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Don’t rush, United
Am I the only one who thinks people like Ted, Manchester are dead wrong about United’s current transfer approach?
The current squad is filled with players like Rojo, Fred, and Matic; compromises who weren’t our first choices, but seemed like they would at least be ‘an upgrade on what we had’.
Many of our previous signings like Schneiderlin and Lukaku were cut from the same cloth, and the results has been a disjointed, deeply flawed squad that is far less than the sum of its parts. Waiting has its drawbacks, but we’ve been gambling far too often in recent years.
People never seem to mention that when Fergie made the ‘no value in the market’ excuse he was winning trophies every year. Meanwhile, his detractors were urging him to fill his midfield with average players like Charlie Adam and Stephen Ireland.
United better off shopping in the EFL
Chaz, Essex, I get what you’re trying to say but the problem with your suggestion is that the list of targets you think United should be going for are pretty much all actually being linked with us. You mention Houssem Aouar, Ruben Neves, Lautaro Martinez, Marcel Hakimi, Luis Alberto, Grealish, Maddison and Ndidi as options; well, four of those players have actually been linked with us, while three of the other four are all playing at clubs that are of a similar stature (in terms of footballing ability/achievement, not financial) to us. Lyon and Dortmund are both still in the Champions League this season, while Lazio and Leicester sit in 3rd and 2nd in their domestic leagues respectively and stand a far greater chance of qualifying for next year’s Champions League.
Even as a biased United fan, is there really that much appeal for the players to leave their current clubs to join United’s current “project”? Even if you took the will of the players to want to join United as a certainty (which it is not, by any means), are their clubs going to sanction their sales for anything less than astronomical fees, knowing what we paid for Harry Maguire, and before him Lukaku, Pogba, Di Maria…
The issue is not that United fans, or even our critics, think that United solve this problem by just spending lots of money. The issue is that everybody knows (at least) two things about United: 1) we are desperate for new signings, and 2) we have lots of (and a history of not being very good at wisely spending) money. Every quality player that we want is going to cost a huge amount of money, purely because it’s known that we can afford it. If the asking prices deter United then the potential selling club is no worse off because they have kept their asset. It’s like when Disney purchased the land for their theme parks way back when; they did it cloak and dagger, under sudonyms and shell corporations, because they knew that as soon as land owners saw it was Disney the price would inflate beyond belief.
The rest of the footballing world has seen United coming and this is the price we now have to pay for our glorious chief executive constantly giving it the Billy Big-Bollocks routine about how easy it is for us to make money despite the team being utter crap for the last 6 years. The players we are supposedly targetting are not top tier, ready made superstars – we are shopping from (or at least maintaining the illusion of) the right pool for where we are right now, it’s just that this calibre of player from that calibre of club is not as easily purchasable as it used to be. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not endorsing the excuses – I still think they are utter horsesh*t – but there is some reasoning behind them, even if it is of our own making.
For my money, I would be happier scaling back our transfer ambitions even further; if players from Leicester, Dortmund, Inter etc. are going to be impractical to sign (either for financial or footballing reasons) then it makes as much sense to gamble on players like Daniel James. I would take a serious look at more players from a level down; Kalvin Phillips of Leeds and Jarrod Bowen of Hull would both be improvements on what we have in those positions, and would be far more easily attainable. Maybe that is a damning indictment of where we are but it’s exactly the sort of tactic that teams like Wolves, Leicester, and Everton have taken in the past – what would have been wrong with signing Maguire when he left Hull, instead of waiting for him to make a name for himself at Leicester, when his transfer fee naturally increased exponentially? I’ve long said that United need to show more humility in the way they run the club and I believe that these sorts of signings would be in line with that. Sod what it looks like, reputationally; if they perform well then why does it matter where they came from or how much they cost?
…I need to take Tom K and Ted to task a little bit. Ted first.
I think it’s proven that signing the “right player” is a superior strategy to signing anyone that isn’t one of your current players. The latter just doesn’t give you a realistic chance of improving. Anyway, look at a list of Midfielders signed by United since the Ferguson era (that aren’t Lingard, Matic, Pereira or Mata):
All signed at a cost of c £250m. If you accept that Lingard is an attacking mid (lol) you could also include Mkhitaryan, Depay, Sanchez and Di Maria and increase the outlay by 50%. And that doesn’t include respective wads splashed on Matic and Mata.
Not a single one of those players has been anything close to consistently successful in a United shirt. We do miss Herrera, and Pogba will be an attacking improvement when and if he comes back but neither could you ever count upon. And if you do think Herrera was the one success out of that bunch then the man responsible for losing him is the same man that signed all those players in the first place. Which brings me to a rebuttal of Tom K.
The Glazers have allowed the club to spend huge amounts of money and they have indeed hired a man who has increased revenues consistently. However, said man has consistently wasted that money and fannied about hiring managers who have not been right for the club and then sacked him part way into lucrative long term contracts, though I’ll let him off Moyes as that was Fergie’s fault. The Glazers must take responsibility for the folly of Ed Woodward’s stewardship. However, they will probably give him a few more years to see how much money he can generate from increasingly tenuous sponsorship deals.
But we must remember that they haven’t just been here since Fergie left. They were around for ten years or so before that and United did pretty bloody well in football terms and still spent a fair bit of cash. That they’ve made a mistake in hiring Woodward is clear and for the sake of our long term future he must be replaced.
In terms of a DoF, that is definitely something United need while they are insistent on replacing managers every couple of years. If nothing else, someone in that role would be able to generate a long term vision in terms of how the club develops and acquires players, something that Ed Just doesn’t have.
I’m not saying Ole is the greatest manager in the world but there’s a reason United were turned down by Klopp and beyond Ed Woodward saying Manchester United is like Disney, the structure of the club is that reason. Before we change that, a change in manager will only make a superficial difference.
Has money really ruined the game?
John Nicholson declares that money ruins the game. I’d like to provide a counter-narrative using my own near twenty years experience of following the premier league. For a bit of context, when my fan journey began Arsenal were at Highbury, Bolton had Jay Jay Okocha and Djorkaev (wtf) while Chelsea fans were dazzled by veteran Gianfranco Zola. Ground names were intimately linked to the geo-cultural roots of their fandom rather than state-less corporate entities.
But it wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns. I remember tuning in every weekend to watch Football Italia. Serie A was THE league for football, tactics and global talent. Every weekend you could see Ronaldo, Maldini, Del Piero- the best players in world football- strutting their stuff. It was football you could only dream of in the premier league which, while there was fantastic talent here and there, had not reached that level of consistent talent across all teams. Italian Serie A, at the time, was the richest league in world football.
Today, I watch the best talent every week (and sometimes more.) We have coaches who turn up on these shores with fullbacks transitioning into false central midfielders. World-class players willing to stick around for the peaks of their career and an international football team that plays out from the back! Some of the most promising young coaches in the world make up the bottom half instead of dinosaurs like Alan Curbishley or Glen Roeder. Norwich one-touch passing their way out of a City press would never have happened in the old, big man/ little man days.
The rising tide that raises all ships is a dangerous narrative for the real-world however, in football it is certainly relevant. The quality from top to bottom in the league is insane and supporters outside the top six often get to enjoy exquisite football from exciting global talent. This is before we even get into the cultural shift in football’s demographic. The British game is, by any metric, the best it’s ever been in terms of quality which begs the question what exactly has money ruined?
Liam Gabriel Hoskins (GolAZZZIIOOOooooo) AFC
Tactical fouling – so what?
After Ole’s shenanigans in the press conference about needing “protection” from tactical fouling, I feel compelled to clarify some things about the same.
Firstly, there is nothing new under the sun about tactical fouling. Every team commits these so called tactical fouls. Remember feeling outraged when someone stops your team’s counterattack by cynically pulling down the player driving at the opposition, and the commentator’s old cliche, “He took one for the team” ? Yep, that’s the one.
The only difference is Guardiola’s insistence to win the ball back at the transition moments like as soon as City lose possession, which is why it appears systematic even. This not only allows us to recover possession but also to get back quickly into defensive shape without the player having to commit an ugly foul and risk a booking. Quite inadvertently, it also reduces chance of the opposition player suffering an injury.
Lastly, while Klopp has also had something to say on the matter in the past, he too employs tactical fouling, with similar outcomes. Liverpool’s gegenpressing often involves three or four players hounding the opposition player as soon as possession is lost. Sooner or later, one of them brings the player down and the referee gives the free-kick, but the blame is shared and it is seen as more innocent and enthusiastic than tactical by the spectators and the referee. The result, an even more innocuous system of tactical fouling. Henderson is pretty much the poster boy for this.
So you know, just chill about tactical fouling and let supporters enjoy the game. Rant over.
What VAR makes us un-see
I’m not writing this to add to what already seems an overwrought debate about VAR. I truly can’t imagine it will go anywhere but forward (VAR, that is; not the debate). But I was watching Arsenal versus Leeds (very entertaining — Leeds can be absolutely blistering under Bielsa; credit to Arteta for how Arsenal got up in the second half) and only now realising how we don’t really have to cope with diving anymore.
No more calling players cheaters, or accusing managers of hypocrisy and of endorsing their behaviour, not even any of the hitherto traditional digging into ‘foreigns’ for repeatedly introducing the concept, apparently. Much like the bitterness of conceding an offside goal–especially a blatant one–I think it’s easy to forget how such occurrences could sully an entire game (or even a season; rather than ‘only’ one specific moment of celebration), or how frequent those occurrences were. Simply because they’re out of sight now. VAR isn’t perfect and it will not root out controversies, but think of the negative things to which it has made us oblivious within a few months.
That said, hoping to see an intense derby tonight. Last night’s game still showed how much the referee himself continues to matter: there were many occasions someone else would have judged differently, and quite possibly more to Leeds’s favour.
Danilo (LFC, wishing you a Merry Orthodox Christmas)
Sead ain’t so
Ian Watson’s inclusion of Kolasinac in the top 10 Worst Players in the Big Six is a result of laziness and bias.
Is he aware of how many assists he has had this season? Or his outstanding performance against Man U on New Year’s Day despite obviously carrying an injury.
Granted Arsenal have been poor this season, the main reason has not been Kolasinac’s performances who has been in and out of the team due to different injuries. He has not directly committed errors leading to goals and often keeps.his cool while the rest of his defensive partners lose theirs.
For players to complete your top 10 Worst players in the top six so far, can I mention De Gea, Gazzaniga, Otamendi, Luke Shaw, Ashley Young and to an extent the pair of Vertonghen and Alderwereld.
Moreover, lists like this have to be supported with stats and not just players you don’t seem to like.
Francis Redheart, Lagos, Nigeria
…As a man utd fan I am deeply offended by the bias f365 keeps showing towards us. I mean if there is one list we should dominate it is this one. how can Phil jones be only 4th in your list of worst players in top 6 teams!! If there is one thing he is consistently good at it is being shite. I don’t buy it for a second that Mustafi is better at being worse than Phil Jones.
Come on lad go and prove Mr Watson wrong tonight !! Come on guys give him what he deserves!! Make him no 2 ( no complains about no 1 though)
If someone could offer United 15 quid for Lingard I’m sure the club would happily throw in a bottle of his fragrance for free and wish him well on his next move. At least it would save the club the embarrassment of being mentioned on his JLINGZ website.
Harry, Durban South Africa (Still cringing at that the JLINGZ logo)
From United’s excuses to Liverpool’s triumph
Interesting article from Matt on United’s transfer excuses for the January window. All seem like valid points. However, as a Liverpool fan the part of the article that got my interest was that (Wikipedia style) it took me to the hyperlink of your 2017 article about Liverpool apologising to Southampton for pursuing Virgil van Dijk.
This article in turn took me via another hyperlink to an article from Ben McAleer on an assessment of Liverpool’s five transfer targets from Summer 2017, four of whom (Salah, Keita, van Dijk, and Robertson) we ultimately signed. It is worth a read again as the analysis on the signings is fairly spot on given where we are now, and given that I got there from an article on Utd’s transfer issues, it is somewhat fitting.
It also reinforces the strength of the club’s structure in identifying the right type of player. Or they just get lucky.
Either way, long may it continue.
Pete (hoping Jose doesn’t end the run) London
Sok it to ’em
I agree with Mat – The difference between the Leeds team that visited the Emirates in the 3rd round of the cup 8 years ago and this one is stark.
It may have been the same scoreline and it may have taken the return of the king to settle the first match but that Leeds came to defend stoutly and outwork their opponents.
For 45 minutes yesterday Leeds were actually outplayed us, which says to me they won’t just survive but thrive in the Premier League.
Glad to see Mikel get a reaction from his players as he still seemed angry at their first half performance at the end of the game.
My man of the match was Sokratis. While Mustafi seems to take no pride in his work, Sokratis actually enjoys defending and looked like he’d found form again.
Graham Simons, Gooner, Norf London
….in two easy steps.
1. change the offside rule so it only applies to feet.
If an attacker is leaning towards goal, ready to run towards the incoming ball but hasn’t started the run, and his feet are still behind the defenders, who is leaning in the opposite direction ready to play offside, it’s not offside. Enough with the armpit offsides please.
2. Add sensors to all players boots (tow and heel) and the ball which, along with sensors along the touchline, will automatically alert the officials if an offside has happened. It’s a pretty basic algorithm using where players feet and the ball is at any given time, which will give instant decisions and stop all this silly waiting around whilst Stockley park draw squiggles. Noone likes seeing Mane copying Firmino’s celebrations, only for someone’s left buttock to have it overturned (the goal, not the buttock).
For everything else…THREE easy steps……
3. All other potential issues are referred to the ref at pitchside monitor if a potential mistake has been spotted.
Ii believe the original idea was to give the Referees the tools to do their job better – enough of VAR officials emasculating the poor Refs from their bunkers already.
JG, West Country Premier League Desertlands
Postcard from Grantham
This weekend saw the latest chapter in a season that hasn’t exactly gone to plan and has led to lots of frustration for supporters, many of whom are calling for a managerial change. At least Grantham didn’t say “Rawden and Cousins are at the wheel”, though I couldn’t help feeling that defeat on Saturday would have led to thanks being placed on record for the Gingerbreads’ joint managers. Their opposition, on what was a Saturday afternoon so cold my Bovril was cool enough to drink by the time I got back to my seat, were Stafford Rangers, one of the mainstays of non-league football, having been in the Conference for many years and had some high profile FA Cup games.
*Heading into the game, Grantham’s last win was on 2 November. That was the last time I was able to get to a game, but the club assure me it’s just a coincidence. Either side of Christmas, Town suffered heavy defeats: they were thumped 4-0 away at FC United of Manchester, meaning they failed to win a single away league match in 2019. After the FC United game, Paul Rawden’s post-match interview seemed to put all of the blame onto the players, though one could argue that shipping three goals in the first 15 minutes was a symptom of unfamiliar tactics, and the decision to substitute the extra defender after half an hour an admission he and Russ Cousins had got their tactics wrong. The interview annoyed me a bit – “we were expecting to defend so we picked defenders” is overly simplistic, not least because it removes an outlet for moving the ball away from the defence, and “if these players aren’t up to it we’ll get others in” would make more sense if the team hadn’t used 42 different players in matchday squads already this season.
Then, on Boxing Day, Grantham were thrashed 5-1 by Gainsborough Trinity in front of their own fans. There was apparently a lot of anger directed towards the bench as Town capitulated, and it felt like the managers were on borrowed time. A 0-0 away at high-flying Basford United was a step in the right direction, albeit in a free hit.
*All of which leads us back to this weekend. Ahead of the match Rawden spoke of wanting “to get the ball forward as early as possible”, which sounds like a euphemism for punting it in the vague direction of the strikers and hoping they can get there. Sure enough, that was the plan. Both teams lined up in a 4-3-3, with the home side aiming long balls towards Craig Westcarr, who struggled to win the aerial duels. Rangers played without an obvious target man, instead moving the ball wide to either Jake Charles (grandson of legend John Charles) or Jaiden White. White was fond of a stepover, although was noticeable quieter in the second half after Connor Bartle had gone through the back of him (for which he was booked), while Charles was more involved in his side’s better chances. In the first half, Stafford had the better openings but debutant goalkeeper Jon Worsnop was not overly troubled; on the other hand Town had to work for their chances but brought a couple of good saves from Lewis King; as neither side could find a way through, the teams went into the sheds goalless.
*After the break, the same pattern continued, and it felt more likely the game would be settled by a mistake than anything else. In the end, it was a tweak of system that did the trick for Grantham. Just past the hour mark they replaced striker Andre Johnson with Jacob Green, an attacking midfielder who took up a deeper position. This brought on Grantham’s best spell of the game, a run of three consecutive corners that brought the best out of King and his defence. Rangers had a corner of their own in the 71st minute, which was claimed confidently by Worsnop and sent long upfield in the direction of Westcarr. He broke towards the left and, with King committed, played the ball across the goal for Green to bundle home his first Grantham goal.
Seeing the success of bringing on Green, Rawden and Cousins sent on Jack Wightwick for Remaye Campbell on the left. He made an instant impact, dribbling through a group of defenders and only being stopped by a foul. Like Green, his positioning enabled Grantham to double up out wide in defence and funnel Rangers back towards their three-man midfield. This paid dividends when Declan Dunn seized on a loose ball and played a long pass over the top. Westcarr beat the offside trap and beat King from the edge of the area in the 89th minute, sealing a 2-0 win.
*In the context of the season this was a huge win for Grantham, in terms of beating one of the few teams still below them in the table and arresting their slide. However, it’s only good if it becomes a run of form rather than an anomaly. Although their next game is against promotion-chasing Lancaster City, the four that follow present excellent opportunities to pick up points on either midtable sides or fellow strugglers. From my perspective in the stand, the tactical flexibility afforded by the 4-3-2-1 in which they finished the game has the potential to be effective against a lot of different opposition, and offers the opportunity for a range of passing styles to exploit weaknesses.