Man Utd’s depressed players need help, and all the fall-out from Tuchel v Conte…

Date published: Monday 15th August 2022 8:49 - Ian Watson

Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag and Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel watch on from the sidelines.

The Monday morning Mailbox reacts to a thriller at the Bridge while continuing to pick away at the carcass of Manchester United. Also: Gabriel Jesus > Erling Haaland.

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Depressed United
So being a City fan it was on a basic level very amusing to sit back and watch United completely crumble again. However there is another part of me that is fascinated by puzzles and the dramatic fall of this great behemoth draws me like a moth to a lantern.

There are a number of theories being argued of course as to who or what is to blame but one theory simply does not add up- that the players are just cowards phoning it in or idiots unable to follow instructions. This idea has been bandied about since the days of Moyes’ reign and even then it didn’t add up. Players who won a league the year prior suddenly all turned bad at once and apparently it was all their fault and/or they were all suddenly rubbish.

I remember using an analogy at the time that if your toaster stops working you replace the toaster. If your washing machine goes too, you call yourself unlucky and replace that as well. If your fridge, microwave, coffee machine and kettle break down simultaneously do you spend a fortune on an entire new set of kitchen appliances and write a load of angry reviews online? Of course not. You know the problem is the electrical supply. How could so many players all be terrible and have an attitude problem out of the blue?

Anyway I am going to work this analogy to within an inch of it’s life because I know you all love a laboured analogy. United have replaced their appliances with new ones time and time again and if anything the results are worse. Top rated players who have torn it up at other clubs, seem to lose their powers and willpowers at United. Of course there are other factors. “He’s too short/too slow/too distracted by politics/too passive etc, etc.”, but we’re talking about approximately 50 players bought for the 1st team since Fergie left.

Of course there will be a fair number of duds among that many signings for any team but you can count the number of players we might generously consider to have succeeded at Old Trafford from those 50 on one hand. Really? That many lazy good for nothings? that got on well enough at other clubs? who were signed by a number of different managers? That all descended upon Old Trafford in a relentless assault over the course of 10 years?

Of course now the word is that if the Glazers would just put their hand in their pocket and fork out for another 11 first team players, (who apparently will need to have a sense of pride and a backbone unlike the current lot who I guess must have been scouted out for their lack of pride and backbone) it will all eventually get better. Sure… that’s not deluded. It is a hot mess at United for many reasons but this supposed collective lack of effort from United players is not a character flaw of the players at United it is a malaise that strikes from within. Changing the faces at great cost again doesn’t fix the malaise. It is baffling that ETH can come in spend weeks installing his methods and for there to be no visible signs of improvement on the pitch. The players look as baffled as the manager. It is not downing tools, it is a deep depression and a complete lack of self – confidence that you can almost see infecting into the players with each passing game in the red shirt.

What I would do as a matter of urgency if I was in charge would be to get a psychologist to sit down with each player and maybe a few ex-players that have been there in the last ten years and find out exactly what has been going on with the mood inside the club. What feels different there compared to other clubs and why? Where does their passion and confidence dissappear to? Its one thing not having the players the manager wants. But unless they can fix the deeper malaise, there really is no point throwing good money after bad.

Early loser: The unsavable, braindead Man Utd, already killing off another manager


Fans’ fault
Robin asks what would be the harm of playing the youth team and sacking the first team?

If the crowd at United games can turn seasoned and experienced professionals into anxiety ridden mistake machines do you really want to subject your youth players to that and mentally cripple them before they even get going?

Until the fans can get behind the players i wouldn’t let youth players anywhere near that team. Look at what y’all did to awb, Sancho, two very promising players with good reputations who now get called deadwood and need ‘shipping out’

Erik would be wise to keep his young hags 10 miles away from first team until the atmosphere there isn’t one which pounces upon every mistake pointing blame.


McClaren’s fault
If Erik Ten Hag is the future for Man U, can someone please tell me what on earth Steve McLaren is?

I dont mean to be funny but everywhere he goes, bad things happen.
Just ask any normal Forest, Newcastle, Derby x 2, QPR, Twente (second time) football fan….

He’s a flipping disaster. Bad omen. Bad egg. It wont matter what Man U do, until he goes, they are doomed!
Ben (football fan and Steve McLaren big time doubter)


Short honeymoon for Martinez
After seeing the abuse Lisandro Martinez is getting because of his height after that Brentford game, I felt like I had to react.
To be clear, this is not an email in defense of Martinez game. It was terrible, just like every other United player during the first half.

So everyone is saying that a player this height just can compete in the premier league at CB. He will be bullied, beaten in the air and the Ben Mee goal is just the proof of that.
My impression is that this opinion was already settled before he ever kicked (or head) a ball in the premier league despite all the lobbying F365 has done to prove small CB can actually be pretty good as well.
People were just waiting for United to concede a header to pull out all the knives and pronounce the ready-made (footballing) death sentence: too small, not physical enough for the best league in the world. Should stick to farmer’s league.

Fair enough but is this even backed by anything? Let’s look at the aerial duel stats first. Against Brentford, played one, won one. Against Brighton, played one, won one. Ok he’s not playing a lot of aerial duels but when he does, he wins them.

Then, there’s the Ben Mee goal. As you may have noticed, it is not even considered an aerial duel.

When Mee heads the ball, he’s not even jumping, more like falling backward, heading the ball roughly one meter 50 from the ground. I know Martinez is short, but that short? Probably not. In fact he’s not even jumping either, he just tries to recover from bad positioning, or bad movement, whatever.

When the ball is crossed from left to right, after the first header, Martinez is running to his goal line, roughly in the middle of the goal. Why? That’s another question and one that deserves to be asked. So he then tries to recover in order to run the other way to Ben Mee but when the Brentford defender heads the ball into the net, Martinez is totally out of position, and at no point in the sequence, has he been able to play the ball. He could have been freakin’ Yao Ming, he would still not have been able to get the ball. The problem here is not his size, it has never been all game, nor against Brighton, it is his positioning.

I read here and there that he’s been bullied by Ben Mee for the goal? Come on, there’s not even the slightest contact between the two players.

Let’s be honest, there is no evidence so far that Martinez is too short to play at CB in the premier league. Good enough, I don’t know. Nobody can emerge from the total collective mess that is united right now. But too short? That is just the narrative that everyone was waiting confirmation for. Alas, that game and that goal, are no such proof.

Just to finish this quite long and useless defense of a player that may eventually be unsuited for PL football (only future will tell), i’ll quote the late Bill Russell, probably the greatest the NBA has ever seen at getting rebounds (and again, deemed too short to play at center by most)
“A rebounder, or a shot-blocker for that matter, is always at a disadvantage if he tells himself the only way he can succeed is by out jumping the guy next to him. Sometimes he will have to, but most of the time he will not. Most of my rebounds came from positioning, where I was able to get the ball while in heavy traffic.”
Alex, (short guy advocate) Denpasar


The lowdown on United
The calm after the storm. A storm that we were all warned was coming. We could see approaching over the hills and failed to even close the bloody window.

Who else saw that coming? After the car crash of a performance against Brighton, what else in reality were we expecting? It’s been shown time over time that this lot are seriously bad Premier League Footballers.

So many have been saying it for years. David De Gea is a terrible keeper. I’m sure the ones who rate him don’t watch any other keeper. Fabianski is better, Leicester just let Schmeichel go for a million and for some unknown reason we sent Henderson out on loan!!
De Gea might pull off a worldy save now and then, like….every other keeper does, believe me, they do, it’s not just a De Gea thing. More often than not, everything bad that happens stems from him. All you have to do is put him under pressure. We’ve had to suffer this incompetent dweeb for a flippin decade. He’s the worst keeper in the league.

It’s the same usual suspects again. Maguire a freakin statue, Shaw so far out of position, unable to pass or tackle and Dalot, wtf!!

We conceded from our own throwin within 4 seconds and our own goal kick within 3. How is that even possible?

No midfield, not a surprise considering we haven’t had one for almost 10 years. Nothing upfront since Van Persie left.

Bruno Fernandes, oh my. You are a one season wonder, a one trick pony. He believes he is far better than he is, deluded fans think he’s quality. Then again, majority of Utd fans are deluded. The bloke does nothing.

Mr MBE, saying there is an elite world class or even exceptional talent there is mental. He’s not a winger or a striker so what exactly is he? He’s not even average, there are far better players than him who are average. Did Utd just value him at 120m? Stop it, just stop it. We’ve had some incredible players down the left over the years, Rashford is not one of them.
He never has been, you were sucked in by the media and pundit bulls#it.

Same goes for Sancho, are we still giving him time? He can’t beat a man, he can’t cross, he doesn’t run, he does nothing. If you watch the German league, you’ll see it’s a bit like the Scottish League, sh*t. Maybe he should go back and “light it up” again.

Then there is the Messiah, I lost the love for him when he went to Real. It’s ok Ronny, we’ll take you from obscurity, shape, educate and mold you into a Ballon Dior winner, for you to piss off and give Real your best years, then jog over to Juve, before coming back as seriously, nobody else wanted you, (city didn’t, well played pep) on half a million a week to be a complete co*k womble.

Erik Ten Hag doesn’t stand a chance if he continues to be like everyone else. Stop picking them. Where is Bailly? Granted he’s a walking accident waiting to happen, a ticking time bomb, but look what the rest have been doing?
Who sent Henderson on loan? Massive thanks to Ole for promising him #1 last season.
Start Garner, cos guaranteed he’d be starting for Forest and they’d beat us.

Play Garnacho, Zidane, even Savage.

After Brentford, those who started should be automatically dropped by default. But they won’t, it’ll be the same faces, they’ll work hard in training, post some sexy pics with strong arm emoji’s and then come Liverpool, oh dear, it’ll be more than last year.


…I know there’s a million mails today on Highlighter United, but here’s some extra thoughts on Saturday:

The Manager: Ten Hag looks like the kid that got a new Meccano set, only to find the bag of nuts and bolts belong to a different set. Trying to force it together, but it falls apart. Send the company a message and see if they send you the right hardware Erik. It won’t be free though. Saying that, he may well be the answer if he can get the players right.

The Keeper: Ole knew the score and tried to phase DeGea out. Had to be a combo of the powers that be and DeGea himself that turned that around. And that’s part of the reason why Ole had to go. Says a lot when the best keeper on your books plays for another team. I expect Romero to start against Liverpool…oh wait, he’s gone too…

The Defence: Luke Shaw came so close to being an England Football Legend ™. Seriously, look at Italy’s equaliser from the corner again and keep your eyes only on McGuire. That ineptitude took away Hurst/Charlton/Stiles status from Shaw. You can’t tell me that Shaw sees McGuire every day and doesn’t hate his guts.
McGuire: Oh captain, my captain…you wouldn’t even get in the Brentford team that shamed you. Not even fit to feed Steve Bruce a sausage roll.
Dalot: Not good enough before, so why now?
Martinez: Blessing in disguise. United need a DM, has the potential to be another Roy Keane, does score some goals. Partner him in DM with DeJong or Rabiot and they won’t be McFred. Won’t ever replace DeGea in goal.
Varane/Malacia: Varane looks like a center back. At the moment that is enough. Malacia is giving off some Evra vibes, which can’t be bad. Can it?

The Midfield: McFred: McNever
Bruno: Lit it up in 20/21 playing basically the Cantona role. Scored a hat trick on the opening day last year, then a week later his idol Ronaldo arrives. Hasn’t done s@it since. Replicated the problem in the Portugal team. Put him back in the Cantona role and remove Ronaldo. Problem solved.
Eriksen: Always class, not a United player. Unless Bruno leaves.
Van De Beek: Weirdly being used exactly the same way Ole used him. Wasn’t that a thing last year?

The (Alledged) Attack: Ronaldo: Taking up some odd positions that suggests he may well think he IS a one man team. Expect him to take over from DeGea at some point. Needs to walk away for his sake and the sake of the team. Enough.
Elanga: Ever craved a Dion Dublin/Danny Wellbeck mash up? Didn’t think so.
Sancho: World beater when providing for and playing off a target man like Haaland. Can only do that now if he boots his ball into Haaland’s back yard in Alderely Edge. Don’t expect Haaland to give the ball back.
Rashford: Never been the same since the penalty miss in the Euro’s final. Literally looks like he’s carrying the weight of the world. Slap 100M on him and see if PSG will bite. Wouldn’t be surprised if he quits football and becomes Bob Geldof.

And who the f*ck though a kit that blends in with grass is a good idea? It’s just getting ridicolous now. White or blue will suffice,
Terry, Texas


Glazers and investment
I generally resist the urge to contribute to the mailbox these days as watching United is depressing enough without trying to express the frustration coherently afterwards. However, I absolutely have to take issue with ‘James, Liverpool’s’ opening paragraph today. The Glazers have not invested a single penny in United. Not one. Ever. They bought the club with borrowed money and then lumbered it with the debt (of which there’s still plenty!). All the money that has been pissed up the wall has been generated by United. They’ve added absolutely nothing and lined their pockets with millions while the entire club has fallen into disarray. They deserve every bit of the blame for the mess they have made.
Ray R, Man Utd, Mcr

Antonio Conte and Thomas Tuchel row
Tuchel, Conte and Man Utd pashun
Arsenal fan here. Obviously very happy with the way we have started and personally as big fan of Arteta because of his passion. Lot to learn still but the bones are there. Not been this excited for a season in well over a decade.

Anyway, on to my point. Watched the brilliant London Derby yesterday between two really pumped up teams, guided by passionate managers. Loved every second of it. Saw absolutely tonnes of utter bollocks from hand-wringers afterwards saying people shouldn’t behave like that/what sort of example are they setting. Nonsense. It’s great to see passion. Two people who love their work and want their teams to win. It’s why I love the EPL and have been watching it for 30 years.

Do you think United would be in the position they are in if either Conte or Tuchel were in charge? No. I have read plenty of mails blaming the Glazers, Ronaldo, De Gea, Maguire, ETH, everyone. But for me the thing they are lacking is passion and that comes from a manager. Like I said earlier I’m a Gooner so honestly I’m loving the steep decline, but I think you fix it by playing kids who would fight for the shirt and getting a manager who would steam up the touchline when they equalize in the last minute. They haven’t had that in a long time and for me that’s what they are missing.

Oh and since the morning mailbox had zero mention of Brentford in it I thought I’d add – congratulations Brentford who, believe it or not, were also playing.
Stu, AFC


Shooting sacred cows
As the season starts and reality hits, some well-intentioned bubbles surely need popping.

Firstly, Thiago. Lovely, but completely ineffectual player (even when not broken). To the naked eye, he slows down Liverpool’s frenetic play; is a defensive liability, and objectively adds very little in the way of goals, assists, or even key passes to the mix. It’s not a surprise that both Barca and Bayern moved him on. It will be interesting what Scousers think when Bellingham rocks up next year.

Second is Declan Rice. As good as Fabinho, Rodri, or Kante – clearly not. As good as Phillips…probably not. Add anything to England’s midfield? Certainly not in a double pivot with Phillips. Basically Eric Dier without Wipeout Mode.

Third is Jack Grealish. Pep chose the guy who dicks around with the ball and doesn’t create anything, over the direct running, other England winger who scores goals and assists. Gareth is unlikely to go in that direction. If Foden keeps improving he’ll be joining Stones and Phillips on the Man City bench, and will be a long way from the England first team.

Lastly, Liverpool aren’t a settled side. Losing 50% of their famed kick and rush attack, plus a degrading Firmino; and organically replacing a slow, aging midfield equates to 4 odd places up for grabs in the starting eleven, which is generally a sign of a team in transition. I’m sure they’ll do great, but there are surely going to be some bumps along the way.
Matthew (ITFC)
PS. Is there anyone not enjoying ManU’s meltdown?

16 Conclusions: Tuchel and Chelsea 2-2 Conte and Tottenham


Dembele of the dug-out 
Considering his team were below average against Frank Lampard’s Everton yet incredible against Antonio Conte’s Tottenham, it feels like Thomas Tuchel has become the managerial equivalent of Mousa Dembele, a player whose best performances were solely reserved for the biggest games.

Yesterday’s result would have been a tough pill to swallow for Chelsea fans, but a tougher one might be the realisation that unless Tuchel changes, I don’t see Chelsea coming close to winning the Premier League with him in charge.
Lloyd Stiles, THFC, Vienna.


Wasteful Blues
Well well…The usual Chelsea v Spurs game, goals, rear ups, poor referring all makes for a great game for the neutral.

Yes the ridiculous hair pull will dominate the reactions but for me the key lesson from a blue side of the debate is that Chelsea will not compete for the title unless we find a way to convert our chances.

Having reached half time the game should have been done and dusted. Tuchel and his side had completely owned Spurs for 40 of the 45 mins and clear chances from Mount and RLC allowed Spurs a chance in the game that they did not deserve.

The second half Conte matched Tuchel’s formation and had some success, Tuchel switched formation and had the upper hand again Havertz has to score that chance. But if you keep missing chances it doesn’t matter how long you dominate the ball, the other team only needs one chance.

Spurs, Chelsea and Arsenal will fight for top four but there is no way either of them will compete for the league. As for the hair pull, had Romero pulled Conte’s syrup in that way he’d have been left looking like Karl Pilkington.
P Didi


Romero’s hair pull
Let’s hope he doesn’t do it to Conte next.
Rob, Dorset


Still a VAR-ce
I’ve had many a rant about how VAR is not only useless but has taken away most of what makes football fun, but during the Chelsea-Spurs match it reached a new low.

How can someone grab another players hair, forcibly drag him to the ground, have all the time to analyse it via replays and close ups, and come to the conclusion that it isn’t a foul?

I’m not interested in any rules that dictate whether VAR could get involved in that particular incident….if not then the rules are beyond farcical. Surely things like this is what VAR is there for?

How long are we going to have to suffer this disease that is VAR?
Marc (MCFC) Bolton.


City were diddled
Gabriel Jesus is a better footballer than Erling Haaland.

You’re welcome.

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