Man Utd 2-0 Man City – the Mailbox…

Date published: Monday 9th March 2020 7:59

The Mailbox features plenty of reaction from the Manchester derby. Also: Klopp's secret plan, and some limericks for Jose...

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Bruno is the the new Keane
In Bruno Fernandes, United have finally replaced Roy Keane. He’s got the invention the squad need but so did Depay, Mkhitarian and Pogba. It’s his character that United have been lacking most of all. He runs around midfield chasing down balls and sticking in tackles despite being the creative source of the team. He creates a sense of urgency with his energy and precision as well. And how many other United players would talk shit to Pep Guardiola in the middle of a match?

Not only is he leading by example with top class performances and a competitive spirit, it sounds like he’s brought in an air of positivity to the place. By all accounts, he’s easy to get on with. I don’t think I’ve seen Martial look so comfortable with a teammate than he did on the bench beside Bruno. I remember a telesales job I had where they stuck all the lads in their early twenties into a room together. One chap in the group was hilarious. Everyone loved the bloke. The difference in atmosphere between the days he worked and the days he was off was like night and day. There were 15 to 20 of us and one guy made that much of a difference. It didn’t feel like work when he was in. As Leicester showed, a happy group will get results more often than not.

I wrote in after United had beaten Spurs and City successively, earlier this season and said the real test would be the next few matches. I still wasn’t confident. They then drew with Everton under an interim manager at Old Trafford and lost to Watford in their next two league games. This time though, Bruno is starting to make me believe.
Eamonn, Dublin


Ole’s the man
One of the things most blatantly missing at Man Utd over the last few seasons has been any upwards trends in player form. Just ask Mino Raiola, with his well-aired grievances about the effect being at the club has had on his clients’ respective valuations.

Nobody improved under Moyes, with everyone’s career trajectories taking a sharp downward turn immediately after his arrival. Januzaj was a bright light in dark times but he impressed from the off after stepping into the first team.

De Gea probably stepped it up under Van Gaal, as did Chris Smalling and Marcus Rashford, but otherwise the the number of players losing form far outweighed those who were on the up – aging stars aside, we saw Evans, Rafael, Di Maria, Schneiderlin, Depay and Hernandez all take significant backwards steps.

Mourinho, well, the less said the better. Maybe Rashford and Herrera, but the sun began to be far exceeded by the parts come the dreaded third year.

Which brings us to Ole. He has a team of revitalized players. He’s taken a lot of flak, and some difficult decisions, but looking at that XI today you could see a group of players who were approaching top form. De Gea is getting back towards a high level (Everton shocker aside, he’s starting to rack up clean sheets again). Lindelof, Shaw, Fred, Martial, McTominay. All players who looked to be out in the cold in the last two years. Not to mention how good Rashford had been pre-injury. Even Nemanja Matic is playing his way into form.

I have been more than willing to criticize him, but it’s the first time in quite a while that it feels inarguable that the team is heading in the right direction. He also showed shrewd in-game management yesterday – swapping Shaw out to wing back to keep track of Mahrez, and leaving James up top to chase lost causes while sacrificing Martial and Fernandes worked a treat. All in all, thoroughly enjoyed watching a It’s manager doing a very good job!



…I never ever thought I’d say this but is Ole actually the right man for United??? I’ve taken great glee in their season up until today but has he proven himself in the right over the course of the season and made mugs of us who chuckled every time he is pictured in his chair during a match looking like he’s waiting at the wrong bus stop in the rain? Are United a goalkeeper and right winger away from comfortably finishing third in a league like the current one – and hence primed to challenge for the title the year after that?? I have a funny feeling they are you know!


…Yet another great win against a top side, and a first league double over City since 2010 made for a decent weekend (and FPL points helped). More than the result, it was the nature of the victory that was most encouraging. There aren’t too many heart-in-mouth moments that spring to mind, Sterling barely had a sniff all game, and De Gea was reasonably comfortable afternoon overall. And an 8th clean sheet in 10 games is a good sign whichever way you look at it.

But one thing that’s struck me over the past few weeks is Solskjaer’s handling of various players in his squad. Fred’s renaissance has continued at a pleasing rate, and he’s arguably the first midfield pick for every game. Matic has been very cleverly brought back into the fold, and has looked quite solid, even though he still needs a pacy partner alongside him. Lingard and Pereira are finally being phased out, and we haven’t seen much of Phil Jones lately either. Add to that the savvy signing of Ighalo, and the essential one of Bruno Fernandes, and this squad is beginning to develop quite well.

We still need improvements in certain areas, but it finally looks like it’s coming together. Solskjaer’s also shown some tactical flexibility in lately, which was long overdue. We’re still in 2 cup competitions, and Top 4 isn’t the distant dream it looked to be in December, provided we can keep up the consistency we finally seem to have found in recent weeks. We definitely appear to be moving in the right direction, and it feels more sustainable than the crazy start we made when Ole first took over.

I’m still hesitant to believe Solskjaer is the man to lead us back to the top, and nobody knows if/when we’ll even get back there. But he’s clearly the man we need right now, and credit where credit is due. He’s doing the dirty work – rebuilding the squad, the confidence, and the harmony between the players. There’s a strong case to be made that, for the first time since Fergie retired, a manager will leave the squad in better shape than he got it. And that should count for something.
DJ, MUFC India


…Ole has won three of the last four against Pep. The world is strange.
– City had about 99% of possession and 5 shots on target. For all the lauding about how amazing Pep’s ‘style’ is, it’s all a bit like that Simpsons episode sometimes. When you keep the ball for literally two minutes but fail to get into the opponents third, isn’t it just defending with the ball?
– If Fred had any footballing ability he’d be the best player in the league. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a player try as hard as he does, for as long as he does, despite messing up as often as he does. Imagine if Pogba had that attitude?
– Which reminds me, Paul Pogba is a Manchester United player. So is Marcus Rashford. Maybe it’s not all doom and gloom?
– This is going to shock some people, but United are a rather different proposition when Lingard and Pereira aren’t forced to play.
– It’s hardly surprising there’s a clause in VAR that excludes Mike Dean’s mistakes. We can’t have the true star of the league embarrassed. Imagine not just having the confidence to be 100% sure it’s a dive, but also to have such sway as to ensure no VAR check. The man is a legend.
– Ederson’s first mistake is far worse than his second. Both are pretty bad, but he has so little to do in most matches so he’s probably just bored.
– United still won’t make fourth and still look a bit of a shambles, but need to enjoy these moments during the rebuild. Fernandes, Maguire, Wan Bissaka and James were all good, and the squad is so much closer to being top 4 quality.
– If City don’t win the CL, they really could be in trouble. Even if they do, perhaps. Aguero has quietly carried them for years. Fernadinho is their best DMF and CB. Both are nearing the end of their time there and it’s not clear that replacements are near their levels.
– If Ed has the stones for it, shifting Ole and getting in Poch could set up this United team to be a real thread over the next 3 seasons. He of course doesn’t, so it’s no worries for everyone else.
Ryan, Bermuda


Ta-ra, Paul
Man United are finally in a good place, in that they no longer NEED Paul Pogba, and they may even WANT to sell him now.

For the previous 2 summers the player has clearly wanted out and United have been desperate to keep their best player, but as Matt Stead puts it in his 16 conclusions, they’ve almost outgrown him now too. I’m not sure they’ve quite outgrown him because a fit and in form Pogba could be an intriguing addition to this team and every United fan would love to see him, Fernandes and Rashford in the same side at some point. But, United can now see a future without him and no longer need to be fearful of letting him go.

This could be United’s Coutinho moment. IF Woodward can be trusted to invest the money from Pogba wisely (and that’s a big if, but on current form in the transfer market, he might just be) in a first team quality right winger such as Sancho and another top quality goal scorer things are suddenly looking rosier for United.


…Believe it or not, I am not actually writing in to gloat about how well United have been doing lately. I’ll be mentioning it, obviously, but not gloating about it. As best I can…

Since the defeat against Burnley, it’s been ten matches with seven wins, no defeats, twenty four goals, and two conceded amidst eight clean sheets. This is the first time United have done the double over the league champions for a decade (FFS… #FFS.)

Those are the superficially important stats (I think.) I am not surprised, however, I am relieved (very, very) and chuffed (to bits.) To my eyes, United have managed to extend what were flashes of excellent football in otherwise disjointed performances, prior to Burnley, into extended excellent performances, dotted with disjointed flashes since.

This squad development has been achieved via the catalytic signing of the brilliant Bruno, who is much better than I expected him to be; plus a not-to-be-underestimated, Odion Ighalo shaped, kick-up-the-arse for Anthony Martial. I thought £80 million was over-priced for Fernandes, however, it probably wouldn’t have been in the end. Unlucky Sporting – lets hope there are some clauses to compensate them appropriately. For what it’s worth, I’d be seriously considering making Ighalo’s move permanent as well.

Other vital ingredients have been the steady return-to-fitness of Nemanja Matic, as part of an increasingly solid-looking midfield partnership between himself and Fred; and the resultant, exponentially-diminishing taint caused by the sociopathic toxicity of Paul Pogba.

Pogba will never play for United again, and even that will be too soon. Proper w*nker, that guy. A great player but a total knob end.

Any talk of how good United will be when Pogba is fit, or whether he will be able to play with Bruno, needs to stop before it starts. Pogba is already gone, he’s a ghost. Forget about it. Adding Pogba to this team would be like smearing caviar all over your birthday cake.

So, it’s going well again – just like this time last year… Great. Thing is, this is really not the time to be gloating about anything, or even remonstrating the ‘Ole-Out’ brigade. As tempting as it is to plant ’em with a rubber mallet, as they gradually emerge like an army of plastic whack-a-moles, wearing 1999 vintage, number 20, Solskjaer shirts.

All of the concerns that they had / have about Manchester United are still as valid as they were ten games ago. Nothing has been proven – no arguments won. That just one first team signing, plus a reserve striker and a returning midfielder (who is assumedly ‘like a new signing’) has catalysed United’s recent development, supports one key ‘reality’ about Ole’s United, and yet must also serve as a caution over another.

It is now more apparent that Solskjaer and his support staff (maybe even including Woodward) have a plan – he has been clearing out the wrong sort of players, developing young players to fill the resultant gaps in the squad, and then patiently, trying to only sign players that United really need. A ‘reality’ seems to be increasingly emerging that Ole has stopped the rot at United, and is well along the way to incrementally building a young, talented and tactically flexible squad; that plays exciting, winning football.

For the first time in many years, this perception of a developing, improving United squad, is becoming the most comfortable to adopt.

Instead of being falsely cast before the start of the season by a couple of ‘galactico’ signings that form a thin veneer of gaudy icing on an otherwise dry and rotten cake, this image is emerging from a more modest-looking sponge cake, being baked with young home-grown British players and filled with lovely shop-bought butter cream.

It is now easy to see how a bit of jam here, and a bit of icing there, might well result in a fucking delicious bastard of a cake. As opposed to seeing a multi-tiered monstrosity of a cake collapsing before you have even decided which layer to try first.

I saw this while the sponge was baking, lots of United fans did. However, others are only realising this after they have tasted the half-finished delicacy. I expect a few United fans will keep turning their nose up at said cake until it has the jam in it, has been iced, and is being carried in at their own bloody birthday party.

But that’s okay. We’ll all be cheering in the end.

We’ve been served very bad cake for a long time now, most of them cooked by world famous master-chefs using the most expensive ingredients. And as a majority, United fans have stayed quiet about it, pretending the cake is really nice, assuring themselves that it is an acquired taste; that the next bite will be better. And in the end, taking it home for the dog.

So you can’t blame the ones who have been asked again to pay their bills in advance, and to wait patiently, by the until now clearly incompetent and yet somehow also increasingly wealthy proprietor of the restaurant. As, they watch a former head waiter turned sous chef walk in and start throwing-away most of the expensively acquired delicacies in the kitchen, and replacing them with ingredients from the back garden and the shop over the road.

That the sous chef was trained by the greatest chef of all time, and is diligently following the recipes he learned from him over a decade ago, is hard to spot and even tougher believe in, when he hasn’t ever actually baked a cake before in his life. And when your wife is shouting at you because the dog is so bloody fat.

When, the manager of the restaurant keeps walking in with the flour and the sugar, but no bloody eggs. And you see the grinning chef going out in to the garden to try and harvest golden eggs from a chicken that has only laid one of the bastards in about ten years. Who then breaks his back mid-season.

It does now look, though, like Ole’s cake is going to be a good one after all. That is becoming increasingly clear. Yet, there is a note of caution.

While the last few weeks have hopefully given more of the fans a reason to trust the chef – to join the rest of us in enjoying watching him bake – the cake isn’t finished.

Ole is capable of delivering what the United fans have been waiting for. But, that does not guarantee that he will. The proof of the pudding (or indeed cake) is, after all, always in the eating.

DD, MUFC, Manchester



…* There are some for whom he could win the Champions league and they still would not think he’s the right guy, (I’m looking at you SWinty),Sorry but he’s just broke Pep and achieved something Utd haven’t done in a decade ,the next 9 against teams who will try and defend will determine champions league but i’m now quite sure we have the right man in charge regardless of the outcome.

* And really we would not have won this game without Polly Anna , That is why you acquire a 90’s full back, That free kick is what happens when you finally buy some creativity.We bloody dominated. Sure there was lot’s of possession for city ,however most of it was man city defenders passing to each other for the first time in a long time I watched Man city play us at home and was not afraid we’d lose.

*. Contrary to what people would have you believe, winning against teams with a low block is actually the easy bit , it’s doesn’t require tactics it’s more about having the right cheat codes for instance ,if Spurs tactics have not worked in the last few years they have usually been able to depend on a Kane thunder-bastard or a Son master class,Imagine what this team could be in a year when the right battering ram and another creative option are introduced.

* Deadwood and those who don’t fit in are becoming more and more irrelevant parts of the conversation, Did anyone else notice that Jones ,Anders ,Lingard and Dalot were not part of the 18. Pogba was not needed and will consider himself lucky if Ole doesn’t declare him injured for the remaining 19 (maximum) games of the season.

They may not win a premier league title between them (Not my view ) but the repercussions of hiring the DNA squad will be felt for many a year .Young players are thriving (Which is good for most of the UK national teams and most of these teams who knows maybe in 2026, Chelsea captain Gilmour will sky one in the champions league final.

There are going to be rebuilds next year ,for everyone of the top 6,who does so with the most precision will probably dominate.
Roode , MUFC


What’s wrong with City?
The entire team seemed to either have an off night or didn’t seem to care about the match, not sure which
Bernardo Silva was so anonymous that I only realised he was playing when he was subbed off.
Zinchenko isn’t a left back to be played when you’re playing against a team with a decent attack.
Also, is Bruno Fernandes MUFCs KDB? Not because of how they play, but because just as United seem better and harder to play against with Bruno on the pitch, KDB seems to gee up his teammates
Ryan B


Hands across the M62
I’ve made it very clear to my eldest son (who is now 11) for a long time that he has the freedom to support any club he wants. It’s just that, if he wants to support Utd, he needs to feed himself. I think this is reasonable.

This evening though I took leave of my absence and for a dirty, filthy 95 mins we supported Utd. Filthy indeed.

I do of course have my reasons. 1 – it means we are 2 games away from ending the 30 years of hurt. 2 – it means that Ole gets to stay. Apparently he feels ‘privileged’ to manage these players, and by association club. For me (Clive), he can stay. It just prolongs them chewing at the big boy table.

2 away. Dreamland is in touching distance.
Barry, Cape Town


…Cheering for Utd. How can something so wrong feel so right?

Aidan, Lfc
Klopp’s very secret masterplan

I’m not one for conspiracy theories, but stay with me:

It’s no secret that Liverpool have been awful since Atleti.

Every team has been adopting a similar shape and plan to Simeone’s, and we’ve been completely unable to find a way around it.

What if this is all part of Klopp’s plan….?

What if he already has a plan for exactly what to do in these situations, but if he were to unleash it on Watford or Bournemouth, then slimy ol’ Diego would see the plan and be able to adapt suitably.

Klopp knows he can lose or draw these games and still win the league, so can afford to play such games, and sucker Atleti into playing their standard game at Anfield, only to witness a Klopp masterstroke.

That’s definitely it isn’t it?
Dom (that’s certainly not it, but would be cool) Littleford


Lamps assessment
Two weeks ago on the very enjoyable football365 show Sarah W said (incredibly harshly!) Chelsea didnt have a manager. She then emphasised the point by saying it again – showing she truly believed Chelsea were somehow 4th without having had any guidance off the pitch all season. She said Tottenham did have a manager and that was why they would overtake Chelsea.

Now Im not sure how she defines a manager – someone with experience in a foreign league? Someone over 45? Someone who isn’t related to Harry Redknapp? However would she care to reassess this view?


…“Worst Injury Crisis Chelsea are suffering in years” has been brought up a fair bit this week, which is fair to say, Kovacic, Kante, Hudson-Odoi and Tammy all out, Jorginho suspended and yet I just saw one of our best performances of the league season, if not the most enjoyable to watch, as United showed on game week 1 you can win 4-0 and the score line doesn’t tell the true story, none of that at Stamford Bridge today, Chelsea were incredible, the race for the top four is on.

Special mention to Billy Gilmour, two games this week and two MOTM awards, he may look like he still does a paper round for some extra pocket money but this young lad has the potential to become a true star, also great to see a solid performance from Kepa, a second successive clean sheet and maybe, just maybe we won’t need to spend on a new goalkeeper come the Summer, early days of course but he looks a more confident keeper since he has come back into the team.
Mikey, CFC


Terrible Toffees
That was an abysmal performance. Probably only second worse to losing to the Liverpool kids in the cup.

We looked totally clueless. We looked like a contestant on the Crystal Maze entering a new level. Based on that performance you wouldn’t waste a crystal on Sigurdsson or Holgate to bring them back.

We really need to step up our game for the derby. I shudder to think what will happen Ife don’t. Divock Origi and his ma could beat us, Mane, Salah et al will be more brutal than Richard O’Brien
Matt, EFC, London


Jose’s limericks
I’ve greatly appreciated the respect Mourinho has shown his frustrations by not naming them or not playing them, and wrapping any direct questions up in riddles. I only wish he’d go with a limerick.

There once was a man from Longjumeau,
Whose fitness was a little so-so.
He’s big on cream buns,
And shy of hard runs.
So it’s his gluteus not game-time that grow.

Or his other:

There is a team in London’s N17,
Whose forwards cannot be seen.
A break and a tear,
Means none are left there,
But the young bird invisible and keen.

Or his other:

There once was man from Sint-Niklaas,
Who on the ball showed calm and oozed class.
But as his speed did decline,
He spent more time on the pine,
Often getting hooked early into the half.

As my team falls to bits in an utterly predictable yet spectacularly bizarre way I’m left with shit limericks that aren’t even right.
Dr Oyvind, not Ireland, obviously.


Jose’s scapegoat
Is it just me or is Mourinho just picking on Ndombele as a way of forcing him out the club to raise £30-£40m to add to whatever pittance Levy hands him in the summer? Tanguy seems like a total class act to me but he isn’t the robotic midfielder Jose seems to prefer so he’ll be made to want to leave and be replaced by a younger version of Matic. Have I got this wrong spurs fans??


Moyes and VAR
David Moyes’s post match comment perfectly summed up why we need to persevere with VAR and hope that the people running it learn to use it better (and correctly Michael Oliver! No foul!)

Moyes says ‘we’ve got one of the best referees in Europe and two excellent linesman(!) , I’d have trusted their decision’, or in other words, I’ll happily benefit from the officials making a mistake. What if it had been the other way? I’m pretty sure if West Ham had been denied a perfectly legitimate goal then a different David Moyes would be facing the press, what if West Ham are relegated as a result of another team winning or drawing having scored a goal which VAR would overrule.

Perhaps we should adopt the American ‘there’s a flag on the play’ scenario by which the flag does not indicate a definite offside but alerts the crowd that a VAR review will take place, that way the assistants (take note David) can raise their flag without fear. The pace of the game, the fact that very often, players are moving in opposite directions, make offside the hardest decisions to get right, so let’s give them the help they need.

If Arsenal qualify for Europe, it may be as a result of the extra 2 points this, let me say it again, perfectly legitimate goal, won them.

VAR , or the guy watching the screen, will get many ‘subjective’ decisions wrong (I’m look at you again Michael Oliver) but at least let’s get these ones right.
Howard (did I mention Michael Oliver’s pathetic decision) Jones


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