Keep your mails coming in to firstname.lastname@example.org over the international weekend. Pretty please….
Good luck, Stevie G
If you’re like me, you normally wish good things for those you like or people who have brought you joy at some time. You wish them individual but maybe not overall success, Barca score, I hope it’s Coutinho but that they lose 2-1. Others you hope fail miserably, I’m thinking Ray Clemence, Michael Owen and Luis Suarez, none of whom did to any level of satisfaction (fail that is) but I always hoped!
That’s why 2 years ago, my Scottish football allegiances were torn apart. Part of my childhood was captivated by Celtic of the 60’s and 70’s, the European Cup win, Jimmy Johnstone being used as an extra ball by Estudiantes and the battles against Leeds, I had a Kenny Dalglish poster on my wall alongside Kevin Keegan as they were the two best players either side of the border. Steven Gerrard (and possibly Brendan) changed that, he was my sons’ idol and therefore by proxy, one of mine, so his success at Rangers became important, it wasn’t guaranteed as 8 in a row was to become 9 but the signs were there that he could put together a team capable of challenging Celtic and he was rewarded with last seasons’ title and I (we) were delighted for him.
So what do I do now, Aston Villa are (European Cup win aside, that was beautiful, more scousers than any of LFC’s wins!) what they are, a midlands, mid-table team, I hope they beat Everton, United, City, Chelsea, Arsenal, Spurs and Leeds(wahl&l&l), but am indifferent when they play Palace or Wolves or the others, will that change, highly unlikely, even with SG in charge.
Do I want him to succeed and eventually march into Anfield, not bothered, I’ll take Duncan Ferguson in charge if he wins things (but not Tim Cahill!).
How will his “success” be measured? Top 4/6 is a pipe dream without significant investment and Newcastle look to have stolen a march on that even if it may take 4 or 5 seasons. To finish in the top half is so competitive now, is “success” 4 or 5 consecutive seasons of that and a couple of Wembley appearances, maybe even a win thrown in?
Will the actual performances be more important than the results, I doubt it, they never have. So what do Villa fans expect/hope for? Whatever it is, SG is going to need everything going for him, good luck lad, you’re going to need it.
Howard (first signing – Luis Suarez) Jones
Michael Edwards’ aura
It seems the aura surrounding Liverpool’s outgoing sporting director Michael Edwards is so bright and shiny that it is affecting people’s memory.
Ian King, in his column on Thursday (Is Michael Edwards football’s first star sporting director?), completely forgets to talk of the man who inspired so many football fans to take up Football Manager: Monchi.
For the better part of the 21 years, Monchi has been performing minor miracles in Sevilla. Appointed as the sporting director in 2000 following Sevilla’s relegation from La Liga, I think we need a brief reminder of the players identified, purchased, and sold for profit by Monchi and the network of scouts he established: Jose Antonio Reyes, Sergio Ramos, Diego Capel, Jesus Navas, Dani Alves, Julio Baptista, Luis Fabiano, Ivan Rakitic, Kondogbia, Negredo, Bacca…I could go on and on and on.
Clubs complain about having to sell players to run operations. Monchi, at Sevilla, has regularly sold the best players. And that has not prevented them from being successful. In the last 20 years, Sevilla have won 6 Europa League titles, 1 European Super Cup, 2 Copa del Reys, and 1 Supercopa de Espana. Astonishing success, if you ask me.
Michael Edwards is good. Very good. Just not Monchi good. And definitely not football’s first star sporting director.
Siddharth (I once bought Gareth Bale while managing Swansea in FM15. I swear I am better at spotting talent than that).
Rodgers to United?
Mat (Football is endlessly fascinating. Who need Corrie?) has asked if anyone will stand up and be counted on the subject of Rodgers as United manager, and I will volunteer myself as a sacrificial lamb. I’m sure that there will be those who would reject the notion with every fibre of their being, owing to the fact that he used to manage Liverpool, and I get that. I would also understand those who think he’s a bit Brent-esque and seemingly ripe for having the proverbial ripped out of him. I, however, don’t see any issue with it at all. He’s proven that he’s capable of being successful at both Celtic and Leicester, and (to a degree) at Liverpool. And don’t get me wrong, I thought it was hilarious watching them bottle that title charge at the time, I’m not going to pretend otherwise, but there’s no doubt that he got Liverpool playing well and, in some ways, laid some of the foundations that Klopp has so successfully built upon.
As for the fact that he formerly managed Liverpool? First, are we really in a position to be so picky right now? We’re talking about a manager who did an exceptional job at Celtic (even after the Scottish tax has been applied), and is doing a very good job at Leicester – and has embarrassed us on at least two occasions recently with much more modest resources. If you only look at the credentials and previous achievements of the bloke, he’s an obvious upgrade on Solskjaer. Is he the best manager out there? No, probably not. Is he the best candidate that we could realistically appoint? Possibly not the top candidate, but he’s very high up that list.
Secondly, grow up. Honestly, it would be really childish to rule someone out of the running for a job just because of where they used to work. I would understand more if he had been a United legend as a player and quit us to join them in his heyday, or something like that, but he was just a guy doing a job at a club that happens to be one of our rivals (at least geographically, these days). He’s not even joining directly from Liverpool – he’s had two jobs since, at both of which he’s been more successful than we have since Fergie left.
My wish list for our next manager would include things like: proven track record of success (including actual trophies); a strong record of signing and developing younger players; a solid tactical style/philosophy that could be translated to suit our squad; someone who is capable of coaching and improving aspects of the players individually, and as a team as a whole; and most importantly, someone who could make it enjoyable to watch United again. Our next manager also must be able to get the best out of players like Rashford, Greenwood, Sancho etc., and be willing to give up and coming prospects from the academy the chance to prove themselves. For me, Rodgers ticks all those boxes, so I would be happy if we replaced Solskjaer with him. Yes, we’d be mercilessly ridiculed by some no matter how successful he was but we’re a laughingstock as it is, so at the very least we’d be no worse off than we are right now. So naturally I expect that if we do sack Ole we’ll hire Laurent Blanc.
…I don’t know if I’m in the minority, but I’m firmly in the Say Yes To Brendan camp.
Sure, he used to manage them lot down the road, and he’s a bit daft, but in pure football terms, he’s a great fit.
1. He improves players (Barnes, Ihaenacho, Soyunchu, Sterling, Sturridge all spring to mind). It’s hard to think of a player who hasn’t gone backwards under Moyes, LVG, Jose and Ole. The rot has even started to affect Bruno.
2. His sides play brave and progressive football. Solskjaer seems to have lost his ability to do swash any buckles, resorting to a back seven at times of crisis. The second half against City was stultifying, where I was sat, half the ground felt too bored to be angry. But Rodgers’ sides always stand up for themselves and at least try to entertain, and right now that’d do me.
3. He’s a man with a huge self portrait in his hall. His ego probably means he won’t be overawed by yer Pogbas or the Ronaldos of this world. He certainly got big personalities like Suarez and, um, Maddison (I’m reaching here) doing the biz.
4. He doesn’t rely on buying players. Given United’s magic touch for absolutely ruining every single player they buy, maybe were best off not bothering buying anyone and work with what we’ve got. Having said that, if he could bring Ndidi and Fofana along with him, that’d be lovely.
5. He’s a bit of fun and god knows we need it.
In many ways, Conte was the more obvious pick, but I think, with a little patience and a pinch of salt at the ready for his press conferences, Brendan could be the right one.
…In response to Mat’s question, it’s hard to say exactly what it is that puts me off the appointment of Rodgers, but I really hope it doesn’t happen. I don’t disagree that he might be successful, that he would certainly shape a side with a clear enough plan and ‘identity’ (can we go back to saying ‘style’ again yet?) out of our squad, and even that he seems to have a decent eye for signings. It just feels so… boring. Rodgers is fundamentally unlovable – in many ways he’d be in perfect harmony with the corporate PR monolith I support, keen to build a bloodless ‘body of work’ to keep our shareholders happy without ever quite reaching the heart of our fans. I’m also sceptical that our ‘star’ players would buy into his leadership (sadly), or that new signings would come to play ‘the Rodgers way.’
Perhaps more fundamentally, however, it seems that appointing Rodgers is just a way for the status quo to remain at United: I think most fans (or at least the ones I know) prefer the idea of appointing Ralf Rangnick until the end of the season before moving him into to a DoF role, ideally working behind ten Hag – or perhaps Poch, Enrique, or Nagelsmann if we’re lucky. These are all managers I can at least imagine standing to applaud as they stride across the turf at Old Trafford. If we could get van der Sar in to replace Fletcher as ‘technical director’ too, then we’d really be talking. We need experienced heads who are all committed to general values which are in keeping with our specific club traditions (like trusting young players): in terms of playing ‘the United way,’ I’ve always thought of that as being fundamentally to do with taking risks in possession (flooding forward and moving the ball quickly, often down the wings) and working especially hard out of it – I reckon we can get that going again pretty easily, as well as playing academy graduates while Rashford and Greenwood are around.
With that system in place, if a manager needs to move aside again in the future, the basic structure and foundation is still in place to keep a team with a particular style together, rather than simply ripping things up and starting again as we have, what, four times now? We seem to be hoping each manager is a new Sir Alex instead of accepting that the odds of that happening now are even shorter than they were in ‘86. With Woodward moving aside at the end of the season we have an opportunity to try and get the background elements sorted instead of throwing a new business executive into the difficult world of transfers, with only Rogers as an interlocutor. (It’d also be nice to pick up a relatively unknown/unproven player who goes on to become a really good regular for a reasonable fee again – we used to be so good at that, and I genuinely couldn’t say when it last happened.)
Whatever else, it’s clear that Ole has reached his ceiling and needs to leave – I’d actually count his time as a (relative) success, leaving behind some good memories and a couple of decent signings. I just hope we can build on that legacy rather than letting it dwindle.
Giles (MUFC, obviously)
I quite like Brendan, and it doesn’t particularly bother me that he once managed the scousers, especially as they seem to hate him now. There is something missing though, that indescribable quality that makes the very good into the great, that thing you can never quite put your finger on, Brenda doesn’t have that.
My memory of him at Liverpool was firstly of a gloriously attacking team that couldn’t defend for love nor money, but also quiet stories and rumours of a narcissist with brilliant white teeth. I’ve heard similar things from Celtic fans and from interviews I’ve seen he’s certainly blessed with abundant self-regard. Say what you will about United, but it’s still one of if not the most high profile manager jobs in the world. So putting aside for one minute the fact he’s obviously a highly talented coach, I don’t think it would be wise to put a man with those supposed inclinations into such a stark and unyielding spotlight.
United as a club never misses an opportunity to preen in front of the world, hiring a manager who is prone to do the same seems like a recipe for disaster. So it probably will happen
Marcel G, LFC responded to my mail about the terrible transfers since Fergie apart from one season under Ole.
I could have bought your argument that Ole failed in turning these transfers into better players that wanted to play for the club. However, what that doesn’t explain is how LVG and Jose with their bucket loads of success and experience between them also failed to get the best out of a whole host of expensive signings. They didn’t live up to their billing and/or didn’t last more than a season or 2 (Sneiderlin, Sweinsteiger, Di Maria, Depay, Lukaku, Sanchez, Blind, Zaha, Mikhitaryan, Ibrahimovic, Januzaj, Pogba, Bailly) Surely that suggests that something is wrong other than the manager? If half of the players signed lived up to their potential and stuck around then Utd might have a chance of improving. Utds transfer strategy is akin to trying to build a sand castle a little too close to the lapping waves, as much as you add the waves take away…
The problem is that utd have been buying the wrong type of player in terms of people who are not in the most crucial areas that need strengthening, not the right age and possibly not really wanting to come to the club.
You could argue that the transfer policy under Fergie wasn’t great either. Most of his best players came through the ranks and in his last few seasons the midfield was completely neglected (and still continues to be). The signings of Keane, Ronaldo, Cantona and Van Persie gloss over how much other utter shite that came into the club over the years.
Jon, Cape Town (Well done NZ, good luck in the final)
No manager will ever be able to manage United while Alex Ferguson still is on their shoulder. It harks back to the days after Sir Matt. It might take a while seeing other teams now have access to money and can challenge them In the transfer market.
Give it Rooney ’til the end of the season?
It’s not often I read such an edgelord mail that I’ve actually been left with a cuts on my eyes but come on!
Rooney to come in for the rest of the season? Seriously? What?
Oh, and i’m not really sure anyone is shaking their head at Messi, mate. Behave.
Jon (imagines/hopes I’ve been trolled), Lincoln
…Badwolf? More like… bad players to use in your analogy. OK not the catchiest opener, feel free to skip that and move to next paragraph!
I don’t want to piss on Badwolf’s chips too much because actually, his point is quite interesting and valid, and does provide a good analogy for Stevie G’s decision making process….however, I do need to point out that:
1) How do you not use Le Tissier as the example here? He’s the quintessential “could he have done it elsewhere” player!
2) Larsson was 26 when he joined Celtic, from PSV (arguably a bigger club, certainly a bigger league). It’s not like he was an unknown who prospered there then decided not to try to get the bigger move. By the time the bigger clubs were coming calling 4-5 years later he was already over 30.
3) Despite that, he absolutely didn’t move to United and show his class transferred at all. What he actually did was join Barcelona and win La Liga and the Champions League (being instrumental in that final).
4) When he did goto United, (on loan from a Swedish team he basically joined to retire at) he was widely lauded and his experience obviously added something, but he hardly set the world alight there.
5) BW must have better contacts than Fabrizio Romano because I can’t find any mention of Messi moving back to Barca at all (bar some speculation that he might in 2023 at the end of his contract – hardly running back with tail between his legs now).
6) Seriously, Le Tissier??
7) Barry Ferguson would have been a better example from Scotland given his much longer stint at Rangers, from a young age, and frequent opportunities to go to England in his prime, only to leave at the end of his career and be a bit of a flop.
8) No, but seriously….
Alex, (16 conclusions must be easy, I’ve got 8 here on my lunch break!), Ayr
…Badwolf, you are aware that Henrik Larrson played for Barcelona, before he joined United, right? Was pretty good too, if I recall. Very instrumental in that Champions League final he won.
Or can one only prove themselves playing for Man United during their peak years?
Playing for both sides
I was about to write in to say Rodgers’ stint at Liverpool should in no way prevent him from landing the United job as Sir Matt played for Liverpool AND City when I discovered Herbert Chapman played for Spurs.
Made me wonder how many of fathers of England’s leading clubs represented a rival – would make a good top 10 that.
Graham Simons, Gooner, Norf London
EFL’s firmer hand
I just read your article on Derby / Rooney and one thing oddly stood out to me.
It wasn’t the main theme of your (very interesting) piece.
Just a cute phrase: ” a points deduction derby against Reading”
Now I support a Premier League heavyweight, Chelsea.
Consequently, and shamefully, there is a certain degree of eyes-glazing-over when I read of points deductions in the leagues below.
As I mentioned, shameful.
But my point is this: the governanace outside the Premier League seems to impose considerable points deductions.Sizeable ones that really, really damage clubs. Relegating some annd scuppering seasons that have yet to begin, with all the devastation that entails.
Yet in the Premier League bubble, I can hardly remeber such measures and crucial points deductions – and even less so their such devastating impact.
My question is, do the venal top flight teams seriously ‘cheat’ less? Are their, our, finanaces that transparent and well managed that we aren’t open to such accusations? Whereas clubs that are the heartbeat of communities are more financially disreutable?
We all know, hands on heart, this can’t be true. Yet the evidence points to otherwise. Points deductions, thorough investigations, impactful punishments and (Bury etc) long term punishments seem to be dished out everywhere, but with my lot at the top, all clean AF.
Am I right?