Mails: Rather lose like that than win boring

Date published: Wednesday 9th December 2015 10:58

That’s more like it. Cheers Louis. Email us at


Would you? Would you really?
I will just say this, I will take this 3-2 loss over all the drab 0-0 draws we have had this season. Won’t any United Supporter?
Vatsyayan(Jai Mata Di)


I know there is likely to be a lot of reaction to Man United going out of the Champions League, but I wanted to throw my two cents in anyway, in part because I suspect my reaction will be very different than most, but I’ll get to that in a minute, first I have seen the same question come up over and over again in the Mailbox over the last couple of weeks, so I wanted to address these first.

What are Man United fans so unhappy about?  I understand why people are asking this question, but it really does grind my gears.  For roughly 20 years United pretty much owned the title, meaning the only comeback people had when they got stick from United fans was “you’re not a real football fan, you’re nothing but a glory hunter!” At the time we all explained that we loved United not because they won ALL THE TIME, but because of the way they did it, as the fan song goes “20 times 20 times Man United, and we did it the Busby Way!” Fast forward to today, and too be fair LVG is getting the results that have been asked of him, but he is not doing it the Busby way, gone is the free-flowing, attacking football, gone is the “let them score 2 because we will score 3” mentality, that is what Man United fans are upset about, which leads me back to my original point…….

So United just lost to Wolfsberg, we are out of the Champions League, and you know what, with the exception of the  3 – 1 win over Liverpool, this was the highlight of our season.  OK the result didn’t go our way, but the performance was fantastic, we threw everything we had at Wolfsberg tonight, we took a chance on some young players, nay-sayers will credit the ongoing injury crisis for Valera and Borthwick-Johnson playing, but it has to be said that Ashley Young would have been the safer option for either of those places, so credit to LVG for giving them the change, and credit to them (especially Valera) for proving him right.  Long story short, I would rather we play like we did tonight, give it everything and fail, than play it safe like we have most of the season, even if playing it safe would guarantee the title.
Niall (Attack! Attack! Attack!) Belfast


Van Gaal is Windows 95
In operating system terms, Louis Van Gaal is Windows 95, revolutionary for a PC in 1995 but not so relevant in an age of tablets and smart phones. The achievement of masterminding the great Ajax side of 1995 will always be his but what is happening at United is simply dire. The tactics, the transfer policy, breaking players in training and the refusal to adapt to name but a few.

United have no divine right to qualify in the Champions League or win trophies but we do have a divine right to be Manchester United, to play football our way. Louis Van Gaal has shown an aptitude in the past to build great sides that play attacking football but for whatever reason he seems to have forsaken that. I can’t see how he can turn that around in the remainder of the season and it is abundantly clear that the Iron Tulip is not for turning so unfortunately for him his time seems to be rapidly running out.
Parmjeet Dayal 


Louis van Moyes
Can anybody tell me what the likely reaction would have been from United fans had Moyes substituted Mata for Powell in a must win Champions League game ?
Shiraz (LVG IN), Johannesburg


Van Gaal out
I need to limit myself here because the various things I’d like to talk about would bore even myself by the time I’d got to the end of writing them down. And I love the sound of my own narrative voice.

So some simple questions instead. Is there a human being out there who can do a better job than Van Gaal is currently doing? Would such a person wish to come to manage this current set of players? Would said person get more out of these players than Van Gaal is currently doing? Would this person throw Nick Powell on needing a goal in a crucial CL game having literally ignored his presence for the other 18 months of his reign?

He was the right man at the right time but the rumoured offer of an extended contract is deeply worrying if true. As is saying *all* you need to compete for the title is one those once-in-a-generation strikers, having already spent a quarter of a billion quid in a relatively short space of time. LVG to remain for this season and then be upgraded in the summer!! Difficult to get a hashtag out of that I admit.
Adam (For the avoidance of doubt, yes, yes, yes and no) MUFC


Sigh. Should we be disappointed? Part of me is disappointed. The part that remembers when United would go into every European cup game expecting a result. But now? Thursday nights on channel 5 seems like our level. I mean, limping out in the group stages is better than getting battered by Real Madrid. Isn’t it? Is it? I mean it’s all so confusing. The abandonment of the two holding midfielders, the first time this season that a lineup looked like it had real balance and width, youth, pace, mata in the right position… Everything we’ve been hoping for, no? Except Fellaini of course.

One thing remains entirely clear throughout the confusion: LVG must go
Texas Dave


So, Louis van Gaal finds that result difficult to understand? Let me see if I can help, Louis: you f*cked up.

You failed to strengthen an already dicey defence (no one could have known Smalling was going to be so good) in the summer and that mistake has come back to haunt us; we played much of that match with one senior defender (Daley Blind does not count, now he has become the new John O’Shea) – that is not nearly good enough.

You failed to get the team playing any decent kind of attacking football until the last match (debatably), and left us needing an away win against an opponent who is very good at home. Too little, too late.

We were incredibly lucky to still have a chance of qualification tonight after our performances so far, and luckier still to be in the top four in the league, so van Gaal bemoaning our lack of luck is massively wide of the mark. First hurdle falls in Europe and the League Cup, repeatedly dropping points when our rivals slip up in the league, not being able to score for countless games; it seems the theme of this season is missed opportunities.

On that note; I seriously hope that discussions about the tenability of van Gaal’s position are going to take place because there has been nowhere near enough progress in his tenure so far to justify his continued unquestioned employment. There has to be some accountability here, especially given the amount of money he’s spent. If things don’t improve fast then our season will be over by February.
Ted, Manchester


Not a massive surprise Utd crashed out tonight. A few hopefully rational observations…

  1. Van Gaal seems to be hammering Schweinsteiger at the moment. Every time Utd had a throw in/goal kick or the CBs had the ball he sprinted into a sweepers position. That made 1 man short in midfield, made the hole team stretched. To then give a 10 yard pass, something that your defenders should be doing seems ludicrous. However I can’t believe he hasn’t been asked to do this by Van Gaal. He has marginalised good players that have left, now seems to be starting on the current squad. A trend??
  2. Blind reads the game well but is not a CB.
  3. For all the feel good factor around Lingaard there was very little genuine quality with any aspect of his game.
  4. Depay looked a threat the few times he got the ball early however in the majority the ball was so slow out to him he had 2/3 men on him otherwise.
  5. Martial looked isolated and had no space. See below.
  6. With no runners from CM, no running in behind from the wide players Utd are so easy to defend against. The lack of movement is also hampering Mata who looks so dejected. He has to  spend so long waiting and hoping for some movement. Its like asking Hamilton to win the British Grand Prix with flat tyres.
  7. Fellaini. Was decent in the air. That’s it.

The pressure is going to build massively on Van Gaal now, the style of football is just about passable with the right results. Watching last night it felt like there was no direction, no style and the players looked completely fed up. Is he losing the dressing room?

Could be an interesting few weeks ahead with the transfer window opening.
Dave , Zumerset (Concerned)


Bastian Schweinsteiger’s performance will receive much criticism from many, for the start he has made to his Man Utd career and in particular last night’s performance.

However his display in my opinion was far more a reflection on the poor tactical decisions of Louis Van Gaal. All season United have played with two holding midfielders, it didn’t seem to matter if this was against West Ham at home or Southampton away. Up until last night’s match many supporters myself included were pleading with Van Gaal to release the reigns, play one holding player and another who could venture forward – this would surely help unlock the defences that play 11 men behind the ball. Last night he seemed to listen and it was all wrong. If there was ever a match where keeping it tight, holding onto the ball and being patience for an opportunity it is an away tie in the champions league. Instead we had Fellaini starting in central midfield alongside Bastian, clearly instructed to float wide and to join the attack (looking for a direct option) our midfield took an enormous beating, sure although the second half was better when we were chasing the game, let’s not pretend for a second that we were not completely overrun in the first half – to leave one midfielder so exposed  to the rampant Germans attack was not only neglectful is the first place but almost unforgivable by the end of the match. Carrick sitting on the bench for 80 odd minutes was soul destroying to say the least…

The idea that we can play so defensively against the lesser premier league teams at home, yet when a performance of solidly is actually required we throw everything that has been worked on all season out the window is downright baffling. Thursday nights it is I suppose, can’t we just forfeit that and concentrate on the league?
Peter Crawford, Glasgow (Mata off for Nick Powell, really?)


Careful what you wish for
I guess it is a case of be careful what you wish for after last nights match. The majority of us United fans have been crying out for entertainment and attack. But that came at the sacrifice of our defense. We can see now why Van Gaal plays this “safe” style of football. Despite a massive improvement in Smallings form, they are just not up to the task against teams of a decent capability. Admittedly we did not have our full strength  defense, but with Darmian being inconsistent and our second choice centre back, Phil Jones (I guess?), I still don’t think our full strength defense is up to the challenge.

All the talk for the January transfer window has been about signing attackers but I think we need to sign a top class centre back to partner Smalling. Jones and Blind are not top class centre backs. At least with 2 strong centre backs we would have a solid core, allowing our midfielders to get involved and to start transitioning the play from defense to attack, rather than playing safely and hoping for one or two opportunities to win the match.

Last nights result was disappointing and we could argue that we were hampered by injury but some of the blame has to lie with Van Gaal and his lineup/substitutions. We went into the match needing a win. Carrick should have started. Out of the choice of 3 midfielders that were available he is the one that looks for that can provide that pivotal pass. It may not be a direct assist but he can certainly create opportunities for others. The substitutions made seemed bizarre also. I’m all for giving the youth players a chance but, Louis, pick the right moment. Granted one was forced by the Darmian injury but Young has proven himself as a capable left back and can surely whip in a cross to that giant microphone that is seen wandering the pitch. I don’t think I need to even mention the Powell for Mata sub to illustrate point.

I like Van Gaal. I am in no way calling for his head despite dropping down into the Europa League (in fact I’m looking forward to some of the possible ties, including Liverpool). But I do hope he comes to his senses with some of his decisions and I really hope he has his priorities right when it comes to the transfer window. Initially it looked like missing out on Pedro was the disaster of the transfer window, now, for me, it looks like missing out on Otamendi was the real failure.
David (Thursday night is also my night off work) Ireland


As a united fan I just wanted to write in and say that last night in terms of approach to the game was exactly what I’d been crying out for, commitment to attack, risk taking and faster build up. And we lost.

If there’s one thing to take from it then it’s that this team isn’t being prevented from reaching its full potential by Louis Van Gaal. He’s protecting them from scrutiny for their inadequacies. Put simply man for man this United squad is not good enough in attack or defence to be successful (in terms of results) in any way other than being organised and keeping the game tight.

Look at our attackers. The other top 6 clubs may take maybe 2 but it’s unlikely any would start at any other team with title ambitions. Rooney is a spent force, Mata is our most adept and Chelsea let him go (although that’s no barometer given their record of letting attackers go but all the other title chasing teams have a superior creator) and the rest our various stages of potential but not there yet. At least not at the level of for example Sterling, Silva, De Bruyne, Aguero or Özil/Sanchez

Then look at our defence. De Gea and this season’s Smalling are routinely excellent but man for man the rest are mid table fare. Could that defence really underpin a title challenge?

But consider this with LvG’s tactics the title isn’t out of the realms of possibility. He’s not stubbornly refusing to let a great team go and express itself. He’s dragging a mediocre squad to a champions league place and perhaps more.

The real question at United shouldn’t be why are we playing these tactics it should be who’s responsible for the squad building of the last 2 years because at best it’s been misguided and in reality it’s closer to negligence. The squad is below the level it should be in almost all positions. Let’s give LvG (assuming the blame lies elsewhere as if this is a squad he’s happy with he needs to go) a squad that can genuinely compete with the best in Europe and see what he does with that because at the minute I don’t see how he could do better.

Adriano, Warrington


Well the Manyoo fans wanted excitement right? That must have been quite exciting.

Not to worry though, see you in the Europa League. It will give us all something to do on Thursday nights!
Adonis Stevenson, AFC


Well at least we scored some goals.
Matt (PSV games were the real problem), Manchester


As disappointed as I am, at least that was exciting.
Paddy(varela will be this season’s Coquelin) Ireland


Is Smalling that good?
I’m sure you will be inundated with post-mortems on Manchester United’s elimination from the Champions League, but surely I can’t be the only one who sees a lack of leadership in Chris Smalling? He just seems a bit too… friendly… be regarded as a top bracket centre-half. Failed to track Naldo for Wolsburg’s first, was as equally culpable at ball-watching as any of his team-mates for their second, was caught out badly up the field in the lead-up to Draxler’s chance and stood idly by during De Gea’s rush of blood to the head and subsequent acrobatic save. I will concede that there has been a marked improvement in his consistency so far this season, but I still don’t think he is a patch on any of his predecessors, certainly in terms of leadership or barking orders when things are faltering around him. Heck, he can’t even hold a candle to his partner Daley Blind when it comes to composure on the ball and ability to play it out from the back.

Here’s a thought. Maybe the upturn in United’s fortune is as much down to the arrival of Schneiderlin as the screen in front of the back four, as opposed to solely on Smalling’s brilliance. The Frenchman may have been maligned of late for his inability to be a creative force, but there’s no denying how big a loss he was tonight. This United team conceding three goals? Who would have thunk it. In fact, the general opinion of Smalling as the best centre-back in the Premier League is an indictment to how much the League as a whole has dropped in quality over the last couple of seasons.
Brian (delighted to see Own goal back on the scoresheet again. For about two minutes), Wexford


Bugger off, United oldies
In the small chance that ex-United players are reading this mail box..


Did anyone else hear the 3 stooges on BT try to claim LVG sold Vidic?

A better team of sold players than the ones who started? When asked for names they all looked at one another confused at the fact they were being asked a question on something they had proposed but luckily one of them mumbled out Nani (going nowhere & on high wages, tearing it up in the Turkish league.. Wow), someone else blurted RVP (on the wrong side of the hill), Welbeck’s (Crocked ((shock)).. Poor guy) and then they were really stuck so one coughed up CLEVERLEY?

My word.

Blind, Schneiderlin, Herrara, Carrick are just 4 midfielders that would be ahead of him..

They seemed to have forgotten the slight injury crisis that had us playing are 3rd choice full backs, possibly 2nd choice CB, 2nd choice midfield pairing and the missing star striker who promised 20 goals this season.

Scholes is becoming a 40-year-old Victor Meldrew, Michael Owen just about managed to string a few sentences together and Rio just threw in a few nicknames. Don’t remember a single one of them providing any ideas on what United need to go next.. More than the usually  ‘create more chances’..

It’d be refreshing to see these know it all’s sat in the studio and actually provide some new specific ideas about what they’d do to change United’s fortunes.

GNev will be missed after setting such a high standard of punditry.

Merry Christmas


It’s like 2005 all over again
Last night reminded me of another bad cold December night that United experienced in the Champions League exactly 10 years ago. So in our final home game against Villarreal we ended up drawing 0-0 and then needing a win at Benfica we went and lost 2-1 after Scholesy gave us an early lead. We had finished 3rd in the previous season and then 2nd (8 points behind the leaders) in the 2005-06 season. I remember the media slating Sir Alex by saying that he was past it and that this squad would never be capable of catching up with the Chelsea teams that Mourinho had built. We had two 20 year olds called Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney on our books that season. We also had a fading captain in Roy Keane. Well what happened next was that we won the League title 3 years on the trot, won the Champions League and made it to the next final only to lose to Barcelona in Rome.

Fast forward ten years on and I can see the similarities in that squad and our current squad. We forget that this is still a period of transition. It has only been 2 years since we’ve won the league and the team has been overhauled completely. We’ll need to deal with the growing pains of this team if we want to enjoy the success that will inevitably come in the future. I don’t know if this will happen under Van Gaal or his successor but I do know that we have a spine that is set in place in this team that will be our springboard to success. Memphis and Martial are two fantastic young talents (like Rooney and Ronaldo) that just need at least a year more to settle down. Schneiderlin, Herrera and Mata can form a deadly midfield trio of strength and guile. Smalling and Jones are incredible when they do play together. Luke Shaw and Darmian as our full backs? Yes please. De Gea as our Goalkeeper. Young talent like Lingard, Perreira and Wilson coming through the ranks. I think this can only bode well for the future.

The only difference between 2005 and 2015 is the amount of media coverage that there is. Don’t listen to the media and all the naysayers. We are United and we will be back.



P*ss off, CL dropouts
As a Spurs fan who actually enjoys our minor European exploits, it irks me that we’re about to be rained on from above by clubs that couldn’t quite cut it in the elite competition. They have milked the fat cash-cow that is the Champions League and usually done so without the extreme 5000-mile round-trips that frequent the Europa League since the vast majority of teams in the CL are from the central European nations. We’ve earned our place in the next round of the EL. Why do we have to suffer the CL’s castoffs all-the-while also suffering the ignominy of knowing that they earned more money from their failures than we have from our successes?

Essentially, why do teams who failed in a “knockout” competition get a 2nd chance in someone else’s? It’s like arranging a big lavish party and when you realise that you’re not the life & soul of it, you decide to crash someone else’s.

tl;dr – Man Utd, GET OFF MY LAND!
Thom (has £¼b ever been worse spent?), Bristol-based Spur


Sturridge: Glass, boiled potato, crisps or early retirement?
So Sturridge is injured a week or so after Klopp told him he needs to play through the pain barrier. If it was Wenger you’d probably have about 53 different articles saying what a rubbish man manager he is. Because it’s Klopp though, and he smiles a lot and is a bit sweary I’m sure no blame will be attached to him whatsoever.

It should be. This is completely his fault at the busiest time of the season. He’s not the Messiah, he’s a very foolish boy.
David (fed up with the Klopp love in)


You know that winger I said we needed yesterday? Add a striker to that list.

They call him Mr Glass…

In all seriousness though, worried he might end up retiring well early at this rate.
Kris, LFC, Manchester


– The ‘Profile of an Icon’ feature continues to be superb. I read McGrath’s autobiography on recommendation by my Dad as I only ‘entered’ football in 1997. It was humbling and distressing; a tone the article follows beautifully.
– Van Gaal’s cracking up. He mentioned facts. Facts, I tell you!
– Say what you like about Rafa, but winning 8-0 twice is a pretty mean feat.
– Someone recently suggested that Sturridge is made of crisps. I would go further and suggest he’s merely boiled potato.

Have a good day!
Stu, Southampton


Sturridge is actually made of crisps. Maybe not all of him but his hamstrings at the very least.
Minty, LFC


Striking observation
After reading f365’s top 10 problems clubs must fix in January, I felt i shoul write in to comment on Chelsea’s: a lack of strikers.

After starting the season horribly in terms of play and results, i must say that play has improved(if only just a bit), but results are yet to follow. Why? No good finishers. Looking back at the Bournemouth game at the weekend, i felt we should have at least been 5 goals up by the time they had scored(i.e it should have been a consolation, NOT a winner).

Now back to Chelsea’s first choice striker(Costa), he’s probably the most predictable at what he does. Let me explain.

F365 has aptly listed the meagre clubs he has scored against. But ALL his goals this season have been “cut in and shoot”.Against Villa, he cut in from the left and shot. Against Arsenal, he cut in from the left and shot. Against Norwich, it was the same cut in and shoot(quite rather obviously). Against Bournemouth, he was not even allowed. Against Maccabi Tel Aviv, it was damn obvious that I dont blame José for getting furious at the guy. He always seems to marry the right back. Who is Cesc meant to square for? When playing with Oscar,Willian,Pedro and Eden, even El Nino would have done better. The next time we watch him, please lets observe this nonsense. I dont even want to get started on FatCow9, even Remy should be given a try out.

In January,please José get this annoying filth out the door, even if on loan.
Benhur(a frustratedly dangling Chelski fan).


Love for McGrath
Really superb article for the latest portrait of an icon.

I can’t actually comment on Paul McGrath as a player as he was before my time as a supporter. The descriptions do paint a picture of a brilliant, ahead of his time footballer, though. Would he be one of the best if he were playing now?

The assessment of addiction as an illness, rather than the addiction to a specific drug or habit being the illness, however, is just such an important point. People still demonise addicts as the standard alchy/smackhead and so on, without ever thinking about the reasons why, or what causes them to become so addicted versus the next guy who can pick it up or put it down when they want. The assessment of alcohol abuse as a symptom of addiction rather than the actual illness is so important and simply not considered by many people in the world, especially the media.

Excellent article. I can’t wait for the next.
Theo, Liverpool


I grew up in Birmingham amongst a bunch of Villa fans. Talking to them about how great McGrath was may have been the only time I ever agreed with them. He was absolutely immense.

Then I read his autobiography. And couldn’t sleep properly for weeks afterwards. Harrowing and scarcely believable. He could’ve been right there with Baresi in terms of world greats in that period if it wasn’t for his knees and booze. He was a bit like Ledley King. Except he was so much better.

Thank you for bringing back a host of schoolboy memories.
Aidan, EFC, Oxford

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