Solskjaer needs to make just one key change at Man Utd…

Date published: Wednesday 23rd September 2020 2:49

Also in your Mailbox: More Man Utd thoughts, Glazers, success or failure for Lampard, no fans in stadiums and lots more...

Paul Pogba Ole Gunnar Solskjaer Man Utd

Keep sending your thoughts to theeditor@football365.com.

 

Ole needs to make just one key change
I can tell you when this United team will start doing better. It’s when Pogba is no longer an automatic first team choice. Here are 3 important reasons why.

First, Pogba and Bruno both give the ball away a lot. Statistically they are similar in this sense. But Bruno gives it away 30 further yards up the pitch, and for every one of those, he makes a key pass or a goal scoring chance. Pogba gives the ball away around the centre circle when many members of the team are ahead of him. The whole team has to work harder to recover.

Second, Pogba makes no effort to recover when he loses the ball. There was a 30 second clip somebody had kindly shared on social media, from the Palace game, which shows him losing the ball, and ambling around, while Bruno rushes back from an advanced position, recovers the ball, and rushes back up. It goes to Pogba and he loses it again. It’s not just that he’s lazy, thanks to him Bruno and McTominay are having to cover for him and having to drop deep consistently, limiting the former’s ability to influence things at the other end, or leave gaps on the other side, in case of the latter.

Third, opposing midfielders know that when they run into the box, Pogba is not going to track their runs. Go back and watch that 1st minute goal by Eriksen in the Spurs v United game last year. And there are countless others.

I’ll take the grit and graft of Fred any day over the exasperating potential of Pogba. Especially in games where we are struggling and effort starts to make the difference, Pogba remains a very expensive liability. I’d venture that as far as Ole is concerned, he’s like the mistake your boss made, but won’t accept, so you’re stuck with the consequences, and have to live with the problem.
Ved Sen (MUFC)

 

Victor Lindelof…
Dear Mailbox,

I’m writing in with a quick reply to Alex, Ayr with respect to his question about what could have changed between the June F365 article proposing Man United’s Lindelof as an ‘Unsung Hero’, and a recent listing quoting him as being amongst ten players that are in need of replacing in the PL.

Before I do that, I ought to say thanks to my mailbox friend, Mark Danger Endicott for his well-wishes following the sad passing of my old dog a few weeks ago.  Appreciate the kind thoughts, bud.  I’m tempted to try a sourdough sausage sandwich after reading your mail (in Shay’s honour, of course) – thinking an Aldi Apple Sausage might go quite well with that… hmmm.  I too, am a man of refined tastes lol.

On Lindelof, after reading the recent top ten and what was written, I actually think the two articles are kind of complimentary, as odd as it sounds.  Kind of matches my own view of the fellow.

My view of him is that he is the kind of player that looks ‘good enough’ for Man United, up until being exposed in one or more key matches, as not being quite up to the level ‘we’ want.  I would use the defeat to Sevilla in the Europa League as the moment that this sunk in for me.  That is not to say he isn’t good enough for a top four / six PL side, nor that he didn’t have a very good season, thereby earning a nod for ‘Unsung Hero’.  Just that he is perhaps not quite good enough for a side that wants to be regularly chasing top spot in the league, winning cups at home and in Europe.

In other words, it is perfectly possible for a player to be an unsung hero for a side that can potentially finish as high as third in the league, and reach the semi-final of various cup competitions (but go no further) AND also for that player to be slightly below the level required of a title winning team.

Do I claim that F365 was skillfully traversing that nuanced tightrope in writing their articles?  Not particularly.  If they’re anything like me, I’d say it was more a case of watching his performances at the squeaky-bum end of the season and realising that Lindelof is not quite up to it.  Who knows?

Is it possible that my desire to see Harry Maguire succeed might be introducing some bias?  Leading me, to favour the sacrifice of Lindelof for a player with a bit more pace, so as to better make up for Harry’s respective shortfall…  Maaaayyybbeeee…

All the best,
DD, MUFC, Liverpool

 

The Glazers
I don’t want to defend the Glazers, as most of the mails this morning were bang on the money.  But how is it, we can criticise them for taking money from the club, yet have been silent during the period before them?  Remember, they brought a PLC. A company made up of faceless shareholders only interested in their dividend payments.  How is that different to what we have now?  We also have to stop this idea that they don’t back the managers.  Since 2013, we have spent over a billion pounds.  Yes, due to poor decisions at the board level, we have misspent that money due to having four very different style of managers – all with their own player requirements that differ from the other three.  But, they still back managers financially.

That doesn’t mean, they are not in it to make money.  Clearly they are.  And that’s their right as businessmen in a capitalist world.  But as is often pointed out, success breeds success.  So, having success on the pitch will make more money.  For me (Clive), they need to split the “Man Utd corporation” into two divisions.  Have Ed Woodward head up the commercial division, as, we all joke about United having noodle partners, but he managed to get a Noodle partner to sponsor a football club, so he must be good at something.  The Glazers use this to make their money.  Then, you have a football division, which has its budget based on what the commercial division is doing; that is run in the same way as I believe Liverpool are – no money is moved out for profit.   This is run by football men.  A CEO (Edwin being the obvious answer as that’s what he does at Ajax – no director of football as people often make the mistake of assuming), then a director of football to oversee the long term plan for the football team.  This would, hopefully, then lead to more success, which would then help the commercial division maximise the profits.  It would also be a useful model at this present moment in time, where matchday revenue is down – the commercially division could then “Bail out” the football division for the time this is a problem if it is needed.

Now, I will be honest, I may have got completely confused at how divisions work in large corporations, so it may be that what I am describing has a different word – it may even just be departments on a larger scale.  But, I do think this would solve a lot of problems we fans have, whilst allowing the Glazers to stay – because lets face it, they aren’t going anywhere.
John “will it be #OleIn or #OleOut this weekend?” Morgan, South Derbyshire

 

More Man Utd thoughts…
I’ve been a long time supporter of MU and I had to reply to Ashes letter this morning. I agree with Ms (I dunno if this is correct) Winterburn’s assessment that we wont win the league this year. But I don’t think the owners are at fault. We won a shit ton with Fergie under those same owners and he defended them numerous times and honestly something I learned is Fergie’s word (that he said not that the gossip is saying he said) is law. He got Pogba out and he should have stayed out of United I think he brought a lot of disharmony to that dressing room that cost us a few places in past seasons. I think the owners are not the issue as we have spent a lot of money over the years. Now Im a big believer in managers not getting fired quickly. And I defended Mourinho previously on these pages before he got the sack because I believe it excuses players of any responsibility for the state of things. I think this was what made Fergie so successful in the later years. He came in where it wasn’t very common to change managers every few months and he got that benefit in the beginning and then he started winning and soon had an aura of untouchability. This in term meant that players knew where the power lied. If you came to United you listened to Ferguson or left. I think many players that are coming now don’t push to prove themselves because they think if he doesn’t play me he’s going to be fired in a few months. This is why I think Solskjaer should be afforded the time he needs to cultivate that same aura. Is he as good a manager as Mourinho or Pochettino? No, but if we delay our short term gains by creating a principle that the manager at United is here to stay then I think the players that come are going to be players that will want to play for the manager at the club and they will know they have to put in the effort. And as Liverpool showed this pessimism is unwarranted. It only takes a few good signings to make a top 4 team into title winners.
Dino Kantardzic

 

Success or failure for Lampard 2020/21?
I’m sure many a Chelsea fan read Andrew M, Joburg mail yesterday afternoon and took a sharp intake of breath at the thought of seeing the headline on Sky Sports News that Lampard had been sacked by the club, but as much as I am a fan who will always back the manager in charge I will entertain your question because it is very realistic, Managers are always at risk if the club owners don’t feel success is being achieved and Chelsea are infamous for how quick they sack and hire the top man, now being a club legend does usually give you extra time to prove yourself and build a side, I have no evidence of this but my thoughts suggest it would, now before I deep dive in this mail, I’ll stress this, I believe Lampard will bring success, stability and more.

What would cause Lampard to be on the hot seat? Well I think if we failed to reach top four that would bring the curtain down for sure, you cannot have a squad that we do and not make the Champions League, sometimes even finishing second doesn’t secure you another season, you can ask Carlo of Everton for his views on that, I’d say minimum expectation this season would be top 3 and a domestic trophy, alongside a respectable run in the UCL, as long as we don’t draw Bayern again we should certainly expect to get into the QF stage, a domestic cup is always going to come down to a bit of luck and that is from not only who you draw in each round, if you’re home or away, though with no fans does home advantage exist at this moment in time? but also how the opposition see the game, will they play a weakened side or go all out?

If it was to all go up in smoke this season, which I hope and believe it won’t, but if it did, the board should look toward a manager who is proven in developing youth players, our academy is producing such top quality right now that it would be a true shame to go back to the years of the past where we neglect the future generation of talent from coming brought, but also a manager that can get the best out of our incredible list of attacking talent, I’d probably have a shortlist of three names, those being Julian Nagelsmann, Erik Ten Hag and Roger Schmidt.
Mikey, CFC 

 

I’d be surprised if all Premier League clubs survive…
My only connection to the Football league is occasionally attending a game for my hometown Chester [then, City], and two pre season friendlies at Colchester when I lived there, but even when I was still living in the UK that was only once or twice every two years. It wasn’t a deep rooted passion at all. So with that caveat strongly established, and for all those that do have a connection to the league now confident in their opinion that whatever I say will be ill thought out garbage: the best way I can see for the government and local councils to safeguard the national game is to have some form of compulsory purchase legislation for the stadiums. The clubs themselves are often mal-appropriated and exploited by those that really shouldn’t be allowed to hold community assets (rather like breweries intentionally destroying historic pubs so they can sell the land), so I fear any automatic bailout money would be going to the wrong people. But what kills clubs is the stadium being held to ransom, or an owner flogging off the car park or other assets so as to retain ownership, like a formerly rich family pulling up the floor boards of a stately home. If you can’t afford to keep the thing outright, then you shouldn’t be destroying it only to retain it. So if clubs go out of business, there will be tears, but maybe the plan should be to let that specific company registration number at companies house disappear. But, if the stadium remains safe and sound, then something can be reborn from the ashes. Like Chester FC. It won’t be the same, but it won’t be far removed.

The ramifications – It will of course likely greatly impact the local community as the debtors the club has will likely be local. The players might also miss out on lost wages, but I would hope and expect their union to chip in there. Players helping pay the wages of their peers might be more palatable than players chipping in to reimburse an offshore businessmen who did nothing but leach out cash since taking over the club. The club might have to first return in part time basis, or whatever the area can afford to restart. That seems far more practical than working to retain a debt ridden corporate entity, where any funds would like go to those of il-repute or ‘administrators’ keen to charge GBP57.48 for every photocopy, and a fortune for every email sent. This plan would likely also take a fair bit of administration, what with the government doing it’s best to destroy and defund regional councils, but were a centralised pot to be created either by rich benefactors or the premier league clubs, this is what I’d think the best way to use those funds would be.

Frankly I’ll be surprised if all premier league clubs survive all this, what with many having wages / turnover percentages already at dangerous levels, even before they lose ticket, matchday, and corporate revenue for 2 thirds of a season (at least), and perhaps more if tv companies cannot actually afford to honour the contracts they’ve signed. (Is there’s another ITV digital brewing?). If the elite are in trouble, then we do need to consider something drastic for the majority. And that drastic action might be to let some historic football entities fold, but at least provide an environment for something positive to be built afterwards.

It should also be said the advocates for the 50+1 rule are alarmingly quiet now, when there may be a need for wealthy benefactors to step in?

One final thing: to all the United fans saying Klopp took five years: you do realise in his first half season he beat some fairly bloody good teams to get to two finals, in his second he was 2nd until late January till injuries ruined everything, in his third he reached the champions league final, in his fourth another champions league final, and in his fifth won the league. So it is – even at face value – utterly daft to compare him to Ole. But what I would strongly suggest as the main difference between him and Ole is Klopp initially put his faith in some fairly bloody ropey players in an attempt to get them to come good (Lovren, Sakho, Moreno, Karius, Emre Can…). It’s a lengthy list, and you can point to the individual failures of those few as to why he didn’t immediately win things; certainly a painfully bad left back. Only after 3 years did he give up, and realise the only way to win was to spend big. he did, and then immediately did. Did Ole try to make the most of Lukaku, Smalling, Herera, Mata, or did he effectively do a Mourinho and give up with the squad he inherited? ‘What can I do with these bunch of chumps; gimme 100mil every year for 5 years then maybe i can do something’. That’s not really managing is it? It’s not getting to a europa league final with Lovren, Sakho and Moreno, and Mignolet!
Tom G

 

Manager attire…
Seeing Ole don a fancy suit during their opening game, and now slumming it seemingly coming straight from the training ground against Luton – it got me thinking. How do managers decide what to wear? Does the home manager have an advantage? Does he say to his opponent “Listen pal – this is what I’m wearing and this is how I expect you to dress’?

Grateful for any insights
The Big P, Vancouver

 

Ali Dia myth…
This story is now becoming one of the most annoying myths in football. He was never a Southampton player, he was there in a trial. Southampton had a load of injuries and so named him on the bench to make up the numbers. Everyone at Southampton at the time said they knew from the first moment he was on the training ground that he didn’t have a clue what he was doing & so would be gone at the end of his trial. The day of the game & more injuries meant that souness had literally no other option but to put dia on the pitch. He left the club soon after. The myth does however sound a lot more amusing.
Marcel G, LFC

 

Little things…
Sometimes managers say little things in interviews that reveal big things.  Ole on Mason Greenwood: “For him to be a number nine, though, he needs to learn how to head a ball. I keep telling him that and if he wants to do that he is welcome to come and practice with me.”  I’m sorry, what?  A manager has told a player what he needs to improve on and offered assistance multiple times based on the word “keep”, and the player presumably is too busy caught in a horny Viking situation.  Blame Ed, blame the board or maybe even Sir Alex, blame the last four managers, but maybe also blame the man-boy culture in the players.  Nowhere else do you hear players over the age of 25 called kids.  Whatever your feelings on Liverpool or Manchester City, their teams are full of grown-up men who put in the work to be successful.
Niall, Denver

 

 

No fans in stadiums, open up the internet
With the news that fans probably won’t be allowed back into stadia until March 2021, and after having read numerous options, it led me to thinking, why not open up the internet? Rights issues are a problem that restrict (quite rightly on behalf of those that pay for the rights) access to people who don’t subscribe to Sky, etc, but surely there must be a way to open things up to fans of clubs, in order to address the falling gate receipts issue.

My suggestion: allow access over club websites to live streams of the games, for a fee. Season ticket holders get automatic access, with their ticket fees refunded of the difference. Club members receive a slightly more expensive price per game, with non-member fans paying more than members. Given that my club, Spurs, has 17M followers on Facebook alone, opens up a significant, yet temporary, revenue stream. Let’s say that a season ticket holder pays 5 quid a game, a member 7 and a non-member 9 quid, that could go some way to matching, or exceeding gate revenues. If we assume that only 10% of said 17M followers would pay to watch a game online, that alone is 1.7M people. That’s a potential (at 9 quid per viewer) 15.3M quid. Unlikely numbers, maybe, but even a third of that would still exceed gate receipts and possibly even create a way to generate funds for lower league clubs, support structures, testing for lower league clubs, etc.

I’ve been living in Germany for 18 years and following games online was always dodgy, aside from the one season when Dazn showed virtually all the Spurs games (for €10 a month). I would totally be prepared to cough up some cash for games, probably not all of them, but hey, I didn’t go to every single game when I was living in London.

Sure, this doesn’t solve the atmosphere issues in the empty grounds, but Spurs also screened fan responses on the big screens in the stadium. Why not combine this idea with “fan response” feeds projected into grounds.
Zaren, Spurs, Berlin

 

More like watching cricket?
Dear MC,

On Saturday I was finally able to get down from my mountain to attend my first match of the season, which ended Zweigen Kanazawa 1-2 Avispa Fukuoka. The winning goal was an own goal that was made more comedic by the linesman slipping over while trying to keep up with play. Zweigen probably didn’t deserve to lose, but Fukuoka are on a 5-game winning streak. I urge you to look up Mutsuki Kato’s equaliser for Zweigen, a fantastic turn and finish just one minute after conceding.

The point of my mail is the Coronavirus prevention measures that are in place at all J.League games, which made for a strange experience. Before entering the stand we had our hands sprayed with sanitiser, our temperature taken, and our tickets scanned. Most tickets are QR codes but people with paper tickets had to tear them themselves. Spectators are requested (required? not sure how strong the wording is in Japanese) to wear masks, and everyone complies.

Once in the stadium, it was very quiet. Usually supporters sing for 90 minutes, but currently singing is banned, along with any kind of shouting or chanting, swinging towels (it’s a thing here), high-fiving, or sitting too close to people you didn’t come with. No alcohol is on sale at stadiums either. Attendance is limited to 50% capacity or 5,000 people, whichever is lower – there were about 2,300 at the game on Saturday, but Zweigen average about 4-5,000 anyway. Away fans are not allowed, although that hasn’t stopped some people from buying tickets among the home supporters at some games.

At the start of September clapping in time with music or other people was allowed again, but apart from that and the occasional cheer, gasp or groan, there wasn’t much noise. I’ve heard people compare it to tennis, but to me it felt more like a cricket match but without the undercurrent of general chatting.

It was interesting to be able to hear how the managers and particularly the players communicate with each other on the pitch, but I found another similarity with cricket: the Fukuoka goalkeeper’s constant yapping reminded me of watching on TV when the stump mic is too loud and the wicketkeeper won’t shut up.

This might give other Mailboxers an idea of what it’ll be like when they can go to games again. I hope that’s soon.

Regards,
James T, Ishikawa, Japan

 

The end of stadia?
.. as the nights draw in and the weather turns to autumn, another set back for supporters: no crowds at games until at least March. I can almost hear Johnny Nic’s pen furiously scribbling down on Teeside, but here’s my tuppenceworth…

Will this mean the end for some clubs? Yes, sadly. Will there be huge inequalities across the pyramid w.r.t. those that go under? Yes, because quite simply the behemoth that is the Premier League will keep itself going and not allow a top tier club to go under midway through the season. With the huge amounts of money coming from TV rights, not to mention global audiences (newly attuned due to lockdowns of their own), you have to say that there will be a way forward for football in some shape or form.

But this could mean the end for some stadia, and the crowds that go with them. Expect to see more groundshares and working agreements between local clubs to ensure some return to football with crowds is possible when all this is over. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Euro 2021 billed as the big hope for this, but obviously that (like so much else) is in the lap of the gods (clinicians) now. For clubs mostly/entirely dependent on gate takings and season tickets this will be an extremely bitter pill, and like most of the entertainment industry, they will be waiting for the Autumn statement to see what support the Government might offer to get them through.

The big question is surely this- Can we find a new model for football, prioritising the supporters, the community and the local area? Most clubs will say they already do this, but the fans (myself included) would say they feel more like cashcows than part of a club family. Getting those people involved in the club- and forging links and partnerships of real value (not just economic)- will surely be key.

So over to you mailbox- what are we going to do about this?
Andy Suggitt

 

Fair play to them…
I’m usually one of the first to write in and laugh at Spurs / Spurs fans.

So it’s also only fair I also give credit where it’s due.

I’ve just read that Spurs fans have bought about £20k of merchandise from Leyton Orient’s shop to try and support the club commercially after their game was postponed.

Top work. Well played!
Gareth (LFC, Glasgow)

Normal service will resume shortly…

 

Reality check…
Dear Editor,

I was willing to take Lampard as ‘Prick of the Week’ seriously until I read this following sentence:

‘Lampard always comes across as a reasonable enough human being, but he is also a Tory. Therefore in order to sleep at night he must presumably be well used to imagining fictitious alternative realities where everything is okay.’

Honestly 365 no more political nonsense, you are just making yourself look like unprofessional hacks. Manager’s and footballer’s political views shouldn’t even be raised on this site as it’s completely irrelevant to their footbaling behavior. Dave Tickner has every right to pen whatever he wants but any competent editor should have removed anything related to his political views that could alienate a large portion of your readership (before the replies attacking me based on an assumption, I am not a Tory and have never voted for them).

You have now just ruined what promised to be a fun new column this season so you and only you are ‘Prick of the Week’.

REALITY CHECK! YOU ARE FOOTBALL365 NOT POLITICS365!
William, Leicester

 

Can F365 please stop this feature?

I love your site because it balances great cynicism of the tabloid media with positive features about the sport and sportspeople we admire, informed columns full of lists/ladders and a cracking mailbox of football lovers reacting to those pieces.

I go to F365 because it makes me feel good when reading about the game I love. You report on football without resorting to the clickbait, misleading or nasty (and thus newsworthy) headlines that’s so common elsewhere.

Having a dedicated “Prick” column feels detached from all that. There’s enough of that elsewhere. I’m not a Mourinho or Lampard fan by any means, and we can all disagree about their words or decisions. You don’t need to label them – or anyone else – pricks to achieve that.
Graeme, Glasgow 

 

Hello,

He picked Frank Lampard as his selection but on very tenuous grounds, the throwaway comment after the game about it could have possibly been 1-1. First I think Frank was stating in detail the broad point that match events do have consequences. If Kepa had not made that mistake and Chelsea did later win a penalty then yes it could have possibly been 1-1. Unlikely I know but. Second, Frank was trying to deflect criticism (as all managers do), he set out the team to nick a draw (understandable) and it failed once the sending off happened.

Thirdly all managers have selective hindsight, Frank is no different.

Anyway I would have thought there were far more worthy contenders for prick of the week:

Keiran Gibbs – got himself ridiculously sent off when his team were going along nicely

Ralph Hassenhutl – playing a stupid defensive high line allowing Son to score those goals

Martin Atkinson – for the handball & retake decisions on that Palace penalty

Now I nominate my prick of the week – Dave Tickner.

What did he do? 1) He ignored obvious candidates (see above) & 2) He bought politics into a football forum.

Any previous? Yes he has spilt his bleeding heart liberal views on this site before

Mitigation? None.

So what happens next? F365 decide to replace Tickner with someone who wants to talk about Football.
JD

 

Would you lads consider doing honourable mentions in prick of the week, and at the end of the season you could do a prick of the season awards and a category could be “most honourable mentions”. José in a landslide btw, unless the Bale signing truly transforms them and he has a happy season (prickdom will still be strong with him, but he’ll be a less blaming prick). I’m interested in finding out how many people never won prick of the week but got lots of honourable mentions.
Dave (Looking forward to Rodgers), Dublin

 

EPL?
To all the dear foreign readers of F365….. I love you all like virtual brothers. But can you please, please stop referring to our top tier as the EPL. I know it is marketed this way. But we are in England so the E really is superfluous and annoys me intensely.

Call it the Prem, Premier League or PL.

But please, I beg you, never stain the reputation of F365 readers by calling it the EPL ever again.

With humble gratitude,
Jamie Bedwell, Cheltenhamshire

 

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