Mails: Man United ain’t been pretty for years

Date published: Friday 30th October 2015 3:37

Don’t kid yourself; you don’t miss the football, you miss the winning football matches.

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Welcome to the real world, United fans
There are likely to be countless responses to Kanishka Davda’s mail on missing Fergie’s United. I think the main reason Manchester United fans miss Sir Alex Ferguson is because when he was there, they used to win everything. Now he’s gone, they’re forced to slum it with the rest of us despite spending the equivalent of the GDP of a mid-sized developing nation on players who struggle to oust the likes of Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia from the starting XI.
The literary Ed Quoththeraven


We haven’t been pretty in a long time…
Interesting point on Rooney being rubbish at hold up play by Kanishka Davda in this morning’s mailbox this morning. Have to agree with him there, although I would further the argument and say that not only his hold up play, but his general play has been increasingly bobbins over the last few years.

Where I have disagree is his statement that Fergie’s United were fast, aggressive, counter-attacking side that played with traditional wingers. This was true in the 90s when United earned that label with players like Kanchelskis, Beckham and a youthful, curly-mopped Ryan Giggs, with good full-backs like Irwin on the overlap but Fergie changed our set-up in the mid-2000s to adapt to the changing way football was being played.

Fergie’s United for the last five or six seasons he was in charge were more efficient than exciting, our dominance was borne from the Vidic, Ferdinand axis with Van der Sar behind and relying on magic from Ronaldo and an excellent-at-the-time Rooney. We ground our way to titles and I recall many complaints from rival fans about our boring style. In fact, I remember Fergie’s United being utterly dominated at home to Wigan in the final few years of Fergie’s tenure, only to emerge with a 2-0 win.

I’m sure many rival fans will remember games against Fergie’s United where their team dominated us only to be mugged off by a Ronaldo missile in the 84th minute. This was his real gift – getting the result, seemingly sometimes through sheer force of will and no, it often really wasn’t pretty.

I appreciate that United are still not pretty to watch but it is important to note that we haven’t been for a very long time. Only before, we used to win.
Smyth, MUFC


Not just United fans that miss Fergie…
It might seem a bit weird that like Kanishka I also miss Fergie’s United. It’s not the attacking football I miss, definitely not the personality or even the trophies (I’m an Arsenal fan), but I miss one of the greatest clubs playing with conviction in every minute of every game. Whilst Van Gaal’s will no doubt limp to third, Fergie’s United was a sporting machine built to intimidate and that’s what it did better than anything else. Every game against Fergie felt like battle, like going into war, now it feels more like a couple of kids poking each other with inflatable swords and yelling with pain every time someone scored.

As an Arsenal fan I frequently said the classic ‘anyone but United’ every year, I hated Fergie and his double standards with a passion, and the air of invincibility he breathed onto Old Trafford pitches and referees irked me, but now he’s gone which United would I rather beat? Which United would I rather go toe to toe with over a season for a Premier League title? Van Gaal’s doesn’t come close.
George AFC


Neville and Giggs please
I remember when Giggs and Neville made their punditry debuts for the Wales v England game in (I think) 2011. I remember F365’s verdict being that Giggs offered nothing while Neville was surprisingly (he was Red Nev at the time after all) excellent. I think most expected it to be the other way around.

Watching the Salford FC documentary last night I was thinking to myself – who most resembles a Man United manager here? Giggs sitting in silence, then piping up to say there’s no point changing it half way through season despite all the problems. And Neville constantly talking sense, questioning things, demanding professionalism and improvement. I don’t know if Neville would be a great assistant to the calmer Giggs or if Neville himself would be a better manager. Neville’s tactical nous and the way he analyses the game for Sky is fantastic. Does that make him better suited to a coach or a manager?

One thing is for sure, I want that mob in charge of United.

On an unrelated note, I don’t know if this has been said before and is a massive cliche, but is English teams’ European failings down to increased English competition for signings? It’s since City came along that it’s all gone tits up.

Whereas United or Chelsea might have got Aguero, Silva, or Toure, now those going to another team in the league, leaving the two clubs with Wane and Falcao. If Kompany was at Chelsea and Toure and Aguero at United, I’m sure both teams would have done a lot better in Europe (and the league).

Now Arsenal have the cash players like Sanchez and Ozil are going to a fourth team. This makes the league stronger but the teams ultimately weaker because there’s not enough great players to go around. Instead of two great teams we now have four good teams. In Spain it’s Real or Barca, in England the top players have double the choices so it’s harder for a team to assemble a greater squad.
Silvio (Rooney’s testimonial had better be his farewell match) Dante


Oh do shush yourself Scholes
‎I think LVG is justified in responding to Scholes’ jibes. Paul Scholes is a club legend and us United fans will forever adore him. He was a great footballer and he gave us many memorable moments. But since he took up work in the media, some of his comments are starting to grate.

Surely United under LVG plays so poorly that if the present United were to team up against Ferguson’s United (consisting of Rio, Vidic, Scholes, Ronaldo, Park, Edwin VDS and the likes) it would be a massacre for LVG’s United.

Scholes keeps on hitting out at LVG’S tactics in the press. We get it. You do not rate LVG since he isn’t the Chosen One and his brand of football makes the eye bleed. IMO, if he has a problem with the team’s style of play, he should in all seriousness contact the board that authorized LVG’S appointment.
Smith (Mediawatch, love the reference to the hip-hop Salt-N-Pepa number ‘Let’s Talk About Sex’ from the 90’s)


Does Van Gaal think it’s 2010?
Firstly, I know this topic has been done to death but I wanted to offer a few thoughts on the situation regarding Rooney and Man Utd.

LVG has talked at length about how he doesn’t need the striker in his system to touch the ball that often. This seems to run entirely counter to the way Wayne Rooney likes to play. Since he first burst onto the scene he has always liked to pick the ball up deep and in his younger days drive at the defence. As he got older he likes to spread the play. The issue with this is that if he is playing as the furthest forward player and drops deep then when the wide player receives the pass there is now nobody running in behind to pass or cross to.

When Rooney was deployed alongside Van Nistelrooy, Saha or Van Persie they were always ahead of the play. They also dragged defenders back creating the space for Rooney to operate in.

It just seems as if LVG is remembering the Rooney from that 2010 season where had Rooney been fit we’d probably have beaten Van Gaal’s Bayern team. That season was the one-off year when Rooney looked a capable lone forward. There is a reason Fergie bought Van Persie.
Mark Bitchnell


Is Rooney the ultimate ‘f*** you’ from LVG?
Most mails I’ve read with regards to Rooney’s continued selection seem to allude to a) the frankly ridiculous contract clause where he must be selected or b) that Van Gaal’s balls have shriveled to raisin-like proportions and is afraid to drop him. I’d like to offer an alternative.

Could this be ‘Peak’ Van Gaal? His pigheaded arrogance knocked into full overdrive by the unprecedented attention he now receives. Could this be a giant “f*ck You” to all the media and fans who have been telling him which players to select and which to bench? I can just imagine him sitting in a dark room sipping a strawberry Looza watching game tape of Rooney, chuckling away to himself as attack after attack breakdown “ha ha ha philosophy ha ha ha”. Even if it cost him his job he probably wouldn’t be fazed. He’d spend his retirement laughing at us, in full belief of his own brilliance.

Maybe if we all stopped talking about it, Martial might get some games as a striker.
Dave (strawberry Looza is amazing!) MUFC


Deciding to like Klopp
Like many Liverpool fans, I’ve been trying to decide whether Klopp has been doing a good job or not so far. At this early stage I know it’s a bit redundant to be doing so, but that doesn’t stop the Liver-bird shaped gears from turning in my head. It took me until the away Real Madrid match last year to fully make up my mind on Rodgers (“Borini’s Starting?” I sobbed) and I’m hoping to hurry up the process this time around.

I decided that the best way to judge him was on the squad that he’s had to work with, and how the form of the players compares to before and after he arrived. I broke the players into three groups: 1) world-class players, 2) Over 23s, 3) Young players.

In the first category, Liverpool really only have one player who could even be considered world class: Sturridge. When he was fit, Rodgers always got the best out of him. Klopp hasn’t had the chance to show what kind of performances he can coax out of The Injured One, so I suppose he can’t be judged one way or the other. (great system, who comes up with this rubbish?)

In the Over 23s category, Rodgers really had no one playing well this season. He shunned Sakho until Lovren got injured and only played Lucas out of necessity too. No other senior players were really in any good form. Klopp, on the other hand, has started Sakho and Lucas in every important game so far (Rodgers would have had Allen and Lovren back in by now), and has Sakho looking like one of the best centre-backs in the league. On top of that, Mignolet has been flawless since his arrival, and Firmino and Lallana have shown a slight upturn in form as well. 1-0 to Klopp.

For the young players, it’s really a case of two players: Coutinho and Moreno. The Spaniard looks a different player under Klopp. He’s getting forward even more than he used to, but it’s his defending that really looks to have improved. He no longer looks like he the lightweight error-prone player he was last season, but instead looks like the player who had such an excellent season with Sevilla the year before. I put this all down to Klopp’s bigger focus on defence and better man-management skills. The same can’t be said for Coutinho. Under Rodgers he could never really maintain any good form, but always looked dangerous and creative. Under Klopp he just doesn’t look the same player. He looks tired, listless and frustrated. I hope this changes soon because without Coutinho playing well, I believe it will be very hard for Klopp’s Liverpool to create enough chances to win games regularly. I would have made this section a draw but then I saw Teixeira play on Wednesday night. After Firmino and Bogdan, he was probably the best player and I couldn’t figure out why Rodgers had not given him a chance before, especially since he was always going on about giving youth a chance. 2-0 to Klopp.

So after all that (apologies for the length) I’ve decided that Klopp is doing a fine job since he arrived. He needs to get Coutinho paying well again (and the attacking players in general) but overall he’s certainly been an improvement on Rodgers. I’ve decided that I like him.
Seán, LFC, Limerick


Liverpool with the edge
I’m going to have to disagree with Degsy and his Cheeky Punt for Chelsea to win.

This match screams draw but I think if there is a team with an edge it’s Liverpool. Most of Chelsea starters played 120 minutes mid week while hefty chunk of Liverpool players will going into Saturday with a full week’s rest. With Costa unfit and Chelsea’s defence leaking goals like a Brendan Rodgers Liverpool, The men from Merseyside have more than a decent chance to snatch this.

Like I said though expect a dull 0-0 at the Bridge.
Brian (The jealously of Spurs fans over Klopp is laughable. Also Lamela is pants) LFC


The final word on Lamela
What could possibly be bizarre about claiming Xherdan ‘no goals, one assist’ Shaqiri is ‘far better’ (your phrase) than Erik ‘two goals, two assists’ Lamela? And of course I ‘forgive him for [being a bit underwhelming]”, as I didn’t completely write him off, as it is far too early to make definitive judgements and that would be a ridiculous thing to do. I do like how an objective assessment of a Spurs player I have no particular affinity towards makes me an ‘apologist’, though.

To summarise: first 18 months were difficult to watch at times (damn you Alan Smith), although glimpses of some kind of potential, and great attitude and workrate. He is still a young lad who moved to a completely different culture and environment all on his own, without even speaking the language. Let’s not forget how hard adapting must have been in a non-football sense, too; something that is almost always overlooked. Beginning of this season has shown progress, signs of getting used to the league and how he is expected to play, far less clumsiness, and growing confidence. He has integrated far more with the tight-knit squad now, and by all accounts come out of his shell a lot (the non-football side again). He is far from fully developed physically (both Ronaldo and Bale weren’t exactly the specimens they are now at his age), but is still happy to get stuck in (see the yellow cards he invariably gets every game).

So plenty of potential to continue the improvement we are now (finally) seeing. This season he’s started six, subbed on in three out of ten. He’s played a big role in our two best performances of the season, and two goals and two assists is not a bad return by any stretch. He has still not played enough PL football to be categorically judged, and it seems like a lot of our fanbase (probably a lot of clubs’, in fairness) are far, far too quick to jump to conclusions about players being the bestest ever or ‘not fit to wear the shirt’ – the excellent mail by Hugo NUFC highlights it perfectly – and it’s so detrimental to our club.

So, just try and have a bit of patience, and let’s see where it takes you. After all, a certain David Beckham-Planet of the Apes hybrid took longer than this to find his feet. And we all know how that turned out.
Alex G, THFC


Judgements on the judgements
You are bang on in your assessment of the fact that players are too quickly judged by us. Although I do have some issues with the list you provided.

Howard. Still sh*t. Aside from a few games where he looks unbeatable. How he is still in the Everton team I will never know.

Gomis. Never remembered him being labelled a flop, considering he never got a game when Bony was still there.

Edu. Played most of the season, but I’m not really sure how big a part of the side he really was.

Kranjcar. He was always good.

Modric. See above.

Luiz. Seriously? A key player? I winced every time I seen him on the team sheet. Even in holding midfield. I still send daily e-mails to PSG thanking them for the 50 million.

Hazard. Started off his first season by either scoring, assisting or winning a penalty in what I think was at least seven games in a row. Never heard anyone question his ability.

Willian. If you knew about him before you could see how good he is/was. Not a creative midfielder, but if I was in charge, he would have been first on the team sheet every single week for me (Clive).
Nick, CFC, Inverness


The new…
Whilst we’re on the topic of X is the new Y…

I don’t care if Jamie Vardy scores five brilliant screamers tomorrow, as far as I’m concerned he is still the new Amir Zaki.
Alex, Leeds


Arsenal ‘only’ have to win in Greece? Really?
In response to Jaimie ‘life and soul of a party’ Kaffash, AFC, north London, I would like to point out that winning in Athens really isn’t very easy. Last season Atletico Madrid (finalists the previous season) and Juventus (finalists that season) both lost there in the group stages. No one would seriously claim that this Arsenal side are better than those teams. Winning there will be an incredibly difficult task; although not as hard as winning at Bayern, it will certainly still be a tall order, and in all likelihood Olympiakos will only need to lose by less than two goals & less than 3-2 at home i.e. they could park the bus fairly safely. Arsenal may not technically need something in Munich, but it may realistically be a huge nail in the coffin if they don’t.
Rustin Cohle


…So Jaimie Kaffash gets his excuses in by claiming Arsenal ‘don’t have to win in Munich’ eh? Interesting. Because the suggestion is that a win in Greece will be a foregone conclusion for Arsenal – let’s just ignore they’ve lost on their last few visits there, and also ignore they couldn’t even beat Zagreb shall we! Or that Olympiakos gave them a lesson, at the Emirates. No no, let’s ignore facts.

We are Wenger FC and this will be just as easy as….Monaco!

Stewie Griffin (Wednesday were harder though)


Is there really a shortage of black coaches?
I’ve just read with interest some news on the BBC that Wayne Allison has been appointed to work with the Premier League, The Football League, The LMA and The PFA to attempt to increase the number of black and ethnic minority (BME) coaches at elite level in the UK. the article in question cites that 23 of 552 elite coaching positions are held by BME people. Clearly, that’s a painfully low ratio, and it suggests that action is needed. Or does it?

I have an issue with the definition – or perhaps the existence – of the term ‘black and ethnic minority.’ Why? Well, because it’s very easy to disaggregate this to the next level. If you separate ‘black’ and ‘other ethnic minority,’ it paints a very different picture.

I don’t have the exact breakdown of the 23 people in elite coaching positions – it’s not given in the think tank report that generated the figures. However, I looked down the list of names, and I know the majority of those people are black. There are six black managers in professional football right now. When the think tank that was undertaken in 2014, that number was two.

The point of all this? Well, at the last census in 2011, it showed that 3% of the UK’s population is black, with a further 2% of mixed race. British Asian people accounted for 7% of the population. If we have six black managers, out of a possible 92, that’s 6.5%. Which shows that black people, when held against the backdrop of the UK population, are actually currently over-represented in professional football management. As for elite coaches, 23 of 552 is roughly 4%. That said, given we’re talking about a sample of anywhere between zero and ten people, at any given time in terms of black managers, I’d suggest it’s something of a silly metric. The sample size is too small. Yet it is all too often held as a stick to beat football with if the number falls below four.

To me, the figures above suggest that black people are reasonably fairly represented in English football when held against the demographics of the UK population. With just under 4% of elite coaching postions held, there is a little work to be done, maybe, but we’re only talking about the appointment of another 4-6 people to reach the 5% that matches the UK population share. The problem, surely, lies in the absence of Asian people, at a playing level and a coaching level. Putting a ‘BME’ umbrella over this is a misnomer, and perhaps unhelpful. To match the 14% of the UK population that is BME, that would mean 77 BME coaches in elite coaching positions. If 70 of those were black, and I was an aspiring Asian coach, I’m not sure I’d be too happy.

Similarly, an often used metric is that there are only 4% of BME managers despite there being 25% of BME players. I’m sorry, but that’s also unhelpful. It implies that being a professional football should be the main pre-requisite for being a professional coach. It also fails to recognise that a large number of professional footballers are foreign, and that they leave the country after their playing career is finished.

I’m all for inclusivity and fairness. However, if a person expects fairness, I believe it’s important to report things in a fair and unbiased manner. By all means, champion the cause of ‘BME,’ but at least point out that it’s the ‘ME’ part of it where the real issue of under-representation lies.

I realise this is a wider issue. Apologies if I come across as ignorant or offensive. There’s a need to be frank and succinct to avoid this turning into a 3,000 word diatribe. I’ve tried to be fair and objective. Hopefully it can start a reasoned debate.
Andy, London
Degs: Loser
I came at this as someone who rarely bets, and in fact I don’t completely understand fractional betting and much prefer the decimal system. However, using a betting calculator I’ve been keeping tabs on Degsy this season working off a simple £2 per bet (Degsy himself will probably chuckle at this, as anything he considers ‘dead-certs’ may see him spunk £50 on it).

But we are still in hard times, so £2 per bet it is. And he’s not doing very well, it has to be said.

As far I can tell it was only in the seventh weekend of the season that he actually made a profit (£11.70 after taking into account the initial 9x£2 bets), and is currently running at a loss of -£67 for the season thus far. I’m not sure how many Mailboxers/readers of your fine site place bets based on his predictions, but anyone who has been doing will, in the main, be out of pocket.

Why am I doing this? I have no bloody clue, but at least he now knows someone is keeping an eye on him, even if there is no real reason for it.
Mike D

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