Keep those mails coming to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Conte would undo Solskjaer success
I have to agree with Gary Neville regarding Antonio Conte.
I don’t really care that Neville hasn’t walked around Manchester City Centre with a bell and a sandwich board asking for his mate to be sacked. Every pundit has friends in the game and none of them would ever publicly ask for their head – let’s not pretend that any of us would do anything different.
The reason Antonio Conte is seen to be ‘not a good fit’ by Neville (and a decent portion of the fanbase by the way) is not that he likes to play 3-5-2 / 5-3-2, or that he doesn’t ‘fit the DNA’.
The reason the anti-Conte people don’t want him is that he will be another in a long line of post-Fergie managers with a unique style that brings with it a unique set of recruitment needs.
David Moyes turned down Toni Kroos and signed Fellaini for over market value.
Van Gaal came in and tried to replicate his own 5-3-2 from the World Cup. He obviously wanted players like Daley Blind, Marcos Rojo, etc. to fit this system.
Jose arrived and rid himself of people like Memphis and Blind and brought in his own players.
Now, Ole has got a lot of things wrong in the last 3 years, but he has done a hell of a lot right too. One of those has been a strategic, easily identifiable approach to recruitment.
Young, hungry, British/homegrown where possible talent. Maguire, Wan-Bissaka, Dan James, Amad Diallo, Pellistri, Donny van de Beek (at the time anyway!), Bruno Fernandes and Jadon Sancho all fit into the mould. He has also promoted from within. Mason Greenwood is the obvious success, but he’s given the likes of Chong, Garner, Brandon Williams, Elanga and Shoretire their debuts.
Sure there have been exceptions (Ronaldo) and panic buys (Cavani) along the way, but let’s not pretend any of us would have turned down the chance to sign one of the greatest players ever to take a breath of oxygen.
We’ve already seen Conte turn down the Spurs job because he refused to work with and improve their young talent. Whether anyone else likes it or not, promotion from the academy is a non-negotiable at Old Trafford (or at least it should be). 4,000-odd games in a row we have had an academy graduate in the squad? Turn your nose up at ‘DNA’ all you want, but that is a heritage that I never want to see destroyed.
There were reports this week that Conte would only take the job if he can be guaranteed Steven de Vrij will come with him. All well and good, but we’ve just dumped a heap of money down Varane and new contracts for Bailly and Lindelof. Bringing in a raft of ‘Conte’ players in January or the summer would be back to square one. And he will in all likelihood leave in another 18 months or 2 years anyway – meaning we’re back to square one again with his successor.
I think we can all agree that whether it’s next Saturday evening, six months or 2 years away, Solskjaer’s time is up.
But it’s vitally important that this board get the next appointment right. No one is saying that Conte is not a great manager with a great CV, but if he were to come in tomorrow, a lot of the successes we have had with Ole would be eliminated.
There is the makings of a very talented squad here. I don’t want us to throw the baby out with the bathwater.
Man Utd must be decisive
With regards to Sunday’s shitshow a lot has been written and most of it spot on when recognising the fact that this is the end of the road for Ole.
I wrote in after the Leicester shitshow to say that although Ole had to go, who would we replace him with and how it is probably not worth sacking him until a replacement was found.
Fast forward a week and now he really needs to go for not only the team’s benefit but also his own. It cannot be a pleasant experience for him and he does seem to be a genuine decent bloke…..legend status aside. He could resign but they gave him a 3 year contract recently so it is on the board to act.
So the board must act and they must act quickly and decisively. I was a bit lost for new candidates the other week as I would of prefered proper due diligence for the rest of the season and maybe pick the next upcoming Tuchel, Klopp or Nagelsmann (no apologies for the German bias!). However we need an immediate replacement who is ready to go and my two candidates would be Brendan “Brent” Rodgers or Erik ten Hag.
I am aware that we might not be the rosiest proposition for either man right now and I realise it really is an arrogant statement to make (apologies to any LCFC or Ajax fans), but we need to get one of them in quickly. Whatever the cost.
As we know the Glazers do not really give 2 shits about what happens to United as long as they are in a position to take out 40, 50 million each season in “management fees’. They have x amount set aside each season for shiny signings as United is an investment just like the Shopping malls and trailer parks on which the fortune was originally made.
Hopefully even they can now see that they need to act and put everybody with any connection to the club out of our collective misery.
Plato – MUFC
What’s gone wrong?
So why has it gone so wrong, so fast? Ole is on the brink and if he does survive, he’ll be done when Pep comes to visit.
They came 2nd last year and that was definable improvement on the season before. They also lost a final rather than a bunch of semis – not exactly wonderful, but a step forward. So this was scarcely a club in crisis – but they’ve become one very quickly.
This is where we reach very familiar territory, speaking as a Liverpool fan. Souness, Evans, Houllier, Benitez and Rodgers all came second in the League during our long drought. In every case it was said that just a little bit more investment was needed, just a few key players and we’d make the last final jump to finally winning the title. And obviously all of them failed, sometimes thanks to Sir Alex, sometimes because the club bought the likes of El Hadji Diouf. The finish line remained tantalisingly out of reach for 30 years.
And here Manchester United are, in their own drought. Second with Jose, second with Ole and over half a billion pounds of investment into the team. But Liverpool spent a fortune in the search for the title too – it takes more than money.
Yet the investments United made seemed sound enough at the time. I don’t remember anyone saying Varane was a bad signing – because he wasn’t. Sancho had torn up the Bundesliga, he seemed ideal. The need for a proper world class defensive midfielder was obvious, but they’d come second without one.
City were going to be a hard ask to catch. Chelsea were the European champions and on the up, they’d be in the mix. And Liverpool could get back there if they avoided the injuries of the season before. Their rivals were improving, but so were United – on paper. The stage was set for a proper title challenge at last.
But it’s all fallen apart at amazing speed. The Champions League results have been patchy at best. The League results have gone to hell in a hand basket. And it all really started the day Ronaldo was signed.
There was so much optimism, so much excitement and understandably so. A club legend returning to where he was idolised. One of the two best players of the last 15 years coming home. He’d turn the young players into *winners*, his example would have the effect Cantona’s did all those years ago.
But…..it hasn’t happened. Oh certainly he’s scored goals, that’s what he does. Like the Terminator – that’s all he does. However he’s practically immobile apart from that. He doesn’t defend, he doesn’t provide assists, he just scores.
And even that is less impressive than it might be because United don’t put the ball on the head of one of the best at heading that’s ever lived.
And here is the essence of the issue. Ole has many talented players – many in the same position- and absolutely no idea how to fit them all into a cohesive team. And as a result, not a clue what tactics to play to get the best out of them.
With Ronaldo, you pick the team to play to his strengths – or you don’t play him. Not at this point in his career. And Ole hasn’t picked the team like that, possibly because he doesn’t know how or possibly because he can’t – he doesn’t have the right players for it.
But the game changed when United bought him. The headlines are always about Ronaldo, the camera is always on him, every reaction is studied and every statistic pored over. It’s what Ronaldo thinks and says that matters. You can’t manage him.
Instead of being the signing that galvanised the club it’s utterly destabilised it. At least as far as Ole is concerned. Senior players now have doubts about his tactical capabilities – most likely senior players with distinct Portuguese accents. Every team Ronaldo has ever played for has won titles but this one can’t even win games. Who’ll be getting the blame for that behind the scenes? It won’t be Cristiano.
Ole has to play him, it’s too much bad publicity if he doesn’t. Even Sir Alex criticised Ronaldo being left out – and that one had to sting, Ole still calls him boss. But United were a better team last season without him.
Whoever takes over will have to organise the team to get the best out of Ronaldo – they won’t have a choice. So it won’t be Conte. And he’ll score more goals as a result, which will pad his statistics further but the *team* will deteriorate further – just look at Juventus last year. If you built your team around 26 yr old Ronaldo you won trophies. Around 36 yr old Ronaldo you might only win him a Golden Boot. And good luck beating Salah to that.
It was a defining moment for Ole when United signed Ronaldo, as many expected at the time. It was meant to be the beginning of the return of United as a major force.
It actually only turned out to be the beginning of the end for the manager. United will eventually recover when Ronaldo goes, just as Juventus have.
But Ole won’t be around to see it.
Man Utd in the Roy Evans phase
I think we (all non Manu fans) can agree that Manu are hilarious at the moment. It’s the gift that keeps on giving, they’re like 90s Liverpool, everything they touch turns to s***e, and no amount of money seems to be enough to buy their way out of their fate. It is truly wonderful for anyone who lived through their period of dominance.
And yet we know it can’t last forever. They will come back eventually surely. Eventually someone at board level someone will clear their throat one day and say, why don’t we just hire a world class manager who isn’t Jose Mourinho and give him and open chequebook.
But until that times there’s lolz to be had all over the shop.
By my reckoning Manu have employed three managers to fully replicate the horror of Souness as Liverpool manager. They are now in the cuddly going nowhere Roy Evans phase where players are losing complete respect for the non threatening ineffectual manager.
Is it time? Oh please say it is.
It’s almost too much to hope for.
They wouldn’t would they?
They might, they are nearly that thick.
Is it time for the great joint manager experiment for the rest of the season.
Conte waits impatiently in the wings with his brand of stifling effective football ala Houllier. He’s definitely an upgrade on Ole but the board don’t have the cojones to put a bullet in little Oles head.
What better fudge for the board that knows no shame than the joint manager experiment.
Oh please please please let it be.
Imagine Ole running down from the stands to substitute on as manager for last 10 minutes to clinch the win, come on you nostalgia loving United fans you know you can’t resist.
Conte the right fit
After witnessing the embarrassing demolition of United to Liverpool (which I kind have half expected and joked with my brother that we would lose 5-0), clearly something has got to change at United. It isn’t even just this match that has been shocking ,although this was the worst one by a distance. I would say the only two games this that were somewhat convincing was the Leeds game at the beginning of the season, as well as the Villareal game at home (which was a lucky win in the end considering the circumstances). The rest of the games has been piss poor though, maybe the first half against West Ham where we did play relatively well going forward, but the rest of the performances have been rubbish. Even against Newcastle in the Ronaldo comeback game, we look INCREDIBLY vulnerable at the back and on the counter and probably only won that game due to the hype of the game and the fact that Newcastle have not been able to spend a reasonable amount of cash in the transfer windows in having a decent first XI.
Now although I don’t think this is level of mediocrity is Ole’s fault entirely, at least he isn’t out there blaming anyone/pointing the finger which managers under scrutiny at United have done before when speaking to the media. I believe now if United do not beat Spurs, this is something the players will almost deliberately decide. This is when you have such a toxic mix, where I am sure a number of players will not believe in Ole’s and the coaching team’s strategy/approach to the game, so everyone starts acting selfish and therefore no teamwork or communication is implemented. I can’t say that I blame the players really. When you have conceded 12 goals in the last three games and such a lack of urgency or willingness to change isn’t shown or even attempted, you have to start asking questions to the manager and coaching team. However, something like this creates such a toxic atmosphere that something quite dramatic needs to happen in sparking a change before United slip down the table further
Due to the amount of cash United have spent over since the start of the 2019-20 season on new players, a lot of players will not be axed and in all fairness Ole did clear some deadweight (Although I believe a couple of players have been wasted and unsure why we have offered new contracts to some too). So, I ultimately think due to the money spent and consistency in which teams like Chelsea, City & Liverpool are showing week in week out, that it’s only a matter of time until Ole gets the chop. If United lose against Spurs, I think for sure he will get sacked. I mean if he does, it’s upsetting to see as a United fan since he’s a former player who won so much, since he has done well but also a failure overall in his perspective having not won a trophy in 3 years. But you look at what Chelsea did, they sacked Lampard got Tuchel in and won the Champions League and got a Top 4 place as well.
This is where I think some of the players really have to step up after these three years, otherwise they should get sold to another team and someone else can have a pop at it. Yes sure a lot of the players have improved, but a few are punching their weight. The top three players/performers under Ole so far have probably been Rashford, Fernandes & Greenwood. They have emerged and been consistent for the last few years. But the whole team needs to do this and its ultimately the managers responsibility to find his most fluid, effective and successful team.
Do I think Conte would be a good fit at United? Definitely. Reasons being is the fact that he is a winner and has won 5 league titles on the last 10 seasons at three different clubs in Italy & England. He has managed in England before, did fantastic at Chelsea. He has similar traits and tactical mindset to Mourinho, who has been the best and most successful manager at United since Fergie left in 2013. He has also managed internationally and he isn’t scared of falling out with some players too, which I think is quite rare now due to player power. Yes, he may lock horns with the wrong people sometimes, even in the board. However, he isn’t scared of backing down and has always had a fantastic standard and improved a number of players at several clubs. With the club having improved in terms of quality on the pitch, it is a much more attractive role than before and poses the biggest challenge of winning a league title.
As for Pogba, I think he is a quality player and his characteristics suggest he can be unplayable when in the mood. But if he leaves the club for a second time on a free next summer, he has well and truly mugged off the club. He only plays well in stages of the season and doesn’t really have the heart to play 100% for the club. Let him leave in the summer or get a manager in (Conte has managed him before and gave him his big chance) who he will actually enjoy playing for and listen to. But even if Pogba left in the summer, most United fans would get over it I would say United can get a player in who is just as good and better fitted.
Fergie’s legacy holding United back
The real stumbling block at United are those ex players and fans who are stuck in Fergie’s legacy.
Their stubborn refusal to acknowledge that football has moved on and do anything different from what Fergie did is what is holding the club back. Their confusion on what was Fergie’s own culture v United culture.
If it worked like a treat for Fergie it must work for us forever. Nevermind that the world has moved on and that Fergie was a one in a million.
So we hold every other manager that comes after under the same yardstick. If that manager didn’t do things exactly like Fergie, it’s a failure. All with the exception of Ole of course. This legend, we make up every excuse under the sun to protect him. Because he was part of that legacy.
The Glazers realised that it’s cheaper and more profitable to milk past glories than to create new ones. So they are just sitting back and sucking the club dry as you hang on to those past glories.
Those who are so hung up on Fergie’s legacy. They are the real enemy of progress. They have are what is holding United back.
Keeps, East of Mancunia
Walter Smith stories please
I’m pleased you included something about Walter Smith. If more people put in stories about him I’d like to hear them. I mean, I saw him in a pub once but that’s boring, but hopefully some people have some good ones, he always seemed a nice guy and that was lovely to hear about him being a coffin bearer. Ta.
This feels a rather pointless mail, but with the advent of video assisted refereeing, I’m surprised that players are still wearing the flashiest colours available for their footwear. In my opinion, now would be the perfect occasion to go for full camo footy boots. It might not work, but I’d love to see someone try wearing grass coloured boots, preferably with some grass texture added to the paint/colour. It might not make any difference, but my guess is it would make it more difficult for the computer/VAR assistant to pick out their feet in a tight offside call, for instance, particularly in stadia where the stands are at a greater distance from the playing surface. I don’t see how a player gains any advantage from making their feet more strikingly visible to their opponents. If nothing else, in light of the overwhelming preponderance of flashy boots, the contrast of wearing foots intended to not be seen might be enough to put the odd opponent off, at least initially.
Tired of all the Ole talk.
Fifpro and European Leagues’ manifesto
I met the news of Fifpro and European Leagues’ manifesto calling for a complete reform of the governance of football with more excitement than I thought I would ever feel on the topic. Imagine a governance of football where there was genuine power given to not only players and leagues, but fans too. You know, the people who actually matter.
It feels to me that this is just as important as the protests against the European Super League. Sadly, I suspect that this will get nowhere near the attention as the ESL did, which feels inevitable. But whereas ESL was an invading threat, FIFA and the rest are our incumbent overlords, and thus harder to rebel against.
I can’t help but feel, though, that were these reforms adopted we wouldn’t see (say) the World Cup awarded to a country who uses slave labour to construct the stadia for said World Cup.
Greg Bishop, Taunton. (Probably see a better offside law, too.)
What does Dan James do?
Now I am taking a little chance here as the Arsenal V Leeds match is only 20 minutes in – but – as a neutral can some enlightened soul out there point out to me the qualities Dan James brings to the footballing table? To my not overly discerning palate he seems to literally tick none of the boxes.
Phil( I thought we need a None Solskjaer based letter)Liasides