The Mailbox respects Gary Neville’s stance on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, while we have interesting mails on Patrick Vieira, Mike Dean, pundits, Newcastle, Liverpool and more.
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The Neville conundrum
Just read Neville’s tweet about refusing to blame Ole. I must say that I respect his stance. I know you might have a different opinion. But you have to agree it is an extremely difficult position to be in for anyone.
Imagine you are in such a job that what you say has a huge impact on your friend’s job. Would you publicly call out your friend knowing that you may jeopardize that relationship? On the other hand, you have your love for the club and you want it to do well (Not that these two points are mutually exclusive, even though it looks that way now). Then there is also the fact that he has to respect his job.
What would you prioritise? Every person will handle this situation differently. Neville is sure about his position and that is why I respect the stance.
Ehab (I know no one cares about what I think, but just expressing what I felt)
After conceding another 95th minute equaliser, this time against a poor Arsenal side, I very much hope Vieira is a good enough manager to critique his own decisions. At the time I was baffled as to why he took Edouard off for Tomkins – of course it was obvious why, but Arteta’s Arsenal struggle against teams that press and go for them – their strength, what little of it there is, lies in attack. Incidentally why doesn’t Lacazette play more? He was a great spark when he came on and seemed to lift Aubamyemang and play well with him. Hey ho. Anyway, Edouard looked a threat all game and Arsenal had offered little. Surely the best approach was to stick with what was working? Keep them worrying about the threat? Easy to say now with hindsight, but we really offered the chance up to Arsenal and they took it. Gutting. Papering over the cracks for them though.
For us, apparently we’ve had the hardest start of any team in the premier league based on average league position. We’ve only lost 2, to Liverpool and Chelsea, and we play a much more attractive brand of football. Olise looks good, Edouard looks extremely dangerous and full of goal-scoring intent and this was Palace without Zaha, a Palace without Eze. Guehi looks the absolute nuts at the back and Anderson looks decent too. We have the basis of a decent side.
Vieira said all the right things after the game, but its all about some wins now as we have a decent run of games coming up. We’ll see what he’s made of, but it’s exciting times for Palace. Need Arsenal to pick up though, or get a really good manager quickly. I don’t want them taking ours in a year or two, just when we’re on the cusp of something…
James McArthur foul
I know it’s not the main thing that happened in the game and palace were ok so probably would have still got something out of it… But how that was only a yellow for McArthur I have no idea. He seems to think saka is going to let it drop onto his right foot. But when saka goes with his left he just goes for it anyway. It was so late you can’t even see the ball in the screen shots and anyway the ball is never closer than about 4 foot away from where Saka kicks it.
And it’s not a little tap either he absolutely leathers him as hard as he can. No surprise he came off at half time I bet that killed.
It’s worth a watch I still can’t get my head around it. Does everyone think Mike Dean hates their club or is it just arsenal?
I would like to know why McArthur didn’t get a red card for his “challenge” on Saka. I would also like to know why it’s not mentioned anywhere in the analysis of the game. If Palace go down to 10 men when 1-0 down, it’s a different game. Sure our dawdling in midfield may well have still conceded a few goals but that’s beside the point.
McArarthur made absolutely no attempt to play the ball. Even if Scottie had teleported Saka out of the way at the last second, then McArarthur would still have missed the ball by some distance. The only thing McArthur was only trying to do was – which he succeeded. The definition of a red card.
Oh wait, it’s Arsenal so it’s fine to kick them. They don’t like it up-em, etc. Nothing to see here, move along.
Adonis Stevenson, AFC
One of my friends from school died last week. He supported the Arsenal and had a season ticket at Gillingham for a long time. I hadn’t seen him since the end of sixth form but last night’s game would have been something we’d have had a bit of fun on Facebook about.
*Dropping points from winning positions with the last action of the game is a frustrating habit, but there were some encouraging signs for Crystal Palace. This was largely a good performance from a team missing Wilfried Zaha, which saw them match the Arsenal for shots on target, even if the xG picture separates the team a bit. The home side were in good form, at least results-wise, and the Eagles matched up to them well. Lower/mid-table teams attempting to play possession football seem to draw a lot of games while they’re getting to grips with it, so it’s still progress and certainly better than being thumped out of sight.
*In Zaha’s absence, Patrick Vieira played a front three of Jordan Ayew and Odsonne Edouard either side of Christian Benteke. It was a bit disjointed at times, with passes going astray between the latter two, and it was notable that neither was involved in the other’s goal. The first goal was the result of intelligent pressing by Ayew, taking a calculated gamble to dispossess Thomas Partey (and leave him in a heap) and create space for Benteke to run at the defence find the net. A similar play by Conor Gallagher to relieve Albert Sambi Lokonga of possession and combine with Michael Olise, whose pass found Edouard on the edge of the area. His finish looked like it was dinked over the goalkeeper but was obviously hit with too much power for that.
*The Arsenal’s goals bookended the match, and were scored in similar fashion. A set piece wasn’t cleared, and a save by Vicente Guaita landed in the perfect spot for a striker to put it home. That’s sub-standard defending, and rotten luck for the goalkeeper in a way, but the measure of an elite level striker is being in the right place at the right time. A tap-in is unlikely to win goal of the month, but they often arrive as a result of good centre-forward play.
*Last month, ex-Gunner Henri Lansbury was shown a yellow card for booting a player who got between him and the ball; last night, a similar thing happened with James McArthur. All we want from officials is consistency, unless we can directly benefit from their inconsistency, is presumably why the Arsenal fans wanted it to be a red card.
*Next up for Palace, they host Newcastle United on Saturday. It’s a game the Eagles really need to win, given United’s poor start to the season and supposed imminent investment. Though it’ll be just our luck Steve Bruce will be mutually consented in the next couple of days (disclaimer: it’s 11:24, 19.10.21 when I’m writing this) and we’ll be the victims of their new manager bounce. Wonder if PIF have got John Carver’s number.
I’d love Suarez to finish his career at Anfield…
Away at Atletico is one of the hardest games you can have in the Champions League. They are the reigning La Liga champions with one Luis Suarez perpetually trying to prove everyone wrong. He’s been back before, most notably in the 4-0 defeat of Barcelona, but he’s never an opponent to look forward to.
I absolutely loved Suarez – the player, not the man per se – he was an incredible gift for us who almost single-handedly won the title. It most certainly wasn’t done by Brendan. As soon as Luis moved , we went down the league horrifyingly quickly and Rodgers deservedly got the sack. Suarez inspired the rest of the team and made them all demonstrably better. And his inexplicable but very funny need to repeatedly destroy Norwich with world-class goals never got old.
Barcelona’s decision to sell him was idiotic and they’ve regretted it ever since. Luis plays best with a sense of injustice and fire in his belly and he’s got plenty of that still.
And our wonderful past meets our spectacular present in Mo Salah. He’s in the form of his life, and he’s possibly the best player in Europe. Though Haaland and Lewandowski may have something to say about that. Messi is in no form at all yet for PSG and Ronaldo is mainly goal-hanging for United. Salah is generating superlative assists and scoring goals of the month on literally a weekly basis. Our owners need to get him locked down to the contract he wants as soon as humanly possible.
Atletico-Liverpool games aren’t always the most fun to watch. Diego is cautious by nature and Klopp is rightly wary of their team’s propensity to get a result, whatever the means. Atletico might be a little more open than in previous iterations but this still doesn’t feel like a goal-fest. Last year we would have lost – badly – but we’re back to full- strength now. So it should be very tight.
The league will be very challenging this year and City and Chelsea will be right there at the end. But the Champions League is a different animal for Liverpool. Our history in the competition lifts us and maybe it’s time for one of our emotional runs deep into the business end of the competition. If we win tonight, it’s definitely the start of our charge. This is the only team in Spain worth fearing now and beating them would make a serious statement.
And possibly remind Luis just how good we can be and how much he enjoyed his time at Liverpool. I’d love him to make one last transfer and finish his career with us. It might be an absolute pipe dream , but even in his later years the prospect of Salah and Suarez together would be a breathtaking sight to see.
Just not for Norwich.
Last night’s Monday Night Football addressed the Saudi’s and twitter was exceptionally harsh on Gary Neville and other pundits on the issue.
One high profile journalist, who recently tweeted that he would defend footballers pay to the hilt, was disgusted at the expectations and standards set for pundits. It was his feeling that a pundit should never be asked to die on a moral cross if the governing bodies wouldn’t join in on the cross.
This, in my eyes, is fan journalism which we associate with the Liverpool Echos of the world who only report through the partisan priority of keeping relationships with the club/ access to players open.
Pundits shape the world view of football fans far more than the authorities who regulate it. Pundits are enriching themselves greatly to set narratives and frame issues in moral language. There is a far greater onus on pundits and journalists to tackle a moral issues as they directly and indirectly earn a living from the industry.
It isn’t discussed, but it was pundits who sent those fans into Old Trafford and it is pundits who challenge the government on breakfast tv on policy in the UK.
The journalist in question seems to want football to have all of the rights but none of the responsibilities when it comes to power, money and morality.
Newcastle and sponsorships
I want to open by saying I do not support teams gaming the system.
But for all premier League clubs (aside from city who abstained) to vote against Newcastle creating sponsorships via existing relationships, you know like Chelsea did in their inception, or city did in theirs, seems strange.
Where was this outrage when the prior two teams did this?
Again I do not support teams gaming the system, I think what city and Chelsea did was also gaming the system (successfully)
Why aren’t Newcastle allowed the same luxury as Manchester and London based teams were allowed?
What even is an “existing business relationship”? Considering the very nebulous nature of modern globalised business it’s very difficult to ascertain what is existing business and not, it’s exactly how city and Chelsea circumvented the rules.
Should this be stopped? You can argue it should. But it seems unfair to stop it after two teams have benefited to the point they’re now different teams than they were before on every level. It needed to be stopped before it happened to remain fair. stopping it now only allows the top clubs to maintain their massive advantage it doesn’t narrow the gap at all.
Again, I do not support teams gaming the system. But stopping it now without balancing the teams which did it first only highlights that it’s one rule for one and no rules for the others.
You can’t stop it now without being hypocritical.
Side note : fair play to city for abstaining because they knew it would be hypocritical to vote against it.
What they do in the shadows
I understand why people take the easy route and blame Ole. He’s the manager, therefore the buck stops with him.
But let’s drop some real talk. And starting with responsibility, Pogba has made a career out of avoiding it, for pretty much anything. No defensive effort, disappears in big games bar a flourish here and there to show how much ability he has. He simply cannot play CM without a minder. But he’s too big a name to drop without tantrums. At least while he still might sign da ting.
Same for Bruno. Such passing ability, but no defensive effort at all.
Maguire isn’t worth £20m let alone £80m. Just constantly playing opponents onside, making terrible passes (supposedly a strength of his, would you believe!), offering little threat at the other end (another supposed strength). Varane shows the difference, even Lindelof.
DDG will get lots of praise for his saves but let’s not forget his – how do I describe it? – fucking abysmal pass to Maguire was goal costing. Again. Those two are a comedy act as long as you have no skin in the game.
Ronaldo? Just too much a passenger. He needs to be fed but makes little effort to help the wobbly hand that is the United build up get the spoon in his mouth. Shamed by both Rashy and Greenwood. Can we finally say that he doesn’t deserve to start?
CDM. I’ve said it before and it’s still true, no one wins competitions without a decent one and United don’t have one. Ole said so to the board but according to sources the recruitment team were unable to find a suitable alternative to Rice who was too expensive. Instead we have an old player (who was never that good) or players out of position. Maybe it’s time to give Lindelof a go, because it literally couldn’t be worse.
Like I say, Ole is an easy target. He’s too nice, doesn’t give soundbytes and has made some mistakes especially in terms of loyalty. I think that, sadly, that’s a hill he’ll die on but the players above don’t deserve it, bar DDG ofc who just throws a Pickford occasionally in otherwise exemplary performances.
He does need to up his game or he’ll be out, but there should be a lot of shame faces in the shadows.
My daughter Lily is a dab hand at tennis. She plays for the A team at University, so gets regular coaching. She told me this interesting story this week.
The coach put a player at either end. One was told they had to hit cross court every time, the other that they could play their shot wherever they liked. The coach said, don’t worry about winning because the free player will win, because they have the whole court to hit.
Then at the end they totted up the results.
Who had won most points?
The cross court player.
Because they knew exactly what they had to do, didn’t use a split second making a decision, and had clarity.
The ‘free’ players had to look, select and then play their shot.
It was a brilliant example of how clarity in high level sport is a game winner. It’s the same in golf. Watch a player change his club, then watch him play a bad shot.
That’s why United look terrible, There is no clarity. They are playing with freedom, when freedom is negative in the modern game.
The Man United conundrum
This week it was Maguire. Last week it was Fred. The week before I can’t remember. Sometimes it was DDG. Other times it was Pogba. Then it was Martial. Obviously the coaching staff are pants too. Last season, it was the Red Banners at the empty OT. Soon we’ll drag Albert Morgan, out from retirement to blame him for folding the kits wrong and ordering the socks too small. It seems every game there is some guy on the pitch we’re blaming or it’s individual mistakes that costs us. There’s always someone or something to blame.
But wait, does this happen week in, week out at those clubs challenging for the title? Does Liverpool, City or Chelsea pick a scapegoat every single game? Do they make individual mistakes that costs them games weekly?
We moan and moan about the team being inconsistent under Ole. But come on, if you have 1 good game every 4 average games for 2 to 3 seasons. You’re consistent.
And then it’s the ‘we need a DM’ thingy. We need a no 9. We need a CB. We need this. We need that. Every season we need something. 1 billion spent – World record defender. World Cup winners. Champions League winners. Ballon d’Or winner. Generational talents. All that and we still need this and that. Otherwise we can’t win anything.
I get that. But do we need to have all the stars aligned and 2 world class player in each position filled before we win anything? Did LVG have that? Did Jose have that? Tuchel won the Champions League without a proper striker last season. City is playing without a proper 9 this season.
So what’s wrong here?
The obvious answer (to those who’s heads are no longer buried in the sand) is that we don’t have an elite manager. Ole’s a legend as a player – although if he didn’t score that winner in ‘99 most would just label him as ex player (but let’s not go there… slipper slope that). And let’s be honest. He’s done a great job as our manager to at least bring the feel good factor back into the dressing room and among the fan base. He’s been part of the process to recruit some very decent players and has helped built a formidable squad to date. He’s done good. But let’s face it, he’s maxed out on his capacity. The one thing that we need now from a manager is the tactical nous and in this area, Ole has shown all his cards. His limited array of tricks have been used and don’t work anymore. He is unable to come out with more. And as for that ability to inspire that dressing room and make them move mountains for him, that’s fading too after the initial high. Maybe his lack of tactical know how has been exposed there. Maybe they’ve just gotten too comfortable with him. Maybe they don’t fear him. I don’t know but it’s obvious that something isn’t right in there. This is about the best that he can do. For us as a team to move to the next level, we need someone else to get there – great job Ole. Sincerely. But we need that extra push now and we have to move on.
But the less obvious answer is that as a club, we’re just not set up as a club to win trophies. We may have the right mission statement, beliefs, ethical stances and ideals polished nicely into beautiful words but at the heart of it, the owners just views the club as just a cash cow. Hence why the top executives are all finance based and none have proper experiences in running football clubs. And that creates a halo effect downwards. The accountant mindset is at work when we hire for top positions. Hence why we rather go for promotions rather than go out to the market and hire top professionals in their fields. With our resources and club stature, we can easily do it but we always seems that we always end up with the more cost effective route and this has resulted in a club structure that puts profits and overheads above winning trophies.
So where do we go from here? Honestly I have no answer. Many think I’m Ole Out. I’m not. I actually feel for the guy even though he annoys the heck out of me. He’s so obviously over his head and trying his best to hang on to his dream job. Even he knows he won’t have any shot at a big club after this. I don’t think sacking him today, tomorrow or yesterday would help in the bigger scheme of things. We need to fix the entire structure of the club first before we can think of being a force again. Will that ever happen under the Glazer ownership. Breaks my heart but I don’t think so.
Unfortunately the short term answer is hiring and sacking managers and hoping some of them win some Cups here and there – like how we did with LVG and Jose. That’s about the best we can hope for.
Back to where we were pre Fergie years.
Kee Pin Ong
Vinnie is Ole
It’s quite clear Vinnie Pee is Ole himself writing in to the mailbox. He’s done this about 427 times but only recently got published. Good on him. Now that’s a game plan to keep his job.
Okay jokes aside, the whole debate about Ole in or out can be summed up by one question really:
“Would any of the top 6 teams take Ole to replace their current manager?”
Maybe Arsenal and Spurs. Key word being maybe.
Kinda says it all doesn’t it?
Stop wasting time with all the analysis on whether he’s the man to do the job. United deserves better.
Tom, Anfield / Singapore / even I think United fans have suffered enough with Ole at the Wheel. What’s with the wheel thing? Never really got it.
More trophies, more money?
I keep reading (including in one of your pieces today) that the Glazers are hanging on to Solskjaer because they care more about balance sheets than trophies. I am not good at business, but are they mutually exclusive? In fact, I would think that the more trophies Man Utd. win, the more money they will make. Am I missing something here?
Howard asked about football betting and allowing heart to rule head. I don’t often bet – possibly 5 to 10 a year/season – and when I do it is no more than a fiver, and usually a lot less. Plus I always consider my bet to be a loser (be prepared to lose it).
However, when it comes to my club, Man City, I rarely will go anywhere near them. Maybe I think I will jinx it or something, I dunno, but on the odd occasion I have gone through with it, I will place a bet on the opposition. My thinking is that if we win, then yay, if they do then I have some extra cash.
Naturally I placed a fiver on Liverpool to win the other week.
That went well.
What an interesting mail from Howard (same applies to Everton obviously) Jones this morning, i to love a BTTS and a Treble on a Saturday for the 3pm games, just gives the afternoon a bit more fun to it, but he brought up about the head and heart conundrum, now i must admit i have indeed bet against Chelsea, it was during the end of the Jose Mourinho second spell when we took on Leicester City after losing to Bournemouth at home, it was clear and obvious that this Chelsea side under Mourinho was going no where and i included a Leicester win into my bet for the weekend, the odds were oddly quite good for a Leicester win.
It did not mean i wanted Chelsea to lose, far from it, but common sense told me that Leicester who were in title charging form were clearly the better team and likely to beat a side that had downed tools, i was right with goals from Jamie Vardy and Mahrez for the Foxes and a rare goal from Loic Remy for Chelsea, Jose was gone swiftly after and i had some Christmas spending money in my account.
An extra response in this mail for Tunji (Expecting more Chelsea reactions to that bollocks), Lagos, spot on, whether people feel Edouard Mendy should be nominated for the Ballon d’Or, my two cents is that 100% yes due to not just his stats but his impact in the Champions League triumph, at the end of the day he is our man between the sticks and we are blessed to have him.
The Admin @ At The Bridge Pod