Oooo, pyramids. Send your mails to firstname.lastname@example.org
The United way
Hear hear Kevin in Nottingham.
The myth of the so called “United Way” was finally and incontrovertibly put to bed for me (Clive) on an unsurprisingly depressing visit to Old Trafford for an FA Cup quarter final in 2011. This was during a period were Arsenal were taking regular pastings from Utd and if I’m not mistaken we hadn’t won there since 2006.
With Arsenal having recently lost the Carling Cup final to Birmingham and been knocked out of the Champions League by Barcelona (the somewhat contentious RvP sending off game), we were at a low ebb and surely this was a time for United’s swashbuckling wingers to take the game to us with their famous attacking football?
The Utd lineup that day: (Van der Sar, Evra, Brown, Smalling, Vidic, Fabio, Rafael, O’shea, Gibson, Rooney and Hernandez)
7 (seven) defenders and a sitting midfielder.
United have always been pragmatists, not romantics. The difference between now and then? They were actually winning things back then.
The United Way is composed of many different facets, some of it is true, some of it is self-mythology (either for nostalgic or marketing reasons);
The true stuff (from my perspective as a United fan of 30 years)
The widest and longest pitch in the UK (apart from Man City for a while in the 80’s and possibly Arsenal now? I can’t be arsed to check.), deliberately so that it can be exploited with pacey wingers.
2002, away to Aston Villa, FA Cup, come back from two nil down to win 3-2, a minute or so remaining, Silvestre (playing left back) is attacking down the left wing, not running the ball into the corner and timewasting (there are very few instances of negative timewasting from United players down the years if you pay close enough attention). John Motson’s commentary was something along the lines of “3-2 up in the last minute of a cup tie and their left back is deep in the opponent’s half, the only other team I’ve seen play like this is Brazil”.
2007 title run in, away to Fulham (who were decent at the time), drawing 1-1, last few minutes, Fulham had the ball in United’s half, United had 4 attackers on the halfway line ready for a counter attack (not pressing the ball much). Less than a minute later Ronaldo scores.
2008 Champions League final, extra time, 1-1, Chelsea dominating, a few minutes to go. Fergie brings on Nani to play right wing and attack. Avram Grant brings on Anelka to play left back.
And so on and so on
All this was gradually replaced with pragmatism due to Champions League naivete, offside rule changes, billionaire owners of other clubs, etc etc but you get the point, ‘The United Way’ is a particular attitude to the way the game is played, an ethos, it gets exaggerated and misinterpreted but it’s definitely not just ‘never say die’. I guess a mix of silk and steel, hard but fair, although the game is becoming increasingly cynical and even as a long term United fan I’ll admit its been a while (4 or 5 years?) since we’ve played ‘The United Way’ for more than a few games in a row.
Eddie, ‘Hand In Glove’* MUFC
*The sun shines out of our behinds etc etc
Who is your team’s Joe Allen?
I thought Storey was fair enough in his assessment of Joe Allen, in particular the criticism of Brodge’s drivel about the “Welsh Xavi”.
It got me thinking, who are other teams’ “ordinary” players — i.e., not the stars, not the flops, just the guys bang in the middle, not lighting up the stage but not embarrassing themselves when they come on either.
I’m a Spurs fan, and I instantly think “Ryan Mason”. He’s really not very good, all told, and he’s at the age where he won’t get much better. But when he plays, he exerts maximum effort, understands the tempo and system, and does useful things — he scored the winner against Sunderland for example, earlier this season. He’s not a top four player, but I find it reassuring that he is there, in the squad, ready to come in when needed.
Perhaps the other choice is whichever of our left backs is playing — Danny Rose or Ben Davies. Both have improved immensely under Mauricio Pochettino, a renowned fullback whisperer, but are they all that good? Not really. They are solid enough for where Spurs are at now, but I wouldn’t want either trotting out the Champions League.
Interested to hear about other teams “Mr Ordinary”.
Charlie, THFC, Somerset
Who would have thought that the topic of the week would be Joe Allen?
Following this morning’s mailbox (and the endless debate on social media since about 8:37 on Tuesday evening), I have no desire to get into whether he meant the pass to Ibe or not (he clearly did), but I would like to talk about what it is that Joe Allen actually does.
To my eyes, Allen’s greatest strength is that he’s able to receive the ball, turn on it, and pass it to a teammate. He’s doesn’t have Fabregas-esque incisiveness, he’s not strong like Yaya, and lack’s Mascherano’s speed and tackling ability. And so people frequently wonder “so what?”. He takes the ball, turns, and passes. Can’t they all?
And this is the reason why Allen is such a divisive figure. The things he does well simply aren’t valued as highly as more obvious traits. The difference between him and others who can receive/turn/pass is that he does it *quickly*. He knows where he wants to give the ball before he has it, he can receive and turn under pressure, and the lay-off is quick, accurate and to a player who’s better positioned to continue the attack.
This, to me, is a quality that Liverpool badly need at present. There’s practically a template recently for beating Liverpool: sit at the edge of the box, with a back 4 shielded by 2 deep midfielders, wait for Liverpool players to stall their own attack by taking too many touches (for a LFC fan this is *infuriating*), and then hit on the break. Allen’s quick recycling of possession makes the attacks quicker, thus leaving the opposition less time to get organised, thus leaving more space for the attacking players to work in.
A team full of Allens would never work, but there’s certainly room for one of him.
Dave Lillis, Dublin (Aquilani was good at the same thing, and wasn’t appreciated either).
Kevin. We need to talk about him.
“Is De Bruyne any good?” asks Lewis, Busby Way this morning.
“Yes he is.” is the almost unanimous response from everyone who read that question.
Now, I’m not gonna pretend to have watched every minute of every City game this season as it would just make me a bold-faced liar but I’ve seen enough of De Bruyne to know that he’s quality. The lad has licence to float around the pitch in attacking positions and always looks a threat. If you then add that to his ability to get beyond the striker and finish then you have an idea of what he can do.
In the match against us (in which he did sweet FA apparently) he worried me as he seemed to figure out that the he would get joy down the left side of our defence and so switched there, putting a number of great balls in. That right there is game intelligence meeting ability. That game was an anomaly as no-one else really seemed up for it and we scored 3 in half an hour. To criticise him for that game would be a little churlish.
Now, if we were to take what you say as gospel and he hasn’t showed up in big games (debatable) then essentially that means he’s a flat-track bully. And there’s nothing wrong with flat-track bullies. Flat-track bullies win you leagues. Fact is, De Bruyne’s great. And he’s 24 so should only get better, which is genuinely scary. He will be the best player in the league in the next couple of years.
Kris, LFC, Manchester
Pochettino to United
Albert THFC (If Mahrez is up for grabs though…) I understand your frustration but your mail contains an enormous degree of hypocrisy. You complain that Utd (fans) think they can just take Pochettino away from Spurs, yet didn’t he leave Southampton for a job at a bigger club (Spurs). What makes you think he wouldn’t do so again if the opportunity arose?
Despite what you think, Utd are still a far bigger club than Spurs. They have a bigger stadium, larger fan base and more money. The reasons you list for him staying at Spurs are hardly irreplicable. Utd already have a big stadium and they have the cash & pulling power to attract whatever players he wants. Granted Woodward is not as good an operator as Levy but he has still managed to sign some good players. I can also imagine Pochettino having slightly more realistic targets than van Gaal.
The Premier League has changed, of that I have no doubt. United are no longer the force they once were, but just because Spurs have had a decent few months doesn’t indicate some sort of seismic shift in power. If Utd, City, Chelsea or Arsenal came calling the likelihood is Pochettino would jump at the chance. The same way if Real, Barca or Bayern came for the manager of any of those clubs, they would go aswell. Managers are ambitious professionals who want to get to the top of their profession….Spurs are not the top of the profession.
Dan, Ireland MUFC (Not much chance anyone will come looking for LvG)
May get a few of these….
Why would Pochettino leave Spurs for United?
Because they are a much much much bigger club, and occasionally fed United with their best players in recent history.
Based on your criteria of the vibrant team he currently has, ask yourself – Why did Pochettino leave Southampton for Spurs (Also in recent times)?
Thom, (Not a Utd fan) Newport.
Albert (THFC) asks why Pocchetino would leave for Man United. The answer to that question might be found in the fact that Louis Van Gaal earns £8million a year at United, whereas Pocchetino earns £2million a year at Spurs.
It’s worth noting that Spurs are Pocchetino’s third club in a six-year managerial career.
Dara O’Reilly, London
A transfer question
Given the idle mailbox speculation on transfers, especially United buying a bunch of players from Premier League clubs, I have a question for the mailbox.
How many players have come to England with a mid/low end premier league side and ended up being a success at one of the top 5/6 sides? Or, indeed any of the top European sides.
I’d say there’s a lot more David Bellion than Sulley Muntari.
Storey mails in
Graham, LFC – you say that “Lukaku will struggle at a ‘top club’ just like all big men before him.” Did I imagine the careers of Drogba and Ibrahimovic, where ‘top clubs’ built their style of play around what the big men had to offer? Of course, at the moment, Lukaku hasn’t got the range of ability that those two had at their peaks, but Lukaku has time to learn. Both of them were at their best at the age of 29 or so, when they’d added a lot of technical ability and tactical experience to their physical superiority. Didier Drogba didn’t play top-flight football until the age of 23, for Guingamp. Lukaku has 57 Premier League goals and he’s just 22. He’s brilliant, and he’s got time to get so much better. The b*stard had to go to Everton, didn’t he.
This also gives me hope for Benteke – hopefully he can learn to fit in to our style of play, even if that means using him sparingly for a while. It’s what Brendan should’ve done with Carroll, who I still think has a lot of potential and is, arguably, better. If only he wasn’t made of extra-thin tempered glass.
Balex, LFC/DRFC (Can my two teams beat Stoke twice in a row?)
The times, they are a changin’
As the transfer silly season begins, some of the signings being mooted and some of the signings that have already been completed both this window and during the summer have gotten me thinking. The struggle between Bouremouth and Watford (Bournmouth and Watford?!) for Iturbe, Shaqiri to the Britannia via the Allianz and the San Siro and now other potential transfers such as El Shaarawy to Bournemouth and Lacazette to Newcastle are, to me, inidicators of an enormous change happening in the Premier League. I know the latter rumour has been summarily shot down but the fact that it could even be considered remotely feasible is outrageous, Ligue Un’s runaway leading goalscorer last year and still only 24, to a team in the relegation zone?! To a team coached by Steve McClaren?!
It is no secret that the Premier League is being injected with massive amounts of cash, and I think this will bring about a complete overhaul of the status quo. Obviously not overnight but over the course of a decade or so I could see the Premier League becoming similar to the NFL where there are perennial powerhouses such as the Patriots (see City, United, Arsenal) but teams can also come relatively out of nowhere to have strong seasons, like the Carolina Panthers this year (like Leicester this year but more sustainable).
I feel the consequences of this will be that players will move to any old team in England as long as they’re in the top tier because the money is well above what they could make at the top clubs across Europe, backing themselves to impress and make a jump to the elite clubs which occupy the Champions League places. Obviously 16 teams can’t be a feeder to 4 so a lot will end up leaving to return to the continent with their tail between their legs, or spend their careers in what will be a very good mid-table Premier League side, but still a mid-table Premier League side. While I feel this would be very exciting as this season has proved with it’s unpredictability, it would be a massive detriment to the Champions League. If the team in 18th in England can think they have a chance of signing the 2nd best team in France’s best player, eventually similar signings will come to pass and this will have a massive drain on teams across Europe, making the Champions League a boring affair until the quarter finals where the 4 best teams in England will compete against Real, Barca, Munich and the mighty Gent (beware the rise of Gent). While slightly hyperbolic, I do feel the Premier League is set for a new dawn and to be honest, I can’t f*ckin’ wait!
Yours in outrageous predictions,
Scuba Steve, (I already used loads of brackets, what do you want from me?!), Belfast
Parma are indeed now in Serie D. As it is all regional leagues at that level they are in Girone D along with such sides as Forli, San Marino and Imolese.
They are currently top of the league and unbeaten half way through the season and look extremely likely to go up automatically, avoiding the 36 team playoffs.
They have followed the Rangers model for success in the lower leagues in appointing a club legend as manager, keeping a handful of top level players (including captain and CB Alessandro Lucarelli) and signing players predominantly from the league above the league they are currently playing in. The side is built on a defence which is too good for the vast majority of teams they play against (conceding less than a goal every other game).
Following promotion they will undoubtedly release half of this seasons new signings and replace them with players from Serie B, who would ordinarily never have the chance to play for such a big club.
Colin (the Pozzo Family have increased my interest in all things Italian) Watford FC
In response to Michael, Cork, during my research of Serie D I did stumble across Parma. You’ll be delighted to hear that they are sitting pretty top of Serie D Group D, on 50 points, 7 points ahead of second place Alto Vicentino. They are yet to lose a game and won 3-0 last night, so you’ll probably be hearing about them again sooner rather than later.
If however you can’t wait until they reach the higher tiers, you can keep up to date with it all here: http://int.soccerway.com/national/italy/serie-d/20152016/group-d/r33102/ , where you will also be able to view details of the incredible 36 team playoff, should you choose. (I’m guessing F365’s coverage of it will be equally good though).
Mike (AVFC), London
I found the email on Italy’s football pyramid a few years back interesting and thought you might be interested in what’s going on this year in the women’s game in France.
There are 6 divisions in women’s football:
– D1 is the first national division with a single division of 12 teams,
– D2 is the second national division with 3 groups of 12 teams each,
– DH is the first regional division with 20+ groups of 10-12 teams in each
– then you have DHR, PH and PL which are also regional divisions containing loads of groups of 10-12 teams.
Next year, D2 will have only 2 groups of 12 teams. This means that this season 6 teams of each group will go down (that’s half of each group!) and only 6 teams out of 200+ teams that play in DH will gain promotion to the national game, by going through a round of play-off games: 6 groups of 4, the winner of each group goes up (or the second if the team that finishes 1st doesn’t meet certain financial and sporting criterias such as number of youth teams, etc).
Initially, the reduction of the D2 was meant to reinstate the D3 (a third national division that was cancelled a few years back to much dismay within the game). The women’s game has grown a lot in recent years and this latest change was meant to correct the mistake of taking out D3. It was supposed to allow the best of DH to step up and meet their counterparts on a national level. It turns out that’s not going to happen after all and the 18 teams that go down from D2 will just go back to playing locally instead. Another win for administration by people who don’t know the game.
Other quirks of the women’s game are the following:
– the inequalities in level between regions is very high: the Paris region for example is exceptionally strong (3/12 teams in D1, 4/36 in D2) and if you’re unlucky enough to face the winner of the Paris DH division in the play-offs to go up, you’ve got virtually no chance. Because the play-off groups are decided based on the proximity of the regions, this means the teams that play in the North and the West are likely to face the Paris region team and are therefore less likely to go up than their counterpart in say the South West region despite being of a similar standard;
– two teams from the same club cannot both play at national level: this means that in theory, this year you could be 4th in the Paris DH division and still go to the play-offs if the 3 D1 and D2 reserve teams in that division finish in the first 3 places;
– two teams from the same club cannot both play in the same division: this means that if the 1st team drops from D2 to DH or from DH to DHR for example, the reserve team will automatically drop to DHR and PH respectively, even if the reserve team finished 1st in their group.
The rules that create those quirks seem fair and can’t really be improved on I think but still, it highlights how competitive and disappointing a season in amateur football can be: how disappointing it must be to play all season for a reserve team and finish 1st in your group only to go down because the 1st team couldn’t meet their objectives!
Anyway, that’s it from me. I wish you all a great week end!
Gone too soon
Following Jermaine Jenas’ retirement from football, I too would like to announce my retirement from football
For the 427th time…
I might be missing something but why in mediawatch, or anywhere else on F365, if you want to exaggerate a number you use the number 427?
It happens on an almost daily basis. You’re boring me.