Man Utd are a stone-cold disgrace. But sacking Ten Hag solves nothing…

Ian Watson
Man Utd transfer blunder
Erik ten Hag and Rasmus Hojlund.

The Mailbox features fed up Manchester United supporters – but not everyone wants Ten Hag out. Also: Arsenal fans go on the attack; and Spurs’ return to form is celebrated.

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Sick of this sh*t
I had to wait until the morning after to write this otherwise it would have been a tourettes paragraph.

Man Utd are a disgrace.

Erik Ten Hag’s transfers and game management has shown he is out of his depth. With the exception of Martinez, you can’t say any of the transfers have worked. Money blown into the wind.

ETH has fallen into the same trap as all previous managers in that he continues to play players who continue to underperform and let him down. I used to love Rashford but he has become a liability with his laziness and when he isn’t scoring then what’s he doing to help the team.

All the players have been criticised to death so no point in going into that again. But to go back to my point of continuing to play underperforming players, I would rather finish 16th the next few seasons and allow our youth players to gain experience, at least they would play for the shirt.

There needs a fire sale but unfortunately, that wouldn’t look good on the Glaziers balance sheet, so they will continue to give the likes of Martial a contract to keep his £30m worth on it and allow the changing room to remain a cesspit.
Dale, Northern Ireland


That was a sad little performance.

Terrible levels of commitment.

Even as the like of Pogba have left, we find a Sancho, and it seems to be a never-ending cycle of toxic entitlement amongst the squad, for years and years now.

No matter the players, no matter the coach.

Well then, since most of us were around in the good days,(I mean logics says you have the most fans at your peak) we do feel somewhat sure that it’s the ownership.

A fish does rot from the head, and seemingly something is causing successive squads to suffer the same symptoms, no matter the personnel, on and off the field.

Here is to hoping Jim brings in some much needed accountability at all levels and proves the old adage that a new broom sweeps clean.

Well played Bournemouth, I do believe that was a first ever away win for The Cherries over United, always nice for travelling fans to be a part of a day such as that.

All-round a weekend of very good matches for various reasons.
Manc from SA (On to the festive madness stretch of fixtures!)


Nothing to be gained from axing Ten Hag
For my sins I’ve been following Manchester United closely this year, and here’s my two cents, which may not be terribly insightful but at least comes from a neutral observer.

Last year the team slightly overperformed: they finished third in the league but were sixth in xG differential. So a repeat was always going to be a stretch.

But there was a more concrete reason a decline was likely: Casemiro and Christian Eriksen, both crucial to their success last season, would both be a year older and closer to the end of their careers. And we’ve seen what’s happened. Right now they’re not even playing anymore.

So central midfield needed freshening. But for whatever reason, the club chose not to do it. I happen to like Mason Mount, but he wasn’t great at Chelsea the previous year, and isn’t really a midfielder. He’s more of a pressing attacker. So although I think he can still be useful, the midfield just doesn’t have the necessary personnel.

The problem is highlighted by Erik ten Hag’s tactics, which involve a lot of high pressing and push McTominay forward. Meanwhile the back line doesn’t push up as far as it needs to, possibly because they lack pace. So there’s a big hole in the center of midfield, and teams have been exploiting it on a regular basis.

In attack, the team just doesn’t have the personnel. Antony was a huge mistake, Garnacho and Hojlund have potential but are still very young, and Martial we know about. Rashford seems uninterested, and it’s hard to know what’s going on there.

In goal, Onana is a question mark at this level. Moreover, no matter how good he is with the ball at his feet, he doesn’t have the people around him to play out of the back consistently. So unless you get new defenders, he can’t play to his full potential.

As for ten Hag, he has yet to prove that he can cut it in the Premier League. Tactics aside, you need to be able to coax or scare players into consistent, mentally strong performances, and that’s precisely what this squad never seems to produce. Then again, no other manager at United has been able to do it, so perhaps it’s as much the dressing room as the head man.

But the law of the jungle says a club with Manchester United’s resources, if intelligently run, will eventually come back. I realize that’s a very big if, with the Glazers in charge. But if the club can get a savvy director of football with a workable long-term plan, and let him implement it, that’s half the battle. The squad can then be rebuilt from the bottom up, which is going to have to happen anyway.

Unless results absolutely nosedive, there’s little to be gained from sacking ten Hag this season. Keep him on, accept that the team will be in transition for a while, and if he still doesn’t show the necessary tactical and motivational skills, replace him as you rebuild. If things break right, the club can be at reliable top-four level in two or three years. If things break really right, in five years Guardiola and Klopp will both be gone and the team can challenge for titles.
Peter G, Pennsylvania, USA (I think they’ll actually play well against Bayern)

READ: Everton 3rd, Manchester United 13th in only Premier League table that matters


Viva, Autobots
Geez, you’re a miserable bunch aren’t you?

Arsenal lose a game of football and the sky’s caved in!

City are back in fourth and Liverpool, Arsenal and Villa are locked together at the top.

We may actually have a proper title race this season. Remember when the evil Decepticons (City) would win all week and the Autobots only won on Friday? This season could be a win for the Autobots!
Graham Simons, Gooner, Norf London


Assessing Spurs
Remember earlier in the season when Spurs were good but it didn’t count because we hadn’t played any proper teams? Then we were shit and normality had been restored so it no longer mattered.

Anyway, we’ve now played the other top teams (based on league position). All 6 of them. Out of 18 points on the table we’ve gobbled up 11. Only 1 loss, which we genuinely didn’t deserve, against Villa.

I’m not sure how the other team’s heads stack up but, for Spurs, that ain’t too shabby. So, mini-crisis over, nearly half way through the season and we are just 3 points off City and in a competitive 5th place. I’ll take it.

I don’t normally like to comment on other teams as I think it’s ridiculous but, seeing as it’s positive, when the hell did Everton become a decent team? Fair play, especially after that criminal points deduction. Whilst we’re here, Chelsea are a lol aren’t they. And United. Props to Villa too – Emery really has done an outstanding job.

Plenty of twists and turns to come over 22 more games, but the main thing is we’ve got what looks like a pretty salivating title race unfolding (which, sadly, does not include Spurs).

Anyway, after the Hammers taking the jam out of my donut on my b’day, at least we ended the weekend on a high note against one of our CL chasing rivals (albeit a knackered one) with some winnable games coming up and a slightly healthier squad.
Glen, Stratford Spur


…I don’t care if fans of other clubs mock Spurs as long as they acknowledge when we get it right.
In the first half against Newcastle today, we played and looked like champions. We were aggressive, skillful and attacking. That was as good as I’ve seen them in 30 + years. Just, wonderful, wonderful football.
Kind regards


Name and shame
I’m nearly 39 years old and this is the first season I’ve ever had a player’s name on the back of my shirt. I f*cking adore Son.

Get in you Spurs.

Long live Angeball!!!!
Jon (FOOTBALL!), Lincoln


Tallest dwarves
No-one is playing well enough to deserve winning this year, which makes it all the more interesting.

As long as City don’t do the 15 winning game run again we should have a good chance.
Aidan & Alex, Lfc


…The table appears to taking shape now. Liverpool aren’t playing well but we’re getting results.

We don’t have to be great, we only be better than the rest. As Joe Biden said “don’t compare me to the almighty, compare me to the alternative.”
Alex Lfc


Cruel Villans
16 games into the season, 41 games at Villa for Emery, and 26 wins in those 41 games. The skipper says the T word is banned so I won’t talk about that, but the evidence suggests that this kind of form is sustainable. Those two vastly different 1-0 wins add weight to that – especially given the opposition. Villa have beaten most of the ‘big’ teams now under Emery, bar Liverpool. Shoutout to Wolves as well, just to cover that off before someone pounces! Tests are being passed. An intriguing few months lie ahead.

Undoubtedly Villa rode their luck yesterday after scoring a lovely early goal. I’m seemingly one of the few neutrals that has time for Arteta and Arsenal, but I do think he’s better served focussing on Arsenal’s shortcomings, rather than some 50/50 decisions that went against them. It’s wasted energy, and they really were 50/50. The Luiz on Jesus one does fall into the ‘seen them given’ category but it really shouldn’t. I’d never want to see penalties given for those kind of challenges. At either end. Same for the one at Palace. Odegaard fluffed a few chances. A better first touch from Jesus would have given him a great chance. Arsenal only have themselves to blame for not scoring.

Back to Villa though. Emery wants to wait until 30/32 games to see what we’re competing for. Usually, around that mark, it’s trying to avoid relegation. I think we’re safe there. The run of fixtures coming up offer an opportunity to pick up more points and confidence is high. These b*&^ards are making me believe we can secure CL football. It’s so cruel of them.
Gary AVFC, Oxford


Villa aren’t all that
As a Gooner I have to say that though I’m not happy with the result at Villa Park but I had expected to be pinned back all game. Good goal by them although poor defending by Gabriel and White. They ‘ain’t going to win the league. If our players had scoring boots on we would have won comfortably.

Amazing how it appears that a number of our fickle fans blamed Raya for their unstoppable goal after our defenders had not done their jobs sufficiently. I’m sure he’ll be alright..a bit like that Harvetz fella that is a load of crap!

If Stewie Griffin is real his analysis was a little less angry. However, Emery was useless for us and we have moved on and have qualified for the Champions League and won the FA Cup and dare I say the Charity Shield. Nothing he could guide us to. Oh yeah, a humiliating 4:1 defeat to the Chavs in the Europa Final.

God forbid, one point behind Liverpool who didn’t look any good the other day. Can we escape relegation this season?
Chris, Croydon

Read more: Aston Villa 1-0 Arsenal: 16 Conclusions on the Prem title favourites and the team they beat


Pipe down, Liverpool
For the last two weeks, I have been engaged in a not-serious (for my part) banter battle with a Liverpool supporting friend who insists that Liverpool are better than Arsenal and more likely to win the title. I, for one, think either is just as likely as the other but am willing to back Arsenal in the face of such ignorant and unnecessary tribalism.

For one, I don’t see how any Liverpool fan can think:

1. Liverpool have any advantage in quality / strength of squad. They do not. Overall, in fact, I would say all squads being healthy and even accounting for injuries / assessing depth, Arsenal have the better and more balanced squad. Where Liverpool have the edge that balances this is the fact that we do not have any players nearly as good as Salah (sorry, Saka just not on the level yet but also can prove to be if we win the title this season) or Allison (who will save and not cost his team goals like ours will – hopefully Raya can rebound). That makes our overall strength advantage somewhat moot.

2. What actual evidence – in terms of things that have factually happened that we can observe in reality has lent any credence to Liverpool being superior to Arsenal? Liverpool have spent most of the last 65+ weeks trailing Arsenal in the table, have not beat us since the 21-22 season and also we have given them their toughest game at Anfield in what basically amounts to the entire span of time I’m referring to…with Rob Holding starting at CB.

My friend mostly makes subjective analyses – mainly about how he just thinks Liverpool’s set of players is better than whoever Arsenal has. It’s obviously random nonsense – which brings me to “Lee” (great name), who has clearly not watched a single minute of Arsenal until the Villa game.

“Villa was their first pressure moment of the season,” says Lee, who seems to be completely unaware or had been blackout amidst a bender the preceding several days when Arsenal scored a stoppage time winner against Luton in a game we absolutely had to win. The same Luton who Liverpool also needed a stoppage time goal against merely to earn a draw.

Neither Manchester game required goals in pressure moments? What about the derby against Chelsea? We’re also not playing well and picking up point – have you not noticed? I could go on and on or you could just watch the matches or even, in the rare scenario where this is actually effective, listen to pundits who talk (rightfully so) about it all the time.

You really went of the rails, btw. What about the 7 point lead Liverpool had in 18-19? What about when Liverpool went 3 decades without winning a single title let alone really even being contenders – I mean don’t you have to at least be title contenders to even bottle something in the first place? Isn’t that better than knowing you can’t win the title every season for 30 years?

What about the fact that the Invincibles were 1 win away in each competition from facing 2 of Deportivo, Monaco, and Porto in the semis and final of CL and Millwall in the FA Cup final? How close has Liverpool ever got to going undefeated in a domestic campaign (alone) AND winning the treble? F***, how close has ANYONE ever gotten to doing that. Not that close if I had to guess. That would have easily been the greatest team season in football history. And no chance Henry gets robbed of the Ballon d’Or (shoulda won anyway).

Villa played a good game and beat us. It happens. If you haven’t noticed, they have more points in the past calendar year than both Liverpool AND Arsenal. They’re pretty good. Arsenal winning while not playing well is like the storyline of our entire season – might want to pay closer attention to what’s going on around you. It can’t happen every match, however, and I least expect it against the actual good teams. Good teams are good teams cause they beat you when you’re not playing well even if you’re supposed to be better than them – especially when they are at home.

Anyway, I get Liverpool fans are famously an entitled and overzealous bunch and, after a year break, are back in the title hunt but can you just tone it down a little next time?
MAW, LA Gooner (Arsenal are a comfortably good team now. Barring injuries taking us out before then, I can wait til February/March to really start caring.)


Emery revision
As predictable as the sun rising, people and the media crawl out of the woodwork and begin pointing the finger and laughing at Arsenal for sacking Unai Emery and not offering him the time or money (lol he spent 70m on Nicolas Pepe who was our record signing at the time) to implement his ideas or style and that he is a much better manager than Arteta.

1. I would expect him to be a bit of a better and more experienced manager than Arteta. Considering he’s been managing football clubs for 19 years while Arteta has only been a manager for 3 years.

2. Arsenal’s football under Emery was dreadful. Bar the 22 unbeaten games in his first season, Arsenal were piss poor for the whole time he was there. I remember watching at the time and we couldn’t defend or score. Just nothing. A void.

Not to forget the falling out with Xhaka, Ozil and Aubamayeng who all contributed to him losing the dressing room. It was a shambles and we were all begging for Arsene to be back because Arsenal had an identity even if not the best football in the world.

3. I think he was the right manager at the wrong time for Arsenal football club. Arteta is doing very well. Even though we didn’t perform as well as we should have in his first season, Arsenal had a style of play and identity again.

I don’t recall Unai Emery winning an FA Cup in his first few months in charge. Nor do I recall him helping Arsenal compete for the title for the first time in 20 years. He was given 1.5 seasons, and we saw nothing in that time to suggest it was going to improve.

But, everyone just really dislikes Arteta. It is very clear to see. They want him to fail because he’s loud and unfiltered and too emotional on the sidelines. That’s fine, hate the man all you want. All I know is that he’s doing a better job than Emery did and you can’t really debate that because we’ll never know where Arsenal would have been had they stuck with him.
Malcolm, AFC

Mikel Arteta watches on as the Gunners lose to Aston Villa.

What Arsenal are up against
A couple of thoughts on Arsenal:

1. Just looking at the struggles of Manchester United and Chelsea, I’m reminded again of what a phenomenal job Arteta and Edu have done to make Arsenal a serious football club again. It’s not easy to put together a club that is well run, a team that is hard to beat, and talented young players that can’t wait to sign new contracts.
Arteta and Edu don’t get enough credit for this.
Imagine if at Man United you had two ex players, who instead of earning their living as commentators, came in and made their club title contenders, with one of the most youthful sides in the league. It’s the dream, isn’t it? The likes of Neville, Scholes and Ferdinand would not have shut up about it.

2. I know that on this website, as soon as ‘bias’ is mentioned, you are not even heard out fully. You seem to have some naïve notion of a world of unicorns and rainbows where injustice, bias and conspiracies couldn’t exist at all. As if the world is not run by humans but by perfectly objective machines.

So, rubbished I will be, but I am going to say this – Arsenal are victims of refereeing bias. Joelinton pushes Gabriel with 2 hands on his neck, but that’s not a foul. Guimares can run from behind a player with the sole purpose of hitting him in the face, but somehow, it’s not a red. Very possible red cards to Chelsea and City players for studds up lunges vs. Arsenal, but not given. The ball hits a Villa player’s hand but it’s not a penalty, but when it hits Havertz’s hand next, a goal is disallowed.

If there weren’t a bias against Arsenal, we’d see far more decisions go Arsenal’s way – the only one I have seen go our way was Havertz avoiding a red against Newcastle.

Maybe it’s punishment for Arteta’s rant against Newcastle?

Perhaps the referees, like Will Ford of F365, tossed and turned in their beds for months, trying to justify their hatred for Arteta, and finally found a passable reason this year?

Whatever it is, Arsenal are going to need performances worth 8-10 extra points if they are to win the title even by a point.
Gooner17 (Well played to Villa – they really have been playing superb football)


…Comparing Arsenal fans backing their team to Brexiters and (in the past) Trump cultists? Soon Stewie will go full Godwin’s Law and compare Arsenal fans to Nazis. Remember that weirdo who claimed that Wenger is like Mugabe? Was this you Stewie?:

It’s time you get help.

Some points on the game:

– Our finishing was woeful and I’m sure Arteta will grill the players for this. If you think he just talks shit in pressers and only backs his players please read the full quotes of the presser and watch the Amazon documentary where he shreds his players post-match. I wouldn’t want him as my line manager.

– The refs got almost all the calls right. The Havertz handball decision is understandable and I don’t think Jesus was struck hard enough for a penalty. But there was a moment when Diego Carlos clearly elbowed/struck out at Nketiah which was caught by some camera angles. Surely this should be a red card, which could’ve completely altered the outcome. We didn’t lose because of this but these decisions can influence games, I wish VAR would contemplate this while watching the game.

I know people say Arsenal fans keep complaining about decisions but please consider whether you’d support this decision if it went against your specific team.

– It obviously didn’t help that Arteta was relegated to the stands for simply celebrating a 97th minute winner. Are the PL and the PGMOL trying to kill the spirit of the game? Surely it’s reasonable for a human being to celebrate outside the technical area at a last second winner where the game is effectively over. What do they expect a manager to do otherwise? Just stand there like a robot going “BEEP BOOP…processing best response…”? So many managers have done this before and no bookings were dealt then so why book Arteta for this now? It’s like they want us to think there’s an agenda against Arteta.

Again please consider this happening to your specific team’s manager before making a judgement.

Glad United and Chelsea shit the bed again to cheer us up.
Vish (AFC), Melbourne, Aus


Man Utd and management
A quick response to David from the Sunday mailbox who likens Man Utd to a normal corporate entity providing a product or service. I’m afraid the analogy falls over with just a little thought or knowledge of how large corporates actually function.

The C-Suite set the overall aims, normally with some wishy washy targets and very strict financial goals that must be achieved. Following that as you go down the ladder senior management set targets to drive the business in the direction of the aims set by the C-Suite. Middle management then drive the operational activity to achieve those goals.

In the case of Utd, the Glazers have set the targets – make an absolute boatload of money, and be good at football. They have their corporate types who have certainly delivered the financial targets and they repeatedly hire operational management to deliver the “good at football” part. How do we know this to be true? Well firstly Man Utd make an awful lot of money. Secondly they have always hired big name managers with reputations of success. Thirdly they have spent an unbelievable amount of money on transfers over the last 13/14 years.

Following the analogy then, the Glazers set the targets, they’ve hired managers they deemed to be very good, and gave those managers enormous funding to help achieve those goals.

I understand the hatred fans may have towards the Glazers, the leveraged buy out, creaming off eye watering profits without paying off the debt, neglecting to upgrade the stadium in line with competitors etc etc.

However in this analogy the truth is, the C-Suite have enabled who they thought to be the best middle managers to implement their goals, if the football operation is still substandard then middle management must take the blame.

Sorry, that went on for longer than expected…
Stephen, Gibraltar (YNWA)


Thank you
This letter is to give acknowledgement to all parties who have put in a collaborated effort to return football fans our Premier League. With five titles in six years, Man City appeared to be heading down the “farmers’ league” path as Bayern Munich in Bundesliga and PSG in Ligue 1. Don’t get me wrong because Man City is still the most likely team to end this season with a record-breaking fourth straight Premier League title, but at least the storyline won’t be so straight forward and we football fans can certainly hope for many more twists and turns before the end of the season. If there are any parties whom we have missed out in this acknowledgement, our sincere apologies in advance here.

Man City – Winning the treble last season to satisfy your thirst for success so that it is not so pronounced this season. Letting go of Gundogan and putting De Bruyne on gardening leave definitely helps also.
Liverpool – Waking up from last season’s coma. The dosage of Szoboszlai and Mac Allister medicine works sometimes, but still groggy and not well enough to run off.
Arsenal – Ensuring that Man City doesn’t run away unchallenged if Liverpool relapses into another coma. After all, winning his own title is Arteta’s only way to prove he is not a freeloader on Guardiola’s winning machine.
Aston Villa – Realising that hiring an actual manager is the way to go. Eager to win an eighth top-flight title to keep pace with Man City who had already won nine.
Tottenham – Slowing down since Game Week 9 after realising that winning a title without competition is no fun at all.
Newcastle – Blowing hot and cold by thrashing Aston Villa and Chelsea and then losing to Everton.
Man Utd – Being themselves and playing at their level to achieve where they ought to be. 6th to 8th place.
Brighton – Letting Mac Allister go to Anfield to help them, and letting Caicedo go to Stamford Bridge to sabotage Pochettino’s return back to Premier League.
Chelsea – Spending millions of dollar to prove that money does not guarantee success. Still trying to influence other state-backed teams to spend their money more wisely.
Other Premier League teams – Playing a determined role to disrupt order within the table (e.g. Everton willing Newcastle and Chelsea is consecutive games).

Thank you so much.
Taxson (from Singapore)