Man United Mailbox: Pogba, Rooney and…

Date published: Monday 19th September 2016 9:57

WARNING: This is a Manchester United-only Mailbox. Monday morning’s ‘other’ Mailbox can be found here. Enjoy. And send your thoughts to


What would it take for him to get the sack?
Serious question that I’ve been pondering for a while, rather than an impulse reaction to the past 3 games:

What would it take for Jose Mourinho to get the sack from Man Utd? Clearly losing 3 games in week will not and should not be justification for firing him – it would be madness. I’ll be open from the start and say I can’t stand the bloke and I’ll be thrilled when he inevitably self-destructs and gets the sack, but even I have to say that sacking him now would be mental.

But suppose the team carry on this way, like Chelsea did in his third season? How long will the board stick it out, considering the various factors at play and the club’s recent history?

Considering the way the board dealt with LvG and Moyes, I’d imagine it won’t be this season, even if United finish 10th. In fact, I think it would take some utterly horrendous results next year to get them to do anything because the stakes are simply too high now – they’ve invested huge money at Mourinho’s request; now they have to back him, but likewise he has to produce.

For what it’s worth, I think United will pick up eventually. But there’s no way they’ll win the league.

Anyone else got any thoughts?
Alex, Leeds


His aura is gone
Is the fundamental problem that Jose now faces that last season destroyed the aura he once had? Prior to Chelsea’s clusterfudge he was always seemingly deified by his players. Having now been outed as not a demigod after all and even more that his moody demeanour may not be ‘mind-games’ but rather he’s just a dick, has he lost the ability to motivate his players to the level he once did. He may well turn United around yet but the certainty of him doing it no longer feels like the certainty it would have done two years ago. That crucial loss of aura may prove to be fatal.
Jon M


It’s no different from Van Gaal
I’m not sure where to start with the latest United disappointment, so poor are we at the moment. I am getting pretty sick of watching this incredibly expensively assembled collection of players look like a Sunday League team though.

I would normally start by saying well done to the opposition for masterminding and executing a quality and effective game plan, but you know what? They don’t deserve that praise; not because it isn’t true or because they were rubbish, but because it’s hardly bloody rocket science coming up with a United-defeating plan these days.

Instead of conclusions, I am left with several questions:

1. Why are we starting every single game with an out-and-out defensive midfielder, whose only role is to break up opposition attacks and defend set pieces? It’s so blatantly negative and such an underdog tactic; it’s one of the main reasons we are struggling to kill off opposition or take the lead in matches, in my opinion. It’s clearly not a two-man midfield either, because both Rooney and Pogba are playing closer to the centre circle than the opposition box.

2. Why is Wayne Rooney even making the bench? He is so staggeringly woeful in almost everything he does, and I refuse to acknowledge any opinion suggesting otherwise. He’s slow, he has no footballing intelligence, he can’t take free-kicks or corners, his basic skills are fading fast; he has no outstanding qualities whatsoever. For our goal, Marcus Rashford had only thoughts of getting to the loose ball; Rooney completely stopped playing and ignored the game still going on to appeal for a penalty – it’s like he admitted to himself that he can’t do anything for himself and needs a leg up from the officials to contribute. Pogba hasn’t been good so far, but squeezing him further back to accommodate Rooney is hardly helping and at least Pogba plays more positively. Oh, and he cost £89m, so he has to play and do so in his best position.

3. Why do we still have no plan B? Our plan A is pretty crap but when that proves to be the case we still have no alternative. Other than send Smalling up front and mindlessly hoof it long.

4. How have things changed at all since van Gaal left? Both full-backs being substituted, sterile domination with few shots on target, conceding sloppy goals, no clear game plan, players being used out of position, better options being inexplicably benched, new signings visibly regressing under our management, resorting to aimless long ball tactics in desperation, beaten by supposedly weaker teams domestically and in Europe. It’s no better at all, in style or substance.

5. Why was the tackle on Martial deemed as legal in our match, when an identical challenge from Ndong in the Sunderland match resulted in both a foul and a yellow card? It wouldn’t have made much difference to the final result because we would probably have lost anyway, but the inconsistency of referees is one of the most infuriating issues in the modern game.

At this point, I don’t even fancy our chances of beating Northampton. They will all be energised at the chance of a giant-killing, they’ll have a clear, well thought-out game plan based on their strengths and we will likely rotate the team so there will be no rhythm or cohesion. This season has been just awful and we’re one loss from being completely out of the title race already. Things have to improve fast.
Ted, Manchester


At least Louis had a plan
What a shambles.

Pogba is lost in defensive midfield. Move  Pogba up and play Schneiderlin beside Fellaini and the team would be far more solid.

As for Rooney, he adds nothing. Just puts on that sour face and gives out. It’s a mad thought but at this stage it’s like he has a clause in his contract where he has to start every match when fit.

There is a very good team in that squad which is what enrages me.

The team under Van Gaal had some form of plan. This team appears to have none. It’s infuriating.

Bleak Sunday. Not looking forward to Leicester next week.

Cormac, Galway


Issues, issues, everywhere
Well that went well. United never really played at all in that game and Watford could quite easily have scored 5 (should have had at least one other penalty and missed an open goal). There are number of problems with this United side, some existing before Jose, some of his own making. Some are obvious and some are not so.

Here’s my tuppeny worth:

Wayne Rooney – while Thursday showed us that Rooney isn’t the (only) problem, his performances are showing us that he isn’t the answer either. Can’t pass, can’t cross, can’t shoot, can barely even control a ball. Is anyone able to provide any stats on how often his corners result in a goal? Gets away with murder by the pundits because he is English and was good once. United can only afford one old, slow striker and Zlatan is the superior player in every way. Rooney should be dropped rather than trying to shoehorn him into random positions. His attitude also stinks and I long for the day I don’t have to watch his swollen, purple, potato shaped head screaming at referees.

Lack of experienced centre back – Bailly will be an excellent acquisition but he’s not yet the finished article – he is going to make mistakes. All the more reason for United to have a solid, experienced defender alongside him, someone like Vidic. Unfortunately, for some reason we are left to rely on Mike Smalling who at his best is a very good defender but is all to often capable of calamity. Blind is not a defender and is woefully short of pace. Phil Jones is broken. Not signing an experienced centre back was a mistake. This one may be on Jose, though it’s a position that has been neglected for some time.

Winger at right back – Tony Valencia was never a great winger so he ended up being a right back. He’s also not great there. Unfortunately, a combination of Darmian being not brilliant (after a great start last season) and a lack of width in midfield means he’s likely to stay there. This problem isn’t going to go away until a signing is made.

Midfield confusion – United currently have Pogba, Fellaini, Schneiderlin, Carrick, Schweini, Herrera, Mata and Mkhitaryan who are capable of playing in the middle of midfield. Seemingly, Carrick and Schweini aren’t going to play all season which leaves Fellaini, Schneiderlin and Herrera as the deep lying player. None of these guys have proven that they can do it alone so why not try two together? Schneiderlin and Fellaini would be my pick at the moment and playing the two together gives some protection to the young centre back (particularly important with the full backs bombing forward) and allows Pogba to play further up the pitch (if you drop Rooney that is).

Hangover from LVG – Look, Louis spent a long time talking about his philosophy and eventually it took hold of the team, an unfortunate event for anyone who enjoys watching football. You can see the conflict in the minds of United players that played under LVG when trying to apply Jose’s own style (which I presume is faster, counter attacking football). The goal today came from a fast ball out of midfield that took Watford by surprise and released space for Rashford and Zlatan. It was played by Pogba – I doubt it would have been played by an LVG player. It’ll take time for this to change.

Once all the above are sorted then will be the time to judge Jose’s tenure. He can also be judged if he fails to sort them.
Ash (could’ve been worse) Metcalfe


Well done Watford
Firstly, well done Watford. Could’ve been 5.

The same deficiencies appear when Smalling, Fellaini and Rooney are in the team. Slow build up from defence, no pressing, poor positioning out of possession, repeatedly giving the ball away.

That linesman that flagged for a foul by Roney in the last minute is a brave man. Rooney noticeably putting pressure on him after the decision and after the final whistle. Maybe he just didn’t want to go into the dressing room and get told how sh*t he was.

Mourinho had pretty much all his players available (Mkhitaryan hasn’t really had a chance yet, Phil Jones is now mostly made of scar tissue) and we were sh*te. Sh*t at home, sh*t away from home, sh*t in Europe. It’s like Moyes never left.
Eddie, ‘Burnin’ Down the House’ MUFC


The defence is the problem
So the conundrum continues. No, not who gets to sit in position 10 coordinating attacks – we are creating enough chances per game – but what in gods green earth is going on in defence.

As ever, I think it’s pretty straightforward. First, the centre isn’t right. Blind has looked a revelation in the early games where he’s not needed to defend too much, but as soon as pressed for defensive awareness he’s lost. Smalling is a catastrophe. Not really good enough in the air, clumsy on the ground but mostly a bit wayward positionally and prone to ball watching. Second goal an example, not even between ball and goal nor marking a man.

Second, right back. Yes, Valencia has improved hugely to a level I never thought possible from him. But he’s still rubbish at tackling and positionally it just doesn’t come naturally. Centre backs need to be sure they can control and limit the balls coming in from the flanks. Our right side is too easy. It also means others (like Fellaini or Bailly) are pulled out of position to cover the space leading to gaps and no control.

Finally, defensive midfield. Fellaini has been a revelation this year now he’s back in his natural role (shock, who knew) but he’s like the hulk, his strength and willingness to dive in can be used against him. Today he was breaking the line and diving in, only for two passes to get the ball passed him and into the space he left. He also had people falling around and over him in and around the box. But that’s because he’s in places he shouldn’t need to be.

People fuss about Rooney and Pogba but we create plenty of chances. Going forwards hasn’t really been a problem. But if you’re shipping two or three then you’re always on the back foot.

I’m praying the Varane rumours are true and Borthwick Jackson comes back. Buying Rodriguez would be like drinking expensive Champagne from plastic travel cups in a 2CV in the snow.
Guy S


Pogba is doing a Bale
Whilst Pogba has admittedly not been up to the standard expected of the world’s most expensive player, let us not forget that a certain Welshman didn’t exactly light up the Bernabeu in his first season following his world record transfer. No matter how good a player is, it takes time settle in a new team*. Granted Pogba knows the language and the club, but with a new manager and as yet no real playing style, let’s not get on his back just yet…
Tom (*apart from Ronaldo but he’s not human), Cambridge


Or is he?
Should we put to bed the argument that letting pogba go was Sir Alex’s biggest mistake?

(based on the performances since pogback, the answer would be no)
Clement, Malaysia


Drop Pogba
Tough to stay calm but I keep reminding myself that this is going to take time.

Our biggest issue today was Jogba. He does this jog that makes you think he can get there if he wants to but he hardly does. Does he? Infuriating.

It’s not very difficult to fix this United side. Play a goddamn 4_2_3_1.

Schneiderlin, Herrera will protect you against most teams. Play Young, Mikhi and Rashford behind Zlatan. You can always bring in Mata or Fellaini or Martial into the first team in the 3 behind Big Z. Three of that six will find form.

What we dont need is Yell-Jogba running around a lot and dragging our team out of position.

Back to basics, Jose. Let’s grind out some victories, rebuild confidence and then hopefully figure out a better balance.

Rooney needs to come in the 80th minute of games we need to control because we need to protect our lead. No risks and he will do his deeds defensively.
Sudarsan ( Everytime you blame the player responsible for the goal, look for pogbas position.)


Get Herrera and Mata on
If this email gets published, I hope people don’t assume that its another entitled United fan shouting because we have had the misfortune of getting beat and its not fair, but hopefully this is a reasoned response to the past 3 matches and the frustration that its exactly the same as we have been watching for the past 3 years under Moyes and Van Gaal.

Mourinho will get the time he requires to mould the team and get them playing in his own style but the 2 large elephants in the room are still there and are in fact sat proudly in the middle of the room with no hint of them moving out any time soon.

I think most people are in agreement about Fellaini and are wondering how and why he keeps others out of the starting 11. Rooney is another debate and apart from 1 or 2 advocates on F365 the majority of United fans and everybody else knows that he is well below his peak years and becoming a hindrance to the progression of the team. He was as awful as everybody else yesterday with Savage and Hoddle stating as such, but then in the very next sentence asking, “how do United set up the team to get the best out of Rooney?” had me raging against the TV and being instructed to “calm down and behave” by the good lady.

It has been very noticeable in the past few years during our struggles that there is a real lack of football intelligence in this United team. A lack of anybody able to offer a different dimension and a different thought process when faced with challenges posed by oppositions who are both better than us (City last week) and supposedly not better than us (midjtland, Watford, etc. etc. etc).

I really would like to see Mourinho take this team in a new direction and get Herrera and Mata on the pitch and establishing themselves as the main men in the team. Build around them and lets see some intelligent football and possession, players capable of……………b*llocks, who am I kidding? Rooney and Felliani to start against Leicester, rinse and repeat.
Plato – MUFC


Get Blind or Carrick on
Suddenly Paul Scholes is starting to make a lot of sense. He says Man Utd lack “quality on the ball” and he couldn’t be more accurate. There is no one in the team that has composure on the ball. It is surprising that Mourinho has failed to identify this as a weakness and hasn’t come up with a counter strategy. The most composed players in the squad are Carrick and possibly Blind but they both don’t get into the side (referring to the midfield here!). Both are still way way off quality when compared to Modric or Alonso or Pirlo but they are the best we got. I would personally opt for Blind because he has a better engine than Carrick, better defensive nous and is slightly more physical. Both lack pace but defensive midfield is the one place where that is not too much of an issue if your positional sense is good.

I think playing with a defensive midfielder (who is a good passer) and switching to a 4-3-3 would instantly turn around this side. It would give Utd the required numbers in midfield. Pogba, Blind and Fellaini offer significant physical presence. It would relieve Pogba of some defensive responsibility and allow him to express himself slightly further up the pitch. The long ball still remains an option with Fellaini and Ibra. Rashford just has to play and its a toss up between Martial, Rooney and Mkhitaryan for the right sided attacker. I think Rooney is well and truly past it as a top quality player but apparently he cannot be dropped. So, if he has to play then it better shunting him on the right side from where he can atleast put in decent crosses for Ibra to attack. Personally I’d like to see Martial and Rashford on either side of Ibra. They both offers pace and skill and goals. With more control in the midfield hopefully they will not have to take on full back every single time and can pick and choose their moments.

My real worry is listening to Mourinho’s post match comments where he feels that Utd have been unlucky and 2 of the 3 things responsible for the defeat at Watford are out of his control. I really hope he is not living in denial. Yes we were unlucky with the first goal and it was a blatant foul but it wasn’t as if we were tearing apart Watford before the goal or after it. Watford had the better chances.

I can only pray that common sense prevails and we don’t end up wasting this season like the previous three.



Get Schneiderlin on
Well, that was quite shambolic really.

A few thoughts on Uniteds abject performance against Watford;

1) We can’t be surprised when our attack is poor and we have the vision and decisiveness of a shortsighted badger. Effectively we are starting every game with 10men, the 11th of course being an ageing, tired and utterly poor Wayne Rooney. He’s truly become a liability these days and the commentators themselves mastered the art of understatement with these pearlers describing his form: “he’s worked hard today, Rooney, but not overly successfully. He’s not had much of an impact.” And of course “way overhit by Rooney, that’s not the first time he’s overhit from wide today”. Quite. The time has come where Rooney really needs to be dropped even if it’s just to kickstart some fire in his belly and get him playing again. I think the image that incapsulates the performance of Rooney today has to be be Rashford goal. Both players were in a similar position when the ball rebounded off of a Watford shoulder. Immediately you see Rooney standing still and appealing for a penalty that will never be given. Rashford on the other hand reacted and scored. Telling.

2) whilst Rooney’s form is entirely predictable and needs to be addressed, another concern is the lack of impact from our £89m man, Paul Pogba. That thunderous strike of the bar aside, his performance today was lacking in quality. He has so far showed glimpses of his potential, however, I feel that the problem he has is one of attitude whereby he has arrived in Manchester with that price tag and expectation and is not delivering. With each game of no assists or scoring he’s throwing his toys out of the cot and getting worse. I get the feeling that it’s simply a matter of time and with the first assist/goal he will settle down nicely and prove his price tag however with 3 losses in a row it needs to come sooner rather than later.

3) the season started with a lot of promise however, I’m worried now that with these last 3 games the team and fans attitudes will begin to dip and that is when a toxic environment has the potential to derail the feel good factor we’ve had at the start of the season. Mourinho showed a worrying inability to address Chelseas early slump last season, I just hope that he has more success this time and the fans get behind him and the team to allow it. I’m one of those fans that was firmly on the side of not having mourinho but now that he’s there we need to give him the support he deserves and the team needs.

4) I would like to see Schneiderlin play more. I think he adds the steel to the midfield that we need and despite Fellaini’s recent resurgence I don’t think that he fits the mould of a Man Utd starter. He can certainly do a job as a squad player but he’s not of the quality to be starting every game in my opinion.

5) I hate it when people complain about the Referees and I’m and ecstatic that the confronting of refs results in bookings this season and is being enforced as it was again in this game for both teams. Having said that though, Michael Olivers lack of a call for the foul on Martial leading to Watfords opener was criminal and needs to be brought up in some sort of performance appraisal. Regardless of the fact that Martials leg was played through to win the ball, he quite clearly was seriously hurt in the challenge and landed on his head moments after a concussion incident. Play should’ve been stopped immediately based on the severity of a potential injury whether or not Oliver felt it was a foul (it was). It will add further insult to injury if it turns out he is seriously hurt and will miss games as a result. It feels that with Clattenburg missing the blatant penalty and Red card for Bravo last week and Olivers shocker this week that changed the complexion of the game that United are not getting the rub of the green at all. I only hope that we’re getting our howlers out early and the officiating decisions fall our way a bit more later in the season.
Rordog (something witty in parentheses), London


All the Rooney stuff
No doubt history will look kindly on Wayne Rooney long after he has retired and when, one day, we rely on stats to fill our fading long term memory: Record goalscorer for his country, recently moved into second place in the all-time list of international appearances with Peter Shilton in sight. Champions League winner. Second in the all-time list of Premier League goal scorers, albeit with quite a bit of work to do to catch number one.

However one can’t resist assigning an asterisk to Rooney’s career achievements to date. For all of his achievements, even for those that choose to live under a rock would know that Rooney as a footballer has been in terminal decline for quite some time now. To witness such an undoubtedly gifted footballer perform to such a low standard for a number of seasons begs the still pertinent question why has he remained indispensable to most of the Managers he has played under for club and country? Ironically the last manager that has dropped Rooney was Ferguson. Yet still to this day, despite the evidence in front of their eyes, some sections of the media (I’m looking at you Phil Neville) insist that Rooney must be an automatic starter for United. Unfortunately for United, Mourinho including his two predecessors, appears to agree with this view.

The defence for the case against dropping Wayne Rooney have said for years that Rooney is simply being played out of position. Well van Gaal and Woy Hodgson finally and unintentionally put that side of the debate to rest.

It is no secret that Mourinho has always been a fan of Rooney and I will admit that United currently have many other problems given recent results. However some of these problems may actually be solved by dropping Rooney. While Rooney does occasionally show glimpses of former glory (the Hull assist), it is no longer consistent enough to be an automatic first choice at the expense of a more balanced team.

For all of the above, it is not a wish to see Rooney banished from the team completely, he can still be an important member of the squad. But before it is too late the time has now come for Mourinho to ask himself; how do you solve a problem like Wayne Rooney? By dropping him.
JP (I’ve no idea who should replace him yet because it’s now bed time) Ryan, Dublin


While I feel that Wayne Rooney is sometimes criticised unfairly, I can’t think of a single rational argument that validates his selection any longer. Not only are his personal performances exceedingly poor, but he actively damages the team as a whole.

As has been mentioned time and time again in the mailbox, he nips all positive link-up play in the bud by either miscontrolling the ball or taking far too long to release it. Central attacking midfielders have become increasingly important over the last few years, and when you look at teams like Manchester City you can understand why. Compare Rooney to the number 10s of other clubs that have title ambitions, and it is no wonder that we have started so slowly. (I am not for one second suggesting that United will come near to the title, but we have to at least aim for it after spending so much)

Matt Stead focused a lot of negative attention on Pogba in his largely quantitative post-match analysis, which raises the old debate of fixating on individual statistics versus watching the game and trying to understand individual performances in their broader context. I suspect that Stead will come in for a fair amount of criticism, which may not have been the case if he had taken the latter approach. Firstly, I will admit that Pogba wasn’t great. But at the same time, how can you expect him to have a real influence if Rooney (who is meant to stimulate important link-up play with the deeper midfielders) is nothing more than balding symbol of how powerful British nationalism is? He neither makes incisive runs nor helps deeper players to overlap, and therefore leaves the whole team rather static. United will not challenge until he is replaced, and I think we certainly have good enough options with Mkhitaryan, Pogba, and even Juan Mata.
Nuks (RIP Mandoza, a true South African legend) Cape Town


To be clear for Guy S and the other 2 or so people (fake Guy S accounts?) who defend Rooney in the comments, the loss to Watford wasn’t all at his feet, I thought Matt covered it quite clearly in his latest article but Rooney’s goose is cooked.

For Rashford’s goal, there is Rooney and Rashford occupying pretty much the same space, Rashford cant quite get to the cross, the ball bounces off the defender and falls, Rooney instead of you know, trying to put the ball in the net, starts screaming for a hand ball with both hands in the air, contrast to Rashford who actually continues playing and sticks the ball in the net. Rooneys attitude is rotten. He gave Luke Shaw the death stare when Rooney himself bumbled the ball over the sideline in a highlight I’d title “new born giraffe on ice”.

Now I know everyone is sick of Rooney this and Rooney that so I think I have found the way we can end this forever.

What other team would actually employ Rooney as a footballer? Even if he halved his wages and was available on a free, none of Europe’s top teams would have him. None of the traditional top 6 would have him. It would be China, the US or the Middle East. Talk about living off a reputation.

On a completely unrelated note does anyone else watch games and find themselves thinking “I bet Silvio will have enjoyed that”, or “Ed QTR will be loving this”, or maybe this has the makings of a “Signs you spend too much time on Football365” edition mailbox.
John, Australia, MUFC


I read in an article that one of the problems with Mourinho’s Manchester United was an inability to find the right place for Rooney.

You don’t find a place for a player that deserves to play. What the player does defines his place. Problem is nobody knows what Rooney does. For every position he fancies himself, the team has a better player. Number 9? There’s Zlatan and Rashford. Number 10? Mata, Mkhitaryan, Pogba. Central midfield? Pogba, Schneiderlin, Carrick, Herrera. Wings? Martial. So where does he fit? And if he doesn’t fit why shoehorn him in? Why invent a position for him.

I was sure Mourinho was bold enough to drop him. But apparently last season’s brouhaha with Hazard and Co has made Jose soft.

Please drop Rooney.


To Guy S and all the Rooney fanboys. I leave you this.

That is all.
Neil Dublin (Anything is better than that crock of shite!)



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