Mails: Manchester United desperately miss a catalyst

Date published: Tuesday 13th February 2018 11:54

Keep those emails coming (on a wide range of topics?) to… 


Again, stop getting worried on behalf of Manchester United fans
So the systematic collapse of Manchester United? Collapsed all the way down to 2nd after a defeat to a team who played the best they have all season, a team Newcastle fans – although loving the win – will be wondering where the hell has that team been all season.

For all the joy from Arsenal, Liverpool and Spurs fans at United’s perceived plight we are still above each and every one of you, doing that with Smalling and Jones in the centre of defence, I think we are doing okay thank you.
Paul Murphy, Manchester


A lot of doom and gloom around United for no reason. Honestly never understood all the crazy overreactions. City have a better team and United won’t get close without buying. It’s not so much that Ashley young or Valencia or smalling or Jones is getting a lot of minutes that puts United behind City (they’re all reasonable squad players minus smalling) but the fact all of them are playing together. Mourinho squad isn’t good enough to win first so being second after a bad loss surely isn’t too bad?

I think people are missing the problem with Pogba. It’s not on Mourinho to get the best out of him nor is it Pogba’s fault he isn’t playing great. Mourinho clearly thinks a 4-2-3-1 is the way to go. Pogba has all the attributes to play that role, clearly he’s better in a 3 but the real question is would it be better for United to find a way to fit 4 attackers with Pogba or have the stability of 3 in the center?

When your attackers are of the ilk of Sanchez, Martial, Lukaku, Lingard, Mata, Rashford I tend to think playing the extra attacker is worth it. His awareness in a role he hasn’t really played until under mourinho isn’t excellent but he won’t get better without the growing pains of playing him there. No one plays a new role and never makes a mistake. Add to that when Jones and smalling are behind you every one of those mistakes will be amplified.

Clearly there are problems in every area of the field but many of the problems have very obvious reasons why they’re happening. Defense was fantastic until Bailly went out. Bailly also lets Matic and Pogba move a little forward since they don’t have to cover as much for smalling and Jones. In the attack people just need to get a grip. Sanchez hasn’t been there a month yet, of course things aren’t figured out. Martial is struggling on the right but he could’ve had a hat trick if his finishing didn’t let him down.

So maybe give it until the end of the season to decide Pogba can’t play in a 2, Mourinho is terrible, etc. because at this point it is basically a very long preseason until next year with the league being done. Now is the time to experiment.


Manchester United are missing a catalyst (isn’t that what Sanchez is supposed to be?)
It is interesting to see everybody stumbling around clumsily trying to diagnose what’s wrong with Man Utd. To my mind the diagnosis is simple, it’s the treatment/cure that may prove tricky.

When I look at this current Utd side I see a lot of parallels with the side that Sir Alex started with back in the day which contained some of the very best players around at the time (many of whom also arrived with massive price tags), not to mention a crop of youngsters unmatched before or since, but which was also struggling to fulfill their enormous potential.

The weight of expectations was so high for them but there was just something missing and what that something turned out to be was Eric Cantona. Cantona, was a highly talented maverick, but in all honesty, despite some moments of brilliance, wasn’t the best player in the league at the time, probably not even the best in that Utd team (I always thought Schmeichel had that honour – but who counts keepers?)

Cantona’s true greatness lay in what he brought out of the rest of that team on and off the field. In other words he was the catalyst, the spark and it all came together around him and they never looked back from that point until Sir Alex finally called it a day

And that’s what the current side is missing now, their catalyst. It’s too easy to just say sign a deep lying forward like Cantona was and everything will be alright. The vital ingredient they need could be in any position. Chances are it is either a deep lying forward or a central midfielder, but it could say be a Beckenbauer-type ‘Libero’ at the back.

Who knows? Like I said the diagnosis is easy its the cure that’s hard to find. One reason Sir Alex is the greatest of them all is that he did find the catalyst he needed in Cantona. Jose now has to find his own key to unlock the treasures they have.

Speaking as an Arsenal fan who has cordially despised both Utd and Mourinho for many many years I hope they never find it
Rob, Bristol Gooner


It isn’t as easy as ‘get rid of these players’
Rami in Monday afternoon’s mailbox has come up with a brilliant plan to turn Manchester United’s fortunes around. For those who missed it, the mail pointed out how bad Messrs Blind, Darmian, Fellaini, Rojo and Smalling are, before urging Manchester United to “start becoming ruthless in selling these players”. I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that Rami does not work in advertising. Either that, or I missed the episode of Mad Men where they made a fortune on a slogan of “this is awful, you should buy it”.

This is one of my favourite themes from fans of big teams, that underachieving players should be sold on, without fully thinking it through. Genuine question, Manchester United fans, which teams would be willing and/or able to take on players that are likely to command a high transfer fee (unless any of them are out of contract, happy to take advice) and also be on the sort of contracts that will either make them the best-paid player at most clubs?

Given that Sunderland supposedly don’t have two pennies to rub together, and Steve Bruce’s side (Aston Villa) are under the constraints of FFP, where is the new spiritual home of the Manchester United cast-off?
Ed Quoththeraven


A fairly comprehensive shut down of Spurs crowing
I suppose the other end of the scale to apparent weeping Keyboard warriors is the sanctimony of RossH1983 – THFC.

Mate, you cite two recent performances against Arsenal and Liverpool. This “irresistible football” as Tottenham “schooled liverpool” resulted in one goal from open play. With the Arsenal game, as you “ground them into dust…” you scored one goal from open play.

There is always a tiresome, tedious and somewhat awful boredom whenever people say “they should watch us play” (as Liverpool tried under Brendan). It’s cobblers. It does the opposite and encourages neutrals to get irritated by you. But I tell you what, at least Liverpool backed that up with performances.

In the ’14 season, when Liverpool picked up form in December, there was Norwich (5:1); West Ham (4:1), Spurs (5:0 – rofl), Cardiff (3:0), Stoke (5:2), Everton (4:0), Arsenal (5:0), Fulham (3:2), Swansea (4:3), Saints (3:0), United (3:0), Cardiff (6:3!!), Spurs (4:0 – rofl), City (3:2), Norwich (3:2), Palace (3:3) all in the last 20 odd games. Add in to that away 2:1 losses with City and Chelsea that were end to end. Idiocy and keegan-esque football.

You’re not that good watch mate. You’re nowhere near. You’re nowhere near as good to watch as Ajax from the 70’s. You’re a good pass and move side that is often rebuffed, and just as often dives… with the public encouragement of your manager. You’re a half step above Brendan’s Swansea.

Bluntly, bully for Spurs for compiling a squad so efficiently. But you know what, that’s your main trophy. The business acumen award. The Daniel Levy earning himself a bonus trophy. To go alongside the Harry Kane calendar year award. Your chairman and off-shore ownership have no interest in winning things, as proved every summer when your last minute wheeler-dealership means you pay more for Wanyama than Chelsea paid for Kante.

You can’t be expected to compete… except that you are expected to. And you could. Competing isn’t about spending money (Leicester?). But your ownership have sold you on the lie that it’s just performances that count, and you’ve bought it. Even when those performances haven’t actually been that good either.

Since buying Liverpool in late 2010, FSG have taken us from relegation fears to four cup finals, three cup semi finals, a random title run in, and now what looks like recurring top four places and not unreasonable odds to win the bloody thing. And the fans are mostly unimpressed, and often furious.

Spurs fans have said in the mailbox things akin to ‘actually no-one has picked up more points than us over the last two seasons’ like it’s some form of trophy. Well liverpool were top on Christmas day 2017… and came 4th. The period of judgement is a whole season; not shorter, not longer. You’re currently nowhere. Liverpool are currently nowhere. We are wondering what we can do, you are smug and happy with things.
Tom G (Your manager has beaten Liverpool once in 9 games and is currently behind us…)


Pochettino’s achievement: Adding value to the squad
Having read the piece today on Everton having a more expensively assembled squad than Spurs made me go and look at more valuations.

Of most interest to me was what value has been added by activity other than transfers? I.e. who is simply acquiring their value by blunt spending power and who is doing it by getting better results, getting better and consistently better performances from their players, and who is able to keep players for the longer term? Or another way, putting a bit of (dodgy) science behind identifying cheque-book managers.

Using Transfermarkt and looking at the English clubs included in the sample:

Man City have the most expensively assembled squad, Tottenham the least.
Man City have spent the most on their squad in the last year (220m), while Arsenal have made a negligible profit (3m).

But it gets more interesting when you consider the growth in 2018 v 2017 value less net transfer spend. I.e. that value added by coaching, results, a longer-term approach/philosophy or building rather than buying. Then:

Tottenham have added 283m to the value of the squad, 45% of the 2017 value.
Liverpool 153m (31%)
Chelsea 138m (22%)
United 68m (10%)
City 7m (1%)
Arsenal 5m (1%)


Pep is yet to add any real value to the squad through the results or individual performances. I get the sense it’s coming, but that could be a bias generated by their dominance in the league so far and that they have bought more of the finished article players. Pretty much anyone could do what he has done, so he’s a cheque-book manager.

Arsene really does seem to be phoning it in. The old way of polishing diamonds and discovering bargain gems seems to be well & truly over. The new Arsenal way appears to be churning through much of the same that, well, delivers much of the same. Like there are no ideas left. This is pretty much what most Arsenal contributors seems to be saying when they write in. He’s treading water, so not so much a cheque-book manager as a check-out manager.

Mourinho has not yet done anything the fabled United way. A bit of value added but in the scheme and scale of the the club and it’s traditions any success he is having is very much bought than built. That he complains about financial disparity and needing more funds to compete etc etc pretty much seals his position as the archetypal cheque-book manager.

Pochettino, Klopp and surprisingly for me Conte (probably because of the recent results and vibe coming from Stamford Bridge) are actually making more happen than the investment in transfers could expect. I guess these guys are from the mould of cash-the-cheque managers. For Liverpool and Tottenham that seems to fit perfectly, for Chelsea who seem to be more straight-jacketed financially than in the post, be careful what you change for.
Dr Oyvind


Some things Newcastle ARE doing right
This weekend I had to give up my season ticket for the Man U game and kindly allowed a Man U supporting friend to go. One if the perks of being a season ticket holder is that we can get subsidised travel for match days. £21 a season will get you to and from the game, 3 hours before and after, on the metro. This would normally cost a £5 a match from where I live. From talking to my friend, this doesn’t happen elsewhere, so I was wondering do other clubs and their local areas do this? Or is it just us generous Geordies?

Another quick point, I had my season ticket renewal through yesterday. For the 7th or 8th year there is no increase (bar every so often for inflation but it’s only coppers and not this year). £467 to see Newcastle for a season…or at least see Man City, Man U, Spurs, Chelsea and Liverpool once.
Paul, Newcastle


The Bundesliga is great this year
Just looked at the German league table and there are just 8 points between RB Leipzig in 2nd and Hertha Berlin in 11th. I know the English press will never admit that the EPL is anything but the most competitive and therefore best league ever, but just imagine the madness if there were 10 clubs in with a realistic shout of 3 CL spots!

Time for me to start following German football I think.
Matt (apparently Schalke 04 used to be good and go on about their history – seems like a good fit) LFC


What do you call four goals?
As per Peter G’s question around appropriate terminology for scoring four goals, how does ‘fourgasm’ float his boat?
Martin Todoroski, MCFC

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