Anything to add for the afternoon Mailbox? email@example.com…
Was waiting for all the euphoria to die down before I wrote in to THE Mailbox, but four wins out of four means that the almost everyone will continue to go crazy on OGS and this needs to be said
I have been a life long United Fan, I adored OGS when he was THE ‘supersub’ – but for the sake of the club, I want him to fail.
A few years ago, at the global MNC that I work for, we had an autocratic, sour and micro-manager as our Divisional President, not quite unlike JM. He made everyone’s life miserable. Quite a few people left the company and some of us (mid career executives) had to grin and bear it as we did not want to risk a new company at our age. Not surprisingly, the overall divisional performance gradually tanked, we saw our bonuses dwindle and we had to drag ourselves to work everyday. Mercifully the Divisional President moved on to a different company after a couple of years as he didn’t see eye to eye with the Board on the direction that he wanted our division to take
He was replaced by a sunny bloke (not unlike OGS), who in the very first Town Hall, told us that he trusted us and we could pretty much do as we pleased. His arrival coincided with an upturn in business cycle and all was well for a couple of years. While the new President was very pleasant to work with, he offered little in terms of long term vision and strategic planning. By the middle of last year, when the business cycle when belly up again, we were completely unprepared, and no amount of team work and camaraderie could compensate for the lack of strategic planning that was needed to pull us through the mire. We are currently in another leadership transition
United cannot make the mistake of going for the sunny bloke but would probably will
What would probably happen is that United will continue to play well (except on some of the big games) and finish a creditable 5th in the league. In the Champions league, they will heroically edge out PSG (who are anyway pants in UCL) and then lose in the QF to Barca/ Real. Everyone would go hallelujah and OGS will get the gig full time. This will be followed by 2 more years of mediocrity, no titles and then rinse/ repeat
That is why I want OGS to fail this season which would mean that the United Board will be forced to look for and appoint a proper Manager (Poch, hopefully)
And when OGS goes, would it not be lovely if he takes Woodward with him
A sour Singapore Bloke
The moment Jose lost it?
Dino Kantardzic’s mail: “Mourinho is a c***t” had me thinking why the relic seemed to lose that edge in his second spell at Chelsea.
“He is a damn fine manager but the way he treated the Chelsea nurse Eva really just showed that he is an absolute dick who throws innocent people under the bus to further his own agenda.”
Ostensibly, that incident consisted of two elements:
– Football manager shouts and swears at an assistant.
– A woman was a prominent member of Jose Mourinho’s staff.
Unjust as it may be, only one of those factors is remarkable in football. Pep Guardiola can run onto the pitch, grab an opposition player and furiously scream in his face from an inch away. All 6ft 3 of Jurgen Klopp literally lunges at officials, spittle flying as he flashes those yellow, misshapen bottom teeth in the most Neanderthal display of aggression going. Fergie nearly f*cking blinded David Beckham with a stray Adidas Predator before flogging him to Madrid.
But unlike every other occasion of a manager losing his sh*t and replacing his playing/coaching staff – in a matter of weeks Jose had lost the dressing room, he was public enemy no. 1, he lost his job… if I remember correctly he actually got sued(?).
Mourinho didn’t treat her any differently to any other player/coach he’d thrown under the bus before, but I reckon it must have been that backlash that changed him. The ability to forcibly tell his players and coaching staff what he wanted had gone, he didn’t have the bottle to openly rail against the club’s owners knowing he was powerful enough to do so.
Look at the “argument” he had with Paul Pogba on the training ground, he stood there silently, even turning away as Pogba threw a tantrum over what we can only assume was an instruction on how to play football.
Through everything, he only praised “Mr Woodward”, who gave him two young, completely unproven & error prone centre-halves. You know, those most-Jose of signings…
Unlike the Klopps, Guardiolas and (god love him) Neil Warnocks… still handing out bollockings to this day, the Jose we got seemed resigned to being powerless against both his charges and his bosses at United.
Other than Luke Shaw of course.
And that rack of b*stard water bottles.
Big in America
David Moore says, “… it just seems like an odd purchase to me (Chelsea buying Christian Pulisic). Not just because it seems an expensive risk, but it surely undermines their buy-to-loan-any-youngster-that-shows-talent policy.” I think it is brilliant, from a bottom line perspective. One of the fastest growing, and richest markets for the Premier League is the United States. The buzz around the move is pretty incredible, with the news displacing the NFL and NBA as sports headlines across the North American continent. Chelsea stands to make much more than the roughly $75 million they spent on him in just in the US. So from a soccer (football) perspective it may be confusing, as a marketing decision its solid gold.
Steve from Minnesota (MCFC for the record)
Go steady on Silva
Happy New Year! Thought I’d write in with respect to your “early losers” piece on Everton. It’s not that I think we were great against Leicester – far from it – more that I don’t think you are being fair in your assessment of Marco Silva.
He has only been at the helm of the club for 1 of the 3 transfer windows referred to in your statistic from The Times (why 3 windows, by the way?) and the players he brought in (Richarlison, Bernard, Digne, Gomes, Mina and Zouma) have been amongst our better performers. More important, though, is the context of what he found when he arrived at the club. Spoiler alert: it was a “shit show” which was many years in the making. If you wind the clock back to the summer of 2014, you will note that Roberto Martinez put most of his transfer eggs in a Lukaku-shaped basket and, as good as he and his eventual outgoing transfer fee were for us, other areas of the squad didn’t get the attention they perhaps should have done and when Martinez did spend money in later windows his success rate varied wildly (I’m still convinced that Alcaraz was actually comedian whose entire playing career was an elaborate prank). The shambles which followed under the Koeman / Walsh regime has been well-documented and even Sam Allardyce managed to get in on the action, overpaying for Walcott and Tosun (reasonable players but £50m for the pair?!) despite only being at the club for half a season.
I actually just dug out an email I sent (which you published) towards the end of May of this year assessing each squad member in turn and by my reckoning we only had 6 or 7 players who were good enough for an assault on the upper reaches of the table. So, whilst the new recruits have effectively rounded out the first team (well, still without a proper striker) we just don’t have sufficient quality in depth and probably won’t until the end of August 2019 at least. So to say that 7th spot was the least expected of Marco Silva is pretty fanciful; it was always going to be hard going once the fixtures piled up. I just hope that the majority of fans continue to appreciate that too.
PhilT (Still amused that we have a tricksy Brazilian called Bernard – use a west country accent when saying his name for maximum effect.)
Loving this United
I haven’t had chance to mail in since Ole took charge, partially because of Christmas and partially because I was reserving judgement. Well, what a bloody change this is. Four games later, we are only 10 points off second, we’ve scored 14 goals and we’ve conceded only 3. Our previously misfiring and miserable players look completely rejuvenated and enjoying their football again. And, maybe most importantly of all, the fans are absolutely loving it. I haven’t heard one single negative comment from anyone, even the most cynical of United fans can’t bring themselves to complain!
We have won by two goals or more in four games. In Jose’s last 30 games we managed it the same number of times. Just thinking about Mourinho’s post-match presser if he had overseen this win made me miserable; Ole has been like a breath of fresh air sweeping through the previously stagnant halls of Old Trafford and Carrington.
This match was a sterner test than the previous because we didn’t play particularly well in the first half and Newcastle were attacking with regularity. We held on a little bit at times but it was a more stronger resolve than we have previously seen and, pleasingly, we stuck to our guns and kept trying to attack with pace and width, instead of the previous plan of lump it long to Fellaini. One thing I have noticed is that our clearances are falling to our attackers more frequently too, allowing us to counter-attack more effectively – something we have been doing far more often under Ole.
Defensive improvement is still a must – upgrades on Valencia and Jones are so desperately needed – but Shaw and Lindelof we’re both very good. Lindelof especially was great, effectively nullifying the threat of Jones and the Newcastle attackers. I’m not sure if they’ll risk signing a defender in January with the uncertainty around the next manager, but we arguably should do. Speaking of next managers, I would be tempted to say that Ole should be the front runner until there’s a compelling reason for him not to be. I know his reign is only four games old and I may be getting carried away, but if he can keep this up until the end of the season – the style and the feel of the atmosphere even if we have some disappointing results – then I wouldn’t be sad if he stayed on.
But the most important thing right now is that it is real fun to be a United fan again. I’m looking forward to the games and then enjoying them while they play out, and that’s no small thing. Ole was the best Christmas present for sure!
…I know on a cosmic scale 5 years is nothing. I know early joy can end in pain. I know you shouldn’t count your chickens before the end of the season and so on. I know. But the thing is: I’ve been watching Man United for 20 years and this is the first time since SAF in his “let’s try to be like continental European teams” mode (ca 2004-2013) that I love watching the team. Yes, it’s madcap. Yes, it’s chaotic and unpredictable. But that’s the bleeding joy of football. It’s like the WC with clear underdogs beating the former champions or ridiculed club players being in the Team of the Tournament. Latvia drawing with Germany, winners France dropping out of the next tournament with no goals scored, that sort of thing.
Ole was a wonderful player with his big eyes and I-love-football face and unending enthusiam (like Dirk van Kuyt, only with talent, ahem). To transfer the same “Oh boy, I love this game” feeling to his club is an achievement in itself.
I don’t care if some players tried to get the manager sacked or played delinquent football. Lukaku scores again. Pogba smiles again. Phil gurns again. It’s a wonderful, wonderful world.
…It’s been 4 games since Solskjaer took over, and while it’s still early days, we definitely seem to be moving in the right direction. There’s every chance we’ll get thwacked by Spurs next weekend (in fact I’m fully expecting it), but it’s been great fun so far.
Last night’s result was much needed, mainly because of the manner of the victory. Being able to grind out results against stubborn opposition is as important as playing swashbuckling football and scoring 4 and 5 goals in a game. As Ole said in the post-match interview, we controlled the play very well, and took our chances when they came along. And the clean sheet was a great plus too. Lindelof deserves a special mention – he was excellent yet again, and kept Rondon fairly quiet throughout. He’s been one of our better performers in recent weeks, and any defenders we might sign in Jan or the summer should be done so to complement him.
Perhaps the most heartening thing about the game was that it was influenced by substitutes not named Marouane Fellaini. It’s nice to have a Plan B that doesn’t simply involve hoofing it up to the big man. All in all, it was a good result in a potential banana skin of a game. And we’ve now won 4 games that we were expected to win, which is exactly what Manchester United should be doing.
DJ, MUFC (Happy 2019 to one and all!) India
Calm down guys, I think you’re fawning over this United side for little done. Beating Cardiff City, Huddersfield, Bournemouth and Newcastle isn’t rocket science. I have nothing with that, after all, every match is just 3 points. United have great squad. All the players needed was someone who can give them a ride on a 140km/h, not someone who was riding them on 60km/h even when the vehicle is Lamborghini. And Mr Solskjaer is giving them that perfect ride.
My problem is you guys making them Early Winners twice in four games. Yes, they are playing well. Yes, they’re playing some entertaining football. Yes, they’re winning football matches without having to defend a 1-0 lead or coming from behind to win it in the second half. Yes, Paul Pogba is reborn and Rashford is now the new C. Ronaldo — better than Mbappe. But this is the least expected of them against these Championship clubs pretending to be Premier League standard. I’m also CERTAIN that you guys will still make them Early Winners if they manage to win against those bottlers* on borrowed stadium.
All I am saying is that you guys should take it easy with your panegyric until they do something meaningful. I can’t remember F365 making Arsenal their Early Winners when they were on that amazing run of undefeated games.
*Man City, please for the sake of my Twitter account, defeat those pretenders that their fans are claiming to be champions already.
Sage Humphrey (How on earth did that Bournemouth Watford game end 3-3?) Onitsha, Nigeria.
Shame on any club selling a ‘mascot match day experience’. Does that extra few hundred quid (£700 West Ham?!) of match day revenue really make up for screwing the parents of your youngest and most innocent fans? What of the parents of children who can’t afford such an extravagant amount on a luxury; ‘F*ck them, they’re not proper fans’?
With the revenue from TV deals you all benefit from, this is profiteering gone mad. An easy opportunity to give just a little back to the future generation of supporters, turned into an insignificant bump to your bottom line. Shame on each and every one of you.
Ode to the Fickle Fan
Oh, Klopp, it feels like yesterday
We were calling for your sacking
Your silver medals notwithstanding
Your defense severely lacking
Top four was all we wanted
(Till we had it) ‘Not enough!’
‘Just sign the world’s best players, now’
It shouldn’t be that tough!’
The #KloppOut posse were in full voice
The fumbled transfer of Van Dijk
You sold Countinho!
Ah, but then the Champions League run ran
Our silence deafened to a roar
Until you lost the final
And ‘Where is The Brain?’ rang out once more
A Keita here, a ‘keeper there
A surprise Fabinho
‘They’d better all be instant hits
Or be rid in the next window!’
Now we’re flying high atop the league
Our strength in depth strikes fear
We cannot sing your praises higher
It surely is our year!
Oh, Klopp, this time we all have faith
Our support is never-endin’
(Unless you lose away to City
In which case #BringBackBrendan)
ShaneO’ (slow first day back at the office, Happy New Year!)
Battle of Troy
Can someone explain to me why Troy Deeney wasn’t sent off for his double foul on Ryan Fraser? It looks to me to be 2 yellow card offences in the space of about 2 seconds. Firstly the blatant pull back, and when that didn’t work he tripped him cynically. He should be sent off. Or am I missing something?
What Arsenal need
Concerning Arsenal’s needs in the next 2 transfer windows, a marquee center back like Manolas or Koulibally is probably the obvious priority, but also smart additions in center forward & defensive midfield. Obviously, key replacements at right back & attacking MF are needed as well.
The reason for the needing another striker is that Lacazette & Aubameyang -brilliant as they are-sometimes look short of ideas & an injury to one or both is obviously a huge blow. The backup, Nketiah doesn’t look ready yet & would benefit from a loan move. I think we sometimes miss a striker like Giroud or Welbeck because they provide a different threat to that posed by the duo, even if they are inferior in overall quality.
As for the DM, we need one more to ease the load on Torreira while also giving him decent competition. We looked very light with Guendouzi & Xhaka in the central areas against Fulham & Maitland-Niles needs more experience. The only other experienced DM we have is Elneny, who-while not as terrible as some fans like to make out- is still average & doesn’t seem to fit Emery’s methods. He is also underused so we can certainly do with an improvement & he can certainly do with regular football elsewhere.
We also need the obvious replacements at RB & AMF as Lich, Jenkinson, Ramsey, & (perhaps) Ozil will probably leave. As for wingers, it depends on the funds &- while a world-class winger would be nice- I don’t think Arsenal have the financial power the spend a lot on both a CB & a winger (based on reports anyway). CB takes priority & I think it would be interesting to see how Iwobi & Smith-Rowe develop in the next year along with the returning Reiss-Nelson. Mkhi was also slowly improving pre-injury & he could warrant one more season. He reminds me a bit of Arshavin in that-while infuriating- gives that unique threat in big moments that can change games.
The next year should surely be very busy for Arsenal, even if the budget is relatively low.
What comes first?
Would love to know what other Arsenal fans thought on the Lacazette penalty shout? It looked stonewall from my seat in the clock end. Or maybe any Fulham fans?
On another note I have to say I was impressed by the front line. Now we all know our defence needs revamping but it was so frustrating to see the front 3 making runs that aren’t picked up. How hard it to pick out that ball over the top?
I understand booing the removal of Lacazette though and I would have to ask Emery why it needs to be him removed every match? Looking forward to seeing them both completing 90 mins together.
Final thought from my first match at the Emirates library in 5 years… Should the crowd raise the volume to spur on the team or should the team play better to raise the atmosphere? Might be a chicken and egg thing.
In the spirit of the season, here are some predictions for 2019. Not all of them are serious:
*The late 2018 trend of everything that happens in the Premier League being framed by references to how Liverpool fans will feel about it is taken to its fullest extreme
*Part of the introduction of VAR will mean yellow cards can be overturned if incorrectly awarded, rather than etched in stone and used out of context to blight a player’s reputation.
*Following Crystal Palace’s success of developing Aaron Wan-Bissaka into an excellent full-back by making him train against Wilfried Zaha, Watford’s entire team for their opening fixture of the 2019-20 season are superb at avoiding reducer tackles.
*Every week in the Non-League Paper, at least five match reports will refer to corners as “flag kicks”.
*People realise that calling someone a “chequebook manager” is completely redundant, as players are purchased via bank transfers. Even if they were purchased via cheque, it would be unlikely the first team manager would be a signatory on the account.
*F365 unveils plans to introduce an ad-free version of the website for willing subscribers, who believe this to be better than purchasing an ad-blocker because it means their money goes to F365, and not the ad-blocker company.
*British managers will continue to sack off the FA Cup, even if the main highlight of their own playing career is being part of an FA Cup run.
*Some Manchester United fans arrange for a plane with a banner to fly over Old Trafford during a match. Their manager’s name will contain a spelling mistake.
*Having taken 23 games to break his duck for Chesterfield, Lee Shaw will fill his boots for the Spireites and finish the season as the National League’s top scorer.
*Rafael Benitez will replace Roy Hodgson at Crystal Palace in the summer. After both Palace and Newcastle United have been relegated to the Championship.
I really liked that ‘football millenial’ thing in the mailbox yesterday, but for different reasons had to love the way it veered drunkenly into a ditch at the end by describing Pochettino as ‘probably the best man manager the sport has ever seen’. That will take some topping for ‘most ludicrous mailbox hyperbole’ award in 2019!!
Pablo, MUFC, Dublin
Some thoughts on Liverpool
Liverpool is not the best team in the world at the moment. We might be in June when we have won one of EPL or Champions League or both! I feel that teams like Juventus, Barcelona and City are still a level above us in terms of the quality of their players and experience. Klopp makes up for this by setting us up to play in a footballing philosophy which is on par with Pep, Allegri and the Barcelona DNA. We are so good in defending and attacking the half spaces and so quick and disciplined to get back to our defensive and offensive shapes during transitions but man for man, these other teams are better than us. I absolutely adore Robbo but does anyone think he is better than Jordi Alba, Alex Sandro or Mendy? At the moment, I don’t think so.
Yes the mind games from Pep has definitely started but of course, it’s still child’s play compared to what Fergie & Mou used to dish out in the past. A lot of TV pundits seem to think that the upcoming match will turn out to be like the last 3 matches between us from last season but I don’t think so. It will not be as boring as the nil-nil draw in October last year as City needs to make a statement that their blip in form has ended, but it won’t be edgy & scintillating like last season.
Robbo looked lethargic in the last 2 matches but fortunately he has VVD on his side & even Mane has been doing a lot of tracking back to cover for him. Its not surprising to see Klopp subbing him and Mane off in the last match. I may be wrong but other than VVD, he has also been playing in almost every match and unlike VVD, he has to run up & down the field and I’m afraid he will be knackered if Klopp does not provide him with a capable back up this summer. Moreno is leaving and Adam Lewis from the academy is not ready. Clyne is not a natural left footer and it pains me to see him trying to cross from the left hand side as he looks so unsure. He is still an exceptional back up to TAA on the right but Milner he is not.
On the other flank, Lovren is not as quick as Gomez to cover for TAA or Clyne when they bomb forward and his ball playing skills are inferior to Gomez although he more than makes up for it with his experience, aggressiveness (and confidence?). Its not a coincidence that the last 2 goals we have conceded have both come from our right flank. Therefore, Pep will target both our fullbacks just like Emery did and this time any mistake will be costly given City’s quality.
Fabinho has comes to term with the pace of the EPL and even provide a few assists but like Lovren, he is still prone to the occasional brain farts. It culminated with that miss pass that could have ended in a first goal for Arsenal if TAA hasn’t been quick to track back to cover up the space in front of the Arsenal attacker. He is not as good as Gini with the ball when he is put under pressure and I’m sure Pep will instruct his players to put more pressure on him if he plays.
The Arsenal match has shown me that Liverpool is more than capable of going on to the next gear if needed. Klopp has instructed his players to be more measured & calculated this season and although I was against this style of play in the beginning of the season, I can appreciate what he is trying to accomplish now. I have not seen a lot of City matches but from the reports I have read, their left back area seems to be their weakest link since Mendy is on the Arsenal’s treatment table all the time. If Klopp decides to sneak up on Pep, he might start Shaq on the right hand side as part of a midfield 3 or as a right attacker cutting in to support our usual front 3 but I highly doubt so. We don’t have to win this match and can even afford to lose although that will be bad for morale. But if we have to lose our first league match in a high scoring game, why not against the best team in England. City lost their first league match to us last season and look how that turn out. Contrary to what everyone else says, City also does not have to win this match. I feel that even if they draw, there is still more than a third of the season left. If this match is in April, then yes it is a must win match for City but its only the first week of 2019 so 7 points is not a calamity. I urge these pundits to stop being so dramatic. We are still playing a resurgent United, an unpredictable Spurs and an enigmatic Hazard-led Chelsea later in the season and we might even drop a few points to effective counter attacking teams like Palace & Leicester so the season is far from over!
I am 41 this year and John Barnes was the player who made me fall in love with Liverpool. Istanbul was the highlight of my Liverpool supporting life so far and the treble cup year under Houllier was a close second. But I trust Klopp and even if we fail this season, I am positively, absolutely, completely certain than next year… is going to be our year ?
Veni (YNWA, Singapore)
*Crystal Palace end the festive period having taken seven points from 12, thanks to wins over Manchester City and Wolves bookending a draw with Cardiff City and a defeat to Chelsea. For context, according to Transfermarkt this is only behind Manchester United (12 points), Leicester City, Liverpool and Spurs (all 9 before tonight’s game).
It could all have been a lot worse – the euphoria of beating the Citizens in a way normally associated with South American military dictatorships soon gave way to a frustration at failing to break down an obdurate Cardiff, which in turn was followed by meek defeat to Chelsea. It seemed as though fatigue was catching up with the Eagles against Wolves, as they dominated the game without creating many clear cut chances. However, they stuck at their task and were eventually rewarded.
*Jordan Ayew scored last night. Fairly certain this is one of the horsemen of the apocalypse. Actually, while his inclusion attracted a lot of derision, because it meant neither Max Meyer nor Connor Wickham were in the starting lineup, it did allow Palace to use a formation that plays to the strength of their best players: specifically, allowing Wilfried Zaha and Andros Townsend to play wide, use their skill to beat full-backs and make the most of the space, instead of being crowded out by centre-backs and midfielders.
*Last night’s victory was built on the defence. They restricted the hosts to just one shot on target and nine attempts on goal overall, en route to securing Palace’s eighth clean sheet of the season – only Liverpool, Chelsea and Spurs have more. While Wayne Hennessey has shown some of his best form for Palace this season, Vicente Guaita has five of those clean sheets and has only played eight games. He’s looking like one of the best signings of the season regardless of price.
*Next up for Palace is a visit from Grimsby, which is infinitely preferable to a visit to Grimsby. This will be the first meeting between the two sides since 12 April 2003, when the Eagles won 4-1 in a second tier league game. However, Town are undefeated against Palace in the FA Cup, taking the only such meeting between the sides 1-0 all the way back in 1908.