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Pogba versus Eric
To Eamon’s email, I think to compare Pogba and Cantona only through the lens of swagger and risk taking ability is a very narrow view. Cantona came in and changed people’s perception of how to train. He set an example for an entire generation of players on how much effort goes into becoming a great player. And that being great on the pitch is where the effort goes in. Being a star is a happy outcome. Pogba puts more effort into becoming a star, than becoming a better player.
There are countless stories about Cantona, and he even won Roy Keane’s respect because he treated young players really well. Keane talks about how in a team sweepstakes game, Cantona always gave his winnings to youngsters who could do with the money. Bottom line Cantona was a larger than life character in how he behaved with his team members and the respect he earned from them. Pogba seems much more focused on his fans.
But most importantly, it boils down to something very simple. Through much of Cantona’s United career, when the team needed a spark, when the chips were down, they turned to Cantona and he almost always delivered. Pogba has the technical ability, but hasn’t shown the heart to be that player, yet. Pogba is a luxury player. Everybody says he needs better players around him. Sure, who doesn’t? Djemba Djemba would look good if he was flanked by Iniesta and Kante. Now that United have Maguire, De Gea and other quality players around the pitch, maybe Pogba will improve. But he’s not the one to bear the weight of making it happen.
In a somewhat loose analogy, it’s also the difference between Messi and Maradona, in the Argentina team. Messi is a fantastic player but he doesn’t lift the team. Maradona didn’t just turn it on for Argentina, he made the team play like they were a team of Maradonas. When Cantona played, it wasn’t just his swagger, it was United’s.
Ved (PS ‘Looking For Eric’ is such a fun watch!) Sen, MUFC
Eric Cantona did look like he could take football one day and leave it the next. That’s how he felt about professional football. That’s not how he felt about Manchester United though. He spoke with nothing but sincere love and respect for the club and the fans. He was angry. People love angry. It’s honest. Or at least that’s how anger is generally perceived. Unfortunately a lot of proto fascists have worked out how to capitalise on that again and are well on their way to taking over half the world and everyone just watched it happen like the same shit didn’t happen 90 fucking years ago but that’s another discussion. (Hi Miguel. Vote Labour)
No doubt Pogba is a good guy and a great player but he hasn’t connected with the fans. Football is essentially an entertainment business however the fans don’t consume it like it’s entertainment. It taps into tribalism and love. People love their clubs. They often regard them as part of their identity. You’re not going to be too keen on someone you suspect looks down on your family or group of friends. Alternatively, if two people are dating and one isn’t as interested in the other, it won’t work out. They need to be as enthusiastic as each other, about each other for a successful relationship to grow.
Maybe there’s nothing he can do to make the connection. At least not with anyone over the age of 21 or so. People are so used to being sold, politiked and advertised at all day every day. It’s hard not to hear everything footballers say as a prepared statement. And that’s not unreasonable. There is stupid money in football now. That usually means every little detail being controlled. Look at movies and music these days. I wonder sometimes if I’m falling into the same trap as everyone before me when it comes to my lack of interest in music today but then I look at a major festival’s line up and 80% of it is acts from the 90s. Millionaire speculators don’t want to invest in risks, they want surefire hits so we’re seeing less and less experimental art get pushed by major record labels these days and more and more formulaic, bland safe bets. That’s why every second movie is a sequel or a remake now and they’re all based on comics. That might be why the highly sponsored Paul Pogba (who, along with Neymar, is probably the biggest name in the game under the age of 30) cannot show any “Pashun” on the field or anything that shows him as vulnerable and thus relatable off it. He’s a brand in his own right now. It’s hard to relate to a brand. When I grew up, my heroes had blatant emotional problems and addiction issues. Those days are gone.
I hope he stays though. He’s a phenomenal player when he’s on it. The best I’ve seen in my life apart from Zidane (those two freaks from Argentina and Portugal are in another kind of category entirely) and someone the younger players clearly look up to. He’s an entertainer. United are supposed to have a reputation for that. Get close to Liverpool this season and he might hang around as well. Who knows what state Madrid will be in come May. With a couple of proper midfielders next to him, he really could lead this United team to a tier above again, but, no matter what he does, he’s never going to be in the same bracket as King Eric.
Also, I noticed a while ago that there’s a second guy who gets published regularly here who signs off his mails with ‘Eamonn, Dublin’. I never planned to address it but he wrote in yesterday and referred to Scott McTominay as “Scotty” and I just had to differentiate myself. People I know read this!
Why isn’t Pogba revered in the way that Cantona was? Very simply, one turned up when it really mattered.
My main memory of Cantona is that volley he scored on the edge of the box in the FA Cup Final against our lot. Perhaps it was the 94/95 season? The corner got cleared to him on the edge of the box and he put it away perfectly. From memory that game had virtually no quality to it but when everyone was dead on their feet he found the technique to keep it down and find the net.
Last season Man Utd did the unthinkable to get themselves back in the top 4 race. Arguably you were the favourites at one stage late on and you utterly f**ked it. That’s the difference between the two; when everyone else was losing theirs heads one went off to cry to Raiola about how badly he wants to leave Manchester whilst the other brought home trophies and broke my tiny little heart.
I always want to see Pogba playing when we face Man Utd because he hasn’t got the balls to stand up and be counted in a physically intense game with pressure on the ball. Perhaps as a more attacking midfielder he could be world class one day but as a classic 8 he’s not got the qualities of the true greats of the game.
Why is Cantona revered, and Pogba not? Something to do with the 4 league titles and 2 FA Cups in 5 years maybe? The seasons where he regularly scored United’s only goals in 1-0 wins that won league titles? The f**ktonne of seminal United moments that defined an era? That Sunderland goal? His role leading and developing a young team?
Cantona defined a team that was arrogant, stylish, and unbelievably fucking good. As in winning the league 80% of the time, dismantling domestic rivals, and a contender for favourite United team ever good. Pogba has taken United to the top four once.
Otherwise hard to understand why they aren’t on the same level really.
1. Cantona always gave it his all.
2. Cantona made others around him better.
3. Cantona never disrespected the club.
4. Cantona never disrespected the fans.
5. Cantona never disrespected the manager.
6. Cantona’s achievements in the PL are not even worth comparing with Pogba.
7. Cantona seemed a committed professional for the club at all times.
8. Cantona dragged that team to success by his sheer talent and competitiveness.
9. Cantona won many, many matches for United almost by himself.
10. Cantona kung-fu kicked a racist, yobbish “fan”.
There’s 10 reasons for that so-called United fan who can’t seem to grasp what the difference is between Cantona and Pogba.
Amir (F365 eyes must’ve lit up when they saw his email) F
Cantona was part of a United team that won 4 league titles in 5 years. That definitely helped.
Look, I get that F365 need to throw something provocative out there every now and then to stimulate some response mail. Business is business.
But publishing a guy who can’t see the difference between Cantona and Pogba? It’s enough to make Jordan Belfort wince.
Liverpool have gone backwards
I thought I’d write in to add to DL , LFC ( Abraham looked good yesterday ) Geneva’s mail.
I think he’s largely correct in highlighting the difficulty in getting good quality backup, but unfortunately that’s what it takes to get the edge on City. I don’t think it’s easy, mind. Unless you can pay large wages to people who sit on the bench then there is a real difficulty in attracting the right calibre. Spurs struggled to do it for years. In fact, one thing I think Klopp has done well is to buy players of a higher quality or greater potential to come in and make the starting place their own, moving the player who was in that position before and making them compete for their place. Shaqiri was an exception to the rule, I will admit, but he is an exception. The decision to go for quality over quantity was a big difference in the approach under Rodgers.
One thing DL’s email doesn’t highlight is playing time. I think Liverpool have gone backwards in terms of options off the bench to see out games. An all round utility forward, even of slightly less quality than our front three but higher quality than Brewster (hopefully the future), or Lallana (sad to say but got to admit he’s the past). Someone who can play the Firmino false nine role or a number ten role when needed. At some point in the season, Liverpool will go through a run of tough games with little break in between, when they will need to grind it out to the last whistle to snatch a win. I don’t think they quite have the quality to bring on in those instances. The front three will overtire. At times last year, I thought Firmino in particular looked completely knackered.
We saw last year the benefit of strengthening the depth in midfield. Players could rotate seamlessly without the drop in quality. If it’s good enough for the midfield then it’s good enough for the front three.
We also needed a backup leftback. Our fullbacks are so important in bringing width to the attack. I can’t see how Robertson can bring that level of energy to every minute of every game in a full season.
Anyway. The season will reveal all. We’ll know if it was the right decision or not in May.
This is not a rant about Chelsea. It’s an attempt at an objective view of what I’ve believed for weeks, leading up to the opening day result. It has consistently surprised me all summer, right down to the last week, that so many pundits have put Chelsea as favourites for the 4th place this season, and while Sunday may not have said all that much about United’s prospects, I think it showed the challenge facing Chelsea in stark light.
I know Chelsea scraped into 3rd place past a stumbling Spurs last year, but it was hardly a vintage season, and in the end they were 6 points above United in 6th place. With that configuration and a couple of key transfers, they could have held on to 4th place this year. But they ran into the transfer ban, lost Hazard, and later, Luiz. And Sarri went off to Juventus.
It’s incredibly difficult to replace a world class player under most conditions (see Madrid after Ronaldo), but to also have your hands tied transfer-wise makes it impossible to keep performances going. Pulisic may come good but surely will need half a season or more of adjustment to the demands of this league. Luiz for all his faults was a regular first team player. And then there’s the injuries for Kante, Loftus-Cheek and Hudson-Odoi. I’m really at a loss why the United game was billed as a heavyweight battle. United are still way off where they need to be but Chelsea are really stuffed this year.
There’s also a tendency to equate Lampard and Solskjaer. Both are club legends without a lot of top level managerial experience. But let’s remind ourselves. Lampard has had 1 year of Championship management. Solskjaer retired in 2007, and has been in management for 11 years and counting. He has won leagues, and been relegated. He has coached the Man United youth team (including Pogba and Lingard, among others). He’s been knocked down and anointed more than once. In managerial terms he’s a battle scarred veteran. Even in the current job he’s tasted glory and despair, and has had time to scrutinise his team not just in terms of their skill and technical ability but in terms of their personalities and response to pressure and adversity. In short, it would be ridiculous to pit them as 2 sides of the same coin.
Again, all of this is not to criticise or denigrate Chelsea. As a United fan at this moment it can come across badly. But without bias, we know Chelsea are here because of circumstance, and presumably over time a lot of good things will happen. This could be the making of Mount, Abraham and other youngsters. But this will be a tough year for them and for Lampard, however good a manager he turns out to be in the future. I’d love to know if Chelsea fans realistically think 4th spot is likely this year, or should Lampard be given a free hit on the league position, in favour of getting half a dozen academy players to regular first team standard, for next year. Especially for a team like Chelsea who can spring from mid table to table toppers.
As a United fan, I think we’re good enough to get to 4th place, but I think piece by piece a new team is being put in place by Solskjaer, more methodically than others and it feels like the hierarchy might let him do that, unless the wheels really fall off, i.e. we finish 10th for example.
Ved Sen MUFC.
I wonder how many other old-school F365 fans saw the footage of Alex Ferguson as a guest of the Class Of 92 at Salford’s game tonight and thought about Gary Neville crying himself to sleep into his Man Utd pillowcase because Nicky Butt got to sit next to Sir instead of him?
Bill Handley, Gloucester
Hello Ciaran H,
I will help explain why a footballer cannot quit, or what will happen if he tries. Lets take Ronaldo at United as an example. He joined United as a teenager. United put massive amounts of time and effort into him, paying him handsomely while putting money into his growth along with providing him a world class multi million infrastructure. They did this for a period of 5 years. Every contract they provide him, must one way or the other say that quiting would be a breach of contract for which they could sue. And they are entitled to do so because they have spent so much money and time and effort on him. When he moved to Madrid, if he had quit, United would have filed a case claiming 100+ million (20 for each year they developed him) and he would be liable instead of Madrid. And they would most probably win that case too.
Along with the legal problems and the iron clad contracts, its bad professional form to quit. You can do like Koscielny and throw a tantrum and be sold for next to free, or build up goodwill like Schweinsteiger so the club can let him go for free. If players were allowed to quit, it would be similar to you giving years of your life and money into building a farm, and the next day the farm is taken over by a bigger corporation and you are left with nothing. Its not right, and smaller clubs would be annihilated.
Aman (Also, quitters are losers)
My irrational love is Mario Balotelli. I’d been away from Europe for a few years (having retired from the US Army) and was delighted that NBC started broadcasting Premier League matches. I’d never followed the Premier League, but in the Fall 0f 2010 I started watching random matches. I soon found myself seeking out Manchester City matches to watch “the crazy guy” Balotelli. His over the top antics were what got me to tune in, and his routine brilliance on the ball was a bonus. I’ve followed his travails and transfers, and still catch matches he’s in whenever I can.
As an aside, when he moved on I found that Manchester City had become my team. This really solidified during the Pellegrini years; to the point that I’m writing this wearing a City shirt, having just sent off a cheque to the Twin Cities Supporters Club to renew my membership for the season.
Notes for a manager – How to get through post-match interviews if your first seven matches end in defeat:
1st defeat: We’re still getting to know each other, we’ve got a few new faces in, they’ll take a while to settle
2nd defeat: I thought we were a bit unlucky today, even at 2-0 down I still believed we could get something from the game.
3rd defeat: I’m surprised to be honest, I thought we started the game very well, we were confident for the first ten minutes, a silly mistake cost us and we lost our concentration a little bit
4th defeat: Well, you’re going to get games like that sometimes, they were clearly better than us, they’ve spent millions more than us for years now
5th defeat: I learnt a lot about my players today. Some of them were prepared to battle hard for 90 minutes, I might need to change things for next week.
6th defeat: I’ve got to hold my hands up, I got the selection wrong this time, we tried to change things at half-time but at 3-0 down it wasn’t going to be easy.
7th defeat: We can definitely take some positives from that game. The attitude was right, we worked hard, and it was good to get a goal, even if it was only a consolation in the final minutes. Their keeper was the best player on the pitch, which says it all…
Paul (I’m sure you can think of more excuses), on holiday