Send your thoughts on Mason Greenwood, Jadon Sancho, Man United and bloody brilliant goalkeeping performances to email@example.com
I don’t give a damn about his managerial ability; I want him to remain in the Premier League because his accent is bloody great.
Big Karl to Burnley
So which Premier League club are going to sign FC Copenhagen goalkeeper Karl-Johan Johnson this off season?
What a complete performance he put in against Manchester United, 13 saves is quite a silly number in a good way, some were just outstanding, he may be 30 years old but he can’t be worse than Kepa, after all he made more saves in one 90 minute match than Kepa has all season, but I’m sure Karl will be off to Burnley to replace Nick Pope.
Mikey, CFC (Kai Havertz announcement imminent?)
Do your jobs
Pundits and commentators : We can expect United to ease past this team. They’re unlikely to face any serious opposition.
Also pundits and commentators: This team haven’t conceded more than one goal in any game during this entire competition and have always done well against English clubs.
Also, Bruno hasn’t always jumped for penalties even just while he’s been here.
Is it too much to ask for these people to just do their jobs.
Andreas Hunter (Pogba was immense) St Albans
Why United need Sancho
I can sort of see what Seb is getting at about United’s desire vs need for Sancho but I think he’s actually missing the point of why we really do need him (or at least someone): assists.
Yes, Greenwood has had a spectacular goal outpoint in his first season for United, but he has just two assists in all competitions. He is more than capable of finishing even the very toughest of chances but he has yet to make a single cross in any competition, he completes 0.7 dribbles, he plays average of just 0.6 key passes a game, and he only win 0.4 fouls a game. Compare those figures to Sancho and you get 18 assists in all competitions, 2.5 dribbles, 0.6 crosses and 2.1 key passes per game.
Now, I know you can prove anything with statistics but, in this case, I think they illustrate why a right-winger is still needed, even despite Greenwood’s emergence. Sancho really is tailor made for that position, and while Greenwood has done well there, he is very similar to Marcus Rashford on the left, in that he scores plenty of goals but doesn’t really create many for others.
Last night proved that if an opponent plays a low block then we are still routinely unable to break through; if Bruno and Pogba have off-nights then we struggle for creativity and nobody else seems particularly capable of creating those opportunities for others. Yes, Greenwood put the ball in the net but, again, it’s not his finishing that is in doubt. Furthermore, having Sancho (or similar) as well as the current front three gives us proper competition for places and options to change it up.
Last night, we had nothing much on the bench to change the course of the game; Ighalo was there but I have a feeling he didn’t come on because we weren’t getting the ball in behind their defence, so he would have been starved of service (again). It was telling that when Mata came on for Greenwood, the number of chances we were creating suddenly went up and we started looking more likely to score. Clearly Mata’s time at the club is drawing towards an end in the next season or two, but that demonstrates to me that we were missing clever creativity in the forward line and the Copenhagen players found it harder to cope with one extra creator on the pitch. So yes, I’m keen for United to not sign too many obstacles for Greenwood to overcome, but I think the right-wing is definitely an area that we are in desperate need of another player.
As for the rest of them, Rashford is either carrying a knock or just absolutely exhausted – not a criticism because he’s given his all for the club this season, but he looks like he needs a proper break. Martial was getting rave reviews for the way he can turn it on but all I saw was a striker who spent most of the game on the very periphery of the game but got a few decent dribbles in. Apparently we had a record 13 shots on target but, as amazing as their ‘keeper was, that says more about the quality of said shots. Their ‘keeper, by the way, was bloody brilliant – he did not deserve to be on the losing side.
And the defence still looked extremely creaky. I thought the only one who really deserved much credit was Williams, of whom my only criticism would be that he just needs to have a bit more confidence in his attacking. The other four all looked shades of ropey and we will need to do much, much better in the semi-final, as neither Sevilla nor Wolves will spurn the chances we presented to Copenhagen.
We’re through and that’s the important thing but they are going to need to really switch on if they have any designs on winning the trophy. Playing 120 minutes last night will have done us no favours in that regard, so I can only hope that tonight’s quarter final goes the distance as well. In some ways, exiting early would probably be better for the players in terms of fitness but we have to try and win this thing now, to set ourselves up for a better season next time around, and to get our hands on a piece of silverware.
Fortune, Nigeria: my choice would probably be Sarr from Watford. I really like the way he plays, and I think he and his style would fit in very well at United. It seems that he is probably going to end up leaving Watford, and I suspect that wherever he ends up he will be pretty successful. And for a reported £40m, he would be considerably more affordable than Sancho.
I also like Chiesa but I have seen it written many times that he has no intention of leaving Italy right now.
Closer to home, I think you could do a lot worse than David Brooks – he would be an interesting addition to the team and does fit in with the kind of profile we’re supposedly looking for right now, but it sounds like Liverpool might hold an interest there so that might well be his next destination. Incidentally, Sarr would be an excellent acquisition for Liverpool too, not that I want that to happen!
The above being said, I fully expect the Sancho transfer to turn into even more of a farce and rumble on until the last week of the window. By which point, all the alternatives will be unavailable and we’ll have left it too late to look for anyone else. Either that, or we’ll end up paying what Dortmund were asking for all along, but without the favourable payment structure that Ed seems to be obsessed with.
Just while we’re on the subject of transfers, I truly hope that we don’t make a move for Koulibaly this summer. If City are willing to pay the kind of money that Maguire and Van Dijk went for, for a 29 year old, then have at it. I haven’t been impressed with him since Napoli played Arsenal last year in the Europa League, when he looked ordinary at best. For the money they want, there are definitely better options (I would take Ben Godfrey, Skriniar, Torres at Villareal before him), so that’s one to steer well clear of.
I am not a Manchester United fan, but I do consider them to be an intriguing project at the moment. So, if I was in Ed Woodward’s shoes, I would be immediately bidding to buy Ismaila Sarr for £30 million and I would offer Watford Jesse Lingard on loan in return. The obsession with Jaden Sancho has been understandable, but Mason Greenwood looks to be talented enough to hold a position in the first team and the Senegalese would add important width. Sarr has already been linked with Liverpool and seems in a position to improve upon his initial season in the Premier League, provided he finds the necessary suitors and stays free of injury.
Other areas of the pitch need more urgent strengthening at United. While reinforcements in central defence and midfield are imperative, another full back would be a sensible addition. Candidates for deputies could include Norwich’s Jamal Lewis, Rico Henry of Brentford or even Joe Bryan, Fulham’s playoff hero, all of whom could provide some competition for Williams and Shaw at left-back. Such names may not belong to the tier of players you would expect United to look to, but Liverpool have proved that immense value can be found with careful scouting. Sell on value would hardly be diminished for any of those options.
United’s central midfield could certainly be improved by the addition of an obvious but potentially pricey candidate. Wilfred Ndidi has proved to be a vital player at Leicester and may seek Champions League football opportunities in the near future. A more left field option for the future might be Edoardo Camavinga, 17, who has excelled at Rennes in Ligue Un this season. Téji Savanier was equally excellent at Montpellier and may be worth further analysis. At centre half, James Tarkowski may be too unfashionable and Nathan Ake has already been snapped up. Looking abroad may be necessary, and Dayot Upamecano of Leipzig, who has been linked with Arsenal, may be a more attainable target for United.
It will certainly be a crucial window for Woodward and Solskjaer, having secured Champions League football. Whether Dortmund’s hardball strategy in drawing the Sancho transfer saga to an apparent close may assist Manchester United in finding value elsewhere remains to be seen.
AC in Milan
A case for the defence
My manager’s bigger than your manager. Yes he is! no he isn’t! yes he is! no he isn’t! Is! Is not! Is…
Ok, now that we’re past that game. Can I draw your attention to something else that has been a recurrent theme? This notion that Harry Maguire is a lumbering double decker bus masquerading as an elite centre back. That he is not fit to step on the shadow of Virgil Van Dijk. And United have come a long way from the days of Rio and Vidic.
First the facts. 3rd best defence in the league. 36 goals conceded. One behind Man City and 3 behind Liverpool. That would suggest that as a defensive unit, United are in the ball park and not that far behind the top 2. Considering Chelsea (54), Spurs (47), and Arsenal (48), this suggests that this is one area of the game where United are ready to challenge for top spot and there’s a big gap after United. Wolves and Leicester are closer, but are always going to struggle to consistently match the top 6 for investments and players.
On the other hand at the other end of the pitch, we’re 36 goals behind Liverpool, and 19 behind city, neck and neck with Chelsea and Leicester. That is where we need to improve. We also don’t have the kind of midfield defensive shield that Liverpool enjoy, thanks to Matic’s age. So this is quite a commendable performance by the defence.
Compare that with last season where we were 10th best, with 54 goals conceded, and you can see the difference. The entire defensive unit including Shaw, Maguire, Wan Bissaka, and Lindelof has done better than they’ve been given credit for. Barring some obvious errors, they could have done even better. And that’s the crux of my argument. In some jobs you’re only judged by your mistakes. A goalkeeper can make a dozen excellent saves, and be remembered for the one that he let in, which he should have saved. A forward can miss a dozen chances, and be a hero because he scored the one winning goal. This is true of many jobs. Sales guys are like forwards. Recognised for their successes. Operations managers, and Security people are like defenders, remembered for their mistakes.
Ah, but what about those mistakes, I hear you say. Well, memory is short, I know, but every defender has had them. I recently chanced upon some old footage of Ferdinand where the forward leaves him for dead with a change of direction. Every defender has a few of these in their closet. Those collection of nutmegged goals, or kicking air. And if you think Van Dijk is above it all, go back and see Martial’s goal against Southampton where he gives Van Dijk twisted blood (watch the last frame).
Also, often the mistake we see is the result of being drawn out of position or body shape because somebody else hasn’t done their job. Can Maguire and Lindelof get better, and make less mistakes? Yes. Can United buy another great centre half? Probably. Could their distribution be better, certainly. Is it true that we can’t win the league with this defence? If the back 4 stay fit, then I’d say that’s definitely not true. The back 4 are 22, 25, 26 and 27 years old respectively. They’ve got at least 3 years of potentially and collectively getting better ahead of them.
And lastly, I did wanted to say that comments by Van Der Vaart about a fellow professional are so appallingly in bad taste, that they reflect much more on him. After all this is the guy who accused Zlatan of injuring him intentionally when they were playing for the same side. Turns out he’s really a very small person.
Ved Sen, MUFC (Loved the Cantona piece – Imagine that!)
Early transfer window winners
This transfer window is super young, but I think the very early early winners have absolute got to be Brighton.
Last season they didn’t finish much higher than the previous one that saw Chris Hughton relieved of his services, but they changed him for a more vibrant approach that would take time and the results weren’t too different from the previous but the performances suggested that this Brighton side were on the up and would only get better. Leandro Trossard and Neal Maupay offer an attacking identity that will only get better too.
But what they have done so far this summer deserves recognition. They signed a still game Adam Llalana who wants to play for them for nothing and they under the radar have signed a brilliant Dutch international center back for under a million via triggering a release clause in his contract, Joel Veltman. He will be a big success in the Premier league and will be a regular whoever he plays for until age 32 or 33 – currently 28). I say whoever he plays for, because in a year or two Brighton will be much better off from having had a player like him in their back line and they’ll make bank off a player they got for relative peanuts.
Brighton are getting increasingly alluring and this summer two top players have been impressed by their project. Ben White wants to leave, but Brighton don’t want him to go, and they can price Leeds out of a move for him. He will be a Brighton player next season (sorry Leeds fans) and they will have low key one of the best back lines in the division.
Dave (predicting Brighton will finish a rousing 10th), Dublin
In the Nic of time
‘The Premier League has told us it doesn’t love us, doesn’t need us and will get on without us. Fair enough. We never loved you anyway.’
Why do I feel John is substituting the ‘Premier League’ for something else in his life which has let him down. Badly. Perhaps I am being harsh on John anthropomorphising a football competition into an evil manifestation of capitalist culture run amok. Maybe his angle is entirely reasonable. Unfortunately, the rest of his article doesn’t help him…
John uses his first 6 paragraphs to tell us everything is normal, betting is normal, highlights are normal, podcasts and journalism is normal, transfers are normal, fans are normal and finally managers and players are normal. Quick, someone ring the ‘everything is ok’ alarm
And then in the 7th, the point… ‘Fans in the ground – remember them?’
Yep. You also eluded to them in one of your 6 ‘everything is normal’ paragraphs, you referred to them as bitching, moaning shopping addicts. But wait, it’s not just fans in the ground, there is a problem at the top…
‘It’s as though nothing is wrong. And it’s as though nothing is wrong, because for them, nothing is wrong.’
Nothing is wrong, nothing is wrong, nothing is wrong indeed, John. Well put. Some wouold argue they have lost oodles of money and that would pose a difficulty to any business, but wait…
‘It still seems hard to believe, hard to quite grasp, but nothing short of the total collapse of football at all levels in the UK is imminent. That isn’t light at the end of the tunnel, no, it’s a fast-approaching express train, and the next stop is Oblivion City.’
Startlingly inaccurate, it turns out.
It was a better time when you said that though right, John? That was the early days of the pandemic, when anything was possible, might be the whole stinking lot came crashing down. And you put your money on Armageddon and was thorough disappointed to find a new boring normality was what ultimately transpired. Seems a bit silly now doesn’t it. I won’t quote you anymore from that article, but it was a doozy.
So now we have gone from the Apocalypse to fans cease to exist. The problem is; that is about as accurate as your doom mongering. In fact, every club is acting differently to before, life still looks pretty similar but the details will be different. No fans means no gate receipts and less money spent in shop stores. That usually is between £100m = for big teams with big stadiums, to £25-60m for everyone else. A lot of money in anyone’s book, John. And all clubs will be taking contingencies, as boringly mundane as that notion is.
Regardless, they are just getting on with it is because they have no other option. Pretty much everyone misses fans, the clubs do, the broadcasters do, the players do, and most certainly the fans do. But we will get on with it until it is allowed to change, then it will revert to what it was like before. Its boring but it’s the truth.
No asterisk, no reward
That would rather depend on which of the two games played in each tie you consider the more significant, wouldn’t it?
Andy Cawley (neutral venues – nice ground, no fans)
Simon “More fun with Ashley!” S, Greater Manchester (in lockdown) talks about Lampard not having to integrate a new player as being something of a blessing in disguise. I think he forgot Pulisic who, although bought in Jan, was integrated into the squad by Lampard. Seemed to have worked out OK.
Chat kit, get banged
Somehow reading your breakdown of next seasons Premier League kit gave me a lovely feeling of nostalgia. It always takes me back to my childhood and the excitement of seeing the new kits being advertised in the club catalogue or the tabloid back pages. In an attempt to move the mailbox discussion away from the usual topics I wanted to open up a different discussion; what is every teams definitive kit? I’m going to limit it to the Premier League era both because of my age and without sponsors it becomes a lot harder to differentiate kits one year to the next.
Newcastle – mid 90’s Keegan entertainers kit; the star from Newcastle brown ale was just about the perfect sponsor, the stripes were the correct width, the collars were more becoming of casualwear than an athletic kit and the adidas stripes blended in seamlessly.
Arsenal – The redcurrant kit from 05/06 hands down. It didn’t just look incredible in its simplicity, it also felt rare and almost unique to Arsenal (I only recall Roma and Hearts having a similar hue). Plus for bonus points it helped separate Arsenal from the Man Utd and Liverpool home strips, which sometimes look tediously similar.
Spurs – The Kappa strips from the mid noughties. The timing certainly helps, with that kit coinciding with Spurs’ rise from mid table joke club to top 6 regular. But mainly it’s down to how uncomfortable the players sometimes looked wearing what was in essence a skin tight muscle fit top. Bonus points for the choclate brown away kit in the same era.
Sunderland – 99/00. Because somehow it looked 4 sizes too big for everyone. Poor Kevin Phillips looked like a toddler in his Dad’s t-shirt.
Any other iconikit nominations?
Kevin (honorary mention for Man Utd’s grey kit that Fergie binned half way through a 6-3 defeat), Nottingham