Mails: Has a coffin ever had so many nails?

Date published: Monday 7th March 2016 11:05

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The real Van Gaal was back…and it was sh*t
Just like that, all the good feeling generated by the recent performances and results is instantly dissolved. So many things were wrong with yesterday, but that’s not to take away from a West Brom side fully deserving of the win.

1) Why did van Gaal change the line-up? We had finally achieved some kind of rhythm and consistency and unless I’m mistaken there were no new injuries, so why change? What had Varela, Depay or Schneiderlin done to warrant their exclusion? I hope that it wasn’t to rest them because it shows an immense naïvety on van Gaal’s part.

2) It’s no coincidence that the return of some of the senior players saw a return to the utter crap of the first two-thirds of the season. Carrick, Smalling and Darmian added very little and actually unsettled the balance completely.

3) While the defence wasn’t exactly rock solid against Arsenal or Watford, it was still way more sturdy than yesterday. Granted, it may not have kept a clean sheet but I have no doubt it would have been a more spirited performance than yesterday’s effort. Varela and Fosu-Mensah in particular should feel aggrieved to have missed out.

4) Mata was absolutely moronic yesterday. Firstly for blocking the free-kick – no excuse for ever doing that – and secondly for going in so carelessly so soon after. I don’t agree with van Gaal that his red was the reason for the loss but it certainly didn’t help matters. I can only assume that Mata was trying to out-idiot Milner.

5) The substitutions were baffling. At 0-0 we bring on a defensive midfielder for an attacking one when we’re already missing Mata – what kind of message does that send to the opposition? It says “come and attack us, we know we can’t beat you”. Then to replace Darmian with Fosu-Mensah – I mean what the hell? We’re losing and the best we can do is swap a full-back like for like? One shot on target all match, yet we only one positive substitution. Unbelievable yet not at all surprising.

That match was evidence of exactly why so many people want(ed) van Gaal out. Terrible tactics, baffling team selection and incomprehensible substitutions. Plus the added bonus of bonkers post-match excuses. It just goes to show that it wasn’t actually van Gaal responsible for the recent upturn; it was the exuberance of youth and the enthusiasm of a few players who have been short on chances. The second his senior players come back we revert to type and the real van Gaal United returns. So much for turning things around.
Ted, Manchester


…- Re LVG: do any of his substitutions make sense? Down to 10 men vs WBA, but they didn’t have control of the game. Takes off an attacking CM (Herrera) and replaces him with a defensive CM (Schneiderlin) thus inviting pressure and conceding a goal. Later, chasing the game and in need of an equaliser. Brings on a CB (Fosu-Mensah) for a RB (Darmian). How on earth does this help? Countless examples throughout his tenure, that was just yesterday

– Can’t believe people thought a corner had been turned because we beat Shrewsbury, made hard work off some Danish nobodies and beat Arsenal during thier annual bottle job. Don’t worry though, just when the papers have another “LVG has x amount of games to save his job” report, he’ll hit a mini run of form and ‘turn a corner’. Rinse and Repeat.
Ethan (MUFC)


…One forward. Three backward. United’s progress under LvG is the same as their passing under LvG – What a charlatan!
David Moyes (Get Jose in) MUFC


…The consolation in yet another Manchester United defeat is that it’s a(nother) nail in the LVG coffin. Has a coffin ever had so many nails?

For a minute there it looked like a couple of decent results, mainly against poor opponents, may have been swinging things back his way slightly, what with the ‘Van Gaal Babes’ “narrative”.

Thankfully another defeat against a poor team, next to no chances created, should see him out the door. Hell, even Liverpool may top them.
Adam Whitemore, Newcastle, Australia (England v Australia – woo hoo!)


…Pretty sure United were playing for the loss. I know that makes no sense, but nothing else can explain why we did nothing for 94 minutes.

Right now there’s a chance that Liverpool knock us out of the Europa League and finish above us. All our optisim has been thrown on the floor and spat on.

Here’s to hoping we play our U21 team for the rest of the season.
Gaaavie, (Varela, Schneiderlin and Memphis dropped, why?) Cape Town


…Another loss for United, just another setback, something which the fans have gotten used to in LVG’s era of perpetual false dawns, maybe it was just premature to think that the corner had been turned.There have always been optimism-invoking runs that have been quickly shot down like when the team showed a glimmer of hope in the three games vs Derby, Stoke, and Chelsea only to then lose the next two games vs Sunderland and Midtjylland. Last night was the end of a decent run which made fans believe that top four is within reach, which it still might be, but more than that, the effect of having the optimism that has surrounded the club for a couple of weeks come crashing down is just as big a blow.

All that being said, this was a stupid game to lost considering the nine league games left to play include City (A), Spurs (A), Leicester (H), and West Ham (H). Quite the shocker that football’s “nice guy” poster boy Juan Mata got sent off, but stranger things have happened. What baffles me more than those two stupid yellow cards are the substitutions: Schneiderlin for Herrera, and Fosu-Mensah for Darmian. The former is a classic one, bring on defensive-minded player to keep from conceding a goal, and surprise, surprise, end up conceding a goal – there were just two midfielders sitting in front of the back four, and even though Herrera wasn’t having a great game, without his mobility and the presence of Mata at CAM, it exposed a massive hole in midfield for United in attack which just invited pressure. The latter substitution was just strange, defender for defender in the dying embers of a losing game? Shockingly, I’d have rather seen Fellaini on the pitch. Also, there is almost weekly evidence now that Daley Blind should not be playing center-back, and this really needs to be rectified, if any further evidence was needed, he was caught in no man’s land for Rondon’s goal.

My question now is, which team should be considered the ‘old United’; the team that plays with verve after a few crappy games like the home leg vs Midtjylland, or the team that puts in dull, lifeless performances after a couple of decent ones?
HJ, Mufc


Carrick, Herrera, Darmian…not good enough
Although for me it started last season, it’s only really this one that I’ve started to look at some of our players and think “just not good enough”. Of course it was easy before when things were going well, but now players are firmly under the microscope.

In Sunday’s game, it’s obvious Mata will be held up as man most culpable, and not without reason. In his defence I’d point to a degree of frustration with his fellow players that I felt too, even though it was early doors and a very daft double yellow.

But aside from him today, and Fellaini generally, I watched three players with a growing sense of dismay: Carrick, Darmian and Herrera.

I’ve never been a fan of Carrick; far too slow in motion and thought, more suited to Italian football probably, though Xabi Alonso showed that it’s perfectly possible in the Premier League. But today he seemed positively (!?) glacial and unfussed, even as we chased the game.

Herrera just seemed generally below the standard required; ineffective in possession, useless out of it and often the cause of our attacks losing impetus. No wonder Mata was frustrated. The contrast was stark.

Finally poor Darmian; again just not good enough and comparisons with Varela were not favourable, offering nothing in either direction. Italian international? Really?!

For all the criticisms that come their way, you can see the difference between players like Mata and Rooney (those that give a damn) and those that don’t. And that’s needed over a season to maintain the drive.

I’d have loved to have had Fletcher in our side today instead.
Guy S


Carrick: Both underrated and overrated
I don’t think this article hits the mark (about Carrick being like Marmite – love him or hate him). Carrick is overrated now (he’s gotten worse and people began to appreciate him more) and he was previously underrated. It’s not a love/hate thing, IMO, it’s just that people often struggle to understand what he is. The people that are *told* what he does overreact and pump him up, those that *understand* what he is know the truth is in between.

The truth is that he was a good footballer (and now he’s a mediocre or inconsistent one), but never a great (or “top, top” if you prefer) one. Carrick moves intelligently (most of the time), passes smartly (mostly). He has good but not particularly good technique. The man is not a strong athlete, but generally positions himself pretty well and he does work for the team.

He can help a team click, but can never elevate a team above its level – only help them to reach it. He has *never* been good enough to be talked about as one of the best midfielders in the league – but conversely, he has mostly been an important part of Manchester United, a club that have won a lot of trophies.

If I were a Manchester United supporter, I would thank him for his service – but would certainly not shed a tear were he to leave. In fact, if I were a United supporter, I’d have argued for him to play every week, but be replaced with somebody better at the earliest opportunity.

The really good midfielders do what he does – help the team “tick” and also bring something else to the table. Xabi Alonso is the best I’ve seen – he made the team purr, but was also very solid defensively and could switch play to any part of the park effortlessly.

Xavi and Iniesta both excel at the art (Messi too, but from the wing or up forward, which is f***ing ridiculous). But Iniesta provides goals and a dribbling threat with the ball like few others. Xavi could also tear defences apart with his passing. Pirlo is another – he could retain possession against 20 tacklers and had a sexy beard.

Those players that are really good at what Carrick does elevate players (Xavi and Alonso in particular – Alonso turned a relatively poor Liverpool side into one of Europe’s most feared outfits and Xavi is f***ing Xavi). They also have other strings to their bow – they are solid defensively or they provide genuine threat in attack.

Carrick does the thing that not a lot of players do pretty well, but not brilliantly and doesn’t do anything else. So if he’s in your squad, it’s probably because he needs to play – but he certainly is one you should look to replace. However, the key word is “replace” – you need somebody who can control the game like he *can* do to have a great side.
Justin (There should be some sort of March Madness joke about brackets, but I can’t think of it)
P.S. Football365 is probably the best sporting website on the planet


Nice one Fletch
As a United fan typing this just as we lost to West Brom, I just wanted to take a minute to praise the performance of Darren Fletcher. Not only is it heartening to see him playing football regularly after such a dehabilitating illness, but it is great to see him put in such a committed, athletic performance, balancing tough tackling, intelligent positioning and he showed a great row of passing. It was a shame that United were on the losing team but to see Fletcher put in such a performance softened the blow a little. He seems like a great guy, a real leader and I hope he continues playing like this for West Brom because he deserves it.
Adam, Manchester


Liverpool conclusions
– A good win for the red men, they kept fighting to the very end with a great mentality. Not long ago we would’ve crumbled. Klopp is slowly turning around the weak mentality that has plagued us for a while.

– If any one player epitomises the belief that Klopp is instilling it’s Dejan Lovren. A powerful display from the centre-back who’s starting to show the form that convinced Liverpool to pay £20 million.

– What a silly challenge from Milner. The most experienced player throwing himself into a challenge like a wet behind the ears academy graduate. Could’ve put us in real trouble, in fact he did, he was lucky we got the three points.

– Jordan Henderson. It’s looking more and more like he’s regressing. I don’t know whether it’s this heel problem or what but it’s looking increasingly like an upgrade is needed in that department. If he wasn’t the captain I’m sure he would’ve been dropped by now. How the hell is our captain any way? He’s pretty far from what I would think is captain material. Steven Gerrard he certainly is not.

– The more I watch Roberto Firmino the more he reminds me of Suarez with his intelligence when on the ball and the graft he puts in. I can see him being a brilliant player for us for years to come.

– The same can be said for Emre Can. What a player. He’s only 21 and will become an absolute beast in the center of the park. I’d rather have him as our captain than Henderson.

– It was a stonewall penalty. No question. Delaney’s trailing knee makes clear contact with Bentekes back foot and running at the speed he was he was bound to go down.

– How small is this Liverpool team? Palace towered over us as most teams in the Premier League do. I’m glad Klopp is rectifying this with the three six foot plus players he’s signed.

– Finally. How good was it wiping that smug look of Pardew’s face. Don’t like the smarmy twunt and it was good to ram his pre-match arrogance down his throat.
MickT, Liverpool


Do vice captains have to start?
For a while now I’ve been wondering if James Milner has consistently been in the starting line-up for Liverpool solely because he is vice captain. His performance on Wednesday was good, however apart from this I can’t remember many good performances from him in a Liverpool shirt. It will be nice to see the change in the team now he will be missing (although he will probably start against United). It may turn out that he has been somehow doing something useful that I have not noticed or, what I’m hoping is more likely, someone else will replace him and will perform better. I then wondered how many other teams have had underperforming vice-captains and if they have still consistently been starting games just because of this status?
Hugh Davis


What happened to Origi in France?
Do you have any French readers? If so could they write in and tell me how Origi ended up in the worst Ligue Un XI last season? I really haven’t seen anything about him I don’t like whenever he has played this season. Or is it some kind of jokey thing taken out of context, like Phil Neville in the World Cup ladder or Dani Pacheco winning loads of Football365 polls a few years back about who the best player in the world is?
Minty, LFC


Spurs fan happy(ish) with the draw
Really enjoyed the NLD, I know the stats on passing etc should point to it being a game of poor quality but it wasn’t, it was a game of high pressure, high energy closing down which led to misplaced passes and tackles. It’s always nice when quality players are pushed that bit harder to really show their worth. I had that nervous shivering feel throughout and the overriding feeling was just the normal ‘please don’t lose’ rather than wanting to win it.

I think both teams deserve great credit for the way they played the game, we executed our press tactics really well, as soon as Arsenal had the ball we were there putting them under pressure and forcing them into mistakes whereas Arsenal tactic of catching us on a quick counter worked really well also. Barring Ramsey at the end I think we (Spurs) had the much better chances but really a draw was probably fair and more disappointing for us after the red card. Thought the ref was excellent and to be honest I’m not completely convinced that Dier’s was a nailed-on yellow, but could have no complaints if he did get a second card. Was also shame for Coq, I know it was stupid but neither offense were dangerous, just stupid, I wish yellows were for serious infringements rather than petulant or just stupid stuff, but them’s the rules we play by I guess.

All in all, a better point for Arsenal than us, they showed decent quality and fight and most importantly didn’t lose which will do wonders for their fans, faux injustice also helps. For us, we were good but really should have been more pragmatic after taking the lead. I think ‘acceptable’ for the teams involved, outstanding for the neutrals watching and perfect for the Leicester lot.
Steve (THFC)


Even the video leaves us all confused…
Yesterday’s game, and more specifically its conclusion, at Selhurst Park got me thinking about video technology, which has made the headlines this weekend. I have never been a fan of the idea, but two events yesterday, and on Saturday at White Hart Lane, really brought home for me why it cannot possibly work in football.

On Saturday, David Ospina saved a header with approximately 1mm of the ball not behind the line. Michael Oliver had a simple glance at his watch, saw nothing, and so the game progressed without any stoppage nor further appeal. Everyone knows it’s either a goal or not, and in this case, even by the slightest of margins, it was not. Easy. An excellent invention that has improved the game.

Fast forward to yesterday in the 95th minute at Selhurst park, and Benteke is undoubtedly touched by the knee of Delaney. If video technology was available, I reckon this would be a perfect case for Andre Marriner using it. He would have gone upstairs and the large video screen would have shown Delaney’s knee touching Benteke’s boot. And he gives…

That’s the whole problem. Football is a contact sport. Palace fans would argue that the contact between knee and boot did not force Benteke to the ground. Liverpool fans would argue, simply, that Delaney’s sliding knee knocked Benteke’s foot and his balance was lost. And then we come back to the video ref who, despite having seen a video, is having to make a decision based on “how much contact is enough to warrant a foul?”

Football is an imperfect game with imperfect rules. There is no rule that stipulates how much contact is enough, and similarly none that says any contact is a foul. To use video technology is to try to make perfect decisions about a game that is beautiful in its imperfection. Leave the TV to the viewers and the public, and let the referees interpret the game.
Michael Byrne, Rochdale, Abu Dhabi


Succinct on Pardieu
Is he the most dislikable man in football?

Plus, he looked like a hobo.
Mark, Weymouth


Almost interesting red card research
So I will admit that I began some research on this season’s red cards to test the hypothesis that, contrary to popular belief, small teams actually get the benefit of the doubt more often against the big clubs than vice versa. This hypothesis was born from the fact that red cards were given to United, Arsenal, Liverpool and Everton this weekend (sorry Southampton fans, you guys are great and all, but not yet a big club in my eyes)

Anyway, I was too lazy to really follow that through, and in all honesty wasn’t sure of the fairest measure that would give a satisfactory conclusion without being skewed to fit an agenda (I know, I’d never make it as a sports journalist!).

However, I did find a curious statistic that I will put to the mailbox to try and explain. Of the 46 red cards in the Premier League this season, over 40% (19 in total) have occurred in games involving either West Brom or West Ham. West Ham have received four and had seven shown to opposition players. The numbers are three and five respectively for West Brom.

Now I don’t watch many games involving these teams (watching United is too depressing for me to consider watching any additional football!), so will someone explain to me what the heck is it about the word ‘West’ that has referees so keen to show their red card?
Tom, Manchester


Non-title race thoughts
* Having touted Sunderland for survival for a while, I was all ready to write in celebrating a well-earned didn’t-park-the-bus win at Southampton, when they panicked (and make no mistake about it, it was panic) and let in a stoppage time equalizer against 10 men. So all I’ll say is: is there a more cultured defensive player in the league than Jan Kirchhoff? Fine touch, effortless passer, reads the game beautifully. No wonder Bayern had him on their books.

* I don’t know how many people saw it, but Chelsea-Stoke City was one of the best matches of the weekend. Open game, lots of fluent attacking play. Shaqiri ran the show for Stoke, which makes me wonder why he doesn’t do it on a regular basis. If Bojan isn’t in the line-up, he should be coming in from the wing far more often. Ibrahim Afellay, who plays central these days, doesn’t offer anywhere near the same creativity.

* I’m sure Newcastle fans will have a lot to say about the latest debacle, but in the midst of all the mess, they got a true captain’s performance from the one and only Jonjo Shelvey. Tip of the hat.

* Norwich City look like they’re going down, but if they’re to have any chance at all, Alex Neil has to make a decision and he has to make it now: bench Cameron Jerome. He’s a Championship-level striker, which is no shame, but not the right man in a relegation scrap. Dieumerci Mbokani and Patrick Bamford may not do any better, but Jerome is a known quantity, and the quantity isn’t large enough.

* If I’m ever entered in an If Looks Could Kill tournament, I want Remi Garde on my team.
Peter G, Pennsylvania, USA


Goodbye F365
This is officially the last email you’ll receive from me I doubt it’ll get published and in any case I won’t be around to find out if it does.

It’s been a brief and fun fling but your continuous rimming of the ‘big’ clubs and their fans as well as your refusal to publish any mails that dare question your editorial bias by providing a bit of perspective from the point of view of one of the many fans of a club that doesn’t hail from London, Manchester, or Liverpool has become simply too frustrating to bother with anymore.

We have a league to win and the rest of the season to enjoy so I shan’t let your myopic site continue trying to put a downer on it with nebulous phrases like ‘nobody wants to win the league’. We do and we won’t let idiotic phrases like that let us forget that we’ve earned our position so far through hard work on the pitch, talented individuals, a finely balanced squad with players that can step in and do a job when another gets injured, having the best sports science department in the league allowing us to cope so well with said injuries in the first place, and of course having a manager who knows his tactical onions and when to make changes to a game. But that would do away with the notion that we’re lucky plodders top but for the grace of all the big clubs all deciding at once to be sh*t.

Enjoy the big club love-in, I’m sorry we had to ruin this season for you with our racist striker and our insistence on paying our players wages befitting of a Premier League club (as per your latest ridiculous Mediawatch entry, qui custodiet ipsos custodes indeed).
Adam, LCFC (mic drop)

(It’s a shame, fella, you should have stuck around to read Johnny’s piece. And you obviously missed this mailbox from last week – dominated by Leicester fans. Ta-ra – Ed)

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