Midweek football is bloody brilliant, isn’t it? Keep your mails coming to email@example.com
A few thoughts from the midweek action and the expected fan responses (mailbox bingo).
Leicester fans: First, we’re still in dreamland, oh well never mind we were lucky to beat Norwich and should have beaten West Brom, it’s a funny old sport. Followed closely by we’re going to win the league as no one else wants to!
Arsenal fans: I GIVE UP, THAT WAS **** ******* **********. Giroud / Walcott is a **** ***** *****, #Wengerout
Spurs fans: Please ignore us, please ignore us, please ignore us, oh we might actually go top with win, we’re going to win the lea…. ah ****. That’s why you should ignore us.
City fans: *silence* then grudgingly in a few days: Well at least we’ve won some silverware and can focus on champion’s league, I remember when we were rubbish and everything is still better than that.
Liverpool fans: THIS CAN STILL BE OUR YEAR, if you do the maths then…..
United fans: We’re rubbish and we can STILL sneak 4th hahaha
Chelsea fans: If only we hadn’t given everyone a 20 point handicap…. Thanks Mourinho
Tom Saints (How in such a season where everyone else is exciting can we contrive to be boring as muck? At least Bournemouth look like they’ll stay up)
Rashford and Martial = Yorke and Cole
A very interesting game of football between United and Watford last night. I don’t know whether United’s openness when being attacked was due to the makeshift/fresh-faced back 4 or a result of playing only one holding midfielder, as opposed to LVG’s preferred two, but it really gave Watford a lot of joy whenever they got in behind Shneiderlin. If anything it made for a very open and entertaining game as I pinched my armrest every time Ighalo got into the box with the ball at his feet. A better team would have put United to the sword last night with the amount of chances Watford got and, it was only thanks to our beareded Spanish magician (not the goalkeeper) that we won last night. On the other side of the pitch, though, I found myself marvelling at the pace of young Rashford when he was on the right. He really does seem like a carbon copy of Martial. He’s a striker (number 9), young, can dribble and is incredibly fast!
Seeing the 2 of them reminded me of two other United strikers of yesteryear. Both natural number 9’s, both coincidentally have the same pigmentation as Rashford and Martial and both these players had arguably the same skill set. They are none other than Dwight York and Andy Cole. It is generally felt that a strike partnership must compliment one another by being different i.e one must be a pillar that the other striker can run off thereby creating space, an Ulloa and Vardy, or a Dzeko and Aguero type partnership. York and Cole proved that a partnership could be just as deadly with two players who are largely similar. I, for one, see no reason why a York and Cole-type partnership cannot be recreated at United with Rashford and Martial.
I don’t know what the rest of the mailbox thinks but I would love to see a United team with a competent defence play an ultra attacking 4-4-2 with Rashford and Martial up top, Herrera next to Shneiderlin and Depay along with (insert world class right-sided player) flying on the wings in games where we are pummeling the opposition or home games against weaker opposition. Oh and it would be nice if that partnership could also win us a treble like the previous one did too.
Buchule Fulanisi (So the WHOLE Top 4 dropped points last night, wow!) East London, RSA
Some United conclusions
A few United conclusions:
- De Gea is the best ‘keeper in the world. I don’t care whether the stats officially back it up, but there is no one better than him for my money. Without him we would be much further down the league than we are, I just hope we can keep hold of him for a while longer.
- Is there any reason why Varela should lose his place in the team? Since his extended run started he has been pretty solid defensively and a genuine threat going forward.
- Fosu-Mensah was pretty damn good too. Like Varela against Arsenal, the early booking only seemed to inspire him to up his game. He hardly put a foot wrong all night.
- As good as Blind has been these last few weeks, there were some really sloppy passes coming from him in dangerous positions. Fortunately for us, Ighalo was wasteful all night, so we weren’t punished.
- Schneiderlin, Herrera and Mata should be the first choice midfield three now, regardless of who else is available. Fellaini shouldn’t get a look-in and Schweinsteiger and Carrick should occupy places on the bench (purely because of their age). The midfield has been so much more effective now that those three have been given a run of games together, so why disrupt it.
- A bit more on Mata; look how effective he is when he’s played in his best position. Hopefully any talk of letting him go should now be well and truly forgotten. And let’s get him on free-kick duty while we’re at it. What a peach!
- Martial was much less effective on the right but I’m glad van Gaal kept faith with Depay. He had a quieter game than his previous two, but still put in a good shift and made some good contributions. He still needs to work on his long-shots (or to just stop them).
- I was also glad to see Rashford retain his place. He looked a little isolated up front at times, finding space difficult to come by against Watford’s two banks of four, but he looks so positive when he actually gets the ball at his feet. He was a little bit more effective when he and Martial switched places as well, so it was still a good performance from him.
- Jesse Lingard could rightly feel a little aggrieved to be relegated to the bench, though he has played a lot of football recently, so the rest probably did him good. If anything, hopefully it will keep him on his toes, knowing that there are now a few extra options in his position.
- United’s missing “stars” should be sweating on their positions in the squad now. Young, Valencia, Schweinsteiger, Shaw, Rooney, Smalling and Jones have all been more than adequately covered in their absence of late, so they should have a lot to do to work their way back into the team. That said, I highly doubt that their absence will be continued when they regain fitness, which would be a real shame because this patchwork United team has been both more effective and more entertaining in the last three games. If we’re going to go through a period of limited success then I would much rather do it with this version of United than the dross served up by the senior players in the first two thirds of the season.
- Credit where it’s due; van Gaal has got it right these past few matches. While his hand might have been forced in team selection, he still managed to get both good performances and wins out of the team, so he deserves a “well done” for that. Let’s have more of the same until the end of the season and maybe a lot of his doubters (like me) will come around.
Last night went about as well as it could for United, with other rivals all dropping points (except West Ham, obviously) and we’re now within 4 points of third. This season is just bloody mad!
That was a terrible performance from United, but an extremely satisfying smash-and-grab win.
Daley Blind had his worst game of the season, Memphis brought out his inner Nani again, Martial was anonymous for most of the game, Herrera’s final delivery was excruciating, Rojo spent his time on the field in no-man’s land, Varela seemed bound to make a mistake everytime he had to defend and our strategy to defend set-pieces seemed to be to run around aimlessly and pull shirts while hoping for the best.
On a more positive note; Rashford looked good everytime he had a chance to run with the ball, De Gea did that thing where he keeps us in the game again, Mata scored a sublime free-kick for the second time in four games and Fosu-Mensah had a decent debut considering the rest of our defence was pretty terrible.
United are now level on points with City and four behind Arsenal despite having a season filled with heartbreak and disappointment thus far. Keep playing the youth and keep Fellaini away from all things football related and United may actually finish fourth. 10 games to go, we might as well believe.
Gaaavie, (Leicester are gonna win the league, it’s written in the stars) Cape Town
United are definitely gonna win it
I fully expect to get shot down heavily of this but, could it be UTDs title yet? It seems unlikely but assuming UTD win 9 of 10 games until the end of the season, they’d need Leicester to lose at least 3 times, Spurs at least twice, and Arsenal and City once (assuming all the above have a draw in there as well. Given UTD play 3 of those 4 before the end of the season, its not beyond the realms of possibly, especially given the topsy survey nature of this season for the above to happen.
Leicester: never been in this spot before. The joyful naivety that’s brought them this far may yet be their undoing ala Liverpool, BRodge and the slip. Most straight forward run in vs people parking various buses.
Spurs: Never been here before, are there signs of tiredness (?) Arsenal, Liverpool, UTD & Chelsea yet to play…
Arsenal – they’ll finish fourth and go out of the CL to Barca I think its an EU law now.
City – seem to have gone into Yaya coast mode in the league. Pell more focused on the CL? Team have been here before and won it though so 8-1 could be value?
UTD – might be the toughest run-in, but seem to be figuring how to scrape victories out of nowhere again, some key players to come back and many of those have won titles before (Smalling, Schweinsteiger, Rooney) Lots of games left for them to get injured again though
Its a long shot at best, but looking a the teams above, and the way things have gone this season all round, odds of 33-1 would seem to be worth a fiver. Considerably better value than Arsenal at 4-1.
It would seem a little ironic if after all the wonderful buzz about new guys at the top it ended up being the traditional Premier League big boys winning it after all. Plus it’d give everyone a new reason to hate UTD.
Let the shouting commence….
Dave (Please note the I used the phrase: “not beyond the realms of possibly” rather than “UTD are definitely going to win it” before considering your responses.)
The purpose of the tree
In response to the perpetual criticism of Marouane Fellaini, I thought I’d explain why I think the Tree warrants a starting place.
Watching United play vs Watford today made me wish we had the Tree on the field. Man for man, Watford had the physical advantage over almost every outfield player Manchester United had. No one could win a header and no one could hold a ball up for more a second or two before getting shrugged off the ball. A number of goal kicks were played short due to this reason but even this was too risky a strategy with Ighalo and Deeney looking as lively as they did today.
This is what the Tree gives United. An out ball. He always picks up the first or second ball out from De Gea and holds it up till United’s tiny midfielders are able to scamper forward on their tiny legs to receive the ball from the Tree. This is essential to Van Gaal and his ‘phases’ of attack. Today against Watford Rashford, Martial and Memphis had all the pace in the world but that turned out to be useless as no one in midfield (Herrera, Schneiderlin or Mata) could hang on to the ball long enough to look up and find them.
As a central midfielder, Fellaini is far too limited. His ability to win headers or hold up the ball is diminished that far back and he’s basically useless otherwise. He is literally a floating head, chest and elbows on a field. He could be much better utilized, though, if LvG had done as he said.
At the start of season, when Van Gaal said he’d use Fellaini as a striker, I was delighted. Felli could win a header and (I had hoped) a few extra hours of shooting practice a week should teach him to play off the last man and finish. Theoretically, it seemed like creating a new Andy Carrol: gangly nuisance in the box ready to win a header or stick a leg out. Alas LvG didn’t sign a CB, forcing him to move Blind into defense permanently and thus leaving him a center midfielder short. Hence, Fellaini was drafted back into midfield and told to spend another season pretending to be able to tackle and pass.
So the Tree is really only around (and playing) because he’s literally the only player who’s of any use when the ball is off the ground. Sad part is, unless some height (in attack especially) is brought into the lineup, Fellaini will continue to be needed. After all, why cut down a Tree unless you’ll replace it with a new shiny multi-purpose sky-scraper (preferably with solar panels)?
I think you can now safely say that was 1 point gained for Leicester…
Tim Colyer, Chelsea fan, London
Thanks West Ham, Swansea and Liverpool for buying us (Leicester) another 2 days to enjoy being top of the Premier league. We also now officially cannot mathematically be relegated. Good times!
Toby (We’re staying up!!!) Mitchell
Best games we never played.
Rich “I’ve advanced to maybe” LCFC
Leicester’s chance to challenge for the Premier League title was always reliant on two factors.
1. Leicester finding a winning form (a culmination of intelligent tactics, high confidence, good recruitment, careful player management, etc)
2. Belief by other small and medium sized teams that they can play the big clubs and win. Without this, Leicester would be 4th or 5th (guestimating the impact of shock results and the current table).
So when we get a good point against West Brom, in another entertaining game, we have a sense of schadenfreude, since we were potentially going to lose ground to our title rivals (wow – it seems strange to actually write that).
The schadenfreude quickly turned to surprise when all our title rivals lost (assuming aspiring title contenders need to get 79 points this season). It is almost like the premier league is deliberately trying to give Leicester the title. Thank you to the teams that caused these upsets (West Ham, Swansea, Arsenal, Liverpool).
10 games to goes, lots of difficult games to play – surely this can’t carry on to the end of the season.
Matthew (disappointed that Toby Mitchell hasn’t mentioned we are now mathematical safe), Zurich
Liverpool need four more players
Let me get this out of the way early on, City were incredibly poor, our squad doesn’t contain world beaters & I don’t expect us to win the League next year. However, I do feel that there’s been excess negativity around the ability & potential of Liverpool’s squad. We’ve swung between pants & exhilarating at times this season (as demonstrated by the drubbings of City twice, Chelski, Southampton & an admittedly p*ss poor Villa) and undoubtedly have a way to go, but there’s plenty to use in the current squad.
By my estimation we need 4 more players to be truly mixing it with the best of England. A goalkeeper, a left back, a central midfielder and a right midfielder/winger. This may be controversial, but our centre backs… they’re really not that bad. By my estimation Skrtel, Sakho and Lovren are all “second” centre backs and not defensive leaders. What they need is a manager to actually train them (what an odd idea eh Brendan?), a confident presence behind them and a leader of the defence alongside them (look at Skrtel & Lovren’s performances alongside Hyypia / Carragher / Fonte). Is Matip that man? I have no idea, but you’d assume that swhat we’re going for so another CB is unlikely.
Clyne’s got a few years in him at RB & don’t forget Joe Gomez. Can, Hendo, Milner & Lucas are all good rotational options in the midfield (just not automatic picks). The likes of Coutinho, Firmino & Lallana (who saw that performance against City coming?!) have all shown that they can be more than useful from midfield under Klopp’s tutelage & Ibe has big potential. In Sturridge, Origi and Firmino we have technical / mobile forwards that suit Klopp’s style of play (sorry Bentekke… you’re off & not sure where Ings fits in…).
If we can target those few quality players in the right areas we shouldn’t be too far away. Klopp is no miracle worker, but he maximises any chance of success that we do have (however small). A few drubbings when it clicks & more clean sheets are indicative of his work in progress. To conclude, I’ve just realised that I’ve written an overly long fanboy version of your “9/10 club with 7/10 leaders” article. And wasted half an hour of my lunch, slightly embarassing. Now that I’ve written it though, might aswell send it in anyway, at least it was cathartic.
Heston LFC in Australia (staying up to 7am to watch your team lose on penalties is a kick in nuts)
Jekyll and Hyde
Are Liverpool the most Jekyll and Hyde team in the league? That would probably explain why we are roughly mid table.
It seemed a bit strange that Pellegrini didn’t rotate much at all. Most of his players ran for 120 minutes on Sunday so when I saw the line ups I hoped we might get have a freshness advantage.
Can that Lallana show up every week please? It was all the usual pirouettes and ballet but with a big set of bollocks in between. The shot that went in might’ve been a bit fortuitous but fortune favours the brave and all that…
Firmino was having one of his more quiet nights which is to be expected for a player finding his feet in a new league/county etc but you still think him, Sturridge and Coutinho along with Origi have a great deal of quality in them. If you’re looking at summer recruits you’ve got to think a proper defensive midfielder and a goalkeeper are the absolute must buys. A winger (plus Markovic returning) would be nice too.
Flanagan is out of contract at the end of the season? SIGN HIM UP NOW! You can’t underestimate the value of having a scouser in the team but Jon is actually a top notch defender. His tracking of Sterling and subsequent block was just magnificent. He loves the club and would sign in a heart beat. His 20 months out must’ve been tough on him but he’s back playing and he hasn’t taken long to find his feet again.
I truly cannot work us out. Are we a brilliant team prone to brainfarts more often than is forgiveable or are we a desperately average team prone to the odd fantastic performance!?
We might spaff a lot of money on some wastrels but selling Heemio for the amount we did is the best bit of bizzo we’re done since we sold Chelsea that busted flush.
Brilliant retort to “you’re gonna win eff all” from the travelling Citizens with the 5times ditty. Honestly Citeh fans; you’ve a long way to go before you can lord it over us. You might be a big noise domestically but you’re about as much a European powerhouse as perennial European minnows Arsenal. Come back to us when you’re a true giant of the game like us, your neighbours, Barca et al.
Gregory Whitehead, LFC
Time to give big Kolo some credit. Even whe. team performances were rotten Kolo has been solid. More than anyone he deserved that last night. A nice guy having a mini renaissance. Lovely stuff.
Paul, LFC, Wycombe.
No more cheese pencil
Does this mean that James Milner’s status been reinstated to Spatula?
Love and regards
Lallana the enigma
I cannot make up my mind about Adam Lallana. He clearly has talent but seems to take an age to do anything.
And now he’s just scored the opener out of nowhere against City and I’d still prefer that he was subbed.
Do any other mailboxers have a similar dilemma with a player
More Red thoughts
– what a first half performance from Flanno. Who was that inexperienced kid he was up against?
– speaking of Raheem, the only man to ever pull off that “high cheekbone – close shaved goatee beard”, was B. A. Baracus. You look silly.
(Something that young man has excelled at over the last year, to be fair)
– Liverpool looked an awful lot more solid without Moreno on the pitch. Wouldn’t be surprised to see the Clyne – Flanagan full back line up again against Palace on Sunday. (Hi Ed!)
– Toure has done nothing but enhance his reputation recently, fantastic bloke who still has an 8/10 performance in him. Earned another year as centre half back up, in my humble opinion.
– 11 points from a possible 24 in 2016. The form of champions, that is not.
– Liverpool caught Kompany on a very rare off day. Fell short of his exceptionally high standards, though wasn’t helped by those around him.
– Joe Hart, that was Mignolet-esque. Few worse insults can there be.
– Where were Citehs’ midfield? Polishing their League cup medals? Utterly dominated by Henderson and Can.
– Henderson does himself no favours when receiving the ball in space. Instead of decisively making a decision and executing it, he instead appears to think – I’ve got three seconds, better use all of them. Perhaps this can be blamed on a lack of movement/free players at times, however I find myself screaming ‘pass it’ far too often at him.
You’re a decent player Jordan, trust your instinct and ping a few passes about.
– Aguero kept quiet by a centre half pairing of Toure and Lovren. Who’d have thunk it?
On a bit of a tangent, it’ll be a shame if a player of his quality doesn’t win the European Cup. (Got to qualify to give Pep a chance next year Citizens – no longer a certainty)
– David Silva was anonymous. He’s a magnificent player, I personally love watching him dictate matches – however he wasn’t even entered into the race at Anfield.
– I wrote in just over a year ago (can’t remember if published, think it was), and stated that if anyone came in with a crazy bid for Sterling – 40 mill plus – Liverpool should bite their hands off.
As good as he looked for one season, so did a lot of others next to Suarez. He’s got a better all round team helping him now and, the odd solitary performance excepted, has looked very sub-par for the money paid.
If/When City sell Raheem, they’ll struggle to recoup anything like the fee they paid.
– How close does this result and others make the top half of the table? Delicious!
– Was bringing on Benteke the ultimate Klopp ‘zing’ to the team who denied him his first English silverware? (Feel for the bloke, but it looks like he’ll be another expensive Liverpool misfit).
– Pellegrini’s inability to affect the match in the second half, despite using his subs, was incredibly poor for a manager with his aspirations. Anyone still fancy Citeh for the title?
– F*** coming up with 16 of these for every match you’re assigned to. F365 journalists, I salute you. (Yes, even you Storey – though especially you Sarah! X)
Spoons (came across as anti-Raheem there, but didn’t boo him and understand why he left) LFC
Sterling = rubbish
Wow what a pasting, Well played Liverpool, we were awful however I can take that, it happens sometimes. Pellegrini got the tactics wrong again but hey it happens.
Lallana was class and Milner was Milner, a solid hard working, good footballer. The type of player every team needs one or two of.
What I can’t accept is that we effectively let James Milner go to Liverpool for free, while paying £50+million for Raheem Sterling.
Its up there with Ibrahimovic to Barca for monies and Eto’o going to Inter as well, and that worked out really well for Ibrahimovic.
I’ve tried so hard to like Sterling, but he is rubbish. He was bought because he is English and that is it. He is simply the latest in a long line
of average players who happen to be quick or a bit tricky or even sometimes a bit of both and so flatter to deceive. Think Walcott, Paedo Johnson, Ashley Young etc.
They promise so much but are actually not very good at actual football or reading a game.
However Sterling is probably the worst of the lot, simply for the transfer fee. Guardiola will be lucky if he gets £50 for him.
We can still win the league despite what everyone will say, we probably won’t but it’s a little hasty to write us off yet.
Especially with the way this season has been so far.
DANNY B (Ahh City, you havent kicked me in the nuts like that for a while) MCR
Arsenal’s bogey team
When I read through the mailbox over the last 2 days, I saw many Arsenal fans looking towards the North London derby on the weekend and how 3 points there could reinvigorate their title challenge. It was as if they didn’t have a midweek game against my Swansea team before that pivotal clash. It was as if they’d forgotten that Swansea have beaten them twice at the Emirates in the last 3 seasons (the season in between was a draw) and the win was such a foregone conclusion that it didn’t merit mentioning.
I restrained myself from writing in, bearing in mind our wretched season thus far and the memory of being comfortably handled by Arsenal at the Liberty earlier this season. I had no wish to tempt fate and having seen the side we named tonight, I was relieved I had not written in.
6 changes from Saturday. Stephen Kingsley making his league debut having previously only featured in our embarrassing loss to Oxford in the Cup. Leroy Fer making his full debut, having been assured by QPR fans that he was useless (although they said the same about the thoroughly decent Tom Carroll last season). Bafetimbi ‘Offside’ Gomis back in the starting line-up. Gylfi, Fernandez and Rangel only on the bench. 2-1 win. Bloody hell, football eh?
I will gloat though. Ha ha. Arsenal fans, feel free to return the sentiment when we now inevitably lose at home to Norwich on Sunday.
It is March and West Brom are closer to the Top Four than the relegation zone. This season really is mental.
Mark (ITFC in Cambridge)
A Newcastle plea
I am literally refreshing your page every 10-15 minutes in the hope of seeing a gormless picture of McClaren followed by some clever headline telling me he has finally been sacked.
Ross (please oblige), Cork, NUFC
Alain Pardieu, can we keep it please? Oh I want to keep it so, so badly. I can envisage his continental wine tasting holiday travelogue as I type. Make it so F365.
Dotz, Belfast (He’s a bit like a cockney version of Roger Sterling from Mad Men, except not nearly as cool)
Anyone else think Pards looks like he’s doing the Danny Sturridge dance in the article picture?