Have we learned nothing? Paul Pogba deserves same sympathy as Dele Alli…

Editor F365
Ex-Man Utd star Pogba
Paul Pogba receives some backing in the Mailbox...

The Mailbox suggests we should show more empathy towards Paul Pogba. Also: lots of Carabao, including Eddie Howe outfoxing Pep, buoyant Everton and brave Chelsea…

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Team Pogba
Do the media learn nothing from anything or do you/they genuinely not care and are only seeking clicks/views/reactions (myself included) or engagement.

Dele Alli was fair game until he was forced to publicly address is struggles.
Then he was a bastion of hope and goodwill and how we should all change our attitudes to footballers we don’t know.

Your section on Paul Pogba was in direct contradiction to the above. For what?
You say he has brought nothing but grief to Juventus since he’s returned – and link to an article of a man, with an unhealthy and irrational dislike for someone he’s never met calling him a lazy tw*t!

The grief he’s brought to Juventus?
Being injured? Being a victim of a kidnapping/extortion/blackmailing scandal? Failing an initial drug test (which he denies any malice and we don’t know any information about?)

You could have still had him last in the list, for all of the above – with out any of the snideness or victim blaming.

But hey! I emailed. People will read and comment.
And more commented will be created when he publicly addresses his struggles and we move onto the next one!
Conor, London

Read more: Life after Man Utd? Ranking how the post-Fergie departees have fared away from Old Trafford


Home again
I don’t have social media, so the Football365 mailbox is my chance to shout into the void.

Man U have been drawn at home again in the Carabao Cup!

The draw was suspiciously ten minutes late, time to refilm it I suppose after they were drawn away in the first take. Updated numbers below

League and FA Cup 2021/2022, three home draws and zero away.
FA Cup 2022/2023, four home draws, two neutral and zero away.
League Cup 2022/2023, three home draws, two neutral and zero away.
League Cup 2023/2024, two home draws so far

The odds of getting 12 home draws in a row and zero away are 4,096 to 1. There is lucky and then there is four thousand to one lucky.

I remain your humble ABU.
Jon, London


…The last time Manchester United had an away draw in a domestic cup Boris Johnson was Prime Minister, we had a Queen, England’s men had never reached the final of a European Championship, England’s women had never won a major trophy and Liverpool were reigning Premier League Champions!

They are the only club in the country who can offer all domestic cup matches in their season ticket.
Micki Attridge (Dom Solanke for England)


Singing the Blues
Calm down now lads !! Amazing to me what a little confidence can do for a squad desperately needing some. Villa are a very very good side and we played our best half of the season in the 1st half.

Dyche even brought back the pressing game Moyes was known for.

I’ve gone from “where is our first win coming from” to “six points from Luton and Bournemouth yeah?”

Football is a crazy game.
TX Bill (we’re going to lose to Luton aren’t we?) EFC


Rope-a-dope Toon
Last weekend, I mentioned in a mail that Jeremy Doku was going to make Fabien Schar and Kieran Trippier look like they were made of paper. Eddie Howe defused the crisis by instead playing Livramento and Lascelles. Mint.

ESPN’s coverage, both studio and in-match (Champion and Robson), was pretty harsh on a Newcastle side that was evidently set up to not risk a minute from regular starters. (Joelinton is coming back from a knock, and needed minutes; Isak wasn’t scoring when he did start.) NUFC were far from ambitious — you seldom see Pope go long so often — but City seldom really threatened United’s goal. The scariest moments were the Alvarez shot that drew what I choose to believe was a calm and intelligent Pope foot save to the feet of a defender and that wild back-pass from Hall. Nobody reporting on the match or in the studio at half-time really seemed to notice that an entirely second-choice (and tbh, mostly second-rate) Newcastle back four had just stymied City’s attack, which featured a lot of talent and a couple of frequent starters in Grealish and Alvarez.

When Gordon and Bruno came on after the half and immediately changed everything, I reckoned that Eddie had met a planned-for trigger moment: getting to half-time level with no recent outfield starters on the pitch made victory much more achievable without an investment of energy and risk of injury that would cost too much during the week to come. He avoided temptation by leaving the red-hot Wilson out of the squad. He gave something of a rest to some of last week’s starters. He gave Miley and Hall 45 successful minutes in the big leagues. He withdrew Isak shortly after his goal, and gave Almiron 30 minutes to help him rebuild form. He got 90 minutes (but not stoppage time) out of Tonali, whom he withdrew along with Dummett to allow them to collect a few cheers. Almost every bit of that might well have been planned, especially given my impression of Eddie Howe’s work rate. While it must be nice to finally win against Pep, I think Howe knows he plain out-managed him today.

The way United punched back after the restart made me think, “ah, the old rope-a-dope” and nod sagely. Once Isak scored, City never really made me fear for the result, even when Doku came on. Maybe if Pep had risked Haaland. Credit to Kovacic for his grin following Anthony Gordon’s robust 50th-minute tackle, which probably deserved a yellow, despite barely touching him.

Livramento deserves the plaudits he’s gotten for his performance, but Lascelles and Dummett were absolute heroes. Particularly the latter: an incredible performance from a player who has made four appearances since the 20/21 season, when he also played like a hero.
Chris C, Toon Army DC (My City-supporting friend calls him “Count Doku” and I very much approve.)

Eddie Howe, Pep Guardiola and inevitably Jason Tindall

Gobby Guardiola
Genuine question – why does Pep spit so much? Does he do this walking down the street? Just plain nasty and a bit weird


Brave Blues
Disappointed to see Brighton knocked out of the League Cup. But fair play to Chelsea. Afterall, who doesn’t love to see the plucky underdog get a result against a top six team?
Danny, Brighton


Fancying Liverpool
I think I’m a little more optimistic than Peter Fitzpatrick about both the strength of the league as a whole and Liverpool 2.0 in particular. City remain City and will continue, injuries notwithstanding, to steamroller the weaker teams in the league. They’ve had a kind start (only Newcastle and West Ham from those likely to finish in the top ten in their first seven games) and taken advantage of that.

The league has a strange feel to it – extremely weak at the bottom (Wolves, Everton, Bournemouth would all be in trouble if it were not for the weakness of the promoted teams) but probably the best quality top ten for a long time: Brighton, Villa, West Ham for instance must be some of the best teams likely to finish between 7-10th in the PL. All these teams, plus the traditional big six, will take points from each other and we’ll see whether City are vulnerable to dropping points there too (their away record against the top ten last season was relatively weak).

As for Liverpool, the slow starts are frustrating but they seem conditioned to end games much stronger. This shouldn’t have to mean conceding first all the time but it’s worth noting that for all the criticism the defence have received, in the 8 games this seasons in all comps, they’ve yet to concede a second-half goal and, other than City, have conceded fewer goals overall than anyone else. In the Wolves game, where apparently they should have been 3-0 up against the Reds by half time according to Peter, Wolves had a total XG of 0.54 (according to Understat). This is skewed by Wolves’s best first half chance not actually resulting in a shot but still, not exactly peppering the Liverpool goal.

By contrast Liverpool ended the match with an XG of 2.83. There are only two games where their XG is not at least two goals better than their opponent (Chelsea and, for understandable reasons, Newcastle). Klopp has got much better at his substitutions and has a squad strength that is being underestimated. Yes there was luck in the Newcastle win but there was a lot of skill and determination both on the pitch and in the dug out which demonstrated why Klopp is an elite coach and Howe, for all his strengths, is not.

Liverpool have the best goalkeeper in the league and a forward line that can shoot their way out of tight corners better than ever before (given the strength in depth – Gakpo and Jota being a clear upgrade on Origi and Minamino). Those two factors shouldn’t be underestimated when thinking about Liverpool’s prospects, they will take you a long way. How far? Their next two league games (Spurs and Brighton away) will tell us a lot. Is next year ‘our year’? Who knows but I’m not ready to write off this year just yet!
Andrew LFC, Cambridge


Relying on United for joy
Before I get to my actual thoughts, please understand that this is coming from a fan who has patiently been waiting for more than a decade for any sense of continued success of my team. The team has shown brief flashes of brilliance from time to time but failed to achieve any sort of consistency required to win the biggest trophies. Fast forward to this season which began with a lot of hope after the league cup success last season. My team failed to put in a single decent performance till last night. We struggled to play well in any matches including in the pre season fixtures.

So last night’s demolition of a second string Palace side was something that lifted my spirits. Opinions ranging from “past it Casemiro” to “out of his depth Ten Hag” have been thrown around by many over this site as well as in the media. But last night’s performance was the much needed hope that I can hold onto. We may very well play sh*te in the next game (again Palace), but last night was much needed.

Right from the fact that Palace had their first shot of any kind in the 66th minute to the fact that Amrabat and Mount looked like exciting signings, there was a lot to look forward to. Heck, even Maguire put in a composed dominant display!

Truth be told, this performance was not just required for me as a fan, but also as a human being. Things have been extremely difficult. It is funny how a bunch of players earning millions playing well can inject hope into my life. So here’s my open prayer for my team- Work hard and play with passion like Tuesday night. I badly need the hope I get from you in my life.
E (MUFC fan since 12 from India)


Two types of fan
Following up on the emails on VAR bias I wanted to float a theory, presented without judgement, as to where the fury comes from.

I believe that there are, roughly, 2 types of football fans: 1) those who only watch their team and 2) those that watch as much football as they can.

The first group – and this includes both fans that go home and away as well as those that watch every second on tv – because they only watch their team and maybe 1/2 other games a week (probably rival clubs who they want to lose) have a lack of visibility on what else is happening outside of their team.

This group, predominantly ‘big 6’ / ‘rich 7’ (delete as applicable) tend to get their punditry and commentary from fan tv channels and like minded social media interaction. So it becomes a hive mind.

If a contentious decision takes place against that team then it is wall to wall talk about how ‘we was robbed’ with no dissenting or impartial voice. Similarly contentious decisions that go for the team tend to be ignored.

As such, as mentioned, there is the lack of visibility of other matches apart from whenever a decision goes for a rival team and that will be met with accusations of bias for that team and against theirs.

For example the Man Utd / Liverpool / Arsenal (keeping this generic) fans that write in with bias accusations have probably no idea of the decision to award Luton a penalty against wolves. It would be interesting to know how these people square the fact that a contentious decision was made in that game with the bias against their team.

The second group are those that watch as much football as possible. These people will normally have a team they support passionately but they will watch all that they can – ie both super Sunday games even if their team isn’t involved – the early morning Italian game on a Sunday, a Monaco v Reims on a Sunday evening etc.

Not everyone can watch hours of football each week for a variety of reasons but the distinction comes in wanting to do it as opposed to only wanting to watch your team.

Most of the matches watched not involving the team you support means you can watch the referee / VAR decisions with a clear eye. If leece receive a penalty for a handball against lazio, which you think is dubious, it is then hard to maintain a stance that all referees are biased against your team and gives all the decisions to your rivals.

This group, whilst probably taking in some fan media (by the way I believe the rise of fan media to be in the top 5 worst developments in football in my lifetime) mainly take in commentary from largely independent sources (football weekly, totally football show, football ramble etc) so that might not change their opinions it at least offers a different perspective and dulls down the possibility that everyone is out to get you.

What do we think? Any legs to this?
J Belfast


When were refs any good
A line in this morning’s mailbox: “the standard of refereeing (including VAR) is currently poor.” This seems to be a commonly repeated line, so it draws the question: When has the standard of refereeing been good?

People have been bemoaning the “current” standard of refereeing for as long as I can remember. I remember people phoning into David Mellor on 606 (showing my age) and talking about how bad refereeing was “These Days”.

Maybe we just need to accept that refereeing is basically impossible, for some of the reasons J Belfast shared, cut referees some slack, and realise it’s not actually that important anyway. It’s only football.
Mike, LFC, Dubai


VAR can’t win
Mailbox – VAR is the devils work

England Women (Not ladies.. I have learned, thankyou) – We lost because no VAR

As Lucy Ward said on commentary.. We argue that its rubbish and we hate it, so we cant complain when its not here!
Cue – Mille Bright complaining about no VAR..

VAR – Only has good as the last favourable / non favourable decision for / against your team

Its simply cannot win!
Al – LFC – Would rather have VAR than not, still think more decisions end up correct now overall


What sort of thing is happening here?
I wouldn’t consider myself a conspiratorial person, and not one who enjoys diving deep into the internet to discover the “real truths” or whatever. I am however curious, and do enjoy observing things and actually using my own thoughts to think about them, matched with evidence, history and common sense.

Conspiracies can range from the far out there like Qanon and Flat earthers to true but muddied things like big tobacco covering up its effects and Watergate. Operation Northwoods was ludicrous, never enacted, but the documentation shows that it was serious enough to go to the planning stage. Growing up in Ireland, certain conspiracies were mentioned about its rulers, people who mentioned them had their lives ruined, and then the truth came out. The unbelievable can sadly eventually become believable, and then we feel silly for thinking power will opt for morals over money.

When I look at the current football situation, something does not sit right and I ask myself a few questions. Is there corruption in football? Do referees ever cheat? Does money influence the sport and decisions made in it? Are there any benefits to having big teams always do well? Is there evidence of structural change to benefit said big teams? Can it be obfuscated to a degree it’s very hard to tell?

I would answer yes to all of the above, and here are some examples: FIFA in general is can of corruption and conspiracies, The 2000’s Serie A scandal proved big clubs were willing to cheat, and referees were willing to take part. Barca have also been sanctioned for paying the head of the referees association for consulting just this year. Man City are paying to keep a distance from authority. The 2002 World Cup in S. Korea had some very interesting referee decisions in favor of the host country as well.

Undoubtedly money influences the sport, and the restructuring of the Champions League, the failed “Super League” and alternatives have all been designed to keep bigger teams in the competition, for longer. Why? More money of course. Bigger teams draw bigger audiences, so it’s in everyone’s best interests to have them there. Monaco and Porto are great getting to a final and all, but that’s not what sponsors want to see or what draws a big crowd. I’m not saying that is a conspiracy and evidence will show plenty of small teams have made it to the finals since (What’s that?!).

The new VAR system and its implementation has so far been ridiculous, and added more bias, and more confusion to the rules, and people proclaim that the officials who should be most universal in their understanding of the rules – referees – somehow can’t put their finger on what’s a hand ball and what’s not, and that’s all ok – we all make mistakes.

I accept bias exists, and wrote to say that it is wrong. In the mid 2000’s I remember reading that big teams got the most decisions, and it added up, more pressure, bigger stadiums with larger crowds grilling the referees. VAR was meant to fix this bias and point out obvious errors, but just this year a ref admitted to not calling a decision because his ref mate will get abused. That is literal corruption. Football is a Billion pound sport and “protecting my mate”/ “avoiding abuse” are not satisfactory answers to why a crucial decision is made/ not made.

Saying “Conspiracy theories are mainly for emotionally unstable people who are angry at their lack of control over events in their life.” is quite the statement, and one that sounds like it came from a “paragon of virtue”. I guess all those who say Qatar bought the World Cup are just emotionally unstable people who can’t “engage the logical part of ‘their’ brain and understand that it is, you know, football.” (That’s not a conspiracy, that’s multiple $1.6M human errors from the Qatar government to certain voting FIFA executives you drunken unicyclist!)

“They will never be proven right but, more importantly for them, there is no amount of evidence that can prove them wrong either.” This is an old line generally used against flat earthers, trumpers, climate denialists and Liverpool fans proclaiming “This is our year”. Smokers would say this in the 90’s against those who said smoking was bad, before then using some of big tobacco’s favourite defenses. “Nicotine is not additive”/ “Second hand smoke is not carcinogenic”/ “Saying light cigarettes are just as carcinogenic as regular is a false equivalency “.

I am not saying that what I am saying is a certain truth, but I am highlighting that it is not impossible, and past examples prove it. Mistakes happen, sure, I get that, but for me, a true mistake is one that is allowed to repeat itself, and repeat itself it does.

The Chinese definition of madness is to try the same thing over and over and expecting different results. We are watching referees try the same thing over and over and give us different results, and it’s the person pointing that out, that is the “madness”.
Calvino (Personal favourite footie conspiracy? Lasgnagate takes the bake.)

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