Man Utd boss Rangnick should take a leaf out of Ted Lasso’s book

Date published: Wednesday 5th January 2022 10:23 - Editor F365

Ralf Rangnick Man Utd Ted Lasso collage

Would Man Utd and Ralf Rangnick be better off without Cristiano Ronaldo? Plus, a rant about Marcus Rashford and more reaction as Arsenal vs Liverpool is called off.

Keep your mails coming to theeditor@football365.com

 

Would Man Utd be better off without Ronaldo?
I was sat in a pub in October questioning the logic of the Ronaldo signing while settling down to watch pre-Conte Tottenham vs pre-Rangnick Manchester United. Of course, Ronaldo duly made two incisive interventions that day with a masterful volley and a sublime assist to hand the best wooden spoon ever to Spurs, nullifying my points at face value in doing so. ‘He scores goals’ and is ‘one of the two best ever players in the world’ have of course been the valid-yet-simplistic responses to questions regarding his current capacity and desire to be effective during the ‘invisible game’ (as Johan Cruyff would put it) and considerations of the hindrance his accommodation brings to the team’s playing style and potentially negative effects on individuals such as Mason Greenwood and Bruno Fernandes were dismissed.

While it seems remiss to neglect to consider players’ contributions over the 88 minutes without the ball, if a forward is scoring freely and assisting too then said player being a passenger for the most-part is certainly less of an issue. Ronaldo punished Tottenham that day and seemed to do exactly ‘what they bought him for’. However, the fact that Manchester United have three less league goals as we speak on the fifth day of the calendar year is incredibly telling. When taking into account that United’s 33 league goals by this date last year came in 16 games, as opposed to 30 in 21 (7 of which were scored before Ronaldo had arrived), there is quite clearly a problem in the team’s attacking play and this regression must be addressed accordingly by those within the club.

Of course, there are glaring weaknesses throughout this Manchester United’s team and overall structural problems within the club and I am not suggesting that the entire blame can fall at the feet of just one employee. That said, it is worth considering which variables have remained constant from last season to this season and which variables have changed. Having written in to suggest that we were collectively too quick to assume Jaden Sancho won’t flop in late July (met with one particularly unhinged diatribe in the following mailbox), the more obvious answer is indeed the fanboys’ favourite Portuguese megastar. As a consequence of his goals drying up coinciding with Ralf Rangnick now being at the helm, a lot is being made of the the lack of width of the 4-2-2-2 formation, which in turn has allowed the excuses to transition into the scarcity of balls for the two up front to attack.

It is funny how reactions fit the narrative. One of the lasting memories of David Moyes’ Man Utd were his team’s efforts to break down Fulham’s defence in a 2-2 home draw, attempting 81 crosses. Moyes, of course, was derided and defended the tactics by insisting that playing with width was ‘in United’s genes’. While the lack of width/crosses stick that is now being used to beat Ralf Rangnick seems to be somewhat at odds with that previously used too many crosses stick, Sancho’s touch heat-map versus Wolves did show that he was providing a lot of width per se (even if he succeeded in just 9 of 26 dribbles). Equally, Luke Shaw’s chance creation stats from a wide position have been relatively high in recent times. Even the much-maligned and off the charts moaner, Bruno Fernandes, was once known to offer the occasional assist.

On signing Ronaldo, a promise of 14 goals in 22 appearances would seem reasonable, and his 6 Champions League strikes have undoubtedly prolonged United’s stay in this year’s competition. However, examples such as Sebastian Haller’s 10 goals in 6 CL outings add context to group stage goals. Equally, it is hard to argue that goals versus the likes of Burnley, Newcastle, that Tottenham and Norwich can be deemed as adding value, given United’s previous attacking prowess. Considering that the total sum of his endeavours only further includes the two poacher’s goals and penalty versus West Ham and Arsenal, it begins to become apparent that the disharmony and division within the squad linked to his undroppable status is justifiable. After all, since offering a combined six goals in the first three games of the season, the aforementioned Greenwood and Fernandes have offered a grand sum of four league goals since Ronaldo’s arrival.

Perhaps a valuable lesson can be observed early on in the excellent Ted Lasso series. Jamie Tartt did score a few great goals for AFC Richmond, but it was his manger’s bold substitution which ultimately turned things around.
AC in Milan

 

Covid and cancellations
Felt the need to jump in and defend Liverpool given the abuse in the mailbox this morning, which was strangely missing when the likes of Newcastle and Leeds requested postponement, or even City last year and United this. The current rules are, I believe, 14 senior outfielders and two keepers, in the prem at least. I know this is the EFL cup, so might be different rules, but it’s prudent to assess on this basis I believe.

Liverpool played the Chelsea game at the weekend with 15 senior outfielders, plus Owen Beck and Tyler Morton, and have since lost 3 to AFCON and gained 1 back from suspension, net result is 13 senior players, and 2 senior goalkeepers (plus Pitaluga).
We know there have been “further suspected positive cases,” but not how many. We know that the number of available players is already below the threshold required.

A good few Arsenal fans would obviously like the game to continue it would seem, but there may not even be the players to do so. The shouts for “use the u23s!” ignore the fact that these players too, may catch COVID. Liverpool have now had 3 days of consecutive positive tests. How many players should be travelling to London the night prior to ensure a full squad is available?
Surely Liverpool have taken the sensible approach (missing by Villa), and requested this postponement early, in order to spare fan costs as much as possible?

Ultimately, it’s hard for anyone to say “well you should do this” as we don’t know who or how many have COVID, and using the measures available and used by everyone else shouldn’t elicit such a vitriolic response.
KC (shout out to the morons who will use this as proof of a faulty jab)

 

I see the mailbox has – perhaps unsurprisingly – flown into Liverpool. ”But they do have players!’. ‘Why can’t they just play the Under 18s!’. ‘They’ll play a youth XI against Shrewsbury”.

Well, yes. The thing is Liverpool have done everything right here. Every player is vaccinated and boosted or will be. We know that is not the case with other clubs. Some of those other clubs have had league games cancelled and the outcry over those league games being cancelled was…. well there wasn’t one. Some of those cancelled games will now cause fixture pile-up later on in the season. Why should those clubs, and those unvaccinated players, put additional pressure on other teams? Why aren’t they made to put out weakened teams of youngsters? Why is it ok for unvaccinated players to risk the health of other professionals by forcing a fixture pile-up?

Liverpool had a game called off the other week against Leeds. Why didn’t Leeds put out their U23s? Where was the opprobrium? Why are Leeds so special? They had five positive Covid cases.

In the past when Liverpool have chosen to field weakened teams in cup competitions they have been accused of not taking these competitions seriously. It isn’t a coherent position to say that fielding weakened teams undermines the entire integrity of  the competition… and then want the competition to mandate a team fields a weakened team for a semi-final!

Many will point to Villa being forced to put out a team versus Liverpool last year. Indeed. Perhaps though that was the wrong call. Only a lunatic would make the same call again simply because of precedent! Others may note Liverpool managed to play two games in 24 hours a couple of years back when they were at the World Club Cup.  Again.  Perhaps the wrong call was probably made.

In short: do premier league clubs fielding weakened teams undermine the integrity of the cup competitions? If so, why are you insisting this happens in a semi-final? If not, really? Fine. Then don’t ever complain again when a club chooses to field kids in an FA Cup third round.
Marrsio, Edinburgh

 

A lot has been made of the Liverpool postponement. There are several conflicting examples and precedents. But the biggest defence appears to be that other teams have had postponed games this season.

I think the response to that is that it’s different. When the other teams did it they were not cheating.

Other than that it’s exactly the same
Johnno

 

I appreciate that by the time this is published (here’s hoping!) that the outcome of Liverpool request to postpone their cup semi final will probably be announced, but…

…at the start of this season, Arsenal endured their now almost legendary “tough start”. We lost to Brentford on the opening day, we swatted aside by Chelsea, and then absolutely battered by Man City. We were in the relegation zone and out goal difference was minus 3000. We were laughed at, Arteta’s request for people to trust the process was sneered at, and mocked.

What no one, seemingly, acknowledged, was that Arsenal were pretty much devastated by Covid cases. We had a centre back pairing of Chambers and Mari; Cedric played at right back, Holding also played if we played as a 5; Lokonga made his Premier League debut; Martinelli was played up top.

Arguably, only Leno, Tierney, Xhaka and Saka could be argued as “actual starters” at the time, and Xhaka got an injury that kept him out for 4 months. We missed White, Gabriel, Partey, Lacazette and Aubameyang. Ramsdale and Tomiyasu weren’t in the side yet, and the team hadn’t really played together. It really was the toughest of starts.

My point is, there was zero talk of postponing the games, even though half our first 11 was out. We just had to get on with it. All these postponements now, they really stock in the craw a bit.
Dale May, Swindon Wengerite

Jurgen Klopp bumps fists with Mikel Arteta

What would Arsenal supporters prefer? Liverpool to forfeit tomorrow’s match and Arsenal to win 3-0 by default, but meaning Liverpool are able to field a stronger side next week – or play Liverpool’s under 23s tomorrow, and take their chances with Covid and risk Liverpool getting any kind of positive score to take into the 2nd leg when their first team will be back to strength and Arsenal’s squad could be struck by covid?

Also, what happens if Liverpool are given the option of either playing Arsenal or forfeiting, decide to play with Under23s/Under18s, lose 3-1 but pass Covid on to the Arsenal squad and staff leading to Arsenal requesting a postponement themselves, failing, and subsequently can’t field any sort of team and are forced to forfeit the match? Presumably Liverpool are awarded the match 3-0 by default and therefore win the tie 4-3 as a result?

It’s all hypothetical of course. Just curious, as the one thing that’s being overlooked by so many is that covid is becoming rampant amongst squads and supporters and people seem to think that playing football matches in full stadia is the most important thing.
Rob

 

Here’s an answer to Leo Kerrison’s attempt to troll the mailbox:

1) it’s a vaccine with surprisingly good, but limited efficacy. No-one ever said taking it would make you 100% impervious to contracting Covid ever ever again because no medical treatment in the history of medicine has a permanent 100% success rate. It (i) reduces but doesn’t eradicate your chances of catching Covid; (ii) in most cases reduces the seriousness of the symptoms you suffer if you do catch it both in the short term and in terms of getting long Covid; and (iii) becauae of (i) and (ii) makes you less likely to spread it to other people – so that’s why it’s possible to still get it. Because it is a vaccine, not wizardry.

2) who says the players in question, if they have indeed had all of their jabs, are feeling unwell? My understanding, for example, is that Victor Lindelof was asymptomatic, or had such mild symptoms that he was fit and ready to play Wolves but couldn’t because of self-isolarion rules. Because of their Vaccines they could feel right as rain, or at least better than they would’ve otherwise felt, but still unavailable for selection until they return negative lateral flow tests for two consecutive days on days 6 and 7 of their isolation period… per the law.

3) so you’ve been going out without a mask, not been jabbed and not got it yet. Good for you. You do realise that that is just a combination of the effect of the 70% of the population who have been jabbed and those who wear masks protecting you and good luck though? What exactly was your point there – you haven’t got it yet and therefore they don’t do anything? I’ve been fully jabbed, where masks when requires and haven’t got it yet either (and don’t seem to have any ailments linked to “breathing my own fluids” which, frankly, I’d rather breath than someone else’s fluids…). Which is weird, because if both your individual experience is categorical evidence that masks and jabs do nothing and my individual experience is categorical evidence that they do, then logic as we know it just doesn’t work! Or, alternatively, your obvious pride at not wearing a mask isn’t evidence of anything other than how much of a tool you are. Perhaps we should instead refer to the experience of the 61% of all Covid patients in intensive care who didn’t get vaccinated (despite the unvaccinated population being 20m (of which more than half are children who are, mercifully, highly unlikely to be hospitalised) against approx 47m that have) as being near categorical evidence that you ate significantly more likely to get seriously ill if unvaccinated (61% taken from the British Medical Journal as at 4 Jan).

4) Your logic that just because someone is obese they shouldn’t take an incredibly basic step to protect themselves against a known short term risk is, politely, nonsense.

5) There are various reasons that the government needs to spend heavily on advertising the jabs – and its nothing sinister. On the one hand, there are pockets of society that have in-built distrust of government and/or medical institutions for very good and understandable  historic reasons. On the other hand, there are stupid people like you that they need to reach. There are also naive people who are susceptible to the dangerous misinformation that trolls like you spout that needs counteracting.

Hope that helped to clarify.
Andy (MUFC)

 

To Leo,

This isn’t particularly the right forum, but given your mail was published it needs to be addressed.

Vaccinations teach your body how to fight an infection. It is not a shield, vaccinated people can carry and pass on COVID. The difference is vaccinated people can fight the infection quickly but in the few days when infected before the body shakes it off, it can be passed to others. Especially vulnerable or unvaccinated.
Vaccinated people isolate and wear masks to protect others and prevent the spread. It is not for their health.

It also helps reduce hospital admissions, blocking beds for those suffering from long term illness or cancer treatment.

So feel free to brag about your ignorance and lack of caring for wider society.
Rich (1% sounds low but 600k deaths in the UK, 70m worldwide)

 

Transfer wastage
I was busy writing a whiny mail about how Utds problems are not manager or player related. They boil down to transfer wastage. But instead I’ll provide some data that demonstrates my point and is also quite interesting for other clubs.

I have taken the league table for this year and looked at points gained for each club. I then up or downscaled these points as if all had played 20 games to remove that issue. Then I have looked at their nett spend per season averaged over the last 5 seasons to see how spend relates to points.

Norwich, Brentford & Southampton are not applicable as their nett spend is in the negative. Make of that what you will but probably only Brentford will be happy with their league position. Top of the league is Liverpool – 0.4 million spent per point. Not a massive surprise but reiterates how well they’ve been spending and selling.

Then places 2, 3 & 4 are all London clubs. Palace, Spurs & Chelsea.

5-8 are Leicester, Burnley, West Ham & Wolves

Then the bottom of the table is quite interesting and somewhat proves my point about Utd. Everton are bottom with 2.6 million per point, Man Utd next bottom (2.3) and then Man City (2.0). While not surprised to see Everton there as they’ve been plummeting down the league after a good start, I was somewhat surprised City were so low. I guess it shows how poor both the Manchester clubs are at selling on players – they don’t seem to care for selling and would rather keep expensive fringe players on the books than try to sell them. It also shows that there is little value in purchasing players at their peak that cost 50 million plus that the Manchester clubs so regularly do. When Utd already had Greenwood, Rashford and Martial trying to get on the pitch, why the need to spend so big on Sancho? Why not rather buy cheaper promising youth….like Elanga, Pellistri and Diallo who we also bought and Chong that we have on the books who are all wingers and combined cost a fraction of Sancho. Fred has been criticised for his early performances but 50 million spent on him is a lot better value than the 90 million on Pogba for a player that hardly seems to play and when he does is just as erratic as the rest of the squad. And I’m not even going to start with how a top club with any sense can sign players that are past their peak, no matter how good they might still be (Falcao, Ibrahimovic, Ronaldo, Cavani…). No wonder utds salary spend is 40% more than Chelsea and around 60% more than City and Liverpool – more money well spent utd. Man utds salary cost could just about cover the whole Liverpool and Arsenal squads.

Utd should really be looking at the transfer strategies of Liverpool, Leicester, Spurs (???) and Chelsea who are all punching above their weight. Instead we’re continuing a pissing contest with Man City which we’ll never win as they have a much bigger oil pipeline.

Chelsea seem to have been hoovering up talent and loaning them out. Liverpool have been cherry picking players to develop that fit their style. Leicester are buying bargains and Spurs just don’t spend and rely on Son & Kane to keep them scoring. And all of them seem to make money off those that are surplus to requirements. Until Utd have an actual transfer strategy in place every manager will have a short and tumultuous stay.
Jon, Cape Town (this exercise was depressing and enlightening at the same time)

P.S Full table looked like this for those teams I didn’t mention above:

1. Liverpool 0.4, 2. Crystal Palace 0.5, 3. Tottenham Hotspur 0.5, 4. Chelsea 0.6, 5. Leicester City 0.8, 6. Burnley 0.8, 7. West Ham United 0.9, 8. Wolverhampton Wanderers 1.3, 9. Watford 1.3, 10. Brighton and Hove Albion 1.4, 11. Arsenal 1.4, 12. Leeds United 1.5, 13. Aston Villa 1.7, 14. Newcastle United 1.9, 15. Manchester City 2, 16. Manchester United 2.3, 17. Everton 2.6

 

A Marcus Rashford rant
We need to talk about Marcus.  It’s crazy to think how a 15 minute cameo against Wolves can be up there with one of our worst performances of the season, but here we are.

Just to preface this by saying I won’t be suggesting that Marcus should stop all his charity work because if great players can also be party animals then surely they can juggle charity work as well.

I was really worried for our young strikers Rashford and Martial when Jose took over, as his disdain for young attackers is widely known and he likes his profile of striker to be a target man, which neither of them are.
I was really worried for him when Ole got the job as Rashford was in desperate need of some coaching and the less said about Ole and his merrymen of novice coaches the better. Just imagine if Harry Kane had Sherwood as manager all those years instead of Poch then he’d probably be where Rashford is now.

He is now 24 years old and so many levels behind his counterparts in that position (Mane and Son). He is another young player that maybe got everything too soon and starting becoming comfortable, he has the same holes in his game as he did 5 years ago but even worse now because he’s seemed to stop running. Is it arrogance?

Some key weaknesses in his game:
1)No left foot – this is criminal for a top level player, if you watch him he will always cut inside which makes him so easy to defend against
2)Less running – It seems to me he has stopped doing the things that made him such a threat (running) and wants the ball to feet.
3)Dribbling – He is a below average dribbler both statistics and eye test will back that up, he is unable to run with the ball at speed which means he usually slows the game down
4)Intelligence – His decision making is often one of the worst on the pitch and this is something that should have been drilled out of him years ago.
5)Finishing and attacking positions – Ask yourself would you be confident if he was 1 on 1.
6) Mental Fragility – Most important and it explains why every season he finds himself in a slump.

I think he believes himself to be akin to Neymar, extremely skilful and technical when he should be modelling his game after someone like Mbappe or Jamie Vardy who use their pace to terrorise defences. Unfortunately, I think we’ve reached a point where Rashford may have an overinflated ego and he needs to knuckle down and focus on improving the aspects of his game that are severely lacking while playing to his strengths.
Longsight Lad

 

The people get what they want…
I appreciate John’s piece about football punditry and I understand his desire to for better quality insight into the game. However I feel that he misses the mark slightly. John writes: “We want intelligent thought, not football cliches.”

The problem is, I’m not sure that’s true. John might want that. Most readers of this site might want that. But the general population just want to be entertained. Think about the clips that go viral. It’s not a detailed analysis of  the complexities of a switch from 4-3-3 to 5-3-2. It’s Roy Keane shouting that players are useless. Or Neville and Carragher arguing about whether Solskier should be sacked. In general, people just want to be entertained.

This is true across all areas of life. What books top the best seller charts? Dan Brown, John Grisham, James Patterson. Nothing wrong with those books (except Dan Brown), but they are easily consumable, with very little thought needed. Which movies dominate the box office? Currently Marvel. Nothing wrong with Marvel films. They’re well made blockbusters but they’re not going to make you question the nature of existence. Which comedians sell out the O2? Is it those that do sharp, biting political satire? No, it’s Michael Macintyre talking about cutting wrapping paper, or Peter Kay doing an impression of a biscuit being dunked.

Football punditry is the same. Football is a product and it’s designed to be entertaining. Spaces already exist for those wanting to get a more detailed, intelligent analysis. Podcasts and websites have sprung up but they’re not mass market.

People like a familiar face and they like to be entertained. If ratings would go up with football journalists discussing the game, instead of the current pundits, that’s what Sky etc. would do. TV companies don’t have a duty to provide insight, they have the produce the product which the majority of people will enjoy. That is currently what they are doing.
Mike, LFC, London

 

Certainly valid for Johnny Nic and others to complain about ex-professionals getting such an easy ride to a commentary gig while non-playing football experts get overlooked. At the same time, yesterday, in the feed of a football website not-a-million-miles-away from where he writes, I count seven pieces written around the quoted musings of Darren Bent, Paul Merson, Rio Ferdinand (twice), Wayne Rooney, Jamie Redknapp and Paul Ince, all somehow qualifying for the tag as ‘News’. Renowned football tactician and polymath Jamie O’Hara regularly features in said feed.

Perhaps be the change you wish to see in the world?
Tim AFC

 

Why I read the mailbox
The reasons I read the mailbox, in order of importance, are:

1. To get some insight into the game from people who watched it, saw something different, have an opinion about their club’s players, tactics or manager. Thank God for the Wolves fan who wrote in after Monday’s game -it’s always a help to read about a club I don’t follow very much.
2. To prolong the enjoyment of a win, it’s a bit of a fan forum, great to read the other fans cheering.
3. To see if my latest email got published. About half of them are.
4. To read after a rival club has lost. The fans’ implosion as they blame the refs, players or wonder whether they’ve got the right manager. Some fans are particularly likely to do this and it’s amusing for the rest of us.
5. Just occasionally you get a five-star email or a bon mot (good word) that is written which transcends the others by its wit or feeling. Like a 20-yard volley into the top corner it leaves you feeling “wow I wish I could do that!”
And then it’s back to work.
Paul in Brussels (why is this variant of the virus causing more disruption to UK football than last season?) 

 

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