Guardiola would not do much better with this Man Utd squad

Date published: Wednesday 3rd March 2021 9:19 - Editor F365


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Sol searching
I agree with a lot of what RQT has said, except that I believe those reasons to keep Ole are good reasons to keep any manager, and the reasons to fire him, well only a couple of those feel valid for firing a manager.

First, he’s not effective with his subs? Last I checked Ole’s subs have scored more than any other team’s subs in the league. Second, underutilizing Bailly, Telles, and Van de Beek? He’s perhaps overusing them. Bailly has been shockingly poor since we bought him. Moments of brilliance and moments of horrid stupidity. You can get away with that as a forward, not as a central defender. With Lindeloff’s game lately, the central pairing is a no-brainer, though United desperately need someone better than both Lindeloff and Maguire (who’s become rather a disgrace). Van de Beek deserves some time, but his showings haven’t earned him more opportunities. Ole had been brilliant by not playing players according to their price tags. Telles has been used as appropriate cover to Shaw who’s been outstanding this year, why would you play Telles more?

All in all, NO one is catching City. If United do end up in 2nd, how could you ask for more? This squad is not a title winning squad, no manager can change than. Doubtfully even Guardiola, though perhaps he’s the only manager around who boards would back with more gusto.

If this is Ole as he’s learning how to be a winning manager in the PL, sign me up for another 5 years. I’d rather this entertainment with a manager I love than a revolving door of managers, all who will change the direction of the team and signings. Ole is far from perfect, but when the only team above you is as close to perfect as you can get, how can you doubt the man?


16 General Conclusions – The Home Leg (so only the first 8)
(1) Solskjaer has a weird connection with LOTR. Started out looking like a grown up Frodo. Named his sone Elijah (the Frodo actor), and is increasingly looking like Andy Serkis’s brother. This doesn’t end well in a lot of scenarios, my preciousss.

(2) Roy Keane is on TV not because of his razor sharp analysis, but because he represents the true fan with biases and strong opinions, who isn’t too scared to air them for everybody’s benefit. It’s not great analysis, but it’s probably great TV, more often than not.

(3) TAA/ AWB: If you were the England manager going into a crunch game against Belgium, Germany, or France, in the next World Cup, on current form (and class), would you still pick Alexander-Arnold over Wan Bissaka, to face Hazard, Sane, or Koman?

(4) Possession: Why don’t Manchester United practice passing the ball? Against Chelsea it felt like they were trying it for the first time.

(5) Goals: It’s quite impressive that United are topping the scoring charts with 2 of their 4 main strikers completely off goalscoring form, and a third with age and injuries against him. Just imagine if Martial and Greenwood were having half decent seasons, and Cavani hadn’t missed as many games through injuries, social media bans, and Covid.

(6) Pirlo has managed to take Juventus to 10 points below Inter. One more god like player people mistakenly thought would magically become a great manager? Pirlo blotted his copy book for me when he described Park Ji Sung so disparagingly in his autobiography. When you are completely outplayed by somebody and you describe him as a faithful dog, it stinks of sour grapes. What if Park’s biography says “… in that game, I had Pirlo like a dog on a chain, try as he might, he couldn’t get away from me, I held that chain too tight”. Would that be offensive? But perhaps truer?

(7) Strikers: United used to have a striker last year, who was sold because he was clearly overweight and couldn’t do justice to the kind of chances Bruno Fernandes and co were creating game after game. Anybody know what became of him?

(8) Pogba: injured for weeks in the one season where started looking the part. Is this a swan song and can he actually play a full season without injury or are we better off selling him anyway? With all respect for the way he’s played in the past few games, I still think the Pogba package is not worth what United are paying him and we’d do better to replace him with Declan Rice for example. The numbers would probably work out when you factor in salaries.
Ved Sen (MUFC)


Bring it home
So we’re thinking of bidding for the 2030 World Cup. Those handbags are gonna have to be truly special this time…

The fact that the ‘bid’ was launched in The Sun and wrapped up in the usual performative jingoistic nonsense has ensured that it already smells of piss, Bovril and crisp sandwiches to the rest of the footballing world.

I’ve not seen hubris like this since Birmingham thought it could outbid Barcelona for the Olympics by offering up Page Three girls and helicopter trips over Spaghetti junction. The spectacle of the Bullingdon Berlusconi Mikedeaning it over the whole affair like he did in London 2012 makes it even less palatable.

Now I don’t doubt that the PM is seriously thinking about hosting the tournament but there’s another reason why the nation’s most inveterate invertebrate is dangling his latest pie-in-the-sky wish-fulfilment fantasy over our heads.

The bid has, of course, been pulled straight out of the government’s Big Distraction Sack, given that the Brazilian Covid-19 variant has – in true World Cup style – given border control a couple of stepovers, dropped its shoulder and sent St George the wrong way, leaving the governments collective efforts looking like a paunchy, red-faced cartoon copper with a stitch.

By the time 2030 comes around The Rock will be US President and our football fulfilment will be based on 168 weekly hours of live matches as the six remaining European clubs endlessly nil it out with each other.

Maybe instead of this jam tomorrow 2030 distraction we should be working on a viable plan to get more fans safely back into the stadium for the tournament England actually really literally is hosting. For example by looking at staggered gate openings for the Croatia and Scotland games, in order to avoid the live-action Human Centipede petri dish that is the slow trip along Wembley Way.
Quarantino Asprilla, Chairman of the Bored, USA! USA! 


Slam Dunk
Dear F365,

Enjoying all the mails about the Lee Mason fiasco at the weekend. I think part of the problem with quick free kicks is the fact that players have to ask the referee if it’s okay to take a quick one with no whistle (Giggsy against Lille and the controversy it generated in France is the one that sticks in my mind). But, once the referee starts organising the defensive wall and so on, that moment is gone, so it has to be a “ceremonial” free kick which goes on the whistle rather than a “quick” free kick.

It seems to me that there are therefore two potential problems with the Dunk situation. First, Dunk didn’t actually wanted to take it quickly: that moment had already passed, and what he was actually trying to do was sneakily take it in the ceremonial window but before everyone was truly ready for it. A genuine quick free kick, by contrast, should be taken almost immediately: i.e. within a few seconds of the foul taking place. Second, Lee Mason really was at fault, for two reasons: firstly, because he told Dunk he could take it quickly yet still blew the whistle; and secondly, because he blew the whistle too soon. It was the worst of both worlds: the unnecessary whistle meant it wasn’t a quick free kick and blowing the whistle at the wrong time runs counter to the normal expectations of a ceremonial free kick.

But, I wonder, what’s the point of this anyway? A fairly simple tweak to the way the rules are interpreted could improve things: all set pieces should be taken within 10 seconds of the infringement or ball going out of play, or, if it’s a foul, 10 (or 12, or 15, or whatever) seconds after the ref has finished booking people or the fouled player gets up. If the set piece isn’t taken because the attacking team is being slow, the ball is simply turned over to the other team. By contrast, if it isn’t taken because the defending team has not already retreated or is not doing so quickly, all players still within ten yards get an immediate booking and the ball is moved forward ten yards (and if it’s into the box, it’s a penalty).

The great thing about this is that if would dissolve the distinction between “quick” and “ceremonial” free kicks around the box. The ref wouldn’t even need to blow the whistle, or, if he did, he would do it early on once any infringement administration is complete to signal the start of the period in which the kick could be taken – regardless of whether the defending side is ready – rather than the end of any preparation period. The attacking team then has the choice of taking the kick whenever they like within that 10 (or 12, or 15) second period, however it advantages them.

Again, any defender that stands on the ball or is still within ten yards at that point in time should get an instant booking, with the ball moved forward. This would surely encourage players to immediately retreat to ten yards and get goalkeepers setting up walls quickly, as they would be playing roulette otherwise. We’d see much more variation of both attacking and defensive play for free kicks around the box too (maybe even dispensing with walls) so better for fans. The same would be true for penalties: as soon as a decision is given to award the penalty, the defending players wouldn’t even have time to protest, since, if they were still in the box after ten seconds of the decision it would be an automatic booking to all of them.

Dunno about anyone else, but in general it boils my piss the way the game is constantly slowed down at every opportunity. Fans are cheated by it, with the ball spending ever-less time actually in play. It’s infuriating watching a forward grab the ball, pass it back to a midfielder, who throws it to a full-back to then take a throw-in or corner a full minute after the ball went out while constantly encroaching up the pitch. In fact, encroachment would also see the ball turned over: no friendly warning from the referee to move the ball back to where the incident occurred, you just hand it over to the other team. Ditto goalkeepers: start enforcing the six second rule with indirect free kicks awarded against them.

I’ve really had enough of the ill-discipline of many top-flight players: it must be a nightmare for referees in the Sunday leagues. All we need is a blizzard of yellows and reds for a few weeks and most of it would dissipate, along with retrospective bans, starting with the Chelsea players shouting at Stuart Attwell on Sunday while he was looking at the VAR screen.
Matt, Sheffield


Right of reply
Interesting to see that my comments BTL were picked up on by Levenshulme Blue in relation to the furore over the post-rugby interviews and JN’s article about abuse of journalists.  Long-time readers of the mailbox may recall some of my anonymous contributions in years gone by as ‘Name Withheld’ – on my experiences as a referee in amateur football.  I used to be both chairman of one of the largest youth leagues in the country as well as a qualified referee and couldn’t comment publicly on the appalling behaviour I used to see for fear of sanction.

I was assaulted by a 16 year old boy and his father whilst refereeing a match – with the player subsequently being banned for 5 years.  I no longer officiate or have any involvement with the league so am free to comment.  My observation is that journalists bear some responsibility for making personal criticism/abuse acceptable – there are plenty of examples of referees, players and officials being subjected to sustained attacks from the fourth estate over many years.  It’s just that social media has turned this one-way street into a channel where they are now subjected to opinions which may not chime with their own.

Maybe it’s my age (my knees ache on the rare occasions that I referee now), but I feel like social politeness has gradually disappeared.  I could write pages about some of the folk who I refereed and encountered in youth football but decided on balance that it wasn’t very productive.  I’m not ‘down with the kids’ but I believe the journalist in question was baiting/trolling the rugby players and coaches in an effort to get a reaction…knowing that they couldn’t comment for fear of being fined.

It was not that long ago that the hashtag ‘Be kind’ was trending, but too many folk think it only applies to people they agree with and they reserve the right to shout at or abuse those with whom they disagree.

On a closing note, when things open up again soon and youth football restarts….perhaps take time to think about how much you’ve missed it if you have kids and whether the bloke/lass in the middle deserves your spittle-flecked abuse at the first decision you disagree with.
Peter Ford / Name Withheld


Was the Hudson-Odoi handball a penalty? Well… yes, and no. We exist in a world of football paradoxes right now, on the cusp of the old and new. Its not a penalty because that’s never a penalty, right? Except, it is! It’s what modern refs call a “modern penalty”.

Now, onto why it wasn’t given. Forget about the occasion and pressure on the referee. It comes down to interpretation of the game. Remember how we categorised refs before? Some let the game flow, some mad it stop-starty. Some saw minimum contact as a foul, some let the 2014 World Cup final happen (remember that brutality fest?).

Referees have always interpreted the grey areas differently. What happened however, is we have taken the path to removing that varying interetation from referees. We brought in much more defined laws for penalties, handballs, offsides etc, and the much lambasted VAR. I have read now a few times, that VAR is tending to “honour” the onfield decision? Wut? That seems like the opposite of VAR’s intended purpose, except maybe for the closest of calls.

So we have laid a path, walked it for a bit, then took a random detour and got lost in the jungle. And we tend to single the blame at only the refs, when its the system that is broken.


A pedant’s rant
Sorry to be a pedant, but I could not let this one go.

I am confused by the basis on which VSA, Nairobi agrees with Roy Keane about internationals.

Firstly, and most obviously, there are the same number of international places as there always was. Squads are no bigger. Granted, it may be more common for players to get one or two international caps so there are more international players per se, but I think it was clear Jamie was talking about regular internationals, Alderweireld with 100 caps, Lloris with 120 caps, not Kevin Davies and Ryan Shawcross with one cap each.

Secondly, VSA seems to suggest Giroud managed to win a world cup medal despite not having a short (sic) on target, because Giroud and Mbappe were scoring the goals.

Finally (and unrelated to VSA), I take this opportunity to say I have completely fallen out of love with football over the past five years for the following non-exhaustive reasons:

The money is just obscene. No more to say. Kids under 20 being paid many tens of thousands of pounds a week, for often not doing a lot (I am talking squad players who often do not feature) is just not on. People can talk about the economics of football all day, but if you dig down into the finances of nearly every Championship club, plus quite a few premier league clubs, that argument is paper thin. Let’s see what happens with these investigations into Barcelona’s finances. The industries reliance on bookmaking is also a disgrace. I do struggle with this website’s decision to publicly decry bookmaking in football, yet run multiple weekly “articles” about the odds of matches, including where to bet. The relaxed and jovial tone of Degsy’s “articles” really seems at odds with the overall aversion to football’s reliance on bookies.  “Do as I say, not as I do”.

The tribalism of fans is something else now. The hatred that fans talk about other clubs (players, managers, fans etc.) is just vile. It has gone too far to make the sport enjoyable.

The knee-jerk reactionism of nearly everyone involved, outside of the clubs. Here, I am talking about fans, “commentators” and “pundits”. I have lost count of the number of knee-jerk reactions which this website (amongst many others) has published this season. We begin writing off a season when we are barely two thirds through it. I seem to remember reading that Southampton were a top 4 team, Leicester were serious title contenders and Fulham were done and dusted. All of which slightly less certain.

Perhaps it is the 24 hour news cycle, but football, more than other areas of interest, seems to have this constant need for definitive conclusions about a team’s season, before the conclusion of the season. The irony being of course that due to the amount of football, those conclusions are almost immediately outdated; lose one game, you are sh*t, win one game, you are amazing. This now even happens within games. Take Arsenal in Europe, for 10 minutes before Auba scored the third, Arteta was a fraud and should be fired that very night. Auba scores and Arteta is a genius who needs to be given the keys to the club. It is ridiculous how fans’ opinions are so extreme at the moment.

Also, I disagree a lot with what has been written about sports journalists. Whilst abuse has no place, it is suggested journalists cannot make do without a social media presence, I understand this, but no-one is forcing them to look at the mentions. They could block people not following them from being able to make comments/at them into responses and ask a third party to block anyone who says anything unacceptable, without reviewing it themselves. That third party can then highlight any sensible legitimate debate points. If you argue that this means intelligent debate cannot occur, your argument is circular, either you accept the good with the bad, or you decide not to participate. That is a personal decision.

Anyway, off to read big week/big mid-week, which has mentioned Jose Mourinho for a consecutive 15* weeks in a row, suggesting someone misunderstands the definition of big.
Pedant B Pedantry (*probably closer to 5)


Reflections on a bleak year
As we approach a somber anniversary, I just wanted to take a moment to reflect on what the world has been through in the last year.  Nobody has been unaffected in the face of a relentless, unfeeling foe.  It has been extremely frustrating to see human folly exacerbate the situation.  We have known isolation from our fellows and the stress, anxiety, and depression that accompanies it.  If we can take any solace, perhaps it is in the knowledge that all of our brothers and sisters have shared this pain with us.  Together, let’s remain vigilant, learn from experience, and move toward a return to normalcy.

I’m talking, of course, about the ceaseless flood of Ole mails, not to mention the newer Klopp variant.
Paul, Gooner (prayers for those who left the mailbox out of sheer boredom)

PS- As a rival fan, Ole In.  Klopp is a one trick pony (it’s a good trick, admittedly) and Liverpool’s struggles this year were very predictable.


Non-essential footballers
Sitting through The One Show last night whilst having my tea (not dinner), Jermaine Jenas’ presence reminded me of when he signed for Newcastle and how, as a Man Utd fan, I had raged that this was the type of young English talent we should have been hoovering up. Turns out not so much. Similarly, when enduring the ‘Alan Smith midfield general’ days and seeing us bossed around by Birmingham at St Andrew’s, I even thought Craig Gardner could ‘do a job for us’. Clearly, I am a moron. Anyone else want to admit to the signings they thought were essential but turned out to be anything but?
Andrew, Banbury


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