Man United face a critical game they can’t save and restart

Date published: Sunday 26th July 2020 9:32

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer Brendan Rodgers Manchester United Liverpool

Send your thoughts on Man United, Football Manager and why Paul Pogba is bad to theeditor@football365.com

 

His own man
Pogba isn’t Lampard or Gerrard.

As far as I’m aware – and I don’t claim to be an expert – he is Paul Pogba, and neither an attacking midfielder or bitterly crying at home pretending to be happy that a different Liverpool team won the title while Windexing one of his Lego hair wigs.

I feel like I’ve said this a thousand times here, but Pogba is a deep lying box to box midfielder. His strength is in having no weaknesses. It’s not his job to be the defensive screen and it’s not his job to be the offensive cutting edge, it’s his job to do everything a bit to allow others to specialise, because he can and they can’t.

Pogba for France and Juve was up there with the best midfielders in the world for 2 years because he enabled the entire team to function.

For Man United Pogba didn’t have a team to enable. He had to make the tackles, break the line, move forward with the ball, then make a 30 yard pass and then get on the end of that pass.

Now he has Fernandes, Martial, Rashford and Greenwood. And Matic. But into every life a little rain must fall.

The stats are quite clear, and the numbers do not lie.

Pogba is #1 at Man United for passes into the final third per 90 minutes.
Pogba is #1 at Man United for passes into the penalty area per 90 minutes.
Pogba is joint #1 at Man United for shot creating actions per 90 minutes.
#2 for key passes
#2 for successful dribbles per game
#2 for successful passes per game
#1 for successful long balls per game

Opinions without evidence are worthless. Opinions flatly contradicted by evidence are less than worthless.

Opinions are like arseholes in that everyone has one, the saying goes.

But without the underpants of evidence to back up your opinion you’re just parting your cheeks in the mailbox and showing everyone your anus.
Tim Sutton (Oh and I would like to remind everyone that I was a huge Fernandes fanboy repeatedly in print here for 2 years before Man United signed him.)

 

To all those Pogba haters comparing him to the likes of Gerrard and Lampard, I say watch his games and observe what he brings, don’t just rely on highlights and reports from biased sources.

For starters, Pogba is one of the two-footed all-time greats, with easily Alvaro Recoba’s right foot and Beckham’s left foot. He can command a wall like Oliver Kahn, and has the twinkle toes of Peter Crouch. He has Deco’s speed, Lovren’s positional sense, and Lukaku’s first touch. He glides in the field like Heskey in his pomp, but can use his upper body strength to bully midfielders almost as well as Messi does. His finishing would make Bendtner jealous and Welbeck weak at the knees. He can turn a game on its head with a moment of magic, just like Gerrard did that one time against Chelsea, and that other time against France in 2004. And when the chips are down, and he looks around and sees his teammates’ collective heads down, he can throw a strop that would make Cristiano Ronaldo proud.

In short, he is the complete player. One cannot compare him to a single player that came before him, for he is the embodiment of all that makes football glorious. He is a legend unto himself, and appreciate him for what he is, because if you’re not careful then he might be on your team, and then you’ll really see.
Niraj (0-0 on Sunday…cmon Utd) Tampa USA 

 

Pogba v Frank
As used to it as I am of your constant barrage of anti Chelsea articles, the comparison in the Mailbox in regards to Man United requiring a Gerrard and getting a Lampard when signing Pogba is an utter nonsense of Fairy tale proportions.

Let’s have the comparison once Pogba scores twenty goals a season from midfield for five seasons.

I’m hoping this letter reaches you once Lampard the manager gets his just rewards for his work and guides Chelsea to Champions league football in his first year of trying.

If that doesn’t happen then who cares considering the restraints he’s found himself operating in?

A transfer ban when the opposition is throwing money around like drunken sailors on shore leave , bringing through five youth prospects so that next season they can truly be considered serious first team options, and having experienced players like Giroud, Willian, Pedro, Alonso on the verge of leaving at the end of their contracts.

There has been some excellent football played and he’s brought smiles back to the Bridge after the dour days of the Sarri reign.

It’s not perfect, the goalkeeper has been inept his understudy barely any better and the defenders have been ludicrous at times but I’m absolutely positive that the mistakes will be eradicated when Jorginho is sold to Juventus and we buy a replacement who isn’t blown over in a stiff breeze whatever qualities he brings to the side a centre half not scared of his own shadow like Christensen and a goalkeeper who can actually keep goal.

Hoping we finish what we started
Mark Kelly

 

Keane as mustard
In response to Donp. LFC who describes Roy Keane as a player who lacked great footballing ability and who “ran about the pitch kicking opposition players” I can only conclude that you’ve never actually watched a match in which Roy Keane played?

Pretty much every player who ever played with Keane commented about how his footballing ability was often overlooked but was the best part of his game.

Keane was a (cliché alert) tough, no nonsense player, but his game was much more than simply stopping other teams from playing.

I know everyone goes to the 1999 Juve match as an example of just how good Keane was, but I think you should also look at Ireland’s 2002 World Cup qualifying performances. He led a decent Ireland team through an unbeaten qualification group, in which they stopped Netherlands from qualifying (to put that into context Netherlands reached the semis of the two Euros either side of that qualifying tournament and were 4th in the ’98 World Cup). He pretty much single handedly dragged Ireland to that World Cup.

It’s lazy to say Keane’s game was simply to run around kicking opposition players, it was much more than that. At the start of his Man United career he was a great box-to-box midfielder, then as his knees went he settled back as more of a sitting midfielder, who was still able to play in multiple positions and able to link defence and attack.

In short, Keane improved every team he was in, and surely that’s the best compliment you can pay to a footballer?
Jerry, MUFC

 

Make or break
As I look at rumours of Man United being linked to Sancho and how, according to what the papers say, it all boils down to Man United getting champions league football and if not it’s basically a deal breaker (their words not mine) I think how today is a massive sliding doors moment for Man United and probably Leceister.

It reminds me of my many championship/football manager careers where the fate of my career boils down to basically one game. If I win, adulation from the fans, war chest in the summer, and all the non cl players and players from inferior clubs are waiting to be poached for what will be a long road of success and accolades akin to pep’s Barca or Fergies’ Man United. The alternative is Europa league and the stuttering and stalling that comes with the incessant drudgery of Thursday/Sunday football. There’s no title tilt and another title will inevitably go to a lawfully immune City or disturbingly efficient Liverpool.

Ole sits right now at the precipice. A win or a draw tomorrow and he will further enshrine himself as a legend of the club, dragging a bedraggled team back to their former glory. He will be able to attract a better calibre of player and, with the financial power at Uniteds disposal,  bridge what looks like the almost insurmountable gap between us and our fated rivals. If we lose we will be forced into the purgatory of Europa league and Victor Lindelof.

The only difference between myself and Ole is there was f**k all riding on my managerial career. His could change the fortunes of a storied club reeling from the hopeless incompetence that has beset the organisation for more than a decade. In my little world of simulation manager I could save the game before the fixture and try it numerous times to make sure the right result was gotten (I know I’m sorry I am one of those guys but don’t kid yourself you have done it at least once you cretin). Ole on the other hand only has one chance.
OP, Dublin (well I suppose there’s the Europa league actually)

 

Moving in the right direction
Ok, lads, getting my end of the league conclusion in early as there’s bound to be so much controversy and bullshit after the last days play.

Personally, I think Utds post lockdown run could not have been better regardless of whether we get top 4 although i’ll be gutted if we miss out.

In the first few games after lockdown we discovered that we actually have a first XI that can challenge anyone. We have a solid(ish) defence, creative midfield and sublime striking options including goals from midfield. And, yes, we did get carried away a bit. However, the last few games has been even more important to show that we can’t rely on playing this XI into the ground (see Spurs over the last 5 years or more for conclusive evidence) and that many of our back up players just aren’t good enough. Players get injured, players get tired, other teams figure you out and sometimes you need to adjust your strategy. McTominay has been our best player across the whole season and playing him over the last few weeks would have given more stability in the middle of the park whilst keeping the others fresher – but I’ll trust Solskjaer in what he is building. We’re much better than a year ago but very far from a serious title challenge.

We still need 2 or 3 quality signings and hopefully 1 or 2 more pushing up from the youth teams for each of the next couple of years which is not an easy feat. We’re moving in the right direction but there’s still a long way to go to catch up with what Pep and Jurgen have built over a few years. And we can all be glad the post season blues is going to be a short one this year.
Jon, Cape Town (haven’t had a squeaky bum final day for a while, just got a funny feeling we might have Wolves to thank at the end of the day)

 

Dear F365,

I can understand the frustrations of some Utd fans with Solskjaer’s recent selection choices.

It’s pretty clear that he believes that even a completely knackered Greenwood, Fernandes or Rashford is more likely to pop up with a moment of magic and get a goal than the more workmanlike members of his squad.

As unsophisticated as this approach might seem, you can see where he’s coming from. Would James and Ighalo have linked up the way that Greenwood and Martial did to cut through the West Ham defence and produce the equalizer on Tuesday? My guess is no.

What’s more, all the numbers suggest that’s he’s entirely right. Man United have gained more points than every other Prem team bar City since the restart, and gone from chasing a CL spot and hoping others slipped up to having their fate in their own hands.

Then you look at the other times around them who have opted to ‘rotate players and keep them fresh’. Chelsea have gone from being 3 pts ahead to being in a dead heat on the final day with a tough game to navigate. Leicester have gone from being dead certs for 3rd to having to beat Man Utd to secure their place. Wolves, Sheffield United, Arsenal, and Spurs, all of whom had a realistic chance of CL qualification before the lockdown, are no longer in the conversation.

You could argue that Utd have had an easier run-in than most, but even this makes a case for Solskjaer’s approach. He’s taken 18 pts from a possible 24 since the restart. In the reverse fixtures against the same teams in the first half of the season, he took just 9. This was while playing the likes of James, Pereira, and Fred, and the narrative at the time was very much of a team who could compete in big games but struggled when forced to break down weaker opponents.

Yes, we could well rue the points dropped against Southampton and West Ham, but we would also be in a far worse position without the 2 points we picked up. And frankly, it’s not actually that common even at the best of times for a team anywhere in the table to achieve a 100% record over 8 or 9 games, regardless of how they approach them.

We could well lose against Leicester on Sunday, and be run ragged in the process. But even if that happens, there’s still a fairly strong argument to be made that Ole’s lack of rotation was a calculated gamble that gave us the best possible chance of reaching our goals.
Unknown J

 

Shaw thing
As a United fan, I am surprised there has not been any attention paid to what has been different in this United side for the last few games: LUKE SHAW!

While Shaw may be suspect defensively, his marauding runs down the left have been key to bringing United forward. Since he has been out, the teams are just letting AWB and Brandon take the ball on the wings without any real threat. His intelligent running behind defenders both wide and central opens up space for Rashford and Martial to operate in those channels. If Shaw is fit for Sunday, United win. If not, they are in trouble.
Hassan (HOW could you forget the De Gea penalty save in the 8-2!SHAME!)

 

Pereira thieves
Really? Is that interview with Pereira worth printing? Really?

He hasn’t been getting a game. Might not be part of their future plans. And then he chooses to opine on two Liverpool players being arrogant. And nobody at all would care what he thinks at all… unless… wait a minute… only the other day Frank Lampard, in a fit of bad temper over a free that was given against him, referred to Liverpool as arrogant…

Ah so what next? A story about some bloke who had a cup of tea on Merseyside and come to think of it… the tea lady (person) was…  a bit… arrogant… actually she was an arsehole… just like that nasty arrogant Jurgen Klopp and that horribly popular charity-helping non-drinking James Milner fella. Now that I think of it- they’re all arseholes up there… except Jordan Henderson… great professional – always liked him!
Michael, Ireland

 

A team of the year with a difference
A tweet from Bet365 got me thinking, do a team of the year one player per club. Which is pretty tricky especially when you find yourself thinking….Who’s played left back for Sheffield United? But see below, and feel free to agree, with all of it, word for word.

Pope – BUR
15 clean sheets and the bedrock of Burnleys defiance and defence. Countless saves and a push to be England’s no 1. An easy choice and easily should be his clubs poty.

Azpilicueta – CHE
Could easily have gone Trent, but picking Liverpool early seemed silly with so many standouts throughout the season. In true Garth Crooks style, I like his non-offensive hair and face, he’s played well enough and he’s Chelsea’s only good defender.

Soyuncu – LEI
Leicesters best defender during their glory phase of the season which is approaching nearly a pregnancy ago. Look at him he’s gorgeous and can quite literally kick a man when he’s down. Shithouse.

Maguire – MU
Despite his sometimes laborious turning circle the guy has manged to play every premier league game at centre half for Manchester United and has genuinely improved the defence. Which say what you like is worth 80m quid….isn’t it? Y…yes..apparently.

Digne – EVE
Last position I picked, if you don’t like it, you’re wrong and that’s fine. 7.17 on whoscored and 7 assists in 34 apps. Not great, not bad. It got hard and I’m hungover.

De Bruyne – MC
19 assists, Norwich should be easy work for him to get to 21 and break the PL record. He’s not bad either is he.

Henderson – LIV
Genuinely delighted for the bloke. The derision he got in his first season, from the journos who now vote for him to be FWA POTY and fans alike, was so harsh. He’s a top bloke and player and was an easy choice in this scenario. Captain.

Grealish – AV
Souness doesn’t like him so that’s enough for me. Regardless of Villa’s fate he’s a PL player next season and he’s been their standout player.

Ings – SOU
21 PL goals playing in that Southampton team. Why aren’t the big boys sniffing around? Only failed at Liverpool because his knee fell off. Gareth, mate, plane ticket for next summer. Cheers.

Aubameyang- ARS
A truly elite finisher and for my money second only to Lewandoski in the striker stakes. Arsenal are lucky to have him. Mikel, kidnap him and sign him up. Your job depends on it.

Traore – WOL
Didn’t want to omit him because I didn’t want to upset him. Christ on a bike those legs. That dribbling and now, the end product. A big move awaits.

Wilder – SHU
Honestly, fair play to Klopp, but Wilder has been something else. To get that team finishing in the top half of the league, not even close to relegation, with the financial landscape as it is. It shouldn’t even really be a discussion. But you know Liverpool won the league and everyone will crow about that.

Pundit of the year – Roy Keane. I’m not telling him it wasn’t.

That was fun. Thanks for reading/skimming past.
Gary, Bristol. United fan for the record. 

 

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