Mails: When does United sympathy start?

Date published: Thursday 18th February 2016 3:02

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How to change the FA Cup…
Either the League Cup goes altogether or the FA Cup incorporates the following changes:

– All rounds up to and including the third round maintain the current status quo.

– Replays are scrapped from the fifth round onwards.

– From the fourth round, seed it based on current league Status.

– With a two-league gap minimum, the lower-placed team gets to choose whether they play the tie home or away. Tie is played as drawn if the league status of the clubs is identical or concurrent in the pyramid.

– Midweek kick-offs from the quarter-finals onwards.

– Semi-finals played at largest neutral and available stadium closest to teams, so no one plays at Wembley until the final. Logistics will obviously play its part here, but I don’t see why the semis have to be played at Wembley when they can easily be played elsewhere in London (if they have to remain close to the capital). The FA shouldn’t have overpaid on a mediocre Wembley if it meant messing with that part of The Cup.

– Saturday evening kick-off for the final to maximise viewing figures. As much as I’d like to see a return to the traditional 3pm start, I think that ship has sailed.


Just have fun, Foxes and Spurs
Having listened to Spurs and Leicester fans talk about how they can’t believe they’re in with a genuine shout of winning the Prem and don’t know how to react, my advice, while unsolicited, is simple; bloody well enjoy it.

I’m a 39-yr-old, (realistic) Liverpool fan and I spent the last weeks of our recent ‘nearly’ season refusing to even consider the idea that we actually might win it. This meant I deliberately tried to control my emotions, didn’t get delirious when we won another game, told my mates it wouldn’t happen, we would blow it somehow etc. And when we did blow it, I had nothing, not even then memory of really believing we could and all the excitement that would have brought.

So, enjoy it, God knows when it might happen again.
Phil, LFC


Losing interest in Europe (unless it’s my team)
I found this morning’s article by Daniel Storey about the Champions League very interesting. I’m one of those fans that in recent times has lost interest in Champions League fixtures, to the extent that I don’t keep up with when each round is starting or what channel it’s on.

I don’t know why – other than getting older forces you to prioritise your time a bit differently. If Spurs were in the competition I’d watch all their games, but would probably still skip most of the rest barring one or two teams.

I do disagree though with the idea that this strengthens the big clubs’ argument for a European Super League. If anything I’d be even less interested in that, where all that’s at stake in each game is three points (presumably) instead of a knock-out.

Unnecessary fourth paragraph – fellow Spurs fan Olly made a good argument for excluding Premier League sides from the League Cup. Sadly though it’s the best chance of a trophy for lower Prem sides, so would seem a bit harsh on them if they couldn’t enter.
Ohio Joe (Spurs), London


Blaming Ed, Louis and Wayne…
The United captain, the man who should lead by example, was injured/got injured during a must-win game (considering the top four playing each other). He proceeded to play the whole game injured, meaning the only striker playing against a defensive team could not be playing 100% in a must-win game. Even at 1-1 he doesn’t signal to the bench he is injured and should leave the pitch to make one for more working legs.

Now China want this player…take him…

Also Louie opting for a ‘small squad’ to give the youth a chance when questioned about the striker situation…now we have Martial (great but not proven goalscorer yet) and Keane (read F365 article to find out more). Not proven RVP, the beautiful Hernandez or the delightfully young and exciting Wilson.

Also the full-back situation in which we are down to our fifth-choice RB (Darmian, Jones, Valencia, Varela) and 4th/5th choice LB (Shaw, Rojo, Young, B-Jackson). As soon as Schneiderlin is out United will be looking at a weak young unused team.

Bad managing for not preparing, bad captain not stepping down for the greater good and Ed overseeing it.


When does the Man United sympathy start?
It has been a depressing few seasons for us poor, put upon and entitled United supporters but the below statement regarding Rooney must surely rank amongst the most depressing nonsense I have read.

“M.E.N. Sport understands United would need to offset his potential departure with an eminent replacement their global partners would approve of to promote their products.”

I just don’t know where to start other than to get a season ticket for Ramsbottom United and have done with it.

This surely must be the tipping point where we turn from figures of fun to figures worthy of the wider football world’s sympathy.
Plato, MUFC


Would Koeman want the Man United job?
Ian, Offaly, Ireland
– have you asked yourself whether Koeman would actually want to take control at Old Trafford? The management job at Manchester United isn’t as attractive as it once was, and this must be difficult for supporters of the club to accept.

A new manager would inherit a weak and shallow squad still in need of overhaul. Whilst Van Gaal’s ‘plan’ of blooding youngsters in commendable, sadly the majority don’t look up to the standard of competing at the top of the Premier League, let alone the Champions League. Talking of the old CL, there is no guarantee that the club will even be in the competition next year. Heck, Southampton probably have a better chance of reaching fourth spot – one point behind in the league table and in much better form.

Admittedly, I feel very defensive when people talk about poaching our managers (oh, I’m a Saints fan) as it’s a sore and open wound, but only Pochettino has actually left the club whilst being under contract in the last ten years. The last manager to do so before him was old turkey-face himself, ‘Arry Redknapp. Having said this, I genuinely struggle to see why Koeman would go to Man Utd at this point in time unless he is a money grabbing such and such. The footballing reasons don’t make sense.

This also probably explains why the two managers being touted as favourites in the media are an unemployed passive-aggressive megalomaniac and an inexperienced man who cuckolds his own brother.
Harry, (We’ll take Fellaini if you leave us Koeman).


Are United playing Jose?
Almost every media outlet has recently run a story asking why United haven’t yet given Louis van Gaal the boot and hired José. My own opinion is that the board don’t want him, and are frantically searching for someone to agree to step in in the summer, but lets just suppose that Mourinho is their first choice for a second.

If United had sacked LvG after one of the recent defeats and gone running to José, they essentially put the bargaining power in his hands. He (of course) agrees to take the job, but he does so from the position of strength – United are desperate so JM can force them to agree that everything is done on HIS terms – so no pressure to play Youth players, no pressure to play attacking football, just get that damn Champions League place. There’s no get-out clause for United short of the Abramovic-esque huge payoff.

If United keep Mr. Mourinho waiting, they keep the power. They can point out (whether or not its true) that they’ve got other options, and if he really wants this gig he has to do it their way. They can insert performance-related clauses into his contract and force him to play their game, rather than the other way round.

If I’m right, Mourinho’s poker face is pretty poor…
Alex, Leeds


Feeling a little Chile
Long-time listener, first-time caller, and all that stuff.

I want to throw a name in the hat for the United job that seems to have passed everybody by. He has been nominated for FIFA World Coach of the Year, won national, continental and international competitions, AND been praised for his attacking style of play. On top of that, the guy is unemployed!

I give you…Jorge Sampaoli – who having won Chile’s first Copa America has left the job without anything lined up (as far as I am aware).

He’s like a hipster version of Guardiola.
Rob, Netherlands (Genuinely, genuinely excited that Spurs might get over their Spursyness and win the treble!)


Rooney will play like hungover fish at Euros
If England ever had a shot at winning Euro 2016, I believe it just sailed into the sunset with news of Wayne Rooney’s injury. That’s not necessarily because I think he’s wonderful. I think he’s a good player, and there’s no doubting his importance to England. He has 51 goals. In the most recent England squad, the people with the second highest number of goals were Cahill and Kane (three).

No, the problem is that we’ve been here before, and it has failed every single time. Rooney comes back from injury in April or May, plays anywhere between zero and six games in the run up to the tournament, and plays like a hungover fish.

Barring further injury, he’s going to play, and he’s very probably going to fail. I don’t think Roy has the balls on him to turn to Rooney and say ‘Sorry Wayne, but you’ve only looked 80% fit in training. Sit this one out, champ.’

I have no issue with a fit Wayne Rooney leading England out in the summer. However, Wayne has shown us time and again that he needs to be somewhere close to 100% to do a credible job. We might as well stick Sturridge and Welbeck up front with him, and Wilshere in midfield.

Sigh…it’s all so inevitable.
Andy, London


Oh Danny boy…
Danny Welbeck returns from injury to score a crucial last-minute winner for Arsenal in the title race, in the same week as Rooney, on whom van Gaal has depended staying fit as his only striker, is injured for two months.

Football has a glorious sense of humour.
Chris MUFC


Leicester deserve the title, says Gunner
OK…I’m gonna say it and will get slaughtered for it by fellow Gooners but here goes. Personally I think Leicester thoroughly deserve to win the league. I have no problem with the way they played on Sunday including pushing the boundaries as far as the referee would allow them to. I have no problem that they adopted a ‘rugged’ or ‘pragmatic’ approach to the game. They have been consistent all season losing only one game (excluding the Arsenal fixtures) and been thoroughly entertaining.

If my team had their attitude we’d have the league sewn up! Whereas we can pick up only a single point form away fixtures against West Brom, Norwich and Southampton and with a -5 GD to boot. Hardly deserving of a title don’t you agree?

If I do have one gripe it is with referees and their total inability to find any level of consistency and the media don’t help with their fence sitting ‘I can see why he gave that’ comments! When Vardy ‘engineers’ contact to claim a penalty, it is ‘clever play’. When Pires used to do it he was branded a ‘cheat’. Then there is the handball incident where the ball was blocked by the Leicester defender’s forearm. Whether it was deliberate/ball to hand etc. is not my point…but when compared directly to the one that was given against Sterling up at City, then it was a stone waller! Finally, why do referees go blind when a defender virtually pulls the shirt from the attacker’s back in the box, yet sees the slightest of nudges in the other direction?

Anyway, having suffered Atkinson and Clattenburg last weekend, someone has a sense of humour as I see the most incompetent (some believe corrupt) official of the lot (Mike Dean) has been given the Arsenal/Hull cup tie. Start placing your bets on which Arsenal players gets sent off now everyone.
Chris (exiled in Brighton) C


It’s not all about you, Arsenal
Arsenal fans have a point – and I agree it is really annoying when sides just come to kick you (as an Everton fan, it’s something teams have done consistently to us for the last two seasons, once they realised it really throws us).

The problem is that maybe because of your manager or maybe just in the kind of grimly inevitable corner backing that all football fans are sometimes guilty of, the outrage is just out of all proportion to what’s going on here.

Let me put it this way: two seasons ago, Everton and Arsenal drew in a game at the Emirates. It was a great match and both sides really probably could have argued they deserved the win. As it happens, Arsenal committed more fouls in the course of the game, but Everton got a pretty harsh booking (Barkley, I think).

At the end of it, Wenger claimed sides like to come to the Emirates and ‘physically intimidate’ Arsenal. And that’s the problem. Because no-one had been ‘physically intimidated’. There had been an open, flowing game, in which like I say, Arsenal actually committed more fouls. The danger is that if you always believe the excuse trotted out by your manager, you’re going to believe that the world is against you.

Arsenal are not unfairly treated by anyone – at least no more so (in fact less so than most) than the league’s 19 other sides. Yes, there are some dodgy old tackles flying in here and there, and yes, more should be done about that. But it is always, always, Arsenal fans who write in to complain that sides ‘play that way’ against them.

You know what? Three years ago, everyone got kicked about by Stoke. Almost all top-half sides get some rough treatment by sides who are getting desperate at the bottom of the table – especially when those sides haven’t the resources Arsenal have – and there was one bad tackle missed by the referee in your game against Leicester. But that was a game you won and in which Leicester – not Arsenal – played an entire half with ten men.

I quite like Arsenal. In general, over the past 15 years you have played some really decent football and in general I find your players less awful than those of your competitors. But for God’s sake, will you get over yourselves?

Rory O’Keeffe, Brighton


Just knock the other kid on his arse…
Nick, Afc, Washington, DC – My son is six years old, occasionally when he’s out the back playing football with the other lads he’ll coming running in sobbing.. “they keep pushing me dad!” or “they keep kicking me on purpose!”. To which my reply is “all right son, don’t worry about it. Go back out there and next time one of them has got the ball, tackle him really hard or just knock him over. If you show that you can do it to them, they’ll stop doing it to you”.

Later that day…”Dad, dad, I knocked him over and he landed on his bum, *giggles* and he didn’t even come near me after that”

Wenger has failed to teach this lesson to his team. The whole league knows it and takes advantage of it. If you, him, and any other Arsenal fans want it to stop you have to knock the other kid on his arse.
Dave, Manchester


The Galactico problem
I would like to introduce Rob (in love with Can and Klopp though) to the term ‘Galctico’. Since the dawn of time (citation needed), Real have spend money on the best players. This is due to being the King’s club, and so it couldn’t be allowed to have them shown up by the dissident Catalonians. Indeed the last five world record transfer fees have all been paid by Real Madrid, dating back to the year 2000 with Luis Figo. That list includes Zidane, Kaka, Ronaldo and Bale. It doesn’t mention players like Beckham, the original Ronaldo, Anelka, Cassano, Sergio Ramos, Robinho, Julio Baptista, Pepe, Benzema, yeah, I’m sure you get the point.

In the last 16 years they have won five league titles, two Copa del Rey and two Champions League trophies. When you factor the money spent, it proves they don’t build teams. They sign shiny things. Barca are not going to escape completely here. They have also done their share of purchasing, but nothing in the category of Real.

Last night’s game was woeful, I agree. But in my time watching football, Madrid have always been like this. A collection of individuals, a scary collection of individuals yes, but it is easy to see how Pep’s Barca got the better of them so frequently.

If you haven’t fully made up your mind, I recommend reading this to fill you in a little on how some of this was funded.
Adam, LFC, Belfast


An excellent mail on diving
Amid all this talk of Vardy and Mahrez and Danny Mills, I thought I’d relay some of the conversation I had with a former Premier League winger a few years ago. (I won’t use his name as I haven’t asked his permission to quote him, so let’s call him Dave). I sat next to him at a charity dinner, and had drunk enough wine to ask him about his (slight) reputation for diving. Was it fair? I asked. He was surprisingly gracious in response. I’ve tried to use his words (English is his second language) but there’s some paraphrasing from wine-addled memory.

“I think I am fouled around twenty times a game. I am given five or six free kicks, sometimes fewer. Many of those fouls are honest – a defender might slip or be fooled if my feet are too fast for him. But many are not. Deliberate kicks on the ankle, maybe, or pulls on my shirt. Many are designed to injure me and slow me down. Often they’re done so the referee can’t see – after the ball has gone or in a crowd of players. This is cheating. It is not being ‘tough’ or ‘physical’, it is against the laws of the game. Sometimes a deliberate foul is enough to stop me doing my job but not enough to knock me over. So I fall. If I don’t, the referee doesn’t see it, and I don’t get the free kick I deserve. If I don’t, the player carries on kicking me, and I risk injury. Have I fallen without contact? Yes, but only very rarely, and only when I have been kicked all game and given nothing by the referee. I am evening things out. Have I dived for a penalty? No, but one season I was fouled more than a dozen times in the box and was given two penalties. And that’s not just because I was foreign – my English colleagues say that they rarely get penalties. Referees don’t like to give them. So we do what we can to make the foul visible.”

He said his reputation stemmed from one incident – he was playing against a particularly thuggish full-back who had kicked him deliberately in the knee for the whole first half (Dave had suffered a bad knee injury a couple of years before). At half time, Dave’s knee was bruised and swollen and he was almost substituted. In the second half, he jumped over the top of another lunge from the full-back to avoid further damage and won a free-kick. The full-back and his teammates were incensed, the home crowd were riled, it was discussed on TV and his reputation was born. “But this is unfair.” He said. “That guy tried to kick me out of the game. I tried to protect my body, and I am the villain? If someone tries to punch you and you duck out of the way, are you the bad guy?”.

This, he said, was the big problem. “If someone tries to kick me and they get away with it, then I am not happy, but it’s football. I accept it. But if they get caught, or if I try and even the balance by alerting the referee to what they’re doing, then they cry and whinge and talk about football being a Game for Men. They can’t have it both ways.”

I saw Danny Mills play a lot, and saw him kick plenty of opposing wingers, including Robert Pires. Why is he less of a cheat than Pires (whose diving is exaggerated hugely, by the way)? On Sunday, Leicester and Arsenal committed plenty of fouls – Leicester spent the first half kicking Sanchez up in the air, Arsenal slid in late on pretty much every Leicester breakaway. So why complain about either the red card or the penalty? If you dish it out, you should have to take it. If we’re honest about both sides of this, then we’ll all spend a lot less time moaning and maybe even enjoy the game a bit more.
Chris Baxter

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