The Mailbox reacts to Manchester United’s latest disgrace, with Erik ten Hag and Harry Maguire fielding most of the flak. Also: have City struck lucky this season?
Get your views in to firstname.lastname@example.org…
Sympathy with the Devils
2-0 up in Europe. You lose 5-2. I know the feeling.
Mike, LFC, London
Popularity attributed to Einstein is the quote – “ The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Just as relevant is the part in the Terminator where a rather overwrought Kyle Reese explains that the Austrian assassin trying to kill Sarah Connor is inevitable – “ That’s what he does, it’s all he does! You can’t stop him!”
David de Gea cannot play top flight football with the ball at his feet. This is not a controversial opinion, but a fact based on years worth of errors he has committed – frequently leading to opposition goals. Insanity is then asking him to create from the back, however much you may want to, however much you may accurately believe modern football is better played that way. It’s an immutable law of the universe- he cannot do it, so do not ever ask him to do it. The third goal last night was as pure an example of this as you’ll ever see and it really was a breathtaking lack of ability at this level.
Even more fundamental insanity is playing Harry Maguire at *all*. Of course injuries have robbed Ten Hag of his preferred centre backs but Maguire is never ever the answer. Hell, a youth player promoted for the occasion may play well, they may not – there’s only one way to find out.
But Harry Maguire *will* f**k up. It’s what he does, it’s all he does, you can’t stop him! And he seemed determined to add to his collection of calamities as early as possible last night. The first goal saw him demand the ball in an idiotic position and then clumsily give it to En-Nesyri , who then promptly scored. Of course the only person who could have predicted that happening was… every single football supporter who’s ever seen Harry Maguire play. It was an absolute inevitability.
Sevilla did not need the extra help, they were extremely motivated and really rather good last night. Quite possibly they would have won whatever happened and Maguire and De Gea made it an absolute certainty.
The talk of a quadruple was only ever pie in the sky wishful thinking, but a cup treble was very possible. Combined with finishing in a Champions League place and it could only have been described as a fantastic season – for all that United fans have mocked us for winning the exact same ‘ Mickey Mouse Treble’ for twenty years. But it’s gone now, much like the sunny optimism that was surrounding the club a couple of months ago.
The FA Cup and a domestic cup double is still on, but not playing like this. Drop Maguire forever and just let De Gea play to his strengths. It would be insane to do anything else and Ten Hag will find his current reputation very much dependent on getting this decision right.
…There was a TV series in the late 80s/early 90s called Quantum Leap (bear with me here). The premise of the show was that a time-travelling scientist (Sam) lept into the bodies of individuals in order to help them in some way. Part of the humour in the show was that Sam would leap into a critical situation he would know absolutely nothing about e.g. performing surgery.
2 minutes into the match tonight, Sam simultaneously lept into the bodies of the whole United team. It is the only thing I can come up with to explain why professional footballers cannot make a simple pass, control a simple pass, head a ball, make a tackle, pass the ball off the ground to a teammate, win a second ball, shoot, jump, clear a ball which is punted 50 feet up in the air. Did my eyes deceive me or did DDG actually just try to slide tackle that ball when it dropped out of the sky for the third goal?
We just gifted a bang average team 5 goals and a semi final. Yer man with the ponytail doing a rabona in the first 20 mins should have been enough to rile you into a performance. Please have the decency to turn up on Sunday because that was a shambles. Take some responsibility and have some bloody pride. You owe us for having to sit through that indefensible sh*tshow.
Garey Vance, MUFC
…Harry f*cking Maguire and David f*cking De Gea really need to f*ck off now, with no further ado.
I’d rather have David May and Taibi, but since that’s not an option let’s just play AWB or Shaw in the centre with Heaton between the posts because frankly, anything is better than watching those two f*ckwits screw up any more.
De Gea will never be someone comfortable on the ball, and Maguire is a perpetual accident waiting to happen. Yes De Gea can pull of an incredible save, but frankly he costs more goals with his clown shoes than he makes big saves that a regular decent keeper wouldn’t make.
Fred and Martial can follow them out the door in the summer and frankly even without replacing them we’d be better off. Goddamn it!
…I’d be laughing if I wasn’t cryng. Let me try and be as succinct as I can.
– 5 goals conceded. 2 own goals, 2 goalkeeping / defensive howlers, and one that looped off a shoulder and somehow beat the keeper and slipped under the bar in slo-mo. You couldn’t make it up.
– A 30 min stroll, a comfortable 75 minutes, and then the utter shambles after. Talk about game management!
– Martinez, Varane, Garnacho, McTominay injured. Fernandez suspended. Rashford, Erikson, Shaw, Sabitzer – all coming back from injuries sooner than they probably should. Martial perma-crocked. That’s 10 outfield players we could have ideally done with being available and fit.
– Eriksen – presumably because of his low match fitness levels – had his worst game in a United shirt for a while, on par with the 4-0 at Brentford. ETH got this wrong and should probably have started with Fred. Sabitzer was a yard off the pace all evening long.
– De Gea probably shot a big hole through his prospective new contract with this tie.
– As did Maguire – although with the midfield being as effective as blotting paper, the defence was horribly exposed straight through
– Sancho was so ineffective that even his team mates stopped passing to him by the end of the first half. He then compounded things by not bothering to run back when we lost possession.
– We might just be seeing what the impact of a world cup in the middle of the season might be, on fitness and exhaustion, coupled with the punishing schedule.
– Seville were superb. Smart, hard working, well drilled, and played with guile, technique, and pace.
– This was the Brentford game all over again, and right on cue our next game is against Brighton as we relive the nightmare of the first weeks of the season.
Ved Sen (MUFC)
…Some days the other team is just better than you.
Some days the other team just wants it more than you.
Some days you make stupid mistakes that gift goals.
Some days your 220 million pound assembled front 3 revert to looking like they’re playing for the dog and duck.
Some (too many) days your 80 million pound defender looks like he wouldn’t get into that dog and duck side.
And some days your keeper just has a couple of brain farts.
But if you’re Man Utd, you can have all of the above (and a few others i missed) on one flipping day.
Well done Sevilla, by far the better team. Utd need a miraculous change in all of the above to beat Brighton at the weekend.
Jon, Cape Town (I’ll take clutching at straws silver linings of easing the amount of games per week for the rest of the season and realising how far we’ve still got to go to compete at the highest level before the summer transfer window. We can cope with maybe one or 2 of our top players missing but as soon as it’s more than that we are the dog and duck).
…Harry Maguire should have no future at Manchester United after tonight. I don’t say that as a knee jerk, and certainly not based solely on tonight. But it is now really clear that regardless of whether he can be a top class defender or not, he’s not going to be that at Manchester United. He’s past the point of no return, now. His his confidence has gone and his competence followed it out the door. His judgement is all over the place and his ability to do basic things has left him. De Gea as well, if that helps. The pair of them are a disaster, and when you add in Lindeloff, who is close to a nothing player as it’s possible to get, the three of them should be out on their ears to the highest bidder, as soon as possible. Get rid and stop pretending a turn around is possible. Martial can join them, as well. This club has given second chances long enough. We were doing it ten years ago with Anderson, Phil Jones and Owen Hargreaves, and it’s high time we packed it in.
OGS > ETH
I got really castigated here last time I gave the opinion that the Ole era was comparable to anything that’s been served up this season from ETH.
I just miss Ole, and actually having any chance of winning an away game against good-ish opposition.
David, Atlanta (and I still am loving what Carrick is doing and still think, what might have been)
…Someone explain to what ETH is doing thst OGS didn’t?
If you gave OGS £200m and Chucked out the bad whiff of Ronaldo and he’d got these players further along than ETH has. Nobody wants to admit it cos they see Ajax on his cv and blindly assume he’s better. We’ve had more SHOCKING performances in 3/4 a season than the entire OGS reign.
Not even a huge fan of OGS but everyone needs to stop kidding thenselves our saviour has arrived. We are light years from being decent. This summer the deadwood FINALLY needs to go – de gea, maguire, jones, Dalot, martial, van de beek, elanga, Williams, telles, baille. And I’m being GENEROUS not adding 3-4 others in there.
…United have to be the easiest team in all of Europe to get balls into their box, and to lose second balls. Their high press is effective, until it isn’t, and Ten Haag has no other ideas. He should give Ole a call.
Just like at Liverpool, they cannot win a single dual or second ball. It’s shocking for a team at this level.
I’m also not sure why every team they play just doesn’t attack them on the wings constantly. Dalot and Shaw are only good when they are having a good day, and when they aren’t, it’s like giving the opposition one of your players. The gap between them and their back ups is even worse than the space they give opposition.
This should be the end for Harry. Clearly he will play more because we have no choice, but he honestly is giving me Dennis from Jurassic Park Vibes. Just knows he’s on the way out and is destroying everything on his way.
United don’t have enough resources or self awareness to recognise or solve their own issues, let alone rise to the idea of having a plan B.
A new left back, right back, two centre backs, a back up to Cas & Eriksson, A winger who is not Sancho or Antony and of course, a striker that can actually score goals are all needed for this team to really challenge for silverware. United don’t have a Boehly to chuck at that problem, and with the current regime unable to alternate a plan, it wouldn’t matter if they did, they’d still lose to the 13th best team in Spain.
What happened at Old Trafford was an anomaly. What happened tonight was just another embarrassing example of United away from home. Liverpool, Newcastle, Bretford, Sevilla, City, and Villa have all shown the true character of this squad.
Calvino (That all said, kind of irritating how many teams best game of the season is vs United. )
…I didn’t watch the whole game yesterday against Sevilla as I half expected a defeat following the 2-2 draw and was watching the Juventus vs Sporting game instead, but United seriously have a problem facing Spanish opposition in Europe. I think United have been knocked out by a Spanish side in EL & CL since 2018! But to lose 3-0 quite easily goes to show the lack of quality in the squad overall, Ten Haag needs to make some good decisions on who to sell in the summer as some players can’t cut it even in Europa League.
You can see the lack of composure from the back especially from the back when Varane, Martinez & Shaw don’t start, but De Gea seriously needs to get it together with his feet, just shows such a lack of concentration now and then for some reason when there are quite easy passes on. I think its time to bring in another keeper (E.g. Raya from Brentford) to compete with him to show he isn’t indispensable. The issue is with De Gea is he is such a good shot-stopper and saves United in some games plus is United’s longest serving player, but the pass to Maguire yesterday was just bizarre. Did the same thing against Brentford when United lost 4-0, passing it to Eriksen who lost the ball and Brentford scored their 2nd goal.
Anyways onto the game itself, first goal was De Gea’s fault and the 2nd one was arguably his fault as well, could have reacted quicker. Other than that, players like Martial, Dalot + Wan Bassaka and even Casemiro were just non-existent. Looks like they just didn’t fancy it, and hope that mentality changes swiftly for the game against Brighton on Sunday. I really hope Martial never plays for the club again, as harsh as that may sound but its justified. How he is number 9 for United is crazy to think, its insulting towards other previous players. Not even worth criticizing him much, I have no idea how some pundits say he can make a difference for United. He wouldn’t be able to make a difference for most Premier League teams. Sancho should consider next year as his last chance as well, but Garnacho & Rashford on the left are MUCH better options as it currently stands.
In the summer, United should place Maguire (Just has no confidence anymore, even his teammates have lost confidence in him), Martial & Lindelof OR Wan Bassaka on the transfer list. I personally think Wan-Bassaka has more potential, Lindelof has reached his full potential from the looks of it. Possibly McTominay as well, but United have to sign another central midfielder first. Oh and almost forgot about Jones & Bailly, who are someone still on the wage bill (Fair play to them, complete robbery and great negotiation skills from their agents!)
Line up for the Brighton game should be the following:
GK: De Gea (Sometime I wish United still had Romero, was so underrated)
CB: Varane (Inject him with whatever medical treatments there are to legally use, badly need him back for this game)
CB: Shaw (Better than Maguire/Lindelof at CB)
ST: Weghorst (Sabitzer to come on as potential false 9?)
Best of luck to the team for this game, some luck is probably needed! If United can make the final on Sunday and grab a Top 3/4 spot (Which I am sure will happen now), as well as having secured the League Cup this season, its certainly something encouraging to look forward to next season. However lots of improvement to be still be made, and I think a number of players concluded their futures with some of their performances this & last season and shouldn’t be given any further opportunities. Ten Haag has to be cold with his decisions, but for the good of the club instead of convenience, you can tell some players can’t deal with pressure.
…Utd are back, everyone should start taking note. We’re back and the truth is, we never really went anywhere from the last 10 years. Since the moment Sir Alex walked away, we have been a horrible club with horrible players, playing horrible football.
The great one, untried and untested ETH had us all fooled that he was actually improving things, pray tell, what’s improved?
The style of play definitely hasn’t. Why are we still, after so many years, attempting to play out from the back? You would think that after so many years we would be quite good at it but no, one of the worst sides in the league for taking a simple goal kick.
Oh but we play so much better football now? Do we? Were we so shocking the last few years that we’ve all forgotten, because in truth it ain’t much better. It’s exactly the same style, sit back and try to hit on the break.
Maguire is going to get the blame for that first goal, however in my opinion, that goal is bang on De Gea! It looks like Maguire did gesture to receive the ball, problem is De Gea is so inept at passing, so ponderous, so indecisive that by the time he does pass it, it’s too late.
The second is on him as well, the bloke was basically lobbed whilst standing on his line and the third? What really do we expect?
The most overrated keeper we have had in my 40+ years. It’s all very well pulling off worldie saves against Forest, Leeds etc, but against sides who are more clinical and put him under any kind of remote pressure, he crumbles. He’s in line for the Golden glove this season! Because he’s kept X amount of clean sheets but come on, look how many he’s chucked in, given up on and caused due to being a bit rubbish. I’m going to call him a coward, he’s weak, it’s embarrassing to watch how tame and pathetic he is when he gets challenged. Ive never seen a keeper look so afraid of getting hurt.
We had an international back 4 in the second half and none of them look good with the ball. The midfield were statues with loose passes all night. I like Casamiro, but boy when he has a stinker it really shows, don’t think it helps when his partners in there are Sabitza, surely we ain’t signing him permanently? Lost count how many times he was megged in that first half, and Eriksson who is 1) only getting the love because of what happened and 2) not much of an upgrade on Mata.
Then our dynamic forward line of Antony. Hmm yeah ok, is there a more one footed player out there? He can’t beat anyone, he’s got 1 assist, that was against mighty Forest, he can’t cross and has 1 trick that works on average once a month.
Sancho, amazes me how pointless he is. Nothing he does contributes to anything except starting the opposition on a counter. Still waiting for him to start banging them in and creating assists for fun. He’s a right backs dream to play against.
See we had Martial back for about 122 minutes, yeah that’ll be him out until September. Not that he does anything when he is fit for his 4 week season.
Rashford, ok he couldn’t really have a worse season than his last 3 or 4. To be still calling him world class says exactly everything that is wrong with the team. Yes he’s scored 20+ which is no mean feet, I think you’ll find he’s had his little purple patch and it’s going to be the Rashford of old now. Wouldn’t surprise me if he doesn’t score again this season.
All I’ll say about Weghorst is that he works hard. Kind of a prerequisite for any employee isn’t it? Fug me, how far we have fallen when Utd fans have praised this guy for running.
I think I could quite happily keep goal playing against Utd, they create nothing, they put no sustained pressure on anyone.
I’m actually hoping that Brighton beat us on Sunday, I think they’ll stand a better chance at beating City in the final than we do. I don’t think I can take another thumping, cos that’s what it will be. I think spurs wont do a spurs on us and come next weekend, even top 4 won’t be looking good.
Odds on Utd losing every one of their remaining games please?
So, progress? Improvement? Yep United are back… Oh how we have all missed you these last 6 months.
So yeah, that’s it, see ya..
…De Gea is like that good looking charming friend of yours who’s always around. Every time you’re with him he’s does something memorable. You always remember and appreciate it.
Then you start to think about it more deeply and you begin to see he doesn’t offer much more than that. Doesn’t have anything else going on, and often actually costs you in the end.
This is De Gea. He will make magnificent memorable saves that almost nobody else could, but it’s everywhere else he is lacking. Can’t kick, pass the ball. Can’t command the area or deal with crosses. Can’t organize the defense or communicate effectively. Not great coming off his line either.
That’s too many negatives for him to be a positive for a team with serious ambitions. Add in his wages and potential demands for a renewal…it’s time to go.
Calvino (Now watch him go to Brighton on a free, agree to £60k/ week & become Gigi Buffon)
…I am now absolutely convinced that the real Jadon Sancho is tied up in a cellar in an abandoned house owned by Jesse Lingard.
Jesse always finds a way back into the United team lads. Always.
…God bless you Harry Maguire, God bless you Sevilla, you’ve made an old man happy!
Big moments for Ming. Is he in fact the messiah, or just a half decent manager, having had a lucky streak?
I wrote after the mighty Reds annihilated Man U a few weeks ago that the they had been very fortuitous this season.
Many a dissenting voice, but we’ve seen of late that without the injury prone Varane, and the angry little Argentine, without the red cardy Brazilian and of course the death defying Dane, had Ming, in fact, flattered to deceive?
We’ll see, but how lovely was that to watch tonight? Just lovely.
Thank you again Manchester united. Don’t ever change. Ten years and counting….and the noisy neighbours up for the treble!
So the Kane/Spurs/Levy story pops up again. And Man Utd.
Well people need to look at these simple scenarios – which I bizarrely haven’t heard anyone else think/discuss – n some sort of mathematical puzzle. An easy one at that.
IF KANE DECIDES TO LEAVE FOR TROPHIES ( and he is only going to leave for this ) here we go.
1st August 2023 , Kane has literally just turned 30.
Option 1 : Kane joins (Top 4) Man Utd for 4 years.
Option 2 : Kane stays at the club he adores for 1 year , then goes to Man City/Real Madrid/Bayern Munich on a free transfer for a much bigger salary for, say, 4 years.
Which situation do you honestly think he is going to choose ?
Adam Halliday, Villa Fan (Now 6th!), Sunny and Rainy Saigon
Pep’s penchant for centre-backs
One thing I haven’t seen discussed in any detail is Pep’s defensive switch this season. Rather than using marauding, and often inverted, fullbacks, they have relied on players who would traditionally be centre-halves across the defence. Just look at the team against Bayern – Ake, Akanji, Dias and Stones. All capable of playing fullback but all more suited to CB. Why the change from the likes of Cancelo and Walker steaming up the flanks?
My first thought was is this something to do with the amount of set piece goals they conceded last season. But actually their numbers were excellent, rarely conceding from corners and free kicks (assuming my source for stats is correct). So it must be something less obvious.
Haaland was my next port of call. He works hard across the front line but doesn’t seem to drop in to press with the MF when City cede possession. Is Pep responding to the risk that City are more open when pressing so the 3 CBs give more protection (bearing in mind one usually goes in to join the MF – generally Stones vs Bayern)? Or is it because Haaland doesn’t get as involved in the build up, sitting on the shoulder of the defence, and City are playing higher risk passes through the lines so need that extra cover?
Ironically, they haven’t been as solid in defence this season. In the league, for instance, they have conceded 28 with 8 games to go, whereas they only conceded 26 last season. They scored 99 last season and are on course to score…well…99 if they keep this average up.
So does this potentially add credence to the theory that, as a team, they are suffering with the introduction of Haaland? I would refute that on the basis that teams and tactics have to evolve to remain successful (just look at our good friends Liverpool as a case in point). City are on course for the treble and look like they might finally get their hands on the CL trophy. Although with any luck we’ll get a chance to stop them at Wembley (obviously have to beat a fantastic Brighton side first to earn that right), Arsenal will win the league and one of the Milans will do us all a favour and win the CL.
Any City fans a better explanation for Pep’s current penchant for CBs?
Garey Vance, MUFC
Does anybody else feel like Man City have really struck it lucky this season? Take last night as an example, most half decent European sides at this level would have scored at least a couple of those chances Bayern created and that would have changed the whole dynamics of the game. To see Ederson booked in the first half when they’re 3-0 up sums up the dark arts that Pep is a master of (in the same vein as him encouraging Grealish to keep on diving a few weeks ago to get the defender sent off). Same in the Premier League, as much as Arsenal have exceeded all expectations I don’t think anybody would claim that they’re a great side at this stage and yet they are the only team standing in the way of City waltzing to the title (and City are still currently below them in the table). It’s hardly like they’re having to compete with the 97 points of Liverpool from a few years ago or a classic United or Chelsea team. Even looking at their own standards, their points total is nowhere near as good as it’s been at this stage over the past few seasons. So for all their cheating (allegedly) and dirty money (probably) it seems to me that the main reason they are in line for a potential treble is due to the paucity of opposition. With this being the case, even if they do manage to win the treble would anybody seriously put them up with there with the great sides of the past (or even some of the recent City ones)?
Disappointing or not?
I largely agree with what Sarah Winterburn wrote in her article about Ferdinand/Keane describing Arsenal’s season as a disappointment is a sign of their biases, rather than legitimate objective analysis.
The part I’m confused about is that, as a Liverpool fan, it felt like everybody was quite clear on the fact that I must feel disappointment about the season due to missing out on the title on the last day + losing the CL final. Despite the fact that the team came so close, without clear preseason expectations of this happening, along with 2 actual major trophies alongside that.
So yes, Ferdinand’s praise for Mourinho’s 2nd place seems odd when paired with his dismissal of Arteta’s 2nd place. But I think the same can be said about Arsenal this year + Liverpool last year. (Yes, Liverpool won the league 2 years prior in 2020, but the in-between season was a pretty marked ‘palate cleanser’, so to speak).
Oliver (Longtime Stewie Griffin enjoyer) Dziggel, Geneva Switzerland
Can we please stop referring to teams as “Big” and start using the proper term “Rich”. Some teams have significantly more money than others, and while wealth is no guarantee of success it does provide a great deal more flexibility.
Wealth gives the opportunity to make mistakes on player transfers, and be cushioned on the consequences. Wealth provides the option to spend large sums of money on players, and then not play them. It allows you to poach players when they “have their heads turned” at the possibility of a big payday. In a system where transfers are done on a cash basis, wealth allows you to make other teams “an offer they can’t refuse” for players they would prefer not to sell.
Prior to the Abramovitch takeover Chelsea’s last league title was in 1955, since then they have won 5. Prior to the Abu Dhabi takeover Manchester City’s last league title was 1968, since then they have won 6. Should I bother mentioning Newcastle’s meteoric rise?
Maybe it doesn’t feel good referring to “rich” teams and “poor” teams? Euphemistically referring to them as “big” and “small” sits a bit better, and allows for the possibility that their success is related purely to genius rather than big wads of cash.
Since nobody seems interested in leveling the playing field let’s at least admit that it’s sloped, rather than pretending some teams have poor balance.
Andrew (‘small’ team supporter) – Canada
Just in response to James, Liverpool’s mail about Raiders of the Lost Ark and Chelsea, both he and The Big Bang Theory got it slightly wrong. Events wouldn’t have turned out exactly the same had Indiana Jones not been in the film. They would’ve ended up far better for the entire free world. The reason they open the Ark on the island at the end of the film is to test it before it’s taken to Berlin. They only do this because of the way Indy has been messing with their plans all the way through. The original idea was to take the Ark back to Berlin and open it for the first time in a big ceremony in front of Germany’s highest ranking military officials. The very fact Indy is involved directly leads to a change of plan. Had Indy left well alone then the Ark would’ve been opened in Berlin and then utterly destroyed the entirety of the Germany high command including… well, you know.
There’s probably a lesson to be learned here at Stamford Bridge but it’ll no doubt get nailed into a crate and dumped in a dusty old warehouse filled to the rafters with all the other “great plans” Chelsea have made and abandoned over the years.
Tim, Bristol (Chelsea and Indiana Jones fan)
Always sunny in Wrexham
Football clubs’ anthems often have tenuous links to the associated teams in question.
Celtic and Liverpool both take theirs from a popular musical, Stoke from a Tom Jones hit and West Ham from a soap commercial I think.
But seeing a pic of Charlie from It’s Always Sunny at the racecourse ground online and it hit me that Wrexham’s anthem should be Dayman from the aforementioned comedy. Heck – if we ever played them again in the Cup, I’d join in!
Graham Simons, Gooner, Norf London