Man Utd are three Liverpool players away from the title…

Joe Williams
Alisson Virgil van Dijk Liverpool

Thank you as always for your wonderful mails. Send your thoughts to


Man Utd don’t need five players
Yesterday’s article regarding what (or who) United need to win the title reminded me of a conversation I had with a friend earlier this month. He assured me United are three players from the title.

Having thought about this I can only assume those three are Alisson, VVD and Mane. It’s not that United need to improve, Liverpool also need to be much weaker.

I can’t imagine Liverpool selling.


Liverpool and Man Utd closer than you think…
Obviously, Mark Robbo had his Liverpool hat on when he put that analysis together, and he’s probably still riding the crest of the wave of optimism from winning the league – fair enough. But there are several fundamental flaws in his arguments. As he should well know, it’s not about individuals; it’s how they work as a team. Liverpool dominated the league last year because they achieved that aim very well.

Liverpool’s defence were very good but even as a unit they were only marginally better than United’s last season. 33 goals to 36 goals conceded in the Premier League does not speak of a massive gulf in class there, regardless of how highly you rate any of the individual components of it. I would argue that it doesn’t really matter how much better than Maguire you think Van Dijk is individually, if the total difference between defences is just 3 goals. I do agree, however, that: Van Dijk is better than Maguire, Robertson than Shaw, and Gomez than Lindelof, but for me Wan Bissaka is the better defender because he is better at defending – that’s just personal preference though, if you prefer attacking full-backs then that’s fine.

This team area ethos can be seen further in Mark’s midfield analysis because of the way he’s compared departments, not individuals. United’s midfielders would arguably win those comparisons, hence why Mark has combined them. If you’re going that way, then closer to the truth would be: Pogba > Henderson, Van De Beek > Keita, Fernandes > Wijnaldum, Milner, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Shaqiri (not a centre midfielder at all!) or whoever Curtis Jones is. Thiago would change the game one way or the other but as of today he’s still at Bayern.

Clearly, Mane and Salah have been better as individuals than Rashford and Greenwood in the past but if you’re going to just lump your midfield together as one and claim it’s better then I’m going to do the same with our attack, which outscored Liverpool’s last season. And even if you’re going to play the individuals game then Firmino is a very poor striker because, and I shouldn’t have to say this, he doesn’t score goals. 9 goals in 34 PL appearances are bang average numbers from the main striker of the league champions. And yes, I know he’s a key component in the way Liverpool play, but Mark was at pains to tell us how Liverpool are better position-for-position originally, so that doesn’t hold water. When you’re talking about individuals, Martial is the better striker; 17 goals in PL 32 games (or a goal every 155 minutes, compared to every 333 minutes for Firmino) speaks for itself.

So, whether you’re going to look at player vs player or department vs department it doesn’t really matter because Liverpool are obviously ahead, but you can’t pick a combination of both methodologies to make it a very myopic 11-0. It’s true that both that as a team Liverpool are better than United, and Liverpool have some better individuals than United, but this comparison (either way) is a lot closer than Mark would have you believe (I make it 6-5, 7-4 at worst, to Liverpool on individuals in a best 11). Plus, United are still in the process of building next season’s team, while Liverpool’s is very much settled and with little transfer activity expected this summer, so it’s still a bit early to be doing major comparisons yet.

I do think, however, that Gary Neville is out of his mind if he thinks that United will finish ahead of Liverpool next season. Even if we somehow got Sancho, Upamecano and Reguilon, we’ve still got a long way to go to close that gap. It was 33 points for a reason and while Liverpool may well be less effective than they were last season, are they really going to drop off so dramatically? Doubtful. We dropped a stupid amount of points against “lesser” opposition last year, which hopefully we’ll correct, but that’s not going to come overnight. I hope we can get about 15-20 points closer, but there’s little chance in my mind of anything better than 3rd this year. Here’s hoping I’m proved wrong though!
Ted, Manchester


Man Utd transfers…
Here we are halfway through the transfer window (Semi Final) and it looks like United are going to lose another one. Forget Sancho he is not worth that price. Go for Grealish and a good defender. Lindelof couldn’t read a book never mind a football game.
Dennis O’Neill, Lanzarote


Liverpool vs Man Utd perspective from Africa
…Well from Southern Africa at least.

Sorry a bit late to the whole “who’s more despicable Liverpool or Man United fans” debate. From what I’ve experienced over here is that it doesn’t matter much. I am a Liverpool fan through and through and have been for almost 30 years and honestly cannot remember why I even started supporting them in the first place *cough*glory hunter*cough* plastic fan*cough*.

To us in Southern Africa football is first and foremost entertainment so all this talk of hatred of other fans is ridiculous. Sure, we trade banter (actual banter and not hate filled vitriol) when watching live football from bars etc with fans of rival teams. At the end of the day we congratulate the winners and get on with our lives and wait patiently to laugh at our rivals the next time they lose to a mid table/basement team.

I’ve seen the same thing happen with supporters of EPL teams across most of Southern Africa with the biggest supporter groups being from the aforementioned two clubs including Chelsea and Arsenal and there have been sproutings of a few Manchester City fans (I wonder why).

So to summarise, football is football and is meant to be entertainment and to be viewed as such. Support your team and enjoy the highs (I did) and suffer the inevitable lows (I did) and stop worrying about the next team or what everyone else is saying about your team.
Krombopulos Michael, LFC (Bartomeu is the best president in Real Madrid’s history), Joburg


Football and politics
In response to William, Leicester:

That’s a rather long-winded way to say you don’t agree with John Nicholson, isn’t it?

To pretend football and politics are mutually exclusive is just wrong. Football and politics have always gone hand in hand, there are literally too many examples to list. It is the game of the people and to suggest that should never step into the political sphere shows a lack of awareness, in my humble opinion.

This just strikes me as another example of what seems a very 2020 problem – ‘I don’t agree with what you say so I will just question your right to say it’. Depressing.

Marcus Rashford and the many children he has helped would probably disagree with you. That’s quite clearly a political campaign, but presumably one that most people would find it hard to argue against. What’s the difference?

I don’t agree with everything John Nic says but I respect his right to say it and I come to this website because it offers more than just ‘sport as entertainment’. It recognises the role that football has in all of our lives, and long may that continue.


Dear Ed,

Just a quick note to say that I suspect you’ll get a fair few replies to William, Leicester, doubtless taking issue with his assertion that football and politics are separate.  I have no doubt that many people will say that politics affects football, and therefore it should be discussed on this website by people like JN.  However, I think those replies will miss the point.  Politics affects everything in one way or another, so thus you could argue political views can be made on any industry or business, or any person. What is the issue here is what F365 wants to be and what it wants to offer.  William is exactly right regarding the divisive nature of discourse at the moment, with Brexit, Cornovirus, BLM, racism in general, the hatred of the Tories, ditto towards some elements of Labour if you’re that way inclined.

If you get too involved in this, I have no doubt it will damage your mental health, the inhabitants of the forum are a prime example of that and I’m glad I’m off it now.  I watch sport as escapism, a chance to relax and switch off from the issues of the world.  It’s not sticking your head in the sand, it’s not ignoring racism or sexism, it’s just having a while not thinking about it, and this website in previous years was absolutely perfect for that. However, it has increasingly become politicised and increasingly has become very one-note, there isn’t much nuance. Your defence of Raheem Sterling was a case in point, and you did accept that. Likewise I can accept your constant praise of him was born out of understandable frustration with his treatment.

So my question to you is, what do you want the website to be? Entertainment, or a mix of entertainment and political/social comment.  There isn’t a right or wrong answer but it does determine how much people want to visit it. I personally want just football, or almost all football I don’t want politics and I think you’ve swung too far into that. I agree fully with William on that.

But, you do some good work, and I’ve enjoyed the many years of the site.
Dave (LUFC)


Dear William,

Your assertion that football and politics do not mix, and therefore should never be mixed, is Sisyphean, in that it is an impossibility. Politics is, for good or bad, an inevitable part of human life. From the smaller inner politics of your office to the bigger governmental politics of society, we humans are entrenched by it, moulded by it, and unfortunately for you, surrounded by it. Football, and sport in general, have never been apolitical, but rather at this current point in our history, politics is a particularly divisive issue – or more rather, most issues are viewed through a ‘left-right’ political point of view. Coupled with the growth of social media and the internet, it is normal to feel overwhelmed by it, but idiotic to think that it can, and therefore should, be removed from football.

Having read this website for roughly three years, I am not too familiar with some of the pieces that you mentioned in your previous mail on this subject. However, since my time here at least, John has always written pieces that challenge the idea of the status quo of football governance, while never ignoring football completely. It is written about the broader game of football as a whole. Since this brings into question issues off of the pitch, it is natural for this to both take on a more political standpoint and also to include some political views. The reason for the latter is that governmental politics would obviously interfere with the bureaucratic side of football, as it is still a functioning part of society, and therefore would have to not only abide by the rules of society, but be affected by any changes, such as Brexit. Such a major political decision, for instance, would have huge effects on the industry as a whole, and the individuals who work there. That, my friend, is football and politics mixing. To ignore it is simply ignoring the elephant in the room.

The idea that people are pushing politics into sport, or that it has been shoved down your throat in other forms of entertainment – such as TV, movies, comic books etc. – is laughable, because it implies that it was ever absent at all. The non-sport forms of entertainment that you mentioned, are usually considered a form of art. Politics and art have always been linked, and hopefully, always will. As for sport, again, this is also something that has always been linked to politics, although the ‘end-product’ (i.e. what’s happening on the pitch) rarely shows it. Picking locations for World Cups is a political decision, planning stadiums is a political decision, players getting visa permission to move to the club is a political decision, the UAE buying a football club is even a political decision. Again, politics are intertwined with how football as you know it works.

However, the main issue that I have with your email is that your claim that challenging racism is fine because it is a moral wrong, and therefore apolitical. Firstly, on this point, you later reference the NBA as losing interest because it has gotten “too political”. The reason for this is because a large portion of the players are espousing their opinions on the current political and social climate in the States. Kneeling for the national anthem and boycotting games is seen as too political, when it is a direct form of protest against the systemic racism rampant throughout that country. It is inherently political because it stems from the politics of the country when black people were politically and legally deemed as property. Secondly, sports have always been used as a platform for people to highlight social injustice that needed to be remedied on a governmental level, and racism is just one of those issues. When Tommie Smith and John Carlos quite literally used the medal platform in the 1968 Olympics to highlight the racism that was rampant in the United States, they were making a political gesture. When footballers call out racism in the UK, when they take a knee, when they speak about the Black Lives Matter movement, they are talking about politics because they are talking to the government to make a change.
Neill, Ireland


I’m sure you’ll get a few responses to WIlliam, Leicester but I wanted to offer an alternative view to his. TL;DR – William, I couldn’t disagree more.

Some UK readers may remember an old animated TV advert from the 90s about some guys in a pub where one guy consistently said ‘sorry, I don’t do politics’. The angle of this is that everything in life, in some way, has a connection or a political implication. Politics is a broader term than voting red or blue (or yellow, or green). Morals, cultural relevance, equality and more all overlap with political discourse and sport, and to say that politics has no place in football whatsoever and that we shouldn’t mix the two is downright silly.

If F365 was constantly ramming political opinion down your throat in every article, I might see your opinion as being a bit more valid. But it doesn’t. JN’s articles, whilst dividing opinion are often a refreshing voice in a world of vanilla media and flies in the face of right-wing owned newspapers pushing nefarious agendas for profit or control.

Yes, football is an entertainment industry but there are times when political and societal issues reach an nadir and voices within sport have to raise the head above their parapet and use their platform for change. Below is a brief, not at all comprehensive list of times when sport and politics have mixed, arguably for the better:

Marcus Rashford lobbying for a free school meals reversal in the UK
The Player’s Tribune allowing athletes to tell their side of often misrepresented narratives
Megan Rapinoe and her campagining for LGBT rights, equal pay, political accountability
The Milwaukee Bucks boycotting an NBA playoff game in protest over BLM (racial injustice and politics are undoubtedly intertwined)
Colin Kaepernick taking a knee
Clubs around the world taking a knee before games (albeit 3 years later than CK)
Barcelona/Catalonian independence
South African rugby in the post-apartheid era
Muhammad Ali and his opposition to the Vietnam war
The Hillsborough disaster and the subsequent battle for police accountability
Forest Green rovers and their ‘climate responsible business model’

Those are just off the top of my head. So please, William – don’t ever say politics and sport shouldn’t mix. As one of the biggest industries in the world, athletes, fans and clubs have just as much right to opinion as you do, and if people want to use their platform to affect change, why wouldn’t you see that as a good thing? And is it just sport? Should politics stay out of Film too? If so, we wouldn’t have seen #metoo or #oscarssowhite. What about the Music industry? Without these voices in football there is more sportswashing, more FIFA corruption, more Qatar world cups. Nobody wants that.

To try to shut down these conversations in the way you are doing is indicative of a narrow minded, totalitarian viewpoint. If you don’t like these things mixing, i’d hate to watch you eat your dinner. I bet you can’t even let your food be touching on the plate.
Lee (reminder that you’re free to stop reading whenever you want Willz), LFC


Erm…William, Leicester, stop ruining my football related mailbox with your apolitical dogma!

Just don’t read John Nicholson’s articles…I don’t tend to (sorry John). Not that hard, why on earth would you write a treatise about it…

F365 aren’t the BBC, they are allowed to take whatever editorial stance on any topic they please. I suspect they take the approach they do because their mildly enlightened stance strikes a chord with the demographic they are going for.

If you don’t want to think (a tiny little bit…) when getting your football content, read a different website.

Loved Mark Robbo’s spectacularly blinkered man for man assessment of the United and Liverpool teams. Well  man for man when it suited him, when United clearly had the better quality midfield players we lumped them all together because Curtis Jones offers more balance… you know, that guy whose clocked 122 leagues minutes in his whole career – Paul Pogba must feel like a loser with only the one World Cup and four Series A wins. Not to mention that Firminho makes it ahead of Anthony Martial’s objectively superior numbers because Mark, the Liverpool fan, likes him more…

Liver Bird could beat Fred the Red in a fight too, I imagine.

Liverpool are, as being league champions would indicate, the better side right now, but try and tone down the nonsense Mark – its behaviour like that on both sides which prompts the “who does everyone hate more” debate.
Andy (MUFC)


In reply to William, Leicester in this morning’s mailbox, politics pervades every single moment and facet of life. Whether you are watching football, taking the dog for a walk, or buying a bar of chocolate, everything we do is governed by politics and policy.

What you are saying is that John Nicholson shouldn’t highlight the manner in which football and politics are inexorably intertwined, far less take a definitive stance on where he believes football (as part of the wider society in which it exists) needs to improve. I get that many see football as an escape and that ‘reality’ shouldn’t be allowed to intrude, but it doesn’t change the fact that politics is a part of every football match, discussion and article.

As a columnist rather than a reporter it is his job to have a specific take that generates clicks and stimulates discussion and debate – preferably on the subject raised rather than whether the subject should be raised (‘should’ is not really a consideration when the subject ‘is’ – all that is open to discussion/debate is the extent to which the reader agrees or disagrees with the opinion advanced).
Peekay – Glasgow, LFC


So I have some problems with William, Leicester mail this morning…I will keep my comments short and sweet-

– ‘Most pushing politics into football are not fans, they don’t support teams or watch games they just want their politics in another place it doesn’t belong and don’t care about the negative consequences it brings for people who actually enjoy football.’- As I said in my first mail, you really need to stop speaking for other people.It makes me cringe for you.

-‘ Nobody actually supports a particular club because of its politics, nobody picks a favorite player because they share the same political views, clubs don’t get extra points or goals for promoting their politics and the Balon D’or is decided on performances not political views also.’ Did anyone claim they did ?The point being made was that the sport as a whole is political.

Ultimately, footballers, clubs and the sport itself are political. In the recent past you can think about Marcus Rashford, James McLean, Megan Rapinoe, Hector Bellerin, Pep Guardiola, the decision to award the WC to Qatar, George Weah etc. In some cases footballers, managers or owners express party political views but in others they are involved in social campaigns which have some sort of political angle.

You are perfectly entitled to think this stuff isn’t important (or to have different views to any public figures or groups) but it’s really weird that you want football journalists to shut up about it. Nobody is making you read their copy.
NorthernSoul (NUFC)


Money man William (Leceister) is at it again, I see. Reading his recent contributions reminds me of a South Park episode where to avoid seeing a picture of prophet mohammed, the town collectively decides to bury their heads in the sand.
There’s a few gems in there such as “racism is a moral problem” (read a book, William) as well as “nobody comes to this site to read about politics,” (F365 is politicised- its also popular)

But, the real monocle dropper, and my personal favourite, is this line: “(political) sports loses money so…will not last forever. Money and common sense will prevail.” There is an economic and political system underlining that ‘invisible hand’ you’re describing, William.
Liam Gabriel Hoskins (It rhymes with snapitalism) AFC


William, if you only care about what happens on the pitch in that 90-120 minutes (ignoring the crowds, stadia, players, etc…), then yes, there are no politics in football.

However, the moment you step away from “person kicking ball”, political matters are involved. That includes race, employment, sexism, equality, planning permission, drugs testing policies and everything else.

“Racism isn’t political” – did I read that correctly? So how people of different race, religions, and countries are treated is not political? I cannot believe I’ve read that and don’t think I’ve read a bigger load of utter bullshit in my life. Even the rules that state you cannot commit racist abuse IS POLITCAL – THESE ARE LAWS decided by actual politicians, not Bob down the pub?!?!!

I dare you to venture into Liverpool and tell Liverpool supporters that politics doesn’t get involved in football. Or Cataluna. Or Glasgow. Or Turin. Or any place there is a football club, whether at the top of the tree, or the under-10s in Romford that is constantly fighting to keep it’s pitches available.

Even the rules are political. All of them. Top to bottom. FFP to foul throws.

You don’t want to read people’s opinions about it, fine. Don’t. But don’t you dare speak for the entire readership of F365. And don’t you dare try to silence people – because, do you know what that is? Political.

“Nobody is coming to this site to read about politics so if it isn’t here nobody cares.” – if that were true, I’m guessing Johnny wouldn’t have the opportunity to write for F365. I for one, am glad he does. That’s the thing about sites that are driven by ad revenues, with no audience, there’s no content. So, if something is read by lots of people, it will continue. If it has nobody interested, they won’t click and eventually it will stop. The thing I really don’t get about people like you, William, you’re quick to tell people what you want them to do (or not do) but why don’t you pick up a pen and build your own website and then you get exactly what you want


Happy Friday people at F365. Loads of us love what you do!
Rob, Brighton.


Just to reply to William in Leicester’s complaint about F365 publishing political articles from Johnny Nic (I hope I’m not the only one). I see arguments like William’s a lot on sites dealing with areas that are often considered apolitical, like football or video games. I’m a bit confused – is it that hard to just not read the offending article? I didn’t realise that the presence of a writer viewing football through a political lens caused the rest of the site’s coverage to just vanish.

In all seriousness, F365 has a lot of great writers who write about all aspects of football. That is what makes it a football site for everyone, not outright ignoring something that is a very large part of the sporting landscape because it might make some people uncomfortable as William suggests.

You don’t have to like Johnny Nic’s articles – thats fine. You don’t even have to read them (I love Johnny but I don’t read all of them)! But instead of pretending that their very presence on the site is somehow Ramming Politics Down Our Throats, just use some initiative and read one of the many articles about “proper” football! I know it’s hard and not as fun as getting your Richard Keys costume on and jumping on your high horse, but it’ll be better for your blood pressure in the long run.

Will, AFC, London


Haven’t been on your site for a while (very bored at work today) and just read the mail from William, Leicester which explains why. I used to be a regular back in the early days, even before Jack(17) was 17, and used to enjoy John Nicholson’s ramblings and painfully squeezing a touring band analogy into the current story of the day. Sadly now I find John’s page unreadable, and the general tone of politics being pushed into articles by various writers has just put me off. Your site became the go to football site for me and I had no real idea of the politics of an of you, nor did I care. In addition its all, sadly quite predictable what your views will be on everything. As the saying goes, Go Woke, Go broke.

Maybe I’m just getting old
John (I remember brackets being a thing) Ellan Vannin


To William, Leicester

*Stands up and claps*

Wonderfully put Sir,

Al – LFC – Non Political Football fan (slightly worried about lack of signings again though)


I kind of agree with William, Leicester, although there’s a “but'” coming at the end.

I’m a 55 year old white bloke. I’m doing OK. I vote Tory and I voted Leave. I’ve sometimes felt like I’m everything all you young hipsters despise. The constant references do get tiresome.

But…’re free (I do think people overlook that) and you’re wonderful.

I might be much closer to Fat Man Scouse’s general view of life than Johnny Nic’s, but I’m very close to Johnny’s views on football and music. And I love the way he writes. He’s like that cool, joint-smoking, denim-clad hippy on those old posters.

And as I’ve grown into my mature and distinguished age, I’ve managed to develop this really important ability to just ignore something I don’t like and move on. It’s like skipping Four Sticks but still knowing that Led Zep IV’s a great album.

Keep on keepin’ on, F365!
Mark Lewis (SWFC)


Your desired path of choice…
Ved Sen (MUFC) point this morning is quite a good one to bring up about where would a player like to head if they were up and coming, in recent years I would have stayed away from my own club Chelsea because, well, lets be dead honest, youth never truly got the chance, due to multiple factors but nowadays it is slightly different, personally I would always love to play for AC Milan, that kit, playing in the San Siro, however since they became a so called sleeping giant it would be a harder sell nowadays, however living in Milan would be something special, as much as living in Barcelona would.

This brought up a thought that I had a while back when a trend on social media was doing the rounds about your chosen pathway as a player, the question was “You play for 7 clubs: development club, big move at 21, another at 24, at 27, then three on the way down at 30 onwards. What’s your career?”

I chose the following:
Development: Portsmouth (Always liked the club, fallen FA Cup winners and who didn’t love Niko Kranjcar?)
Big Move at 21: Rangers (Iconic side, would be a huge challenge to help compete for the title)
Big Move at 24: Chelsea (My club)
Big Move at 27: Barcelona (The city, the culture and the history)
Three Clubs After 30: AC Milan, Seattle Sounders and Bromsgrove Sporting (Milan got me into football, Seattle are my MLS side and Sporting are the nearest “local” side”)

What would other mailbox readers choose as their career path following those rules?
Mikey, CFC


Thierry Henry
A very nice tribute to Thierry Henry from Johnny there, even though he got his age wrong; he left Arsenal for Barcelona at 30, not Barcelona for New York.

As an Arsenal fan, I am obviously biased, but I don’t think I ever saw a player in the Premier League ever make football look as easy as Henry. He just glided everywhere, leaving people in his wake.

Shearer was exceptional and evergreen, and also electrifying earlier in his career, and Aguero is a sumptuous finisher, I genuinely think Henry is head and shoulders above them as the league’s greatest striker.

And I got to see him score his final goal, against Sunderland in 2012, and the Sunderland fans who I was sitting amongst (having only been able to bum a home end ticket) were very gracious when I accidentally got a bit carried away and revealed myself (figuratively as opposed to literally) despite it being an injury time winner.

Ah memories.
Tom, Walthamstow