The Mailbox think last night summed up Man Utd under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. The Red Devils put on a “tantrum masterclass” while Edinson Cavani has to start over Cristiano Ronaldo.
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Man Utd vs Atalanta
Not written in for a while but thought I would bite at a few things in the mailbox. Miguel and his “United always turn up against Liverpool” your lot has been good for 3 years FFS United was your cup final for 20 years before that same as during the 70s and 80s Liverpool was ours. Anyway last night summed up United under Ole, the first half was a shocking sh*t show of defensive ineptitude along with a Portuguese tantrum master class, the second half was an attacking joy yet Ole as soon as the third went in and Atalanta were rocking decided to bring on speed merchant Matic this one act gave Atalanta impetus to start attacking again, under Fergie United would have gone for the jugular and put them to the sword, under Ole as soon as we look like winning he goes into his shell and tries to protect what he has but with old slab head, Lindelof and Wan Bissaka one brain fart away from gifting anybody a goal this invariably will come back to bite him in the arse.
As a fan of 50 plus years I can take Ole making mistakes as he finds his managerial feet, having watched United under Sexton get pummelled week in week out then I can appreciate footballs ups and downs, what I can’t abide though is not learning from your mistakes and I think the frustration of many United fans stems from this. Lastly I honestly think Ole didn’t want Ronaldo and this was the willy waving statement signing Woodward loves. I love Ronaldo and he will get you goals but he has also upset the harmony of the team and Cavani for me was a better bet up front as he brings other players into play, Ronaldo and his single minded will to win even to the detriment of the team will frustrate in bigger games against better teams.
Paul Murphy, Manchester (hoping for 2nd half United on Sunday)
A crazy game that felt like playing a better version of Leeds under Bielsa. I’ve seen Atalanta play maybe a half dozen times but not until this game did I understand the relentless recklessness of their style. While Ole flounders unable to organise his defence Gasperini has constructed one that purposefully plays on a knife edge, always one on one daring the opposition to attack so they can take advantage. That tactic has obviously worked well for Atalanta but its one that ultimately fails against sides with gross attacking talent. United have scored more than two in a game 3 times in 12 games this season, against the haphazard styles of Bielsa and Gasperini and the incompetence of Newcastle. We we’re always going to score well in this game, that we did shouldn’t heap much praise on the team or the manager.
Enough has been said about Ole’s lack of tactical nous but it’s worth noting that in lieu of tactics Ole plays on confidence. I’m pretty sure he feels a team properly pumped up and feeling good will win against any opposition regardless of tactics. Obviously this is a highly flawed perspective but I think its telling that United produce their best moments under Ole when the team is at its lowest, when he has the opportunity to lift them up, it’s what he’s good at. Its why he was so successful post Mourinho, dragging the players out of the hole Jose had buried them in. But once they’re out of the hole he lacks the ability to push them higher or even it seems to prevent them from falling back in. It’s the reason this team goes through cycles of good to bad form every 15 or 20 games.
The conclusion of last nights game will definitely lift spirits and if Ole can sustain that feeling and translate it to a good performance against Liverpool then United might climb out of the hole for a few more weeks. It would be handy with City and Chelsea coming up after the scousers. Looking further ahead United have one of the best fixture runs I’ve ever seen over Christmas. From the 5th of December to the end of February they play 12 league games with only one coming against last years top 8, a home game against West Ham. If United can go into that run on the back of some good results then the compact scheduling and standard of opposition could work to Ole’s advantage and help prevent a disastrous season, though at this moment I’m not confident that can or will happen.
Dave, Manchester (down a hole)
There seems to be this superficial belief that plying your trade under the greatest manager of all time and winning lots of silverware somehow prepares you to be a top manager in your own right – and it appears that quite a few have been given opportunities based off that assumption – but what if it’s actually hamstringing these ex-players to imagine that what made Fergie the manager he was, what brought him so much success is even learnable much less replicable?
Robson, Keane, Bruce, Stam, Neville(s), Giggs, and I’m sure I’ve missed a few; now Rooney and Ole, and that’s not to mention his assistants like Kidd, Quieroz etc. How many have been unqualified successes? At least Becks and Van der Sar were smart enough to steer well clear.
Different time, different circumstances, different skill set, less competition in the domestic game, being top dog financially and a unique overpowering personality helped the teacher become what he became. You can’t just stick them on the curriculum. The game has moved on.
When Ole was appointed I had a mix of hope and faith. Watching him operate for the best part of three years now I have to admit I’m pretty much running on fumes of pure hope at this point.
Football – a self destructive addiction
Ole! Ole 🙂 Ole? Ole 🙁
I am not a ManU fan. But I can see what’s happening. Right now supporting ManU is akin to being a functioning addict in their prime phase. I’m not making light of addiction, I myself had (still have, but under control i guess) a gambling addiction.
Currently the highs are just so high – PSG, numerous comeback wins, big signings, return of Ronaldo and his crazy immediate impact, topped off with Ole himself being a ‘legend’ who helped fans hit that ‘peak high’ decades ago. Which they are still chasing today.
And then the soul crushing lows which we debate to tedium.
Meanwhile the neutral fans can see this cycle of destruction occur in front of us. We can see that really this is not getting better, united are just gonna flip-flopping between highs and lows, and this is all being enabled by the owners/board etc.
Now some will say that ultimately the dream is to win the whole thing EPL/UCL ect etc
But others will say right now they are having so much fun and so many mini highs that it’s better this way. Therefore it’s difficult to intervene and break the cycle.
Unfortunately for most addicts it takes hitting rock bottom before you can admit and commit to long hard change ahead. Wonder if United can see the light early enough.
To be fair supporting almost all of the EPL is the same. I guess each team is a slightly different type of self destructive addiction, but I’ll stop short of comparing which team is what.
ABU365 at it again
Lets take a look at two independent scenarios:
Team A got a two goal lead, managed to lose it, were worse off for much of the match and finally managed to win 3-2 after playing 11 vs 10 for much of the second half
Team B started rubbish and were quickly 2-0 down, the manager had a half time talk, and made changes which slowly led to the team winning 3-2.
Yet team A is lauded for their tactics, gameplay, management and what not. (Rightly so, this is not a dig at liverpool, they were excellent)
But Team B has multiple articles making fun of their manager, the club and the entire situation.
I am by no no no means OleIn. I dont think he has shown that he has it in his to get results consistently enough to win league. But when he actually does get those results, the least y’all can do is show some kind of respect.
You are the manager!
Ooh, are we onto the Newcastle hypotheticals already? I do love a good ‘what would you do’ scenario, so thanks Ehab for getting the ball rolling.
First up, Lucien Favre is the standout candidate as manager. Monchengladbach from dead last to top four in two seasons, experience with top players, name recognition (outside of the PFM cabal, obviously). I’m sure he’ll have an excellent array of coaching contacts to bring in as well.
So onto the players. Let’s keep it achievable. First up, James Tarkowski. Easy signing, out of contract in the summer, improvement at centre back, not too expensive, underrated ball player as well. Let’s price him around £10m, that should be plenty.
Second, Sander Berge from Sheffield United. Has a few injury troubles, but with a bit of care and attention and the rotation that Newcastle will eventually be able to offer, has the attributes to succeed at the very top. Will probably cost around £30m.
Third, I’ve seen rumours that Weston McKennie is available from Juventus. Hard working, technically sound midfield partner for Berge. Probably also around £30m. These two will provide a solid platform for…
Philippe Coutinho! Barca need him off the wage bill, his best years were in England, he’s a real star name (even if he hasn’t lived up to that billing recently) and the fans would bloody love him. In a lot of ways he seems like a throwback to that thrilling Newcastle side of the 90s. We’ll go for him on an 18 month loan, not like Barca can afford to keep him regardless. But with massive wages, we’ll round him up to £30m anyway.
Next up, a speculative shout: Illia Zabarnyi. 19-year-old Ukrainian centre back, already first choice in the national team and looks the real deal. And along with him, his teammate Viktor Tsygankov, a left footed right winger noted as a hard worker and goalscorer with a decent creative streak too. Both have been vaguely linked with decent moves before, so let’s nip in there and get some young talent before someone else does. They’d probably cost about £20m each, but if we stick Joelinton in there (Brazilians tend to do okay in Ukraine) maybe we can bring the price down to £25m.
Up front, a medium term solution seems like a perfect moment to go for Alexandre Lacazette. Out of contract in the summer, Arsenal don’t want to lose him for nothing, chuck £10-15m their way and get him on a 2/3 year contract.
This leaves us needing upgrades at full back to round things out, and that’s where I get stuck. Trippier would be my first choice at right back, but probably wouldn’t come, and maybe Lewis deserves time to see if he can step up on the left? Not seen enough of him to be sure. But that’s a cool £150m to upgrade a big chunk of the team.
Let’s say Trippier can be convinced, the team lines up as follows:
Trippier, Tarkowski, Lascelles, Lewis
Almiron, Coutinho, Saint-Maximin
With Wilson and Tsygankov on the bench and £100m left for the summer, I’d say things would be looking a bit less grim up north.
Harry, (a no qualifiers unseeded straight knockout World Cup with all 200-odd nations might actually be pretty fun…) THFC.
Addressing the Steve Bruce narratives
There’s a lot being written about Steve Bruce’s departure, and a few highlights of the breadth of opinion in the mailbox. I think something that is missing is separating the perceived reality with what actually happened. I’ll give it a go…
Steve Bruce is almost certainly a nice man on a personal level. Lots of chairmen like him, quite a few in the national media like him. He clearly loves and is loved by his family.
On a professional level he took on a role with the club he supported as a boy – there is some editing of the past going on with regards to how much of a fan he is but he is from the region. The club was run by a petty, tight-fisted owner who cared little about the fans (his bloody customers!), and still Steve took on the job when plenty of others wouldn’t. He did it on a low* salary, with low expectations, not wanted from day 1. Some admiration has to be given to the man. He also steered the club to 12th and 13th placed finishes.
*by premier league manager standards
As nice as he might be personally, he was certainly provocative / downright horrible to selected journalists. Craig Hope got an incredibly rough ride for reporting a story on Matt Ritchie which Bruce himself confirmed to be true. He was also provocative to the fans, mentioning histrionics and heightened expectations (a media narrative about Newcastle fans that just isn’t true).
The football he played was downright dreadful, the tactics barely existent, and there is a total lack of progress of players under his tenure (perhaps with the exception of ASM).
The results this season are nowhere near good enough and regardless of what anyone thinks, he should have relieved of his duties on that alone. He has been, in many fans opinions including mine, extremely lucky in his previous two seasons. There’s a comparison of Benitez’s results against Bruce’s showing the relative similarity. Much like the proverb that without data you’re just another man with an opinion, without insight data is just a snapshot. Bruce has had the most (net & gross) money any manager in NUFCs history and achieved at his best, the same finish with worse football as his predecessor who had the least (in fact Benitez took over a championship side, won promotion and still recouped money in his time at NUFC).
Rumours of his lack of attention to detail, laziness, reports of multiple holidays, days off training and scheduling it around his desire to head back to Chesire, while not proven, are certainly believable.
Steve Bruce was not good enough for Newcastle United in the end. He’s not been good enough for the Premier League for a long time, in my opinion.
To start: The abuse, cabbage analogies, weight comments, anger, personal abuse and so forth is completely unacceptable. It should never happen but it does. Where has this abuse occurred though? Largely on social media as fans weren’t in the stadium for much of his tenure and certainly not for when it got “dark” or when he referred to it as histrionics. Steve Bruce isn’t on social media which meant someone was reading it and relaying it to him. Why?! I can’t imagine Solskjær scours twitter for opinions and I’m sure there’s lots of appalling stuff there from across the fanbase. To be repeat, abuse on social media shouldn’t happen, but it does and it happens to every public figure. To claim Bruce was especially singled out is at best subjective. It’s terrible, not worse however. We shouldn’t ignore it but we shouldn’t use it as evidence of him being hard done by.
No one should celebrate a man losing his job and I find it unedifying. He didn’t help himself but he’s still a person.
One final point, to counter the nice guy narrative it should be said that Bruce has, by many accounts, operated as an appalling landlord to poor people.
I feel for him on a personal level. I condemn the abuse. I am astonished he’s taking home an alleged £8m for not being good enough. I dreaded games when he managed us. I hated his press conferences. I am furious about his actions as a landlord. I am saddened by the intellectual onanism around his sacking.
I am relieved he’s gone.
I think I should be allowed to hold all those opinions and I wish prominent voices in the media didn’t just pick one of them and beat it to fucking death over and over again.
Redknapp to Newcastle?
Get a coach that you can fire later but has a decent enough reputation to attract solid players better than you have and who is willing to overlook the state sanctioned murder by the owner. (Maybe a Redknapp return is on the cards?)
Get some decent players who are on the unwritten transfer list or looking for a break – Martial, Boadu, Gravenberch, Bailly etc
Secure Europa and use this to bring is some peripheral European talent.
Win Europa. Sack manager when someone better comes available, and by now the stench of murder will have been overtaken by the smell of money so you’ll have your pick. Mourinho probably or some south European used to working with corrupt organisations.
Good to see Poundland Piers back, bestowing upon us such great “knowledge and facts”. And still holding grudges!
I have been of the “ignore him” opinion for some time, still am, but do have 1 question in response to his latest rants (and bizarre fascination with Wenger)…in response to his (brackets)
Which team do you pay to watch?
Matt C AFC (I won’t even mention how utterly wrong you have been proven since 2018, or how you had a mail printed some time back stating “Arteta is doing an ok job”)