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An excellent mail about Manchester United
It really baffles me how delusional some United fans are (and to be honest it seems like the majority of us fans are). We are so stuck in this mentality that we are the Manchester United of old, when we are not that much better than a mid-table team.
I hear the same arguments over and over and over:
1) When it comes to the manager, I always hear some version of “it took Fergie five years before he won a trophy” or “Klopp didn’t win a trophy in his first term at Liverpool” or Klopp was failure in the cups until he won the Champions League” or Ole can be the new Zidane / Pep / [insert other manager name] or Pochettino hasn’t won anything.
2) Ole doesn’t trust anyone on the bench and when looking at the Sevilla game – who could change the game?
3) Our recruitment is better.
4) We reached three semi-finals and reached third in the league and are back in Europe.
5) We have a style of play and Ole and his coaching staff are doing well in the tactics area.
1) Do we actually look at ourselves in the mirror when we try to compare Ole with Fergie or can we say that with a straight face ? Are we remotely expecting Ole to live up to any achievement Fergie / Klopp / Zidane / Pep / [or insert any other manager name here]? Firstly, I don’t think Zidane is a great manager – but he did get them over the finish line and win all those Champions Leagues, he was blessed with a strong Real Madrid side and he was a good man manager. When Klopp went to Liverpool, he was bogged down by Brendan Rodgers signings – but when he went he instilled his type of play and slowly got rid of players he didn’t need. But Klopp needed the time, b/c he was building something and everyone saw it. There is NO Manchester United fan that wouldn’t have take Klopp before he went to Liverpool.
Pochettino hasn’t won anything… but look at what he built at Tottenham, a team that challenges (70 – 86 points he achieved) and this team had an identity and no transfer budget – it might have been luck, but Tottenham reached the Champions League final with 0 incoming transfers and no back up to Harry Kane.
2) Stop looking at the Sevilla game as a one-off. A lot of us thought that the run we went on since the Burnley defeat was not sustainable. Why? Because there was no rotation in the squad and when the games came thick and fast and when the Europa League interfered it would cause a problem. Maguire, Rashford, Greenwood, AWB, Bruno are all overused. Why are playing Maguire against Derby? Is this not a game that some bench players can play in? AWB started off well (defensively) and started to fade. Mans is tired! Rashford was run into the ground and Rashford only has one speed, he doesn’t have game management – he just wants to run fast all the time. Maybe even if we rotated our players before – give Lingard, Pereira, McTominay, Ighalo, Mata, etc some minutes … maybe we still lose but then that wouldn’t be a nit on Ole. The man is competing in four competitions and prioritizing all the competitions with a thin squad.
We all saw what happened to the side when Martial had to play by himself when Rashford was injured. We all saw what we looked like when Pogba was injured and no one could pass a ball 5 inches. C’mon. Squad rotation is a hell of a thing… you don’t need to change all 11 players, but some of those Prem games you could have rested Maguire, or played Fosu Mensah for AWB, or taken off Bruno 30 minutes earlier or something, but we have a reactionary manager who makes subs in the 75th minute and beyond.
3) That third point makes me laugh. Our recruitment is better? Let’s see our last window: Dan James, Harry Maguire, AWB and Bruno Fernandes.
I give Bruno Fernandes an A++, but we got him in January when everyone before the season knew we didn’t have anyone who can pass the ball outside of Pogba and Mata (and Mata’s mind now works faster than his legs). Yes he makes mistakes but he’s the only one willing to. We desperately needed a passer of the ball and clearly a leader.
Harry Maguire – ‘C’. I’m ashamed to say that Harry Maguire is the best centre-back that we have. Harry Maguire is the most expensive defender in the world? Give me a break – the man is slow, constantly out of position and has very limited reading of the game but he has a big head and wins lots of headers. OK. We pay 85MM for a tree trunk. Got it. And a leader? hahhahahahahahaahahahahahahahahahah
AWB – ‘B’ – I admit I never watched AWB much before we bought him outside of the youtube videos and highlights… and what did I notice? lots and lots of sliding tackles… immediately I said the reason why you’re having to slide tackle so much is because you’re out of position, so your reading of the game is off… and I have been proved right. Also – I saw someone say AWB can’t cross the street and I think that’s an apt description of is crossing ability.
Dan James – ‘D’ – he runs fast and falls down cant link the play, cant cross and cant shoot. We point to his numbers earlier in the season. What happened? Unless he learns something other than running fast, I’m sorry he’s not gonna make it.
Ighalo – ‘F’ – he literally gets paid 100K a week to play 3 minutes a game. Did Ole want him as a backup striker or is this Ed Woodward’s doing? If Ole had anything to with this, then these Ole backers have some questions to answer.
So was out window a success? Clearly I’m saying not. And here we are again, another transfer saga which I believe is a smokescreen… we’ve done this a number of times. We know the price of a player and we try to haggle the price and we end up paying said price 3 months later. This will again happen with Sancho… if he comes at all.
But then again, is Sancho the player we need? Is that the most important position that we need to fill? NO. A centreback, a CDM are way more important and we need to sort out Dean Henderson’s future… we can’t sell De Gea – cos no one wants an old Kepa.
And on transfers, every summer we hear the same thing, get rid of the deadwood. I still see Jones, Lingard, Smalling, Fosu Mensah, Mata, Bailly, (now Dalot) still there. Ok we got rid of Lukaku, Sanchez, Fellaini and Young… ok that’s a start.. where’s the rest?
Talk of a DoF has subsided? Don’t we still need one of those?! Asking for a friend.
4) Did anyone watch Barcelona get obliterated by Bayern Munich and think… “oh sh**”? Can you imagine our defence going up against Bayern Munich? or even take it down a notch, Atalanta and think that our team can come out with any dignity? We will get slaughtered. We got third place when every top team bar Liverpool regressed, Man City – the loss of Kompany was a big blow and Aguero did his usual thing of getting injured; Chelsea was in transition; Arsenal in transition; Leicester ran out of steam and Vardy went on a massive drought; the wheels fell off at Tottenham and we sit here beaming that we got third with 66 points? the same points total we had last year. Is this progress? If I run a 100m and run it in 9 seconds and come 5th and tomorrow I run another 100m and do it in 9 seconds and come 1st, did I improve? Also – see point 2. There are two things that saved United’s season and none of them start with ‘O’. Firstly – it was Covid – it allowed Rashford and Pogba to get back healthy. And secondly we signed Bruno – we were playing dross before and makes you wonder why didn’t we sign him earlier.
5) Counterattacking and kick and run are not a style of play for Manchester United, leave that to Stoke City.
Brian Chung (I love my team, but watching the product that we have out there makes me sad)
Man United CAN spot great talents
I’m no Man Utd expert, but my wife insists on watching them while yelling obscenities at the TV, so they’ve sort of sunk into my brain. Which makes me vaguely qualified to rise the challenge set by Mark from MCFC, namely three recent occasions when United spotted and signed a prodigious talent that the rest of us were blissfully unaware of.
How about Anthony Martial? Expensive, but anyone who claims to have heard of him before Utd sprayed their money-spooge all over the streets of Monaco is only trying to sound like a footballing intellectual, which is an oxymoron if ever there was one. Then there’s Daniel James. Sure, he only looked prodigious for about three games, but Mark didn’t specify longevity. I’d add Bruno Fernandes for number three, since the only reason anyone is this country knew his name is because he was constantly being linked with Man Utd.
They wanted him, then they weren’t sure, then they left him alone for months and nobody else tried to sign him, then they went back and got him without a fight. If anyone else had heard of him, they would have tried to sign him. So that’s conclusive, Man Utd have signed at least three unknowns who are/were/might be quite good.
And as for City…
Marc MCFC’s email was a load of rubbish.
When was the last time United signed an unheard of wunderkinds like David Silva (£25m in 2010, having been part of the international set up of that provincial backwater Spain for a mere four years prior to that, and starting just the five out of their six matches in their successful 2008 European Cup campaign), Sergio Agüero (that previously unheard of £35m, 2007 Golden Boy winning, lad with just the five years of senior experience for international also-rans Argentina or…erm… Gabriel Jesus (the £27m back up striker who Pep clearly doesn’t trust, probably because he can’t finish…
Jesus aside, they were not exciting young bargains, they were proven top-level players who cost a lot of money (£35m in 2011 football is like £80m in the post-Neymar world).
City do not go out and sign under the radar gems, they sign players of proven quality in positions that need reinforcing – then a £50m fullback of middling quality to keep the good player company. If that is the necessary approach to be a winner, then City are losers.
But they aren’t losers – they’re very good and successful. Because identifying the gaps in your team and signing the best quality player you can afford to fill that gap is, generally, a sensible strategy.
That’s what United are doing trying to sign Sancho. As well as Greenwood has done there, he is not a right-winger. United do not have any viable long-term first-choice options to play on the right wing. It would be an extremely sensible signing, even at that fee – for a player with his record who could play at the top level for ten-plus years.
Seriously, I can’t name a single player who City have signed in recent years who wasn’t already well established at the top level, not one. Certainly not the examples cited. I can think of one exciting young player City signed as a prodigiously talented 15 year old and went on to get 17 goals and 17 assists in the top flight this year at 20…not for City obviously, because he had to leave to get first-team football.
Stop trying to denigrate great teams
Really interesting mail from Izzy regarding strength of leagues during wins. I feel it is often used to belittle the achievements of others.
Do we discount all of United’s Premier League wins in the 90s when they signed everyone else’s best players, thus maintaining status quo?
Do we discount Chelsea’s and City’s due to financial doping?
With these holier than though starting points, you could probably belittle any team’s successes, such as Leicester winning the league in a hobbled field.
I don’t see the point of such comparisons, it adds nothing to the dialogue, other than to try and elevate one achievement over another. I think what we think of as impressive is subjective. Personally I think both Arsenal’s Invincibles and the United treble side are all but peerless. Is one achievement greater than the other? I don’t know, or rightly care. All I know is I was lucky to see them. In the same way I thought Liverpool were terrifying this season. I remember Mou’s first Chelsea side, and the fear of how good they were. I have seen Barca and Bayern humble Arsenal repeated times. These are great teams.
So to leave this mail on a positive note, which were the teams people have a soft spot for? For me, I loved both the Milan and Ajax teams of the 90s. I have no allegiance to either, but they were really great IMO.
John Matrix AFC
The view from New York
How many times will Bruno Fernandes have to put his corner kicks on Maguire’s head before he scores a goal? Compare that to VAN DYKE’s success from headers, no comparison! Maybe Carrick needs to spend some time with him on it, it’s a problem!
Ron, Rochester, NY
Basketball, penalties and the rule book
The piece by Will Ford on Utd’s 22 penalties this past season have prompted me to write in about the penalties in football in general.
I play and watch a lot of Basketball, the NBA especially. What Utd’s forwards do is the same as drawing a foul or initiating contact in basketball. While it is accepted in most cases in the NBA since basketball is a high scoring sport anyway, there are some truly outrageous ones which are called flops or diving in football.
Players like James Harden have made it into a work of art and it constitutes a significant portion of his scoring. He’s the best in the NBA at bending the rule book to maintain his insane scoring numbers but he has also polarised opinion along the way. Don’t get me wrong Harden is a great player, skilled with great handling, dribbling and very gifted at scoring. However, what he does isn’t against the rules per say but it just seems wrong to a true fan of the game for exploiting loopholes in the rule books.
Napoli conceded a debatable penalty in their second round CL match two weeks ago. Koulibaly had swung his boot when from nowhere Messi stuck his boot out towards the ball as Koulibaly was about to kick the ball. It was obvious Koulibaly didn’t even see him but it was still called for a penalty.
There were similar high profile incidents in the PL in the Liverpool Vs Leicester game when Mane won a match winning penalty. Another one off the top of my head is the Liverpool Vs Tottenham at Anfield in similar circumstances.
My conclusion is that the penalty rules in football have to be a bit more subjective and less parochial. Attention should be paid to body positions while attempting to gain possession or kick the ball and the with possible intent properly reviewed in these unique situations.
Director of failure?
A question for the mailbox:
Who is the biggest Director of Failure?
Fat Man (both memoirs to be entitled ‘How to piss away £200 million’ although with Abidal it’s probably more)