Erik ten Hag’s first term at Man Utd on a par with Pep Guardiola’s at Man City…

Editor F365
Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag and Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola.

The Mailbox compares Erik Ten Hag’s early progress at Man Utd with Pep Guardiola’s across the city. Also: tournament trolley dashes; and a New Year’s resolution.

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Ten Hag on par with Pep
Give we’re nearly at the turn of the year, I was trying to assess how well our new manager, Ten Hag, has done. You can clearly see the improvement in our play but I admittedly have had blinkers on in the past, often backing managers when things were worse than they seemed to me. I like to be an optimist so prefer to focus on positives but it does tend to mean I give managers and players more time and patience than perhaps they deserve. Therefore, I will try to stick to a tangible assessment of TH for fear of getting carried away.

Generally when making managerial comparisons I will look to Klopp, with the obvious similarities between us and them and the fine job Jurgen has done there, with a style which took time to bed in. However, as TH honed his trade under Pep I thought I would look at City at the same stage of Pep’s tenure.

After 15 games of the 16/17 season, City had 30 points (having won 9, drawn 3, lost 3) and a GD of 13 (32 GF and 19 GA). Utd currently have 29 points (won 9, drawn 2, lost 4) and a GD of 3 (23 GF and 20 GA). Quite a similar level of progress but a big disparity in the number of goals scored. There are mitigating circumstances for that, with Ronaldo being the obvious issue and a lack of a proper #9 (with Martial just back from injury). City also had one of the PL greats firing on all cylinders in Aguero, who had 10 goals. Our current top scorer is Rashford with 5.

So arguably TH is keeping pace with Pep’s first season at City, a season where they ended up 3rd, got to semis in the FA Cup, 4th round of league cup and last 16 in Europe. I’d bite your hand off for third this season but would be mildly disappointed with those returns in the cups, as I think/hope we can get to a final. I don’t expect it to be plain sailing the rest of the season, and we will drop points and have some disappointing games. But all in all not too bad Erik.

As an aside I have just bought his biography as want to know more about what’s going on in that shiny beautiful noggin of his. Will see if there’s any decent tactical analysis to report back to the class.

Happy new year one and all.
Garey Vance, MUFC


Klopp, Mercs and contradictions
How does Dave(Klopp = Keegan = Benitez) not see that what he’s saying, completely contradicts what….he’s saying, reading was one of those moments where your eyes squint up as you point and laugh.

He says ‘Klopp is a spender, as far as his club can spend’. If Dave reads that last bit back again (as far as his club can spend) he may understand every other point he makes is, well, pointless.

I’ll tell Dave what’s tiring, the pretence that the spending power of Manchester City has had no effect on their dominance of English football, because ‘Liverpool bought Van Dijk’.

To use his own analogy, when you work hard for your £100k Mercedes, it has to be right, you have to make sure it has everything you need and is mechanically sound (no warranty for the purpose of this analogy). You have to plan your finances in order to be able to buy.

The guy with the inheritance, just buys the car, if it breaks down or isn’t suitable he just buys another one. Oh and he doesn’t have to plan his finances in order to buy, having to sell his old car, to 𝘢𝘧𝘧𝘰𝘳𝘥 a new one, is an Alien concept to him.

Liverpool, under Klopp, have to fantastically well to get close to Pep’s Manchester City. Unless you are a City fan (OK and a Man Utd or Everton fan), it should be applauded.


Klopp as the new Deschamps?
Deschamps received many a World Cup plaudit for reinventing Griezmann as a central midfielder. Necessity’s mother, and all that, but perhaps the greatest accomplishment was convincing the player to drop back.

What chance, I ask, that Klopp might pull a similar masterstroke with Firminho? And not just for those of us who consider the world to be in more harmonious balance when Bobby is playing football. To my uneducated eye the player possesses many of the attributes needed to occupy the central spaces: close control, vision, anticipation, passing ability. He certainly has an eye for goal, and isn’t afraid to track back and put the boot in.
Craig (LFC), Dublin


Tournament trolley dash
It never ceases to amaze me how after a major tournament, clubs suddenly want to buy players from the winning team. Nobody is doubting that they are good players, but I reckon in most cases they were not on said club’s radar before the tournament started.

Now Argentina have won the World Cup, everyone wants to sign their players. It’s like it’s only just been noticed that they’re any good. And better still, they’ll now cost way more to buy than they would have done 2 months ago.


Why have a scouting department? Just wait for a major tournament to finish. That’ll show who the best players are.
Stu – 5 point clear Gooner in France (happy but still slightly concerned though)

Back of the net
Let me quickly reply to “Mark, so bored” and others on the never-ending net-spend thing. Net-spend doesn’t matter, it is an economic issue. It doesn’t really matter how much you sell players for other than to the board. Net-spend merely covers a lack of direct investment, which as I’ve said before should be concerning to Liverpool fans considering the income and size of the fan-base.

In the end, the number that really matters is how much you have spent to build a side and whether those purchases were good. United have bought a lot of players over the years, and many not good enough no doubt, with a revolving door of different managers each bringing in their own players even where not needed, with no sense of a bigger plan.

Klopp has bought a lot of players since he joined Liverpool (51), and spent a great deal of money (£662m), breaking records for keepers and defenders in the process.

Yes, United have spent even more, but ask yourselves why they are able to find an extra £350m and Liverpool are not rather than clinging to the net-spend trophy.


New Year’s resolution
I’ve been thinking of sending this in for a while, but seeing some of the emails being published (and I hold F365 accountable as well), and some of the comments, and certain people going after each other every day, and constantly phishing, it’s starting to turn me off from the this site!
Look, football is tribal, we all know that, and I’m all for having banter with rival fans, and the majority of fans on here do have friendly banter. However, others jump in and take it beyond tribalism, and can get quite personal and offensive, and it’s simply unacceptable in my eyes.
Away from this site, I have been a season ticket holder for 38 years, and enjoy going to the games week in and week out. Over the years, I have grown to appreciate not only my own team, but watching other teams, and appreciating the quality on show. But believe me, I’ve been witness to the rough and the smooth, and our agonising 30 year wait for another title.
I have friends around the country who support a multitude of teams from United and City, to Arsenal, Spurs, Villa and Wolves, and in the lower leagues including Bolton and Barrow. Many of which I’ve met through work, and some I’ve met through football. We can all have friendly banter, either through WhatsApp or in person at games when our teams meet, home and away, and we meet up and go for a pint before the game.
I want to keep this as short as possible, so I won’t rant about some of the chants, especially at Christmas, but what I will say is that the vast majority of decent fans from all clubs support food banks around the country, and both our fans and other clubs fans support each other at the home games, and take food to support each others fan groups, who do so much in their local communities to help out people who are really struggling at these difficult times.
I consider myself fortunate that I can purchase my season ticket every year, and have a pretty comfortable lifestyle. However, there are fans around the country that have had to give up their season ticket to prioritise family commitments, and going to support their team every week was a way of life, and an outlet from the daily grind.
So what’s my point?
Let’s make 2023 on this site a better place to be. Let’s have friendly banter, wind each other up, but shake hands at the end of it.
But more importantly, let’s cut the crap and vitriol. It’s not Twitter.
I wish all the true fans a fantastic New Year, and look forward to our continued clean banter.
Have a good one guys!
Gronkie (LFC)

Read more: Big Weekend: Leaders Arsenal at Brighton, Darwin Nunez, Frank Lampard, Wolves

Nothing or Nothing: Richard Keys
Dear Editor,

During the Christmas break I finally got some time to watch All or Nothing: Arsenal documentary.  Ironically I didn’t manage to do this until around 29th December because we are a big Christmas household, taking the festive time to invite friends and neighbours, share gifts and tasty seasonal food with open hearts (soz Johnny Nic).

It struck me just how alien to modern football Richard Keys, his sidekick Andy Gray and the disciples of the Celebration Police really are.   Not withstanding the fact that two proven misogynistic old farts stand out as creaking dinosaurs compared to today’s modern community making up a football club, the real takeaway was just how important celebrating each and every success is to building a unit under Arteta’s methodology, and therefore just how little Keys and Co know about what is going on in clubs around the country.

Generating a group of smiling and relaxed professionals seems to require the excitement garnered from celebrating each success including the positives taken from dissecting each loss.   Does Keys ever visit these clubs? Is he even welcome? Is he exposed to real football? Do he and his acolytes ever get involved or do they simply sit in their rooms, checking their microphones are not still live and sneer at a sport that have out-evolved them?

Ironically Amazon Prime’s coverage of football seems to have deliberately removed this element from football.  And the sport needs more of this and less of Keys.


Darwin’s big weekend
Big weekend for Darwin which I suppose every weekend is as he’s not Haaland and Liverpool are still figuring themselves out this season. But to describe his current status as a drought is a bit over egging it.

He has an assist in each of two games after the world cup. 2 goals in the game before that at Southampton, an assist in the Spurs game before that and an assist in the Napoli game before that. I believe the kids call them goal involvements. In the 5 games since November that’s 6 goal involvements.

That’s not a drought. That’s pretty tidy considering that he’s not the main goal scorer. That’s Salah.

Sure he didn’t score at the world cup, but neither did Haaland.
Alex, South London