Mails: Why are United desperate to sign centre-backs?

Date published: Thursday 9th August 2018 1:56

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United’s transfer farce
Unless every news report for the last three weeks has been simply…bullsh*t (and that’s not entirely unlikely), then it seems like Jose Mourinho is desperate to get another centre back in to his squad. But, why exactly? We already have 5 on the books and none of them seem to be likely to leave. Now that’s not to say that they couldn’t do with an upgrade, but Bailley looked exceptional before his bad mid-season industry. F365 has consistently called Lindelof a ‘failure’, but it looks to me like he’s just had more trouble settling in than most. Rojo has never shown the form that convinced us to buy him and Smalling and Jones are sometimes excellent but sometimes liabilities.

Last year we were desperate for a right sided forward, but this year the rumours seem to have gone away, despite us still being weak in that area. Putting two and two together and possibly getting 5, perhaps Jose is planning on changing to a back 3 rather than a 4? Playing 3-5-2 would probably require an extra centre back for injuries, and would negate the need for a right forward. It would get Sanchez and Lukaku in the middle and playing closer together and allow a bit of extra protection for Pogba, Lingard, and Fred to be able to push on from midfield.

I guess we’ll see in the next few hours and weeks (Diego Godin has just popped up apparently), but could a back 3 be his plan?
Calum, MUFC, Wokingham


…Lots of negativity around United transfer activity. I look at it slightly differently, clearly they are trying to strengthen positions, but can see it’s not easy.

CB – Aldeirweld and Maguire – identified as almost ‘certain’ upgrades but so far unattainable. (I have questions about Maguire). Boateng and Mina – possible upgrades but are they really, or would they just add to the current pool with the same or worst quality. I suspect the latter. As much as United complain, their defence was not shocking last season.

RW – Bale, Willian and Perisic – Bale unattainable, Willian and Perisic at a realistic fee are unattainable. Who else is realistic quality target?

Full Backs – again what genuine upgrades are available, good enough to compete with City. None I’ve seen. (Rose has not looked the same since injury)

Looking at it another way – what signing have others (top6) made that United should have done.

GK: Allison, Kepa, Leno – not needed.

Defenders: Sokratis, Lichsteiner. – anyone seriously think these are United quality. Jose would have been crucified.

Midfield: Torreira, Jorginho, Fabiniho: Jose brought Fred, who will turn out best? Who knows, my bet would be Jorginho, but he followed Sarri anyway. (Kieta was actually last season, and would compete with Pogba).

Wingers – Shaqiri, Mahrez. Mahrez deal was basically done in January when United were signing Sanchez, and neither are really Jose wingers anyway.

Forwards – Has anyone signed a forward? do United even need one?

Looking further afield. Transfers which might have worked.

Douglas Costa, Malcolm, Martins on the Right. De Vrij or Bonucci in at CB. Ronaldo anywhere. Did these players have any interest in the UK? Costa, Bonucci could have worked, but understandable they went to Juve.

So should everyone be so critical – or are we complaining that United aren’t willing to pay £75m for what could be the next Phil Jones, or £80m for a 29 year old, good but not so far world beating winger?

I suspect the biggest weakness is the scouting, or maybe we think they should cosy up to agents and start unsettling targets 6 months before transfer window opens.

Ultimately United are in pretty good shape and none of the top 3 from last season have been able to strengthen significantly.
Nick (£100m on Dembele for RW?) J


…I think I preferred late-Fergie United when we never signed anybody.

It made summers less stressful.
Chris MUFC


…It seems that despite current inclement weather, Rob CCFC, Cork is determined to carry out the burning of his straw man.

Rob has taken exception to mentions of closing a ‘points-gap’ in relation to the relative positions of clubs going into the new season. The issue with Rob’s deconstruction of the phrase is that it is common knowledge what is meant by it; but for Rob’s benefit I will explain.

Manchester City finished 19 points above United last season. The points gap refers to the fact that the aggregate difference between City’s drop-off and United’s improvement will need to be equal to 19 points and a hefty goal difference for United to beat City to the title, all else being equal. The implication therefore being that some combination of a big United improvement and a significant City drop-off would be needed to avoid a repeat of last year’s outcome. The bigger the points gap the less likely an overhaul is.

As a corresponding analogy, if I race Usain Bolt over 100m and he beats me by (I’ll be generous to myself here and say) 4 seconds and we then decide to race again, I have the expectation that I need to make up 4 seconds to beat him (either through him slowing down or me speeding up). Going by Rob’s logic, it’s actually not a big deal because when we start the race it’s neck and neck.
Olly (We’ll have actual football to talk about soon, don’t worry), London.


…I was thinking about Danny Welbeck and Danny Welbeck’s next career move and it occurred to me – we should bring Danny Welbeck back to United. I know it sounds crazy at first, but stay with me as I outline all the reasons Danny Welbeck should re-sign for United.

I love Danny Welbeck
Ryan, Coillte



…The more I’ve watched the soap opera unfolding at my beloved Man Utd, the more I am sure that Jose is on his way out of the club this season, if not willingly then forcibly.

Ed Woodward has quite rightly been criticised during previous transfer windows, although last summer was very successful, for not backing the manager but I ask my fellow Utd fans, would you give Mourinho another £100m in the current climate? Putting myself in the board’s shoes I wouldn’t part with a single penny and here’s why.

1. The Manager has a history of not sticking around past a third season, we’ll need the cash for his replacement

2. The Manager has shown an inability to develop, utilise and even get on with the players he has already, including some that he signed

3. The Manager has publicly derided the players and the club for issues that he should be able to resolve or should be discussed in private

4. The Manager claims credit when the team does well i.e. ‘MY greatest achievement finishing second’ but blames players and club when the team does badly ‘I’ll just have to stick with the players I’ve got, it’ll be a difficult season’.

5. The Manager is a d*ck

Given all of this and the fact that Mourinho has a history of engineering his way out of a club and then absolving himself of all blame, we should write this season off, get rid and bring in someone who can actually develop players to play football, not be sacrificial lambs when the going gets tough.


Paul, Man Utd


Pickford v Kepa
Don’t know much about Kepa apart from that he is a 23 year old, promising keeper with good ball distribution and been capped once by Spain.
I happen to also know of a certain 24 year old, also promising, also with good ball distribution who was 1st choice for his country at the world cup being among his country’s brightest palyers helping them to a semi-final berth with outstanding displays such as in the man of the match performance in the quarters against sweden. In addition to this, the guy has premier league experience.
What I’m getting at is why didn’t Chelsea go for Pickford instead. I reckon he would have been cheaper even. Would Everton really have turned down a 60 m pound offer from the Blues?
Then again, I’m just saying. Maybe Kepa is the better option as I only saw a handful of Bilbao games last season.
Livero, Nairobi ( I’ve got nothing )


Each to their own
Right, seriously, can the rest of you all just give it a rest, telling me how I’m allowed to participate in football fandom? I get it, you all want to live for the thrill, enjoy everything about the game (even when it’s not good), and look on the bright side. That’s fine, fill your boots. I don’t share your view and I’m fine with that, so why is that not ok? I’ve been called plenty of names on here – naysayer, negative Ned, a non-supporter, and far worse – and I’ve just about had it.

I’m not a pessimist, I’m not an optimist; I’m a realist. I don’t enjoy it when United lose, I don’t take pleasure in saying “I told you so” (especially if what I correctly predicted was a bad thing), and I’m not trying to buffer myself from anything. It’s the nature of highs and lows – right now, the club is in a low, but that doesn’t restrict my appreciation of any potential highs that might occur in future. If anything, those people insisting that I should just enjoy this and every other season regardless of what actually happens are the ones who are missing out; if you maintain a consistent level of enjoyment permanently then you’ll never truly notice the highs or lows. You’re just plodding along at the same pace forever. Where’s the thrill in that?

I will revel in the enjoyment of a United title win when/if it ever happens again, and I still hold fond memories of many of our past triumphs, but I’m not going to sit here trying to convince myself of something which in all likelihood is impossible this time around. I’ll celebrate any success we do have this year, but I’m not going to apologise for assessing that it’s likely that we won’t have any this season (and I’m not talking about finishing trophy-less and in the top four – I’m talking about competitive achievements, not financial ones).

Last season we were worse than City to the tune of 19 points, so it’s logical to say that we were the ones who needed to improve. Yes, we conceded second fewest goals, but that was more down to the repeated necessity for De Gea’s heroics, rather than consistently solid defensive performances. Have we strengthened the defence (and I mean actual first-team improvements, players who will play virtually every game)? No. We didn’t score enough goals last year, having the second worst record in the top 6, have we strengthened the attack? No. Have we seen any suggestion of a more attacking mindset, even with a youth-supplemented squad, on tour? No. At the time of writing there are just over 6 hours left of the window, and there’s no concrete news on signings, so on what basis am I supposed to stick on a smile and say “But we can win the league this year!”? That’s not optimism, that’s delusion.

I will enjoy this season if/when it’s enjoyable from a United perspective. I’m looking forward to seeing Fred and hopefully Andreas Pereira feature, but a summer that afforded the opportunity to make improvements has been wasted, so I don’t think we’ll do very well and I won’t be happy about being right, should it happen. If we do better and have a proper crack at the league (at least remain in contention after Christmas), play good attacking football and/or win a trophy then I will have enjoyed it. Why is that not an acceptable way to feel? Anyone pretending to enjoy this version of United, no matter what – the style of which, even the most staunch fan surely has to admit, is lukewarm at best – is either blissfully ignorant or has an entirely unique definition of enjoyment.

You keep football in your way, let me keep it in mine.
Ted, Manchester


Free agency every year
There seems to be a perception in the mailbox and elsewhere that Courtois has downed tools and gone on strike. For some reason (mainly, a £70m shaped one) I think that he’s just not come in to work for a couple of days whilst the transfers were sorted and finalised. Yes, he’s probably agitated for it a bit, but there’s been no quotes from him that I’ve seen and this seems to be, once again, a media frenzy over little more than a standard transfer.

On a side note, something else has raised it’s head over the last few days about players seeing out their contracts and being loyal to their teams. Someone mentioned yest about elite players finding it more advantageous to see out their final year. I’ve been thinking this for a while – where a player is financially secure (e.g. almost every senior player in the EPL) why don’t they just sign one year contracts? They are then free to move at the end of any year. Clubs won’t like it, but they won’t have much choice – if Chelsea won’t sign you, United will and so on. I’m surprised agents haven’t already been touting this – signing on bonus every year?! Imagine Raiola’s greedy little chops salivating at that!
Alex, Ayr


Prem predictions
I don’t know if we’re allowed to play along but with the season almost back again I’m too excited not to join in the fun. I’ve tried to temper my bias but at this stage of the season who can truly say that’s even possible.

Who will win the league?
Man City. They have a way of beating teams before the game even starts. Too few weaknesses.

Top four?
City / Chelsea / Liverpool / Man Utd (I think fourth will be an almighty scrap with Spurs and Arsenal just missing out).

Going down?
Leicester / Cardiff / Huddersfield.

Pleasant surprise?
Team – Chelsea. If they manage to keep everyone tonight, then I think they’ve done very well this window. At the end of last season I was thinking their team would be devastated by now. I’d maybe even tip them for the title if they had sorted the striker problem. It’s all about Kanté. I can’t believe there hasn’t been a long queue of teams lining up to offer him Champions League football.

Player – Sturridge. Ok, I’ll level, I’m a Liverpool fan but I’m trying to temper my expectations for the sake of the email (see league winner) but I just can’t temper the thought of a happy Sturridge, staying fit and content with his place in the team. Off-the-bench appearances against tiring defences and leading Liverpool’s lower tier silverware charge. He deserves an injury free season. He’ll probably get injured and Firmino will be spent by the last couple of weeks in the season.

Top scorer?
Aguero (if he stays fit), Kane if not.

Which new signing will make the most positive difference?
Allison. Sometimes the most obvious answer is the best.

Which one will turn out to be a massive flop?
Kepa. I’ll be honest, I’d never really heard of him before.

Shrewd bargain?
Torreirra. Everton look to have done well with Bernard too but I think he’ll lack end product for all his running.

PFA Player of the Year?
Aguero (if he stays fit), Sané if not.

First manager to leave their Premier League job?
Claude Puel.

Champions League winner?
Liverpool (I’ve tried to temper the enthusiasm but the format kind of suits us). I want Real Madrid at Anfield at some point in the competition.

Most looking forward to?
Liverpool’s spine. Klopp has done wonders with a team that has been like tissue paper at times. They’ve put in a whole new spine and I’m looking forward to seeing if that brings a sense of sturdiness and consistency to add to the madness up front.


…After last year it seems F365 has gone a lot safer this year in predictions. Good read all the same and will be interesting to see how everyone’s predictions pan out. Here’s mine

As is traditional, tell me who will win the league.
City, I do think teams will go at them more this year because that is the only way to beat them. Whilst this will lead to a smaller points total I think they will benefit from having Laporte, Mendy, Mahrez and Sane playing no part in the World Cup and Aguero, David Silva, Jesus and Otamendi only playing smaller roles. This will help them get an early lead which Pep’s teams seem to have always got off to at all his clubs.

And the rest of the top four, in order.
Liverpool, Arsenal, Man Utd

Liverpool because they can beat City and have got a lot stronger with players that they need and suit the system. Arsenal because despite replacing managerial dynasty will probably find the transition smoother than Sarri at Chelsea who has not had time to coach or sign anyone and Utd because even with all their problems Jose will probably drag them over the line before leaving under mutual consent having failed to deliver a trophy.

And who are going down, down deeper and down?
20th – Cardiff: Whilst Burnley and Huddersfield have proved a plucky squad pulling in the right direction can perform miracles, I don’t think Colin has the ability of Dyche or Wagner and will get bogged down in the games and politics of the media circus.

19th – Watford: Going with last season’s trend that teams that seem to be fairly established actually aren’t. Watford have flattered to deceive throughout the majority of their spell in the big time and – bar a very tasty centre midfield triumvirate of Doucoure, Chalobah and Hughes – don’t have a lot of quality. Also it would be ironic if the one season they start the season with the manager who ended the previous season is the manager who leads them (At least part way) to the drop.

18th – Bournemouth: As above, no one below Everton is established. Bournemouth are slow starters and it will be interesting to see how Howe’s first real foray into expensive foreign imports goes. I have a feeling it will be akin to Hughton at Norwich: bad. Expecting a lot of talk from PFMs about how the core of the team has been lost because the new players don’t know what it’s like in the doldrums of the EFL. Angry 606 callers to demand Daniels and Arter play over Rico and Lerma.

Brighton to leave it to the wire because Button and Steele will not provide ample cover for Asia Cup-bound Matt Ryan.

Which club will be a pleasant surprise?
Fully expect Fulham to both score and concede a lot of goals and I think everyone would secretly smile if we were all proved wrong and Cardiff did a Burnley/Huddersfield.

Top scorer, please?
Torn between Salah or Lukaku so will go for a romantic suggestion of Aguero because he probably doesn’t get as many individual plaudits as a man of his record and talent deserves. Very unlikely especially with the second incarnation of Jesus should be fit.

Which new signing will make the most positive difference to their club
It could be Allisson but I am going to say Leno/Sokratis/Torreira because Arsenal have been way off the pace of even top four for the past 2 seasons. Those two could and should be a long overdue spine replacement that Wenger neglected to perform.

And which one will turn out to be a massive flop?
I think Kepa. His fee removes spotlight on Allison and puts it on him. He is in a position that requires great communication skills yet has arrived with very little English less than 24hrs before the window shuts. Also, he is used to playing in a team made up entirely of Basque players with players he has been around for years. New team, new culture that he has never experienced, new climate. Not an easy transition especially with all the other turmoil at Chelsea.

Who will turn out to be a shrewd bargain?
Agree the freebies are always hard to overlook. Meyer, Rui Patirico and Lichsteiner seem the obvious ones for me. Replacing Cabeye with a German international worth 25-40m is a steal. A promoted team signing a free European Championship title-winning keeper is absurd, even with Mendes connections and getting a defender to dislodge and teach Bellerin also a bargain for different reasons.

In terms of fee, Fabri at Fulham could be the difference between staying up and going down and is 1/3 of Danny Ward’s price as Schmeichel back-up.

Who will be named the PFA Player of the Year?
If Liverpool did win the title I would say it will be because of Naby Keita being Kante mk.II. If not then whoever wins Golden Boot or KDB/David Silva

First manager to leave their Premier League job?
For trigger-happy board reasons I think Javi Gracia or Claude Puel. Either that or Benitez in an act of martyrdom to radicalise the vocal but passive Toon fans into properly boycotting Ashley.

Pick the Champions League winner for the European football fans.
Juventus are the obvious contenders but I who knows. Bayern always a safe bet.

And finally, what are you most looking forward to about this coming season?

Hopefully the final downfall of Mourinho and the caricature of himself that he has become. The league no longer needs or wants panto performances to mask dull attritional football.

In footballing terms I think teams like Wolves and Fulham will breathe a bit of life into the treading water crowd which will be nice.

For the first time ever I am also looking forward to the first international break. Will the revolutionary evolution of England under Southgate continue?

Also hope to see some of Foden, Brewster, Hudson-Odoi etc. breakthrough as that is always a joy.
Joe Midlands (is F365 or any of its mailboxers doing the BBC Predictor league given we are all in the FPL League?)


…Lots of predictions in the mailbox so thought I’d chip in with my own. In short, City will win the league, Liverpool will push them closest, Cardiff, Huddersfield and someone will get relegated and a City player (De Bruyne probably) will be POTS.

With that out the way, I thought I’d go down the route of some “stick your neck out” predictions. Unlikely scenarios that I’m saying are going to happen.

1) Arsenal to finish above Spurs: Nothing too wild to start, but I think Spurs will struggle this year. They’ve overachieved in recent years, compared to their budget, but with no transfer activity and key players playing in later stages of the world cup, they could slip out of the top 4. Arsenal have strengthened well and could be revived after stagnating for so long.

2) Kane will score 15 goals or fewer in the Premier League. Big call. Kane looked knackered at the World Cup and his 6 goals was not a reflection of his pretty poor performances. Kane takes a lot of shots to get his goals and if Spurs struggle, Kane will fail to score so many. All strikers generally have an off season. This could be Kane’s.

3) None of Real Madrid, Barcelona or Bayern Munich will reach the semi-finals of the Champions League. Maybe more wishful thinking than anything, but all 3 have weaknesses and with teams like Juve, PSG and Man City, likely to make the CL their priority, the competition will be stiff.

4) Cardiff will finish with less than 20 points. Warnock has done well to get Cardiff promoted, but are they really Premier League quality? A good Championship manager, but I think they’ll really struggle in the Premier League. Bottom and Christmas and they’ll stay there.

5) Wolves to finish 7th with Fulham 8th. Both have spent well, Wolves smashed the Championship and they both mean business. Should easily finish top 10 and they could easily do something special.
Mike, LFC, London


Ashley wins
Newcastle Utd will end the summer transfer window with the biggest profit.

Does this mean we win?!

Yay! We love you Ashley.
The Ginger Pirlo


Storey’s stock phrases
I love Daniel Storey, 2016 FSF writer of the year, as much as the next man, and with great success comes great exposure.

He’s now a regular guest on The Totally Football Show, which released its 2018/19 prediction show yesterday. Daniel was brilliant as always, but at one point he predicts a big season for young England stars; stating “these players are now getting national newspaper columns rather than mere passing glances”.

Where had I seen this before, you may ask? Well, it is the EXACT SAME PHRASE he used in his F365 2018/19 predictions article. This raises a question for me, when Daniel comes up with a line he likes, does it find its way into all his conversations for a defined period? Does asking what he thinks on the popularity of avocados, the prospect of Kovacic fitting into Sarri’s system and the Brexit negotiations all meet with the same non-committal answer followed by “these issues are now getting national newspaper columns rather than mere passing glances”?
Matt (the readers of F365 deserve to know) LFC

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