A £355m Manchester United summer shopping list? Sure thing

Date published: Friday 22nd February 2019 9:37

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Time to go, Mesut
When Arsenal signed Mesut Ozil, I was over the moon. How had we managed to pull that one off ? I think it’s clear to those level headed ‘fans’ why he was probably out of favour at Real now

For me, it’s nothing to do with form or money (good luck to him and his agent if he can get a deal like that!).

No, it’s more about the rebellious fan club he (or more like his crew) have brought to the club.

These brainwashed people don’t support Arsenal, they support Ozil and if you speak out against him be prepared to receive abuse.

He seems a nice enough chap but he has some nasty buggers utilising his popularity.

In the most extreme cases, criticise his attitude and you criticise his religion !

This is not like the Wenger out arguments. No, this is much deeper and very scary.

He needs to go for the good of my Arsenal no matter how he plays.
Chris, Croydon (hoping to be alive by the end of the day)


Players, meet bus
Is Sarri serious? 

“I think in the first 30 minutes we understood why Jorginho was important for our team. We were in trouble to exit from our half and with Jorginho it’s easier. I hope our fans will be able to understand he is very important.”

Talk about bus-under-throwing. He puts out a team that wins 3-0 on what could have been a very awkward night for Chelsea. Then he criticizes his own team selection for struggling. Nice confidence booster for Ross Barkley. Nice nod to playing Kante out of position, again. I’m surprised he didn’t knock Olivier Giroud for being wrestled to the ground all night and still managing to score (see also Barkley).

And what else does Hudson-Odoi need to do to get a call? I feel we’re watching LVG Powerpoints and Jose misery-style football.
Steve (Serial mails today, but stop with the “admitted”), Los Angeles


Crunching the numbers
As a Liverpool fan I came away from the match the other night thinking that a 0-0 result at home in the first leg of a European knockout tie was a decent if unspectacular result. The benefit of no away goals for the opposition was probably offset by the failure to win the home leg I thought. This was echoed by the comments from both managers after the game.

However the pundits on the night seemed to think that the result meant it was now ADVANTAGE BAYERN and Liverpool had slipped up. Some stats then emerged in an article I read on the BBC saying “In Champions League history, 31 sides have drawn the first leg of a knockout match at home 0-0 but only 10 have progressed”. At first inspection this seemed pretty surprising to me so I decided to dig a little deeper because correlation doesn’t imply causation as all you wonderful mailbox readers will know.

The first thing that struck me was that in the current format the team playing at home in the first leg of a last 16 tie has finished second in their group and are playing a team that won their group. With the current format there are 14 two legged knockout ties (8R16, 4QF, 2SF) in the CL each season. 8 of these 14 ties are already skewed by this fact. Another factor is also at play here in that playing at home in the second leg is also widely considered an advantage irrespective of the result in the first leg.

Anyway back to the stats. So the BBC stat of “31 sides have drawn the first leg of a knockout match at home 0-0 but only 10 have progressed” equates to a success ratio of 32%. But how much of this was down to the factors above and how much was down to the merits of a first leg 0-0 draw at home? To find out I did some very sketchy maths and only included instances where the knockout game was held immediately after the completion of a group stage.

Since 1992-93 there have been 17 first leg ties (immediately after a group stage) which were drawn 0-0 and on 6 occasions the home side in that tie have ended up going through. A success rate for the home side in the first leg of 35%.

Over the same period regardless of the first leg result the side playing at home in the first leg has ended up progressing 34% of the time.

From this it would appear that the 0-0 draw had very little effect on the likelihood of the outcome (in fact it increased the changes of progression for the home side in the first leg very slightly). So it would appear to be a neutral result.

If you look at the CL in its current format since 2003-04 where the group stage became 8 groups of 4 feeding into the last 16 with group winners playing against group runners up and at home in the second leg there is a similar picture.

In that time there have been 10 first leg ties (immediately after a group stage) which were drawn 0-0 and on 3 occasions the home side in that tie have ended up going through. A success rate for the home side in the first leg of 30%.

Over the same period regardless of the first leg result the side playing at home in the first leg has ended up progressing 29% of the time.

Again it would appear that there is no discernible advantage or disadvantage for either team as a consequence of the 0-0 draw in the first leg.

So what do we glean from this? Well I suppose that it was ADVANTAGE BAYERN before the tie started and that they were likely to progress roughly 2 times in 3. This very much goes against the prevailing narrative that Liverpool were going to walk the tie against the “PAST IT” side that had made the CL semi-finals in 7 of the last 9 years and had won 9 of their last 10 in the Bundesliga. And that the result at Anfield did very little to change the dynamic of the tie.

You’re welcome!
Gherkin (I haven’t had much to do in work today and probably got all the numbers wrong), LFC, Belfast.


Man United’s shopping list
Disclaimer – This will never happen but how much fun would this be.

I wrote in last summer with a shopping list for United that I felt would go a long way to fixing the team. That list included Fabinho, Ghoulam, Sidibie, Dacoure, Malcom and one of Koulbaly or Alderwierald. This was post Sanchez, I would have had Mahrez instead but it was too late then. I wanted United to sell Smalling, Blind, Shaw, Darmian and release Fellaini, Ibra and Carrick.

What we got instead of my list of wants was Fred, Dalot and Grant. Mourinho had reason to be upset but then went and threw away all good will and embarrassed himself for a further 6 months.

Of the players on my list Fabinho and either Center Back would have been successes at United. Since then Shaw has kicked on  so Ghoulam is no longer a priority. Having seen Pavard at the World Cup displace Sidibie I know now there are better options. Dacoure hasn’t really kicked on either and Malcom has had tough time in Barcelona but I still feel he has got the goods.

I thought of doing it all again for this summer in the hope of building a team that will challenge straight away and then for many years to come.

Formation Standard 4-3-3

1. GK – De gea
2. CB – Lindeloff
3. CB – Toby Alderwiereld – 35 mil
4. LB – Luke Shaw
5. RB – Dalot
6. CDM – Matic
7. CM – Herera
8. CAM – Pogba
9. LWF – Martial
10. RWF – Kylian Mbappe – 200 mil
11. CF – Rashford


12. GK – Romero
13. GK – Pereira (Loan)
14. GK – Grant
15. CB – Bailly
16. CB – Jones
17. CB/RB – Tuanzabe
18. LB/RB – Young
19  LB/RB – Darmian
20. CDM – McTominay
21. CM – Pereira
22. CM – Fred
23. AM – Jadon Sancho – 120 mil
24. AM – Lingaard
25. AM – Angel Gomes – Promote
26. AM – Tahith Chong – Promote
27. CF –  Mason Greenwood – Promote


1. Mata
2. Valencia
3. Fosu Mensa -7 mil
4. Smalling – 10 mil
5. Sanchez – 40 mil (even if we are losing out on the fee it will be great for team morale and normalizing the wage structure)
6. Lukaku – 75 mil

In – 355 mil
Out – 132 mil

NET SPEND 223 mil

(This is less than the 250 mil I proposed for last summer so I guess doable)

1. Toby Alderweireld, 30 (35 mil) – A no brainer. Premier League proven. Solid as a rock and experienced international. Dirt cheap too given the alleged clause in his contract. Probably hungry for the last big step up in his career after what looks like another trophy-less season at Spurs. Also choosing him over Koulibaly just for the cost. I still have faith in both Lindeloff and Bailly. They might need a partner like Alderwierald to help bring them along for 2-3 seasons and then they form a formidable partnership.

2. Kylian Mbappe, 20 (200 mil) – He is the real deal and also an all round good guy. Imagine him Rashford, and Martial as a front 3. No defense in the world will want to face that speed, directness and skill (also imagine how good our defenders would get facing that everyday). Mbappe also likes coming off the right side so it won’t unbalance to front line like the addition of Sanchez did. He would also hold immense sell on and commercial value. United won’t lose out financially and it will be the big statement signing to announce that we are relevant again.

3. Jadon Sancho, 19 (120 mil) – People will say how can you have 120 million worth of talent sitting on the bench but at 20 years old at Manchester United you can. Also this isn’t Hudson-Odoi or Loftus-Cheek bench time. This will be productive bench time. He can be first choice replacement for any of the front 3 as everyone is so interchangeable and flexible. He can still make 30-35 appearances over the season which is great at that level with the added pressure of it being at Manchester United. Sell on and commercial value would be astronomical and getting one over City would a bonus too.

Weaknesses in the squad:

There are 2 places in the squad that need bulking up.

Right Back – Dalot looks like he has the goods but it is a big ask. Having Young and Darmian around for one more season should provide adequate cover. Wan-Bisaka for another 60 mil though would be lovely the following summer allowing you to release Darmian and Young.

CM/CDM – Matic is getting on and McTominay has shown nothing to suggest he can cope. Go big the summer of 2020 with a double swoop of  Tanguy Ndombele (60) and Ruben Loftus-Cheek (50 mil). Ndombele is ready made foil for Pogba and a direct replacement for Matic. He would also cherish the step up from France to England. Champions League experience doesn’t hurt either. Loftus-Cheek mostly if Fred doesn’t kick on. Ditch Fred for 40 mil and bring in Loftus-Cheek as direct replacement for Herera and competition for Pogba. Unfortunately it might be time to strike while the iron is hot this summer as I can’t see Sarri seeing out this season and the next man in charge will not be so incompetent as to alienate Loftus-Cheek as well. Perhaps pull the trigger on Fred this summer and go for it. Alternatively wait and if Fred comes good then it is a bonus, if not ditch him and if RLC is no longer available go for Youri Tielemans or Ruben Neves instead. Defenses will drop super deep against the hypothetical front line allowing for plenty of long shots and boy can these guys hit a long shot.

This was fun and I think doable as the fees I have mentioned seem realistic. Give the job to Ole full time and save having to buy out Pochettino’s contract too. May the good times roll. Football has become fun again after 5 years. Is their still a Director of Football vacancy at United.
Hakim, Sri lanka


Piece of Cris
From Winners and Losers – “Atleti delighted as the ball deflected off the Portuguese for their second goal”

Am I the only one who picked up on Ronaldo’s blatant attempt to get out of the way of Godín’s shot? If he faces the shot it’s an easy block, but instead he turns his back and jumps out of the way so as not to get hit with the ball. I didn’t hear commentators or pundits mention it but to me is was the only reason the goal went in.

If that was in Sunday league, you would have all your teammates pissed off at you, never mind a professional earning $500k a week.
Dave (always turn my back), Texas


Was Paul Scholes rubbish?
All these VAR debates are really boring me out and, let’s be honest, nobody really cares about the Europa league, so i’ll try to move on another idea not related to any news.

Dear mailboxers, please, as a foreigner i’m desperately in need of your enlightenment.

After reading the article about Neville saying that Scholes was the best player he ever played with i really wonder, what are we missing on the continent?

If Scholes is remembered as a good player from that great MU team, he is never ever mentioned in the greatest player of all time discussion nor in the greatest of his generation. I’m not even sure he would go down as the best english player of his generation at his position. That would probably be Lampard or Gerrard.

Looking back at his career on wikipedia doesn’t point to anything extraordinary either. Loads of titles, ok, but as a part of a team packed with talent in which he never really was the key player. 66 caps for England, ok, solid but not outstanding. 5 times nominee to the ballon d’or without ever getting a single vote. Not exactly numbers for a legend of the game.

So what’s with Paul Scholes? Is he some kind of great that flew under the radar his whole career? Or is he the victim of some kind of reverse revisionism or nostalgia? Now that MU pretty much sucks, he is remembered, along with Giggs, as the mainstay during MU’s best time so as an all time great despite not actually being one?

Honestly, for Neville, who played with Keane, Becks, Ronaldo, Rooney, Van Nistlerooy, Giggs, Djemba Djemba and i probably forgot some, saying Scholes is the best he played with really grinds my gears.
Alex (maybe i was not enough into english football at that time), Paris


Our man in Japan
Dear MC,

The J.League starts tonight and there are plenty of interesting stories to keep an eye on throughout the coming season.

In J1, Kawasaki Frontale are looking to win their third title in a row, while Hiroshima will want to make up for letting their excellent start to 2018 go to waste. A lot of people are tipping them to struggle though. Kashima Antlers disappointed in the league last year but have an Asian Champions League title to defend. With a couple of weeks left in 2018, half of the teams were still in danger of relegation, so this year will have to go some to match the tension. If you want goals, watch Yokohama F.Marinos: last year they scored 56 (second highest in J1) and conceded 56 (third highest).

There are two teams playing in the second division for the first time in their history: Kagoshima United and FC Ryukyu, which will make for some long trips for some teams, as Kagoshima is the southernmost prefecture of the four main islands, and FC Ryukyu are from Okinawa. Might be a fun away trip for fans though. My team, Zweigen Kanazawa, have had a similar off-season to the past few years, with lots of loanees coming and going. They’ve managed to keep hold of last season’s top scorer, though, so hopefully we’ll see a continuation of the year-on-year improvement of the last three seasons and perhaps even a run at the playoff spots.

The stories that will most interest people outside Japan are probably the ones involving non-Japanese. Fernando Torres struggled in his half-season at Sagan Tosu last year, so it’ll be interesting to see how he gets on. Vissel Kobe have the other big names: Lukas Podolski, Andres Iniesta, and David Villa, whose signing was announced immediately after the final game of 2018; I think everyone’s wondering when things will finally click for Kobe as they’ve been somewhat mediocre for a few years now. There are two Brits in J.League now: Jay Bothroyd is still at Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo, who were very good last year and finished fourth, but narrowly missed out on a Champions League spot; and Gary White, former manager of the British Virgin Islands, Bahamas, Guam, Hong Kong amongst others, has taken over at J2 side Tokyo Verdy, who lost the promotion playoff last season. White and Bothroyd have both been interviewed in recent episodes of the J-Talk Podcast, which is worth a listen

James T, Ishikawa, Japan


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