Man Utd look daft for many reasons. Selling Lukaku isn’t one…

Date published: Sunday 12th January 2020 11:44

Send your mails to…

Right to sell Lukaku 
I take umbrage with the notion that Lukaku is making United look silly. Lukaku left because United wanted to play with speed on the counter and believed it as best for both parties if he left.

Since he has left Rashford has had his best season, and Greenwood has blossomed even Martial is in double figures already. Sometimes it is better for both sides to go their separate ways.

If United for instance insisted on keeping a young Pique instead of letting him go when they did , he may not have made it with us and would not be a Spanish/Barcelona legend who gets to sleep with Shakira every night.
Shayd (MUFC)


Lukaku love-in
Absolutely loved Johnny Nic’s piece – really nice to hear a balanced piece about a player who has reached a brilliantly high level without ever threatening to become a world beater. Unquestionably my favourite stat which shoes Lukaku’s mental fortitude is the fact he has already scored double figures in 10 separate seasons well before turning 27, and probably would have done so in 11 straight seasons without a year in Chelsea’s reserves on arrival. Love the hero of the week pieces!


Wrong conclusions
At the moment I write this, the front page of Football365 has headlines about Klopp bemoaning dips in performance, Mourinho being the happier manager, and Liverpool riding their luck. Then there’s a 16 Conclusions article that details all the ways that Tottenham played so well.

Did we watch the same game?
John, Washington DC


…Reading Matt Stead’s take on tonight’s game was astonishing. To me, 13 out of the 16 were about what could have been, what almost was, how with a little more luck it really could’ve been spurs night. Mourinho was some sort of genius for “almost” getting his tactics right BUT the best of the 16 has to be how Matt thinks that Jose will be the happier of the 2 managers… seriously? I bet Jurgens laying awake tonight focusing on how spurs could have nicked a point, how with a little more “luck” Liverpool wouldn’t have scored or how Jose fell to his knees as he saw le Celso blast wide from 3 yards… or maybe, like me he’s sat and looked at the remaining fixtures and worked out that if things carry on as they are, they’ll have the title in the bag by mid/late March, before we play city away. More likely is that his immediate thoughts will be about man united next week, but that doesn’t fill 16 conclusions! Well done spurs on your immense stagnation from one manager to the next, at least under poch you had a reason to think the future could be brighter, under Jose it will always be if only or what could have been… if he’d picked spurs over Chelsea all those years ago, now you’re left with the man that was replaced by ole!


…I don’t understand the articles I read today compared to the game I watched. Mourinho is the past. Only one team played football. It was like watching the 1970 Brazil team play the 1930 Uruguay team. It was the difference of progress. All Liverpool had to do was keep the ball at the back with four players being “pressed” by one forward. Why did they even bother attacking and giving Spurs a chance to counter and give pundits a chance to say they grew into the game? Because they think the game is more than winning, but also entertaining fans who pay a good portion of their pay to see something interesting and fun and compelling. If any Spurs fan writes in saying they were happy with that performance, I will buy them a prawn sandwich.
Niall, Denver


Content in defeat
You know times are bad when you’re relieved at the final whistle to lose by just 1 goal. I really thought we’d be embarrassed today but, whilst we weren’t amazing, we showed a bit more organisation and still carved out a couple of chances to potentially steal 1 point.

It’s imperative we sort out the basics and build from there as we’ve just been a shambles at the back. A new right back would go a long long way for us. Although we need a bunch of upgrades, I’m confident just 1 decent right back would make a huge difference and if we are to make only one signing in January I really wish for it to be a RB. Le Colso should be getting his run now instead of Eriksen so we can truly see what he can do with some serious game time.

A panic buy striker isn’t the answer for us so we will just make do with Moura which isn’t terrific but I can’t see who we are going to get in who’d then know that, no matter how well they play, they’ll be starting on the bench as soon as Kane is back. Why would Ings come to us when he’s banging goals in and playing regularly. Not that we could afford him or anyone else for the type of proven quality we want.

A new RB, Davies coming back for a bit of solidity at LB, Tanguy returning to fitness and becoming our Dembele mark 2, Tanganga potentially coming through to compete (he looked solid tonight)….these are some potential aspects to be positive about. I’m really confident N’Dombele will be a monster for us when he gets to grips with it all. Remember everyone writing Fabinho off for ages at Pool and look at how he ended up.

We were always going to lose tonight but at least we didn’t get our trousers pulled down and I felt we weren’t quite as shit as previous games. 2 wins, which we could get from the next 2 games, could make us competitive for the top 4 again before we then obviously go an lose a bunch of games.
Glen, Stratford Spur


…I’ve seen very little in the media today (not you my lovely F365 – I’m talking Times/Guardian/BBC) about the lack of VAR intervention on the throw in that wasn’t, or the two Robertson sole-to-shin challenges. Curious isn’t it? Or the cynical counter-stoppers that should have seen 4 or even 5 Liverpool players in the book at half time, rather than 2? Hmm.

Makes no difference, Liverpool are obviously the better team so I accept the defeat; it could have been different if Son or Lo Celso didn’t miss sitters (or if Robertson saw red for almost breaking Tanganga’s leg – come on you know you’ve seen them given…) but then again Liverpool could just have easily turned it up a notch and scored another.

Hopefully 1) Spurs take heart from the positive aspects of the performance (Tanganga, Lo Celso/Lamela making an impact, the team generally sticking to a Jose gameplan to decent effect) and 2) other teams in the league & Europe realise Liverpool are not invincible and are occasionally there for the taking if you play your cards right.

There’s no way they don’t win the league from here but I’m sure much of planet earth will join me in hoping that this Liverpool team suffer a few bloody noses (and that their bitterly entitled fan base suffer a few bouts of gastrointestinal uncertainty) along the way.

Oliver Clark


Can Spurs stomach Mourinho?
Look, before I start this, I am not claiming to know anything about football management or tactics in general but Mourinho must’ve spent hours and days drilling his team to get prepared for today. I’m sure he did the same with that Chelsea team in 2014 which beat Liverpool. The time wasting tactics amongst everything else in that game still rifts in my memory.

But in the end, how did the players feel? Did the Chelsea team who finished third in 2014 feel that their dirty play was worth it? (There’s an interview with Lucas in which an unnamed Chelsea player sounded apologetic for the way they played during that game). Did Mourinho not get sacked the following season pretty early on? They won that game but won zero plaudits for how they did it. It was ugly, it was not football in even a remotely pure essence and it was ultimately worth nothing to that group of players.

Essentially, I think players can subscribe to shitty tactics and behaviour for actual glory, but can they do so simply for the glory of Mourinho’s reputation and ego? Is winning at any cost worth it when there’s zero upside? Maybe there’s an argument that in 2014 the Chelsea lot couldn’t stomach it. I guess time will soon tell us if this Spurs team can.
Minty, LFC


Gambling: what’s the answer?
Disclosure – I am a hopeless gambling addict in hundreds of thousands of pounds of debt. Do I blame the bookies? No – it’s on me. Do I resent their prolific growth and exposure? Damn right I do!

I watch the growing unease around the links between football and the gambling industry with interest. Whilst good work is being done calling out issues like the problem of the streaming of FA cup games on Bet 365) and people involved around the game who I greatly admire (David Conn, Barry Glendenning, Jeff Stelling, Johnny the Nic, Yourselves!) are calling out a lot of the issues and prepared to admit one of numerous uncomfortable truths around gambling – that there is a definite degree of uneasiness/danger of hypocrisy calling these things out when gambling advertising funds your sites/papers/stations etc. Let me be clear, I absolutely don’t blame any of you for this as jobs are jobs and I hope the fear of being labelled hypocrites doesnt put any of you off continuing to call out the dangers of gambling.

Where does it stop though? Apologies in advance for any sweeping generalisations but as impossible as it is to imagine with sponsorship/advertising by gambling companies absolutely central to the industry from competition/shirt/sponsorships through to the aforementioned banners on your site, people have to remember there was a sporting world before the legalisation of gambling advertising and there will be one afterwards if we put a blanket ban on it! A lot less money coming into the game wouldn’t be the end of the world, I dont believe anyone sane wouldnt agree the top end of the industry is too awash with money. TV deals would have to be reconsidered, teams would have to look for sponsorship elsewhere, the existing deals teams have with non-gambling companies may have to come down as the market finds a competitive edge but maybe just maybe the ultimate effect may be that the farcical out of touch transfer fees/ticket prices etc etc in the game may be driven down a bit and eventually the game becomes more affordable for the average punter.

To the “I can gamble responsibly people who moaning about the advertising are snowflakes need to get over themselves etc” brigade I say this – good for you. If you are so responsible and in control, then genuinely good for you. You are grown ups in control, take yourselves down the betting shop to place your careful wagers. Do you need the Ray WInstone type adverts to remind you where to go to get a bet on?I have a similar relationship with alcohol in that I consider I can control myself with that and find it occasionally fun but fully appreciate there are a lot of dangers for people with it so if I want to partake, I certainly dont need advertising 24/7 in my face to remind me where to get it, I can simply take myself down the pub and indulge. I’d absolute welcome a total ban on advertising for that too.

Let’s not forget where all the big money from the gambling industry goes? To the big cats like Denise Coates at B365 picking up extortionate payouts each year. Yes the industries are massive employers of a lot of good people seeking to earn as honest a living as they can as best they can, but there was a gambling industry before this mass influx of advertising and deliberate targetting of people interested in sports like Football and there will continue to be one if advertising is banned. Yes it will dwindle and a lot of the online focussed companies will go out of business and sadly betting shops will shut and jobs will be lost like when the Fixed Betting Terminal stakes were limited but this is no disastrous thing! Those shops which we all know are absolutely everywhere now will be filled with hopefully healthier industries, some companies and shops will survive for those who still like a “friendly wager” and in time people will accept/remember that the world of football and indeed society as a whole can survive without having to accept money hand over fist from things that deep down an increasing number of people are uncomfortable with. Again a big hypothetical generalisation but if the drug industry was legalised would that make it right for Football to accept the coin from people involved in that as it would keep people in jobs??

I dont write this from any expectation or even hope that things will change greatly any time soon to make it easier for people like me to not be as exposed to gambling temptations but out of hope that for my young son and his teammates that a blanket ban will soon enough be imposed on the advertising and targetting of football fans that will increase (but not cause) the risk of gambling addiction in his generation when they are of a sufficent age to get bets on.

Let’s not have a drip by drip approach to weeding out gambling adverts/sponsorship in football which will take years or even decades, let’s call it for what it is – unwelcome, done with absolutely malicious intentions and absolutely unhealthy and absolutely in need of removing totally ASAP, it was a massive mistake ever getting into bed with these companies and now the government and all the big players needs to be big enough to admit the mistake, take the loss and temporary hurt and improve the long term health of the country because one thing I know for absolute fact is that the less exposure to gambling, the more positive the effect on the future mental health of our young generations! And i refuse to believe that the industry of football was’t a much more enjoyable industry for fans in the years before the legalisation of gambling so if it goes completely a lot of us will be able to enjoy the game much more in the purest form as it was intended.

Sorry for the ramble, if you do use any part of this letter, please only use my first name. As with most gambling addicts. I am thoroughly ashamed of myself and try to hide my problem as much as possible from my friends and family! If the day does ever come where a blanket ban is imposed I hope your great site would be picked up by sponsors who value considered and insightful and most importantly fair and non-malicious opinions into the game.

Yours thankfully
name withheld


…A lot of mails you’ll receive today will be about Liverpool’s win against Tottenham, however I’d like to bring up the recent FA Cup “Bet to View” scandal that has come to light in recent days, which is that betting websites were the only place to watch live coverage of 22 of last weekend’s 32 FA Cup third-round ties.

I will admit i didn’t actually know about this broadcasting deal till today, on Football Focus today (Saturday) it opened with a very hard hitting video about how gambling addiction lead to the suicide of Lewis Keogh, the video that was shown is on the presenter Dan Walker’s twitter page if you wish to watch.

It gave me pause for thought about how we are bombarded with betting advertisements everywhere during a live game and in particularly around football, be it on football shirts, commercial breaks for in play betting and many other ways, gambling can very easily become an addiction and it can have devastating outcomes and it does make me ask the question, surely it is time to consider a ban on gambling companies being allowed to at the very least be sponsoring any sporting equipment or event, would be very interested to hear the thoughts of other Mailboxers on this issue.
Mikey, CFC


Corner turned?
I suppose United have turned another corner again even though they’ve only beat the worst club in the league at home. I’m expecting another flood of “give him time” mails.
MickT (Ole’s at the wheel but he’s pissed and dropped his glasses in the foot well behind the accelerator) Liverpool


Ole as Ed’s human shield
It’s 7.13am on a Saturday morning and quite frankly I haven’t mustered the ability to speak or write yet so this is going to be a super quick one. Something I haven’t seen mentioned much is the idea that Ole is simply in place so that Ed & The Glazers can continue to run the business side of things without the necessary fan backlash for the under performance on the pitch. It’s pretty damn obvious by this point that they’re either incapable or unwilling to chase the highest level of footballing success and they just want to keep things ticking over while keeping the business ticking over. What better manager than Ole to placate a fan revolt? Fans will give him so much more time than any other manager getting mediocre results. It’s the ideal situation for Ed – keeping Ole in the managers seat keeps the fans at arms length for another couple of years to hide from the fact that the higher ups in the club aren’t chasing the very top level of on pitch success. As long as the shiny Man United mascot of a bygone era is in place, fans will not cause too much of a fuss. I’m sure a superior journalist to myself could write a whole article about the benefits of having Ole there to just keep everyone vaguely on side for a bit. He’s a shiny Man United themed distraction from the blatant mediocrity of it all. It’s a dream come true for Ed, gives him a bit more time until the inevitable fan revolt at the fact that United are basically turning into Arsenal. Never going to win anything of importance anytime soon.


Chelsea improvement
I enjoyed that almost as much as the wins away to Arsenal and Spurs! A win at home against a team you would expect them to beat, by 2 or more goals, and a clean sheet to boot. Nice to see a CHO get his first league goal, James link up with Abraham for the second, and Barkley had a very un-Barkley-like game with simple incisive passing and not losing the ball in possession. When Burnley had the ball in the back of the net it seemed like Chelsea were in for another difficult afternoon at the Bridge, only for VAR to intervene because the Burnley player’s shorts were offside. Bigger tests will come, but nice to see Chelsea finally pass one they had previously been failing.

There have been many mailbox entries criticising Liverpool for being the beneficiary of some favourable VAR decision, but I’d like to put forward Chelsea as the luckiest team regarding VAR. Just yesterday Burnley’s goal was harshly ruled out, Willian’s soft penalty didn’t even warrant a review, and given how strict VAR are being with offsides, I thought CHO’s would be chalked off. The only decision I can think of that went against Chelsea is the disallowed goal against Liverpool, otherwise none come to mind. God I wish VAR had been around for that disgraceful semi final in 2009.


What IF?
I don’t know if Ben in Macc is being serious, but what exactly does he want from Liverpool fans?

Barring a catastrophe, they should win the title so Liverpool fans cannot but talk about it. Seeing how they got burnt last season and also because they have not won it in a while, the tendency is to not jinx it or to prematurely think it’s all over. Speaking as an Arsenal fan who got burnt by the Carling Cup loss to Birmingham after not winning anything since 2005, the tendency was not to jinx the FA Cup final against Hull. Even the players needed to come back mentally from 2-0 down to win.

I can understand if other fans have a grouse if Liverpool fans were preening, but this is literally petty.

Also, Liverpool have been phenomenal. From wanting them to lose the CL against Real to wanting them to lose the league to City to now wanting them to lose their unbeaten run in the league, they really have been consistently raising the bar. The best thing that happened to the club in recent history was John. W. Henry. Everything else was put in place.

Cheers to all.
Harish Rajagopalan, AFC, (Hope we end your Invincibles run), Chennai, India


Go for it or not?
Mark, LFC, Hong Kong’s mail on Alex Ferguson and his approach of being “willing to accept a loss in pursuit of victory” has me thinking on that theme and the question of whether or not it is better to be more attacking in the latter stages of a game if the scores are level.

All numbers from the back of an envelope/quick spreadsheet

Say an average team drops off for the final 15 minutes with the scores equal, we might estimate they will keep the scores level five times in seven (70%), win one game in seven and lose one game in seven (15% each). Average points return here is 1.14 per game

A team that goes for it might force a result most of the time, let’s say they will win 40% of the time and lose 40% of the time. Over ten games they might win four for 12 points, draw two, and lose four. 14 points return here is 1.4 points per game. This is roughly a 20% improvement over the ‘what we have we hold’ approach.

This points discrepancy comes from the reward for changing a draw to a win (three points, two more than a draw) being greater than the punishment for losing (zero points vs one for the draw).

The reasons why don’t we see more open games, for example this season when West Ham United and Sheffield United are drawing 1-1 after 70 minutes, are many and obvious: one team is often stronger so the other will naturally feel a need to drop off, managers worried about the effects of a loss on team confidence/their job security, the fact that these numbers are purely estimates and would likely take two or more seasons to be borne out in results. But it is interesting to note that even an average team with no more confidence in its attack than that of its opponent “should” be going for a win at the risk of losing. Sir Alex may well be teaching introduction to statistics for his next Harvard class.

One more point to note is that England was the world leader here, introducing three points for a win in the early 1980s in response to falling attendances. A quick web search will bring up a further reading far beyond what I have cobbled together here; Jonathan Wilson in the Guardian and Stockholm University have both published discussion on why the above incentives don’t play out on the pitch.

Thanks for reading and if you made it this far I hope your team wins or loses more than they draw for the rest of the season
Charlie, LFC (in Northern Virginia, not DC but that’s not as concise)


Rules are rules
Whatever everyone’s thoughts on VAR and the handball law (personally dislike both and glad I support a Championship team where VAR isn’t used) isn’t it time footballers realised that this is currently the rule and started to display a bit of intelligence when the ball hits their hand or arm, however accidental?

Time and time again players shoot or create an opportunity for a team mate after they’ve handled it. Goals have been ruled out all season no matter how accidental or slight the touch following a VAR review, and surely by now they know they need another phase of play?

Either Declan Rice doesn’t realise a goal will be ruled out last night (where has he been living the first half of the season?) or he does (why is he creating a good goal scoring chance?) and whichever the case it’s hard to have the slightest bit of sympathy for him or West Ham for their disallowed goal.
Mark, Nottingham


…So the new handball rule which punishes attackers but is different for defenders rears it’s head again. I’m sure everyone is clear this is not a VAR problem it is a rule problem.
I disagree with the rule but the one thing in its favour is that it is a black and white rule. The ball hits a hand/arm in the build up to a goal and it’s chalked off, same in every game and for every team. It definitely needs scrapping though. Debates over wrong decisions were far more enjoyable and over far quicker than any debate VAR has created.
The two things that haven’t yet been questioned, mainly because they haven’t happened in a game is 1, how far back in the move for a goal do we review for any handball, and more interestingly 2, what happens if the ball hits an attackers arm (ie not a handball unless a goal is scored) but he then goes on to be clearly fouled for a penalty. No goal has been scored, although it’s likely the pen will be scored, so the handball hasn’t led to a goal….yet. What is the ruling here?
An example might have been earlier this season in city 2-2 spurs. Jesus has a late goal ruled out for a Laporte handball, what if Jesus shot hadn’t gone in but was handballed on the line by a spurs defender?
One of my big issues with VAR is that officials are now letting play develop even if their hunch was offside or free kick because they know VAR will double check it for them. But if no goal is scored then the defending team has been done out of a free kick that would have been given without VAR being in the background. Imagine this is a team holding on to a 1-0 team amid a final 15 minute onslaught, the chance to relieve pressure from an offside is hugely valuable, and it’s an offside that would be given without VAR.
I don’t know the answer but I’m not paid to know. The arrogance and ignorance from Riley and those who officiate over the rules of our game in this country is staggering beyond belief
Rich AFC


…It’s such a dampener for west ham’s goal to be correctly ruled out, The coaches must now “teach” the forward players to move into the next phase of play, without attempt on goal, if you know the ball hits your hand, and if it doesn’t immediately lead to a goal, it won’t be VAR-checked and you probably still have ball possession in the final third – and after 1, 2, 3 passes, normal attacking resumes. If it’s then a goal, we’ll keep the pundits busy arguing if that handball culminated in an advantage for the goal. Of course you risk Snordgrass throwing a Mane- like tantrum for not slipping him in, which he knew, and had it all played out in his head, he could squeeze it in through the inside of Henderson’s left upright.
Philip Lim, somewhere where I woke up to watch the game while most of the world slept after watching.


The best I ever saw
I had the pleasure of being at Stanford Stadium for the 1994 World Cup quarter-final between Sweden and Romania. Even in a losing effort (Sweden won on Penalties), Georghe Hagi was mindboggling. He controlled the match in a way that would have the Pirlo/Xabi Alonso/Iniesta fans losing their collective minds.

Honorable mention: Watching Henry and Pavel Nedved at Euro 2000 was extraordinary.
Eric B NYC.

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