Start your weekend right by sending your mails to firstname.lastname@example.org…
For the record I have long felt talk of replicating Arsenal’s unbeaten top-flight season is premature and very much setting ourselves up for a fall. There’s a reason very, very few teams have managed such a feat and given we are still involved on so many fronts I simply cannot see us being the 4th [?] team to accomplish it.
Especially as Mourinho’s Tottenham loom large this weekend.
I’ve a feeling in my water…
Gregory Whitehead, LFC
I love that Liverpool fans think that if they include the work “IF” in capitals in mails about them winning the title this somehow means they won’t come across as arrogant, entitled, and self-centred.
The mailbox equivalent of toddlers thinking you can’t see them when they close their own eyes….?
Ben in Macc
I have to say, I have the feeling of some bad juju for Liverpool against Spurs because of Mane missing his ceremony in Senegal due to “travel disruption”….
Michael, FFC, Galway (Scott Parker is doing a fine job)
More football, less business
I f*cking love F365. I love the mailbox. In general it’s inhabited by fans who know their football, reading articles by excellent journalists, that provoke the odd mad spasm with an opinion piece, with said spasms often spaffed out knee-jerk style still having a whiff of knowledge in there somewhere.
But I realised tonight, after a bottle of half decent Rioja, that a lot of talk over the past few years always includes “the hierarchy”, “the owners” or “the structure”. Man U fans complaining about Woodward, Liverpool fans highlight the shortcomings of the Texans, Gooners banging on about how well they were run by the double-barrelled toff brigade, back in the day.
I’m a Spurs fan, and I only vaguely remember the takeover by ENIC and who Joe Lewis is, but there had been plenty of coverage of Voldermort Levy since then. But I never remember when any of this starting mattering.
I remember from the school playground onward, getting stick from Arsenal fans, laughing at West Ham and Chelsea fans, getting laughed at by West Ham and Chelsea fans, mainly fighting with Arsenal fans, and ignoring “London Reds” (first Liverpool, later Man U) for being fairweather glory-hunting no marks.
But we never argued over chairmen, or structure of the company, or who had the best scouts or data analysts (didn’t really exist then, to be fair) or whatever.
Maybe it’s very modern reflection of the very modern situation of huge tranches of money flowing into corporate “brands” instead of “clubs”. But I don’t know anyone who refers to their team as a brand.
Maybe it’s the blanket media coverage that has evolved to the point of a made up transfer rumour being re-published 30 times on clickbait churn websites before appearing in a national news paper to feed an infinite hunger for smartphone updates. But again, I don’t know anyone who gives a shit but would would rather hear some insightful explanation on a tactical insight from those in the know because we love the game.
Yet so much coverage, discussion and chatter seems to be about what’s wrong with a club’s ownership, “structure”, who’s in charge of negotiations, recruitment etc.
There are arguments that a team’s success is only because they’re owned by privileged billionaires from a country with appalling domestic policies influenced by religious zealots where hideous inequality is institutionally imposed on voiceless minorities. And that’s just the Americans. (I’m See what I did there?)
Where did this all come from? It’s f*cking boring.
Why can’t we just argue over whether Gary Mabbut is better than Tony Adams (he was). Discuss the last match in old-fashioned terms – who was good, who was shite, who had a stupid haircut, who became a cult legend for a two-footed reducer, tell the manager where he went wrong. That’s football.
The c*nts in suits negotiating shirt sponsors, noodle partners and stadium naming rights are just like your boss and irrelevant.
As I say, I’ve had a right good go at a bottle of Rioja.
Chris (who is this Alan Sugar?) Tanner
Ol’ big ‘ed
I’m not saying this is a Brian Clough/Peter Taylor scenario, but has anyone compared Jose Mourinho’s record alongside Rui Faria with his record since?
Faria is currently unbeaten and at the top of the Qatar Stars league with Al-Duhail.
Hey, maybe this IS a Brian Clough/ Peter Taylor scenario…
After reading Seb’s piece on Grealish and the England national team, one paragraph got me thinking of how underrated Michael Carrick was. Carrick arrived at United at a time when he was always fighting a losing battle. He came in shortly after Roy Keane left and, inevitably, the comparisons came. These comparisons were completely off base as they were like chalk and cheese in terms of how they played.
Anyway, I think Carrick was only ever appreciated after he retired. I was always a fan of his and defended him numerous times, expressing how important he was to United. He was such a beautiful footballer to watch; composed, always looked to pass forward and protected the back line with his exceptional reading of the game. His trophy haul for United shows how important he was to United, right up until he retired so I’m going to focus on what he’d have offered England.
You look at the most successful teams from the mid-noughties right up to the present day and all of them have had a player like Carrick. Spain and Barcelona have had Sergio Busquets, Toni Kroos and Casemiro for Real Madrid, Man City have had Fernandinho.
I know none of these are carbon copies of Carrick, but they all share the same key attributes. All keep the team ticking over, all look to play through the lines, and all read the game exceptionally well. I genuinely believe had any England manager had a bit of sense and played Carrick consistently, they’d have reached or maybe even won a major tournament.
A central midfield of Carrick and Lampard/Gerrard (or both or someone else alongside one of them) is a lot more balanced than what England did play with. The lack of a Carrick-type player forced Lampard and/or Gerrard to play deeper and do a lot more of what they didn’t excel at such as tackling and worrying about defensive duties.
With Carrick in the side, they wouldn’t have to worry about starting attacks and thus receive the ball further up the pitch where they were much more dangerous. Carrick more often than not would have stepped in and broken up attacks before they became threatening, again leaving the two higher up the pitch and in dangerous areas.
There was a lot of debate during these years of could Lampard/Gerrard play together effectively and I think Carrick would have solved that, allowing both to flourish in their respective roles (Gerrard as a box-to-box CM and Lampard slightly more advanced). In some parallel universe, I may have been proven correct but we will never know.
The real difference between United and City
I agree with Banjo, Prague (MCFC) pointing to Pellegrini as the difference between City and United but I don’t agree that it shows the ruthlessness (which they do undoubtedly have). When Pellegrini was hired, he was told quite clearly ‘we want you as manager BUT if Pep becomes available, we are going to get him’. It was transparent from the club to Pellegrini that Pep was the manager they had always wanted and no one, including the current incumbent of the manager’s chair would stop them if he became available. I have only heard this story in reference to Pellegrini but I would think it is more than likely that Mancini was given the same warning. The reason being? City plan relentlessly. They don’t always get it right, and there are gaps in planning (no CB being a key one) but the view is always one eye on the present one eye on the future.
It’s common knowledge at City players are not allowed to enter the last year of their contract, and are likely to be sold earlier than that if they don’t want to sign a new contract. There are certain exceptions like Gundo (such a low transfer cost compared to quality was deemed commercially viable to risk contract expiry), Ferna (no real sell on value of worth, likely to sign up another year) and Silva (allowed to leave on his terms due to the highest level of service and attitude towards the club) but players are treated as both assets and as players.
This gives City the almost unrivalled position of huge financial backing (the morality of which is a different topic though admittedly an issue), an elite level manager and a board designed and brought together to service this manager and team. If Nick Fury was going to go about getting a football club together, he would struggle to match the job done at City. These three things mean that player power holds such little sway in the dressing room. Sane is the outlier, who seems keen to join Bayern (though apparently not entirely decided), but the situation was thrown on its head by his severe injury. In my opinion he either would have signed a new contract or would have left the club by now.
The difference between the clubs at the moment is that everything at City is aimed towards the same goal, and every part of it is at the elite level. If United got in a top level DoF, an elite manager, a unified football experienced board, 6-7 £50-70 million pound players who all revered the manager and a change of ethos from the top all the way through the operation then the clubs would be functioning on the same level. Now for me the question is if all of the rest of the above happened and OGS was still in charge would you expect OGS to manage United to win a title race against City and Liverpool? I don’t think I would, so while replacing him may not fix everything, it doesn’t mean keeping him is the right way to go either.
DBM (Sorry to for adding to the pile for everyone sick of OGS chat!) MCFC
United blame game
Seems everyone and their dog has an opinion of what the problem is at Manchester United. Let me put forth where I think the true problem lies…Ed Woodward.
What has been constant since Ferguson retired? Players come and go. Managers have come and gone. It’s Woodward handling the football side.
United earn a ton on sponsorships so maybe he’s doing a good job there. Or anyone can sell noodle companies and the like to United by just showing them a couple charts with numbers on them.
But where he’s failing is the football side. He hands ludicrous contracts to players that don’t deserve them. Seems to have no real transfer strategy. I wouldn’t be surprised if he has a round of 18 scheduled with Bale in Spain sometime this week. Got rid of players in the summer and didn’t replace them leaving them laughably short right now and the forward line all year. And he dithers around trying to get a better price when negotiating only to pay what the team wanted or more in Fellaini’s case. It would probably help to negotiate better or know they aren’t dropping the price and get them in to camp to help acclimate. Other teams seem to not have this problem.
Where he really takes the cake though is he doesn’t want to give up the power of the football side i.e. getting a director in to handle it. He wants it all. And he will hold on to it until he can. The timely leaks the last several years of they’re looking for one are genius. Well played there, Woody. How long does it take to find one? No not suspicious at all.
…I don’t get most of the criticism of Woodward from people who don’t actually know anything about the internals of the club.
The major challenges United have faced over the past ten or so years are:
1) The retirement of one of the greatest managers ever.
2) Other clubs, both in the PL and around Europe being able to compete financially.
Neither of those are Woodward’s fault, and no one can possibly claim that they are.
United haven’t had the filthy money of City, Chelsea etc, but have still managed to remain reasonably competitive. Sure, they now tend to play like turgid crap compared to where they were, but there is no evidence that that is Woodward’s fault. There is no evidence that the overblown contracts are Woodward’s fault (does he do negotiations?). There is no evidence that that is Woodward’s fault that players have chosen to sign for other teams instead of a declining United. There is no evidence that it is Woodward’s fault that United failed to spot the right kind of player to make the team better (is he the scout?). To claim that there is, you would have to present evidence that this player would play better if Woodward wasn’t on the board, or that player would have signed for United if Woodward wasn’t on the board. I haven’t seen any.
What people could say, is that the processes are wrong, and he is responsible for the strategic decisions that have been made. But given that none of us are experts in either club management, or actually the running Manchester United (are we?), that is a stretch. Because how can you say that without knowing what those are or should be? So what we are left with? That Person-A could have done better? That the results should be better? But the problem is, we don’t know and we can equally say that Person-A could well have done worse.
I know everyone needs to complain about something and it is part of being a fan, but it is people who foam at the mouth about suits ruining “our” club, who are the worst possible candidates to have any say in how a club should be run. United (mostly) belongs to the Glaziers, and I think that is why Woodward gets such a bad rep too, because he was involved. But again, does his success as a money person mean that United would somehow be magically better off with someone else in his place? I refuse to buy that without any evidence.
Even the specific criticism from Scholes and Neville seems overblown. Neville criticises Woodward for wanting to appoint football people as a DOF. Scholes criticises him as a CEO for not being a football person. So are they saying that a DOF should not be a football person, but a CEO should be? That makes no sense.
Yes, it sucks that the Glaziers saddled their club (not mine, not yours) with debt to buy it, but hey, that is life. If you no longer want to support the club, don’t. Just stop imagining that the club or the clubs owners owe you a god damn thing. They don’t. You buy your tickets/merchandise with no guarantee of a win, or even attractive football. Hopefully you get entertained, or feel interesting/involved enough to repeat the process and watch/listen again.
…SK in yesterday’s mailbox raised an interesting point in relation to the Glazers toxic effect on Manchester United. The depths of their mismanagement was summarized in this frankly excellent Twitter thread from Michael Tunstall.
Some current stats on the debt and financial status of the club:
United’s current debt is 511m GBP as of June 2019, the majority of repayments serve to only pay interest, not touching the debt. At the current rate of repayment it would take over 150 years for Utd to be debt free.
In 2005 the Glazer leveraged buyout (with just 200m of their own cash) saddled the club with 540m of debt, meaning that the debt has only been reduced by 29m over the past 14 years. Utd were debt free at the time of the takeover.
Utd have paid 806m in interest payments over the past 14 years. To give perspective, it took until last season for the Glazers to spend the same amount on player recruitment.
Since Utd launched on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in 2012, they have sold 452m worth of shares, none of which was reinvested back into the club. This past September the Glazers announced plans to sell up to 322m more shares.
In 2012, unlike the likes of City, Liverpool, etc, Utd decided to commence dividend payments to shareholders. Since then 89 m has been paid to the Glazers, with an additional 21m to other shareholders. The latest dividend payment was just last week, in the middle of a transfer window where the club are desperate for recruitments to a paper-thin squad. A further 9m dividend is expected to be taken in June, increasing this figure to 98m.
Over the past 11 years, a further 92m has been taken in Director’s fees of which the Glazers have received the largest slice. Prior to the NYSE launch in 2012, they were also paying themselves 8m a year in ‘Consulting Fees’.
These figures are damning. The Glazers bought Utd on debt with a personal stake of around 200m. They currently own 80% of the club which is now worth approx. 3.8 billion pounds (according to Forbes).
The Glazers have also been guilty of serious underinvestment in the club. Not just in playing staff but also facilities. The best example of underinvestment came under Ferguson, which was overlooked because recruitment under Ferguson was relatively sound and he was a freak of nature when it came to management. Since his retirement the club have tried to play catch-up thanks to those 8 years of underinvestment during the Gill-Fergie years. Utd had a net-spend of 158m across the 8 years from 2005 to 2013, just 19m per season! During those 8 years, the current refrain of “no value in the market” line was routinely trotted out. Meanwhile Utd’s cross-city rivals were building one of the strongest squads in the world, Utd were replacing Cristiano Ronaldo with Antonio Valencia. The year City signed Aguero, Utd signed Young.
If those 8 years showed the underinvestment, the last 6 have shown the extent of severe misinvestment. Utd’s wage structure is out of control, transfer strategy is erratic, and the feeling is that whoever is in the manager’s seat won’t have the final say on transfers. This boils down to Ed Woodward who admitted as much in a recent interview. Utd’s wage bill has grown by 100m in the past 3 years (43%). Until 2012 Utd were only third highest in the league. Now are way out in front. Under Woodward Utd have overpaid for average players and given out ludicrous contracts to worse players. Almost every transfer window under Woodward has been a desperate scramble, from overpaying by 3.5m on Fellaini’s release clause on deadline day 2013, to the drawn out nature of Maguire’s transfer this past summer. Woodward has been unchallenged in his role because he’s doing exactly what the Glazers want. He also suddenly become the recipient of 539,000 A class shares (worth $10.8m USD), received a $48,000 dividend last week, and the same again in June, he’s not going anywhere.
The Solskjaer and Woodward ‘rebuild’ has seen Utd lose Lukaku, Fellaini, Sanchez, Smalling, Herrera, Valencia & Darmian and replaced them with a Championship player, a CB a year too late, and a RB six years too late. ‘Rebuild’ is Woodward slang for “save the owner’s money”. Never forget, this is the man that said “If I answer that just very simply and candidly, playing performance doesn’t really have a meaningful impact on what we can do on the commercial side of the business”
Utd are also falling way behind their rivals on and off the pitch. The average spend on refurbishment across all the club’s properties (Old Trafford, Carrington, The Cliff) is an average of 3.7m pounds per year, the majority going on hospitality facilities. It goes further than this, the club abandoned plans to expand the Ticket Office to save money, which lead to situations like Tuesday’s Manchester Derby where hundreds of fans were still lining up to get tickets half an hour into the game (at which point City were 3-0 up) because tickets had been sent out too late. The entire structure of the club is dated. Old Trafford, the UK’s most iconic and recognizable stadium is in a state of disrepair. The roof is leaking, paint around the ground is tired and tatty and flaking off. Carrington’s facilities are outdated, particularly medical facilities (seen by increase in long-term injuries and muscle injuries). The club have failed to move with the times.
Basically as long as the Glazers are around, the club is going to fall further and further behind. Replacing Ole with Pochettino or Allegri won’t fix that. Buying a midfielder or two in January won’t fix that. The only thing that will make the Glazers sit up and take action is if they get hit where they care about it the most, their balance sheets.
Jim (Lost Little Irish Boy, Vancouver)
…Oh sh*t, United lost at home to City in the Caribou Cup. How far have we fallen under Solskjaer?
As it turns out, not very. United have managed just two home victories against City in all competitions since 2011. And there is nothing at all that suggests to me that there is any danger of United changing that pattern in the next decade. There hasn’t been since we were drubbed 6-1 when Fergie was still around and we have gotten objectively worse every year since 2013. Let’s not all lose our collective shit because we’ve been useless against the most expensively assembled and coached team in the league.
I totally get F365 giving him a bashing the whole time. I imagine United being rubbish and sacking their manager generates a lot more clicks than other things going on in football (except Liverpool, United and Liverpool fans are… well more numerous than everyone else). And I fully understand all other fans are having a great time at our expense, fallen giants and all that. Enjoy it carefully – it’s probably going to last a long time and you don’t want to get numb to it as we have with Liverpool (this year though). I less understand our own fans getting upset when they’ve been watching United all season and saw the team sheet before the game – how didn’t you all see it coming?!
Let’s also admit to ourselves that United abs a club have never really been in love with this competition. It’s nice to win but it’s oddly named and frankly, a pain in the ass – especially to a team that plays on Thursday nights (apparently that’s bad). I remember watching United get battered at home by Coventry and away at MK Dons. Years past we just shrugged our shoulders and got on with it. We can’t afford to be having a managers job on whether he wins the Caribao/Coca-Cola/Worthingtons/Worthless Cup or not.
Instead of getting angry on social media (or articles paid for by F365) about a manager who’s been in the job for just over a year and been backed in one transfer window why don’t we step back and think about what we really want United to achieve? Flash in the pan success like Mourinho? Or a long term project in the mould of Fergie and maybe Klopp and Pep? If it’s the former then we’re going to be in exactly the same place in 12 months when Pochettino or Allegri have been in for a year and failed to move on Lingard and Jones etc and spent £100m on Jack Grealish to replace Pogba whilst not having anywhere near enough time to I still their style of play on the team. I thank you for your time but if that happens I may just have to start ignoring football for a while (whilst secretly watching Klopp’s Liverpool jealously from afar).
If it’s the latter and you want a long term plan then we can be friends. Such a plan does not have to start with firing Solskjaer but it may well be part of it further down the line. Having a plan would be a good start and listening to Darren Fletcher the other day, he does seem to think that there is a 3/4 year plan in place, presumably one that involves Ole. It would be nice for the leadership at Old Trafford to communicate that properly.
The real reason you can’t compare Ole with Klopp and Pep is that the footballing side at United was essentially left to rot at United after Fergie left. Klopp came in to a club that had prepared for his arrival – not him specifically but the sort of manager that plays that style of football, they had the analytics people in place, the scouting etc. With City they had prepared specifically for Pep himself. Ole has to redo the squad pretty much from scratch. Before this summer, who would you keep in the first team? De Gea and Rashford? That’s not a playing squad fit to break into the top four.
I still can’t tell you Ole’s the right man for the job, but no one one will be if we keep chopping and changing the manager. I think I’ve gone rambly now so I’ll stop. Apologies.
Ed Ern helpfully suggests a quantum mechanics paradigm to judge Ole as Man Utd manager. Repeat the experiment to collect more data and then decide. It is a compelling case. Especially if you support another club. At least Man Utd fans can take comfort that in another universe things are actually tickety-boo.
Apparently Einstein didn’t say ‘The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result’ but it did get him banned from Jose Mourinho’s press conferences. But does this maxim capture the Man Utd paradox?
The mailbox is arguing and arguing and arguing that Solksjaer should either be given more time or he should be immediately replaced. He is simultaneously pants and worth keeping. Two different conflicting realities. How to know which is true and what to do?
How about Schrödinger’s cat as an experiment? Place Ole in a sealed box with a radioactive source and a flask of poison. The flask will crack when there is radioactive decay. Wait for the geiggercounter to buzz and open the box. If he’s alive then sack him and if he didn’t survive then keep him or the other way around.
The best you’ve ever seen?
Al LFC got me thinking just by mentioning Kenny Dalglish. I’m 46 now and probably loads of younger f365 readers only know Kenny as a manager for a short period of time before Liverpool decided to move on.
However, he was a fucking genius. I flirted with Ray Clemence as I played in goal as a little kid and Robbie Fowler is a hero for his ridiculous natural ability but Kenny is the greatest I ever saw on a pitch.
My dad is a Liverpool fan but happily acknowledges that George Best is the best he ever saw at a ground, my beloved grandad swore that Tom Finney was the best.
I’ve obviously watched the real Ronaldo, Zico, Hector Chumpitaz on telly and they were incredible but at a ground, right in front of you, who is the best you have seen?
Mark Jones, LFC, Liverpool
The Jurgen Kop?
Al – LFC, please stop it. I’m expecting I won’t be the only one who will be giving you your anticipated backlash. And that might well include non-LFC haters like Fred and IK78.
I have actually been going to matches for over 40 years, and am a Kop season ticket holder. So in response to your request from a ‘regular’, I can say I would NEVER consider a temporary renaming of the Kop appropriate for anyone. Even if Klopp does get the title this year. And I’m pretty sure most other regulars will feel the same.
Shankly, Paisley, Dalglish achieved things over many years. If, and that’s obviously still not guaranteed, we do get the title this season then Jurgen would only have won 2 of the major trophies. Yes,his future has the potential for good times, but just wait and see what he has achieved at the end of his time here.If he does leave a lasting legacy then I’m sure he would then be ‘honoured’ permanently at the stadium somehow. But to rename such an iconic part of our stadium and history for one manager could be considered as disrespectful to at least the aforementioned three.Spion Kop is just fine for me.
Mike Woolrich, LFC
…Just a response to Al’s mail about renaming the Kop to honour Jurgen, if but for one season.
Don’t worry Al .. no backlash from this end as I recognise the spirit in which the mail was written, but I wanted to give you my 4 penneth as someone who stood on The Kop regularly for a number of years (effectively the Digger Barnes years, which meant I was stood on it the last time we won the league).
The Kop to me always symbolised the beating heart of the local support – a joyous swaying mass before the understandable move to a seated setup.
It was of the people, for the people and there is one man who exemplified that quality in Liverpool’s history more than any other – Shankly.
If The Kop has to be named after anyone (and I don’t really think it should be) it has to be him above all others.
After he retired he used to watch a few games stood amongst the faithful on The Kop, rejecting the comforts of any director’s box (the club messed up on that front, failing to be gracious to the principal architect of its success after he retired … oh if we could turn back time, as Cher once bleated).
Statues and stands being named after you should happen when you have retired / exited.
On that basis, I hope we see nothing named after Jurgen for at least another decade !
I remember watching the Anfield pre-season game against Dortmund about half a dozen years ago, having already developed a bit of a metro-man-crush on Jurgen from watching Dortmund in the early years of the last decade (what a team).
I remember to this day punching the air as he walked out for that pre-season game the LFC won easily and he touched the club crest in the tunnel … HE TOUCHED THE CREST …. HE GETS IT !!
My wife appears to think that I have taken this man-crush a little bit too far, but speaking as a bespectacled, 6 foot 3, lightly bearded man with blondish hair I don’t know what the fck she’s talking about !
Let’s enjoy his managerial ride for as long as it lasts before we consider commemorating him.
Sparky, LFC (‘Conspiracy’ Theory – I have always said to friends that I think Firminho was a pre-order by/for Klopp)
…I highly doubt Al,LFC will receive a backlash for throwing out there about renaming the Kop after Klopp.
For me it is a genius idea.
6 months before Klopp arrived Liverpool lost their last 2 league games of the 14/15 season 9-2 on aggregate to Palace at home and Stoke away.
I will not bore people with ALL the records he has broken but on a net spend of £75m he has done a phenomenal job such as:
2 CL finals in a row.
No defeat at home in the league in 32 months.
No defeat at home in any comp in 16 months.
No defeat in the league in over a year.
No defeat at all in a 2 legged European tie as Liverpool manager.
No other manager on the planet could have achieved what he has done and he has done this whilst playing sublime,scintillating,positive,attacking football.
Even though they won nothing in 17/18 I’d have named the Kop after him because of the football they played in that season alone.
Incredible performances v Porto,City(x3),Roma, Arsenal,to name a few. I’m an “it’s about the journey not just the destination” type & had this been mooted in 2018 his lack of trophies would have been flung back at me and the “all he does is give hugs” brigade would have flooded the mailbox.
This past 6 months has(thankfully)seen these idiots go to ground but suffice to say naming a stand after Klopp if(a big if)he ends the league drought must at least be suggested.