Get yourself in the afternoon Mailbox – send your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org…
23 Man Utd thoughts
I rather enjoyed the 23 musings on Spurs, and without wishing to get into whose particular sh*t sandwich tastes worse, here’s a Manchester United flavoured version.
N.B. I’m currently watching Fred attempt to mark Van Dijk at corners, so this may be a little despondent.
On De Gea: Utterly useless unless making reaction saves,
On Wan Bissaka: Utterly useless unless making sliding tackles.
On Lindelof: Only mildly better at passing than Smalling, utterly useless at defending. Would rather have Mike.
On Maguire: An £80million piece of concrete, turns like the QE2. Somehow made us worse at defending (may be more to do with the lack of coaching, but its coincided with his arrival).
On Shaw: Utterly useless unless stood next to a cheese board.
On Fred: Somewhat of a renaissance this season, which is mostly to do with the incompetence around him, but hats off for not being utterly useless.
On Matic: I genuinely believe he gets stoned before playing football. It’s the only way to explain how slow AT EVERYTHING he is. Presumably never gets interviewed after games because it would take four hours for him to answer one question.
On Pereira: Embarrassing.
On James: Too quick for United. Literally no one has a clue how to make use of the only thing he can do.
On Martial: Not a striker, not a winger, not arsed most of the time.
On the youngsters: Brandon Williams and Mason Greenwood are better than players than those starting, but they need protection from the utter uselessness around them.
On Rashford: Utterly brilliant, and finally fulfilling his potential. Losing him for 3 months has probably ended any slim chance of finishing 4th.
On Solskjaer: In way over his head, tactically inept, doesnt seem to do any work on stopping the opposition playing, or set pieces, or on a game plan. I think he’s basically just a cheerleader.
On Ed Woodward: Utterly useless at negotiating transfers, uttley useless at identifying a Director of Football, utterly useless at appointing managers, utterly useless at recognising his own mistakes (telling everyone you have loads of money, then refusing to pay their demands?!), brilliant at signing up obscure sponsorship deals. Bravo.
On United: Destined for years in the wilderness unless they burn it all down top to bottom.
Mark Danger Endicott, MUFC
I knew we would do everything in screwing up this Bruno Fernandes transfer. He is exactly what United need – goals, creation, leadership, tenacity, etc…But alas, it was too good to be true. This Board hasn’t the slightest clue how to handle transfers. When Liverpool got this Minamino dude from Salzburg, that process took 2 days, from negotiations, to medical, to ending up at Anfield. You won’t see them, ‘City, Juventus among others in mucking about. Manchester United? It’s all about incompetency!
Would you trust Ed Woodward and Matt Judge to bring 3 blue pens? Would you trust them to buy you a baguette? Would you trust them to buy you some coriander that would decorate a fish curry?
News that Rashford will be out for 3 months sums it all up. As much as Ole is to blame for this, the real culprits are those incompetent people sitting on the Board. They failed in their duty. When Lukaku left, we needed a ready-made replacement. Yes, Rashford, Martial, Greenwood and even James have tried very hard, but neither of them have the maturity nor the killer instinct when it comes to putting the ball in the net (I am so looking at you Martial – my five-year old nephew would have buried that!). We now need 2 strikers but will we take action?
People and analysts will continue to say that Ole is not the right man for the job and I have yet to see anything that would put their noses out of joint (for the record, Marco Rose would be perfect for us). But the REAL issues lie upstairs where there are businessmen in charge. In charge, despite not knowing football, never mind spelling the word. Take a look at the biggest teams in Europe and see how their managements compare to us?
As long as Woodward and the Glazers rule the roast at Old Trafford, what is happening today will be a recurring theme for the rest of this decade and possibly beyond.
One final note, to all those Liverpool fans who are adamant Firmino’s goal should have stood, you all need to change your glasses!!!
I am so happy that Fred has proven me wrong this season.
There was a time where I believed that maybe the premier league was too fast and too strong for him. He has been single handily carrying this midfield for months and of course he cost 52m so this is expected, but for a long time it didn’t look like he would be good enough for United.
Against liverpool he was everywhere, his confidence and composure is evident to see, where before he would try to keep it simple now he’s happy to play a riskier pass. In my opinion we need to put a proper player next to him – i don’t believe Mctominay is the answer, he’s poor on the ball.
Fred has been a revelation this season.
It’s happening, isn’t it? It’s actually going to happen. Whatever happens this season – whether it finishes with glory and ecstacy or ruination – surely we can’t go again next year.
What the hell am I going to do with my life then? Spend time with my kids? F*ck that.
Any ideas for a post-football existence?
Nick Glover, Scouser in Brum
Reaction to Liverpool’s humbling of United
Liverpool vs United games are normally a massive anticlimax as regards actual football. However this game virtually lived up to its billing seeing some sublime bits of play and a speed which was astounding at points.
United did pretty well by common consent and mine , yet a little like Spurs last week they seemed so scared of their own shadow or perhaps Liverpool’s that the tactic seemed eerily similar. Concede , hope not to concede again and then try and nick an equalizer in the last 15 minutes when Liverpool’s pragmatic side comes to the fore.
On that note the loss of Rashford was almost impossible for united to overcome. Liverpool stifled James effectively , allowing Fred to have more of the ball and concerned themselves with ensuring Martial fed on scraps.
It appears that Rashford has been playing with a stress fracture in his back which has now manifested into a double one. If this is true (and I’m no doctor ) then great credit goes to him for playing through undoubted pain but surely united themselves and their medical department should be struck off. This is potentially a very bad injury , he should not have been playing .. I wish him a speedy recovery as he has been excellent this season and deserves better.
LFC are going to batter someone shortly , that ten minutes after half time could have seen them score 4 , and I don’t understand how Keane and Carragher can criticize Martial for his miss when Salah’s from 5 yards was worse.
Finally as Matt Stead rightly points out in his 13th conclusion , these continued chants from both teams supporters are abhorrent. The rivalry is deep and the biggest in English football but this behavior needs stamping out. Both clubs need to get involved.
DL , ( VVD is arguably getting better ) LFC , Geneva
…Well, well, well. At 1-0 I don’t think I’d ever seen such a hammering. Can we now agree that you can’t even challenge a goalkeeper? There is literally no way you can go near one. VvD’s challenge was as fair as it can be.
With the ref allowing that goal initially, the linesman allowing Gini’s offside goal initially, we can now say that VAR is not in favour of Liverpool. The officials did everything they could to keep the score down.
This was Utd’s cup final and boy did we see what they were all about. Honestly, if Ole got fired/left tomorrow, which top European club would take him on.? Another take would be, which European top club would ever have offered him their job in the first place, before he even got to Utd it’s baffling he has that job? I don’t think Norwich or Bournemouth are hoping he gets fired so they don’t have to pay any compo to get him.
The Ole apologists (Hi Garey) would suggest his signings have been a success/should give him yet more time. Maguire was outjumped for the VvD’s goal, he brushed him off like some sort of massive headed mosquito. Aaron Wan-Bissaka was shown up for what he really is. Best tackler in the league? Best ‘oops I’m in trouble because of my lack of ability and positioning so I need to dive in again’ award. Is that an award?
Daniel James is probably Ole’s best signing and as hard as he works there is a very slim chance he would even make Liverpool’s bench.
The biggest clue for any Utd fans left that still want Ole in charge, is when fans of other clubs are praying he keeps the job. Ole’s at the wheel, but the bus is made by the Flintstones!!
Our goalkeeper has more assists than Jesse Lingard. Keep your noodles, keep your tractors, it’s on the pitch where football really matters.
Jimmy (when does support merge into delusion?) Spain
Alisson sums up the gulf in class
I saw some Liverpool fan in the mailbox suggesting that Man Utd aren’t our rivals but they absolutely are our biggest rival. I wanted to win this game more than Man City and I wanted us to tear them limb from limb and embarrass them.
For a while it looked like we would in fairness. We were sketchy in the opening 15 minutes, possibly as we adjusted to their 5 defenders plus Matic all playing deep. But then we got into the groove and for about 15 minutes we were in total control and kept scoring only for the VAR to disallow our goals. The Mané goal is fair enough to chalk off but the Firmino one looked silly to me. The commentator said that VAR felt VVD didn’t challenge for the ball which sounds like total bollocks frankly. He only had eyes for the ball and isn’t allowed to use his hands like De Gea so what can he do other than jump where it looks like the ball will land?
De Gea spent a lot of the game being outstanding, infuriatingly, but reverted to type at the very end. The goal Salah scored was a poor finish and Alisson would’ve saved that chance. The gap between our keeper and there’s barely scratches the surface of the reasons why we are 30 points clear of that lot.
Klopp must’ve gone mental at half time because the team came out possessed and absolutely shredded Man Utd to bits yet couldn’t make it count. We couldn’t find another goal and I felt like OGS’s substitutions had more of an impact than ours and turned the game in their favour. That said the possession they had was very sterile save for the chance that fell to Martial. Besides that, did Man Utd ever play through us or have any penetration? I thought we looked good to hold out a 1-0 but it was frustrating because there’s a lot of games coming up and if the team had scored a second earlier it would’ve killed the contest off and everyone could’ve played half an hour in second gear.
Henderson was clearly our man of the match today but to some extent by default because everyone else made mistakes or was poor. Trent had his most quiet game in months and I wondered if that was because they had a specific plan to nullify him or if he was knackered. He looked a bit leggy from the 60th minute and they had joy in behind him.
Onto the next one. About ten weeks before our lot become unbearableeeeee. I can’t f**king wait.
…Alisson sprinting 100 yards down the pitch to join the joy-fest of Mo Salah’s goal yesterday.
I don’t care what is your club affiliation, your country affiliation, your league affiliation, whatever it might be, but if you didn’t get a little joy out of Alisson in the huddle-fest having provided the assist for Salah’s goal, then, you have a hard heart and I’m not sure what to say to you.
Steve, Los Angeles
Path to greatness
I’m writing this at half time in the Liverpool Man U game and it’s looking reasonably comfortable for Liverpool. There’s been a bit of discussion whether this Liverpool side should be considered as great (There was a Jonathan Wilson piece in the Guardian this weekend and Solskjaer was asked about it in his press conference).
It seems to me that it’s far too early to start heaping so much praise on this Liverpool team, regardless of their very obvious qualities. Every year someone wins the champions league and every year someone wins the premier league (and it’s not that unusual for teams to win two in a row). The key to greatness is to win these things repeatedly.
The real time to judge this Liverpool side isn’t May 2020, it’s May 2022. If they have won 3 league titles in a row or another European Cup, then they’ll be great. Do both of these and they’ll be right up with the greatest teams in my memory, alongside that Barcelona team and that AC Milan team.
Kevin (It’s a great High School Social Studies question), ITFC, Vancouver
Souness and Solskjaer parallels
Is it just me or are the parallels between Souness and OGS remarkable? Both significant and important players for their respective teams. Both woefully underprepared for management, brought in whilst desperately clinging onto some fantasy of the good old days. Both doing the sort of damage that will take years to rectify.
This summer if Pogba leaves then it’s hard to see what quality Man Utd can hope to replace him with. No player with any semblance of ambition would join this Man Utd team so all you’re getting is overpriced mercenaries or unpolished gems that could just as plausibly be turds. The only other player at Man Utd who would interest top teams is Rashford but I really can’t imagine him pushing at all for a transfer.
It’ll be hilarious if they sign Emre Can when we determined him not talented enough to be worth the money he will get should he join Man Utd. And he literally makes no sense there because he can’t run fast, think fast or turn fast. He’s literally a tank. A handsome Matic without the years of elite training from Mourinho.
The best thing about OGS is how so many of the Man Utd fans are convinced he’s the right man for the job with no evidence of improvement. Points per game? The worst of any permanent premier league manager for the club. Win percentage? Worse than when Mourinho got sacked. But Roy Keane is defending him on TV like he’s the second coming. Utterly hilarious to see our oldest rival in disarray entirely of their own making. The most exciting thing is that it feels like OGS will be given more time and money to do more damage to the club. Possibly all of next season too? Sign me up for whatever Woodward is smoking please.
Ed outshone again
So Liverpool have an official Coconut Oil partner, Ed Woodward has been outshone in the one thing he was good at.
Allen (Do we really need to discuss Ole In/Out?)
…Ted, Manchester is more than capable of defending himself but even so, if I might just reply to Akshay and Ryan, Whitehaven and, to a lesser extent, Pete, Canberra’s mails yesterday. Young’s move to Inter was not evidence that “there IS a plan at Utd”, nor that Utd are “getting slightly better with recruitment/retention” and even less that it “brings sanity to the club’s wage structure”. Want to know why not? Because MUFC offered him an extension to his contract and he turned it down! FFS. Which means that, if the footballing genius that is Ed Woodward (or OGS) had had his way, MUFC would be paying this guy for another year at least. And if you are STILL unable to grasp the significance of a bang-average 34 year old player (that’s thirty-four years old) choosing to move in the winter window rather than stay at Old Trafford for £150K a week then, my friend, you truly are somebody in denial. James Milner he is most assuredly not.
Which brings me to my second point. This hardly constitutes hard evidence (Quite the opposite) and necessarily means me making a sweeping generalisation, but I’m going to make it anyway. My Red family and friends in Manchester tend to be greatly concerned as to the future of the club and, as an example, are not only aware of Michael Tunstall’s thread on Twitter (@TFWriter) but strongly agree with it. I couldn’t be more Blue if I tried but even I read his posts with both foreboding and disbelief. My cockney Red mates on the other hand, were mostly ignorant of said article and, more interestingly, seem to stick (almost religiously) to a view that United are simply in a ‘blip’ and a few signings will see them back as The Biggest Club In The World. As though the last five years hadn’t happened. As though elite players across the globe are kicking Woodward’s door down begging to be signed. As though this United will be top four in May. I’m all for having a ‘glass half full’ attitude but I can’t help but think that the likes of Akshay and Ryan just haven’t done their research around the club’s massive debt issues. I’ll summarize. Old Ed and the Glazers are skimming off profits and shares whilst barely servicing the enormous debt used to buy the club in the first place. It’s called milking the cash cow. And when that cow cannot produce any more milk, when the likes of Chevrolet et al are no longer interested in being associated with a team that’s not in the CL or PL top four, then the Glazers and Mr Ed will be off.
When The Biggest Club In The World decides not to expand its ticket office in order ‘to save money’ then you really should be listening to the alarm bells being rung by the likes of Michael Tunstall. Ted, Manchester and Chris, Barnet (amongst others) called it early doors that United would huff and puff, but ultimately, not make any significant signings in this window. So far, so good.
Which means this morning that MUFC are 30 (that’s THIRTY) points behind ‘Pool, on goal difference with Wolves and one point ahead of The Blades. In January. With Rashford reportedly out for a couple of months and OGS, in his post-match interview, stating that Utd are not ‘desperate’ to sign a striker. Yep, Man Utd definitely have a plan and things are looking great.
Sometimes feels like Ryan, Whitehaven makes points without checking his facts first
Mark (Doesn’t matter which manager they bring in. Utd will still be fixing the wrong problem). MCFC.
Of the recent great English teams, some I remember for being absolutely outstanding in one area of the field such as Treble Utd with Giggs, Scholes, Keane, Beckham = four hugely different world class midfielders (Yorke and Cole, both individually excellent, were elevated as a partnership so that they were briefly in same class ’98/’99) while good but patchy in other areas.
Others I remember having a more balanced mix of world class talents (Wenger’s Arsenal teams from 98 to ’06) across positions.
This Liverpool team has an iconic back 4/5 in Alisson, Virgil, Robertson, Alexander-Arnold. But their attacking 3 of Salah, Mane, Firmino are also iconic.
Bit of a rambling e-mail, but I’d like to ask the mailbox for examples of teams which were hugely reliant on one part of the field (midfield/attackers/defenders etc) vs those which had a more all round or patchwork collection of brilliance.
Of the great teams, which were clearly reliant on strength in one area of pitch vs those that were unusually strong/balanced in every area?
Still not having Bruce
As a Newcastle United fan, everybody wants me to admit that Steve Bruce is doing a great job, and that I should order some humble pie for doubting him.
I want to try and lay a marker for where, I think, most rational and realistic Newcastle fans are at. Given the resources at his disposal, the resentment around the club at Rafa’s departure and trench warfare between the owner and parts of the fan base, Bruce has done a creditable job. The team is defensively sound; do the fundamentals right and appear willing to fight despite long periods without the ball. Bruce also inherited a side that had lost 3 of its most influential players from the previous season – Rondón, Peréz and Diamé.
On the other hand, Bruce has had some undeniable good fortune. I buy into the argument that he inherited a squad with incredible defensive and tactical discipline from Rafa. Our poor start to the season was quickly mitigated when Bruce reverted to using the formation which characterised Newcastle’s strong second half to 2018/19. Bruce has also been handed a gem in Allan Saint-Maximin, who is absolutely perfect for the soak-up and counterpunch approach. He has also benefitted, significantly, from consistently great form from Martin Dubrávka and Miguel Almirón. A lot of Newcastle’s wins this season have been by incredibly fine margins, and/or turned on good fortune. Not much would have needed to change to turn wins into draws and defeats.
So, overall, he’s doing a creditable job in circumstances which are both difficult but also highly fortunate.
We have not warmed to Bruce because of what he represents, not who he is. He seems a genuine and likeable guy. Under Rafa, Newcastle reached the pinnacle of what was possible under Ashley’s ownership strategy. Yes, we finished higher under Pardew, but that unravelled quickly when the squad needed to develop and key players wanted their return on the stepping-stone agreement the club offered them.
Under Rafa, the club had an identity, foundations, an established way of playing and, crucially, a united fanbase. Last summer was Ashley’s most prominent opportunity to either take the club forward, or sell up with everything in good working order. Rafa would have stayed, in my view, with moderate investment in the academy and training facilities, and transparency on transfers. Ashley let his contract run down and replaced him a man who, in my view, probably considered his top-flight management days behind him.
This confirmed our fears: our main purpose is to advertise Ashley’s retail empire, and make him a tidy profit in the meantime on TV money, PL prize money, match day revenues, tickets, merchandise and transfers. I’d add sponsorship, but Newcastle are way behind where they should be on attracting lucrative sponsorship: it wouldn’t be unreasonable to infer that significant corporate names do not want to do public business with Mike Ashley.
We don’t dislike Bruce. We dislike what he represents: the confirmation of our fear that all the hope under Rafa was fleeting. We miss having a real club, not a giant billboard.
This email is a little late and now off topic. However, it’s an important subject and therefore required time and consideration, and today is the first day I’ve had a that time.
Degenerative neurological diseases are terrible and anything that can be done to reduce their occurrence should be considered. However, it’s important that any response to research is appropriate and proportional.
The recently published report on Scottish footballers comes to the conclusion that footballers are 300% more likely to die of Alzheimer’s than the wider population at large. Taken at face value this is frightening but in context things are quite different.
Although 300% is a big number the actual risk in the control group is 0.5% against 1.7% in the footballers. The actual risk is therefore 1.2% or a little over 1 in 100 but perhaps more importantly there are other factors at play.
The sample group all finished playing over 30 years ago, at a time when things were quite different to today. Footballers tend to come from low socio-economic backgrounds, a strong indicator for poor health. We also know a heavy drinking culture prevailed: as recently as the 90s the Arsenal team were renowned for their alcohol consumption until Wenger revolutionised the game by suggesting that not getting drunk every day might improve their play.
Also the game has changed significantly. Along with no longer playing with a medicine ball in the wet (this is no exaggeration) the prevalence of “have it” has a tactic has significantly diminished.
The reality is that heading may be an issue but I don’t see sufficient evidence to change the beautiful game. By all means protect developing children, as is the case in Scotland, but banning heading puts us on a slippery slope. Where next? Banning boxing altogether? And what happens to other sports that risk head injury? Horse riding, skydiving, martial arts anyone?
We can’t quite believe we’re writing this, but the suits have convinced us to make a YouTube show. Sarah and Dan are on it you should probably watch it, even if just to see their faces. Subscribe here.