Man United could do with Lukaku at his devastating peak…

Date published: Tuesday 6th August 2019 2:33

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A case for the ropey defence
John P should’ve spent a few more minutes thinking about his email as it only took me one to come up with a couple of arguments to counter.

During the second half of Arsene’s reign it was ‘always’ the case that Arsenal were 2 or 3 signings away from really challenging again. Usually a Tony Adams and Patrick Vieira and who ever else. When Liverpool were in the same boat they got those players in – Alisson and VVD.

I also don’t recognise this slightly ropey defence comparison? A world class goalkeeper and CB, another very promising CB who if not for injury would surely be talked about as one of the better English defenders. Add in arguably the best full back combination in the league/Europe and I can’t see what’s ropey at all. I wish that was a description of Arsenal at any point in the last decade.

This squad/bench issue is a strange one. It feels a bit like Kane at Tottenham. Everyone pretty much knows Liverpool’s best XI. What sort of top player can they sign that will be happy to sit on the bench knowing he will only play if there’s an injury or it’s the league cup?

I think it will cost a huge amount of money to improve the Liverpool team so signing young players with a lot of potential to eventually replace anyone that gets old/moves on is surely the way forward.
James, Kent (Sometimes Wenger didn’t wear glasses – case securely closed)


Ok John, as much as it pains me I’ll take the bait and bite.

You give us a glimpse into the potential future of Liverpool FC. Anything can happen I guess but I think the Arsenal comparison is stretching it a bit. One major difference is that Arsenal had a new stadium to pay for which hastened the decline of their playing staff and their ability to pay top dollar for big signings, not to mention Wenger’s predilection for trying to discover the next big thing and mould them into superstars. I don’t believe that Klopp is cut from the same cloth as Wenger, he’s more pragmatic and not so entrenched in his views that he can’t see the bigger picture. If we need a big signing then I’m sure he’ll press the board to go out and get them (Van Dijk and Allison).

Besides, Arsenal had a greater height to fall from at the time. Wenger built some incredible teams, some of the best we’ve seen. Liverpool haven’t won the big one in 30 years now, we’ve essentially become a successful cup team from time to time. The champions league was fantastic but we haven’t proved yet that we’re a consistently great team in the league although the signs are promising. Of course the owners are always considering the bottom line, but as far as owners go I think most Liverpool fans would say they’ve been great so far in contrast to what’s been going on at the Emirates season after season.

While I admit our midfield is quite “workmanlike” and needs a sprinkling of magic, it still served us pretty well last season (Wjinaldum against Barca anybody?) and I have faith that Keita will have more of an impact this time around. I was mainly baffled by the reference to our ropey defence (best in the league last season) and subs bench full of unknowns apparently? Our subs bench for the first game could possibly be Adrian, Matip, Milner, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Keita, Shaquiri, Mane?? Would I have liked to see Liverpool sign a creative midfielder and cover at left back? Definitely. Am I overly concerned at the moment about the future of our club, not particularly.

Ask me the question again when Klopp leaves but hopefully that’s a few years away yet.
Dave (LFC, still getting my head around football on a Friday)


I guess the goal was to get responses, so I’ll bite.

John P, Chester (Also, both managers wear glasses. Case closed. Over to you m’lud) saying Liverpool are latter year Arsene’s Arsenal. That their defenders are ropey. That the bench is full of nobodies (Lallana? Ox? Keita? Shaqiri? Lovren? Matip? Milner? Mane/Origi?)…

This is the same defence that kept more clean sheets than any other premier League side last season, contains the PFA player of the year (for the past two seasons), collected 97 points, went nearly unbeaten, scored plenty of goals, had two of the league’s top scorers, and won the Champions league after being runners up the previous year. No, Liverpool did not win the league, but not team will ever have that good a season again and not win it.

In fact the only point he seems to want to make is that if Klopp left, Liverpool might have an issue. Yes, that’s true, if one of the best managers in the world was to leave, the club would have an issue. However, I’d like to think that with the academies and reserve teams all being trained to play the same way, this is bigger than one man. It’s an entire ethos.

But hey, yes, shit could be around the corner. But while it doesn’t feel like there’s much reason for pessimism and we are playing fun, entertaining, record breaking football, I’m pretty sure that’s acceptable to most fans.

Cheers though, you’ve helped me remember that as a Liverpool supporter, this should be another exciting season pushing for the title rather than trying to scrape 4th.
Rob, Brighton.


@ John P, Chester

I don’t have a lot of time cause I’ve a bit or work to do, but for this I’ll set aside 2 minutes.

“A slightly ropey defence full of players you’re not confident would get into any other team”

Dear god man.

Like… Seriously, Christ almighty.

No wonder Brexit is a thing.
James, Cork


After a bank holiday weekend rolls straight into financial month end; the last thing I expected was to delight in the reading of the opening mailbox letter discussing Liverpool’s delusional comparisons to Arsen’s Arsenal.  ” A slightly ropey defence full of players you’re not confident would get into any other team.” not just the top teams in the world…. nah any other team.

Thanks for brightening up my morning. You will be remember as JP Jester – fool, entertainer… I am sure you used to it.
Mark. Dublin  (seriously.. was this a windup?)


Hi John,

Liverpool spent the last 30 years in the state you described. Ironically things have never looked better. Please revise your answers and study more.

F+ (the plus is for effort)



I’m (far from) a fan of Liverpool but I had to bite to John P and his frankly ludicrous wind up in the mailbox this morning. The Liverpool defence wouldn’t get into any other team? Really?  An obscure joke to come into the striker position? Origi seemed to do alright last season, scoring in the Champions League final I seem to remember(Arsenal never won the champions league as John seems to suggest too).

Just a ridiculously inept piece of crank writing but we all have to laugh these days I suppose.

Harvey O.


What are they smoking over there at John P, Chester’s house…?
Gregory Whitehead, LFC


CB, eh?
I’d like to wade in with some thoughts on Maguire and centre-backs moving from good clubs to huge clubs in general.  Forget the price tag for a minute, others will cover that for a long time I’m sure.  What always interests me is the CB ability to change the way they need to defend.  Maguire is a fine defender but he played in a Leicester team that predominantly played deeper and on the counter attack. Obviously against the weaker teams they would step up and dominate the game some more but their tried and tested formula over the past few years especially against big sides is a counter attacking team – and it has worked relatively well.

We shouldn’t expect Man U to be playing the same style.  Man U should push the defensive line high, push their full-backs high and dominate the ball.  As a CB this requires a very different skill set.  Similar to being a GK at a poor side when you’re in the game all the time saving shots vs being a GK for a top side when for 88 minutes you do nothing but are then required to pull off a great save.

CB for the top teams are expected to start the play, passing aggressively in to midfield/forwards and breaking the lines – Maguire seems ok at this, but they are also required to defend on the halfway line as pretty much the last man, with 50 yards of space behind them and a pacey forward ready to spring in to that space.  How is Maguire’s 1 v 1 defending, anticipation and pace in these scenarios?  I’m not saying he’ll fail, just that he may need to tailor his game.

It always frustrates me when we see body on the line, blocking, heading machines in packed defences performing heroics for bottom half teams and people ask why top team X aren’t buying that player – this usually happens when the player is English.
Rich (AFC)


So just to be clear, Man Utd who have signed the best young right back (not including TAA, who would never come) available and one of the best centre backs in the league to sort out their defence, have no plan, and have no chance of 4th.

Chelsea who lost their best player, who was apparenrtly last season the main reason for them winning games, and have a new unproven manager and haven’t been able to sign anyone else, will achieve 4th.

Spurs, who also suffered a run of form at the end of the season similar to United, will also walk into the top 4.

People are aware that Chelsea finished 3rd, only 6 points ahead of United last season, despite us having the worst Premier League season.

I’m not claiming we will be amazing, or rubbish. But there seems to be a lot of people writing United off before a ball has been kicked based on last season, but these same people claim Spurs and Chelsea are in a great place? Very confusing logic.
Dale Lamb (cautiously optimistic Man Utd fan) 


Defending Rom
Romelu Lukaku is a lost man. All indications are that he will move to Italy, bearing in mind that they have another 3 weeks to sort this out. He has barely kicked a ball in pre-season. His mystery ankle injury is presumably a smoke screen for ensuring he doesn’t injure himself jeopardising a move, while also confirming that he’s not a part of Solskjaer’s plans.

Just the other day I happened to turn on Sky Sports and came across a program of Lukaku’s goals. The few minutes I watched it were during his stint at Everton. And I was stunned at not just how lethal he was but how mobile. I have a theory that he struggled at the isolation he faced in Mourinho’s system being stuck upfront on his own, usually against 2 or more defenders, having to hold up the ball. And he bulked up because of this. Because of which, while he still has pace, but he can’t do the number of sprints in a game required now, especially under Solskjaer.

Lukaku has never had a great first touch, but he’s at his best when the ball is played for him to run on to. A continuous focus on his faults, and playing with his back to goal has also probably robbed him of his confidence. He has rarely scored more than one goal in a United game. But he had a couple of hat tricks in a season at Everton. We seem to have lost that Lukaku at United.

The irony of course, is that as a left footed player with an ability to cut in and shoot, he would be an excellent option on the right of a front 3. With Wan Bissaka now providing pace and width on the right, Lukaku could drop a few kilos, and really own the right sided forward role, from where he has been known to be devastating. It’s a great reminder of how players can look bang average when the system doesn’t work to their skills.

I think he has another 5 years of good goal scoring ahead of him. He’s not a diva, doesn’t sulk, is not given to off field distractions and has a greatly under-appreciated sense of the game – as evidenced by a few excellent assists and ’that’ leave against Japan at the World Cup, when 3 feet from goal. I wish it had worked out better for him at United. Hopefully he gets to recover his best form in Italy.
Ved Sen, MUFC


Toon gooin doon?
First thing’s first, as a lifelong season ticket holder who has now sadly exposed his two sons to the annual turmoil of supporting Newcastle, I accept all is not good.  But….while we have lost Benitez, spent the Summer embroiled in our own ‘fake Sheikh’ takeover debacle, lost all of our main goal scorers and seem destined to have Ashley as owner for eternity, I am still clinging on to some faint hope of optimism.  Steve Bruce in his own words is ‘not everyones cup of tea’ but he is a fan of the club so at the very least he will try bloody hard to make a go of it and the players seem to have responded to him.

I have always thought that the large scale criticism of our squad in the past to be unfair.  I dont think our core players are as bad as some fans and co called pundits make out.  Lets look at last season, outside of the top 6 we had one of the best defensive records.  It could be argued that Dubravka is in the top 5 keepers in the league based on last seasons form.  How many teams outside of the top 3 have as strong a collection of centre halves?  In Sean Longstaff we may have unearthed a future England star (albeit through circumstance rather than shrewd planning) and his younger brother looks pretty handy too!  In Hayden we have a decent player who shone during the latter stages of last season, hopefully he has found a solution to supporting and caring for his young family, and will stay.  Ritchie works his socks off, Shelvey has it in him to be a game changer at times and in Almiron we have lightning pace and some potential.

The new additions look promising albeit untested but we should have some genuine, exciting pace in the team coupled with a fairly solid defence.  Pundits are falling over themselves to tip us for the drop, BBC have us propping up the table!!  While I accept relegation is more of a possibility than a top 10 finish are they really saying that our squad is inferior to that of Brighton, Sheff Utd, Norwich, Palace, Villa etc etc.  I am sure that there are some fans, Palace and Brighton in particular who look on enviously at our summer business.

Yes we are in a mess and our owner is treating the UK high street like a monopoly board rather than investing in our club and yes Steve Bruce isn’t the most exciting appointment, but come on! lets at least have a little bit of hope otherwise what is the f**king point!
Steve (NUFC)


This Is (a big year for) England
I’ve been eagerly looking forward to the season ahead, and I put it to you that it is a pivotal year for English football talent.

First up we have a number of seemingly world class talents on the verge of breaking into their first teams, or getting significant PL minutes.This is well documented, you know the culprits – Hudson-Odoi, Longstaff, Aarons, Mount, Gibbs-White, Foden, Greenwood, Brewster to name just a few.

Then there’s the second season group. These players have well and truly broken through, but should be looking to up their output and kick on significantly. I’m looking at you Maddison, Barnes, Wan-Bissaka, McNeil, Chilwell and Rice. fail to do so and they might fall in to the next group…

These lot are teetering on the brink of being labelled good-but-not-quite-good-enough. So it’s make-or-break for you Mr Holding, Grealish, Abraham, Barkley, Ox, Solanke, Gray, Redmond and Winks. Injuries have played their part here, but still.

Then we’ve got the management. We have the first English manager at a top 4 club (I know, old fashioned term now isn’t it) since Uncle Roy cocked things up at Liverpool, as well as seven other fresh-faced, and not so fresh-faced English managers.

This could go either way, but it’s great to see exciting English talent develop all over the pitch rather than just in wide areas.
Jaymo, LCFC


The Athletic
As some of you may have noticed, earlier this week the new Athletic football app/website got launched. Hundreds of the biggest names in football writing have now moved over there and you can read it all with a subscription.

This is not an advert by the way. But I wondered what the mail readers thought.

Personally, I love the idea of journalism and journalists being paid for their work. Anything that halts the rise of clickbait can only be a good thing.

But equally I it feels a bit like Silicon Valley doing some blue sky thinking and trying to throw money around to destroy the UK’s paper market. This I don’t like. I like that newspapers exist. Equally however, I am a gigantic hypocrite because I don’t think I’ve bought one for over 10 years.

Thoughts everyone?

PS if 365 did a subscription I would pay for it


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