Erik ten Hag has quite the job on his hands and the Mailbox has some advice. Send your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Don’t believe the Ten Hag hype
Seems my mailbox entry caused a bit of a stir, don’t worry it is just an opinion. I do think that football isn’t as exciting, I do think that players are more one dimensional, I do think that the world class marker is thrown down way too much, I do think that it isn’t the fact that City and Liverpool are to two best teams, I just think and it’s my opinion that there is a lack of competition outside of those two. Not because Man Utd play the worst football in the league either. I miss the intensity in all the games, but that is just me. Although maybe I just watch too much Man Utd, that might actually be the problem.
Seems so many readers have the attention span of a TikTok video so I’ll keep it short this time. Kind of.
Utd have just announced that Ten Hag is the new manager, we all knew this was going to happen, the only thing I was worried about was that Erik might have seen just how bad we are, turned off his phone, bought a cabin in Outer Mongolia and lived out the rest of his days as a hermit. Got to give the guy some credit, he has a fairly large set a knackers on him, this could quite easily destroy his career.
Right STOP, don’t believe the hype. I am not getting excited; we have been here before. I won’t get excited when we sign someone; as we’ve been there before (apart from one player).
I am excited about the players who are obviously leaving, too many to name, we all know the out of contract ones. I really hope that we change our entire mentality, I don’t care who owns the club, don’t care who is coach or manager, don’t care who the backroom staff are.
What I do care about is that we develop an exciting style, develop some kind of identity, develop some proper home-grown players that get a proper chance in the team. Of course, winning trophies in the long term is important, but I will quite happily sit here next season and watch Liverpool beat us 5-4 at home and 4-3 away. Quite happily sit here and scrap it out with the rest and still finish 6th or 7th. This is so long as we develop a style, that they entertain us, that they actually give a damn. We can all take losing to a better team, but please, give us at least some source of entertainment. It’s not even funny laughing at us anymore, nobody cares. It really is, ‘it’s only Man Utd’ now.
Unfortunately for most of those players, that means they won’t be starting, they cannot be a part of the future long term. Everyone has seen their mentality, forget the coaching, forget the tactics, if you don’t care and put no effort in when you’re being battered and when you are playing the worst football in the league then how are you ever going to be part of a long-term project?
I would love for us to finally put our confidence in these so-called great youth prospects, Garner needs to be there, so does Pellestri, Garnacho, Mengi, Mejbri, I’d give a go to most of them as it can’t be any worse than what this lot have churned out. They might not work, but adding them with someone like Kalvin Philips, who btw, I would instantly make captain if he would come (I would be excited) and a decent CB, just anyone really so that we don’t have to suffer ‘he who brings so much to the team as 2 managers have picked him, ear cupping against who? roblox tactical fridge’.
Sancho will get another chance with me, so will VDB and I’d give Fernandes until Christmas just because of what he did last season. In all fairness, we need 8 new first team starters, 9 if Bruno continues on his dark path to nothingness. The ones we can’t sell can just watch their careers disappear on the bench. Give them the VDB treatment.
I guess what real Utd fans want, is just some bloody enjoyment again, win or lose, just make it fun. But then again, we all know nothing, it could very well be exactly the same shit for the next 3 years.
Mike (Just opinions)
Ten Hag and the Liverpool way
Look – maybe Eric ten Hag (there’s a name that lends itself to a few tabloidesque puns) is the saviour. Maybe he is the man to pull United out of their slump. I have no idea, just like you.
There are so many problems, and a big one was highlighted by a very clueless letter by Colin Crust (seems unlikely that this is his name – why can’t people just be who they are?) who was subsequently ripped a new one By Andrew M. Colin was bemoaning the fact that United will be unlikely to attract the biggest of names (unless some miracle occurs and they end the season in fourth), suggested that the Ward-Prowses of this World aren’t good enough before offering up the “solution” that they go balls-in with players from the youth set up.
Nothing wrong with looking to the younger players to come through, but unless they have a stable full of Giggs, Scholes and Beckhams, that isn’t going to work, is it?
There is one way, and one way only out of this situation. Identify players with great potential, get them in at a reasonable price, have a distinct system in mind, and train their arses off to get used to this system. What I might call the new Liverpool way, which I am sure will delight United fans everywhere.
I remember when Andrew Robertson was brought in and left on the sidelines for six month many a Liverpool fan suggesting the transfer was a complete waste of time. I remember the same with Fabinho. But at this point, Liverpool had a manager that had brought the club together, and was gradually improving the team all the time, and the fans were prepared to be patient because they understood Klopp had taken over a piss-poor squad.
This is what awaits ten Hag. If he is the saviour, he’ll have identified a raft of players with such potential, and he will slowly cobble together a team with cohesion. Forget marquee signings. You may get a household name towards the end of his career, and they can work out, but if you’re lucky, you’ll pick up some Firminos, some Manes, maybe even a Salah.
But it won’t happen overnight. It might take three or four years before you start really challenging again, and that might be taken a step or two backwards before then.
Many United fans – especially those who started supporting them in the early 90s-2010-ish – need to understand that being United doesn’t mean what it did. You’re just another team right now, a perennial also-ran. And if you turn on the manager because he can’t perform an instant miracle, that’s all you’ll ever be.
So, by all means, have the ten Hag out flags flying by December. Nothing would make me happier.
Mat (a finely honed troll identifier. If you’re blocked, it’s because you’re a troll)
Rangnick’s brutal honesty
It’s been a while since I read the mailbox, but the post-Liverpool analysis drew me in and, on that note, I would like to congratulate Andy B for his calm, reasoned analysis of the state of affairs with United. In a similar theme, I have to say that my reaction to United this season isn’t anger, it’s not sadness, it’s not even disappointment – it’s just philosophical acceptance; we’re now reaping what was sown, and it’s hard to get riled up about that. To quote Dr. Tina Payne Bryson: you get what you get and you don’t get upset (well, you might get upset but you still get what you get).
I would also like to say that I am happy with Ralf Rangnick’s tenure so far, for a variety of reasons. Chief among them is that I think now, more than ever, it has finally become painfully clear to the board that constantly changing the manager and/or coaching team is just not going to make a difference. I think if nothing comes out of his tenure other than the acceptance that things must drastically change at United then I won’t see it as anything less than a success. There are obviously conflicting reports about just how much input he’s had at the club, but when you look at some of the moves they are making behind the scenes it would suggest that he’s having the desired effect.
While I’m obviously keen to see us return to the days when we can challenge for honours, that is never going to happen until the club learns its lessons. I like Rangnick’s brutal honesty about where we stand right now, and I think the fact that he’s an interim manager who will (hopefully) remain involved with the club beyond the end of this has empowered him to deliver some hard truths to a bunch of players who have had it too easy for too long. I like the fact that he’s not afraid to criticise the players in public, without making it personal, and I like the fact that he’s making it plain what he thinks of the previous structure at the club; that we’ve parted company with the two main scouts responsible for assembling this squad can only be a positive sign, regardless of what Gary Neville thinks about Jim Lawlor’s involvement.
Obviously, the football has been atrocious at times, but I think that this has just further exposed the weaknesses of the squad both collectively and individually. Other than the ill-advised 4-2-2-2 or whatever it was, I can’t say I’ve disagreed with many of his tactical decisions. It’s hard to see how he’s going to be too creative with his tactics with the squad available to him. The one complaint I do have is that we could have given more time to the likes of Hannibal Mejbri (and some of the others), given the performances of some of those keeping him out of the team. I think that the second half of this season has given Rangnick and United license to brutally destroy and rebuild this squad – almost from scratch, based on Ralf’s recent comments. Who was the last manager who publicly admitted that we need anything like 10 players? Maybe Jose, but I think even he didn’t go that far.
On the subject of players: I think there are some who obviously need to go, some we should hold on to in the medium term but should ultimately be upgraded eventually, and some who are worth some patience. Rashford is not a bad player; he’s a good player in terrible form and low on confidence and this is absolutely not the team in which rediscover either of those things. I think Wan-Bissaka could still be a part of the team, or squad at least, if he gets some proper coaching. I still rate McTominay highly, I just don’t think he and Fred are a compatible pairing in midfield. I don’t understand what Henderson did to lose his chance and, as good as De Gea has been at times this year, we should be building around the guy who could potentially be our number one for the next ten years, not the guy from the last (nearly) ten. There are others, beyond those whose contracts are expiring or want to leave, who should be moved on. I wouldn’t be sad if any of the following players left (some of whom I would be actively pushing out): Dalot, Shaw, Telles, Maguire, Bailly, Jones, Pereira, Martial, even Ronaldo.
Just quickly on him, I’m not one of the people who think he is *the* problem at United, but I do think he is part of it. While he has scored some crucial goals, particularly in the Champions League, it’s just not worth tailoring your entire strategy to get the best out of a 37-year-old. It’s just not, not matter who he is/was. It was a sentimental signing that has returned a decent dividend, but now is the time to focus on the future, of which he is just not going to play much of a part. Now is the time to focus on building a squad specifically for the new manager. We’re going to continue to be crap for at least the next couple of years and that’s fine, as long as there is clear progress towards a long-term plan. Hopefully United can slowly rise from the ashes of the dumpster fire that is this season, and I am cautiously optimistic that Erik Ten Hag can be the manager we need but only if he gets the backing he’s apparently been promised from the board, and time and patience from the fans.
Avoid the ‘obvious’ transfers
On the subject of Man U’s troubles and how they get out of this I’ve seen various thoughts looking at the individual players and thinking they aren’t really that bad, are they? Also thoughts towards shopping in the second tier, or thoughts or trying to turn around their fortunes in the way Arsenal have done by committing to a long term plan and signing younger players and ditching the egos. All interesting views. I wanted to pick up on the point about Man U’s transfers, when Man U sign new players each summer how many of those feel like they have been the result of extensive and thorough scouting vs how many feel like they’ve just been picked out of the name that keeps being linked in the gossip columns or the flavour of the month player? Most of Man U’s signings have been ‘obvious’ signings, I’d go as far as to say they are the signings a casual armchair fan would have made. Wan-Bissaka, young english right back, had 1 good season at a lower premier league club and Man U snap him up. Maguire is the same story. Even going back to players like Schneiderlin, Fellaini, Lukaku, Sanchez and then for players outside the prem, Ronaldo, Sancho, Fred, Pogba, Mkhitaryan. Each of these players were almost primed for the next big move in their career, they were the talk of the town so Man U just bought them, as easy as that. There never seemed to be enough effort to discover the player with a skill set that would suit what they needed. Of course swapping manager every season is going to lead to a disjointed team made up of a collection of thoughts but that’s where the modern game has directors of football to ensure that consistency in player identification (and manager identification) to keep the strategy focused and consistent.
Going forward I think Man U are in a similar position Arsenal were in 24 months ago. A very stale squad which really needs about 75% of them to leave. Arsenal have turned over about 20 of their first team in the last 24 months and whilst they are nowhere near the finished article, things do certainly look brighter as the progression is generally upward despite the obvious ups and downs you will have from such a young and new team.
Final point when fans are looking at how they want to rebuild their squad they should stop using ‘youth team player X or Y’ when these players have not played a minute of senior football despite them probably raking up loads of goals in youth team football. The idea that top clubs bring through any more than 1 academy product a year good enough for a team in the top 6 of the league is highly fanciful. There are of course exceptions but any club at all integrating 1 academy product per year in to the first 11/squad is doing incredibly well at developing talent.
Man Utd evidence of Premier League strength
I’d contend Lee’s claim this morning that United’s malaise is evidence of the Prem’s weakness, and that it is actually the League’s strength. United have been made to look ordinary, yes through mismanagement, but also through the number of opponents ready to make them look so. For starters, whilst they look like a car crash over here, United actually made it out of their (not the strongest) Champions League group.
Looking around the European competitions, we have 5/12 semi-finalists across the 3, and I’d like to believe Spurs would be in the mix too had they & UEFA not decided they both too good for the other but that’s my opinion so we’ll leave that there. Looking around other European Leagues we see representatives from Germany (2, both Europa), Spain (Villarreal, CL, Scotland (Rangers, Europa), France (Marseille, ECL), and Italy (Roma, ECL).
It’s obvious that in European competition, the Premier League is well ahead of the other major European leagues this year. But not only that, last year we had 3/4 finalists as well.
This shows the strength at the top end of the table, but it’s the way the strength runs through that defies other leagues. In the most extreme example, Championship side Fulham have just been promoted with Mitrovic scoring (so far) 40 goals, a player who has 71 caps and 44 goals at international level for a decent side. Looking at the bottom end of the Premier League the resources available are really stark in comparison to other leagues. Norwich and Watford are the nailed on relegation teams so far, but boast between them Ismaila Sarr (£27m, 45 caps), Imran Louza (£9m), Ozan Kabak (£12m agreed), Christoph Tzolis (£10m) etc etc.
We have other strugglers throwing cash around like Leeds (Llorente £18m), Koch (£12m), James (£26m), Rodrigo (£27m), Raphina (£17m), and Harrison £12m).
Just to put things in perspective, there have been 5 signings in the Bundesliga’s history made by teams other than Dortmund & Munich greater than £25m, so Rodrigo & James would be amongst the most expensive in the leagues history.
Now I know cash =/= success, but we have seen that it has translated in Europe recently, and we know that the players are good, as they also represent their international teams. I don’t have the time to dig up the figures, but check out the bottom teams in Spain, Italy, Germany, France etc and see how far you have to go to find one, then one from a major nation etc etc. Most teams in the prem would struggle to field a side during the international break.
KC (wasn’t always “bestest in the world” but it is right now)
Eddie Howe for manager of the year
At the start of the year we were 18th in the league with only one win to our name. No team had ever survived having not won their first 12 games. And it is widely accepted that being in the relegation zone at Christmas is game over. As I walked out of St James last night having watched us win our sixth home game in a row I tried to comprehend the job Eddie Howe has done in only a few months.
This isn’t just about money. Yes the shrewd signings have set us up perfectly but we haven’t spent £80m on an average overrated defender nor £100m on a striker who is well past his best. (As many predicted we would) there has been a methodical approach to get us playing better with the foundations being laid to build the club into a competitive position in years to come. Howe and his team deserve massive credit. They have transformed average players into efficient members of the team, they have taken the tough decisions to back certain players and leave others out. Kraft, Almiron, Joelinton, Shelvey, Willock have all been transformed. We have a tactical approach to games now, knowing when to play on the front foot and when to protect a lead. Basically we have a plan and we are all buying into it. St James Park is rocking again and Howe deserves all the plaudits. We currently sit in bloody eleventh! We are nearer the European places than we are relegation. It’s mental! Of our three defeats this calendar year only one of these was a proper kicking the other two were harsh. He won’t get it but Howe deserves manager to the year.
Usually as a Newcastle fan once we finally secure Premier League status we start to panic about what will happen next season. This time it feels different this can only get better!
Did Stewie enjoy that?
What the hell was that?!
4-2 at the Bridge with a former Chelsea striker coming back to haunt them.
I bet even Stewie enjoyed that! (Of course he didn’t).
Graham Simons, Gooner, Norf London
‘Not bothered’ XI
Seeing this article about Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink‘s comments on Lukaku: “if you want to be the man, you need to at least run around., “You have to try and show that you are bothered and that you want to suffer, and he simply does not run around, he does not go into gaps and he doesn’t go into space”
I’ve put together a first team of “dont run around / not bothered” players. Interestingly, there are waaaay more attackers than defenders lol so i’ve had to shoehorn some of these guys esp defenders. Anyone i missed?
GK: Mark Bosnich (vice captain, in more ways than one). busted for drugs, hardly played or trained at Chelski, presumably isnt bothered and doesnt run around?
RB: aaron wan bissaka. stays back, doesnt run forwards
LB: alberto moreno. Stays forward, never runs back.
CB: harry maguire. Goes up and points a lot, but never seen running at the right place, right time.
Jan Molby: bothers, but stays in center circle pinging balls around
Ozil: doesnt seem ars*d.
Paul Poggy: Ditto
Winston Bogarde: ars*d enuf to show up for training dutifully to collect his 4 / £8mil salary.
Berbatov: doesnt seem ars*d
Lukaku (captain): doesnt seem ars*d AND doesnt run around
Filippo Inzaghi: born offside. Presumably becos he isnt bothered and/ or doesnt run around?
I bet this team will set a record for least number of miles covered during a game 🤣🤣🤣
PS Lukaku £90 mil, Poggy £89 mil. Ouch.