Pep Guardiola f***ed it again. And more CL final mails…

Ian Watson

Keep your mails coming to…


Final fallout
That was one of the best champions league finals, football wise, that I can remember watching.

In the initial stages Man City were ready to press very high and very aggressively but weirdly they didn’t seem to win the ball high up. The Chelsea defenders looked nervous and tended to be given enough room to punt in long. Weirdly despite having more of the ball Man City looked quite poor. I don’t think that De Bruyne made a successful pass until the 25th minute.

Chelsea won the ball and made quick transitions and it should’ve been devastating. Werner was brilliant except when he actually needed to kick the ball in or near the goal. As poor as his finishing was though he deserves a lot of credit for the goal; his run took Dias out of position and left all that space for Havertz to run into.

Havertz made the pass of the game in the first half when he played a ball cross field just in front of the box into Chilwell’s path. As dreamy as it was, and despite the fact he scored, Kante was the obvious man of the match tonight. He was omnipresent and it makes you remember how ludicrous it was when Sarri was pushing him further forward a couple of years ago. The Chelsea team seemed to set traps all night where Kante would come and double Mark every City player who had the ball in the final third.

I touched on De Bruyne who was really poor in the opening stages but improved before concussion took him off. I don’t think the set up made sense ultimately and that is Pep’s mistake again. Chelsea had three centre backs who, in the first half, rarely had anything to do because De Bruyne wasn’t comfortable being the focal point and Sterling and Mahrez wanted to stay out as wide as possible but with the Chelsea wingbacks staying conservative this meant they were both consistently well covered in the wide spaces. I’ll never understand why Aguero didn’t start as he’s a player who can occupy two defenders with his movement and that would’ve created space for De Bruyne or Sterling or Mahrez to flourish in. I also found it weird that he started the game without Fernandinho or Rodri as a screen. Chelsea could punt the ball forward and even when the City defenders won the defensive headers the second balls were getting picked up by Chelsea players.

Credit though to Foden who was an absolute baller tonight. He was quick and aggressive and generally looked amazing. Towards the end of this season he’s started to look more and more like the real deal.

Last credit should go to the ref who was outstanding today. Let the game flow and didn’t fall for too much of the theatrics.
Minty, LFC

16 Champions League final conclusions: Man City 0-1 Chelsea

…I’m not here to talk about Oligarchs, unsavoury regimes etc (although they’re worth talking about) but just wanted to say the team spirit that Tuchel has engendered at the club is something to behold.

Those players were like men possessed last night. Kante will rightly get the plaudits for smothering their entire midfield but to a man the whole team were great.

Just watching the teams at the beginning of the game you could clearly see Chelsea were going to win, they just had that look about them. I don’t know if the removal of Rodri / Fernandinho unnerved them too much or what but they just never looked on it.

They just got bullied all over the pitch and that’s the really surprising thing. James is built like a tank and is quite physical but did I think that Chilwell had that in him, hell no. All plaudits to Tuchel for getting that out of his team and the players for raising their game.

Last night was an unusual position to be in as a long time Chelsea fan. For some reason I just expected us to win in the build up but obviously needed to temper those thoughts with the usual dose of pessimism every Blues fan keeps inside them that something bad will happen at the least opportune moment. My big worry was Aguero would come on and win it with his last ever kick for City. So glad that didn’t happen and sad to see the back of him. Despite him ransacking Chelsea over the years he’s a class act and has been great to watch. Easily in the top 5 premier league strikers of all time (IMO).

Gutted for Silva, he’s been great and I don’t think his impact on the mentality at the club can be overlooked either. Demands the best out of everybody and such a shame he had to go off. Glad he got to play on a winning CL team though.

Each player was great last night and I’m delighted this morning. I think there’s quite a bit of deadwood around the margins but the core of the team doesn’t really need too much doing to it. Another season for Werner, Havertz & Ziyech to bed in and we could be a real force next year.

Commiserations City, teams just don’t seem to win their first attempt but massive congratulations to Chelsea, thoroughly deserved win.
Lee (Mildly hungover but very happy), Hornsey

…Manchester City were brutal. They never looked like coming back into the game. So many of their players didn’t turn up (Sterling being given the armband and then being taken off just about summed it up) and Pep did that tactical self-destruct that he tends to do in Europe. Fair play to Chelsea, very strong defensively and didn’t give City much space. Abramovich always hires and fires at the right time – another trophy won with a mid-season manager, including both their European Cups. It’s a shame that Giroud was being held back by Arsenal all this time. Funny, I always thought it was the other way round.



Thank you to every single player, every member of backroom staff, Thomas Tuchel, every single person associated with our club, this feeling is truly breathtaking, cannot believe it!
Mikey, CFC


…A very good morning to you. My head is spinning. I listened with the bated breath and the eager ears of a bear lying in wait. I listened to the podcasts (all of them I think). I listened to the Youtube channels, to the (proper?) broadcasters. I read the broadsheets and the tabloids. I read the ‘banter’ from several of my WhatsApp groups. And all I heard and read was the denigration of my team – we were given NO CHANCE! So I looked to heavens, rubbed the stubble settling beneath my chin and wondered, ‘is it me?’ But alas, it wasn’t me. It was YOU, world! You were wrong and I was right and what a feeling this is. There is now a permanent grin etched where my mouth used to be. I feel like running down the high street in my blue boxers, jumping in the freezing Thames and just swim and swim and swim. The ‘experts’ presented Chelsea as a bunch of League Two also-rans, lucky to breathing the glorified air emanating from Pep’s a$$. Our players and coaching and recent wins against Citeh were dismissed. Our flaws were highlighted whilst our strengths were parried to one side like a scorned ex or conveniently explained away.

Fantastic Thomas and Azpi and James and Kante and Mason and Kai! Well done team for smashing the lazy narratives and the homogenous herd who failed to see that Chelsea had the players to hurt Citeh; who seemed to watch only MOD highlights and clips of Chelsea. I was so convinced of this victory because even when we lost games recently, our performances have been immense even though we missed chances to finish off teams (unlike a certain club in Manchester that wears red who was generally poor but won games in moments). But who cares. It’s one in the morning and I am losing my ability to type. Delirium has taken hold. This will not wear off anytime soon. Will it ever?
Rickie G (Blue Boy – Will the Thames feel cold if I can’t feel my face?) London

….Writing after a long time (work and family have taken precedence now), but been enjoying TT’s Chelsea quite a bit. Some notes on the CL final and season:

1. I was not tensed leading to the final despite warnings by all pundits that City strong favorites. Chelsea have beaten Pep regularly – mostly with our method of low blocks heroic defending and sheer will with a goal from counter attack. But now, we have a coach who is offensive and is very post-modern. We have beaten city thrice not playing the old-Chelsea way, but in a post-modern way. There’s a high line, the spread of players across space is like an Elite team, and the entire team is involved in scoring and defending.

2. Given the way we beat Pep in FA cup and Etihad, it was clear this was going to be a game of two teams with high lines where both GK will start attacks. It did not disappoint me. It was obvious that both teams preferred to funnel the ball with/without it to the wide areas to avoid danger.

3. That meant both the teams were going to attempt long balls with well timed runners. Given the high line strategy of both teams, and center of the pitch conjested, this was the way. It was a question of which team wins the 1v1 battles.

4. Boy, weren’t Reece James and Chillwell superb – barring odd moments, they won every duel they contested and Reece has begun to show his potential – an absolute steam roller of a full/wing back. It was a question of being positionally correct and winning the duels. This is where Chelsea won the game IMO – we gave Man City nothing. Sterling and Mahrez had stinkers because Chilwell and James wouldn’t allow them to breathe.

5. It was not surprising Chelsea’s winner was funelled from wide areas. Mendy is an excellent passer with ball (maybe a degree less than Ederson but he’s there), and to me him being fit was key as TT’s chelsea are totally different with Mendy being part of the attacks (and obviously being better than Kepa as a GK). Mendy’s ball to Chillwell was superb, and the calm distribution of Chilwell on the wide left areas to Mount was better. From there, there was only one route thanks to Pep not playing a double pivot which left acres of space in midfield. Man City struggled with the cross field diagonals both aerial and on pitch from Chelsea’s wide players and that’s how the winning goal came.

6. Now, on to what I think Chelsea’s issue this season under TT is – we have too many 100 mph players who love running. The composure is totally off (e.g. Timo who does everything well other than being a second calm). I prayed for two things before game – TT to start Kai our most composed player instead of Ziyech and one of the numerous big chances we create (which normally go to everyone who just shoot at 100 mph) to fall to Kai. Both my prayers were answered and Kai showed why we were all out for him – the only forward in our team who can slow down time scored a wonderful goal full of composure. Thank you Roman for Kai and Lampard for helping to get it over the line.

7. On a different note – Thank You Frank Lampard. I was in for your sacking and I still think we delayed it. But what you mean to me as a player and importantly your role in getting the Cobham graduates + eye for talent in market won’t go unnoticed. The genesis of changing Chelsea’s identity again to winners starts with Frank. I hope Frank learns from his stint and goes on to become a good coach.

8. Ngolo Kante – what a player. 30 million odd for him has to be the steal of this millenium. Unbelievable player who is becoming even better under TT. To me he was the MoTM. He dominated the zones and was there whenever City sniffed something. So happy for him.

9. A note on Jorginho – I like him. I was happy we signed him. In a world where football is about collective especially the top teams, Jorginho epitomises it. He is a limited player, but put him in a team that is set up with a structure to collectively solve problems and you have a superb midfield general. Frank liked a different unstructured approach and Jorginho was never going to work in that. I am so happy for Jorginho. Also to those Chelsea fans who abuse him – please go check into a mental hospital. Actually anyone who abuses footballers – please do the same. Being critical is one thing, but you can’t go personal. Jorginho like any player has his faults, but the abuse he gets – I won’t understand. He’s been a superb low key player under TT.

10. On Man City – your time will come. Pep will win again. He’s a genius. Don’t worry. We were there in 2008 and we know how it works. Keep the spirit going.
Aravind, a very happy Chelsea fan.

…I was very worried before the match giving Chelsea 40% chance of winning.. but boy that team sheet for city was such a boost.

And we completely outplayed city …. if it wasn’t our road runner doing his usual … I can’t shoot routine… we could have had a victory by much bigger margin.

After we scored first… there wasn’t any hope for city. And it showed on city players… who somehow didn’t look themselves. Rudiger channeled his inner Sergio Ramos to be best defender but also taking out the best opponent player ( although it looked accidental and De Bruyne super unlucky to bump into Rudiger’s iron mask).

Kante was the best player on the pitch. And it was amazing team effort and great tactics by Tuchel.

Congrats to all other Chelsea fans … May this be one of many to come in Tuchel reign.
B CFC (Why will Halland choose any other team.. we should get Halland and Donnurrama)


…Will Tuchel be managing Chelsea next year? Given Roman seems to can them after winning a European trophy. On that kind of form, Chelsea will be tough to beat next year. So while we all think the City juggernaut will continue, with a proper pre-season under Tuchel, Chelsea are going to be formidable with that squad.

Wonder how pissed off the City players who got them to the final but didn’t get to start just feel? I know I would be. Stunning team Pep picked. As soon as I saw it I knew they were done. Some kind of personality flaw in Pep, like a Marvel comic super hero.
Paul McDevitt

…Well, that was interesting wasn’t it.

Just think, if Mendy doesn’t come charging out against Everton, give away a penalty, lose the game, starts a tailspin run for Chelsea who were unbeaten in 9? at the time, they would not be European Champions. There’s your Butterfly effect.

The question, does Guardiola only have 2 Champions League Victories due to the magic of Messi, the mass incompetence of Tom Henning Øvrebø and the tactical generosity of Alex Ferguson? Remember the 2011 Barcelona Team where a Nicklas Bendtner mis-control away from being Eliminated by 10 man Arsenal and SAF wanted to win the final “playing football.”

Domestically you cannot doubt Pep, City have been by a mile the best team in England, but in the one-off games, he has come up short against Wenger 2017, Arteta, and now Tuchel twice. Do City need a striker like Harry Kane, or with more crosses and headers does that go against Guardiola’s philosophy? I was hoping they would have scored from a Long Throw at the end there, that would have been tremendous comedy.

Finally, Chelsea, that was easy, I know for their fans it won’t have been but I never felt like they were in serious jeopardy after the Foden chance was blocked, (tremendous effort Rudiger) an Easy 1-0. Going to be tragic when Tuchel is sacked for losing to Brentford.
EFCraig (With Apologies to James Chester, but he did transfer to Hull, so the joke fits)

The Kante machine
Well, that Champions League final was a bit …disappointing. The best team in Europe against one of the most expensively assembled teams in Europe should have been a thriller, but it lacked a bit in quality and a lot in excitement. Tuchel, as we all know by now, is a defensive-minded coach (if you haven’t already, see Jamie Carragher’s analysis of his side’s aggressive defending). But again, if I knew this then so did Pep. Everyone will talk about “No DM” and in hindsight, Pep did get his team selection wrong. But that doesn’t change the fact that Pep is still the best in the world. If anything, this loss may have increased his desire to land that one missing piece of the puzzle remaining – Harry Kane.

But enough with the damn squib of a final – I wanted to primarily write about N’Golo Kante. What a player. What a man. While a lot has been written and said about him, I would argue that he is still underrated. He is and should be a Top 3 Balon D’or contender. Only Lewandowski stands between him and the Best in the World individual title. And if he wins the Euros with France (and who will bet against that now), he should become the favorite. I don’t think we have ever seen a midfielder with his kind of qualities and humility – ample skill in the middle and front third of the pitch but also defends the back third of the pitch. No shortage of speed, skill, energy, tactical awareness. All of Chelsea’s best counter-attacks started from N’golo winning the ball in midfield and at one point he seemed to be marking the entire Man City midfield single-handedly. The defining takeaway from the game is that the one-man midfield unit of Kante (with some Jorginho support) dominated the midfield overload that Pep set up.

Customary third para.
Rohit (LFC), India

PSG’s regret
In all this, do not forget that psg hired Thomas Tuchel to win them the Champions League but the french media refused to leave him alone and kept complaining about boring football blah blah blah

Eventually, mainly due to disagreements in transfer policies and the DOF trying to boss him around which he didn’t allow, a poor start to the season even though psg didn’t have a pre-season and shared the poor start with others like City, Bayern, United and Barcelona, he was sacked, after psg had won their CL group and looked back to their best! After a 4-0 win!

In the end, they only won two of the usual cups, losing the league to lille, and most importantly, losing to city in the second leg, surely, someone must be feeling regret no matter how slight.

Pep Guardiola defends Man City selection: ‘I did my best’

Pep’s overthinking
This isn’t a case of hindsight is 2020 because I couldn’t find a single comment online before the match that was in favour of Pep’s decision to not start with either Rodri or Fernandinho and instead put his top scorer in the number 6 position.

It was clear in 10 minutes that it was the wrong decision. Only thing that stopped City from going 2-0 down was Werner’s finishing. Anybody other than Pep in that dugout and they would have been chastized for not making a substitution in the first half.

As simple as it sounds Chelsea beat Manchester City because Tuchel beat Pep. Just like last week Emery beat Ole. What Tuchel and Emery don’t have is ego – they saw what they needed to do to win and set up their teams to do that.

Pep I believe saw the moment as his crowning glory; an exhibition for the way he likes his teams to play. The ultimate dream: to win the Champions League with a team of mid-fielders.

It was brilliant to watch the tactics play out in the first half. My theory is that Pep was still hurting from his previous losses at the hands of Tuchel so he did not just want to beat him, he wanted to humiliate him.

Pep did not set up his team to win 1-0 – he set up his team to win 4-0, whether Pep underestimated Chelsea or over estimated himself, the first 25 minutes had Manchester City moving forward with aplomb. The plan seemingly to overload a midfield and use it to push the Chelsea defenders back, box them in, Chelsea did brilliantly to push back and use Werner on the counter, and the game settled after that.

It was made for a great watch but Pep shot himself in the foot with this plan. He ceded control of the match for the dream of a perfect attacking performance.

I am not suggesting Pep should have parked the bus. They would’ve still played like City with Fernandinho in there. They just wouldn’t have been this vulnerable.

Tuchel showed that its a romantic fairytale to have an ex player, a club legend become the club manager but it takes a top level tactical manager to win the big ones.

Well done sir!
Shehzad Ghias, mufc, Karachi (If Chelsea sign Kane, my moneys on them to win the league)


…At 44 mins this may bite me in the bum but from the first announcement of the team news why would you not play Rodri or Fernandinho…asking for trouble and classic pep overthinking


…If only Pep had played his best team. Chelsea wouldn’t have stood a chance then.
Nikhil N, CFC


…So for City to move forward do they now need to get rid of Mr over thinker Pep? Asking for a Norwegian mate of mine.
Paul Murphy, Manchester



…Why? Just why? It really does beggar belief that Pep has done it again. Absolutely fair play to Chelsea, tactically they were superb. How good would they be if Werner could actually finish? I didn’t really count the first two defeats to them because of the mass rotation, and thought that with our full team out we’d sort it. Unfortunately we didn’t get to see it. I know it’s only one player different but the impact was huge.

He finds a formula that wins umpteen games and then every time he changes it against a good team, it’s a defeat (or a very fortunate win v West Ham). After the fa cup defeat I was very angry because he threw away the chance of the quadruple with his selection. This morning though i just feel amazed. Saw the defeat coming when the team was announced, and that happens every time.

Sure he’s a genius with some of the stuff he comes up with, but this is just getting silly now.
Andy, Cheshire


…In the aftermath of Chelsea’s triumph in the final, there will obviously be plenty to say about Pep Guardiola. While I’m not in the ‘Fraudiola’ Bandwagon, I’m puzzled by the continued reference to Pep’s tactics (or lack thereof) in big matches as ‘overthinking’ or even worse, ‘overcomplicating’.

Pep is a unique football coach in his ability to impose fine, and often complex, tactical detail on his players and turn them into excellent executors of it. Perhaps we have grown accustomed to his hugely successful style so much that we have developed a subconscious image of a perfect tactical genius who doesn’t err in his game plans. What else would justify the general acceptance ‘overthinking’ as the explanation for his last seven unsuccessful attempts to win the Champions League?

For me, Guardiola is just a normal, flawed genius who doesn’t ‘overthink’ his game plans when the stakes are high but f*cks up when it matters. If we credit Pep when his plans pay off, then we should fairly criticize him when his plans fail, as was the case yesterday. Explaining his failures as ‘overthinking’ is putting him on a pedestal that no other manager in our time sets their feet on, because it implies that he’s too good to simply get it wrong like your team’s manager does. If he ‘overthinks’ his tactics in a one-off match, fair enough. But seven years is quite a long time to be overthinking, especially when considering that he’s lost all the ties to an opposing team that simply wants it better than his team (Lyon, Chelsea, Atletico) or simply has an attack that his defence cannot match (Barcelona, Real Madrid, 2017 Liverpool).

These are the two major things that almost every other manager plans their approach on, especially when Pep is the other dugout, and Pep knows it. However, he either fails to prepare his sides mentally for an ugly battle or arrogantly disregards the obvious danger in the opponent’s attack, or somehow blends both into a bottle. The result is a media so fascinated with the next move of a seasoned Grand Master lazily telling us he has ‘overcomplicated’ or ‘overthought’, regardless of the evidence served to the contrary.

Pep may well go on to win the Champions League severally in future, but let’s call a spade a spade, he doesn’t overthink but just f*cks up like every other manager does.
Sommi (He’s probably ‘overthinking’ the transfer window), Nairobi.


Andy D, Manchester:  I did give Guardiola credit for staying top (and even stated right now he’s the only manager doing it)

My point was he has not won a trophy that any previous manager hadn’t already won.

And again he’s proving the point by missing the champs league again. Tuchel took over a newly built Chelsea team in complete disarray and won the champs league. The trophy guardiola was hired to win and has had 4 years and billions of pounds to do so.

He got an awful amount of luck falling into the greatest Barca side in history at the time they reached their peak with the greatest player in history at the time he reached his peak and since leaving that Barca side has done nothing new. He was hired at Bayern to win a champs league. Didn’t manage it. His successor did.
He was then hired at city to win the champs league. And he hasn’t despite having two superb opportunities to do so.

I’m not saying he’s a bad manager, he’s clearly not. But he definitely is overrated. And I think he’s overrated because he makes football look pretty. Is it impressive he retained the title? Yes of course it is, as I said before the fact he’s kept city at the top is an achievement.

But be totally honest, he was hired to win the one trophy no other city manager had because on his resume he has a few of those trophies already. But he’s starting to look like the wrong man for that job. I’m sure he’ll win plenty of premier League titles because when you’re super rich and have three world class players for every position it’s quite easy to win a league.

But the champs league is a different story there’s a reason hardly anyone (except Zidane) ever retains it and why it changes hands so often and has different teams in the final so often… You can’t win it by pummelling sh*t teams all season. Eventually a game that matters comes along which is make or break and those games keep breaking guardiola.


….To save you and me some time, the email you published from me in August after Manchester City’s Champions League exit at the hands of Lyon should do the trick again.

As a United fan, I don’t need extra reasons to dislike Pep, but I found another tonight. In a less obvious, ostentatious way, he makes the game as much about him as Mourinho does.

There’s always a tweak, a new move, an unusual, funky decision. The Great Pep. Look at what he did.

At best, he over thinks it. But I think he wants it to be about him. He wants people talking about the decisions he made as much as the performances of the players. He’s always been a smug so and so, and after his holier than thou reaction to the FFP judgement, the people that deserve an apology are his players.

Andreas Hunter, St Albans



Money, Messi and the bald fraud
Chances of Messi signing for City just went up.

They’d already have been offering far more than Barca could but God knows they’ll be offering more now.

Even for someone as rich & loyal as him there def comes a point where he’ll feel not just comfortable, but required by his family, to take a final massive payday at 33 rather than stay at a club which he loves but which has taken advantage of his loyalty, mistreated some of his best friends, and is on road to nowhere.

As for Pep, his great – domestic only – achievements with City are just an oligarch’s version of Brendan Rodgers’ Celtic dominating Scotland while getting embarrassed (Neil Lennon & Gordon Strachan both did better!) in Europe.
Calum, Scotland


…Pep Guardiola is without a doubt a great manager and creates teams with outstanding movement and style that play free flowing football. But in my opinion he is given an easy ride by the 365 team and fawning media when he falls short time and time again. He must surely either be sacked or walk after this latest failure. He managed to win the CL at Barca with the greatest club side seen in the history of the game, let’s be honest that team was so good they could probably have won everything without him!

Then he went to Bayern who had just won an unprecedented treble with possibly their greatest team of all time, he failed in the CL which was the main objective for him being there.

Now at City with the most expensivly assembled squad of all time and the largest investment in footballing infrastructure by a long way in the history of the game he has failed again! Other managers at City Delivered the Premier league as he has, Mancini and Pelligrini equalled Pep’s greatest achievement at Citeh and neither can be described as manergerial titans.

When you look at Mourinho winning with the minnows at Porto and an unfancied Inter side you have to say that Mourinho has way outperformed Pep in the CL. The capture of the CL was the whole reason Pep was recruited at City and he has failed time and time again.

Klopp, Mou, Tuchel have all won the trophy with teams that haven’t had huge investment when compared with Pep and until he leaves City and wins it with a club that’s not cheating (financial doping) that I won’t put him in the top elite manager bracket. After your latest attacks on OGS I hope you’ll write a critical article on the man from Catalunya.

Let’s me honest even Poch got Spurs to a final without having had a signing in 2 years, Pep you’re a loser!
Robert, Marbella
P.S I do have anger issues with Pep (more than you believe)


Official approval
Is it just me or is part of the reason this has been such an epic, franctic, hectic game of football because the ref is a nut job?

Everything he does is hectic and done at double speed and it seems the football is the same. Not the highest quality but hugely entertaining?
Tom, tractor boy in switzerland


Two shades of the same colour
There are few things I hate more than Chelsea FC. They are the same evil that people accuse Man City of being. If you can spend a quarter of a billion pounds in a single transfer window you had better be winning the Champion’s League. Also, Rüdiger is a c**t for fouling KDB out of the game.
Simon, Norf London Gooner


Final rankings
On Thursday I wrote
“Maybe you can run an article on best to worst performances in a European final, and to appease other recent mailbox contributors make sure United are last will you. ”

To put Man United in the bottom two, brilliant. But to then put them top as well. Outstanding work. Can’t wait for the fall out that 2005 was somehow better.
Ged Biglin


Poetry corner
If all God’s creatures mankind should aspire
To suffer, Lampard feels the greater pain;
Suff’ring that which few would open admire
This deer was not too dear not to be slain.
Legend he is, a legend he should stay
Historical and distant, though in truth;
“Homo homini lupus” we do say
If Frank be deer, then Tuchel be the wolf.
One goal was set, by one goal was it won
The lesser goal made plain the greater’s fate;
And goal and goal alike would see it done
By Tuchel was the Bridge made aureate.
The final word from Final words be told:
Their cup be silver, but their souls be gold.
James, CFC, Exeter

Mailbox: What is Ole Gunnar Solskjaer? A comfort blanket?

The Ole debate
As has been mentioned once or twice around these parts, second in the league and second in the kids’ pool that is the Europa League just ain’t good enough for “a club of United’s stature”. Also inexorably noted on this site are the eight straight seasons without United winning the league, and the four without a trophy of any kind. As a global brand, Manchester United does not find value in finishing as an “also-ran”. As a result, my fellow United fans like to blame- and in many cases, love to hate- (more or less in descending order) the Glazers, Edward Woodward, David Moyes, Louis van Gaal, Jose Mourinho, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, our non-Uruguayan forwards, our non-Portugese midfielders, our non-oil-tanker center-halves, our oil-tanker center-half, one of our goalkeepers, and sometimes also our other goalkeeper. Yet not all the finger-pointing and finger-wagging in the world will fill the colossal void shaped like a compulsively gum-chewing bespectacled Scotsman.

Yet Ole is the closest United have come to filling his shoes, so let’s not give up on our so-called “PE Teacher” yet (no matter what “F365 Says”). By his own admission, other members of his coaching staff are more tactically astute, while his “passion is man management”, an underestimated key to a successful coach (especially among all the gamers on here). Moyes was out of his depth at the time (remember how everything he touched after leaving Everton seemed to turn to steaming hot dog turds before this last season?), Van Gaal may have been unorthodox but he was also very unlucky with extensive injuries, and Mourinho was Mourinho (the anti-hero). Unlike any of them, Solskjaer has brought back a vision to United, and is slowly guiding us back up to the summit. Of course, he hasn’t been perfect, and he has been learning his lessons as we move along, but he hasn’t been nearly as bad as some around here would have it. Instead of finishing in fifth, sixth or seventh, consecutive top-three finishes are undeniable progress towards the top. Despite the recent uproar, it would be as myopic as Mr Magoo to let him go at this juncture.

Now, if we could only nab those “two or three signings”.
Ebrahim (probably the only one here who also thinks Kane to United is a bad idea), MUFC, Seattle


…There seems to be some very extreme revisionism going on with regards to OGS. At the start of the season , he was a PE teacher who wasn’t fit to lace Arteta’s boots and could only look on from afar at Lampard’s magnificence. Now, after finishing 2nd in a one horse race and narrowly missing out on the 2nd tier European cup, he is somehow even more incompetent.

I’m not from Manchester, so some may view me as a plastic fan. Members of my family are however, and my uncle brought me to the Stretford end in 1979 where I watched tiny Lou Macari score the first top level goal I ever saw. I was hooked. I was a Manchester United supporter throughout the Liverpool dark days,and as such I feel justified in saying that Ole absolutely should keep the wheel. The 3 other managers tried various versions of moneyball. Ole seems to be trying to get them playing with joy.

He might not win anything, but we’ll have some fun along the way.

Rearguards (sic),



…First off, well played Chelsea. Am gutted but take slight consolation in the fact that for me, Clive, that was a game rightly won by them and not thrown away by us. Pep lapsed back into his ‘overthinking’ mode in his initial team selection whilst playing CL games, I think. Regardless, City aren’t the first team to lose at their first CL final and I’m fairly certain we won’t be the last. PL title and a League Cup ain’t too shabby. Onwards and upwards.

My main reason for this mail concerns United. I wrote it before last night’s game but held off sending it until I knew what the result was. I would ask readers to bear that in mind in case it smacks of deflection. I assure you that is not the case and I hope the rest of the mail speaks for itself.

Saturday’s mailbox had some of the best balanced and cogent arguments over the current state of both Man Utd and OGS that I’ve read for ages. There was one exception though, that really did prove the rule.

Rishi, MUFC Dublin writes in unhappy about ‘Oleout’ supporters, but then goes on to list four points that OGS needs to do to get his team back to winning ways. These include better game management, better squad rotation and so forth.

Rishi mate. Which bit of this aren’t you getting? Your four points are all entirely valid but OGS has now been in charge for two years and three months. Where is the evidence that this particular leopard is about to change its spots anytime soon? Or even could?

Put it this way. If OGS was sacked or resigned from his job tomorrow, how many other so-called ‘Top six’ clubs would be kicking his door down in a rush to sign him? Actually, scratch that. If every other PL team needed a new manager and had the choice of Zidane, Conte, Rodgers, Potter, Howe and Ole, how many would have him at the top of that list, or would even consider him in the first place? Because, respectfully, I don’t see a PL club that would touch him with a ten-foot bargepole.

I get that he bleeds United, has a special place in the supporter’s hearts and so on.

But the problem at United isn’t just that OGS isn’t a top-level manager (he isn’t), it’s a systemic one. Woodward is going (and if anybody would spend £150 millions on Harry Kane to show the club is still ‘relevant’ then it would’ve been him. See Pogba, Sanchez et al). If his successor is a football-mad CEO who instantly appoints a world-class DoF and who, together, create a dynamic, sustainable five-year plan? Then hey! You’re back in the big time. But if you seriously think the Glazers will replace him with anything other than a Woodward clone with the same ‘money over football’ brief then, my friend, that really is some straw you’re clutching at.

Oh, and for those United fans that positively insist on writing mails about ‘we just need to sign Sancho/Mbappe/Kane etc’. You can surely see that a combination of the manager you currently have and a distinct lack of trophies, or any prospect of more than one anytime soon means that, as each trophy-less year keeps going by, then elite players will, and do now, not see you as the ‘biggest club in the world’. What is their incentive to sign? The elite manager that will take them to the next level? The guaranteed silverware coming their way if they do? And, perhaps most wounding of all is the inability for them to quote the dreaded ‘project’. Because there isn’t one.

In summary, United have been fixing either the wrong, or non-existent problems as a club since before Fergie left. It’s not Ole’s fault anymore than it was of his post-Fergie predecessors. It’s United’s owners and the priorities they have laid down. That is to say, money over trophies with the obvious exception of the ‘Top four cup’. Can you think of a previous toe-to-toe Utd rival that embarked on the same course not so long ago? And where are they now?
Mark (Is it just me or has the comments section disappeared? If so, good riddance. Got something to say which isn’t hateful trolling? Well mail it in and see what happens). MCFC.


European FA Cup
Silly season is here, and I have a silly idea to propose.

If we accept that a major problem in European football is that some of the “biggest” clubs are failing to qualify for European competitions, and this makes a Super League inevitable one day, why not eliminate the Conference and the Europa League, and open the European Cup to hundreds of teams, like a European FA Cup?

The idea that Tottenham (valued at $2.3 billion) are going to play in the Europa Conference League next year, while more than 200 other European teams compete in the Champions League and the Europa League above them, is absurd.

Instead, we could simply extend the qualifying rounds to all teams playing in the Big Five leagues, and a certain number playing in others. Teams could be seeded according to UEFA coefficients.

At the moment, 26 teams go through to the competition proper, and there are six teams that have to qualify. If we changed qualifying to one-off games – which would give them a real sense of jeopardy – you could reduce 384 teams to 6 in six games.


Capital punishment
I read a prophetic article in the Manchester Evening News last week about Manchester and how it was to become the Capital of European Football.

That went well then…
Richard, Manchester