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Pogba the ‘poster boy’ for Man Utd’s ‘fundamental failure’
Ugh, FFS. I hate being right about this stuff. While nothing he did specifically last night was to blame, Ole is still the orchestrator of this situation. To sound like a broken record: he’s run these players into the ground and the performances turned in since the Villa game have proved this. Yes, last night he was let down by some mind-numbing stupidity from our supposedly only world class player, World Cup winner Paul Pogba, who apparently doesn’t know that outfielders aren’t supposed to handle the ball. The apparently improved attitude from him since return has been nowhere in sight since the Southampton game and, if anything, it’s gone rapidly down hill from him since then. This is why, despite his toted technical ability, there’s probably not many United fans that would actually be sad if he wasn’t at the club any more.
But he alone wasn’t the problem last night, he was just the poster boy for a fundamental failure across the board. Only Greenwood really comes out with any real credit, while there was visible effort from Williams, Martial, Bruno, and Matic. But even still, other than Greenwood, they were all awful. Last night Ole was let down by the players, who have been garbage for several matches now. But even so, maybe they wouldn’t be if they hadn’t been either burned out or left on the sidelines and have come in out of form and fitness.
A United supporting mate said he was sick of every team we play having a worldy against us, but I haven’t seen anything like this since restart. West Ham just did the basics right: not give the ball away in stupid positions, get passes in to their teammates accurately, defend solidly and in numbers. Nothing they did was really spectacular (save for some of Rice’s shooting!) and only scored when Pogba handed them a penalty on a plate. Chelsea, equally, did not turn in a performance worthy of effusive praise, they just waited for us to screw up and profited from that.
What worries me is that this is the same situation as last year. The only thing has saved us this year, I reckon, is the fact that the players had an enforced rest during lockdown. At the end of Ole’s 12 match unbeaten run last year, we saw the same thing happening: the same plan and pretty much the same players every game, regardless of how badly it failed. After we beat PSG (our last “good” win of the season”, we lost 8, drew 2 and won just 2 games. Since we beat Villa (our last “good” win of this season), we’ve won 1 lost 2 and drawn 1. The only think I’m glad of is that there’s only one match left; if we can scrape together enough guile to stumble to a draw then we’ll just about manage to achieve one of our goals this season.
The worry is how little Solskjaer himself has progressed. You simply cannot rely on a core 11 players to start every single match at this level – it’s not possible; you have to rotate, use your squad, rest key players and keep everybody at least ticking over with gametime. Trying this approach is so small time, it’s practically non-league level management. He simply has not learned from last year and that is a massive concern. I’m just glad that there’s only one league match left, and that our players had that lockdown break; if we hadn’t, I could easily see us having finished in mid-table this season.
The one slight silver lining is that there are least 9 days or so between our last fixture and the Europa League draw, giving these players a much needed rest. Still, with the way the last 4 games have gone, and the timing of the rest of the Europa League games, I doubt it will do us much good. Obviously the squad isn’t perfect, but if Ole cannot trust any of the players that don’t feature in his preferred 11 then he either needs to get rid of them and replace them with those he does trust, or change his own attitude towards them, because this is in no way sustainable; this paths leads only to player fatigue, injury and ruin.
Man United need to sell Pogba. There. I said it. As much as Ole has killed the stories around Paul, the biggest issue with Paul is the lazy midfielder he is.
And, I am not talking about his handball. That was cowardly but can be chalked down to instinct.
All through the first half, Paul did not provide an outlet to the defence. Lindelof refused to pass to him. Maguire has it easy with Matic constantly sprinting to create distance from the nearest man to receive a pass under pressure. Lindelof kept looking at Paul jogging about with people around him and smartly kept bypassing him. Paul kept asking for the ball with zero effort but thank heavens, Victor could see the trap West Ham laid there. Pogba did not even put in efforts to sprint to build some distance from a midfielder. Every once in a while, the opposition team would be running backwards because of a threat down the wings and boom, pogba would have space. All because he was lazily jogging forwards.
Paul is marketing, barely any product and a Hollywood footballer. One or two spectacular things in a game but nothing else. The reason Bruno is loved so much is because he is constantly moving, sprinting, giving his all. You see a player play with so much intensity and awareness/creativity. Bruno is effort + desire + Genius. Paul is just a genius.
I would be surprised if he starts our final game. Playing McTominay alongside Matic would provide more of an outlet for our defence, reducing the risks. Matic, Victor and Harry adept at the cross field long ball out of defence. Accurate long passes are Paul’s strength too. But that strength is only useful when he sprints to make space for himself in a deeper midfield role.
Paul is a weakness in our team that opposition coaches target. He is easily marked out of games by simply cutting off passing lanes or man marking him. It is not easy to turn on one of your players. I would love it if Real made the same mistake we did. Pay crazy money for our Hollywood footballer.
He can go phoney it in at another club. McTominay for Paul in the key crunch match, please.
Let’s beat David de Gea with more sticks…
David De Gea distribution is pretty ordinary, his command of his box and collecting crosses ever more ordinary. He is however a tremendous shot stopper unless that shot happens to be a penalty. The amount of times he has just flopped over to the other side of the goal with barely an effort makes me wonder if he should be investigated for betting irregularities. Since 2016/17 for club and country he has faced 19 penalties and saved a grand total of 0. For comparison since 2017/18 Henderson has faced 13 penalties saving 6 of them.
Fatigue is a valid argument, despite Covid related breaks, if you havent played competitive sport in 2-3 months and you play several matches in quick succession without a break then fatigue will become a factor. Not sure why Brucey baby was spitting his dummy this morning. We’ve all lived with Trump.
In reverting to type it feels like United are reverting to playing as individuals once again, this is compounded by Ole. He is literally white knuckling his way through games at the moment, grimly hanging on to what he has in terms of scoreline and personnel. Matta, Ighalo, McTominay, Fred would have all been useful alternatives. As I watched balls go sideways backwards and back to where it came the collective consciousness was clear “you try something, you sort this out”. Meanwhile Ole is on the touchline looking like a little boy lost in a supermarket, frozen to the spot hoping that mummy will find him. Hoping despite the evidence that somebody will find a moment of inspiration.
First time watching Bowen and Johnson, both look fine players. Williams stuck to his task but ultimately got a bit of a mauling off Bowen. Got to give Moyes credit for finding balance in that West Ham midfield, loved the performance of Rice.
The Ooooo’s and Ahhhhh’s of Gary Neville are the stuff of nightmares.
Liverpool are the best team in England by a country mile
Genuinely though, before I dissect the tippy tappiness of the Hendo shuffle (it’s coming up), what a game. Liverpool did it all; we did the utterly dominant in big games, we did the mad bastard you attack then we’ll attack heavy weight boxing when you’re zonked in the twelfth round, then at 4-3 the lads woke up and remembered they’d rather win the game and just shut it all down. Curtis did brilliantly for the goal but he also tracked Pulisic out of the game once it got to 4-3. Lots of people will see it how they want but make no mistake; Liverpool are the best team in England by a country mile.
And Chelsea and Man City will spend to catch up, as I’m sure Man Utd will this summer. But Chelsea and Man Utd have a long way to go and Man City have to reckon with losing another massive dressing room influence in Silva this summer. I speculated a year ago in this very mailbox that they would miss Kompany and 9 league defeats later I feel somewhat vindicated. I don’t think it’s Pep’s fault; I just don’t think it’s that easy to find the players who create that winning core. Terry/Lampard/Drogba at Chelsea or Neville/Giggs at Utd; those ever present types who don’t allow the standard to drop and demand the respect of everyone else in the dressing room. We have Alisson/VVD/Hendo now but I’m not sure who else in the league can boast a core like ours. From experience I have seen that attackers win you plaudits but rarely win you league titles.
And now finally, the time has come. I didn’t expect myself to cheer until I was cheering. I didn’t entirely expect to take my shirt off until I was stood there, beating my chest like Tarzan as my new wife came into the living room, saw me and quickly turned around and went to bed. Many will draw their asterisks and make feeble arguments about points totals but the simple truth is that this team has won everything that really matters. English and European champions.
I loved the way that Souness was humbled enough to tell VVD what a great player he is. I loved the way Carra was possibly more drunk than any of the players by the time he declared his love for Mané. But Henderson is just glorious. There’s something special about having a captain who is so humble. He gives up his own instincts for the good of the team in virtually every game and for that he’s constantly maligned and his quality is constantly questioned by fans and rivals alike. Thankfully the man in charge has worked with some of the best footballers to have played the game in the past decade and knows quality when he sees it. Henderson is the story we all love; the underdog who achieves his dreams through sheer hard work and self belief. But between those two things many neglect just how talented he is. Is he Fabinho as a 6? Not quite. Or Gerrard as an 8? Obviously not. But the beauty of the man is that he allows everyone else around him to be the best versions of themselves. Many who don’t see him regularly will never appreciate him until he’s gone.
You could tell his knee wasn’t quite up to it tonight. It was quite a quick turn and lift. He let the suspense build beautifully for big ears but perhaps that’s also the impact of the empty stadium. In fairness I have a feeling that the fans will demand this trophy is lifted properly once they can get back into Anfield so hopefully by then he will have had a chance to think about it and get in front of the video analysis to make sure he gets it just perfect the second time around. Or maybe instead he’ll just go and win it again next year. Write him, and this team, off at your peril. They’re the fucking mentality monsters as if you didn’t know.
Staying at the top
There is saying in my clime, getting to the top is hard, staying put at the top is harder. Liverpool has gotten to the top, there is a window of opportunity to stay there for some years, if there is anything this crop of players have shown, is that building a cohesive unit takes times (roughly 5 years for liverpool).
With Chelsea spending big, but not fixing the back line and Kepa losing form if he ever had one, I don’t see them challenging for the title next season unless a miracle happens.
Arsenal and Arteta have a job on their hands, is not just getting the right players but changing a mentality of being satisfied with mediocrity…
Man U are a curious case, they seem to have the players, but Ole doesn’t seem to know what to do with them,I envy their front three, they have been a revelation post Covid 19, but you can’t challenge with that defence.
Pep and Man City, are going to be challenging next season, but with a cheque book and replacing the spine of an already great team, if Rodri steps into Fernandinho shows and Jesus finally takes to the limelight with a couple of defensive upgrades, they will be pushing Liverpool all the way again.
Liverpool ain’t going to spend big, that’s already plain, that’s not a bad thing in itself, but they need valuable squad players, a cover at left back, a creative midfielder and Naby finally coming good we do us a lot of good. I hope the team has not peaked though, it would be a shame… Klopp has a job on his hands and if he can get a great Centre Back then we might be good for next season, our winning of the title was built on a great defence and wonderful full backs and no team in the top six has that yet.
Douglas, Lagos LFC (BTW first mail)
In fairness to Moyes…
While I was 100% behind the decision to sack the useless Manuel Pellegrini (he lost 9 matches in 12, you cannot make a case for him keeping his job), the decision to re-appoint Moyes obviously was baffling. But now that the season is concluded I think it’s worth assessing where we are as a club now.
He’s got us safe. We could end with 40 points if we beat Villa on Sunday. 40 points on the surface doesn’t sound remarkable but the team was truly in freefall. Since the restart we’ve played 8 games. These have brought 2-0 losses to Wolves & Spurs (better teams than us have fared worse) and a 1-0 to Burnley (always infuriating, the absolute shithouses), 2 draws against Newcastle and United (could have won either but poor defending was the reason for the Newcastle draw so not ideal) and 3 wins. 11 points from 24.
There have obviously been brainfart moments (it’s West Ham) in the last 8 games, but there have also been matches which have shown great mental strength. The Chelsea game with the VAR moment could have ended us but we won 3-2. Norwich we beat 4-0 – yeah they’re awful, but as bad as they are, our win was the joint heaviest defeat they’ve suffered this season. At an incredibly tense time of the season, that shows mental strength. Then the Watford game. Again, Watford are poor, but in a 6000 pointer as it was, to race ahead to a 3-0 lead inside 40 mins shows confidence and mental strength that I wouldn’t associate with a West Ham side.
Wolves, Spurs, Chelsea, Newcastle, Burnley, Norwich, Watford & Utd are a decent cross-section of the league. 11 points from those 8 games is definitely encouraging for next season.
Most pleasingly, for the first time in a long time, as a fan I at least know how we’re aiming to play and we seem to have a manager that knows what type of player fits into his system. It’s not exactly Barcelona 08/09, but it’s a plan nonetheless. The players are showing drive, effort and intelligence (at the moment). Promising signs for next season. But Maybe I’ll be back here in 4 months slagging them all off.
Just my two-penny’s worth. Thought it may be nice for your mailbox readers to read about our performances against Chelsea and United from an us-playing-well perspective, instead of centring everything around them FOR A CHANGE!
Sam – cautiously optimistic West Ham fan (Man United aren’t owed success, Liverpool are going to overtake you)
Just wanted to point out how excited I was to see Ben Johnson playing for West Ham last night.
Not cos he looked a prospect but because we are a step closer to having an England side that presents the opportunity for the commentator to announce ‘The centre backs Holding the full backs Johnson’.
A foot like a traction engine
There’s plenty to discuss at the moment, but there’s one question I’ve wanted answering for years, and was reminded of it after watching Mason Greenwood absolutely leather a football once again.
That is – why can a select group of footballers hit the ball so much harder (due to a total lack of backlift, I think) than all their peers? I’m thinking Hasselbaink, De Bruyne and Defoe, off the top of my head, although there will be other obvious additions. There are relatively few players I’ve seen who can regularly hit the ball completely sweetly, to the point that the shot is nestling in the bottom corner before anyone’s moved. I can understand the physics, but why does it appear to not be a skill that any player can pick up, even after thousands of hours of training? I’m not saying it’s easy – I can’t do it, but then again I’m not a professional footballer, or even a good amateur footballer. Does it require a combination of innate abilities such as timing and balance that most people just don’t possess? Two sets of knees?
Interestingly, Ronaldo (C.) created a similar effect with his free-kick technique, but that uses an alternative method to the conventional way of booting a ball.
Dan, (looking forward to discovering The Secret of Football and becoming a pro player at the age of 36) Hassocks
An average season…
I’m a bit late to the party but Adeel’s impassioned defence of Manchester United’s defence the other day is a lesson in how to abuse statistics that is worth righting. I know he magnanimously apologised for his tenor, so consider this more a polite refutation of his methodology.
When comparing a defensive record to prior seasons, it really doesn’t do to simply take the position as it stands after 36 games and compare to other full seasons. Similarly, one, when comparing, shouldn’t ignore comparable performance (i.e. the same number of goals conceded) and only look at better performance. Let me repeat the exercise with Manchester United having conceded 36 goals, and consider how many other teams have done the same or better in each previous season. With Leicester still to come, I also note teams that have conceded slightly more goals, so as to review after that game.
Number of teams to have conceded 36 goals or less by season:
2018-19: 2 (two teams on 39)
2017-18: 3 (two on 38, one on 39)
2016-17: 3 (one on 39)
2014-15: 3 (one on 37, one on 38)
2013-14: 1 (one on 37, one on 39)
2012-13: 1 (one on 37, one on 39)
2010-11: 2 (one on 37)
2009-10: 3 (one on 39)
2008-09: 4 (two on 37)
2005-06: 4 (one on 38)
Average: 3 (also three others this season). If United concede one against Leicester the average is 3.5. So the 3rd – 4th best record for a team likely to finish 3rd or 4th. This is par for the course.
If we instead look at points, United’s maximum points total of 66 (assuming a win against Leicester) would be good for an average of 5th place, and only good for a top four place once in that period, way back in 2004-05 (and in 2015-16 only if United improve their goal difference by at least three goals against Leicester). It’s been an average season only bailed out by weak performances of contemporaries after the unfortunate lockdown. Asterisk, anyone?
I’m not upset…
Woke up this morning and skimmed all my usual websites to bask In the glory of last night but I was saving the best til last or so I thought.
What would it be? 16 conclusions perhaps, a Sarah Winterburn article on Liverpool’s journey, Matt Stead writing about the challenges to come, a F365 says at the very least.
No, it is United’s quest to renter the top four that takes the headline article the morning after Liverpool end their 30 year wait. I know, I know the articles will come later, I know the game and celebrations were late last night. I know it’s absurd to criticise writers of a free website for not staying up all night writing articles to keep me happy.
But the truth is I’m not upset. The articles have already been written on this wonderful team and manager. More will be written and that is good too. United’s struggle to regain entry into the top four is in a way more interesting than Liverpool’s title win. And that for me makes it even better.
For years Liverpool have been the underachievers whose greatest success many years was winning the newspaper column inches trophy. I’m happy to let that one go.
Now I watch football for the football. Not what I want it to be, not for the four more players we need next year or what the manager is doing wrong or what rival fans have said to criticise my team.
None of that matters anymore. What matters is this manager, this team, this feeling (joy, euphoria, bliss) and anticipating what may come…who knows maybe even a headline article at some point today.
Frank Lampard warns against arrogance, this team is trained in humility.
The coming season…
So, boys and girls, do you really think you have the cojones? Now you will know what hell is like. Here’s a hot take for the coming season. The reason I say this to you is other than City, there will be no other competitor for the Premier League. Liverpool will do it again. Pep will recruit well, being a great manager and having near unlimited resources, but Mr. Klopp will go one better. Chelsea and United will probably chase fourth;with their respective keeper and backline, either could finish as low as sixth, and let’s be realistic; that could happen. I think Wolves could be gatecrashers, and Leeds(Who I’ve had a soft spot for)finish in the top 10 with Mr. Bielsa at the helm. Football is back, and I look forward to next season. Stay safe, lads & girls
Culk the Elder
Footballers are human beings…
Good to see so many sports scientists in the mailbox these days with ludicrous suggestions that players shouldn’t be tired after playing *checks notes* 10 matches in 33 days. Can we all say this together slowly: Footballers are human beings! They have limits. Specifically for United we have played our strongest team in the majority of the games, when we have rotated in the FA cup it hasn’t worked out having to bring on the big guns against Norwich and Chelsea. As Ole is pushing for that top fourth they now sit *checks notes* in Third after some fantastic football at the beginning of the restart. That has clearly taken a toll on the players it isn’t easy to go up to the level of pressing game from where we were in the first three quarters of the season where we played more of a counter attacking tactic.
It took Klopp two and a half years to get his team to the level of consistency to suit his pressing style which is clearly so effective. The 100 day break one commenter mentioned was not a break at all as the united players were instructed to keep their fitness levels as high as possible and this was evident at the beginning of the restart as we were clearly in a better physical condition than the teams we played around that time.
Playing two games a week in a norm for teams playing in Europe however not in 5 consecutive weeks. If you can point to an example where a team has played 10 games in little more than a month at any other time I am open to being corrected. However this certainly does not occur during the business end of the campaign when trophies and European qualification is won or lost.
I work in an office job so little to no physical activity during my working hours, but there are plenty of days where I feel drained after a long day at work. A footballers work days isn’t just kicking a ball about for a few hours getting lunch and doing some gym work. They have their own technical analysis, tactical meetings, opposition analysis and all has to crammed in now to a two/three day period never mind needing rest and recovery after matches. Perhaps people don’t realise what goes on behind the scenes at the teams they watch. I saw a very interesting video on Facebook of a day in the life of Billy Gilmour in 2017 just after he had signed for Chelsea and playing in the youth squad and it was quite eye opening what even the youth players have to do day in day out.
Dan MUFC, Belfast
Mikey CFC feels sorry for Luis Enrique having too choose between Kepa Arrizebelaga and David de Gea. Of course Enrique could avoid such a dilemma by picking the most impressive Spanish goalkeeper in the Premier League this season: Vicente Guaita.
There’s no need for that, Bruce…
Hopefully you’ll get a few of these.
Bruce Connors, if you don’t like it, don’t read it. And moreover, what gives you the right to address people like that?!
@F365, keep on writing the opinion pieces, we might not always agree, but that’s half the fun, right?
Circling the drain…
So there’s the answer: Become a millionaire and it becomes infeasible for you to fall foul of tiredness! And if you happen to be a fatigue-free millionaire due to your sporting endeavour, a three month break without the usual training intensity and conditioning can only serve to make you even less tired when your team suddenly has 10 games in 35 days. Perhaps this is why the richest clubs dominate domestic competition – because their players are on higher salaries and don’t get tired like lower wage bracket personnel! Anyone seen Cristiano Ronaldo taking a catnap lately? No?! Thought not, he’s loaded and doesn’t need to deal in shut-eye like the rest of us less moneyed mere mortals.
Can we please all just accept the simple concept that the intensity of professional football is such that up to 15 hours of play in just over a month (as well as daily training) might cause weariness/lower standards of performance? And that no amount of remuneration can defeat physics? Humanity has suffered terribly and is continuing to suffer during this awful pandemic, and, yes, footballers do get paid a lot of money, but conflating the two issues in this instance is unnecessary and unhealthy (that said, looking at invoking greater equality in the world in general would certainly be a sensible and necessary conversation).
Incidentally, Bruce, was the ‘circling the drain’ quip an incredible double-entendre pertaining to F365’s highlighting of Manchester United’s exhaustion? If so, that’s absolutely marvellous.
AC in Milan
Football after the restart…
It’s almost over lets see how well it’s gone
First of all those who didn’t bother
Belgium – right call the champs and relegation were clear no need to just play the one final round and it might force them to rethink the convoluted playoffs
France/Scotland -They could have finished,sure the champs were clear ,but some of the other positions, would have been bey settled, beyond dispute ,instead of the threats of litigations ,that have been going on.
Dutch – There’s an asterisk ,where there could have been,a proper title race. .,Aklmaar were denied a once in a generation opportunity to at least challenge for the title.
Those that restarted
England (EPL/Premiership) – If your on this site, you know how it’s gone , it’s been riveting ,and as expected Liverpool needed it probably less than everyone else, with almost every match ,being high stakes for at least one of the teams involved.There’s one round left and the table looks like it could still twist any number of ways by 6:30 on Sunday
Championship – If we had cancelled, and just awarded to the initial top 2 , We would have missed ,out on the spectacle of a last day mexican stand-off between WBA ,Brentford (who had a hell of a run) and Fulham ,Nottinghams capitulation and I haven’t even mentioned, the relegation drama.
Germany – First to start and was hitch free Bayern pulled away and were clear winners, in the end.We grew even fonder of Erling Haaland.
Spain – If we hadn’t restarted maybe Barca,would have won another title , Instead the title has been ,won by their arch rivals , Barca’s cracks now seem clearer and Setien seems unlikely to stay.
Italy _This was supposed to be close ,instead Lazio and Inter have faded so badly that Atalanta are now the most likely team to finish runner up.
Turkey – Erdogan’s boys did itn on the field benefiting from economic turmoil at the big 3.
Portugal Congrats to Porto on a first title in a while.
Is Martin Tyler past it?
This is probably going to prove to be an unpopular opinion, but does anyone else feel like Martin Tyler is a bit, erm… past his prime – as a commentator?
To set the record straight, I’ve always been a huge fan of his. His voice is intrinsically linked to my experiences of football as a child. It meant that the weekend was finally here and I was ready to sit down for a lazy but excellent and uninterrupted afternoon of entertainment. It would put me in the zone.
And yes, the biggest moments in premier league history were immortalised just by the way he described and celebrated them for us with his voice. I even really like, what I know of, Martin Tyler the person. He seems like a really nice down to earth guy. I remember a piece on this site where you deep-dived into football pundits and I learnt a whole lot more about him.
But I can’t help but feel like this is part of the problem now. He seems to be part of the furniture at Sky. As if they’re just waiting for something big to happen in a game so that they can get something soundbite worthy to replay. Because (and again I’m not trying to be rude) the rest of his commentary is extraordinarily rambly. It’s dullsville. Almost sleep inducing at times.
I usually read some of his articles on sky sports where he talks up various stats and milestones, but my god. Actually listening to him rattle off unrelated facts, chuckle about them with Carra and Nev, continually reference their quiz nights. It’s almost as if the very act of commentating is just an exercise in reminiscing over the microphone until the ball flies in the net and gets him excited. It reminds me of my Dad after he puts on his coat to leave, then spends the next 25 minutes monologuing at the door about things he needs to do on his journey home as I nod my head politely and look at my watch.
Look. There’s nothing wrong with not being at your best anymore. We watch all the footballers go through it. I’m just saying I don’t think the commentators are immune either. I find most of the other commentators far more interesting to listen to nowadays.
Am I the only one who feels this way? Or does Martin still provide the comfort blanket that everyone needs to enjoy football on Sky?
Ryan C, LFC (Also we got the trophy. Yay!)