How can Man Utd cope without Marouane Fellaini?

Date published: Friday 21st June 2019 12:34

Klopp of the Klass
You may remember that back in 2016, Jurgen Klopp famously said that he “wanted to do it differently” from other clubs and try to succeed without spending inordinate amounts of money. He said: “Other clubs can go out and spend more money and collect top players. I want to do it differently. I would even do it differently if I could spend that money.”

So there was much hilarity when he then went out and spent what we can only describe as a ‘metric f***-tonne of money’ on Virgil van Dijk, Alisson, Naby Keita and Fabinho, to name but four.

This week he has been speaking to German broadcaster ZDF and was asked to explain his changing philosophy and he replied thus:

“Back when I was in Germany, Bayern had a ‘bottomless pit of money’, like £100 million.

“In today’s market, that gets you one centre-back. So this bottomless pit of money is enough to buy one player in today’s world and that doesn’t even cover their wages!

“The market has changed more than I expected, but I stand by what I said (in 2016).

“Maybe things were lost in translation but my point was: if we reach a point where football is solely about money and not football, then I’m leaving. And I still feel the same way about it.

“Liverpool is an ambitious club and if we didn’t spend the same amount of money as others, we wouldn’t be able to compete. Everybody’s splashing the cash, so we have to do the same.”

Now you and I know both that what Klopp is saying is that Liverpool have had to spend to keep up with both Manchester clubs and Chelsea. What he is clearly not saying is that he will spend another metric f***-tonne of money this summer.

Unless of course you are looking for a transfer headline…

”Everybody’s splashing the cash, so we have to do the same’: Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp admits his side plan to spend this summer as they seek to keep up with Premier League rivals’ – MailOnline.

Nope. He ‘admitted’ nothing of the sort.

‘Liverpool transfer news LIVE: Jurgen Klopp hints at big money deals, new left-back wanted’ – Daily Express.

Nope. Try again.

‘Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp drops hint he’s ready to splash the cash in transfer window’ – Daily Mirror.

Nope. And again.

‘Jurgen Klopp vapes on beach in a Boston Red Sox cap as Liverpool boss’s wife smokes and splashes in the sea in Mexico’ – The Sun.

Better. At least that actually happened.


Dig of the dump
Maurizio Sarri has now left Chelsea. And so has Eden Hazard. And yet The Sun cannot resist having a big old pop at both. Because how else can West Ham fan Andrew Dillon earn his corn? Unfortunately, The Athletic are not about to double his money to write about his favourite team.

His double-page spread on the new Juventus manager is headlined ‘Sarri Haz a dig at Eden..’ and Mediawatch is already thinking ‘we bet he bloody hasn’t’.

And of course he bloody hasn’t. What he did say was this:

“We had to accommodate Hazard’s characteristics, as he could change the game.

“But also his presence caused issues in defending that they had to work on.”

That sounds exactly like any manager talking about his most talented player, and is patently not a ‘dig’ (or a ‘slap down’ as it was deemed in the Daily Mirror) in any language but Tabloidese; the Italian did not ‘reveal the hidden cost of having £150million man Eden Hazard in your team’, and not just because Eden Hazard absolutely did not cost £150m.

The Sun helpfully provide a stats box to show that Chelsea’s win rate without Hazard was actually higher under Sarri than with Hazard, and they were so pleased with this graphic that they turned it into a story all of its own on their website.

‘Stats show Chelsea were better WITHOUT Eden Hazard last season with more wins, goals and better defence’

Yep. Of course they do.

‘MAURIZIO SARRI has claimed Eden Hazard caused defensive problems when he played for Chelsea – and the stats prove him right.

‘Sarri revealed he had to change his tactics to accommodate Hazard in his side and got a headache trying to contain opposing teams.’

Well, that’s not really what he said at all, but carry on…

‘And despite being one of the greatest players to have graced the Premier League in recent years, it appears the Belgian had a negative effect on Chelsea.

‘For last season the club performed far better when the 28-year-old was NOT in the side than they did when he was playing.’

Those words ‘it appears’ are doing an awful lot of work there…

‘Hazard starred in 52 matches for the Blues in all competitions in his final year in London, helping the side to 30 victories – and five defeats.

‘The team had a 57.7 per cent win rate when he was playing – compared to 81.8 per cent when he wasn’t.

‘Of the 11 matches he sat out, Chelsea actually won nine and lost one.’

And of the 11 matches he sat out, seven were against Europa League opposition, two were domestic cup games against Championship sides Derby and Sheffield Wednesday, one was against rotten Premier League side Burnley and the other was the Community Shield clash against Premier League champions Manchester City which they lost 2-0.

So we’ll sort that headline for you:

‘Stats show Chelsea won games WITHOUT Eden Hazard last season when they were playing sh*t sides.’


The Sun are also incredulous that Sarri turned up for his Juventus press conference in a suit.

‘GLASSES? Check. Furrowed brow? Check. Seigner suit…wait, what?

‘Maurizio Sarri’s Juventus unveiling had Chelsea fans scratching their heads over whether it was the same guy who managed them.

‘Every day at the Blues was like dress-down Friday for Sarri – but he was in a sharp club suit in Turin.’

We shall just leave this here…


A trillion billion kazillion
Of course, Eden Hazard is the ‘£150m man’, for the same reason that The Sun refer to Harry Maguire as ‘£80m Harry Maguire’ in a headline that reads ‘Man Utd set for transfer misery with rivals City poised to beat them to £80m Harry Maguire’, even though the actual story is a re-write of the Daily Mirror’s tale that Manchester City will sign said Maguire for £65m.



Another day brings another writer telling us that Manchester United should have so far signed more than one player, even though no other member of the top six has actually made a single first-team signing this summer. But for Manchester United, this somehow constitutes a crisis.

Next up is ESPN man Mark Ogden, who first makes us laugh by writing that ‘Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his players quite literally found themselves drifting along in No Man’s Land’, as though No Man’s Land is actually a place where you can ‘quite literally’ drift along. But we digress; this is the meat…

‘Against that backdrop, it was clear that United faced a crucial period of rebuilding at the end of the season, especially after 2018’s summer transfer dealings under Jose Mourinho saw them spend just £75m on the unimpressive Fred, Diogo Dalot and third-choice goalkeeper Lee Grant combined.

‘Players need to be sold or released and top-quality reinforcements added quickly to put United back on the road to success. But sources have told ESPN that Solskjaer has been given just £100m to spend on new arrivals. If the Norwegian wants more money, he has to raise it by selling players who either have no future at Old Trafford or want to move on.’

First, let’s put that £100m into context, remembering that phrase ‘he has to raise it by selling players who either have no future at Old Trafford or want to move on’. So basically he can make a net spend of £100m.

It’s worth noting at this point that only one club in the entire Premier League exceeded that figure last season, and that was Liverpool. And even then, you might want to argue that Naby Keita was in the previous season’s budget, when the deal was agreed. So can we all agree that a net spend of £100m is actually quite a lot of money? It’s certainly not peanuts.

‘Just 10 days ahead of United’s planned return to preseason training on July 1, Solskjaer has added just one player, spending £15m on 21-year-old Swansea winger Daniel James, to a squad that has lost senior figures Marouane Fellaini, Ander Herrera and Antonio Valencia since the start of 2019.’

First off, we love the ‘just 10 days’, which is far more alarming than the ‘ just 12 days’ that was written about on Wednesday when we were asking what the actual f*** are Manchester United playing at this summer.

Then there’s the idea that somehow ‘senior figures Marouane Fellaini, Ander Herrera and Antonio Valencia’ are massive losses. We’ll just leave this here…

Oh and this…

Do carry on…

‘Real Madrid, who rival United’s claims to be the biggest club in the world, have already responded to last season’s disappointing campaign in Spain by signing five new players, including Eden Hazard and Luka Jovic, for initial fees exceeding €300m.’

To repeat what we wrote on Wednesday: Because Europa League competitors Manchester United, one of six big Premier League teams, are the exact same as Real Madrid, winners of three of the last four Champions League trophies and one of two huge La Liga clubs. They are shopping in the exact same market with the exact same limitations, the exact same needs and the exact same budget. They are funded precisely the same way, too.

‘Meanwhile at Old Trafford, 21-year-old James is the only new face, with efforts to sign Newcastle youngster Sean Longstaff, Leicester’s Harry Maguire and Crystal Palace defender Aaron Wan-Bissaka all making little progress due to United’s attempts to negotiate deals with a low basic offer and incentivised bonuses to potentially take the fees higher.’

Yep. They are definitely making a balls of things. But – and this is important – it is June 21. You can write ‘just’ all you like before that ’10 days’ but no Manchester United players will return to training before July 1 and many others who played in summer tournaments – including targets Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Harry Maguire – will not actually return on July 1. This countdown to a random date is utterly ridiculous.

‘Having earned a reputation as a club that would spend over the odds to sign players following Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement in 2013, United are now perceived to have gone too far the other way, with selling clubs bemused by their attempts to buy players for knockdown prices. United’s £40m valuation of England centre-back Maguire was dismissed out of hand by Leicester, who will not even contemplate selling the 26-year-old for anything less than £80m.’

Again, Manchester United are making a balls of things. But anybody who wants to believe that Maguire will join Manchester City over United – as seems likely – because the Old Trafford club went low with an opening offer of £40m is a fool. He will choose City because they are currently a far better club with a far better manager and a far better chance of winning trophies.

‘With Solskjaer being handed such a limited transfer budget, the warning signs are already appearing ahead of the 2019-20 season.

‘The United manager wants a centre-back and right-back – Maguire and Wan-Bissaka are the top targets, but their combined asking prices amount to £135m – and he is also keen to bolster a midfield that has been weakened by the January sale of Fellaini and Herrera’s exit as a free agent. Newcastle midfielder Longstaff, 21, is regarded as a player with the potential to develop into an established performer, but one who is not yet ready to make a sustained difference in the Premier League, and United are reluctant to meet Newcastle’s £25m valuation.’

‘Weakened by the January sale of Fellaini’? Nobody was saying that in January when the Belgian had played just a few minutes of Premier League football for Solskjaer’s all-conquering side. He certainly was not missed in Paris in March, and it’s worth noting that every member of that team that beat PSG 3-1 could still be at the club next season. This is not a great squad, but nor has it been decimated by the exits of two players not deemed good enough for Manchester United.

‘Further forward, Solskjaer and assistant manager Mike Phelan were keen to sign Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho but the German club’s £80m-plus price tag has made that move a non-starter.’

No, Manchester United being in the Europa League under a novice manager made that a non-starter.

‘Similarly, United are now no longer in the running to sign Ajax captain Matthijs de Ligt due to the emergence of Paris Saint-Germain as a suitor for the 19-year-old.’

Yep. That’ll be it. If it wasn’t for that dastardly PSG, Manchester United could definitely sign one of the most coveted young players in world football.

After all, this is what Mark Ogden himself said ‘just 20 days ago’:

“I don’t think [there is any chance of De Ligt joining United].

“The word from inside United is that yes he is a player they’d really like but they feel that Barcelona had the deal done two months ago and all this noise around him right now is basically agents trying to get more money in terms of salary, more commission.

“Barca have got the deal done, he will go to Barcelona.

“Why wouldn’t you go to Barcelona?

“Man United in the Europa League, Barcelona in the Champions League, weather like this, play with Lionel Messi.”

Now they are ‘no longer in the running’ and that leaves ‘Man United heading for more misery in the transfer market this summer’. Go figure.

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