This is the graveyard week. Keep the emails coming to firstname.lastname@example.org…
The other side of the Mourinho coin
Critics of Mourinho forget the poor squad he inherited which had few leaders, no goalscorer, no pace, and no creativity. The underwhelming LVG signings still at the club when Mourinho started- Romero, Shaw, Rojo, Darmian, Blind, Herrera, Schneiderlin, Schweinsteiger, Martial, and how few of them contribute/contributed, says it all.
Mourinho signings, namely Bailly (our best defender), Matic (our best defensive midfielder) and pogba (our best player bar De Gea), 2 trophies, no nonsense progress in the CL (as opposed to getting dumped out an easy group under LVG), and currently 2nd place in the league is improvement. We are scoring more goals, conceding less, and unlike the LVG days we are decent at home and actually have shots rather than solely sterile possession. The only reason LVG got a trophy was because of kind draws against average opponents in the FA Cup.
Only City are ahead and people ignore that Guardiola has not only spent more than Mourinho since they both joined but has inherited far, far better – Aguero, Silva, De Bruyne, Sterling, Fernandinho, Kompany, Otamendi, Toure. He arguably inherited better than Mourinho has now!
Not trying to downplay what Pep has done (credit where it’s due and he is bringing the best out of the players he has) but he inherited the best squad in the league, even if they weren’t champions, and had leaders, a goal scorer, pace, creativity and a spine to work with – hence why he can focus on fullbacks. He arguably inherited better than he has since signed.
Something clearly isn’t right at OT at the moment which is made worse by City’s level and form, but can fans who attend games honestly say it’s as bad as LVG time with no shots and no excitement?
…Long time reader, infrequent contributor here. I read the morning mailbox of fellow Man United fans calling for Mourinho to finally be sacked. Normally I would rejoice at this given that I was against Jose being appointed from the beginning, dislike him intensely and even last season was constantly questioning his job security as we lurched from one insipid home draw to the next.
I don’t think Jose belongs at United, it would make Sir Matt turn in his grave knowing the sort of chap we have hired (I’m surprised Sir Bobby came around) and I don’t think he can ever change his worldview of how football should be played unlike what some fans believed when he first signed on. Add all this to his constant whining and sour faced demeanour which is now old schtick and overall he’s just a thoroughly distasteful bloke who doesn’t deserve to be in charge of a club with our traditions and history.
However, despite all this and all the excellent reasons for Jose to be sacked based on results this season too, I really think that we should now to try to hold on to him and back him once more in the transfer market. The thing is, we have spent millions since Sir Alex left trying to get new players in. The recruitment has undoubtedly been poor at times (Mkhitaryan I’m looking at you) but another problem has been managers recruiting players and then leaving. If we sack Jose then a new manager would want to spend another 300 million odd trying to bring his style of players in and where would that leave us? Back at square one probably with a misfit squad and confused about how to play.
Jose is trying to shift the deadwood and build the team as he wants it. Bailly was an excellent signing and Pogba and Matic are now our first choice midfield pairing. Jury is still out on Lukaku but we can all agree he can do with better service……probably why Jose wanted Perisic. Man City have spent circa 400 million since Pep came in and he inherited a better squad remember. They are flying this season and I think judging Jose by that yardstick is a bit harsh, he’s taken us from 6th to 2nd, let’s get a couple more players in by next year (quality winger and full back please) and in the meantime have a solid go in Europe. I even wanted LVG to be retained after he delivered us the FA Cup despite all the boring football because there really is value in consistency at a club. Also he was a bit mental and I loved it but hey.
Jose is not the hero we deserve, hell he’s not the hero we need either, but he’s here now so we might as well back him instead of blowing up another half a billion odd. Besides, we know he can beat Guardiola. How many other managers can we confidently say that about?
Of course he might just resign this summer and sod off to PSG.
Aniruddh, Cologne, MUFC
This guy’s still worried
Interesting read from Daniel, and following my mail two weeks back in praise of Pep generating more than the sum of their parts I’m afraid it’s time to stick the boot into Mou.
I was at the 2-2 draw at the King Power and you notice details that are perhaps less apparent on TV. This United team are not a United front. The confusion of their tactics at 2-1 was downright bizarre. On a massively overloaded counter attack in United’s favour Rashford teared down the left wing with numerous bodies to aim for. He turned backwards and laid a simple pass down the line. No real problem with that, Leics had 10 men and they should and could have killed the game. After two simple five-yard passes Matic receives the ball central strides forward 10 yards and looks to find Lukaku with a slide rule pass who is 2-3 yards offside. Mou was apoplectic.
This happened fully 2 or 3 times in the final 10 minutes, Matic and Herrera were playing a different game to the main attackers and was the main reason Leicester had so many opportunities to load it forward – have you ever seen a team outside the top 6 with 10 men have so many opportunities to attack?
United had no plan, no consistent approach and looked what they are, a team of superstars with no cohesion. Apart from Mata, Jones and De Gea there was little communication. Matic rarely communicated with Pogba. Lukaku barely uttered a word to anyone. Martial was sulky all game (quelle surprise). Rashford was playing in a different postcode to everyone else. Mkhitaryan looked a broken man.
Pogba was brilliant. Physical, graceful, skilful, head and shoulders above everyone else on the pitch but played like a prancing show pony who did very little damage when he finally reached the final third. In my view he’s no less talented than KDB, but his lower output is a reflection of the lack of togetherness of his team.
United’s physicality and superior skill meant they dominated the ball, but they are dependent on a moment of magic to break down a stubborn defence. Often this moment will come, they have the superstars. But sometimes it won’t, and with a shaky defence that is a critical issue.
The problem with Mourinho is when it’s good it’s great, but when it’s bad the man’s ego and approach is destructive (note the calling out of several of his players already). He’s clearly a good manager but struggles to manage the downturn. I’m not convinced he has the humility to see this season out without burning too many bridges that they can come back stronger under him next year.
Poor set pieces (at both ends)
I sent in a published mail fairly recently entitled “Tall Timber” where I said that, with all the tall players we now had available, I was sort of expecting United to score many cheap goals from set plays, in particular, and to be more authoritative in defence from the same set plays from the opposition.
Sadly, I can’t see any real improvement at either end of the pitch and I’ve simply stopped getting excited when United have a corner. I can’t really say the same at the other end of the pitch which is where the real excitement lies. United are prone to giving away stupid, avoidable goals.
I really don’t want to criticise Rashford because I believe he will play well for United for many years to come. But only on the proviso that he plays more centrally, perhaps when our great Swede retires. I believe he’s pretty wasted on either wing. But his crossing against Burnley, and generally speaking, is not good enough. Not good enough at all.
Tapping up is taking the p*ss
As a LFC supporter, i’ve made peace with the fact that Coutinho will leave, we’ll get another good player in, we always do.
One thing that does mess me up though is seeing Barcelona players talking about Coutinho like he doesn’t wear the red shirt week in and week out, surely that has to be some sort of tapping up?
Or does football rules not apply to Barcelona anymore?
Do players care about assists?
Watching the highlights of the Spurs game, after Alli scored his curler into the far corner, it looked like Son was saying “that’s my assist” or something similar – just wondering whether players monitor these stats at the club for bragging rights or whether they are playing fantasy football and picking themselves?
Makes you wonder if this is why Mesut is so unhappy at Arsenal after creating so many chances that are wasted and he’s slipped down the FF rankings, whilst man crush Giroud is picking Super Kane as his captain and surging up their mini league.
Anyone got any insight into whether players track these stats as important as goals scored?
Agreeing with issues on time-wasting
I agreed with Ryan’s email re: time wasting. As a Watford fan, I went to Turf Moor a few weeks ago, we had a man sent off and conceded before half time. Burnley proceeded to time waste for the rest of the match, not even picking up a booking for it. Some statto on twitter had the ball-in-play times for each PL match that weekend and lo and behold this game was bottom, for a team playing at home against 10 men for the majority of the game. Fair play to Burnley, we’ve done the same plenty ourselves.
The issue here is obviously creating an uneven playing field for teams across matches and fans being ‘robbed’ of the product they’ve paid for. Maybe we need to start measuring some stats as Per Minute of Ball In Play rather than Per 90 as 90 minutes for a Man City striker is clearly very different to 90 minutes for a Dyche/Pulis/Allardyce team.
A big problem here is that the yellow card punishment for time-wasting just isn’t anywhere near enough of a deterrent, often coming with a free warning first and can be spread around the team. Also the small benefit of punishment to an opposition player is almost never felt by the team that is losing out.
To combat this I think the accumulation of warnings and cards for time-wasting should be shared across the team. Goalkeeper time wastes, rather than just being given a telling off by the ref, the whole team are warned that the next player to waste time is booked, after that the next is sent off.
This should hopefully cut time wasting down to twice per team in a match, and if it goes over that the opposition gets the benefit of playing against 10 men, rather than someone possibly being suspended further down the line if they’ve accumulated some number of cards by an arbitrary date.
So Sean Dyche thinks in basketball Phil Jones would have been done for charging when he won the free kick that led to the equaliser?!
I can’t wait for a Burnley player to pick up the ball a couple of yards from the opposition goal, take a couple of steps and with a mighty leap slam that ball into the net!