Surely Man Utd will now convert easy run-in into a top-four finish?

Date published: Thursday 25th June 2020 2:30

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer Michael Carrick Man Utd

Keep your mails coming on Man Utd and whatever else to theeditor@football365.com…

 

Man Utd will surely get top four now…
Football’s back, so I’m back (sorry, everyone!). I’m not going to jump straight in with 16 conclusions, but I have some thoughts on last night.

First, that’s the most balanced we’ve looked for a long, long time – attacks were not all going down one channel and it stretched the Sheffield United defence pretty much all game. Greenwood isn’t a right winger by trade, and I don’t see his long-term future in that position, but he added a dimension to our game that was missing against Spurs. James has his talents but, even by his own admission, he shouldn’t be starting as many games as he has – an FA Cup against Norwich is the sort of game where he might be better used. It does highlight that we need a permanent solution to that area of the pitch though, as we look so much more cohesive with genuine threats on both flanks.

I thought it was a very patient performance from Pogba. He seemed content to play the deeper role for much of the game, providing protection and a path out of defence when we were out of and subsequently won back possession. Then, in the second half, made a positive impact going forward when the game had opened up a bit more for us. If he and Ferndandes stay fit and play most games, it (incredibly) looks like we’re a little overstocked in midfield. Who would have thought that 6 months ago?

I think the reason that the stat about the lack of a hattrick for United since 2013 is trotted out regularly is how poor it has been since then. We have spent serious money on a wide range of attackers since then, so it really is worth highlighting how profligate we have been in that period. Hopefully Martial’s excellent contribution last night opens the floodgates and we can see them slightly more regularly now!

I think the biggest job we have now is clearing out some of the fringe players. I would like to see Jones, Lingard and Pereira moved on ASAP, if only to make room for brighter prospects from the under-23s. If Smalling and Sanchez return from their loans then add them to that list too. The most important signing we need this summer is a right-winger; I doubt that it will be Sancho this summer (Dortmund really don’t need to sell and I see no reason why they should lower their asking price), so I expect it will either be a short-term option for a year (e.g. Willian, who I’d be fine with) or we’ll abandon his signing altogether in favour of other targets. Beyond that, a centre back might be an option, purely because the fitness of both Bailly and Tuanzebe cannot be relied upon.

Our run-in now looks fairly favourable, with games against Brighton (15th), Bournemouth (18th), Villa (19th), Southampton (14th), Palace (9th), West Ham (17th) and Leicester (3rd) left. We have struggled against teams who play compact and pack the defence, but now we’ve got Bruno’s dynamism and inventiveness that (hopefully) should be slightly less problematic. Leicester, Chelsea and Sheffield United play 5 of their remaining 7 games against top half opponents, while Wolves and Spurs have four of the same. If we can’t convert that to a top-four finish then we really don’t deserve to be in the Champions League, even if we did manage to win the Europa League.

Still, I feel a hell of a lot better about our chances of them doing it now than I did in early January. If City could just do us a lovely little favour tonight and stuff Chelsea please that would be much appreciated.
Ted, Manchester

 

It’s F365 for crying out loud
William Douglas Foster, and any other United fans out there who share the belief that this esteemed websites writers have beef with Manchester United, can you please drop the embarrassing ABU365 moniker?

They’re football writers, giving their football writer opinions in very well worded and often entertaining articles. The important part of that sentence is truncated to “their opinions”. You dont have to agree with them, you dont even have to read them. If you think it’s going vaguely against your line of thinking, here’s a novel idea: Don’t click on the article.

It’s also worthy of note that I have read many a nice thing about United on these pages over the years. Not 3 months ago Ian Watson penned an article praising United’s recent form and saying it was a shame the momentum was going to halt, Matt Stead’s 16 conclusions were very complimentary of the way United played last night and the F365 writers seem to have also joined in with the general love-in that surrounds all things Bruno Fernandes (totally justified, what a player).

Now to somewhat change the direction and tone of my missive, if you have to direct your ire in any direction, let’s all look at Mr Graeme Souness please. His targeting of Pogba in particular, but now Wan-Bissaka (dives in too much) and Martial (doesn’t turn up enough….after scoring a hat trick) is starting to reveal a worrying and awful looking trend in his criticism. In this day and age we need to ask questions of who our pundits regularly pick out for criticism, and I think its worthy of being asked here.
Mark Danger Endicott, MUFC

 

Liverpool Conclusions
A few conclusions from Liverpool’s comprehensive 4-0 win against Palace.

– Fantastic performance from first till last, dominant in every sense. Completely composed in possession of the ball, and dictating the pace with authority. Plenty of shots on goal, and the midfielders getting in on the action quite frequently. Four brilliant goals (more on them below).
– Liverpool shaking off any cobwebs that might have collected during the enforced break, and pouring cold water over the hopelessly desperate cries by rivals to cancel the season because the football quality would deteriorate, despite the true motives for these claims being too obvious for me to mention. A delicious irony, that Liverpool are the ones to set the standard for the other clubs to up their game and show some quality. Over to the rest of you.
– Excellent free kick from Trent. His delivery from set pieces is exquisite, and the technique sublime to watch. This was a classic text book example in how to take a free kick extremely close to the wall. Free kicks from those positions are extremely difficult, as you have to get the ball over the wall, and back down very quickly, while at the same time putting enough pace on the ball that it troubles the keeper, and also keeping it close to the corner. Trent made it look easier then it is, and I am frankly starting to take his set piece delivery for granted. 24 assists in 2 seasons, the highest tally in the Premier League during that period. We are watching the most potent attacking wing back in Premier League history, and the lad is still only 21 years old. Exciting.
– Top notch performance from Fabinho, showing both his subtle and brutal side. Subtlety shown in the perfectly weighted lofted ball to assist Salah’s goal. Brutality shown in the way he absolutely blasted that ball into the net for his goal. Besides the contributions to attack, he continued to do what he does best. Breaking up play, recirculating the ball, and marshalling the centre of the pitch almost on his own, giving Wijnaldum and Henderson license to drift out wide and cover the marauding fullbacks.
– Mo Salah is now right in the thick of the Golden Boot race. With the title set to be wrapped up soon, his chase for a 3rd consecutive golden boot is one of the only few things left to play for across the next 7 games. With the pressure completely off, I would bet good money on Salah to become only the 3rd player in Premier League history after Henry and Shearer to win 3 consecutive Golden Boots. How’s that for esteemed company? Not bad at all for a one season wonder.
– Credit to Mane as well. He has also become a cold blooded assassin in front of goal, displayed in his clinical finish. He has excellent awareness of his surroundings. I recommend to watch Mane next time Liverpool play and notice how he almost seems to have eyes in the back of the head when he receives a pass from another player. His ability to receive the ball and shape his body to create space with one touch is phenomenal, and he too has a decent shot at chasing the Golden Boot.
– Lovely touch by the Club to pay tribute to Paul Smith, by putting his Stewards jersey out on display. Paul Smith sadly passed away from COVID-19, and was apparently known as a legendary figure around the club. Rest in Peace.
– Now, I am really hoping that Chelsea lose to City tomorrow. The opportunity to win the league by beating City is too delicious to resist. That draw against Everton worked out quite well in the end. So please Chelsea, lose to City, and give us a chance for a bonus tasty little treat of beating City to win the title.
johnnyWicky

 

Dear Football365,

People complained when Sky’s trailer for last night’s game made it look like Liverpool versus some training dummies, but credit where it’s due, that was exactly what it was.
Ed Quoththeraven

 

Just sumptuous. Simply awesome. They never stopped chasing, never stopped running, the goals were all spectacular in their own way and finally, finally, for the first time since I was an awe struck 11 year old kid with a borderline obsession with Ian Rush, John Barnes and Kenny Dalglish I will get to watch Liverpool lift the league trophy again.

I’m still absolutely gutted that Gerrard wasn’t able to achieve his dream (my obsession with him goes way over the borderline J ) of lifting number 19 but I am absolutely thrilled for these players. They have been sensational these past few seasons. Absolutely sensational.

Make no mistake – I want Chelsea to get a result tonight. None of this waiting 8 days until we play City. We win it when we have enough points on the board and the sooner that happens the better. So for the first and only time in my life I’ll be wanting that mob to get a result tonight.

I am genuinely quite giddy with excitement. Pretty sure only football can do that to men in their 40s who really should know better.
Jon Cardy

 

FABinho
Those Mailbox pundits were right a few days ago – Fabinho is rubbish. I mean what’s he good for? Sure he can loft a 50 yard pass over the last defender and into the striker’s path perfectly and smash a 30 yard thunderb*stard into the top corner while also screening the defence with his positional awareness, but he doesn’t make as many tackles as Ndidi and he’s also behind on some other random meaningless stat, so get rid of him!
Adonis (David Luiz? Facepalm) Stevenson, AFC

 

That Ndidi must be good.
Howard (just saw a fat lady gargling) Jones

 

The beauty of perspective and unconscious bias
I wasn’t planning on writing in again – especially after the inevitable happened and the Liverpool fans concentrated on the accusation of the Salah/Ramos comparison rather than the context it was said in.

As it is, Yaru decided to come back with an assessment of the Leno/Maupay incident and, well someone accused me of trolling, but wow – congratulations Yaru. You have me hook, line and sinker.

Yaru says the following:

“a) the ball was bouncing on the ground at mid height and Leno winning was is not certain until around one second before the catch
b) Maupay had a lot of momentum while chasing the ball pass defense from the long pass
c) both players were running towards each other really fast while the ball was in the air and jumped“

And that’s the great thing about unconscious bias really, isn’t it? Because for all Yaru has said, this still image here debunks it all and suggests he’d already made his decision subconsciously on what happened as it involved an Arsenal player:

The fact of the matter is, football and especially elite football is a game of split-second decision making. There was probably less than half a second between Leno catching the ball and Maupay jumping into him and in real life you can chalk it down to being momentum or instinct, but elite football doesn’t work like that and we all know it. It’s the exact same reason why, when they slow a tackle down and see a player leave a foot in or give a bit of ‘afters’ no one ever questions whether it’s intentional or not – because we all know it is.

Basically you can’t have it both ways. Either Maupay knew what he was doing, what the likely result would be and took the risk, as did Ramos. Or both were totally innocent, innocuous challenges that had no intention to gain an advantage and unfortunately ended with both opposing players injured.
JDF (Dismantling injuries is a lot more fun than watching Arsenal play these days), London

 

Neil Maupay wasn’t trying to hurt Leno, he wasn’t trying to “let him know he was there”, he wasn’t even trying to win the ball…

…he was actually trying to win a free kick for Brighton.

Maupay’s ambition was to try to make Leno handle the ball outside the penalty area and win a free kick for his side, and possibly a booking for Leno, seeing as it’s illegal for a goalkeeper to handle the ball outside the penalty area. Seeing as Leno had got to the ball first, had it clutched to his chest and – crumbs! – it was close as to whether he would be able to remain entirely in the penalty area, what with his momentum, Maupay thought he’d try and give Leno a little nudge to ensure he crosses the boundary of the penalty area with the ball in his hand. What made this little bit of poo-housery even more beguiling for Maupay is that Leno was in mid-air, making Leno completely unable to stop Maupay’s nudge taking him outside the area.

Maupay was correct, btw, he gave Leno the tiniest of nudges and lo and behold, Leno lands outside the penalty area with the ball in his hand.

Watch it back again, look at the first thing Maupay does, he starts mewling at the referee that Brighton should have a free-kick. That’s his first response, “my nudge worked, that’s our free kick”. The issue facing Maupay a second later are the anguished screams of a man that he’s just injured.

You see the problem is that if Leno wasn’t nudged, he would have landed normally/safely, and probably held on to the ball and remained in the penalty area. At worst he would have had to release the ball and boot it away because his momentum did actually take him outside the boundary. However the issue is that it is precisely because he WAS nudged, that he adjusted his feet to try to adjust his landing, and it was this that caused the knee injury.

–          So was it pre-determined? Yes. Maupay meant to nudge Leno mid-air.

–          Did Maupay mean to injure Leno? No. He meant to win a free kick.

–          Was it an accident? Absolutely. 9 times out of 10 the goalkeeper would have landed safely and probably carried the ball outside the penalty area but would have been awarded a freekick himself because they were nudged (Leno did win a free kick if my recollection is accurate)

–          But did the nudge cause the injury? Oh absolutely it did.

So Maupay does what every footballer does when ever they have the opportunity to do so… they try to gain a small advantage whenever possible. What Maupay did was equivalent of purposefully smashing a shot at a defender’s hands and then claiming a handball. It was the equivalent of knowing the ball came off you but claiming the corner anyway. I mean, you never know, right? Maupay said it himself, he’s got to try, you never know.

However there probably should be repercussions for Maupay because he knows the rules. If Mustafi jumps to head the ball and Maupay jumps in to Mustafi on purpose, then it’s a free kick to Arsenal. If Leno catches an inswinging corner on the goal line, both feet on the ground, and Maupay pushes Leno over the goal line, then it’s not a goal is it? It’s a free kick.

So now it becomes clear that Maupay deliberately committed a professional foul on Leno, which resulted in serious injury. Little wonder why Leno was so annoyed at him.
Dale May, Swindon Wengerite

 

Restart form
I’ve been reading the interesting suggestion that the lockdown and lack of fitness means technically better sides are tending to win most games against those relying more on graft, and it raised a couple of questions/ideas.

Firstly; does this scenario play out at the beginning of a season too, statistically speaking. The post-Covid restart is similar in some ways to a normal season kickoff, more settled in fact for a lot of teams due to lack of transfers. All teams have a limited preparation period for coaching and fitness. I know some teams and players need more than others, but with modern coaching I can’t imagine I seem to remember some of the supposedly less technical teams having good starts, so maybe it isn’t the whole story, which leads me to my next idea; is the lack of crowds having a bigger effect?

A lot of the technical, skillful, confidence type players seem to be thriving and I would suggest that not having a crowd on their back plays a big part in this. They are the players most likely to have the crowd criticising them if they attempt something and fail, you can often see players literally shrink and hide in a match once they misplace a pass or mess up a trick and the crowd start. Maybe we are seeing the extra confidence and shackles coming off because they is nobody screaming at them how terrible they are, and bemoaning every mistake. This does make sense when you think that it is the grafters struggling too, these type of players are generally loved by a crowd, whenever they tackle, “get stuck in”, get a tactical yellow, run around like a dog chasing a balloon. I would suggest these players are more likely to thrive off the lift the crowd gives them, and are certainly more likely to miss the crowd. There are skill players who transcend this, but there are a lot of others who seemingly can’t, and they may just be enjoying and expressing themselves more without the pressure of the crowd.

Obviously the irregular preparation post-covid would have an impact, I just don’t think it is the sole reason and I believe the missing crowds could be having a bigger impact than just making it all a bit weird and empty feeling.
Ian, Heia Sola, Norway

 

English football is dead to me in empty stadiums
Let’s go back to 1984 when my grandparents took me on my first big trip of my life at nine years old – a trip to Blighty for what was to be the most amazing three weeks of my young life. I have memories burned in my mind forever and for your sake I’ll omit the detailed account of our week on a canal boat named “The Romney”

I do remember vividly we turned some corner somewhere on the streets of London and a crowd of football fans just down the block singing boisterously on their way to their match was unveiled before my eyes. I was enthralled! My love of English football was born all without watching a minute of action on the pitch. I returned from that trip with my first Arsenal shirt (only because it had a cannon for a logo and was red like Liverpool – the only team I’d ever heard of) and I soon began to follow the League One table every weekend in the Saturday edition of the Vancouver Sun.

I soon saw my first televised match and the rock solid love and appreciation for all things English football was cemented. The singing, the constant noise, the lunatic enthusiasm, it was all about the supporters for me. I just couldn’t believe how they kept it up the entire match. I used to then go to the NHL games in my city and wonder why we were so bloody quiet watching our national sport (Canada, if you haven’t guessed thus far)

I attended my first and second Arsenal matches in 2006 – away to West Ham, 1nil loss, and a week later home to Liverpool, 3nil win. Safe to say I was in heaven for both matches, surrounded by you lovely, loud, crude, passionate and just plain fascinating English folks. Every insult hurled towards the pitch brought me such joy and I would never be able to attend a North American sporting event from that point on without wishing for just a hint of English football fanaticism to pop up and give the games some life.

So now the Premier League has restarted and I have died inside watching these empty stadium exhibition matches…well, that’s sure what they feel like. It doesn’t even feel real, almost as if the entire season played pre-Corona happened like 5 years ago. I was like “holy smokes, we’re in frickin tenth?? Emery was our manager at the start of the season?

Gawd I miss you people! I was so, so very excited just before the shutdown to see every scouser in the land go frickin ape shit when Liverpool finally won their first Premier League title. I was praying oh so badly that they’d wrap it up at Anfield. I was going to be crying tears of joy as the sight of thousands upon thousands of scousers going berserk filled the entire 65” inches in HD. I get emotional when so many people are in ecstasy before my eyes. It’s a beautiful thing and the primary reason I put up with all the ills of modern football to rise at 4:30am to watch the early match live, over and over.

Now? I don’t even care. Pool will get their title but I won’t even notice. All for nothing. Football without supporters in seats is just a lump of shyte.

Hope to see you all back next season!
Paul Kaiser Soze (at least the toxic atmosphere at the Emirates is dead for now)

 

Johnny Nic and wages…
Well opening up Football 365 this morning I certainly never expected to be reading an article about the Real Living Wage on the site, but I was quite interested to see John Nicholson’s points on the subject, even more surprised however to read that such a small number of clubs actually pay the Real Living Wage, when you see clubs lower down the pyramid such as Luton, FC United of Manchester etc committing to such duties then there is certainly no excuse for clubs further up to do the same.

London based clubs certainly should pay a Real Living Wage, we all have a rough idea of how much the cost of living in London truly is and minimum wage just simply is a very difficult wage to live off in the capital city of England, it would be fantastic if similar to what Marcus Rashford recently did in his campaign for School Meals, which is still an absolutely incredible thing he did by the way and deserves all the praise for, but if top players of their clubs campaigned and spoke out for their club to pay their staff the “Real Living Wage”, this pandemic has had an impact on us all, every single job impacts our lives in some way or another, sometimes without realising it, from a cleaner who is making sure the public toilets are in a fit and proper hygienic state, to the shop assistant who makes sure that the shelves are stocked with produce from the latest delivery, these jobs are quite often called “low skill”, but without such workers life just would not be the same and we have seen this year just how important they are in modern day life.

When a club nowadays can spend upward of £20m on an average player, all be it probably in installments, there is no reason why they cannot pay their staff members a fair wage for their contribution.
Mikey, CFC

 

Sourness
Let me get this straight… Sulky Martial (14 goals in 25) should smile a bit more so he can achieve the levels of Rashford of the Rovers (14 goals in 24).

Show sum PASSHUN son…
Thomas (MUFC) Cape Town

 

Stan Kroenke
Dear Football365,

Mike’s speculation in this morning’s mailbox about Stan Kroenke’s management of Arsenal compared that with Kroenke’s ownership of the Rams in te NFL and referred to how disgruntled the Rams fans in St Louis were when the management moved the franchise back, and you should stress the word ‘back’, to Los Angeles.

In the interests of fairness, Rams fans really have little to complain about here. The Rams originally began playing in Cleveland, but moved to LA after the Second World War. They were there until 1994,  not quite 50 years, until the then owner Georgia Frontiere moved them to St Louis, where they’d lost their own team a few years before when the St. Louis Cardinals moved to Arizona.

Moving ‘franchises’ is a feature of all major US sports, it’s basically all about markets. Mercifully something similar has rarely happened over here (and look at the unholy stink and resentment it caused when it did), but if you want to read a real tale of bitterness and an enduring emnity, read up on when the  Cleveland Browns moved to Baltimore. Heaven forbid we ever have anything like that in England.

Cheers
Paul Quinton, Wolves (and the Pittsburgh Steelers if you were wondering)

 

Hi

Very interesting mail from Mikey, CFC about the Arsenal sister company LA Rams who moved to a richer part of the country, invested in a new stadium. That actually sounds a lot like when Arsenal moved from Woolwich to North London for the money and built Highbury. Arsenal have already moved for the money. They just couldn’t turn it into a Champions League trophy.

Arsenal’s problem was when they convinced their fans that the moral victory was worth more than the real victory. They used to be proud of 1-0 however it came. Then Arsene Wenger convinced them that they didn’t need to win because they were playing football the right way or giving youth a chance. He taught them that it was unfair that Chelsea would just buy players using their owners money and that they should pay £100 a ticket. He taught them to be happy to pay the highest ticket prices in the country and have lower and lower expectations each year.

He really was a genius, just in the eyes of the owners.
Alex, South London (Reading the mailbox again now there is football to be had)

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