Rangnick one star away from making Man Utd great again

Date published: Friday 31st December 2021 7:51 - Editor F365

Manchester United manager Ralf Rangnick makes his point.

Is that the title race done? Are Man Utd really that close? Do you actually want informed punditry? Let’s have your mails to theeditor@football365.com… 


One player away
I’ll keep this one simple. Manchester United are one player away from being an excellent side. It’s the same one that Ole wanted to sign, but that Woodward refused to sanction. It’s the same ones that Rangnick has been sniffing around.

It’s the same one that every title winning side possesses but United currently don’t.

The one, the only… CDM. A player that stays in position, that can tackle as well as press, that keeps passes simple. The one that breaks up opposing attacks.

See, the problem with United is not how they do in attack. Yes, Ronaldo can be a bit static, yes the whole attacking fluidity has been a little lacking, yes Rashford and Bruno have looked a little out of sorts but it’s that United keep conceding on the break. In fact, virtually all the goals that come have been on the break. Stop that, let the defence stop reeling against every attack, give a platform for attacks.

Fred is not good at breaking up attacks. Neither is VdB. McTominay can, but he needs help and pushes up the pitch.

Hey, maybe I’m just an eternal optimist. Maybe Rangnick is just out of his dep… hahaha no, sorry, I can’t even; what an incredible mail that was.


Tainted title?
Does anyone remember the last days of season 19/20? A certain club has defied all odds to be top of the league by an insurmountable lead of 20+ points. The league has to put a halt to all proceedings due to a pandemic. Suddenly there are curious calls on social media platforms using #taintedtitle.

Now let’s get back to the current season. Three clubs fighting for the title. All within four points of each other. Suddenly the virus strikes again.One club had 7 positive cases. Another had 4 cases confirmed. Both of these had matches postponed, training schedules disrupted. The third club had no positive cases at all. They played virus ravaged opponents and had no matches postponed at all. Soon enough, a gap appears at the top. They will soon be declared champions.

I guess my point is: Is this the real tainted title that everyone was talking about?


Liverpool and Chelsea collapses incoming?
Did anyone else watch the celebrations after Leicester beat Liverpool and have a flashback to a week short of a full year ago when Hasenhüttl dropped to the ground in another 1-0 victory over Liverpool? At the time Liverpool were top of the league and it was seen to be a brilliant result for Southampton.

Hindsight quickly changed the view on that win as Liverpool went on to gain 1 point from their next 7 PL home games, scoring once in the process. During February and March, they one picked up one PL win in each of those months.

Salah & Mane are starting to look leggy again, just like they did this time last year and they also have the AFCON as an added distraction this year. With 2 games without a win are we about to see Liverpool collapse again? Though last year they also had injuries at the back to contend with. They used 2 centre midfielders to fill in at centre back which was used as the excuse for these poor performances, strange we don’t hear the same excuses from Leicester fans after Tuesday night when they did the same thing.
Mick, Cardiff


…Watched the Chelsea v Brighton game, Brighton fully deserved their draw and looked the stronger team throughout the second half. What was incredible was looking at a Chelsea team on empty both physically and mentally.

That Brighton have played only 5 games this month to Chelsea’s 9 tells its own story. Add in injuries, players straight back from covid or injury with minimal control shows the peril the club’s season is in. Chelsea now go into January playing Liverpool, City, Chesterfield and Spurs (3 times) without wing backs, a Kante who can’t play 90 mins, Alonso nursing an injury. Havertz, Werner nowhere near the team for over 6 weeks.

Fully expect Arsenal and Spurs to catch them over January. They are in trouble, James and Chillwell are as important to them as TAA and Robertson.

Clubs below them licking their lips.
P Didi

A Seagull crows
Sorry Chelsea.

When they beat Norwich, they had 9 of those starting players involved. All except Chilwell and Silva who are injured at the moment. They won 7-0. Three of the bench players from that day, Azpi, Christensen, Alonso were also involved on the pitch tonight. They left Havertz and Ziyech on the bench, who weren’t exactly budget signings as squad filler.

Sorry Tommy T, you’ve used all of these players in the league before and very often, so I’m sorry you couldn’t beat us, but suck it up. We were without Dunk, Duffy, Webster, Mwepu, Trossard, Welbeck, all from the start (admittedly 2 came on late as we bravely rotated to, you know, manage workload over the fixtures we were aware of when playing in England over the Christmas and NY period). We had our *entire* first choice back 3 rested or injured. We don’t have your resources.

We have 35% of the wage spend you do (source – Swiss Ramble, 2019/20 season but won’t be far off that now, even if 50% in the latest figures it’s still ridiculous in comparison vs the moaning level from Tuchel). I’d suggest either keep some good players from going on loan, balance your European Champions squad or just rotate better and not play your best players in every single game until they inevitably break.

And most of all – enjoy when your fans tempt fate by holding on to the ball and giving us a bit more fire in the last ten mins when clearly our energy was dwindling. Thanks for that. And credit to Mike Dean for not adding on more time due to the Chelsea fans being idiots and putting the ball under their jackets to hold up play. That deserves credit even though I’m still not a Mike Dean fan. He had a very sensible game tonight though, even the Rudiger lunge looked bad but was only a yellow and I’m cool with that.


Another mail about Vercingetorix
Gordon Steen would do well to study the Gauls and their failed attempt to fight the inevitable and Julius Caesar. In Rome there was praise for leadership qualities and military acumen. And it wasn’t for Caesar. It was for Vercingetorix. He was even on the coins of the empire. But why? Surely the result was inevitable? Yes, but sometimes people inflate the reputations of competitors to make their own accomplishments seem greater than they are. So perhaps Tuchel and Klopp praise Rangnick not out of sincerity, but because they know that beating this Manchester United side is no great feat, but it must be made to seem so in order to build their own myths of greatness and conquest. Or maybe it’s more like me telling my boss that 10-slide Powerpoint I put together was really challenging.
Niall, Bethany Beach


Punditry problems
John Nicholson is bang on the money with regards to a lot of pundits out there. Unimaginative, cliché-ridden masters of the obvious who bring nothing but white noise to the table. However, he has missed one critical detail:

That’s what people want.

Not everyone, obviously. It’s very likely that we in our little F365 echo chamber are the minority here in looking for detailed analysis and data-driven approaches to this, that and the other. But I would hazard a guess that the vast majority of football fans out there are quite happy to be told “he’s got to do better there” and move on with their day. And as Johnny pointed out, there are plenty of places where complex, detailed analysis is available from non-ex-player sources, and not all ex-players are quite as thick as they sometimes appear.

Something we all agreed upon during the various lockdowns and postponements of the last 18 months is that football is a comfort, a part of our cultural background. People don’t want to be challenged to think hard when they’re settling into their comfort zone.

So, Johnny, I think you will see some very able and specialised co-comms and pundits over the next 5, 10, 20 years, but don’t be at all surprised if Robbie Savage is still getting wheeled out to tell us “if anything, he’s hit that too well!”
Harry, THFC


…I think it’s time we stop moaning about punditry, it’s been going on forever and will continue to go on as it has been happening. You don’t understand how desperate tv is as a medium, especially nowadays with considerable streaming alternatives. Football analysis is just an excuse to get the superstar presences to stick around. To some they take it seriously because they either want to or their contract demands that they do, but to the majority, they’re just getting paid to stick around for another 45 minutes to hour and the best thing that can come out of it is they were actually enthused enough by the game they just watched to give their actual analysis. When the game that “the panel” have watched stops being discussed, they usually dovetail to some HOT TOPIC (brought to you, by Dettol) and that’s when the guys with big contracts like the Garys, the Jamies, the Roys (sorry for the ptsd) get very verbose and let themselves at times get carried away, while Jermaine Defoe makes Zoolander faces in the background. It’s just entertainment, the analysis portion is just to keep these characters on screen, because while these guys were playing they were idols either at their clubs or worldwide too, they are characters. Analysis is just a reason for them to guest star on the current footy match, a Roy Keane or Graham Souness is a “special guest star”, a recurring temporary main character.

They aren’t there to talk about football, they’re there to react to football. Neville and Carragher have to be arsed enough a little bit because they’re co-hosts, but the rest are just there to look pretty and be recognisable and if they have a moment or two that’s just a bonus.
Dave (Danny Murphy, hubba hubba), Dublin


…However John Nicholson rates Britain’s inept football pundits, the pinnacle of sports punditry is far, far beyond Emma Hayes. Just watch Osi Umenyiora and Jason Bell on BBC One’s The NFL Show and you’ll see a level of wit and articulacy that nobody in the football broadcasting business comes close to matching.

For a prime example check out Osi’s Pittsburgh Steelers monologue from the December 3rd edition (available until Sunday on the iPlayer, the piece I’m talking about starts at 21:30). From the bizarre opening setup (“When I was 16 I witnessed my best friend bodyslam his father”) to his merciless skewering of the Steelers’ ageing quarterterback (“A guy who we all think should be done”), it’s laugh-out-loud funny, interesting, packed with insight, and way past the capability of any Premier League pundit.

He utterly lays into an underperforming team, comparing them to their past glories while ripping their current players to shreds. The best you’d get on Match of the Day would be a token “He’ll be disappointed with that”. Osi compares the slow, struggling quarterback to “The speed of a fart leaving the human body”.

What’s more, he talks off-the-cuff for four and a half minutes, and he does this every week on a show that’s not exactly prime time for the BBC. There’s nobody in football who can do that, and I suspect the reason is that footballers are signed up and thrown into the first team at an early age, whereas in the NFL they all have a college education and several years to learn how to handle being the centre of media attention. Even if you don’t like American football, Bell and Umenyiora are worth checking out to see just how poor our football pundits are in comparison.
Martin, BRFC


Rash criticism
When I read Ashwin’s potshots on Rashford’s charity work, I let my head hit the desk a couple of times, collected myself, and thought that you’ll likely get a bunch of responses to that particular email.

I see there is one this morning but I would like to add to it. Ashwin, my man, let me put this straight to you, that was the single most privileged and tone deaf email I have seen in a long time. I bet when you wrote “But hey no one can or should criticise Marcus Rashford, the boy does charity so he’s immune from criticism for his POOR performances on the football pitch” you thought you were being clever. But that was a tasteless and frankly silly joke to make. Your entire email was the equivalent of Laura Ingram’s “shut up and dribble” response to Lebron James’ community work and political takes against a government which was intent on doing square root of fuck all for the poor. That’s, frankly, a low bar to hit your head on.

I’m an arsenal fan. I do not give a hoot if you or anyone slags of Rashford for his playing. And I do not have an iota of a problem with your football critiques. But please, and I say this with utmost sincerity, do ask yourself if the joy of watching and analyzing football is really greater than thousands of children getting a meal because a player cared when the government didn’t (and still doesn’t). Your disdainful references to his “PR” makes it seem like you really do not think any of it comes from a genuine place or more importantly, is more meaningful than improving one’s form and perform for the team.

Football is an amazing sport. But to me it’s only improved by incredible stories of players who come from circumstances I cannot surviving a week in, and they give back with goals and service to the community. Among the two if it’s the goals that dry up, I will hardly consider that a sin. They’re athletes but humans first. And much like rest of the humans, prone to periods of getting things wrong in their professional set up. It happens. The penalty miss in Euros affecting confidence, the manager situation, imbalance in the team, covid outbreaks, etc. May have way more to do with Rashford’s drop in form.

To end things on a footballing note though, Arsenal are making me hopeful again. In my mind I know we are going to get tonked by City and hope will temporarily evaporate. But there is nothing like a young team enjoying themselves on the pitch and bringing results. I have always low-key rooted for Arteta to succeed. He’s not there yet, but perhaps in a world where everything is demanded and given in a short span of time, perhaps, once in a while, it’s okay to…. Trust the process. There will be more downs. But for a young team, it is in the crucible of failure that they will be tempered into true steel.

Abhilash (Gooner)

Man Utd forward Marcus Rashford runs with the ball


One-trick XI
With the end of the year coming up I thought I’d freshen up the mailbox with an XI, this time it’s an XI of players we all remember for doing one thing in particular.

Goalkeeper: Rene Higuita (The Scorpion Kick vs England)

Defender: Chris Brass (‘Nearly Broken Nose’ Own Goal vs Darlington)
Defender: Joleon Lescott (Infamous Car Tweet)
Defender: Phil Babb (Two Balls went in off the post)
Defender: Pascal Chimbonda (Handed in a transfer request on the pitch)

Midfielder: David Dunn (Failed Rabona)
Midfielder: Lee Bowyer & Kieron Dyer (Fight Fight Fight)
Midfielder: Ali Dia (Not Weah’s Cousin)

Forward: Cherno Samba (Championsip Manager Legend)
Forward: Martin Palermo (Three Penalty Misses In one game)

So who would you have in your XI, this is a topic to bring back single memories, so would love to see others!
The Admin @ At The Bridge Pod


VAR the pits
I am still annoyed about Kane’s disallowed goal for ‘offside’ on Tuesday. I thought they had stopped with these disgraceful decisions. Will we ever get an explanation from the VAR (Martin Atkinson) as to why it was offside? Or do fans just have to accept it without any explanation? Or wait until it happens to Liverpool before we really explore the issue?
Still annoyed.


Head injuries are the bane of football. All to often players go down in the box feigning head injury when their goal is under pressure from the opposing team. The referee will stop the game and after the miracle magic sponge appears or the index finger, reciprocating in the horizontal for thirty seconds, all is ok and off we jolly well go

If it was compulsory for players with “head injuries” to spend ten minutes on the sidelines after such an ordeal, without a replacement, unless he is substituted, I sincerely believe that feigning head injuries would soon disappear and remove the responsibility of “is he” or “is he not” from the referee and allow the real medics to decide.


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