Mails: Man United flunked their first big test…

Date published: Monday 11th September 2017 11:43

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Aren’t Man United looking ominous? Wait a minute…
Woah there, now lets gets this straight: you’re telling me that the first time United face a team who AREN’T in the bottom half of the table they end up dropping points?! Well, colour me surprised!

It’s strange isnt it? In fact, it’s almost like United are not actually that good (recent Prem finishes: 6th, 5th, 4th, 7th). A team that can beat the likes of Swansea (14th), Leicester (17th) and West Ham (20th), but in their first slight test of the season at 10th placed Stoke they come up short. Who’d have thunk it?

It seems like all we’ve heard over the past few weeks is how ominous United look, how strong they are, how they are ‘back’. But the fact is, they aren’t. And they wont be. Even just four games into the season, they have already slipped up because all their rivals are still within touching distance despite having had much tougher fixtures (the type of fixtures that United themselves will likely not get any results in). Liverpool have played City and Arsenal already, City have also faced Everton, Spurs have faced Chelsea and Everton. The fact that United aren’t sitting top of the league on 12 points with a 4/5/6 point advantage over these teams already is actually quite damning.

On a forum not a million miles from here, an awful lot of United fans have been getting awfully giddy recently. I’m talking full-on, its-only-mid-August-but-we’re-going-to-win-the-league type of stuff. Apparently all it takes is Nemanja Matic and Paul Pogba to have a decent game together and suddenly United are tipped to win it all. Last season a lot of United fans kept talking about “lovely little Ander” being future captain material; on Saturday morning I genuinely saw them suggesting he was probably surplus to requirements now because, y’know, Matic and Pogba were really good in that game against West Ham (currently bottom, having lost all their games). Just for a little context here; Matic and Pogba cost United £129m. Philippe Coutinho, Emra Can, Eric Dier, Dele Alli, Christian Eriksen, Ngolo Kante, Cesc Fabregas and Fernandinho cost their clubs £127m COMBINED.

Even as a neutral I can see that this season’s United aren’t any different to last season’s United, so for their fans it must be glaringly obvious. The question is, how long will they accept it for? When you have the likes of Pogba saying after the 2-0 win over Leicester that i’ts a “game they would’ve drawn last season” (last season’s corresponding fixture: United 4 Leicester 1), aren’t they a bit offended that they’re being spoken to like idiots? When Mourinho says after the Stoke match that “only one team tried to win and the other was happy with the draw”, aren’t they rightly pointing out what a laughable and ironic comment it is? We’re firmly in Brendan “all we needed was a wee bit of luck” Rodgers territory here. Surely United fans aren’t so stupid that they can’t see through it?

Still, it’s not all bad news. They have games against Everton (15th) and Southampton (12th) and Crystal Palace (19th) coming up next. Throw in a CL win against the mighty Basel and a positive result in their League Cup game against the giants of Burton Albion, and I have no doubt whatsoever that the quadruple will be on, right lads?
Smiddy (remember when United fans used to point out whenever Wenger didn’t shake hands after a match?)


…So there we have it – the first time Manchester United play a team that isn’t guaranteed relegation fodder and they’re made to look very very ordinary. Who’d have guessed it?

Certainly not the supporters and journo hacks who’ve been blindly hyping this United side like they’re trying to excite the crowd at an early 90’s hip hop gig.

The commentator on BT Sport actually uttered the question ‘do you think Stoke are intimidated by this United side?’ Yeah I bet they’re quaking in their boots at the prospect of playing a team who deservedly finished sixth last season and who barely scraped into the Champions League. That’s the stuff of nightmares right there.

I think it’s fair to say United flunked their first big test.
N O’Reilly


Thoughts on the Manchester clubs
Ever since the season began I’ve been wanting to write narratives on both Manchester clubs in terms of their transitions from last season. Here and some thoughts after watching four game weeks (I’ve been keenly following both Manchester clubs this season apart from my beloved Chelsea)

Man United:
I can’t help but think Jose has re-created a variant of his Chelsea side of 2014-15. His summer signings and the way they’re playing now makes me wonder that way. At the end of 13-14, Chelsea had two issues to solve (a) the creative-midfield problem because in Jan 14 the robustness-midfield problem was solved by signing Matic and (b) upping the game against teams that gave us the ball. Problem (b) was the reason we didn’t win the title in 13-14. The signings of Fabregas and Costa solved both issues and we put the title in the bag. Cue 2017, Jose had to solve the robustness-midfield problem – not the creative-midfield problem (Pogba was already there). And he signs again. The Matic-Pogba (a combination Jose eyed for Chelsea in 2015) situation is similar to Matic-Fabregas, maybe marginally lacking in creativity and marginally more robust. In games where Jose wants more solidity he played Fabregas higher with Ramires slotting alongside Matic. Now, it’s Herrera and Matic and Pogba is allowed to go up and be free. The patterns are strikingly similar Where Azpilicueta played as an excellent left back to cover Hazard’s lack of defensive nous, the excellent and under-appreciated Darmian does the same to cover up any one of Rashford or Martial. Lukaku is the version of Costa (but Costa is unarguably a better center forward) who will score those goals against lower teams to kill it (another problem Jose had last season). In defense, United have better options than what Chelsea had in 14-15 (though John Terry gave amazing experience and title winning know-how) as they can play 20-40 meters higher up the pitch if need be. All in all, Mourinho is creating a variant of his title-winning team of 14-15.

Man City:
I couldn’t help but think last season “how is Pep going to adapt to the English game” against the hilarious ‘is PL ready for Pep?’ Watching City last season, it was clear that Pep realized one thing as the season wore on – PL is a league of turnovers. Massive turnovers. The number of times the ball gets turned over in midfield and from defense to attack is probably highest among all major European leagues. It’s not the physical game that alone defines the PL, rather the more subtle turnovers. How does Pep react to that and his failure last season? Build an ultimate team of turnovers. Yes. You heard me right. In my opinion, by not strengthening his traditionally favorite positions of central midfield and stocking technically brilliant but small-in-size midfield players/forwards and slotting them close to central midfield, Pep is creating a team to turn the ball faster than any other team in England. Man City are now built to pass and move faster than any of Pep’s teams over the years. With one of Yaya/Fernandinho at the center, a combination of Sane/Sterling/Silva D/Silva B/KDB ahead of them and the excellent Mendy (with the mediocre Walker) on the wings, Pep is building a crazy team that can turnover the ball anywhere in the football pitch. Where I think Pep has again made a mistake is this – lack of physical robustness in defense and midfield. Also along with his colleagues Klopp and Wenger, Pep won’t compromise on his philosophy to win a game.

My take is United are favorites for the title this season. And Chelsea will fight with United till the end. Simple reason is that Jose and Conte will do what is needed to win a game. City to finish third.
Aravind, Chelsea fan


…5-0. That is some result.

Comparing both squads, Who would you rather have?

Jesus and Aguero OR Lukaku and Rashford
Sane or Martial
De Bruyne and Silva OR Mkhitaryan and Mata
Mendy and Walker OR Darmian and Valencia

Pep definitely has the arsenal for the fight. The only question is will he get outsmarted tactically.

Sad news but it is tough to see United beat City to the title with that team.
Sudarsan Ravi


This City side looks wonderful…
Lots of talk about Liverpool in yesterday’s mailbox and understandably so, but a quick word on Manchester City. I don’t support them, in fact I’m an Everton fan, but I promise this isn’t just a reaction to the giggles of watching Liverpool get stuffed (only solace I could take from the weekend really). With all the caveats of us saying this at the same time last year, their very dodgy defense and the fact they were playing against 10 men, City really look like they have the makings of a great team. I know you can’t conclude too much after one game, but I’ve watched most of their games so far this year and while they’ve at times struggled to break down teams, the general interplay of their front six has been really so impressive and we just saw what happens when it really clicks.

In Aguero and Jesus they have a proper strike partnership forming. Both quick, skilful, deadly finishers and now starting to look for each other. Was amazing to see Aguero roll that ball across to Jesus when one-one-one for the third goal. This isn’t a criticism, but good strikers are naturally selfish in front of goal and to see that level of trust and unselfishness from a senior striker towards a young prodigy is ominous for the league. Aguero will only play in 90% of games though so I guess we don’t have to worry…

Fernandinho is so important for City and seems to be playing some of his best football. One of those players that seems to be everywhere and can provide a one-man wall for a defense that bloody needs it. Scores goals and creative to boot, gorgeous pass to Aguero for that third goal. They’ll just have to work out how to replace him every sixth game as it seems he went to the Gareth Barry academy of how to get booked every week. De Bruyne and Silva need no discussion. Just wonderful players with a range of passing that is a joy to watch and also seem to be clicking. Some mention of De Bruyne blowing a bit hot and cold, but he seems to bring it to the big games and certainly did on Saturday.

For me though, the most important difference this year is they seem to be sorting their wings out. In Mendy and Walker they have proper threatening full-backs. Mendy ran poor young Trent ragged and his delivery was so dangerous. But the key here I think is Sane. Wouldn’t surprise me if we saw him among the world’s best in a few years time, probably with a Read Madrid shirt on. Yeah he came on in a very favourable situation, but he seems to be adding maturity and much improved decision making to his existing blistering pace and skill and topped it off with two fantastic goals. That second finish was just sublime.

Okay, one quick word on Liverpool. This seemed to be an extension of the Klopp “one size fits all and if it doesn’t fit then we bloody make it fit” style of play that he was criticised for a bit last year. When it works it really effing works (hi Arsenal) but his unwillingness to use a plan B can hurt them. Liverpool were a goal and a man down, had they sat deep and tried to absorb the pressure and play on the break they would have had more of a chance, they may even have got something. But they kept pouring forward and playing with a high line. Against smaller defensive teams last year they had the problem of being caught on the break and drawing or losing marginally. Against a devastating and numerically advantaged City, they were absolutely torn apart. It’s like they didn’t know what to do when Plan A was not longer an option. If you’re listening Jürgen, Heavy Metal is great; it’s loud, energetic and gets you pumped. But sometimes people just want to listen to Neil Young.
Will Wymant (the ref didn’t ruin the game, Mane ruined the game), EFC


Klopp not all that
I saw a tweet from Richard Keys stating that Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool accumulated 138 points after 72 games while Klopp has gotten 131 points over the same number of games.

I don’t know what’s real anymore.
David Njabia


It was a pragmatic capitulation
Yes, it was a bad loss against a supposed rival. Yes, the red card isn’t an excuse for losing 5-0 (and it was most definitely a red, albeit an unfortunate one). Should Liverpool should be ashamed of waving the white flag and capitulating? Not really.

I was actually pleasantly surprised by Klopp’s pragmatism. Playing City with 10 men away from home is hard enough without being 2-0 down by half-time. Add to that the fact that we are talking about Klopp’s Liverpool here, a team that depends on counter-pressing game, defending high up the pitch with overloads and doubling up. It is a machine that is simply not built for packing the box and defending deep with a man down.

The statistical probability of salvaging anything from the match was negligible. With the biggest midweek match in three years coming up, taking off Salah and then Firmino was absolutely the right call. Romantic ideas about playing for pride be damned, it was refreshing to see this side of Klopp, a boisterous manager showing cold, hard and unpopular calculation.

Klopp and Liverpool have nothing to prove against the Top Six, they have spanked every one of them before and their season will not depend on those results. There is absolutely nothing shameful about taking a big early season loss due to mitigating circumstances, protecting your assets, preparing for the loss of Mane (which puts more pressure on Salah for the next four matches) and moving on.

This is not Arsenal we are talking about. This is not a crisis, it’s a blip in an otherwise unbeatable record “in the big games”, and will likely be repaid in kind in the corresponding fixture at Anfield.
Sid (Sevilla are going to feel the brunt of it), LFC


…I am not a fan of Liverpool but I feel compelled to write in after having to suffer through the terrible emotional mails from Liverpool fans. I do not understand why so many Liverpool fans are complaining about their team giving up after going a goal and a man down at the home of the title favourites. At that point, the odds of Liverpool getting a draw were about the same as me having a threesome with Emma Watson and Scarlett Johansson. In case you people have not noticed, there is a Champions League tie and midweek and another premier league game next Saturday. Pretty sure Klopp would not have minded conceding more if it meant two wins in the next two matches. Resting Salah makes perfect sense as he would then be fresher for the next two matches, one of which Mane is ineligible to play.

It is just one bad result, get a grip and move on.
Wayne, ManYoo, Singapore


Stooping? Really?
‘I can understand the red card but not sure it would’ve been one if Ederson hadn’t had to stoop his head to make contact, thus putting his face in line with Mane’s boot.’

Did I read that right Minty of LFC? Ederson ‘stooped’ his head to make contact with Mane’s foot? That comment on its own might seem like food for thought, but you missed a couple of crucial factors in the red card decision.

First of all, that ‘stooped’ head was at least five feet off the ground, probably six. I don’t exactly know the current urban dictionary definition of ‘stooping the head’, but I would suggest that it probably means something lower than head height.

Secondly, in a point also missed by a lot of people and especially everyone from the red side of Liverpool this weekend, there is no actual ‘high foot’ rule. You can have your foot as high as you like, like bicycle kicks for instance – as long as it is not dangerous. Dangerous play is the rule that got Mane sent off in this case. Dangerous play also doesn’t take into account the vision of the player, or ignorance of what is around him. In this specific case, with that kind of through ball in behind the defense, it is dangerous to go around throwing your raised tags at a ball 5-6 feet into the air about about 40km/h just outside the 18-yard box. If the keeper is coming for the ball, that is a dangerous situation. Sure, the keeper could have been on his line and the situation might not have happened at all, but it is the duty of the player raising his foot to check if anyone could get hurt by his actions – not the person trying to head a ball at head height.

Fun fact, if the ball was on or low to the ground and Ederson had dived head first at the ball around on oncoming Mane, it would be Ederson who would/should/could have been booked for dangerous play, for putting someone into a dangerous situation where that person could have been hurt and not checking for the all clear before doing it. Again, you are allowed to head a ball on or near the ground, but you have to check that it is not dangerous, even for yourself.

Also, I see Jose said that United “stood still” and it was an “empty period” for United while Van Gaal and Moyes was at the wheel. Someone should ask him what the club of Chelsea was doing in his last season there. There is ‘standing still’ and ’empty periods’ – and then there is the almighty slam it in reverse clusterscmuck that was Chelsea’s title defense. I would love to hear his thoughts on going backwards compared to standing still.
Aussie Dan


In Defence of De Boer
As a Palace fan who is about to criticise Steve Parish, I am duty bound to state beforehand that I am immensely grateful to him for saving us from administration in 2010 and the subsequent rise of the club under his stewardship. However, these heroic feats do not make him immune to criticism and I am concerned about the direction the club is now heading, specifically due to our current transfer policy and the impact it is having on our ability to retain managers.

Sam Allardyce and Alan Pardew were given significant funds to strengthen the side but De Boer was given £34 million, most of which was spent on Sakho who I genuinely believe wasn’t his signing and was instead something of a PR move to placate the fans for whom he has become something of a cult hero.

You don’t need to be a Palace expert to realise that Wayne Hennessey isn’t fit for purpose in a side who have designs on the top half. Nor should such a squad only possess one striker, with Connor Wickham presumably having been permanently donated to medical science. We are crying out for leadership but three of the four signings have an average age of 20.

Simply put, De Boer hasn’t been adequately backed and I am feeling distinctly uncomfortable with the manner in which he seems to have been hung out to dry in the media after a poor start in which the chairman has publicly criticised our form.

We have an infuriating tendency to wait until the last 48 hours of the transfer window to do our main business in a penny-pinching attempt to knock a couple of million off asking prices. There is little doubt in my mind that this approach costs us points every season and when you consider that each position lower down the table that we finish costs the club an extra £2 million in prize money, you have to question whether it isn’t entirely counterproductive. In fact it will look even more foolish should we go down.

It also means missing out on targets, with deals for strikers Oumar Niasse and Cenk Tosun both supposedly collapsing at the last minute by which point it was too late to look elsewhere.

There are plenty of pragmatic British managers around who could have continued Allardyce’s safety first management of the team, so why appoint an exciting foreign name with a sexy Dutch philosophy and then expect him to teach it to Scott Dann and Jason Puncheon? It’s nonsensical and unfair to the manager whose reputation is getting systematically dismantled in front of us.

It isn’t just De Boer either who has suffered a lack of support. Dougie Freedman quit when we were chasing automatic promotion in order to take over a relegation threatened Bolton citing ‘ambition’ as his reason. Tony Pulis performed a miracle to keep us up before quitting a few days before the subsequent season began. It was heavily rumoured in the press that he was upset that we wouldn’t sanction bids for the players he wanted. Big Sam quit after half a season in which he also miraculously rescued us. The fact that three of our last six managers quit rather than being fired suggests to me that it is a difficult club to work for and this latest episode will do nothing to disprove that.

With consecutive fixtures against the probable top three (City, United, Chelsea) scheduled after next weekend, it was imperative that we got off to a flying start. As it is, should we lose to Southampton next weekend it is entirely possible that we could end up with 0 points after 8 games and the board need to share culpability for that.


Weekend thoughts
* Ever since his epic disaster in the Leicester-West Ham match in April 2016, I’ve followed Jon Moss closely. In an astonishingly short time he’s become one of the best referees in English football. Rohit, Chicago cited a study showing him the most mistake-prone in the league, but that was from the 2015-16 season. Since then he’s gone from strength to strength, and it’s no surprise he was chosen to work the headline fixture this past weekend. I think he got the big call, a very difficult call, absolutely right.

* Adam Smith is still the worst handball offender in the league.

* With Abdoulaye Doucouré and Nathaniel Chalobah, Watford have the most exciting central midfield outside the top six. Doucouré can switch from defence to attack before you know it, and Chalobah is capable of anything and everything simultaneously. It’s just sheer fun.

* I hope Frank de Boer gets more time. Remember that he’s been forced to operate the last few weeks without his two best players, Wilfried Zaha and Ruben Loftus-Cheek. The side were pretty erratic at Burnley, but in the end showed a lot of heart. That certainly suggests they’re willing to play for their manager.

* Look in your football dictionary under ‘defending from the front’, and you’ll find a picture of Alexandre Lacazette.
Peter G, Pennsylvania, USA


Ten Conclusions
Man City vs Pool
What a head kick by Mane, Jon Jones would be proud. However, let’s keep it in the UFC, lads, it’s far too dangerous on a football pitch. Hoping for Edersons quick recovery. Onto the game, it was finely poised, both teams matching each other, but as intimated after the Arsenal thrashing, I still see mistakes in pool’s gameplay, and De Bryne and Aguero made them pay after one of those mistakes.

The red card ended the game as a contest, true, but the capitulation by Liverpool was remarkable. They just wiped the positive goal difference they had created in the last game. City look far from a Guardiola side, and pool had plenty of chances before the red. In conclusion, City’s games are very exciting. Liverpool themselves have to cope without their best player for three games, time for Coutinho to shine.

Arsenal vs Bournemouth
Arsenal are in complete control in this one. I quite like Lacazette. There is nothing better than a player winding up for a shot and a fan immediately knowing it’s a goal. He is what Arsenal needed since 2013, it’s just sad that they have declined so much that his effect may be minimal. Bournemouth were never a team I considered top 10 but losing to two to-six clubs is not a shame. They just need to win against the lesser sides and they should be ok.

Stoke vs Man Utd
I really wanted this result, why, it’s because I love patterns, screw statistics. United last season started with three wins, an international break, and three draws. If the can get two draws in their next two games, my obsession will be fulfilled. Stoke were well worth their point, and Choupo-Mouting (who adds a hyphen to their name, ridiculous), deserves all the praise. He did an Irma on Valencia throughout the game, and if he keeps this up, Stoke have surely have unearthed a true gem. He was unplayable. Man Utd have Jones to thank for the draw. That fall was comedy genius, it should stand right next to the Arsenal diving header. The fact that Smalling sits on the bench is an indictment on him. Rojo has no worries, because he will walk right back into the starting 11. I thought United signed some defender this summer, I may be wrong on this though.

Burnley vs Palace
Frank De Boer is gone. Four games, four defeats, zero goals. That evidence is incriminating. The goal itself was totaalvoetbal exposed. The over passing, and the keeper were all exposed. Palace can’t play this way, and really need a manager that uses the squads strength. This philosophy may have worked 20 years ago, but Dutch football is crap and this philosophy has seen its days. Time to move on. Congrats to Burnley as well, and hurried recovery for Tom Heaton.

Tottenham vs Everton
Wake me up in September must be Harry Kane’s favorite songs, and wake up he did. What a goal for the first. He is special in so many ways, I cannot even describe it. Everton with all the summer purchases look very average each passing week, the record reads WDLL. They have faced tough opponents. Yes, but the hope was that they would crack the top-six ceiling, Ain’t gonna happen. That Rooney tackle was horrendous and retrospective action is required.

Chelsea vs Leicester
The last two champions put up a show this weekend with Chelsea coming up tops. Alvaro Morata will be chasing Peter Crouch for most headed goals soon. Leicester look the most likely to break the top six in my opinion, they have faced Arsenal, Man Utd, Chelsea, and Huddlesfield, a tough start but they have narrowly lost against the top team and won against Huddlesfield. Schmeichel should hand his head in shame for the second. Vardy shows the cons how a penalty should be taken, hit it so hard that even the keeper dives away.

Southampton vs Watford
I will keep rooting for Marco Silva every week until he turns into Mourinho. He didn’t get the time he required at Hull but is making the most at Watford. Arsenal should be keeping an eye on him as Wenger’s replacement. That should properly anger the PFM crew. Southampton look like a team slowly swirling down the drain. If the philosophy was buy young, develop and the sell, why didn’t they do the same for VVDyke. Their hard stance may come back to bite them because, if players go there to develop and then move on to bigger and better things, and the club doesn’t play it’s part, then players will stop going there, it’s that simple.

Swansea vs Newcastle
What the hell is Renato Sanchez doing at Swansea. He was brilliant in his cameo, and was a class above ever other player on the pitch itself. Swansea have a solid side that should be able to stay away from relegation. Newcastle as previously stated, are a very good team, hard to beat are can hold their own. Winning when a draw is the likely result, is the making of survivors, IMHO.

Brighton vs West Brom,
There was a hint of luck on Brighton’s win. It was akin to everything going your way. Four points so far is a good return. West Brom are boring as hell, again, and Brighton deserves all credit for making this watchable.

WestHam vs Huddlesfield
They play tonight, my money is on that I’ll be tired at work on Tuesday.
Dave (Arsenal are one point behind Liverpool, what crisis?), Somewhere


Burnley thoughts
A few thoughts on the Burnley game yesterday.

Sky Sports’ preview focused 100% on the Frank De Boer situation and barely even noted that Burnley were playing. I get that it’s an interesting story, but not everyone watching is interested. Where’s the balance?

The excuse that De Boer is failing because he hasn’t been backed by transfers needs to stop. In is very first interview he talks about knowing his squad’s limitations and that it won’t work with his preferred style of football. Why is/does he keep trying then?

The game itself was like the weather. Very poor with a few bright points.

Heaton being injured is gonna hurt us. Make no mistake.

We’re barely missing Keane as Tarkowski has stepped in without missing a step.

The partnership between Vokes and Wood isn’t going to work. There was no connection whatsoever. Massive improvement with the introduction of Barnes.

Barnes is my favourite player. He constantly plays like the opposition have been texting his missus. It’s fantastic to watch. He’s not skillful but that competitive edge more than makes up for it.

We’re on seven points now. 17.5% of the way to 40 points after only four games.

Wood has won us four points by himself now. The transfer fee will be a moot point if he carries on like this.

Strange that after 60 minutes and Palace dominating (not threatening for sure) we swapped a striker for a striker. And then a midfielder for a midfielder. I’d have thought shoring up would’ve been a good idea. On another day that kind of laissez-faire attitude may cost us.

Jeffrey Schlupp and Lee Chung Yong are the weakest left flank you’ll see all season.

Palace had all the play and barely troubled us in the slightest. Can we play them every week?
Nick P. Burnley FC


And finally
Oliver D just reminded m e- Scott Parker was the FA player of the year 2011! 2nd was Joe Hart and 3rd Ashley Young.

Hahaha..made me laugh.
Brinley Sturgeon

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