Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Manchester United continue to dominate the Mailbox. Send your thoughts to email@example.com
A rolling Ole deal would be madness
The yearly rolling contract suggested by Andy for Ole is one of the dumbest mailbox ideas in recent times.
We’ve all seen how contract lengths really don’t matter. Moyes had a seven-year deal, what good did that do him?
Players can’t be seeing a manager as keeping the seat warm or a lame duck manager. Van Gaal lost all authority when jt was clear that Mourinho would succeed him. Guardiola didn’t help Pellegrini by announcing he’s going to Manchester City next.
The players need to see the manager as a boss. A rolling contract would just mean nobody would take a manager seriously who is already seen as a glorified PE teacher.
How do you build a squad also not knowing if the manager will be here next year? Buy players for a metaphorically next great manager?
United is doing the right thing by publicly backing Ole. Give him a contract, and if he fails don’t be afraid to sack him in a few months.
A club as big as United cant be thinking about manager compensation while making these decisions.
A rolling contract for the manager of one of the biggest clubs in the world would be nothing short of a joke.
Shehzad Ghias, MUFC, Karachi
Man United are a Work In Progress
Slow down Andy (MUFC) and please read the email and respond to the content and context within it.
To help you out in the meantime, the email was not an attack on Ole nor a comparison between him and other elite managers (Tuchel, Fat Sam etc.) it was my reflection on the fact that United are the Second Best* team in the country, capable of playing some pretty dire football (“shocking” may have been a bit strong I will give you that) and that the quality of the Covid Premier League is not the best this year. It was also a little dig at City strolling the league but nobody picked up on that.
The email certainly wasn’t a reaction to the weekend’s results in isolation, it was a reaction to what I have seen through the entire season. We are definitely a Work In Progress and for what is worth I have never been convinced that Ole is the man to return us to challenging for the big honours. I am convinced though that there is currently nobody really available to replace him right now.
He needs another transfer window and another season at least and I don’t have a problem with that, however, he really must improve the quality of football we are capable of playing. If you are happy with the current standard of play then you really haven’t been watching us closely over the years.
I am worried about the focus of the transfer business we are supposed to be addressing this year. Right winger as ever, Centre Back, Left back (??) and Centre forward are all being mentioned but nobody is talking Central Midfielders. I don’t want to hear about McTominay having potential (he has), Fred being an absolute trier (he is) the quality is not nearly good enough in CM. It costs us so much possession in games that I actually think it is Ole being a tactical genius after all. We give the opposition so much possession thus opening them up for our trademark counter attack!
Andy, don’t be fooled into thinking the current second place is good enough. We are miles away from City at the moment, I also fear the Scousers will be back next year and only a fool would suggest that Chelsea have not progressed under Tuchel and do not have potential to push on next season.
Plato – MUFC (always philosophical about football……..it’s never the end of the world)
Why is it time for Messi Lingard?
I’ve been following the resurgence of Jlingz at West Ham with interest and it has me wondering if his time has finally come.
Looking back over Jesse’s career, he has always been noted as having talent and a great team ethic, willing to do whatever was asked of him. Watching him play, he showed moments of great promise and skill, but also too many moments of 5 yard passes going astray, or a heavy touch losing him the ball.
I wonder if he finally has the self confidence and assurance to take the final step and add consistency.
For his whole career he has been characterised as “young” and “up and coming” fuelled by his slight stature, bantz on and off field and potential. Even at 26 he was being characterised like a 20 year old. So perhaps it is not surprising he would struggle in that environment to be taken seriously or even take himself seriously as a top notch player, rather than the younger brother of the team.
We all have different psychologies and different ways we could be successful. We mature physically and emotionally at different rates. By all accounts Jesse has had to do a lot of soul searching and had reached a bit of a crossroads.
Perhaps the time was simply right for him to go to a team where he could be free of past psychological burdens, where he could see that peak Jesse Lingard is exactly what they needed, rather than bench warmer Jesse Lingard he was. Where he is playing for a coach that perhaps he subconsciously feels at least equal to, rather than inferior to. Long may this resurgence continue.
Is Jesse the hero Manchester United wants? That remains to be seen, but he is the hero West Ham needs now, and for many that would be a fitting capstone to a career.
I hope he can kick on and return to United to be peak Lingard, but those psychological barriers are likely still difficult to overcome. If he does manage that final step, then that will be a huge leap of growth, and I’m cheering him on.
But Jesse has already proven himself without any final tests or caveats or wondering if can he do it for United. He’s already better than that. He’s done it for Jesse, and that’s more than enough.
Collin (unworthy to be bracketed with Jesse) Hack
Are Arsenal still a top club?
I thought I’d give a go at answering Bucky Dent’s question on Arsenal. I’m a United fan, since he wants to know from other supporters.
I think Arsenal are very much turning to being irrelevant or unimportant in two ways: the first is that for me personally, I don’t watch any of their ‘big’ games anymore, except for the North London Derby. I usually watch City v. Liverpool, City v. Chelsea or Spurs even, along with watching most Champions League games. I know it’s a personal test, but I used to watch Arsenal play those teams and now don’t really feel a need to. They’re most likely bad, to be blunt. This is also to do with the weight of the games, or the jeopardy that is intrinsic with sport; the further Arsenal slip down the table, the less consequence the result has. If Chelsea play Liverpool tomorrow, it’s for a top four place and so on. Arsenal are tenth, with as many losses as Brighton, Palace and Wolves, so there’s no great weight to their games anymore outside their fanbase.
I should say that players also play a part in this. If you’re a neutral, you only watch other team’s games for the jeopardy or to see the best players; Arsenal are lacking here. Very few of their players are good beyond what other teams have; I like Tierney, but he’s not the best in the league. I like Smith-Rowe and Saka, but same point and it’s probably only this three I do like to watch. There’s a point too about the players, and again this is personal, but not many of the players are really likeable. Normally you’d like opposition players for their skill, or for their determination. So many Arsenal players just seem to go through the motions of playing a football match; pretend to look like they’re trying but when the whistle blows they really don’t care.
The second thing that makes them less relevant I think, is the media’s reaction to the fact that they’re tenth. There’s a few little raised eyebrows, but when you consider Ole gets an article a week written about him being an awful coach despite being in second, it goes to show the difference. To many journalists, it’s still unacceptable for United to be that far off City or not to have the greatest style of play. For the most part, journalists aren’t laying into Arteta despite having a win percentage of 42% and a loss percentage of 34%. Essentially, for every 3 games, Arsenal pretty much lose one, win one and draw one. While a win is just about the most likely, a loss is also more likely than a draw; it’s not good.
Media clout counts for a lot, especially now with no fans, and yet they’re all fairly quiet about the fact that Arsenal are going backwards, season on season. Even if Arteta did win the Europa, it doesn’t feel in any way that this team will challenge for top-four or even top-six next year. Arteta seems to have a good thing going with the media that league results don’t really matter; when they’re tenth.
I normally don’t like Jamie Redknapp but he made a good point after the Liverpool game when it was said about them missing players; they’ve had those players for most of the season and they’re still where they are. It will take a lot to change it.
On Mourinho’s Spurs…
With the relentless monotony of a Piers Morgan attack on Meghan Markel, Spurs once again started and finished a match in the mould of their has-been manager. Spurs are a flawed team, but every team in the league this year is flawed, Jose Mourinho was supposed to use his experience to minimize the faults of a team that is at its best on the front foot, attacking their opponents through Kane, Son et al.
Spurs, this odd season and in their current form are undoubtedly good enough to make the top four and a Champions League position. So what has held them back from making a sustained challenge at the top? There are a few factors – Kane and Son are unstoppable but no combination in the absence of either one of them comes remotely close to their level of performance. Eric Dier is a good soldier and a hard working professional but is he a defensive midfielder or a centre half?
Lamela, Lo Celso and the hard working Moura are excellent players as part of an ensemble cast but none of the them are lead players in the way that Kane or Son is. Bale needs games, let him play and run him into the ground, he is of that exceptional talent that he will either flourish or will fade away because of the weight of expectation and injury. But, the gift that was given by Daniel Levy has not been managed by Mourinho- Bale wasn’t match fit when he arrived but could have been the 10, 15, 20 minute super sub that closed out matches, until he was. His talents are such that he is too much the anti- Mourinho player, someone that is so exceptional offensively that it goes against the manner in which the Portuguese wants matches closed out.
Of the players brought in, Reguilon is exceptional, Viniscius needs more games and could flourish as part of a front three of Kane, Son and himself but that would involve the manager making the required changes to his sit back first style of play. Spurs now have the ideal holding midfielder in Hojbjerg, he could be North London side’s N’Golo Kante – if he was used correctly because for much of the time he is being asked to be 3 players at once. He is a top class international but a better manager would have him play a simpler role and allow others to flourish around him.
For much of the match against Newcastle, Spurs’ best player, other than Kane, was Ndombele. Again, another player who’s strengths are moving the ball forward with pace and precision. He is the player that Spurs need to move the ball quickly from defence to attack. He is a different player to Ericksson but no less important to how Spurs play best; quickly, precisely and relentlessly attacking with guile. Spurs do not have the players to play a sit back or park the bus game and that is why Mourinho will never make them a title-winning team.
This is another season where Jose Mourinho’s reputation counts for nothing and Spurs will be very lucky to make a top four position. The game has moved on and the players at his disposal do not work within the system he wants to employ. A man of lesser ego would have realised this and made adjustments, moved on from the weekly disappointments. But, because of his caustic personality when challenged, all the Tottenham fan is left with is blame and excuses and the bitter realisation that another season will slip over the horizon without silverware.
Gadge, time for Mourinho to go, Ottawa, Canada
Saying Sterling hasn’t improved at City despite the vast increase in goals is like saying Ronaldo didn’t improve in Madrid after Manchester.
Using as evidence he doesn’t ‘do it for England’ is therefore equating that Messi is not world class because he didn’t ‘do it for Argentina.’
Name a better English winger over the last fifteen years? Go even further and name an English winger to ever hit those kind of numbers in the Premier League?
PS. I never said he was world class, I said he was an amazing footballer. He still has time to grow.
Johnny Nic dead wrong about agents
Firstly I hope you are all well given the current times! Not emailed in almost a decade (an Ashley Cole poor performance in an England shirt) but wanted to take umbridge (or umbrage – Ed) with an otherwise typically good writer.
‘What is he actually doing for his percentage? He can’t trick a football club into paying more than they want to.’
Why yes, yes he can. There’s a reason there’s a plethora of books on negotiation and even an academic discipline. “Want to” is ridiculous as a basic notion as clubs “want to” pay nothing.
‘He doesn’t even have to persuade anyone of Haaland’s talent. Even a nine-year-old kid knows what he can do and how good he is. So what is he doing? Trying to get his client £300,000 per week rather than £250,000? Make big number bigger: that’s their whole raison d’etre. It smells of the devil and not without reason.’
Haaland is worth that and more to a club – his role is to get the club to pay what he is worth not what the club are willing to play. Clubs have a significantly greater knowledge and expertise in contracts compared to your average footballer who had to sacrifice their education (and any chance of a law degree, mostly) to perform at this level (asymmetric information, for those A-Level economists). Haaland, and nearly all players, can’t simply claim his fee – they typically have no idea what makes a good contract – off the top of your head what should he ask for? £300k a year would put him roughly at Electronic Arts’ CEO level of pay for a job with very high risks (£15 mil a year, injury can curtail his career tomorrow, alongside his personal security and constant threat of theft of their home, and its done by 35 if you’re lucky), which, whilst I have a personal moral/ethical concern with him over 10 more nurses a week, seems reasonable in the context of their market.
Playing football manager (for which I am a Head Researcher actually, so shout out to all of us) gives a simplistic view of the process – uprooting themselves and their family is a more difficult process when you can reasonably expect to need security. Which school for your kids? What job for your spouse? Where to buy a house and in what area? What exactly are good appearance fees, goals, assists, team of the year, etc? It may also cover life and health insurance and when exactly they’re allowed to play? (No games at the park when your contract is worth tens of millions of pounds.) Not to mention crafting a contract that specifically covers aspects of image and likeness rights and obeys local laws in the local language.
And this is just at the top level, agents at lower leagues are essential for a number of reasons that aren’t immediately obvious. They can find you moves you never considered abroad, act as a third party when conflicts arise between yourself and the club (is the training in your long-term interest? Are they pushing you too hard too young?). They can act as a one-person union in some circumstances, usually with your best interests in mind but with a wider and usually deeper knowledge of the game. The Athletic just had a piece on the super agents in question – they also do personalised training and analysis of games.
In summary good and bad agents exist, but agents are usually needed for professional players for the same reason you should employ a lawyer to advise you on buying a house or applying for a residence visa. I always think of an example from a much smaller affair- the agent couldn’t get them any more money, but they did get them an old beater car to get to training and a proper contract that gave him protection under law.
Tom (HR for the Caribbean if you wondered, and Economics teacher) Scrivener
Footballers should pay their agents
I was listening to the 606 this weekend and a caller asked Robbie and Chris what they thought about the recent report showing the amount the Premier League had spent on agent fees. Both seemed to want to not discuss it at any level and brushed it aside. On the one hand, neither are imbued with a lot of smarts, especially Robbie on the other, as a player, they benefited from agents.
What I don’t understand is why agents fees are paid out of the footballer’s income. In any other business it is the person gaining from the agent’s skill that pays the agent. So whether it be a musician, actor or even other sports, they pay the agent out of their income. Football seems to be the outlier here.
Also, doesn’t that mean agents are double dipping? After all, the footballer still pays the agent for the regular work they do plus, in the case of a transfer, a direct payment from the buying club. Who knows, perhaps also the selling club in some circumstances.
If UEFA and FIFA want to get on top of financial fair play, agent fees should be controlled better. The footballer benefiting from the agent should be forced to lay everything. It may mean the footballer’s price going up or the requirement for a singing bonus etc but it would be all up front, nothing hidden. And hey, with the player being taxed on this income may make them think a bit more about the cost of an agent.
This “off the book” or at least separate transaction does skew the cost of a player transfer. If it was coming out of the footballer’s pocket might be more pushback from some footballers on being moved on by an agent. Might remove some of the unsavoury incidents of the recent past with agents acting nasty with a club to force a sale that benefitted the agent more than anyone else.
…I’m not usually a John Nicholson fan, but his article on Haaland and Big Money was great. It’s nowhere near a whole solution, but one thing I wish the football authorities would do is ban clubs from paying any money, directly or indirectly, to agents.
There’s definitely a role for good agents in professional football. Elite footballers are children when they begin their careers and start having to make decisions that impact the rest of their lives. Plus, rightly or wrongly, there’s image rights, shaving foam endorsements and all that palaver. If I were an elite footballer, I’m pretty sure I’d be happy to pay someone who’d been through it all 100 times 10% to guide me along the way.
But there’s no good reason to allow payments from clubs to agents. The agents provide no useful service to the clubs. Clubs may often make bad transfer decisions, but agents are the last people you’d look to to solve that problem. The role agents play with clubs is like that of the corrupt cop or soldier at the checkpoint in a lawless country. They manoeuvre themselves into a position where they can demand money to allow you to do something that you could do more easily without their involvement. With the corrupt cop, we call it a bribe. With the agent, we call it a fee. But economically it’s the same thing. As long as the rules allow it, clubs have little choice but to cough up. That’s a problem with the rules.
I imagine agents buy too many lunches, host too many get togethers on superyachts and generally ingratiate themselves too effectively with the football authorities for a ban ever to happen. But it really, really should.
Tom, scourge of the super agent, London