The answer to Man United’s most pressing positional issue

Joe Williams
Moises Caicedo Brighton Man Utd

Holy Moises
I had never heard of Moises Caicedo until about 30 minutes ago (thank you, Planet Football), but my God if he is anything approaching as good as he seems to be, he could be the answer to Man United’s most pressing positional issue for the next 10 years. From my cursory research, he appears to be a Rolls Royce of a player already, dominating the midfield for club and country at 19 years old. Modelling himself on a playing style of Kanté mixed with Pogba (and hopefully the mentality of the former), and openly speaking about his dream of playing for Man United, I am having difficulty containing my optimism that this could be a match made in heaven.

Anyone with more knowledge of Ecuadorian football care to educate us further on him? If reports are to be believed it is only United and West Ham who are competing for him, which sounds suspicious if he is as good as he sounds. Anyway, I guess it is only a matter of time before Woodward f**ks it up so I will enjoy my enthusiasm for now.

Luke M, Connemara


Relegation from the Premier League
Dear Football365,

John Nicholson’s latest piece about how relegation from the Premier League shouldn’t be feared by clubs but instead accepted as part of life was clearly inspired a love of the Championship. There is a lot to like about football’s second tier: the shifting sands nature mean that it doesn’t take more than a couple of wins or losses for a team’s position in the table to be drastically altered, for better or worse.

However, the depiction of the top flight as Eldorado is the largest contributor to this division being so tight. There are a lot of teams who have run up huge debts, or who have unsustainable wages to turnover ratios; clubs repeatedly gamble their futures against the notion that they will only need to reach the Premier League once in order to justify any number of such attempts. Parachute payments were intended to prevent clubs going out of business when their income from television and sponsorship dropped below a level that could support top flight contracts; instead they are regularly used as transfer funds as teams look to buy a seat at the top table. There are some absolutely ridiculous managerial sackings as well.

John’s timing is also curious: this season, the Premier League has seen a lot of entertaining games (unless it’s your team getting thumped by the Harlem Globetrotters, or the Arsenal are playing), while the Championship has seen its lowest goals per game return for many years. Goals in and of themselves are not the only measure of enjoyment, but it’s no coincidence that the current managerial crop includes Chris Hughton, Aitor Karanka, Tony Pulis and Neil Warnock, all of whom have managed in the Premier League but were criticised for being stubbornly defensive-minded.

While teams – including my own – have endured far worse than a poor season that culminates in relegation, I don’t think it’s right for teams to just accept relegation with indifference. Norwich City deserve praise for the way they have trusted Daniel Farke as their long-term manager, but they also merited the criticism they received last season for the way that they appeared to make minimal efforts to improve their squad to a level that might be good enough to avoid relegation. Rightly or wrongly, they seemed content to bank the cash, win games in the second tier with a squad more than capable of doing so, time to make the club go up, time to shut the club down, then we rinse and repeat, and it just goes on.

A final word on Sam Allardyce. It’s being widely reported that he won’t be able to repeat his previous trick of spending big on players at WBA, but at Crystal Palace, he brought in four players: Luka Milivojevic, Jeffrey Schlupp and Patrick van Aanholt arrived for a combined total of £35m, and a further £2m was spent on a loan fee for Mamadou Sakho, who would later join the club permanently. A lot of money for Palace to spend when it’s considered as a short-term fix, but in the long run the importance of those players have more than justified the outlay. I wonder how fans of his other former clubs feel about his recruitment (probably not you, Toffees fans).
Ed Quoththeraven


After reading John Nicholson’s latest piece, this time on Relegation and Sam Allaydyce it did make me have a good long think, is it more fun to be a fan of a yo-yo team or of a team that will consistently finished in the 15th-17th bracket in the league.

Now of course as a fan of a top six side I cannot truly get a grasp of this and give a truly honest opinion, the closest I have come to this would be supporting my very local non-league side or when I check the score for Portsmouth, a team I just have a huge soft spot for since the 00’s, I think it comes down to each fan and their individual outlook on football as a whole, the point of football is entertainment one may argue, you want to be entertained, now are Brentford fans enjoying life in the Championship more than say the Premier League if they had been promoted? well of course you want to be in the top tier of English football, the pinnacle of the league system as one of the best 20 sides in the country, however I can truly understand the boredom that must set in if you consistently are finishing in that 15th-17th bracket and playing quite boring negative football.

Moving to the Sam Allardyce part of his article, being a guy from the Midlands I have a fair few WBA fans and when the news of Slaven Bilic had been sacked started to do the rounds the majority were gutted, they loved him, they loved the football also last season in the Championship, they understood why he had been dismissed but were still gutted, however once they heard “Big Sam” was taking over the same fans shared similar feelings and that was along the lines of “well we will likely stay up, but we aren’t going to enjoy what we see”, now back in his Bolton days, that side were quite entertaining to watch, however nowadays “Big Sam” teams do not play that way at all.

In conclusion, personally I would always prefer to see my team be competitive each season but never dominate in the likes of say a PSG, Celtic etc, I like the fact my side may or may not win a trophy but are certainly in with a huge shout, that is what i find entertaining, other fans may love the idea of seeing their side win the league each season without a threat, but we are all individuals and will find joy in different sides and outcomes of the beautiful game.
Mikey, CFC


Man Utd are in this title race…
In response to Jon of Cape Town, who is worried that he just can’t find it in himself to hate Liverpool or City anymore, I’d suggest that he find other things to bother him. Because the hate is coming.

Despite all logic to the contrary, United are in this title race. Their players are just too good to lose enough not to be. Or maybe Ole really is a managerial second coming. Or… I genuinely don’t know. Maybe it’s just that City/Liverpool have slipped enough to let them into the reckoning.

Whatever the reason, if United win their game in hand, they’re 2 points back from Liverpool with nearly half the season gone. Potentially level with City, potentially ahead. So, again, vagaries of form allowing, that game in mid January is going to be heated. Because unlike the games of the last 11/12 years (since both Reds were in a title race at the same time) there’s going to be something more than than pride running on the result of the fixture.

And that’ll bring the pressure and the hate to boiling. Ain’t that lovely.
Andrew M, JHB


Double standards for Ole…
A good victory for United
. This was a very good performance and United should have scored more. Martial could have had a hat-trick and ended up scoring none. He really needs to up his finishing or drop down the pecking order.

What annoyed me, even before the game started, was how differently Ole (or maybe even Manchester United) was being asked to win the game. Michael Owen said that he wants United to dominate games and not counter-attack to win games. Jimmy Hasselbaink said after the game that United had less possession than Leeds and should be dominating games. Now Leeds have an obvious chink in their armour and United exploited it perfectly. Why would you not play that way? It’s annoying when Mourinho is claimed to be a serial winner, no matter how he does it and Ole is being asked to dominate games and win otherwise his wins don’t count for as much. Pochettino was all style and no substance (winner) so I would say Ole is getting to somewhere in the middle now.

Finally, I do believe United are one Van Dijk away from being serious challengers to Liverpool. There is now amazing bench strength in all areas except defence and United should be going all out to sign a good defender this Winter.
Hassan (Or one Fernandes Injury from ending up 10th)


Why I’m still Ole out
I like Ole and he’s a nice guy but I would still move him on at the end of the season, let me explain why.

Inconsistency) Ole has been in the job for 2 years now and in that time, we’ve been over reliant on individual performances to win us matches instead of style of play. This is a big reason why we are inconsistent. For the past 2 years we haven’t been able to dominate teams who play compact and on the low block. Leeds yesterday played right into our hands, but there’s only 5/6 teams in the league that will play this way and allow u to counter attack and have 40% possession at home.

Coaching) The defence is my biggest issue here, AWB cost 50m and his glaring weakness is defending back post crosses, ie liepzig first goal, and the goal we conceded against brighton off the top of my head. Why is this not being coached out of him? That’s their bloody job! Harry Maguire is beyond saving if i’m being honest, we look more shaky with him than we did with Smalling. For reasons only god can explain, they made him captain so he’s not going anywhere.

Nowadays in the world, you’re either extremely for or against something, there’s not really middle ground and the same exists for United fans. It’s possible to respect the work ole has done, the quality of player he’s brought in, the deadwood he’s gotten rid of and the youngsters he’s promoted. But at the same time understand, that he will never ever get us to the levels of Bayern and *retches* Liverpool are currently at. My choice has always been Poch, people will say he’s not won anything but he managed to get the very best from that Spurs team, which you can’t say Ole is doing atm.

The greatest teams are ruthless. Thank ole for the good job he did and send him on his way. All of this is moot anyway, if that human enema Ed Woodward is still in charge!

Final point, i promise! To the man who asked about zidane and his playing style. His real madrid team had the best players in the world at each position and a gentlemen named Cristiano upfront.
Longsight Lad (Tears and Tiers)



16 Conclusions from Man United v Leeds 
(1) So let me get this right – a tanker of a central defender, and another who can’t defend. Weak full backs, an error prone goalkeeper. Defensive midfielders who aren’t at the right level, inconsistent strikers. A manager who isn’t even championship level, and yet, here we are 5 points off the top, in 3rd place, and with a game in hand. Funny how things turn out isn’t it? A big shout out to the chap who suggested I should look at the league table only at Christmas. Perhaps you were onto something, I should have waited.

(2) Before we go all roller coaster, this does NOT mean United are in the title race. As a public service notice, let me reiterate. Ole is not a genius. Man United aren’t going to push Liverpool for the title. We’ll still need to play at the upper end of our capabilities to stay in the Champions league places, especially with the strength of Spurs, Everton, Liverpool, City, and Chelsea.

(3) I think it was Simon Kuper who wrote that the relative paucity of goals in football gives goal-scoring an undue weightage in evaluating teams and players. Unsurprisingly for a former striker, this is the bit Solskjaer seems to have gotten right. By and large United are capable of scoring goals, and they often do so with high efficiency. This is why playing well for 45 mins in a game still serves United well. I certainly can’t remember anything close to this in terms of attacking exhilaration since the days of Rooney and Ronaldo. Liverpool obviously currently play at this level 90% of the time. And Man City in their Aguero / Silva/ Kompany avatar did this relentlessly over the season. For Ole’s United, in most games so far this is a 20-30 minute spurt which is winning them more games than you would think they deserve.

(4) Yesterday it felt like both teams decided to go man-to-man, and Man United players realised very quickly that man for man they were better than the opposition, and played with the swagger that comes of confidence. But Wan Bissaka and Lindelof clearly don’t talk to each other enough, there are far too many occasions where both of them are left guarding the same player while a wide player runs in behind Wan Bissaka. More than individual ability, it’s this defensive organisation which is most critically lacking for Man United. But it made for a riveting game, and what a game for neutrals and United supporters!

(5) A word about Fred. I never understand fans who blame players for not being good enough. Surely that’s the manager’s problem for playing them? Players like Fellaini, Smalling, and Young have born the brunt of fans’ ire over the years, and Fred is just the latest. But just like these others, I’ve never seen Fred play at less than 100% effort. And most of the time, he’s a very effective harrier. Wins balls, covers the defence, plays early passes, and transitions defence to attack well. Yes, he’s occasionally prone to losing the ball, or shooting when he should pass, but he’s been a key cog in many tricky games, especially when he played to his strengths and kept it simple.

(6) And a word about McTominay. If he keeps his head down and stays as focused as he’s been, he will end his career as a captain and a club legend. Strong, athletic, good on the ball, strong in tackles, not cowed by the likes of Neymar, and with an eye for goal. I’m not saying this just because of last night’s performance. He has outshone Pogba in any number of games, and does the hard stuff very well. As he grows in confidence and uses his natural ability more, he will be a huge asset to slot in behind Bruno Fernandes. Most players who play at the base of midfield generally get recognised in their late 20s. Look at Jordan Henderson, or Darren Fletcher. Fletcher was considered ’not good enough’ for years, and then suddenly in 2008/9 he was our most valuable defensive shield. People questioned Henderson’s value to Liverpool for years before he was suddenly flavour of the year. McTominay has the physicality and the game to get to those levels. And if he does, it’s probably Mourinho’s greatest legacy at United, to have brought him into the first team and given him the spotlight.

And the rest:
(7) What a fabulous goal by Dallas. To go with a great name!

(8) The score could have been in double digits, but on any of the potential configurations, Man United still win the game

(9) Tactical adjustment is often also a mark of humility. Solskjaer gets points for getting it right on the night.

(10) Dan James’ selection – another great move, could have gone horribly wrong but that’s what managers get paid for. Well gambled.

(11) Despite the scoreline, the Leeds defence still put in some heroic last ditch tackles. Cooper and Ayling were constantly flinging themselves in the way of shots. Given that it was a makeshift defence, and the goals largely came from midfielders, the Leeds defence can still feel aggrieved that they were let down by their team mates.

(12) The irony of scoring 6 goals, but Rashford, Martial, and Cavani getting none, despite the former duo having excellent games – it’s almost the kind of thing you’d expect from Leeds

(13) Leeds should have gotten at least 3 more shots on target which they conspired to miss from close range. United should have gotten at least 3 more shots into the corner of the goal, as they kept shooting at Meslier in the last half hour.

(14) De Gea made his customary blinding stop from the point blank volley, but probably could have tipped Cooper’s header around the corner.

(15) Van De Beek was a bit lost when he came on – largely because this was a game of very little midfield. Much like Kalvin Harris, he couldn’t figure out his position and role.

(16) Pogba wasn’t needed. He would have been too slow, too ponderous, and held onto the ball for too long. United are better without him in 80% of games.
Ved Sen (what a mean-spirited piece on Allardyce by Johnny Nic! It smells of a smallness. We should expect better)  MUFC


(Not) getting ‘teta
I’ve not read F365 for a while due to Arsenal’s form so apologies if this is tediously similar to what others are saying at the moment.

The tabloid favourite ‘X has Y number of games to save his job’ is surely true with Arsenal and Arteta right now. Our next five PL games are against Chelsea, Brighton, West Brom, Palace and Newcastle. After those games we’ll be exactly halfway through the season. If we lose all five we’ll be on track for 28 points come May and presumably relegation. Four of those games are genuine six pointers.

I don’t want Arteta to be sacked, at this point I’m hoping for a comfortable mid-table finish so he can be properly judged next season once Ozil, Mustafi, Sokratis and Luiz have gone and cleared £30m-£40m from our annual wage bill (that alone would pay for two £40m players on five year, £150k per week contracts). Anything less than nine points from those five games though and he surely has to go. Even then, it might be too late. After those five games we have an extremely tough (for us) run of 11 games in the PL. If you’re an Arsenal fan I would not recommend looking at fixtures beyond 18th Jan. If Arteta goes he will need to be replaced by someone who can perform a miracle with the same group of players.

I’ve seen people suggest this is all on Arteta but these are usually not Arsenal fans. If you’ve watched Arsenal every week since Wenger left you will have seen a steady decline to where we are now. This isn’t a sudden drop off a cliff. We’ve been making consistently bad transfer decisions for years now and the club has been a mess off the pitch. We’re reliant now on a lot of players who have no real investment in the club – players who won’t be at Arsenal in the long term – knuckling down and digging us out of this hole.

Hopefully for us Gooners we’ll find some of the spirit that won us the FA Cup last season and win these crucial PL games to give Arteta time to rebuild. To finish on a positive note, even this awful Arsenal team has won more trophies than one of the best Spurs teams in their history.

Merry Christmas all!
Simon Cochrane


Arteta’s woes…
With talk now of toxic division in the dressing at Arsenal, it seems clear Arteta has lost his grip on the squad, especially clear in light of Arsenal’s woeful results of late.

I’ve raised this before but Klopp’s summary dismissal of Mamadou Sakho in his first preseason is great lesson for new managers to look at, as a lesson in how to announce who’s the boss.

Not that dismissals are the only rule for this, but it’s a terrific way to slap in the face to everyone, just remind the squad who makes the calls around here.

Never forget that Liverpool at the time were particularly weak at the back, so to let go of a quality defender (for us then anyway) must have been quite the shock. It said that nobody was safe, that a casual attitude was unacceptable, and that if you wanted to be here, then get on board with The New Boss.

My way or the highway to Selhurst Park.

Perhaps Arteta’s freezing Ozil out of the squad is the same intent, but it certainly doesnt feel as if Arteta is the boss of the squad or that he has their faith.
Justin, LFC (we’re going to win the league again, aren’t we)


The importance of fact checking…
So Lee saw Everton sit back and give away possession against Arsenal and was amazed, suggesting any other team would have pounded them.

I wonder why Chelsea (72% possession) and Leicester (61% possession) also didn’t “pound” Everton. Could it be that 1 early goal (21 minutes) against Chelsea and Leicester (20 minutes) and sitting back perfectly suits a team who is currently playing 4 CBs in defense?

Im not debating Arsenals inability to play football right now, we are terrible. But let’s not pretend that Ancialotti isn’t simply playing to his teams strengths with their current fit and available squad. As you said, one of the best managers in the world, Arteta could learn a lot from him
Rob A (Willian is officially our worst signing post-Wenger, he offers absolutely f*** all) AFC


Christmas XI
Well as we’re locked down I thought I’d throw out a Christmas XI as

there’s not much else to do, think this could be a workable side:


Jens Sleighman


Ashley lump of Cole

Ledley King Wenceslas

Boxing Daley Blind

Kieran Tierney 4


Rudolph Gullit

Paul Mince Pie

Three Dennis Wise Men

Kingsley Snowman


Five gold Ings

Didier Egg Nogba

Merry Christmas
Jimmy (it was like that when I got here) Sham


A centre-back winning MOTM three games in a row. How many times has that happened?

Take a bow Jannik Vestergaard
Rob, London


Brighton striker
As Brighton continue to struggle for goals, I can’t help but think they could do with an experienced striker who’s a free agent. Why don’t they bring in Daniel Sturridge? Tracking back to defend isn’t his forte but surely, given all the chances they’re creating, they just need someone to stick it in the net, and he’s one of the best at that.
Paul in Brussels


Wolves, Dybala…
I know there was plenty to take our focus off football over the weekend, but can I ask Taz and the mailbox when Wolves started playing in yellow?

I didn’t realise I was gone for so long.
James, Kent.