If Solskjaer is sacked then Guardiola must go too…

Matt Stead
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Pep Guardiola

If the argument is that Manchester United should sack Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, then Pep Guardiola is surely about to meet the same fate.


Funny how Guardiola never tries to over think it for the League Cup finals, which is why they have won so many. He pretty much picks his best team. But in Europe…

Is it the stage? Wanting to be seen to create some tactical master plan that will be talked about for time eternal?

Is it anxiety? His nerves actually getting to him because it’s a bigger trophy and he can’t focus properly and goes to pieces?

Is it trying to prove HE can do it independently of the players – as his prior wins will be seen as ‘because Messi was in the team’?

Either way, it’s kinda tragi-comic. Isn’t it? It’s like watching a horror movie and you shout at the screen to tell the girl, running in high heels not to go outside on her own in the woods…
Paul McDevitt


Guardiola out (Alternative headline: One of these things is not like the other)
I am waiting with bated breath to read your Guardiola out editorial. It appears to be the general consensus that it was his fault that Citeh lost, a cock up on the team picking front. And with the largest budget in world football, the wealth of a sovereign oil nation, he has had a free run of the transfer market.

So as you are proposing that Ole should go, I take it that you will be following the same line with Guardiola. After all he has way more experience than Ole, so no excuses, and should have the Champion’s League on his shelf pretty well every year. Sure he wins the Premiership, but that’s with the most expensive team ever assembled.

Looking forward to reading it…


 The shoe was on the other foot
As I sat watching the Blues knock their heads against a brick wall in Porto, I was reminded of a match where the boot was on the other foot.

April 30 2012. City vs United. The match before the match before 93:20. City won 1-0 thanks a goal just before half time and in spite of the scale of the occasion, Joe Hart just didn’t have a lot to do.

Ferguson was clearly obsessed with David Silva, who had played them off the park in the 6-1 earlier in the season and selected a complicated formation involving Park Ji-Sung that, on paper, would nullify El Mago.

What happened is that it hampered City a little but only at the expense of almost all United’s attacking fluency. When I saw the United team that night I thought “I’ll take that” immediately.

And as with Saturday night, one goal just before halfway was enough and while there was huffing and puffing, the best chance of the second half fell to the leading side (Pulisic for Chelsea, Nasri for City).

Conclusions to be drawn:

  1. If you finished the league 19 points ahead of your opponent (City on Saturday) or 2 out of 3 results will be good for you (United in 2012) just pick your best team. You reward of improving your chances of getting what you want by fiddling are lower than the risks of unintended consequences as they are already high with what you know and trust.
  2. Guardiola overthought. Again. But all the greats have done so. Very few players got into Ferguson’s head like Silva. And he had the last laugh. As the corner taker for Kompany’s second most famous goal, he still got the assist for the winner.

There’s always next year, we can’t even blame Lahoz and Kante was awesome.
Mark Meadowcroft

Michael Carrick and David Silva


Get knocked down to get back up again
As a Chelsea fan I am obviously ecstatic with our win. I did feel a touch sorry for City and their fans afterwards though.

I remember when my beloved Blues reached our first final in Moscow 2008. We lost on penalties but my feeling after the game was that we would be back to win it. Alright it took 4 years but we still came back and won it.

The pain of losing a final makes you stronger for the next time, you have to lose one to win one, and I’m sure City will learn from the experience and come back soon. They are a brilliant team so it would not surprise me if they won it next season.

Good luck.


I wouldn’t go so far to say that I delighted that Chelsea won, but I would admit to thoroughly enjoying the looks on the Gallagher brothers’ faces. City are almost certainly in the top two or three in Europe right now, and as long as the owners stay, that isn’t likely to change. But it feels to me as though the City fans have fallen down the same rabbit holes that the Liverpool fans did in the 90s and the United fans in the noughties. When you’re winning and are the dominant team, it’s easy to assume that you will always win, and to find yourselves in denial when you don’t. I am not sure that United fans are quite past this yet. Thirty years between league titles has taught most Liverpool fans to enjoy the moment and not take anything for granted.

I think a lot of City fans assumed that Saturday night was bound to be their night, despite the fact that Guardiola has form for getting it wrong in the one-off, big games.

I can’t help but be enjoying some schadenfreude this morning, because until you are the Champions of Europe, you’re not really one of the big boys.

All of this started for me when I went on the BBC football site to compliment City on their homegrown youngsters (to be fair, it was Adam Johnson and Joe Hart I was praising, so I obviously know f**k all) and I ended up getting piled on (and being told I smell, which was weird) by a angry gang of City fans who had somehow managed to take offence. I have a friend who is a City fan and he occasionally sends me screenshots from private forums and f**k me there’s a lot of deranged bigots supporting them. It’s not that I think that all other footy fans are angels, but City fans just seem to be spikier than any others. Maybe the years in the wilderness when United were kings has left some sort of scar.

As an aside – I don’t know what to make of Tuchel. When Chelsea needed points at the end of the season the team utterly capitulated (fortunately for them Leicester capitulated more) and looked rudderless. Fair play to them though – they were the superior team Saturday night and deserve all the joy they are feeling today. But can he mount a league challenge?

Oh, and Werner looks like a waste of £50m, doesn’t he? He works hard but his awareness and decision making is dreadful.
Mat (ABC, apparently)


Chelsea smile
I think Rickie G needs to diversify his media intake, I didn’t hear anyone saying Chelsea had no chance. I did quite nicely after get Chelsea 1-0 at 10/1. Wasn’t any other result for me. Easy to say I know but even before the teams Chelsea had the recent run on Guardiola, and would gladly sit on 1-0.

It’s been a challenge today as I don’t actually dislike any of the Chelsea side or manager, but it’s Chelsea, innit. Cognitive dissonance or what?

Anyway, Chelsea signing Kane is looking a lot more likely today, and even more attractive to Harry I’d wager.

Jon (hope not), Lincoln


Ruidger red
Without question Chelsea deserved to win the match on Saturday night. They controlled Man City for the vast majority of the game, never looked under any real threat, and if Werner and Pulisic were more clinical they may have run away with it.

But one thing really didn’t sit well with me. While he was outstanding, his tackle on Foden in the first half saving Chelsea from going behind early on, I think Rudiger should have been sent off in the second half.

To be clear, I’m not saying that under the current laws of the game I believe the referee got it wrong. We see moves to illegally obstruct opposition players in near enough every single game of football ever played. Most of the time it’s an easy yellow card card to give, get up, play on. But in instances like Saturday night, when Rudiger’s shoulder is clearly driven into De Bruyne’s chin in a deliberate forward motion, leaving De Bruyne obviously concussed and not only out of the match but possibly the Euros, how is a yellow even nearly approaching the correct level of sanction?

Football has been accused of dragging its feet on head injuries and concussion protocol for years. This example possibly highlights that better than most. In Rugby, hardly a sport known for an overly cautious approach to contact, what Rudiger did Saturday night would result in a red card and a lengthy ban. Even if it had been accidental it would still constitute a red, as intent is secondary to outcome. Surely, if the various governing bodies are serious about protecting players safety, similar measures should be brought into place for football?
JP, Birmingham


Thought I’d write in to express my bemusement at the lack of discussion of Rudiger’s challenge on KDB. Rudiger literally sent De Bruyne to the hospital with a facial fracture, which would seem straightforwardly to meet the definition of serious foul play, and in Rugby – which has more cause to police this type of physical interaction – a shoulder to the head is pretty automatically a straight red. I understand that we often use different heuristics to recognise dangerous play in football, but am a little surprised Rudiger and the officials have not received more censure, or that the more thoughtful organs of football opinion seem not to have glommed onto this blind spot. Nary a mention in your 16 conclusions – for shame F365.

Also: wholehearted agreement with Lev’s suggestion re: European competition. A certain kind of 80s nostalgist hipster PFM* loves to harrumph about the “champions’ league” having non-champions in it, but the overwhelming problem is the lack of inclusive participation – artificial cut-offs for entry create a self-reinforcing elite in most leagues which are at best leavened by oligarch laundering arrivistes and at worst turned into dreary one-team decade long progressions. Just cos the ESL monster has been slain, doesn’t mean there aren’t huge problems with the way the pie is currently divvied up.

Mat – London

*These guys hate VAR too. What are we to do with them? 

Physios treat Antonio Rudiger and Kevin de Bruyne


Sol searching
If you support Manchester United and you feel they need a change of manager right now, lemme confirm this for you: You chose the wrong club to support.

Manchester United have ONLY ever been successful in two periods during their entire 140-year history.

For 15-years during Sir Matt Busby’s tenure; where he built a team from scratch, using the players he and his coaches brought through the ranks, ensuring long dominance.

And then for 25 years during Sir Alex Ferguson’s tenure; where he built a team from scratch, using the players he and his coaches brought through the ranks, ensuring long dominance.

That is what the Manchester United way is. That is what supporting that club is all about. If it’s not for you, then you have chosen the wrong club to support.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is doing the same. He has bought 12 of the best academy teens from throughout the world in the last 18-months alone. From Real Madrid’s academy, from Barcelona’s, from Man City’s, from Liverpool’s, from South America etc… players every club was trying to nail down. He has also given more academy minutes to players per games he has managed than any manager in the HISTORY of the football club.

On top of that, and wait for this… in his 2.5 years as a manager NO manager in the history of the club has a better league win percentage. None. Not Sir Matt. Not Sir Alex.

He has performed better in his first 2.5 years than both of those legends.. finishing 6th, then 3rd, then 2nd… whereas Ferguson’s first 2.5 years were 11th, 2nd, 11th.

Jurgen Klopp’s (who I’m a huge fan of) first 2.5 years at Liverpool saw him finish 8th, 4th, 4th.

Solskjaer wasn’t brought in to win a title as soon as possible. He was brought in to rebuild the football club and get Manchester United back to being Manchester United. And in doing that, he has, thus far, done an outstanding job.

He has totally regrouped that dressing-room which was a cesspit when he arrived, thanks to hiring and firing short-term managerial fixes that I was glad to see go up in flames. Ole has done a terrific job in bringing that squad together. He has overseen total change in the club structure at not just first-team level, but throughout the academies to match his vision. He has overseen a total restructure of the scouting system, to match his vision. And he has overseen a total restructure at boardroom level, also to match his vision.

This is a long-term project, so United fans getting their knickers in a twist because they lost a final are embarrassingly failing to understand that. They are failing to realise how the club they have chosen to support has ever been successful in the past.

Ole has overachieved in how he has not just turned the first-team around, advancing it season on season, but how he has turned the whole football club around. It was an absolute mess before he came in. Now there is a real vision and massive potential for sustained success, even if that is still a few years away.

I would say this boldly (and I’m not a United fan, though have always appreciated the club up until the mess of LvG and Jose which really turned me off them): Manchester United have more teenage potential at their football club than any other team in Europe.  That’s all down to Ole. He is building from within.
David, Dublin


The numbers don’t stack up
Is Managerial stability truly the answer to a full trophy cabinet, or it that just ‘red tinted’ glasses? Admittedly, I am a wounded ManYoo fan, firmly in the #Oleout camp, but I wanted to do a quick math and see whether stability really is the answer, or if it just helps us take the moral high ground, helping us sleep better at night? Does 280 million squid for a distant 2nd and no silverware (again) constitute success, because it’s part of a long-term plan? Why don’t we find out…

Since Ferguson retired in 2013, Chelsea have won 7 major trophies, including the league title and the European cup. In this time Man Utd have won a paltry 3 trophies, the biggest being the FA Cup a whole 5 years ago. In this time Utd have had 4 managers, and Chelsea 7. Going back further, since the ‘Roman Empire’ began in 2003, Chelsea have had a whopping 15 managers (I’ve excluded Wilkins & Holland), in which time Chelsea have won 17 major honours (excluding the Charity Shield). Even with SAF in charge of the reds for half the time (we miss you football dad), the reds have only won 13 trophies, despite having just 5 Managers in that time.

How long would Ole have lasted at Chelsea (in Minutes please). I hate to admit it, because Chelsea are still the 4th biggest club in London…but on paper (and the trophy cabinet), Chelski are doing something right!

Do the math!
Dubai Red


Championship manager
Right, now that all the boring football is out of the way, let’s talk transfers. Liverpool have recently made a habit of signing players out of the championship to great effect (Wijnaldum, Shaqiri, Robertson) though the less said about Ben Davies the better.
So today I posit: who would you sign that is due to play in the championship next season?

Johnstone – seems an obvious one, looks set for West Ham.
Sander Berge – reputation enhanced by absence I guess, but still young with great potential.
Antonee Robinson – only got half a season, let’s see a bit more.
Arnaut Danjuma – improved his standing with more game time this season, would happily have him in the squad.
Michael Olise – seems like the kind of player who would take the step up in his stride, similar to Eze this year.

Other suggestions?
KC (all come relatively cheap too)