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Are you reading, Ole Gunnar?
I wrote in on Friday afternoon with a gossip fuelled United side; thus:
Shaw, Lindelof, De Ligt, Dalot
Pogba, Rabiot, Ndombele
Martial, Rashford, James
I set up United on Football Manager 2019 with this side and a hastily put together 4-3-2-1 Gegenpress tactic designed primarily to maximise Pogba and the wings, set the game to always play this 11 if available and to always play this tactic and went on holiday in game, which means the game sims everything for you while minimised and you can pretend to work while listening to the cricket.
I’ve just brought the game up at the end of the season 2018/19 to see how they did and it’s probably the best season I’ve ever had in any Football Manager, and I wasn’t even playing.
United won EVERYTHING.
They won the Premier League by 14 points from Liverpool, the FA Cup, the League Cup and the Champions League.
Rashford scored a frankly ridiculous 49 goals in 63 games.
Martial scored 37 and assisted 9 in 51 games
Pogba scored 30 and assisted 11 in 58 games
James scored 14 and made a frankly doubly ridiculous 24 assists in 60 games
Alexis Sanchez only started 10 games with 39 as a substitute, yet scored 10 and assisted 12.
Ndombele scored 12 and assisted 7 in 61
Rabiot scored 7 and assisted 12 in 63
Luke Shaw scored 2 and assisted 22 (!) in 60
Dalot scored 1 and assisted 10 in 56.
I can’t remember seeing numbers like this from a normal side without edited God players.
I went back over the season and watched a few games to try and work out just what the hell alchemy I’d stumbled on and the breakdown was pretty simple:
Massive pace up front and out wide and a monster of a midfield to both destroy and take advantage of all the space the width and pace generated, with a ball playing backline transitioning into all phases.
United clinched the league with a 6-0 demolition of Liverpool that was awesome to watch as Ndombele and Pogba just tore them to bits and took turns feeding the wide men through the shattered holes in Liverpools midfield.
Pogba was the player of the season followed closely by Shaw and Martial, with Rashford and James behind.
United lost 4 games all season, to Chelsea and Man City in the league and Roma and Valencia in the CL.
OBVIOUSLY it’s just a game, OBVIOUSLY it’s a fictional United based on nothing but gossip and my 2000 IQ tactical genius, but I’m staggered at the difference 4 signings and a focus on youth made.
And I’m saving this tactic.
Certified Big Club in trouble
The bulk of the mailbox seems to be around certified Big Club United and all the players they are going to sign/fire and that contrary to what fans of other clubs say, they are guaranteed to be successful because they are a certified Big Club.
It was that attitude that led to ‘Pools demise for so long. At the beginning of the 29 years it was always just around the corner until the wheels fell off. Certified Big Club are now at that point. Get it right and they can turn the ship around, get it wrong and they will run into a cycle of swapping managers and players and praying that something works.
There are many things to consider when thinking about bribing in new players.
If they are Certified Top players (which seems to be the gist of most mails and red top articles) they will want CL football. Someone made a great point when they asked if Liverpool would swap the CL for the PL – the answer was the fans would be while most of the players wouldn’t. It has greater cache to non-English players. So not likely to sign any of those then
You need a full pre-season to bed in players to your system – assuming you have one and not sure Big Club do. And a scouting, analyst, recruitment team adept at sourcing players to fit that system. Again, not sure there is one – system or team. Recruitment has been random at best. So even if they recruit middling players, what chance they will have the time to meld them into a proper force? Given we didn’t see any true plan form OGS other rehab attack, no real strategy to work towards.
Ideally give them a few months to gently work into the team (unless a really big name player) in the way Klopp, Guardiola and Poch do. Part of that is they need time to learn the system and fit in. If there is no system it won’t matter and if you buy a Galactico they have to play regardless of whether there is a system and what the manager wants. Pogba comes to mind here. They may move him in but sounds like people are buying for big name replacements where they will be back in the same box. So struggling here to see how this will work out. When Mourinho didn’t play Shaw he was vilified by the press and fans. But turns out he was right.
Of course they could hire a Big Name manager who has proven ability to improve players OR who is a draw. Kind of half did that with Van Gaal and Mourinho. Perhaps both a little past their prime but neither was given the several years needed to properly turn the ship around. In reality the manager should fit the required strategy- as Klopp and Guardiola do. OGS fits in Parroting the Certified Big Club 1999 story but that has run its course. Now we need to see some real strategy.
Ultimately Big Club do seem to be in trouble. They don’t have a clear plan. They seem to be caught between needing to build from scratch with a young manager and bringing in ‘biggish’ name players to impress that they are still a Big Club. You can’t be half anything these days.
The clubs that did relatively well last year all had clear plans. Besides the top two, Spurs, Wolves and even Watford seem to have their recruitment and management in sync.
Next year will be tougher. Those teams will be better. If Leicester keep their players together they should do better as will Everton if they can add consistency to what is a great squad. West Ham came on stronger after their early season wobble, injuries and they had time to put Pelligrini’s plan into action. Even Southampton will have a full pre-season for Klopp Lite to get his team playing better.
Will Certified Big Club have their act together enough to not only try and compete with the Top Three but also fend off the up and comers? At this moment in time Certified Bug Club will be hard pushed to retain Europa League status. Just don’t get me started in The Arse.
Why haven’t they learned from Liverpool’s mistakes?
So, we are in that silly season again! Sky Sports Sources, the tabloid press!
Liverpool are signing Mbappe because he followed a few people, Dembele is signing, and Fekir is still on our list!! Let’s get real, we had a splurge last summer and have a pretty exciting team, which is young, and can only grow and mature for the next few seasons! Happy days!
Contrast United, and believe me, despite the rivalry, I can’t believe what I am witnessing! Get Ole at the wheel as an interim manager, have a good run of results, and give him the permanent managers job! Then the free fall! Awful results, Europa League football, Pogba, Lukaku wanting to leave! Promises of a Director of Football, a whole new process to be implemented! 6 months on and nothing has changed!
I actually feel for Ole, but this guy is our equivalent of Brendan Rodgers!! Brought in on his reputation as a promising young manager, who wants to develop youth! Fine, boxes ticked, but when it comes to the transfer windows, they haven’t got the pull to attract the players required to build a big club.
Let’s be honest, Rodgers managed Swansea, Ole managed Cardiff and got them relegated, then managed some team in Norway! No disrespect Molde, but you aren’t going to be a force in Europe!
Now we have Ole going on about the United way, and how we wouldn’t believe how many agents have been contacting United because their clients want to play for them! He wants to play the United way! Oops!
Unfortunately, as a Liverpool fan, been here got the tee shirt!
Klopp came in and said forget the past, it has gone, we need to create our own history from now on, and we are starting to, gradually, after having to rebuild our club from the brink of administration, after the Moore’s family sold us out to two absolute muppets.
Now I see United going through the same pain, but not learning from our mistakes! Yes, United will thankfully never be in the position Liverpool found themselves in, because of their financial clout, and successful commercial deals, but they are run by a family and Chief Executive full of their own importance, and reliant on the financial results over team performance!
Ultimately, with a few more years of also rans, sponsors will look elsewhere, and the bubble will burst!
I actually love the rivalry between United and Liverpool, and now that we have our shit together again both on and on the pitch, I hope the United fans can somehow force Woodward out, because he is a cancer destroying a great club!
Gronkie LFC (Nobody else is wanting to sign WBS, so why hasn’t Ed got it done?)
Xabi at Liverpool
I have to admit, there is something very very exciting about Xabi at Liverpool. Maybe it’s the recollection of the wonderous pronunciation that Rafa had of ‘truffies’ or maybe it is because I’m tingling at the idea of 11 players playing the Xabi way (the same as 11 Peps or 11 Jurgen or 11 Gerrards I suppose).
I have to confess though – there is something so very very Bayern Munich about Xabi in a suit, on a touchline. I don’t know why, over Liverpool or Real but…there just is.
I don’t have an issue with a player aping it up for the crowd and the media, putting his or her name on billboards, building the brand, but John Nicholson surely set Sam Kerr up for an almighty tumbling to earth.
She missed in the, what, second, third minute (?) and spent the rest of the game going down at a touch, screaming at the referee (no yellow for dissent, I still can’t believe it) time after time. My wife asked if she was related to Neymar.
Then she blazed her shoot-out kick so high and wide I’m not sure if it ever came down.
I was sad, actually, I thought she had more class.
Steve, Los Angeles
…and another thing
I know it’s Fox Sports, and if you don’t love in the US have to listen to Alexi Lalas and his idiocy (he did admit today that he has a very small brain), so that’s something.
However, two weeks into the World Cup and here’s a primer. This is only for English-Language broadcasters I’m not sure what other countries call the goal, but I’m betting it’s not the “frame”. You people are paid to do this.
1) “On Frame”. No, it’s not on frame. It’s on goal. Do you call the player a framekeeper? Do you score a frame? No, you don’t. You’re not denied a frame by a great play from the framekeeper. Stop it.
2) “End line”. No, it’s the byline. It just is. Would you like me to start called the End Zone in the NFL the bye zone? No.
3) “Extra time”. No, it’s time added on for stoppages. Extra time was today in the Norway/Australia game. That thing that lasts for 30 minutes with a break in the middle. Not the four minutes tacked on for VAR.
4) “The Circle”. Pedantic maybe, but it’s the center circle.
5) “Penalty Circle”. Just look at it, it’s not, it’s an arc. Any idea why it’s there? Answers on a postcard, please from Fox announcers.
6) “Center Official”. Nope, the Referee is a lot quicker to say, and a lot more accurate.
7) Handball! Offside! “Cast Iron penalty!” – please read and understand the rules, I know they change, but you’re getting paid to announce these games and you’re only confusing people.
8) “Denied/Saved by the post/crossbar (why not “frame”, want to be consistent}? The goal is eight yards wide by eight feet tall. The goal is the empty space between the posts and under the crossbar. If you miss the empty space, you miss. The posts or the crossbar did not conspire to sneak in a couple of inches to “deny” or “save” a shot. (To be fair this is global. not just World Cup Fox).
9 “Deflected”. Nope, when you make an attempt at the ball with your foot or your head and make solid contact, you have steered, intercepted, headed out, pushed away, all kinds of things. A deflection is a different thing entirely. I know we’re working with the lowest common denomination of vocabulary here for Fox, but we have to preserve the myriad beauty of the wonderful game. Which brings me to Peter G ….
Partial end of rant. I’m sure I’ve forgotten 427 things. I should write them down as I go, but I’m not Peter G, marking English papers in my left hand and breaking down Huddersfield vs. Cardiff with my right. I’m seriously in awe of that man. If I got a “C” on my paper I’d blame Sarri, not my Professor.
F*ck Fox. The worst of it is, they have the next World Cup too.
Steve, Los Angeles
Football’s (not) coming home
I had really high hopes for this U21 side in the Euros but it’s been totally abject from the young lions. Who’s to blame? Aidy Boothroyd and some totally knuckleheaded decisions.
They were unlucky against France and obviously Choudhury made a bad error, but why wasn’t Abraham starting given he’s scored goals all season while Solanke has barely played let alone scored?
Of course once Abraham (and Calvert-Lewin) came on rather than get them to hold the ball up they were clearly instructed to stay wide which didn’t make any sense.
Then Boothroyd makes tons of changes for the Romania game but again no Tammy, no Reiss Nelson who’s been great all season and yet Kenny and Dowell play, as does Barnes somehow. And Foden’s dropped despite being the best player on Tuesday by far.
Boothroyd has basically treated this as a series of friendlies when it’s supposed to be a dry run for this young side for future tournaments. No idea what he was thinking throughout. Surely we can find a better manager for this talented bunch?