Five Man Utd midfield targets named as the Mailbox claims ‘fans need refereeing mistakes’ in VAR debate

Editor F365
Man Utd targets Pascal Gross, Douglas Luiz and Tomas Soucek
Pascal Gross, Douglas Luiz and Tomas Soucek are all suggested Man Utd targets.

One Mailboxer has named ‘five Premier League midfielders who could easily play for Man Utd’ while others give their ‘VAR-dict’.

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Five Premier League midfielders who could easily play for Man Utd
Given this season has practically consisted of no proper midfield for United this season, but more concerningly a defence made of glass, Mainoo and Fernandes were the only two midfielders for United this season who actually showed some quality this season, so I would like to name 5 midfielders in the league who would be more than capable playing at United given the shenanigans taken place recently:

Soucek – Strong, tall, lean and good defensively too, plus he has a decent shot on him too. Underrated midfielder and been doing it in the league for 4-5 years now, quite surprised no one has come in for him with a decent bid.

Palhinha – Firstly he can actually tackle and win the ball very well, at a good age at 28 years old and is Portuguese too, so could easily form a good relationship with both Dalot & Fernandes.

Eze – Big fan of him and should be on the plane to Germany for England at the Euros. He is strong, skillful, and still very young too, could see him further improving and he has the skillset to probably play for someone like Arsenal or Liverpool, but maybe doesn’t show enough consistency.

Douglas Luiz – One of the main reasons Villa have improved so much in the last two years, finishing 7th & 4th respectively in the last two full seasons. A quality player and Arsenal perhaps should have made more of an effort in signing him a few years back, and bloody hell would have been a bargain at 25-30 Million quid. I see him staying at Villa in the long run though, Unai Emery knows how important he is.

Pascal Groß – He is getting on a bit now at 32 years old, but blimey what a player he has been for Brighton over the years. Disciplined, creative and a leader too, but has somehow only played for Germany 5 times in his career. He is probably past his peak, but plays week in week out and rarely gets injured too, very reliable.
Rami, Dubai


VAR she blows 
In those precious days before VAR, did any fair-minded fan venture to a game expecting (or even wanting) to see a flawless contest? If a decision did go against them, did any mature person leave the ground cursing not only the referee but further speculating, on a regular basis, that the Football Association itself was conspiring against their team? Surely not. If the game was exciting, if goals were scored, if tackles were ground-shaking, if the songs were sung loud, if the pies were warm and the beer cold, then a good afternoon’s entertainment was had – and the only real debate was over the outrageous prices charged for the privilege, and the only real pain came from the final score.

But – unless a stand is made now – we are waving goodbye to those days forever. Indeed, in many ways, we have already bid adieu to the game we knew and loved – and we did so the moment we allowed VAR into the discussion.

The unnecessariness of it all is probably the saddest element of the entire debacle. The billionaires – desiring only profit – have sold us goods we did not need and which have ended up helping only them.

And, be sure, it does only profit them. After all, if we accept a couple of fairly obvious ‘ifs’ – that is, if few fans would ever expect perfection, and if the accepted principle behind any athletic competition is that these are flawed humans simply attempting to do their very best – then what is the need for an AI overlord? Why would we want to be judged by robots? Even though a machine could (probably) provide a chillingly accurate level of administration and erase (most) mistakes, so what? How is watching a perfectly-directed pantomime – with its inevitable delays, reviews, and lack of continuity – more desirable than absorbing the pain, frustration and emotion of the game in flow? Do we really only watch our teams in the hope of victory – albeit a surrogate one we played no part in – or do we take part emotionally, and even physically, suffering and celebrating in rhythm with the players on the pitch?

If this last is true, then the game must be reclaimed; VAR – beyond simple goal line technology – has proven itself unnecessary and harmful to the sport, and to the moral principles behind sport in general, and must be dispatched to the bin. For the same reason that we do not allow steroids – because they mask the humanity of the performer and the performance – we should not allow AI review. We do not require perfection, only the promise of fairness and objectivity.

And if that last statement isn’t the case, then let’s just get rid of all the humans now and go totally Robot Premier League. There won’t be any mistakes; the robots will be brilliant (eventually), and soon capable of physical performances far superior to those of weak humans. Of course, little boys and girls will no longer bother to spend their time dreaming of playing careers, and another aspect of human joy will be lost to the billionaire class, but at least you’ll have indisputable, clinical, sterile perfection, and all the little C3POs will likely be happy…
George (Little Spruffleton on the Waters)


The VAR-dict: PGMOL is offside
So, the EPL is going to vote on VAR and already there are polls flying around asking whether it should be kept or ditched.

In reality, VAR is failing, not because of what VAR is, but the woeful implementation by the PGMOL.

PGMOL has nearly always seemed inept in so many areas but glossed over under the umbrella that we shouldn’t criticize refs. And while we shouldn’t necessarily criticize them individually nor on a visceral and personal level that we sometimes see, I think we have a right to critique overall refereeing governance.

Unlike in other sports that use video and engage in open and transparent communication with players and fans, PGMOL remains in the dark ages. And no wonder, the few times we have audio of decisions, and worse, their processes, they have failed.

During the season when we can’t hear what they say or how they interact with players – other than anecdotal stories from years earlier by ex-pros – we have to assume they are the ultimate in professionalism.

But watching any ex-PGMOL ref as a ref pundit on TV, reading articles or books they publish or the recent antics of ex-refs like Clattenberg – its liking pulling the Great Oz’s curtain aside.

For teams that want to play as high a line as possible to compress their opponents as part of their pressing, VAR is an enabler. However, VAR’s implementation is problematic.

Apart from the apparent lack of clear processes, the inability of the VAR team to focus on their role, PGMOL lacks the required impartiality between the VAR team and the on field team. They should be two discrete and independent teams. Just as the QA function in any organization should not interchange team members with those they are ‘quality assuring.’

There is too much opportunity for conflict and the appearance of conflict. After all in Mike Dean’s book he openly admits he didn’t call Anthony Taylor to the pitch side monitor because he was, and I quote, “a mate.” He didn’t want to embarrass him. Forget the outcome of the game or decision. Or the fact Tuchel was booked for dissent over the decision which was clearly wrong. (I am not a Tuchel nor Chelsea fan either, but that was just as atrocious a decision as the process for the Luis Diaz goal against Spurs.)

Do clubs, managers, players behave impeccably? No. But then we don’t expect them to and we also expect they will get called out and unpunished if they step out of line.

But there is no oversight of PGMOL in terms of process and practices. We only have their word that they apply rigorous standards – and then we hear them talk and we realize that most don’t have the capacity to create rock solid processes. They may understand the ‘rules’ but that is only one element of a game that has been progressing quickly in so many areas.

Players are trained better, have better skills, more tactically aware, better nutrition, etc. The game is faster. Managers employ a wide range of strategies and employ specialist coaches. Heck, even fans are better informed with access to tons of data. But the standard of refereeing hasn’t moved forward.

VAR was an attempt to close that gap.

A separate team should have been developed, in the same way clubs have developed specialist nutrition, physio, specialist coaching and data management teams, to work on VAR implementation and oversight. Giving it to the same people who may be unhappy having their work publicly ‘criticized’ was the wrong decision.

VAR has failed. But it has placed the spotlight on an even greater failure. Will PGMOL change? I doubt it. And with VAR gone there is less pressure on open and translation communications.
Paul McDevitt


Fans Need Refereeing Mistakes
I wonder is the fundamental problem with VAR that fans, deep down, don’t want 100% correct decision making?

Football fans are tribal. Our team is better than yours. I don’t want to admit that your team is better despite the fact that they’ve just won the game/league/trophy. I want to be able to blame someone. I want to be able to point a finger at the ref, 115 charges, unfair scheduling or whatever other straw I can grasp to avoid admitting that my team just wasn’t good enough.

The ref doesn’t just enforce the laws of the game, he also has a very important emotional function as the lightning rod for fans disappointment/anger at not winning. Take that away from us and what have we left? Fans aren’t objective. Tribalism is fun. Don’t take it away from us.

Incidentally, go back and rewatch Real Madrid’s winning goal against Bayern. Watch the celebrations when VAR gives the goal. Didn’t look like it took any of the fun out of it to me.
Conor Malone, Donegal.


Last day VAR
You realise that the title will be decided by a contentious VAR decision in one of the games.
Andrew Goonerabroad (No matter what, it’s been an amazing season so get stuffed Stewie.)


Euro qualification
In the unlikely event Utd win the FA Cup and qualify for Europe, how does that impact Nice given Nice had the higher domestic league finish, I assume priority will be given to the plucky cup winners. I know Ratcliffe said that the “double jeopardy” wouldn’t be an issue, but he also said he’d fix the roof?
Concerned Fan of Laws and Regulations (multi club ownership is going to kill the game)


Dethroning the Champs 
From this morning’s mailbox. “If you want to win the league, you have to dethrone the champions.  You have to go to their place and (try and) play them off the park, not sit back and play like a minnow in an FA cup game.”

No, you don’t. Some examples.

2003/04 – The invincibles. Drew 0-0 at Old Trafford. 0 shots on target.
2004/05 – Chelsea drew 2-2 at Highbury.
2006/07 – United drew 0-0 at Stamford Bridge
2010/11 – United lost  2–1 at Stamford Bridge
2014/15 – Chelsea drew 1-1 at City
2015/16 Leicester drew 1-1 at the bridge
2019/20 Liverpool lost 4-0 at City (although were already champions)

I could go on but those are just some examples. You don’t need to beat the champs at their own ground. You don’t even need to beat them. You don’t need to beat all the top 6, you don’t need to beat all the bottom 3 (although you definitely should do some of those things).

There is no one thing you have to do to win the title. Arsenal took 4 points off City. That’s really good. They didn’t need 6. I would bet there are very few seasons where a team takes 6 points off the reigning champions. Arsenal had a great season. They will probably finish on 89 points. There is nothing they especially did wrong. That’s a great total. We don’t need to look for “moments”. City were just (probably) 2 points better.
Mike, LFC, Dubai


Your Dad or my Dad 
City fan here. (sigh). On Friday, James Outram wrote:

“Do you think the management, directors, coaches et al would be working for ADFC is they weren’t being paid ludicrous wages?  How do you think the, admittedly excellent, club structures came into being?”

(ADFC.  I see what you did there.  Hilarious.)

On your first sentence, my simple reply is “Er, no James.”  And to your second sentence, the answer you’re looking for is that City Football Group (CFG) have, since 2008, gradually built up, and brought in, the best in the business to create said ‘excellent club structures’.  Now call me a bluff old heterosexual, but in my limited experience, that tends to involve paying the best wages.  To use a poor analogy. If you are an excellent engineer at BMW or Audi, and are then headhunted to work for Mercedes F1 for twice the wages and better conditions, what would YOU do?

If, on the other hand, you are inferring that it is ONLY money that attracts the best out there to the Etihad, then I’m sorry to be the one to break the news to you but Manchester City are, and have been for some years now, one of the top three clubs in world football.

You then wrote:

“Why won’t the supporters of the club own the fact that the team is where it is now as a result of the massive and continued influx of nation state revenue?”

I can’t speak for any other City fans, but I DO own it.  It’s a fact.  What’s your point?  It’s not fair because your Dad is, now, richer than my Dad?  As I wrote the other day, you can pump as much dosh into a club as you like (literally) but it means sh*t if it isn’t spent well.  Mr E Woodward of Salford refers.

Which brings me neatly on to MAW LA Gooner.  I hold my hands up when I say I struggled through your mail, but one of the first things to jump out at me was this:

“That being said, what Mark clearly fails to understand is that if you have two clubs that are similarly well-run then the one who has spent more money will obviously have the upperhand – that’s just how it works whether it be football or, sadly, just life in general.”

Please tell me that you’re not comparing Arsenal to City in how both clubs have been run over, say, the last fourteen years?  Because I seem to remember an awful lot of discord amongst the Gooner faithful before Wenger left, during Emery’s brief stint and during Arteta’s first year.  Admittedly, my memory is a little fuzzy, but I seem to recall that the general reason for the unhappiness had something to do with the way AFC was being run.  Happy to be corrected.

Finally, and before the inevitable ‘Sportswashing!” crowd pile in, might I politely ask you who it was that allowed Abramovich to buy Chelsea, Sheikh Mansour City, and the Saudis Newcastle?  I ask as it certainly wasn’t the fans.  And in the same vein, let’s not forget how quiet the F365 mailbox went when it appeared that the Qataris were favourite to take over United.  I don’t recall hordes of Red Devil mails bemoaning the prospect.
Mark (Calvino. Genuine question. Was it 73, 600 bums on seats or 73,600 seats sold?  I ask as it wouldn’t be the first time a stadium hasn’t clarified which was which and it sure looked like the latter to me.)  MCFC.


Thanks Jurgen 
​Having older brothers who supported Liverpool meant it was inevitable I would too and from the late 70’s I was hooked. Being from Dublin I don’t consider myself a scouser but from my visits to the city over the years it always felt like a home from home.

I witnessed a run of success that was unparalleled and then suddenly, it all came to a shuddering halt.

I was 17 in the year that Liverpool won their last League Title. I still loved the club but as the years passed, each false dawn, including Istanbul only served to reinforce how unlikely a sustained assault on the summit would be.

Then along came Jurgen and gave the club (and by extension all of us) hope and steel and flair and big wins and defeats, and even those defeats showed that we weren’t just having a successful blip but we were now part of the elite.

In the wilderness years, I bought a house, got married, had children.

In the year my elder son turned 17, Liverpool won the Premier League.

Thank You Jurgen.
Rob, Ireland


Calvino’s Ramblings 
Did Calvino previously work for the North Korean propaganda Department? Maybe I missed it but was Nobby Stiles actually the first man on the moon; or Kevin Moran holds the course record at St Andrew’s with 18 perfect holes in one? Maybe Clayton Blackmore invented the Internet or Danny Wallace won 4 gold medals at the 1936 Olympics much to the disgruntlement of Hitler.

I can just see Big Ron swimming the length of the Manchester Ship Canal with Norman Whiteside on his back just before the ’85 cup final. I mean I get it, you love your team but please have some perspective. This is probably the worst Manchester United Team I have ever seen but according to Calvino they are a cross between the Royal Engineers at Rourke’s Drift and Brazil 1970. If Manchester United’s ex-players and fans could actually get a grip on reality then they might start doing something again. Maybe the reason the roof is leaking is because no one at United actually believes it’s even there.
Brett (Good luck to David Moyes in whatever he chooses to do in the future)


FAO Rosie Poppins 
I’m sure you’ll get plenty of these but Arsenal picked up 21 points from 24 since the match vs City, losing only to Villa (sandwiched between CL semis vs Bayern).

Not sure your theory holds up.
Davey, Cork