Three midfielders Man Utd should have bought for £120m Pogba

Date published: Friday 6th September 2019 2:30

Abdoulaye Doucoure Watford Paul Pogba Manchester United

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Old Trafford clear out
I was interested in the latest Manchester United mails about Paul Pogba and David de Gea. Chapter 312 by now isn’t it ?  For the last 18 months Utd fans have been writing in to f365 complaining that the squad is sick and needs a huge reboot. Don’t get me wrong I completely agree and they have just missed their best chance of doing it.

De Gea – I think he decided to leave 18 months ago. Good mail from Ted – Manchester saying he has been off form. If Utd fans are honest with themselves they know that. His very hot girlfriend lives in Madrid and once described Manchester as like looking at the back of a fridge. Genius comment, she clearly has a sense of humour too. People forget De Gea was 32 seconds and a fully functioning fax machine away from joining Real Madrid about 5 years ago. Van Gaal clearly thought it was a done deal and signed Argentina’s first choice keeper. Sergio Romero is still there. Surely he can play? Selling De Gea this summer for 50-60m would have been the sensible option. Nick Pope for £8m as backup to Romero isn’t the worst option is it ? Now you are stuck with someone who can’t stop thinking about Madrid, and his girlfriend in a bikini, by the pool on a Wednesday afternoon, after training in the sunshine, whilst getting heavily rained on and abused at Burnley.

Pogba – the man is a bad influence. He is the current embodiment (thank you predictive text) of what is happening at Utd. An under performing egotistical Twitter God who hid behind good players at Juventus and wants to go do the same again at Real. I wrote in last year stating that yes he does wonderful things but he gives the ball away too much. £100-120m goodbye.

Lukaku – I actually rate Lukaku. He needs the ball played in front of him rather than with his back to goal. I thought he did okay out of position on the right of a front 3 but sticking with it he could have done it. Finally got £75m though so well done. Top scorer in Italy this year will make it look a bit foolish but it was the right solution.

Jones and Smalling – finally a chance to just let them walk out. Great time to invest their wages in more capable players and what happens…. 200k a week each for 4 years. £80m in wages on 2 underperforming centrebacks Utd don’t actually want or need ??!! Ed is supposed to be an accountant so surely appreciated the fact that 2 ‘assets’ walking out the door for free is worthwhile as the wages can then be reinvested.

Mata – good player. Doesn’t fit into Ole’s system. Put him in the same taxi as Jones and Smalling…. OR give him 2 more years and £20m to wander around the training ground then head off to university to drink skinny lattes wit his university friends. No wonder he looks so happy and contented. I bet you Mata gets a round of Almond croissants in and laughs everyday about it.

Luke Shaw – he was on 100k a week I think. He might have got the same again elsewhere but somehow Ed thinks giving him 200k a week is the best option. Again WOW. Hang on Chris, Phil one more for the Uber !

Ashley Young – Cancel the Uber, we need an XL now.

Matic – makes Mata look like Linford Christie. Now whining about not playing. Take £5m. There’s 7 seats in an XL…..

Herrera – come on everyone he wasn’t actually that good really was he? He had 6 good months under Mourinho when Jose was lighting fires under everyone else. It’s fine he’s gone.

So now what? Well Bob from yesterdays mailbox it’s easy. Firstly Wan Bissaka and Maguire were good signings. In need of a new midfield. McTominay is decent. Why didn’t Utd grab Ndombele ? Everyone rates Doucoure at Watford. Essentially for the Pogba money you could have a decent midfield. Enough money left over from the above to add Fernandes too.

All fairness to Utd 3 good signings have been made. As people keep saying Klopp needed 4 windows and Pep needed 3 to get the team he wanted. It’s early days but it does look like Utd are getting back on track.

Messy season ahead though. Hang in there.

Sorry everyone about bringing up Brexit. You had a go at me but it was Clive’s fault… honest. Great response from Blue Chelsea Blue yesterday. Loved the analogy. However I think a better analogy is that your mate moves in with you. He lives with you for a year. He has a job but it doesn’t pay much so you let him live there for free and you throw a bit of cash here and there to tide him over. He doesn’t really listen to you and keeps changing things in your apartment without asking. You then find out he’s sleeping with your girlfriend. You ask around and the majority verdict from friends and family and random strangers you meet on the bus is that it needs to end and he is taking the p!ss. You ask him to leave and he turns round and gives you a bill for a years rent at his new place and says I’m not moving until you pay this……

John Chicago – good point, it’s the ultimate in idiocy. I should have thought of that.

Alay N15 Gooner. I am English. It’s a shame you think Brexit is all about xenophobia. I have lived and worked abroad for 9 years now, believe me, I know what an international world looks like.
English Ian (foreigner – thank you Hong Kong) LFC


City’s youth policy is defensible
Whilst I agree that it is possible to be successful by playing a good amount of Academy/Youth players in the first team and also that it would be very enjoyable if Foden took over from David Silva to enjoy the same success with City, I think it is worth mentioning here that City’s youth policy is not all about getting players into the first team.   Its also about making money…and lots of it.

Over the last 4 seasons alone City have made over £110m from the sales of Academy players despite only one of the players sold making more than 10 appearances for City.  The biggest sales being Iheanacho (£25m), Diaz (£15.5m), Gunn (£13.5m), Unal (£12m), Denayer (£11.8), Lopes (£9m), Matteo (£8.1m), Sancho (£8m), Angelino (£5m – though he’s come back for £6m), Nitcham (£4.5m), Fofana (£3.8m) and Rekik (£3.5m) and Celina (£3m).  So whilst Sancho clearly could make the City first team I think the others would struggle to break in on current form so you can argue the sales were the right decision.  There are also buy back clauses inserted in most of them just in case the players prove otherwise.

So whilst on a football fan prospective it is very sad to see players not break through, you have to remember that football changed when Sky came in to be about money so you have to look at it from a business point of view too.  On a business side City’s policy can actually be justified.

Also and I appreciate this is just a personal opinion, I think phasing Foden in slowly is a good idea as when I think of players who broke through at an early age and played lots of football before they were 20 I just think there career could have been so much more if it was not for injury that is likely to have been caused by too much football when they were young.  Always felt like their recovery was always hampered as they were never allowed to fully develop in the first place – Michael Owen, Micah Richards, Pato, Owen Hargreaves, Jack Wilshire, Stefan Jovetic, Andy Carroll.

There is also an argument for young players who played before they were ready and could not cope with expectations or pressure which led to external influences disrupting their career – Freddy Adu, Michael Johnson, Keith Gillespie

Obviously there are exceptions from my examples and I know some players have freak injuries but I just do not think that playing someone from age 17 in top flight football where it is fast paced, high energy, high pressured games every week is a good idea in the long term for the player.
Gavin MCFC


Yes Barcelona won the champions league with many academy products down the years with ajax also having some fine/great academy products withing their squad, but these teams are operated differently, for ajax the need to groom players from the academy into the first team is essential as they do not have the financial might of the Europe elites to buy superstar while FCB do have the money to spend they are also leagues ahead of man city in trying to breed the academy for first team football because they have been playing and challenging for top honours for time immemorial

Now on the issue with foden he is a wonderful talent no doubt pep even called him the best talent he’s ever seen but pep also says he(foden) is too nice or gives him too much respect. I do know foden is young and having better players around him will let him grow but given how good pep says he is he’s gotta be playing more than the minutes he plays this begs the question of if he is mentally ready to handle the pressure of playing consistently for a big club regardless of age.

Pep is ready to give youth the chance if they are good enough, he handed Pedro and busquets their debut turned messi into world class goalscorer and the list goes on
With time I’m sure man city would have more of their youth players in the starting eleven but for now success is ascertain with whatever means necessary

This is coming from a Liverpool fan.
GEORGE from warri


I agree with some of the previous comments about City’s baffling underuse of Phil Foden.  I suspect it’s already damaged City and will continue to do so.

Liverpool’s only transfer successes this summer came in signing highly rated youngsters for nominal fees, against stiff competition from other high profile clubs.  I don’t think those kids sign with us without seeing the game time and trust given to TAA and Gomez.  Arsenal, Spurs, United and even now Chelsea have also made considerable hay from their youth.

Conversely, City have lost Sancho and Brahmin Diaz for a pittance, and I suspect will continue to haemorrhage youth players until they can show that they’re willing to offer them a meaningful path to first team action.  Given the willingness of the other financially heavyweight cubs to include youth, City could be setting themselves up to become a Real/PSG-esque team of galacticos completely disconnected from Manchester.  That’s a more hit or miss strategy than I would expect from their management.
Dan, Plastic LFC


Richard, you’ve named quite a few of the La Masia players there in terms of comparison of youth development.

Now, I could argue that that was a once in a generation side that came from a long established academy over several years and was the culmination of a decades long plan – so it might be unfair to compare City’s to La Masia.

But I won’t.

I will point out though – Phil Foden made his debut at 17, Busquets was 20 and Puyol and Pique were both 21 when they made their Barca debuts.

Xavi & Iniesta were 18 & 19 respectively and Messi was 17 ( but obviously he’s an outlier what with being one of the best to ever play the sport )

Phil Foden is 19 and has played 38 times for City.

Xavi got his break because of injury to Guardiola and by 19 had played 26 games for Barca.

By the age of 20 – Iniesta had played 26 games for Barcelona.

I suppose what I’m saying is… Foden has a bit of time yet before his appearances at his age start to compare negatively with the Barcelona lads you mentioned.

In fact, if he is unhappy, Guardiola could do worse than use the names you’ve provided as example he can look to.
Doug. AFC, Belfast


Another barren JANUARY transfer window
Justin, football fan – my apologies for not being clear in my previous email; I meant to say “another barren January transfer window”. Historically, we haven’t made many signings in January, the last one being Alexis Sanchez in 2017, which as we all know was a roaring success. But before that it was Juan Mata in 2014, who followed hot on the heels of Anders Lindegaard in 2011. You could also have Zaha in 2013 but he wasn’t actually at the club until the following season, so I’m not sure if that counts.

In the last 20 years, United have only signed 16 players (including Zaha) in January transfer windows; half of those came between 2004 and 2009, while just two January signings have been made in the last post-Ferguson years. I think it’s fair to say that in that period we definitely could have done with reinforcements in January, because it’s not like we were doing well enough to honestly say our squad couldn’t be improved. For whatever reason, it’s just not a window United take advantage of particularly often. Of course we’re seeing plenty of rumours flying about but then the papers aren’t exactly going to publish stories that say “nothing to see here” (they make you read their articles to realise that).

So that’s why I reckon January will be a typical United window, i.e. nothing doing.
Ted, Manchester


Keane vs Fergie? Nah
Roy Keane’s latest angry man performance has been documented by some as another chapter in the feud between the two men. But it isn’t. Not really. A feud requires two participants.

While watching I thought Roy came across really well at first, self-aware, funny and almost philosophical, albeit what he said was nothing we hadn’t really heard from him before. But then he reverted to type. It’s just another chapter in Roy Keane shouting in to the wind for who ever willing to lap up ‘refreshing honesty’ from someone who wants to stay relevant but has no actual insight or anything new to say.

Most United fans know SAF is no saint and there’s plenty wrong at the club he’s got to shoulder blame for, but no one’s opinion of the man is going to be changed by a caricature of a pundit who in fact is just another ex-player turned rent-a-gobsh*te.
From Wayne, Manchester


Wales ladder
It seems I haven’t done one of my Wales ladders in just under a year (hence the 14 new entries), when we’d just thrashed Ireland and the future was so bright. Sigh.

As ever, this ranking is based on my estimation of how important Ryan Giggs considers these players to be, not how I’d rank them myself.

1 (1) Gareth Bale
Well, he is the captain.

2 (2) Aaron Ramsey
Yet to feature in the first half of this (coincidentally, miserable) qualifying campaign.

3 (34) Dan James
It’s been quite the year, hasn’t it? Within 12 months, James has turned 21, progressed from the Swansea bench to the Manchester United starting XI, and become Giggs’ second attacker on the team sheet, even though he’s in the one position Wales actually have options (although he’s occasionally playing as the world’s shortest striker).

4 (4) Ben Davies
With Paul Dummett finally retiring after five caps in five years – five years spent stringing Wales along – the left-back slot suddenly looks a bit light, when not long ago we could’ve fielded an entire XI of them. Davies is way ahead of the rest.

5 (3) Joe Allen
Watching Allen slowly decline, having stayed in the Championship when he didn’t have to, is like watching a dog die in slow motion.

6 (7) Ethan Ampadu
He should be higher, but Giggs seemingly doesn’t think so, leaving him out of the starting XI in Croatia. Giggs is wrong. It’s alarming, however, to see Ampadu struggling to even make the bench at Leipzig.

7 (25) Matt Smith
He should be lower, but Giggs seemingly doesn’t think so, putting him into the starting XI in Croatia. Improving, and still only 19, but he shouldn’t be making Wales’ strongest team.

8 (6) Tom Lawrence
Again: Giggs likes him. In Hungary he started ahead of…

9 (12) Harry Wilson
Going gangbusters at Bournemouth, thanks to an injury to…

10 (14) David Brooks
Will be welcomed back with open arms.

11 (5) Wayne Hennessey
I suppose there should probably be a goalkeeper in the top 11… Hennessey’s place is under threat, however – or it would be, except for some extraordinarily helpful timing for him. Danny Ward still hasn’t supplanted Kasper Schmeichel at Leicester and, far more surprisingly, Adam Davies made the move from second-tier Barnsley to second-tier Stoke only to become their third-choice goalkeeper. Hennessey not only remains Wales’ No.1 but will tonight join Gary Speed in joint-fourth on the list of the country’s most-capped male footballers, thanks to the two sweetest words in the English language. De. Fault.

12 (13) Connor Roberts
He’s playing well in a Swansea side that’s unexpectedly top of the Championship table, and his place in the starting XI is assured now that Chris Gunter is training with the kids at Reading.

13 (8) Chris Mepham
I’m not sure what’s more worrying: that the first centre-back on this list is as low as 13, or that Giggs felt Ashley Williams had to come in against Hungary and replace Meps, rather than…

14 (NE) James Lawrence
Bloody hell, this is high. That should change now that Vincent Kompany has booted him out of Anderlecht, however (he’s now in a fun St Pauli team down in the German second tier). While it’d be unfair on Lawrence and Giggs to say the experiment hasn’t worked, as Lawrence has been relatively tidy on the ball and not totally awful at the heart of defence, he should begin sliding down this list now that Wales have centre-backs starting at both of the Championship’s current top two clubs. One more thing you should know about Lawrence: he wears a gumshield when he goes up for corners. Elite.

15 (NE) Will Vaulks
Vaulks is another of Giggs’ converted Welshman, adding to Chris Mepham, Kieffer Moore and James Lawrence above as England-born newcomers to the squad under this manager (not to mention Scotland-born Terry Taylor). Vaulks’ call-up did actually make a great deal of sense, even if he hasn’t had the easiest start to life on the international scene: Wales badly needed central midfield options, his mother’s Welsh and he was born a few miles from the Welsh border himself. There’s nothing wrong with playing for a country where you weren’t born anyway, and under the watch of the sadly-departed Osian Roberts (sob), Wales made themselves incredibly attractive to a lot of young players who qualified, such as Ampadu and Brooks. What’s less appetising is seeing Giggs import, almost en masse, senior footballers who hadn’t previously shown an interest in playing for Wales. Let’s see.

16 (17) Tyler Roberts
Injured, or he’d be in this squad.

17 (9) James Chester
There are horrible, dangerous rumours that he might be inching towards retirement. He’s 30.

18 (33) Jonny Williams
Revitalised at Charlton, top of the Championship assists chart and should, I hope, be starting in place of the unfit Aaron Ramsey.

19 (39) Neil Taylor
He’s back. For better or worse, he’s back. Taylor looked like being one of the first faces out of the door when Aston Villa had to build an entirely new squad upon promotion, but they had urgent priorities elsewhere. Seeing him start ahead of big-money buy Matt Targett has been a big surprise, though. With all of Wales’ other left-backs falling away (NB: Declan John is No.51 on this list), Taylor’s was an obvious recall. Hmm.

20 (11) Chris Gunter
Dog. Dying. In slow motion. That’s the sadness level, not a direct comparison. This isn’t how it’s meant to end – not on 95 caps, having only just turned 30.

21 (18) Sam Vokes
Second-choice targetman after Gareth Bale.

22 (16) Ben Woodburn
Getting some confidence back at Oxford, which is good to see, as was his similarly morale-boosting late winner in Wrexham. In an ideal world, he’d be starting as a No.9 to give Wales a truly fluid frontline. Maybe we’re edging back towards a situation where that could happen. He’s still a teenager.

23 (NE) Kieffer Moore
Could be a useful discovery. Yet to feature.

24 (22) Danny Ward

25 (23) Adam Davies
Seeing Jack Butland stay after joining Stoke from Barnsley was bad news for Davies. Seeing Butland dropped only for Adam Federici to take his place is disastrous. Davies hasn’t even been making the bench in league games, having left a fellow Championship club who would’ve guaranteed him the No.1 jersey.

26 (30) Joe Rodon
The 21-year-old could – should – begin to form a long-term partnership with Chris Mepham, also 21.

27 (42) Ryan Hedges
Giggs is a fan. He’s made a goalscoring start to life at Aberdeen, to boot.

28 (24) Tom Lockyer
An underrated defender, in my view, but that’ll change if Charlton continue to fly high in the Championship. Incidentally, while it was absolutely the right decision to move, it was also a shame to see Lockyer leave Bristol Rovers after making 285 appearances for the club before his 25th birthday. That’s insane.

29 (NE) Joe Morrell
The 22-year-old has come up through the age groups and is now in his first senior squad.

30 (10) Ashley Williams
Finally dropped, but only due to a lack of football, as Giggs goes big on form. He’ll probably return if he gets a few games at Bristol City.

31 (36) Rabbi Matondo
Not in this squad, but still exciting, still at Schalke and still very, very fast.

32 (NE) Ben Williams
The Barnsley back-up defender was called up to Wales’ large preliminary squad in June.

33 (NE) Kieron Freeman
He’s made his debut now, but Freeman – who did some very able deputising for periods of Sheffield United’s promotion-winning campaign – seems low down on Giggs’ list. Personally, I’d have him in a 23-man tournament squad as cover at right- and left-back.

34 (NE) Nathan Broadhead
The Bangor-born Everton youngster on loan at Burton. Scored both goals in a win away at Steve Evans’ Gillingham. In your face, Evans.

35 (20) Andy King
Down the pecking order and out of the squad, but match time at Rangers would probably change that due to a lack of central midfield options at Giggs’ disposal.

36 (29) George Thomas
Needed another loan away from Leicester. Didn’t get one.

37 (37) Gwion Edwards
Gwion Dafydd Rhys Edwards should be much, much higher in this list. A rare bright spark in Ipswich’s miserable relegation season, he’s not doing badly in League One, either. It’s hard to know what Giggs sees in Hedges that he doesn’t see in Edwards, and it’s baffling that the Lampeter man doesn’t even have a senior cap to his name, at 26.

38 (26) Lee Evans
Speaking of people who should be higher in these rankings, Evans is a central midfielder playing regular second-tier football, which is more than you can say for a lot of Wales players.

39 (NE) Owen Evans
On loan from Wigan to Macclesfield in League Two, 22-year-old Evans and 32-year-old part-time painter Owain Fôn Edwards are the only Welsh goalkeepers playing regular league football. That is terrifying.

40 (32) Tom Bradshaw
What did Bradshaw do to upset first Chris Coleman and now Ryan Giggs? He’s got as much chance of being called up as Farooq has.

41 (NE) Dylan Levitt
42 (45) Regan Poole
43 (NE) Ben Cabango
44 (NE) Louis Thompson
45 (NE) Brennan Johnson
46 (40) Emyr Huws
47 (NE) Rhys Norrington-Davies
48 (48) Lloyd Isgrove
49 (43) George Williams
50 (RE) Owain Fôn Williams
Huw Davies


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