Mails: Man United players need a kicking

Date published: Tuesday 20th September 2016 2:07

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Nothing wrong with Jose’s ‘blast’
Am I the only one who cannot fathom the big fuss being made about Mourinho criticising a player in an interview? I am reading reports about how players are apparently furious that their manager has singled out Shaw for criticism (I know these reports could be utter nonsense).

First of all, it’s not like the time when Fergie publicly slammed his Aberdeen players just after they’d won the Scottish Cup. We had just delivered our worst performance of the season at Watford. I am sure I am not the only Utd fan who wished that Jose tore them all a new one in the dressing room after the game. Secondly, all he said was Shaw should have been closer to the opposition player. Why is that shocking? I’m sure Shaw agrees that he could have done better. Jose also knows that mentally, a lot of players are still doing Van Gaal things, but he hardly crucified Shaw!

People will say, oh Fergie never did that. But we need to move on from Fergie. He’s gone. The football world (and Man Utd) has changed a fair bit since he left. People will also say that public criticism will damage team morale. Yes, if done badly, rashly, unfairly and repeatedly. I’ve had enough of players needing mollycoddling. The team was a disgrace on Sunday and the manager is within his rights to criticise them (and I thought he used restraint). If Van Gaal, Moyes and Jose all fail with this team, then maybe the issue is the players’ attitude rather than the manager.
Monty (the biggest problems at Utd are not tactics or personnel, it’s confidence and attitude), MUFC


…Am I the only person who thinks that there has been a complete overreaction to Mourinho’s comments on Luke Shaw? I know that there is an argument you to be made about keeping such things in-house, but for a national newspaper to refer to it as a ‘brutal verbal assault’ is simply ludicrous. If anything, I felt that the criticism was valid. Shaw has a history of responding well to managerial criticism before. In 2014 Van Gaal cited his weight, he acknowledged it publically and dealt with the issue.

I’d also question the ‘mental frailty’ that another journalist mentions. Over the past year, Shaw has shown that he is anything but mentally fragile. It takes tremendous mental strength to return from such an injury, and he was never going to let fear dictate his return to football.

Maybe the above is just a result of the standard click bait that we are served up these days. As someone correctly said in this morning’s mailbox, we are jumping to conclusions after five games. I may be wrong but I think that City won their first five games last season too without conceding a goal and then it all fell to pieces. Can we just enjoy the football without spiralling off into irrelevant subplots and media driven narratives.

On a side note, is Johnny Nicholson left ‘shocked’ and ‘furious’ after Matt Stead had the audacity to do an article about a Footy Person on TV? Now that’s a tabloid article that I would read.
Conor, Drogheda


Jose can’t handle strawberries
Not to long ago I was reading an article about millennials in the west and their similarities to the strawberry generation coined by the Taiwanese in the east.

Firstly let’s defines a person from this generation.This definition from wikipedia is pretty decent:

‘Strawberry generation is a Chinese-language neologism for Taiwanese people born after 1981 who “bruise easily” like strawberries – meaning they can not withstand social pressure or work hard like their parents’ generation; the term refers to people who are insubordinate, spoiled, selfish, arrogant, and sluggish in work.

The term arises from the perception that members of this generation have grown up being overprotected by their parents and in an environment of economic prosperity, in a similar manner to how strawberries are grown in protected greenhouses and command a higher price compared to other fruits.’

My theory is basically what if Jose just doesn’t have the required skills to coach the Strawberry Footballer? His brash and abrasive methods may have got the best out of players from the previous generations but we are now living in a different time, the world is changing, culture is evolving…will he adapt or die?

Finally in regards to KC’s email, the skill that has blown me away the most is the McGeady Turn.

Anon, Malaysia (MUFC, Capoue was in my fantasy line up!)


What’s wrong with these whining players?
As a Liverpool fan my assumed reaction to the current mess at Old Trafford would be one of childish glee and shameful joy and it was but putting my Liverpool hat to one side for a moment(if one can really do that) and looking critically at what’s unfolding there at five games in you start to notice a pattern emerge. Since Ferguson left two United managers have been dispatched under a cloud of player unrest and it looks as if there’s already a campaign brewing to oust a third. Seriously, Google ‘Manchester United Player Unrest’ and insert the name of any of the last three managers.

Moyes was the first and you can understand it I suppose, caveman tactics, too small time for the job, no tangible managerial success, that Fulham game. Okay. Next Van Gaal, yes he was draconian, opaque tactics but you couldn’t say he lacked the CV or personality for the job. Still the stories of player dismay over training, tactics, player treatment came flooding through the press. Now Mourinho, one of the bluest of blue chip managers, regarded as one of the world’s best and the first piece of public criticism he gives to a player and Punxsutawney Phil predicts another long winter.

It seems to me there is something seriously rotten within a subset of this United(ha) squad. As soon as things go wrong they start to leak to the press that the players are furious/shocked/stunned. They seem content with this idea of nothing is their fault that every bad performance since Ferguson left is down to bad management. Instead of looking introspectively at their own shortcomings they look to blame others. It speaks volumes about the current culture at the club amongst the players. What’s worse is so far the club has acquiesced to players’ demands, mollycoddling them like misguided parents endlessly sacking a mob of babysitters because none of them so far would let little Wayne brush his teeth with ice cream. I will watch with great interest how this current power struggle will unfold and with who the Glazers will side.
Damien (Ferguson kept everything ‘in house’ don’t make me laugh) Quill


Why should they be ‘furious’?
RE: Six players who should be furious with Mourinho.

So this is ‘should be’, not ‘might be’, not ‘could be’, not ‘conceivably we could suggest they are’. It’s should be. Because they have been hung out to dry, I think the article is trying to get at.


1) Luke Shaw. The piece says basically because Rooney was rubbish, Luke Shaw should avoid criticism. Eh? Luke Shaw was miles out of position and rightly was called for it. In the same way as when LVG said he was too heavy, hes a big boy and he will be fine, because the manager is right.

2) Henrikh Mkhitaryan. He is injured. You can’t play when you’re injured. When he was fit, he started the biggest game of the season. He should be FURIOUS.

3) Michael Carrick. 5th choice midfielder, 35 years old, not as good as Pogba, Schneiderlin or Herrera. Can’t believe he hasn’t put a transfer request in.

4) Morgan Schneiderlin – I’ll give you this one, he deserves a chance. He will get one. Not sure he ‘should be furious’ though.

5) Matteo Darmian – Not as good in the system as Valencia, prone to injury, played in Europa League though, but wasn’t very good.

6) Bastian Schweinsteiger – Had the opportunity to leave, doesn’t want to leave, happy to plug away in the stiffs. His decision. Could have left if he was furious, but he isn’t.

I get that Man Utd and Mourinho is big news, but Jesus, this is just lazy nonsense. Shall we discuss Giroud, Ospina and Gibbs FURY at Wenger? Fabregas, Batshuayi and Mikel’s FURY at Conte? Kompany, Toure and Harts FURY at Pep?

Perhaps a football team just lost a couple of games and some players in a 25-man squad haven’t been able to get into the first 11 in the first six games and they are able to get on with their jobs without boiling over with rage? Just a thought.


Where to play Rooney…
Taking up the challenge of fitting all of United’s stars into one line-up I’d say one of the fall guys should be a wide player.

De Gea

This means Mata, Mkhitaryan and Rashford all sit on the bench, and whilst better players than two (maybe all three) of the midfielders, balance is needed and they can change games from the bench.

Rooney gets the licence to attack and track back/drop deep that seemingly can’t be taken away and a fully functioning three-man midfield should get the best out of Pogba. If not, get him off for Mata or Mkhitaryan.

Amazing really considering the money spent that the midfield is still as weak as limited as it is, and that United’s best winger is Depay, who probably doesn’t even make the bench. It’s probably that facet that will most harm the growth of Martial and Rashford as they’re forced to run the channels for the next three years.
KC (Fellaini actually is in the first XI)


…Steve in this morning’s mailbox asked what Utd team could be chosen including Rooney/Pogba/Ibra. I’m not a Utd fan but I would try something like this, in a 4-3-3 formation…

GK: De Gea

RB: Valencia
CB: Bailly
CB: Smalling
LB: Shaw

DM: Schneiderlin
CM: Herrera
CM: Pogba

RW: Rooney
LW: Martial/Rashford
ST: Ibra

Can’t see much wrong with this?
Dan, Banbury


…Steve (Diego is awesome), LA. With Rooney it’s the fact the so-called experts, old boys network and former teammates who persist with the notion he is a number ten that makes my teeth itch. When you look back at the great number tens of the past and those at the top of their game at present, Rooney just isn’t good enough. Fine he can play the position. In the same way a Sunday league striker can play the number nine position. He’s just not at the desired level required for a team with the ambitions of United. This is coupled with the feeling that we have had better options to play number ten for a number of seasons now (Kagawa, Mata and now Mkhitaryan). So, if we have to play him, I’d line up a 4-3-3 system with a midfield of Pogba, Herrera/Fellaini/Mkhitaryan & Carrick/Schneiderlin/Schweinsteiger. Then a font three of Rashford/Martial, Zlatan and Rooney.

Much like with PSG when they wanted to find a way of getting both Zlatan and Cavani in to the side, they opted for Cavani on the side of the front three. We’ve already seen Rooney have one or two good moments in a similar position against Hull and City. It would also suit both Zlatan and Pogba who have played in similar systems and allow Zlatan to drift deeper allowing Rashford to run at the defence. Obviously I’d rather see Martial and Rashford either side of Zlatan but this is the one system I could tolerate Rooney playing in for United at present.
John ‘Playing a hungry, up for it, nothing to lose lower league side is exactly the team you do not want to be playing after three losses in a row’ Morgan, Kingsbury


Just get him the f*** out
Steve from LA’s challenge is not one I am willing to partake in.

We are all very vocal about what is wrong because it is so absolutely and utterly, frustratingly wrong that we have to keep repeating ourselves. The last thing I want to do right now is to try and accommodate him into any team…apart from possibly a City or Scouse team!

Bergkamp v Newcastle still drops my jaw in amazement and the fact he also finished the move to score himself makes it probably my favourite goal of all time as well.
Plato, MUFC


Composed! Arsenal! Fan!
Can you really sign off with a ‘temporarily composed Arsenal fan’ when your shouting every sentence! You don’t need to have an exclamation mark to make every point! Or maybe you do!

I will say that I agree with him should we can put a good sequence of wins together, winning both our next two Champions League games and beating Chelski, I will also be a temporarily composed Arsenal fan.

Prediction time: Arsenal will again be the only team to beat the Champions, Man City, home and away, and will again come second.
Rob A (without money, would Utd be a bottom half team now?) AFC


Fans should not have ‘cautious optimism’
Saminho in the mailbox this morning made a number of interesting points but sadly this was undone by the use of the term ‘cautious optimism’.

As far as I can tell from your mail you are a fan of the mighty reds. Fans ordinarily support their clubs, enjoy their victories and get swept up in the excitement and occasional disappointment of results.

This is the point of being a fan.

Let the club temper fan enthusiasm with terms such as ‘cautious optimism’.

In fact I am not even sure club officials should be using the term ‘cautious optimism’. It is more suited to a politician trying to be positive about a new middle east peace initiative or the latest ceasefire in Syria not by a football fan.

I have enough dirge in my daily life not to have to be ‘cautiously optimistic’ about my football club.

I want to crash and burn with every defeat because the next win is all the sweeter.

I want to dream Istanbul dreams and a victory bus for number 19.

What’s the point of living some cautiously optimistic life as a football fan?

Add some passion to your life buddy.
H (Emre and Karius are back!)


That boy Slimani
There is a lot of early kneejerkery in the mailbox at the moment which is both amusing and boring at the same time.

I usually abhor snap judgements but allow me a slight indulgence because it is making me very excited indeed, not necessarily with what has actually happened on the pitch so far, which has been pretty good, but because of what it means for my team, Leicester, and their fortunes this season.

I am, of course, talking about our latest Algerian acquisition, Islam Slimani (£29m to Leicester?! – Clearly there is a glitch in the Matrix football programme at the moment).

The loss of N’Golo in the summer made me very sad. His value to our team allowed us to flood other areas of the pitch, leaving central midfield relatively light with just Drinkwater for company and that was the key to our success, probably the difference between finishing c.8th and our eventual position in 1st (still madness). The departure of the ‘twins’ mean that any replacement is simply not going to be able to replicate that astonishing performance. This means we really are light in the centre if we continued with 4-4-2 and we have been on the back foot for much of pre-season and the first few games.

Slimani’s arrival changes all that, and again puts us in control and allows us to dictate terms with the 4-4-2 that was so effective last year. Put simply, it means that any time we win the ball, our players now have three options to get the ball up the pitch quickly.

1) Long ball over the top to Vardy, whose lightning pace means he can win any race against a centreback. This means the defence must account for this and drop deep. But this allows us to take advantage with option:

2) Play the ball up to Slimani who has time and space and can take control (good touch for a big man, etc) and interchange with Vardy and the fast approaching wingers – Mahrez, Albrighton, Gray, Kaputska) allowing us to play 4 v 4 and scaring the beejesus out of defences on the retreat (see v Burnley at weekend).

3) So defences need to get tight to Slimani to off-set this, so any long balls can then be flicked onto Vardy running behind the last defender to draw a dangerous foul or simply run onto goal for a 1 v 1 with the keeper.

I know Peter G in his Monday mail alluded to the lack of success Slimani had with aerial duels, but give him time to get up to speed with the physicality of PL defenders. But also defenders focusing on winning duels with him higher up the pitch creates space behind for option 1 to bear fruit.

Like last year, it is crushingly simple, but could, potentially provide us with a huge amount of success. I believe Don Claudio tried this with Ulloa last season, but he simply isn’t good enough, or strong enough, or able to work hard enough for the team compared with Slimani, so that tactic was abandoned for the added nuisance value of Okazaki. It won’t always work, and a better team will still find their way through us in the inside right/left channels but it should mean some exciting matches too.

I don’t think we will reach the heights of last season, but if this tactic comes off, I think we have a good chance of top six and knockout stages of the CL. Anything remotely like that would be a staggering achievement given the resources that the big boys have spent this summer.
Rob (Love the Henderson’s Relish reference in the mailbox yesterday – that stuff is liquid gold), Leicester
Are we close to rush keepers?
So the season is up and running and people are already getting their pitch forks out.

I’m quite happy with how my team look at this point in time so would like to direct some discussion down a different path. While I was cooking some dinner last night I had the radio on in the kitchen, tuned to 5Live. I think they called it Monday Night Club or something, Danny Mills, Andy Townsend, Mark Chapman and a journalist that I forget the name of, think he was from the Times, were talking about Guardiola’s use of the goalkeeper.

I think it was Townsend that said he watched Guardiola in a recent game and 90% of his instructions from the bench were aimed at his goalkeeper. The fact that the goalie is the first playmaker in the team and dictates a good portion of play from his position. His passes dictate direction and tempo but also provides protection against the high press system that is favoured by a number of teams these days, providing a numerical advantage when being put under pressure. They didn’t spend a lot of time on this discussion but it raised an interesting question. Under Pep, will we see the goalkeeper position transform almost completely in to an effectively outfield player with gloves on?

There are numerous examples of outfield players that are competent between the sticks, and don’t forget Neuer under Pep would often be very advanced but I can imagine a time when Guardiola actually favours a ‘non-goalie’ to play the position. The amount of effective use of the ball, the extra player that provides and the reduced loss of possession, I think it’s feasible that one day we will have a ‘rush keeper’ in there.


First five games ARE important
I’m not normally one to defend media hyperbole and there surely is a lot of rubbish based on the first month of the season; but I disagree that the first five games are unimportant.

In fact I’d argue they’re the most important as they set the tone for the season and while you can’t get relegated/win the title in those first games; you sure can throw it away or at least make things much more difficult or easier for yourself.

I think this is really well illustrated by the following match-ups in terms of their pre-season expectations.

United v City (title/top 4)

West Ham v Everton (Europe)

Sunderland v Hull (avoid relegation)

In each case pre-season the sides would have had similar aims and five games in each has had a very different start. While it can all change, having points on the board and momentum going into the next 5-10 games is really important as it’s surely easier to carry on doing well than already trying to turn things around with growing pressure. Stoke are another example of this. Last season they did well, had some solid additions over the summer and yet have been utter rubbish and Mark Hughes could be gone by November if there aren’t quick improvements. At that point the season is a write-off in terms of a top 10 finish.

This is especially important when a new manager settling in. Have a poor start and by October there are already mumblings about replacing you; have a great start and you’re the best thing since sliced bread and will likely carry the good will through the rest of the season with the stability that that brings.

So while I think United and West Ham will get better (sorry Sunderland you’re rubbish under Moyes). I’d be pretty confident that Everton and City are going to have a good season and from being certain relegation fodder preseason; I feel Hull will actually be ok.
Tom Saints (Saints have been a bit rubbish too, but at least we have Europe!)


Let’s have a Barton purge
Why does this ‘footballer’ still pollute our game? What does he do exactly that cannot be done by thousands of other professional footballers?

Do clubs really need a nasty piece of sh#t playing for them.

Just get rid.
H (he will probably get some TV gig because he is ‘controversial’)


Two hours later
And he hacked one of my all time favourite players AND he thought he would make a better partnership with Stevie?

FFS the man is a moron.

H (Are there any d**k moves he hasn’t performed?)


Still love Scholes
So I admit I’m a bit of a Paul Scholes fan boy, but I can’t agree with Matt Stead.

Scholes is, and will continue to be, remembered by me as quite simply the best British footballer I have seen. Just as Shearer will always be a phenomenal goalscorer, and Henry will be cool.

Before you jump down my throat about the ‘best British footballer part’, I’m 28, so any footballer whose peak years were pre-1994 I don’t really remember.
Jack (He is a pretty crap pundit, it just doesn’t matter to me) Manchester
And Ronaldo. Don’t forget Ronaldo
To change topics from the clusterf*ck that is United, I hope everyone read that wonderful Ronaldo article in the Guardian that was linked in yesterday’s mediawatch.

He was a one-off and those videos linked in the article were a joy to watch again. I’m a bit biased as he is my favourite player of all time but the lad was just incredible. The pace, the tricks, the finishing! His career was disrupted by injury but look at what he did when fit!

‘Il Fenomeno’, some man.

Cormac, Galway


A favourite football moment…
In response to KC (maybe it’d be Suarez’ pass this weekend if Neymar had scored though, phwoar), I have to agree that that pass from Silva was absolutely different level. The technique is just so spot on that I’d have been so annoyed if Dzeko hadn’t gone on and scored.

As an Arsenal fan, I’ve been treated to some fantastic bits of skill by our guys down the years. Just last season, I remember Ozil plucking the ball from the sky at home to Southampton, and without any backlift, hit a shot after controlling it all in one movement. How Fraser Forster stopped it (he stopped everything that night!) I just don’t know. Ridiculous skill though.

However, I think my favourite piece of skill – or at least the one which I instantly remember – is the goal Big Johan Elmander scored for Bolton at Wolves back when Stu Holden pulled strings in midfield.

Holden plays a square ball, Elmander controls it, takes another touch with his left, jinks right to seemingly create space before rolling it across the defender, goes past him, controls it again and bends it bottom corner. The footwork literally takes out three blokes. It is just absolutely brilliant. What a goal – my description does it zero justice.
Joe, AFC, East Sussex


…In answer to KC, Bergkamp’s goal against Newcastle. You know, that one. I had to watch it about thirty times on replay before I could work out what he’d actually done. Sublime.
Matt Pitt


…In reply to KC and his search for the best assist:

Guti for Benzema:


Draxler for Raul:


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