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Bruno the temp
First, thank you Man Utd. I hate you but I am a classy gentleman, to bring us to 2 games of winning the Premier League, I want to shake your hand, coronavirus be damned.Now some bad news. Bruno Fernandes is a temporary high. All the praising and pedestal placing after a couple of games, do these fans learn nothing? Put it down to new player bounce, bad players around him making him look good, opposition players not figuring out how to nullify him yet. Youse had previous in Daniel James, Martial, Bailly, Pogba, Slabhead; players who roared into the Premier League screaming The Final Jigsaw! and 2 months later, are meh.
Me, I think he is too slight to make it in the PL. Bruno is all dainty dinks and fancy flicks but he lacks that drive, that juggernauting through like a Kante or a Fernandinho, but neither is he a David Silva nor a de Bruyne.
It’s been a while since you’ve had good news, so go to town on Bruno, let’s check back in 2 months and see how he’s doing, ok?
Observations about Solskjaer and Pep
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer can build a team: opinion may still be divided about Ole as a manager but surely he’s proved that he can build a team. Every one of his buys is a first teamer, has filled a key gap, and improved the team’s overall performance significantly. Suddenly the united squad looks deep – with Bailly as an auxiliary centre back, Matic as a defensive mid option, Mata as a stand in attacking midfielder and Greenwood and Ighalo as back up strikers. And that’s not considering Pogba or Dean Henderson. United fans should thank Ole for resurrecting the team if for nothing else.
Solskjaer can solve problems: going into the winter break, United’s challenge was good counterattacking performances against the top teams but vapid and ponderous play against the bottom teams who played with men behind the ball. Since the break, teams below United have been dealt with with minimal fuss. Teams that united should have thrashed have been thrashed. The win against Watford was particularly impressive given how much of a thorn Watford have been over the past seasons in the side of Man United. With Ighalo and Fernandes adding to Martial and Greenwood, it doesn’t feel that difficult suddenly. Most United fans would remember games like Derby and Tranmere being settled by a 83rd minute scuffed goal by Lukaku or Fellaini, not so long ago. For his next challenge Solskjaer needs a blue-print for teams like Everton and Wolves who are in between.
Pep is a surly interviewee: Saint Pep is surely the patron saint of passive aggressiveness isn’t he? For a man who is so whole-heartedly into the game, he comes across as particularly curmudgeonly every time he loses. He doesn’t answer questions, gives offensively deadpan answers, and makes false claims about both his team and the opposition. Yesterday’s sample was his assertion that his team played well, and United were a counter-attacking and long ball team. I don’t think anybody else watching the game yesterday would call United a long ball team. And if the counter attacking team has 50% more shots, as well as shots on target, you’d think there’s a rethink required.
Will Pep learn? One of the best things about football is its rock-paper-scissors tactical evolution. Whatever is the flavour of the day, something is coming along that will render it obsolete. For every rock there is a paper, and for ever paper, scissors. Pep has now got to a point where his style of football is being blunted regularly enough for him to tweak his tactical blueprint. Sir Alex’s longevity was down to his being able to reinvent his own thinking, not just his personnel. I’d love to see Pep 2.0 coming to the party next year with a fresh new approach. Something tells me he’s more Wenger than Fergusson, and in danger of ultimately becoming a crazed caricature of his own successful model.
Ved (sticking the boot in while I can) Sen, MUFC
Manchester derby musings
A great result yesterday and an impressive, functional performance. City were strangely toothless and uninspired (or not that strangely when you factor in KDB’s absence) and United made use of the ball pretty much every time they had it.
The midfield was excellent with Matic and Fred again playing very well together and Fernandes busting a gut to interfere with City’s possession as well as creating a few bits and pieces here and there including the wonderful set-piece for the first goal. Aaron Wan-Bisaka continues to impress with a masterful performance of DEFENDING against Raheem Sterling. He was so dominant and so assured that it was an absolute joy to watch. The fact that he continued to show progression in his attacking moments just added to the performance. Should have gotten MOTM.
Martial and James were both excellent as well and Ighalo, for the limited time he was on, was again impressive; holding the ball up, laying it off, and going on a few little runs to kill time and further tire out City’s back line. He has turned out to be a shrewd signing but if you look back at Ole’s comments when they signed him it was not by design but merely that they had to get a body in and he was keen and it was a viable deal in comparison with other options.
So that is 3 wins in 4 derbies this season, and a run of ten games unbeaten with 8 clean sheets. I have heard the 8 clean sheets mentioned numerous times but no-one has mentioned that the two blips in that run were the one goal conceded against Brugge when the usually reliable Romero went walk abouts and De Gea’s balls-up against Everton last week. Both regrettable and avoidable, but both also indicative that the actual defense at United has improved massively in recent weeks. Bailey has come back and has been in and out which has allowed Lindeloff to get a bit more recovery time in, Williams and Shaw have continued to play well, especially when playing together in Ole’s back five. Maguire is slow, but is a fantastic defender. AWB is not Trent Alexander-Arnold, but is a fantastic defender. You have to give credit for the coaching and for the application of the players because without two totally uncharacteristic goalkeeping errors we could be talking about 10 games unbeaten, nine wins and 10 clean sheets.
Still unsure as to whether Ole is the man for the long term but her deserves immense credit for the patience and effort he has shown this season to try and fix the glaring issues that the rest of us have seen for years.
Mangor United, Belfast
Rein it in…
Lovely to see all the Man Utd fans in the mailbox jumping for joy at the resurgence of their plucky team.
Couple of facts for you:
These plucky boys are 13 points worse off than at this point last season
The club has the highest wage bill in the Premier League (and ever for anyone in this League)
The club has the biggest net spend over the last 2 seasons
Nice bit of form at the moment and they are looking more of a team, but they are still on a different stratosphere with praise going to a manager, who allegedly hasn’t had the players / luck / insert excuse here.
Massive underachievement, as even scraping 4th place would be, so enjoy your footie, but this privileged club and manager has failed miserably.
Should Pogba stay now?
Now Manchester United are good again, does anyone else think that this will mean Pogba / Raiola will decide its in his best interests to stay and potentially win something next seson?
I would not be at all surprised to see him come back in, now they are up to his standard again (or the standard he thinks he should be at)
He seems to be a (bit of a knob) sulky, we arent winning, so im not playing type.. but as soon as they are wining I can see him coming in and being all… well.. Pogba..
Would Manu fans be happy to see him flounce back in and swagger around, knowing that he could strop off at any giving moment again? Would it be worth eh risk / hassle for some the the brilliant things he can do?
Genuine question (because I think I am a little worried about him doing exactly that and they will prosper form it more than they will fail…)
Al – LFC (my weekend away with my wife for the Palace game is back in jeopardy.. Who would thought it! I assured her we wouldnt win it that weekend…)
Why I’m still #OleOut
This may be unpopular and as enjoyable as that result was, I still think United are desperate for a change in manager, if they want to go up a level.
Results like yesterday and the PSG game invoke feelings that should not be used to make cold calculated decisions. Ole has improved players but at the same time as a team we are woefully inconsistent in the premier league. We have 12 wins, 9 draws and 8 losses. We are on course for our lowest ever points tally in premier league history, yes we are 5th but 6 points separate us from 11th. On 8 separate occasions where chelsea have dropped points, we have also dropped points.
Our next 9 league fixtures include Spurs and Sheffield United and a number of the lesser teams Ole has consistently struggled with. A mailboxer said that to beat these teams you need to rely on individual brilliance but I disagree. Being able to rely on attacking patterns which you have trained on is more important, therefore guys know where to pass and where to run and it shouldn’t matter if your best player is having an off day.
We have the makings of a very good squad (with a few additions). An elite level coach with a proven record of being able to improve youth, get the best out his players and out play teams is still needed. Insert Pochettino who arguably overachieved with his spurs team considering the investment put into that squad.
The issue we have is we’ve turned so many corners this season, is it feels like we’re in a maze. We are 3/4 losses away from crisis mode. Ole in his defence is doing a thankless task in getting rid of a lot of deadwood. But does that mean you can’t objectively say that he’s tactically below average? Even if he stays on – which I think is a certainty and also a mistake – I don’t see him at United for more than a year before he’s fired.
Just think objectively would you rather give Ole 3 years to build a squad or would you rather give Poch the same time and money.
I love Minty, LFC’s emails. He really knows his onions. Well informed, detailed analysis that can probably only be bettered by Peter G (Minty, you can buy me a pint for that the next time I’m in Scouse territory) but his Sunday email was very maudlin. Anyone would think you’re in a relegation battle reading that! Sure, losing to Watford was a shocker (cost me AUD50 btw) and you weren’t too chipper again Bournemouth but it’s not the end of the world is it?
You’re going to win the biggest prize at a canter. 2 wins now, I believe. And, you’re ECL champions and champions of The World as well.
30 years of hurt will come to an end in a couple of weeks but “The Legacy”?
Will somebody make a film out of it?
Al, Arsenal, Sydney (Of course you’ve seen Fever Pitch, you denier!)
In response to duck, there’s no doubting Ndombele’s talent, he can pick out passes that no-one else sees and looks like a real talent. Lots of fans are having a go at him because of his fitness, which has been a problem all season. If we let him go he’ll almost certainly be amazing.
I’d rather focus on the positives, and hope that our new manager can nurture him into realising his talent…. stop laughing at the back..
Oh and spending big on transfers doesn’t guarantee success according to Levy. LOL! Never worked for Chelsea and City the trophy-less fools!! And we’re so ‘fiercely ambitious’ we don’t need a striker!! Anyway here’s to more Levy out songs and flags
Dave, Winchester Spurs
Brilliant by John Nicholson
As usual, top drawer article from Mr Nicholson.
I’m glad he brought attention to the idiotic article by Danny Murphy as on Soccer Saturday Paul Merson made the exact same argument.He said his parents left at ht because he was getting so much abuse as Walsall manager.Classic Merson as he isn’t exactly comparing like with like.What would he have done if he saw his parents being physically attacked I wonder?
As John said,you just have to wonder what goes on in people’s heads?Yesterday v Everton and last Tuesday night v Liverpool Chelsea fans sang “sign on” at opposing fans. You seriously have to ask why do they find poverty funny?
A child you never met is going to bed hungry,goes to school hungry and this is funny how? Same as yesterday at the Manchester Derby,the anti Scouse vitriol could be heard,laughing at poverty. “Bin dippers” is used regularly on social media. So people starving so much they have to look for food in bins is funny to Mancs in 2020?? I mean the fact that Salford has seen the highest increase in the numbers of people using food Banks in the UK seems to have escaped these idiots.
Utter scum of the earth sums up the people chanting this.It happens at EVERY UTD GAME. First song up every game is an anti Merseyside “ditty.”
Why? During a Manchester Derby why would you mention Liverpool people/fans? And it isn’t just a minority,it booms around the Stadium.
It is toxic.
It is classless.
It is unnecessary.
I won’t even mention the Hillsborough/Sun chanting that goes on.
It is time for the FA to act with stadium closures and it is time for players to simply walk off if these songs are heard when teams play. It’ll never happen so long as the attitudes of the likes of Murphy and Merson continue to be prevalent.
Some wonderful half-baked metaphors in the morning’s mailbox. Jolly well done.
However, John Nicholson‘s article about cajones made me think of this one, and it begins with the quote, “Only YOU can prevent forest fires.”
Not sure if this spreads beyond North America but the message is clear, for all the policies governments can enact and strain to enforce, only YOU can prevent a fckng forest fire.
Why moan and wail against the establishment’s handling of these issues like water on rock? Instead of waiting for an underpaid stewart to escort the neo-nazi filling your young son’s head with his “truth” why can’t the fans work to make game inclusive environments?
Makes me think of a theme oft present in history, movies, grade school…theres always a bully picking on some smaller kids. The thing that these kids don’t realize until the end of the movie, is that there’s more of them than the bullies.
Fans hold real power in soccer. Maybe we’ve been conditioned to see this differently, because in every aspect of our lives we are told to delegate to someone else in power, who represents us. But in reality, would that orange hooded loser have yelled any of those things at Dier if the possibility of getting pummeled by the man was real? What if everyone around him took the slightest responsibility and turned and ushered him out of the stadium before he could get past half of his sentiment?
“Grow some balls” can go both ways, boys and girls. If you believe that your son shouldn’t be waking off opposing fans then teach your son to save waking off for home and celebrate the achievements and hard work of athletes in front of them during game time? Grow some balls and show him (or her, girls are just as important) the world that CAN be.
The only time you are powerless is when you make yourself powerless, John.
N.V.M. (Teach the next generation to be better than you, work to make this generation better than the previous. Just like real trophies, it doesn’t come without real work.)
My weekend was a mix of highs and lows: Crystal Palace won, Grantham Town lost; I was interviewed for a book on Saturday, but only after the disappointment of discovering the laser tag birthday party my son was invited to wasn’t lads v dads. Oh, and then Sunday the Non-League Paper printed an I email I sent them but only after giving it a significant rewrite that made it look like I’d mentioned a manager who hadn’t yet been appointed. Also, “It’s time for the team to reciprocate the fans’ optimism” is not the same as “it’s up to us to get behind the team”.
*Having beaten their biggest rivals last weekend, Palace faced perhaps their bitterest opposition on Saturday in Watford. Don’t think anyone in football is as happy as we are at the moment. An underrated rivalry, the Eagles and the Hornets have met in important games several times in their history, such as a playoff final in 2013 and an FA Cup semi-final in 2016 – Palace came out on top on those days, but on other occasions the Hertfordshire side have had their number. The two sides tend to end seasons fairly close together, or at least, each finds the other a reliable benchmark as to how successful the season has been.
*Watford came into the game with a reputation among Palace fans as a team who play on the edge, not afraid of a reducer and seeing yellow cards as badges of honour if it puts an opponent on the shelf for a few weeks. Etienne Capoue is a particular bête noire in this regard, having only been cautioned for raking his studs down Wilfried Zaha’s ankle in a previous game that led to the Palace man suggesting an opponent would have to break his leg before being sent off. Watford are not the only team to attempt to rattle Zaha in an attempt to make him lose his composure – just as Ezequiel Schelotto how that can work out.
Speaking of Watford sh!thouses, it appears the director’s son who dresses up as Harry the Hornet is currently playing a tiny violin after his (non-hornet) face appeared briefly on the big screen at Selhurst Park.
*Palace, however, were not there to be pushed around. They stood up to their opponents rather than being cowed, playing their part in an atmosphere that led to eight yellow cards. They kept the same system as last week, having found a way of maintaining solidarity without entirely sacrificing the team’s attack. What resulted was not a game for the purists, as the few chances that were created tended to be mainly from long distance – the xG for the game was 0.85 for the hosts and 0.45 for the visitors, as Vicente Guaita enjoyed a fairly quiet game between the sticks.
*Just like last week, a Palace goal came from the sort of good team move they didn’t seem to be able to put together for the first half of the season. Jordan Ayew was on the end of a move that also involved Christian Benteke, James McArthur and Zaha. The debate ran on Twitter after the game about Benteke not scoring, and while it would be nice to see him on the scoresheet, the truth is there are more ways to measure a player’s value to his team than simply goals. As today’s HLTCO podcast points out, it seems as though Roy Hodgson has told Benteke to get involved in the play however he can, and not to worry at all about his goalscoring. In the last two matches this ploy has contributed to winning goals, but the Belgian striker clearly has his confidence back as he attempted an ambitious overhead kick in the second half.
*Hodgson’s style of football is not always the most aesthetically pleasing, but it seems to be getting results. As the goal showed, there are beauty spots in an otherwise modernist landscape. His new contract – at a time when the Premier League may be asking people his age to stay away from grounds in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19 – combined with their relative (but not guaranteed) safety in the top flight, allows the club to start working on its transfer targets ahead of time. I presume he would not have agreed to an extension if he was not promised that the squad would receive serious investment, even if two of his three main summer signings (Ayew and Gary Cahill) have been the best value for money deals of the season.
*Next up for the Eagles is a trip to Bournemouth and a meeting with Eddie Howe, who has been one of the leaders in the innuendo against Zaha in recent times. Palace have done quite well getting one over on rivals, so the Cherries will have it all on not to see their names added to that particular list.
Close to perfection…
Just had to write in to say that the Pogba being like caviar on your birthday cake analogy was as close to perfect as any I’ve ever seen in the mailbox.