Man Utd stand-off: Jadon Sancho should only apologise if Erik ten Hag does…

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Jadon Sancho in action for Manchester United.
Jadon Sancho's future at Manchester United is in serious jeopardy.

The Mailbox urges Jadon Sancho to stick to his guns in his dispute with Erik ten Hag. Also: why Manchester United are stuck in transfer purgatory; Arsenal’s penalty; City and state; and beware of buying from rivals.

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Stand your ground, Sancho
I cannot fathom the pressure being put on Jadon Sancho to apologise to Erik ten Hag. Sancho is a human being and most human beings will respond to unfavourable public comments, especially if they find the comments to be untrue, so let it be with Sancho. As the old adage goes, there is no smoke without fire. Lest we forget, Ten Hag started having problems with Sancho right from his arrival and the situation was exacerbated by the arrival of Antony. Mutual respect is essential and Sancho should definitely not apologise unless there is a reciprocal gesture from Erik ten Hag PERIOD
Professor (Dr) David Achanfuo Yeboah


United in transfer purgatory
Observing man United recent malaise and hearing stories from the dressing room over the last decade I feel their issues stem from their self imposed transfer purgatory

Man Utd’s (own perceived) status combined with a decade of not being a top club has left them in limbo, only ever signing players of a certain status and talent to match their size however lacking in the requisite drive, which if they had bigger clubs would sign them up, e.g city sign Haaland with drive and ability and United get Sancho with just ability.

United can’t sign players of a perceived lower status that the likes of Brighton sign and develop because the online fan community would destroy them before they even get started.

This leaves United with a majority of talented players capable of getting them 8th and higher (depending how other big 7 clubs perform in that year) but not having the personalities capable of driving the club higher then 2nd (in a good year!)

It’s not to say these players are not committed professionals, but they are definitely below the level and standards of the truly elite clubs


Romero was lucky
To coin John McEnroe, Jonny Nic cannot be serious if he’s really debating the Romero handball shouldn’t be handball. Yes the rule is difficult and open to complete interpretation but if a hand above your head and a long way from your body stopping a shot 2 yards from goal from going in to the net for a goal isn’t going to be given as a penalty then you’re making the interpretation of the rule worse and we should all pack up and go home..

Debate ones where defenders aren’t even looking at the ball, or ones with their arms down by their sides but seriously, that one is handball, always was handball and always will be handball.
People moan about the punishment being disproportionate to the crime, well in this case it fitted perfectly because the handball directly stopped the goal from being scored. The main debate should be whether Romero should have been sent off, but it seems officials will shy away from that one unless the player is standing on the goal-line rather than 2 yards from it with no GK behind them.

Banging on about ‘deliberate’ handball misses the point, how often do we see genuine deliberate handball in the penalty area? A defender thinking the best thing to do is stretch out their arm and punch the ball away? Incredibly rare. It is the same as a lot of fouls, most fouls are mistimed attempts to go for the ball and they get the man, they aren’t ‘deliberate’ fouls but they were trying to do something which they failed at – Romero was trying to make a block with a legitimate part of his body and he failed and blocked it with his hand. Move on.

Can we also move on from the ‘and it wasn’t even checked by VAR’ just because you didn’t see a replay on TV doesn’t mean it wasn’t checked. Virtually everything for goals, penalties and red cards is checked, most will be cleared up quickly and play goes on.

and can we also move on from comparing your teams perfectly acceptable VAR decision with a wrong VAR decision – yes we don’t like the inconsistency but you can’t use your correct one against an incorrect one to justify that your decision was incorrect – Man U fans this is mainly aimed at you.
Rich, AFC

Read more: Romero ‘handball’ proves once again that VAR has no sense of natural justice


…VAR and penalties no longer make any sense. Dale made some good points about intention, but it goes deeper than that.

It seems like VAR is more generous with attackers than defenders, and keepers above all else. Gordon kept control of the ball with his hand for one of Newcastle’s 8 goals (Madness). He did not intend to do it, so it didn’t warrant the goal being disallowed. Same game, Gordon is hit, in the box and goes down. No penalty, and apparently not an obvious error. Gomes did not intend on the ball bouncing off his foot onto his hand vs Luton, but the penalty is given? An obvious error, no?

Romero handles from close range vs Arsenal, penalty. Romero handles from close range vs United, no penalty? Rice handles earlier in the season, no penalty, it was too close? Eriksson handles vs Bayern, not considered too close? Jackson stops a goal bound shot vs Liverpool, no penalty, too close again?

Accidental hand ball from an attacker = Accidental, goals can stand.
Accidental hand ball from defender = Accidental, but it is in the box, so penalty/ Accidental, he was too close to the ball, no penalty/ Accidental, too close to ball, but hands are slightly up, penalty.

It seems the rules are whatever the ref decides, along with their VAR co-conspirators. Liverpool a few weeks back had TAA booked despite having been fouled before he committed his bookable offense, and then when he clearly takes out his opponent, No second yellow? Was the first too harsh so they didn’t want to give it? Who’s deciding when it’s “strictly the letter of the law” and when to show leniency?

United had a goal disallowed this weekend for offside or a foul on the keeper(Heard both excuses). The angle shown by VAR clearly shows him pressing against the keeper, yet the opposite angle, shows they aren’t touching? Man City a few weeks back are in a similar situation, except their offside player tries to go for the ball and clearly affects the outcome, but the goal stands?
Who decides the angles? Who gets to decide what the ref sees? Why is one so blatantly wrong and given and the other easily dismissed?

Martinez for Villa committed a clear foul vs Almiron a few weeks back, but due to their being players behind him, it was a technical foul, and thus, not a red card. Against Liverpool last season, Leeds conceded a goal despite the TAA handling the ball, and he set up the goalscorer, but it was deemed an accident, so it was allowed.

So intention matters but it doesn’t always. The laws of the sport dictate the rules, unless the ref decides they don’t. Blatant cheating is fine so long as there are technicalities. Obvious and uncontrollable accidents can be judged as crimes, and thus penalized. Other obvious accidents can be judged as accidents, and are not penalized.

It is all a recipe for corruption. Referees have bias, and now we’ve allowing more bias into their decision making. With an unregulated system, and unvoiced decision makers behind them, we are just being fed what they think is acceptable. Its like having beans and toast two nights in a row, and when you complain, your wife says the second night is actually toast and beans – so shut up.

I don’t think there will be prizes for assuming the bigger teams will get the lions share of these decisions, and whoever the “hot or not” team of the moment is. These can add up over the course of the season to legitimately affect certain clubs futures, and peoples lives.

I’ve decided to start compiling these shady decisions to see if there are some trends that are worth mentioning, and will report them once enough data has been collected, but so far, there are some major red flags as mentioned above.
Calvino (Stand by)


…I think Rishi, (not that one) N17 is, like Jonny Nic, way off-base in his missive on intent and the handball rule, while Dale May, Swindon Wengerite is very much on the right track.

If a striker shins the ball into the net, we don’t disallow the goal because it wasn’t intentional. When a defender puts through his own net, we don’t pat him on the head and award an indirect free kick, we chalk up the goal and give the conceding side a restart in the center circle. A wildly dangerous tackle doesn’t become a yellow because the player was looking in the wrong direction. The foul is the foul, and danger to the opposing player, not intent is what’s judged.

In the case of a handball in the box, the only standard measured should be “did the offender’s side gain an advantage?” Why should intent come into play at all? Especially when it’s evidently impossible for judges to recognize intent; if they found it easy, we’d see a whole lot more cards for diving.

Take Newcastle’s opening goal against Sheffield United as an example. Longstaff scored from an Anthony Gordon assist; Gordon, in turn, had kept the ball from going out of play with a handball, judged by the referee to have been unintentional, and as he was not the scorer, it wasn’t subject to review (or so I gather). I’ll bet you not many Blades supporters would recognize that result as “natural justice.” On the contrary: the goal seems obviously unfair because Gordon gained an unfair advantage by using his hand. A fair handball rule ignores intent, making each player accountable for his body position and movements.
Chris C, Toon Army DC


…Not an Arsenal or Spurs supporter, so no skin in that particular match at all. But I thought it was a penalty and a pretty clear one at that. The shot was on target, likely going in and his hand stopped it.

Close or not, intentional or not, Arsenal were likely denied a goal by the part of Romero’s body that the ball shouldn’t be touching. Seems fair that they get a chance to shoot from 12 yards and also seems fair that Spurs’ keeper has a chance to save it.

I’d be livid if it wasn’t given for my team and understanding if it was given against my team.
Rob, Worthing.


Brilliant Brighton
For a while now I’ve been wanting to write in about Brighton.

What an incredible job they are doing, from the owners right down to the lady serving lunch to the players.
A ridiculous hit-rate when it comes to buying suitable players, showing how to use scouting and sports science effectively.

Everyone they have sold on has been a success at their new club, proving that they trade in excellent footballers (not only guys who look good in the system).

Trossard has been one of the best wingers in the world since before his move and I’m glad the Arsenal fans are also realising it. Then Brighton went and bought Mitoma to replace Trossard… How good is Mitoma?

How good is Evan? How solid has Gross not been since day one? Even Welbz is firing again!

De Zerbi has taken them to a new level. Averaging 3 goals per game. Most goals scored after half-time, that man knows how to read and exploit his opponent’s game.

All said, their next three games are going to show us how good they are. But I know we won’t be taking them lightly.

Wik, Pretoria, (pretty sure we bought a dud in Endo), LFC


Kai Havertz, Jorginho, Arsenal, July 2023


Buying from rivals
I was reflecting on the NLD mails. Most of the players coming in for criticism are those which have moved from a peer (big club) and it got me thinking. Among the group of City, United, Chelsea, Liverpool, Spurs, Arsenal it seems to me that Arsenal are really the stand out club when it comes to buying from rivals, particularly from Chelsea.

Now, I’d very incredibly sceptical if a fierce rival were willing to give me a player but seemingly Arsenal don’t have this healthy level of paranoia. You’ve got a selling club putting up a decent price and therefore signalling the player is valuable but then seemingly willing to give this valuable player to a rival? Doesn’t add up.

Up and coming youth prospect (Palmer to Chelsea) aside where seller and buyer are taking a gamble on potential or benevolently letting the player actually play, I can’t really think of a good reason for buying from a rival, let alone doing so regularly. Seems like a concentration risk to me at Arsenal.

I hearby commission F365 to produce a top 10 inter-rival trade analysis scoped to established players (non youth and non released) and ranked by fee to establish whether there is greater likelihood of success or failure for the buying club. And if your resources permit, an investigation into whether there is an ecosystem of agencies and money men that have vested interests on both sides (Chelsea and Arsenal must both be, unknowingly, using the same agency who is getting paid on both ends of the deal)


State of City
Regarding RB and his mail about ‘City and the State’ in this morning’s mailbox, I assume he’s got his info from the Athletic article a few days ago. In this article its acknowledged that the UK Foreign Office and the UK Embassy in Abu Dhabi have had discussions, but the article states ‘there is no indication as to what has been said between them’ except the PL charges have been ‘mentioned’.

RB thinks a few UK civil servants having talks regarding information that falls into their sphere of work should be headline news, and then proceeds to jump to the conclusion that this is actually the UK government pushing for a favourable outcome as a matter of foreign policy. Based on what actual evidence I have no idea?

As regard to 99.9% of City fans saying the club isn’t state owned, maybe RB should of continued reading further into the article where it says the Sheikh is majority shareholder in MCFC and the CFG group, and states ‘it would be legally inaccurate to describe City as state-owned, despite Sheikh Mansour’s prominent political positions in the UAE and Abu Dhabi..’.

Looks like the article agrees with City fans on this one.
Scott, North Yorkshire