Is AWB the full-back version of Smalling at Man Utd?

Date published: Monday 27th July 2020 2:44

Aaron Wan-Bissaka Chris Smalling Man Utd

Send your thoughts to theeditor@football365.com

 

Is AWB the full-back version of Chris Smalling?
Job done with only the odd minor scare (we’d have wanted VAR to look at the Pogba tackle?) and needing Fernandes’ only decent contribution (he’s a tired boy). Have to differ with others views that Martial is the weak link and his winnning of the penalty showed how he has improved as a striker by being more direct.

Anyway on to my main point around Aaron Wan Bissaka. The early morning mailbox suggetss F365 owe some kind of apology for their appraisal of him as a 90’s full back when the last few weeks have emphasised the point empahatically. Like Smalling before him he is an excellent defender but an average ‘footballer’. Both Leicester yesterday and Chelsea/Southampton in previous games have clearly allowed him possesion as he will invite pressure by not being able to play forwards and stunt attacks. Simlarly on the left Williams has the issue of not being strong enough on his Left foot to go outside and so Shaw has been missed since his injury.

Ultimately whilst an excellent defender AWB has to learn to play forwards else teams will continue to target him. Maybe the potential arrival of Sancho will force teams back a bit howeveer the solution is to hope we can somehow clone peak Denis Iriwn!

Anyway free hit at the Europa and Thursday nights at home to look forward to until atleast after Christmas
King Ralph (MUFC)

 

Man Utd 2021/22
Looks like I’ll be the first Utd fan to state I’m happy not to see OGS in the Winners section for the season.

Without Bruno we would be nowhere and F365 have addressed this more than adequately.

What it does however is offer real optimism for the future. With an entire and long season under his belt I hope the focus will shift to being able to make long term plans, especially with a technical director to support him.

As it stands that front three which have been impressive to say the least for the majority of the restart, look a genuine and menacing threat to any defences.I love that instead of giving up on players (Jose and VGaal) he has looked to see how to get the best so far out of Martial and the influence he must bring to Greenwood is starting to sound like paternal pride.

Rashford has matured beyond belief and when you compare those three alone to some of the expensive dross offered with such promise between van Gaal and Jose, every Utd fan has a reason to be happy.

Bruno is second in his impact to the club to Cantona. I’m old enough to state that with vivid memories of a player transforming the level of play and galvanising a dressing room in the process.

Yes Rooney and Ronaldo were both impressive when they joined and developed but they were joining at a time when they were almost luxury players in two very strong squads.

Bruno has hauled Utd up and for the better and apart from Eric, I cannot recall a more influential player to change the fortunes of this club.
I think there is real risk bringing in a marquee signing in Sancho but I’m very happy to be proved wrong here as it signals ambition.

As to the central pairings, I’d also be quite happy to see Fred deputise with Scott in the sub roles for Pogba when he inevitably becomes lax and lazy again and it is a requirement the declining Matic.

I genuinely doubt many real fans can ever get excited about signing defenders, and I won’t pretend to be one of them so let’s hope we can get some iron in the back four, hopefully without over spend, and who ever it is, if they are more imposing than Lindelof it’s another step in the right direction.

Give De Gea his due. He has been the top performer for almost 9 years and we were very fortunate to retain his services. What is really refreshing is that his mega expensive young English international level keeper is already on our books. The transition now has to be more of comfortable transition than a drama.

If we can get any decent monies for the fringe / Championship level of Pereira, Jones, Jesse and sadly Mata,  and frankly any monetary return on Sanchez is a plus, it will be good business.

There also looks to be some great young talent in the under 23s and under 18’s; Menghi and Mejbri look especially promising.

So when this all starts again in 6 weeks I genuinely hope that we will see more of the attacking 5 we say against Brighton, Sheffield Utd and a lot less of the back passing mess so synonymous with the club over the last 5 years.

Finally, there is something mystical about Solskjaer in a Champions League Campaign.

Christ knows how we got past PSG in 2019 but more of that and there will be bouncing even in the South Stand (Bobby Charlton I know) where it has resembled a library for god knows how long!

Anyway, here’s to a red rebuild, and a challenge in the nearer future.
Chris, 42, and excited to see Eric on Fifa 21!

 

Ole spent £192m on players over the last year according to transfermarkt and accrued no more points from last season. Maybe that’s why journalists are not so effusive with their praise?
Cian

 

Obviously lots of people in the mailbox upset that Ole didn’t get the praise that he had earned. As Gaaavie said everything is relative and United are the third best team in England. Well that’s not good enough for United is it? That’s third behind Liverpool and City. That’s going to hurt. Third with the worst City performance in 5 years, the worst Chelsea and Arsenal in years and in an environment of pandemic induced sub rules that favour super rich clubs with larger squads that arguably helped see off Leicester and Sheffield United.

I had written in before saying we have to enjoy the United that starts Jesse Lingard as its not going to last forever. And it hasn’t. We can expect United to spend what, 2, 3, £400m this window because that’s what they do. They buy success because they can. But Chelsea have dropped over £100m already, City won’t stand still, Wolves and Leicester look to be more than best of rest, Mourinho is settling in at Spurs and maybe, just maybe, Liverpool have another 90 point season in them just yet.

Ole is the Manchester United manager. He is not expected to get top 4. He is expected to win the league. That is his benchmark. In the next 5 years he should win what, 3 leagues, and an FA cup with a consistent Champions League presence. And to do that now, you have lose no more than 2 or 3 games. Just like Jose’s Chelsea in 2005 the benchmark to win the league has been raised by City. You have to win every single game or as good as. Ole needs to find an extra 50% points. 150%!

Maybe we should enjoy United celebrating 3rd or their front free scoring more Europa cup goals than Liverpool’s front free scoring Champions League goals. We are living in a world of new normal after all. Maybe its me as a Liverpool fan from the 90s who needs to change. After all, this is the first year in 30 where next year may not be better than this year and I’m ok with that!
Alex, South London  

PS This was definitely Liverpool’s year. The city is going to ground zero for the victory over coronavirus party.

 

I find it strange that all these United fans are lauding OGS for getting United into the Champions League places. That’s the least he should be doing.

You’ll have to remind me, which manager spent a fortune and performed so badly to put them in such a bad position in the first place?
Jimmy (Imagine what Champions League strikers are going to do to Harry ‘Cart-Horse’ Maguire) Spain.

 

Did Man United just qualify for the Champions League and three of their fans wrote in to a football website to criticize said website about not praising their manager enough? Jeez, get some jam in your doughnut. These guys must be Jon Nicholson’s strawmen.

Thought DJ summed up Solskjaer pretty well.

Final thoughts on Everton, erm, better not… that would really kill the mood. What a sad way for Leighton Baines to bow out; the guy has been a great servant to the club he supported and a real shame we never won anything with him.

Cheers
Matt, EFC, London

 

Rounding up the season…
And we are back in the Champions League. United looked nervy for much of the match but the result never looked in doubt after Bruno’s penalty. Winning the UEFA Cup will be just icing on the cake. Top 3 was the best United fans could have hoped for at the start of the season and finishing 3rd is a significant achievement for Ole. He has proven Woodward was right in choosing to make his appointment permanent even if he was roundly criticized for it at the time and for months afterward.

But let’s round up the season for United:

Forward:

United’s front three of Rashford, Martial and Greenwood have scored more goals than Liverpool’s attacking trio this season which is no mean feat. However, they are not without fault. Rashford may have been United’s best player over the first half of the season, but he has lost his composure many a times in front of goal. Martial has been in impeccable form since the restart but has had many disappointing games before that. Greenwood may well in time become the best player of the three, but he is still only 18 and would do well from rotation. Daniel James, after a bright star, has become a forgotten man. The addition of Jadon Sancho, if it happens, will not only add even more threat to United’s attack but also provide competition for places while any manager would relish.

Midfield:

Fernandes may have had one of his worst games in a United shirt today, but he has been arguably the signing of the season and scored and assisted more goals than any January signing in PL history. If not for Fernandes, United would certainly have finished at least a couple of places below.

After missing most of the season, Pogba has been excellent in most of the games he’s played since the restart. While he does suffer from lapses in concentration and the odd off game, he more than makes up for it in the creativity he provides to the team. Even today, Pogba made a number of key passes that nearly found their way into the net had there been better finishing from his teammates and a little more luck. United fans may not fully appreciate him, but they will almost certainly miss him if he goes.

Matic had a poor game today. Age and the run of games catching up to him perhaps. He looked flat footed and made at least a couple of costly mistakes which might have ended up in goals on any other day. If United are to make one signing over the summer, this is the position that they must prioritize most.

Defense:

36 goals conceded across the season is a significant improvement over last year’s 55. There is still room for improvement but Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire and Shaw are good to go for another season. The priorities over the summer must lie elsewhere. The biggest decision Ole faces is over De Gea who has shown signs of decline over the last 2 years. It might also be the decision that proves whether Ole has the mettle for the Old Trafford job or not.

The Manager:

From 6th to 3rd, Ole’s first complete year can be deemed a success. A look at United and Leicester will tell you that it’s not how you start the season that counts but how you end. An amazing turn around since Fernandes arrival helped pull off an unlikely 3rd place finish when most United fans had resigned to thinking that UEFA cup might be the only route. His signings have fared far better than his predecessors. Maguire still has major question marks around him, but Bissaka has been wonderful and Fernandes truly sensational. He has been able to significantly help players like Rashford and Martial improve while his nurturing young talent like Greenwood, McTominay and Brandon Williams and allowing them to thrive has been a joy to watch. Next year will most probably not be United’s year but there is optimism that under Ole’s watch, United are slowly but surely getting there.
Adeel

 

C.R.E.A.M 
Can I ask, why the obsession with banging the drum on how much Ole has spent? All his signings have been a success (some more than others granted, but no flops)

I think we must all agree that prices have gone stupid, it’s also well known that MUFC pretty much always have to pay more for a player than other teams… probably a reflection of some boardroom rubbish but that’s another point.

So comparing the £200million spend to anything from prior seasons just seems pointless to me and out of context.

There was a great article on these hallowed pages recently on top spenders and league positions historically I was very surprised that MUFC were not top spenders more often.
Simon Manchester

 

Man Utd are moving in the right direction…
Just read Oliver’s snide email regarding United’s performance this year.

Firstly, as he alludes too, Liverpool & City probably have nothing to worry about in terms of United challenging them year.  It’s far too early for this young team to be even considered challenges.  The squad needs huge investment to bolster the starting X1, but most importantly the squad as a whole.

However, what Oliver, some  opposition fans & sections of the media & certain writers on this site seem to be ignoring is that finally United are moving in the right direction.

Since the Burnley game, which is the most painful match I’ve watched live, a new United have emerged.  Bruno arrived, the introduction of Greenwood to form an incredibly exciting young, pacey attaching front three, the reintroduction of Matic to add balance.  As a result, we’re undefeated in the league, have made up a 14 point gap on Leicester & have finished 3rd.  That is an incredible achievement, that in my view has been downplayed somewhat.

Most importantly, the club seems to have found itself again.  The Moyes, LVG & Jose years, we’re utterly dreadful & coupled with abysmal recruitment, left the club directionless with a mish mash of players.  Ole has done an incredible job of reshaping the squad & building a core unit of players that have bought into his vision for the club.

I remember when united finished 2nd under Jose & thinking that there is nothing to build on & instead being jealous about what Klopp was building with Liverpool, a new culture, style of play & mentality.  It’s early days yet, but for once, after 7 long years, it feels like Ole is doing the same at United.  Whether he can take United as far as Klopp did with Liverpool is a huge ask, but I’m more than happy to give him to time to see if he can.  He hasn’t got anywhere near the credit for what he’s done at the club in a short space of time considering the utter mess he inherited.

I just hope now that the board back him, it’s clear that we need a left sided CB, CDM & right sided attacker. If we can continue to recruit how we have over the last 2 windows, then I expect us to push Liverpool & City (who’ll win the league comfortably next season due to the outrageous 5 sub rule next season) a little harder, but still fall short by some way, but the direction of travel will still be positive.

On a side note, commiserations to Watford & Bournemouth fans, I know it’s all relative, but I felt sick for most of the United game, so I can only imagine how a relegation match much feel.  All the best rebounding at the first attempt next year.
Mike

 

Points total…
Just wanted to pick up on Oliver, LFC’s witty zinger in the morning mailbox regarding points totals, as this keeps cropping up and is a real bug bear of mine.

Yes, United got the same points total as last year but finished finished higher. This statistic tells us absolutely nothing about United’s standards or quality other than that the league was obviously more competitive this year (apart from the fight between Liverpool and City for the title, which was far from competitive. This could mean that overall standards in the league have all improved, it could mean that they have declined – looking at the points/positions of teams alone, it’s impossible to tell.

As a United fan, I’m pleased with how the season ended, I think the Uptick in back end of the season showed a lot of character – we clearly lack strength in depth but there is an opportunity to address that in the summer.

This has been a big transitional season for United – a meaningful clear out of sub-standard personnel – too many on loans for my liking but that’s the price we have to pay for handing out OTT contracts to middling players in the past) and we have the youngest team in the league this season, who will only get better. Since Fernandes arrived, we’ve amassed the most points in the league (even better than the all-conquering GOAT that is Liverpool) and are undefeated – with the youngest team in the league. United are going to invest to improve their team – unless they flog Salah and/or Mane for Coutinho money, can Liverpool afford to (the attempted furlough presumably means money is understandably tight)? Liverpool may have been playing in their flip-flops a bit at the end there but we’re targeting an all time points record a few weeks ago and, with nothing else to play for and couldn’t muster the enthusiasm, adding only two points to last season’s tally. Is the reason Oliver is sniping at United because he recognises that, while the future is bright for United, his team have plateued and is expecting them to drop off the way City did this year?

A reminder, Liverpool’s haul improved by 22 points between 2017 and 2018, City’s haul fell by 17 this year – dramatic swings in points hauls happen frequently. Similar changes in fortune would see United overtake Liverpool and it wouldn’t even be that surprising – Klopp’s Dortmund dropped off badly after a few years competing at the top…

Do I think all of the above will definitely happen? Maybe, maybe not, a lot depends on the actions each team takes over the summer. But no, I don’t think it’s likely that next year will be our year!

The above is a roundabout way of saying that, as a United fan, I’m pretty pleased in context. I obviously want them to be competitive for the big prizes but, being realistic, the trajectory towards that seems like it’s there for the first time in a long time.

I would encourage Oliver to be a graceful winner, stop with the goading and Just quietly savour his team’s fantastic achievement this year – because who knows what next year will bring!
Andy (MUFC)

 

 

Chelsea review…
What a season!

At the beginning of the season, I had no expectations. We had plenty of handicaps which have been well documented and underestimated (picture United losing a better version of Bruno), and were undergoing a proper rebuild. You got the impression from the start that there were a number of players who no longer fitted the clubs philosophy, and needed to be moved on. Add this to the youth we planned on putting our faith in and I knew this would be a difficult season.

The team performed admirably well. Everyone seems to treat getting top 4 as a “job done” situation, even though we were considered hopelessly unqualified at the start. The only reason for these expectations is because we shattered the ceiling of everyone’s initial expectations of us. Who would have put money on Mount playing 50 games in his debut season, or Tammy ending as top scorer? My guess is not many. Lampard deserves more than back handed compliments and a mere pat on the back for doing exactly what you should have done. He took a drab team, without its crown jewel, threw in some diamonds in the rough, spent NOTHING and still managed to get top 4 (missing 3rd on goal difference). If that doesn’t warrant actual praise, I fear he may never receive it.

Lampard’s biggest achievement, in my opinion, is the way he developed and imposed a new style of football. In most games this season we dominated possession and created chances we couldn’t put away. That becomes crucial on of your best strengths is playing against teams that are opening up and coming onto you. He already has a blueprint for how he wants to play, now he just needs to pieces to bring the plan to life. He gives the players confidence to strike from range, something we hardly did last season. He is playing attacking, dominant football, and I absolutely love it.

The wolves game incapsulated what Chelsea have in their locker. By no means was this an easy game. Wolves have played fewer games than us, we had a taxing game against Liverpool and they had more time to prepare. This is a strong Wolves side, they pulled the double on Man City after all. Chelsea barely gave them a sniff. We were solid, tough and in control. It wasn’t the prettiest performance, but we ground out a win, under pressure, in a no fuss manner. That is something all great sides are capable of. If we can do that more regularly, we will be well on our way to winning a league in the next few years.

Lampard’s tactics have been questioned enough this season, and he has answered those questions emphatically. Since the restart he has made some brilliant substitutions to change games. On Sunday, he made a huge call by benching Kepa. It worked out, so nobody will say anything, but if it had gone wrong, there would have been tons of criticism on benching the most expensive goalkeeper. Chelsea seem more confident with Caballero. There was a cross in the first half which he just manged to claw out from under the bar. I have no doubt Kepa would have let that in, and that would have changed the game. Had we conceded, the momentum will have swung and wolves could have just sat deep and frustrated us. Caballero saved, kept us at 0-0 and we went on to score twice and secure the win. Great call by Frank, even if it was just because it was difficult.

Kepa should be sold. People are linking us with Oblak, obviously wishful thinking. However, if we’re willing to spend that much on a keeper, why not stump up for Donnaruma? Italy’s future number one, I’m sure he wants Champions League football. He could help form a formidable spine and could very well grow into the world’s best keeper. Probably will never happen, but there’s no harm in wishful thinking…

Loved seeing Timo Werner at the Bridge, he is going to tear it up next season.

Lampard and this Chelsea team deserve more credit than they’re receiving, but the bottom line is that they know they’ve done incredibly well. They finished behind two of the best teams in world football, and a team who spent 200m to beat us on goal difference. We may get bashed by plenty of pundits and websites, but there is progress to be seen, and plenty to be excited about.
Tashen, South Africa (Henderson winning the writers player of the year is absolutely embarrassing, I guess KDB felt like showing them exactly why. Poor, unlucky Norwich) 

 

FA Cup preparation
This means more… to Arsenal

After a shaky Arsenal performance at the back (particularly from one-time personal favourite Holding) and a strong finish from Chelsea (particularly from one-time Arsenal cult hero Giroud) I find myself in a similar state of pre-derby angst as I did in 2017. But, the omens are good, right? Mustafi is injured again, and we’ll most likely be playing a back three comprising a left back, a CB the wrong side of thirty, and Rob Holding. Add to that the obvious semi-final and final opponents with us as the underdog each time and our name is pretty much on the cup. Except, this time, we really bloody need this. Both Ole and Lampard have got Champion’s League football next season, and Mourinho has somehow managed to land Spurs in sixth. For me, winning the cup means more than getting into the Europa League. It would mean Arteta taking Arsenal to trophy-winner status in less than a year. It would also mean Arteta gets his hands on silverware before Lampard and Ole, and before Jose wins Spurs anything. That would be a pretty sweet victory… Or, we could be facing another Baku 2019 and remain banter FC.
Simon AFC

P.S. Whoever keeps putting a French flag next to Pépé’s name on Sky Sports needs to be f***ing shot. He plays for the Ivory Coast so he’s a f***ing Ivorian footballer. It’s bad enough commentators butchering foreign players’ names but this is just embarrassing. 

 

Stats…
The FWA argument about stats is interesting. Very good article by Johnny Nicholson. The ‘Liverpool bias’ is just that: a sense that people go nuts whenever the club’s name is mentioned. Three years ago Mo Salah won this award and nobody batted an eyelid because his performance was shocking. It didn’t matter that Liverpool were so far behind in the league. Last year Raheem Sterling won, despite Virgil coming second in the Ballon d’Or. So no bias there, although Sterling used to play for… And this year, it could have easily been Kevin de Bruyne but Jordan Henderson was a symbol of what differentiated Liverpool from everyone else. Hard-working, consistent and determined not to lose.

Yes there are lots of better players but I don’t think Henderson ever claimed to be the best footballer and he accepted the award with predictable humility. Just to point out that the more democratic Players Award has in fact gone to a Liverpool player for the past two years so where is the bias there. Are all of the players in all of the clubs biased? If so I’m surprised Liverpool ever don’t win the league, never mind the FWA thing.

Also, Man United did exceptionally well since January. They finished third and whoever wrote in joking about their points tally is having a laugh. They dragged themselves up the table signed a top class midfielder and discovered one of the most awesome young strikers in Europe. They had a remarkable run and will be right up there next year, something that sounded crazy in December. So, like with the FWA thing, people should start giving Ole credit, regardless of the stats. Since Fernandes’ arrival, they have had a look about them, which is scary. Next year might throw up a three or four horse race which would mean huge games every other week. Here’s a hint about the fan noise though. Get kids to do it. Their reactions would be far quicker than us!
Michael, Ireland

 

Kevin De Bruyne > Henderson? Another one, sorry
Dear Editor,

Enjoyed Jonny Nics piece today around the FWA player of the year.

A few things struck me, one was how he described the criteria, which I think go a long way to explaining why Henderson won. Second thing to remember is that people who want to be angry about these things always will be.

Finally I was spurred on to look at some stats myself. Namely, when De Bruyne has got these assists this year. I think he’s a wonderful player and a quality playmaker. I lived in Belgium for a time and I can tell you it’s De Bruyne, not Hazard or Lukaku who is worshipped over there. But when things get tough, I think he has a tendancy to want to do too much, to the deteriment of the team – something we used to see with Steven Gerrard. For example, when City are losing he tends to drop deep (too deep in my opinion), meaning City lose him in the final third, where he is undoubtably most effective.

An example of this I think can be seen in who he actually gets these assists against – this season from that 20, 10 came against teams that finished in the bottom 5. With only 1 against teams in the top 5.

This might seem stupid to point out – obviously a team scores more against the teams at the bottom. But the point is, where have been the game changing moments for him this season? The backs-against-the wall, pulling-it-out-the-bag? As an further illustration, only one assist came in a losing cause.

Obviously assists are dependant upon strikers’ finishing. Chances created might be better and on this De Bruyne absolutely smashed it 120 to 87 (Grealish in 2nd). But then Alexander-Arnold created 85 getting 13 assists. So chances created over assists is 120/20 for De Bruyne and 85/13 for Alexander-Arnold (- not discussing Grealish due to the quality gap in the strikers), comparable stats and consider that one is an attacking midfielder and one a full-back.

For me, I think this is where the Henderson vs De Bruyne argument gets really interesting. What Alexander-Arnold and Henderson et al. have been able to do this season is their precise job and they’ve done it very effectively, because that Liverpool team has functioned so well. Henderson has been the best Henderson and it allows the rest of the team to function.

De Bruyne has at times been forced to try and carry that City midfield, they look to him for inspiration. It means that while he’s trying so, so hard. He often can’t make the impact in the massive games that he wants to, or tries too.

I think my point here is that, yes De Bruyne is fabulous and his stats are great. But as Jonny Nic, points out, if that’s all you’re going on, then maybe it’s us, not the professional football writers who are the idiots?

Cheers,
Marc

 

Some people are really bent out of shape about Jordan Henderson winning player of the season, aren’t they? Can we clarify some things and then put this one to bed?

Paul, I don’t think anyone thinks Jordan Henderson IS a better footballer than De Bruyne. But the award is not, ‘Who is the best footballer?’ It’s about who had the best season, taking all things into consideration.

Henderson splits opinion more than perhaps any other player, but his influence on the team is undeniable. Liverpool dropped more points this season in the 8 games Henderson missed than in the 30 games he played. That is not a coincidence. He is also just a leader. He drives the team forward on and off the pitch. That is why he picked up the award.

He also plays for a team that finished 18 points above Manchester City. It’s all very well picking up countless assists when you batter Watford, but the fact is City have lost 9 games this year. That has to be taken into account.

If we were purely judging things on the pitch, on stats, goals assists etc, De Bruyne would have won the award. But the FWA have a history of taking other factors into account.

Last year Raheem Sterling won the award. Was he the best player in the league? Statistically, it should have been Mo Salah, or even his own team mate, Sergio Aguero who had 4 more goals and only 2 fewer assists. Yet Sterling was picked, I’m sure in part because of his work off the pitch.

Was Jamie Vardy a better striker than Aguero in 2016? Or was the fact that Leicester won the league the deciding factor? Was Scott Parker a better midfielder than Gerrard or Lampard in 2011? Gareth Bale won it in 2013 with 5 fewer goals than Van Persie, who fired United to the title. Teddy Sherringham won in 2001, despite playing only 29 games and being 6th top scorer in the league.

In other words this sort of thing happens all the time. So really, don’t worry about. It’s not a conspiracy and its certainly not unusual. We’ll probably be back here next year when Marcus Rashford wins it for a 15 goal season.
Mike, LFC, London

 

Sancho not a priority?!
Just read Seb’s 16 Conclusions and apparently Sancho not a priority for United?!

On what planet are people on who say United don’t need greater top quality squad depth in their forward line? Look at City’s strength in depth across their attack (Mahrez, Sterling, Aguero, Jesus, Foden, Silva, Silva (departed but presumably replaced in some way even if Foden does get more games) and Sané (also departed). At least two top quality players in each position.

Yes, people will point to Liverpool’s relative lack of depth in their attack as a counter-argument but they are freakishly consistent, top level performers that United don’t have and have had a huge slice of luck with lack of injuries to those front three.

Claiming United don’t need to prioritise Sancho because of the emergence of Greenwood is reductive and short sighted. We can’t expect to challenge by putting that much of a burden on an 18year old with only Daniel James as back up. He needs to be integrated into the team with others around him, don’t forget playing off the right is not his only position and he’ll still get games even if Sancho arrives such is his quality.

I accept the point about a more technical player being preferable in CDM nowadays and personally think Ruben Neves could be a good fit for United (young with plenty of PL experience) but the point about Thiago is again misleading. Him and Matic are completely different types of deep lying midfielder, Matic more akin to Fabinho.

Don’t get me wrong, I have my reservations about Matic (mainly due to periodical and alarming drops in form) and was surprised to see the length of his contract renewal but I wouldn’t say CM was United’s top priority simply because he’s tired.
It was only recently as well that Michael Cox was writing in the Athletic about Matic’s importance in United’s new look midfield and praising his ability to make passes through the lines of midfield and defence to reach Fernandes.
Gary Neville also had him, alongside another Untied man F365 claim they desperate need to replace, as Man of the Match.

Point is, greater depth is needed in attack with reinforcements in defence (controversially I think RB and LB more of a priority than CB to give greater attacking impetus from the flanks) and then after those areas – add a technical CM in the mould of Neves.
Matty C – Vietnam

 

Crystal Palace
Dear Football365,

I’m not going to gloat about Watford being relegated because it’s likely to be Crystal Palace in their position next season. I’m not sad to have a season off from their sh!thousery though.

*Palace bookended the post-lockdown season with their best two results: victory over Bournemouth was followed by seven consecutive defeats in various degrees of abjectness, and then a draw with Tottenham Hotspur, which coincidentally also ended a run of seven defeats to Hotspur in which the Eagles had failed to even score.  This wasn’t a classic, but to some degree, the job got done for both teams: Hotspur got the point they needed to reach the Europa League, while Palace ended a dire run of results and finished the season.

*Roy Hodgson tweaked his formation (not a euphemism) and lined his team up in 4-4-2, with Jordan Ayew and Wilfried Zaha as central strikers, Andros Townsend on the right of midfield and the returning Jeffrey Schlupp on the left, presumably with half a mind towards supporting youngster Tyrick Mitchell at left-back, against the threats of Lucas Moura and Son Heung-Min.

*On 19 July last year, I went to the Nottingham Forest v Crystal Palace preseason friendly, which the home side won 1-0. In my email to F365 about it, I noted that the Palace attack was hampered by the lack of a clinical finisher; in that game, they played the ball long for Christian Benteke, who would do the hold-up play but wasn’t able to get involved in the next phase of the attack, and they didn’t have someone who could feed off the knock-downs. That night, Schlupp was playing as the most advanced of the midfielders, and for all his industry, he isn’t a prolific scorer. Fast forward a year and both Palace’s shots on target fell to Schlupp, one of which he scored, and the other half-decent scoring chances fell to defenders Scott Dann and Joel Ward.

It’s been a frustrating season, perhaps best summed up by this statistic:

Wouldn’t expect it any differently, would you?

*I make the dough, you get the glory, the Premier League has the glamour, but non-league has the story. Daniel Storey wrote an excellent article about Harrogate Town, looking to reach the Football League for the first time, with Notts County (seeking to return to the Football League at the first opportunity) standing in their way. As an interested neutral I’m not sure where my sympathies lie: Notts County are far closer geographically to me, but the father in law of one of Harrogate’s players used to run a very good nearby pub.

At the other end, such are the shifting sands, last year’s beaten playoff finalists AFC Fylde have been relegated. King’s Lynn Town’s back to back promotions see them in non-league’s top tier for the first time, and joining them will be either Boston United or Altrincham. If the Robins are successful, it will mean that they will have been promoted or relegated in four of the past five seasons.
Ed Quoththeraven

 

Well done, Liverpool…
Well Done Liverpool, and a note for Ollie.

First, I’d like to say, with no strings attached, no conditions, and from the bottom of my heart, congratulations to Liverpool. There was a time when Liverpool had only dropped points to United and I was worried they would win all the games for the rest of the season, which meant it could only be improved by actually winning every single sodding game in the season. Fortunately that’s not been the case, but it absolutely felt like this Liverpool team could do it. I think we under-estimate what it takes to push City so far into the distance, and to be consistently at the top of your game in a competitive league like this. That was an incredible season and a trophy well deserved.

I was going to just leave it at that, but then I saw the mail from Oliver LFC. Mate, you’ve just won the league after 30 years. You’ve got the whole nation congratulating you. And you want to talk about how Man United are doing? You’re the guy who gets married to the woman of his dreams, but has to pop around to his neighbours  to remind them that their wives aren’t as lovely as they believe. You’re on a giant ferris wheel p***ing on other people while you’re on top. Enjoy it while it lasts, I’ll see you on the way down.
Ved (Really? Third?)  Sen, MUFC

 

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