadly my time with that girl didn’t last much longer – not because she had been directly responsible for me missing two of the most memorable Champions League games in recent years, but it can’t have helped.

Cheers (and I met my current girlfriend in a pub watching the final, so it’s all worked out OK in the end),


…I’m a season holder at Spurs and have been for more years than is healthy. A few years ago, I was en route to a game, driving the normal drive up the A12 and onto the A406 when I skidded on the slip road, and managed to write my car off, thereby missing the game. I did manage to listen to most of the game in the tow truck on the way home, and got to watch the highlights on MOTD2 later that evening.

Not too bad you might think, until you realised the match finished Spurs 9 Wigan 1. As the commentator said, “this is the game that all Spurs fans will want to be able to say, I was there”. I sat through all of the record-breaking run of 0-0s under George Graham as well.


…I’m the kind of optimistic idiot that thinks we’re going score 10 goals in injury time when we’re 9-0 down, so I have never left a game or switched off early.

However, my boss in 2005 (the type of ‘Liverpool fan’ who still reads the sun), turned off at half time against Milan.

Somehow he’d managed to make it to work without encountering any of the press surrounding the greatest comeback of all time, and greeted me in the kitchen with a “well that was sh!t wasn’t it?!”.

Given my reputation for mischief, he didn’t even start to believe me when I tried to convince him otherwise. When he got back to his computer, I heard a moan as his head hit the desk upon verifying my claims.

Doubt he’s ever gotten over that

Dom Littleford

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