Business Time


In this age of #mufcfamily twitter cranks and rolling 24 hour sports news coverage, you don’t really get many surprise transfers anymore. Those seismic moments where you switch on teletext to find out United have signed Eric Cantona or you bump into a mate in college who tells you Andy Cole has been announced. These days, the minutiae of each deal becomes a deathly dull narrative that often drags on for weeks.

Refreshingly then, the manner in which the Alexis Sanchez transfer came to fruition was something of a modern day novelty, as the entire saga was boxed off and sorted within the space of a few days. Of course, United then did their very best to make the announcement as cringeworthy as possible by making the poor bloke play a wonky version of ‘Glory, Glory Man United’ on the piano dressed in his full kit. Seriously now, whichever social media savant dreams this stuff up on the club’s behalf, just stop it.

Ditto the dog thing. Jesus Christ, just because a few Arsenal divs completely lose the plot and decide to display the saddest banner in football history, it doesn’t mean United fans should feel obliged to do the same. It’s not that I lack a sense of humour about this kind of thing (actually I do), it’s more of a predisposed inclination for us not to advertise the fact our support comprises of a sizeable proportion of complete and utter berks. Smother yourselves in Pedigree Chum and send them birthday cards for all I care, just don’t go putting up banners in the ground welcoming a pair of fucking Labradors.


The Huddersfield home game saw the 60th anniversary of Munich remembered. Keen to be in place for the minute’s silence taking place prior to kick off, I made a point of forgoing my usual pre-match routine and being in the ground early for once. (Will be disappointed if I don’t receive an email from the club acknowledging this, incidentally.) Firstly, it was a nice gesture by United to present everyone with a programme, book and pin badge marking the occasion, but the build up to the silence left me shaking my head.

In previous years the club have got the tone of these things spot on, but this year’s was very off-key. You don’t pre-empt a minute of respectful contemplation by playing the usual pre-match playlist at ear-splitting volume up until a few seconds before the referee blows his whistle. It all felt a bit crass, a poorly misjudged precursor to what in previous years has been a sombre and reflective moment. I’m not criticising the club for the sake of it here, it’s just the staging of this (likewise the decision to have Fred the Red lining up with the team) needs re-thinking in future.


Following this weekend’s revelations, I guess we need to talk about Paul. In fairness, the only genuine surprise here is that rumours of his alleged discontent have taken so long to surface. As I said when he signed, he’s a Raiola player and Raiola players never stay anywhere very long. Or as another Red News contributor succinctly put it to me this week, “lie with dogs, get fleas.”

Although he’s been brilliant on occasion, for the most part his form has been as erratic as his haircuts. I’m sure all of us were hoping for far more than what he’s actually delivered over the last 18 months. One suspects much of the goodwill between Raiola and United/Mourinho has evaporated since Mkhitaryan was nominated as the makeweight in the Sanchez deal, so it wouldn’t come as much of a surprise if he’s now in Pogba’s ear suggesting it might be time for a change of scenery.

If Raiola has received word that Madrid or Barca are interested then expect this nonsense to continue until United sanction his departure in the summer. I won’t be that despondent to be honest. I think we all suspected Spain was his preferred destination all along and we were just a highly lucrative stepping stone to that outcome. As ever, it’ll all depend on whether they can come up with a commensurate package to what he’s earning at United; and if they’re willing to fulfil any extraneous demands Raiola himself dreams up. On the other hand, it’s also worth acknowledging that Poggers might just be poorly as he claims. If so, sorry about this misunderstanding and get well soon, Paul x


Aside from the errant Frenchman, the other talking point du jour is VAR. Now until this weekend, I assumed that VAR worked a bit like it does in cricket. If there’s a contentious decision, the referee calls for the VAR man to have a look at it and he clarifies whether or not it’s offside or handball or whatever. No. Of course not. Obviously that’s far too simple a process for football to adopt. Instead the FA has implemented a needlessly convoluted system where you’ve got some weirdo Michael Cox-types in an underground bunker in Bletchley (or something) watching games and then pressing a big red ‘grassing up’ button to alert the referee when they see something they don’t agree with.

So the system they’re using is slow, interrupts the game’s flow and lines used to determine offside decisions are confusingly non-linear. It all appears a bit rushed and unpolished, so it’s no surprise the Premier League are giving it a wide berth at the moment. All a bit embarrassing for the FA – they must know the system they’ve developed is shit but they feel obliged to persevere with it. So what to do? Here’s the perfect solution: ensure the system gifts United a spectacularly unwarranted goal in the next round. Can you imagine the reaction? There will be a public outcry, governmental intervention and laws passed ban VAR’s usage within 48 hours. Problem solved, no need to thank me.

Copyright Red News – February 2018


Reasons To Be Cheerful, Part 3


Well December went well, didn’t it? It all started so well with that memorable win at the Emirates, but sneaking out of there with 3 points unfortunately meant that we’d used up an entire month’s worth of luck in the space of 2 hours. By the time Boxing Day arrived it felt like Van Gaal had returned like the Ghost of Christmas Past. The players appeared to sense this too and joined in by attempting a macabre re-enactment of the infamous Norwich home game that ruined Christmas 2015.

Factor in a 0-0 draw against Southampton a few days later and it momentarily felt like we’d regressed 2 years. We haven’t, thankfully… I genuinely believe that. It was just a hefty kick in the bollocks that needs to be kept in perspective. Since I wrote here a month ago we’ve played a dozen games and suffered a major dip in form. Injuries, fatigue, a post-derby hangover… blame whatever you want. Yet we’re 2nd in the league and comfortably reached the CL knock-out stages – so we’re not doing all that badly.

Let’s be realistic here: over half of United’s squad still comprises of haphazardly recruited, distinctly underwhelming footballers – good players, but not great players. Most will be replaced as soon as their contracts are up. Forget the net spend figures and Jose/Pep comparisons being bandied about as they’re irrelevant for the most part. Looking at the talent we have in place, I maintain that we’re overachieving with what we’ve actually got.

Unfortunately, the gargantuan ball ache that nobody anticipated this season was Manchester City’s ridiculous form. The fact they’ve amassed an unprecedented points total at this stage skews the picture to the point that any progress made by United has been obscured. 2 years ago we’d have been 3 points clear at the top of the table with 47 points after 22 games. Instead, we’re sat 15 points off the pace so understandably, the mood about the place is poised somewhere between subdued and clinically depressed.

So, what to do? According to your average, internet-based moron, being 15 points behind City and with everyone feeling a bit sorry for themselves, it’s time to sack the manager. Quite how anyone could reach that conclusion is baffling, but such a mindset does exist out there. Can you imagine the alternative to Mourinho at this juncture? I can. United hovering just above mid-table with Giggs and Phil Neville in charge whilst Paul Scholes sits in the ITV studio claiming we’re ‘doing pretty well’ all things considered. Meanwhile, the entire footballing world pisses themselves laughing at our expense. No thanks, I’ll stick with Jose if you don’t mind.


That doesn’t mean to say I don’t think Mourinho has to change if he is to succeed in the long-term at Old Trafford. I think we were all guilty of underestimating the extent to which Guardiola would impact on City’s fortunes this season, but does Mourinho have to ability to drag this current United squad up to their current level? Either by instilling some radical shift in mindset and tactics, or by making some unforeseen changes in personnel.

To put this another way, Ferguson re-invented his United teams numerous times due to the shifting demands of what he deemed necessary to succeed. He famously gambled on youth in 1995, built a team of warriors to out-battle Arsenal, then set about constructing a side that proved even more consistent than Mourinho’s powerful 2005 Chelsea vintage. Basically, we might need a re-think if we’re going to get anywhere near City over the next couple of years – it’s not enough just to keep our fingers crossed hoping they won’t quite hit the same heights next season.

Take Lukaku as an example here – signed at huge expense to lead our attack for the next 5-6 years. Although his goals contribution has been respectable, I don’t think I’m being that unkind in suggesting he’s not the most fluid, all-round footballer to have graced the No.9 shirt at OT. Even as a flat-track bully, he doesn’t do that much bullying and he manages to miss as many sitters as both Rashford and Martial combined. I’ve no desire to kick Romelu whilst he’s down here at all, he’s clearly trying his hardest. I’m merely suggesting that Jose might benefit from re-visiting his plan of having him as our attacking figurehead for the next 5 years.

If you don’t agree with this harsh assessment of Lukaku’s form, then take some solace from the fact that regular whipping boy Jesse Lingard has improved immeasurably since being singled out for a slagging off here a couple of months back. Whilst Lukaku and the returning Zlatan have looked well off the pace, Lingard has carried the team over the last couple of months and proven himself United’s most potent attacking threat by miles. Fair play to him. I will happily admit to being wrong and I genuinely hope he maintains this new level of consistency he’s reached. I still think he’s a bit of a dickhead, and acknowledge the fact he’s quite entitled to hold the same opinion of me.

Despite the team’s solid progress overall, we’re left facing the grim prospect of watching City steamroller towards the title for the next few months. As unpalatable as this may be, we’re just going to have to suck it up as every minor setback befalling United is inevitably blown out of all proportion. We’ve still got much to play for despite the league summit being out of reach; still in the FA Cup and worse teams than ours have won the Champions League in the not too distant past. I appreciate I’m clutching at straws here, but how sweet would that be? Shades of ’68 as City win the title whilst United usurp them by claiming the big one. Lingard screamer to win it in the last minute, anyone?

Copyright Red News – January 2018

You’ve Gotta Hand It To Them


After the downbeat tone of last month’s piece, 3 consecutive league victories have steadied the ship and (just about) prevented City from disappearing out of sight before Christmas. Note that statement comes with a major caveat given they are today’s opposition and I’m writing this without knowing the result of last Saturday’s Arsenal trip. Reading this then, you’re either buzzing at the fact we’re still in contention, or resigned to the fact this season’s league ambitions stretch no further than a comfortable top 4 finish.

In any other season, we’d probably be thrilled at United’s overall form but there’s no getting away from the fact that City have upped the bar to an almost unassailable level at present. 20 consecutive wins (or something) is an incredible feat no matter what era it occurs in or whatever the level of football. They are utterly relentless at the moment. The only solace I can take from this is that before today, I genuinely haven’t seen a single minute of them in action this season. It’s just easier on the blood pressure to avoid the television and radio and let things take their natural course.

Every now and then you get a reminder why this is definitely the most sensible option. It’d slipped my mind they were playing Southampton until a message popped up in the Red News WhatsApp group chat that simply said “fuck, fuck, fuck”. Ah right… that’ll be their late winner then – only six minutes into injury time as it turned out. I honestly don’t know why people put themselves through it. I got suckered into listening to the last 5 minutes of their game at Bournemouth back in August which had a similarly demoralising conclusion. The radio went off and I drove to OT in silence, cursing my stupidity.

As regards today’s fixture, it’s got ‘season-defining’ written all over it. If this United side is going to take the difficult step up from being merely good to great, then now is the perfect time to suggest that with a positive result in a game of this magnitude. Allowing City to dominate possession would appear to be a recipe for disaster, so l’m just praying we try and seize the initiative rather than cautiously sitting back and letting them have the ball. The form they are in though, we may well get rolled over whatever tactics are employed.

Continuing the theme of begrudging praise, the recent form of Ashley Young deserves a mention. Despite him being something of a model professional who’s a thoroughly nice guy off the pitch by all accounts, it’s fair to say that I’ve never warmed to Ashley Young the footballer. However, credit where credit’s due, he’s been excellent this season. It just goes to show that the old cliché about ‘needing a run in the side’ is true and perhaps we’re sometimes too quick to write off players who’re struggling for form on the fringes of the team. Oh, hello Nani. *cough*

That said, I still maintain that despite both Young and Valencia regularly putting in decent shifts, both full-back positions need addressing at some point. Offensively and defensively, they do an alright job but I remain unconvinced we can’t do better in that department. It’s fair to assume both Darmian and Shaw are on their way out sooner rather than later, and Jones/Smalling/Rojo/Blind never look entirely comfortable there despite being able to fill in when called upon. Oh for a young Denis Irwin, Gary Neville or Patrice Evra…


The Watford game also saw Jesse Lingard turning in one of his infrequent star turns, making up somewhat for his execrable performance at Huddersfield which had me ready to strangle him last month. Ever the social-media savant, he immediately took to Twitter and proclaimed that he felt “like Hercules”. Hercules? Do me a favour. Jesse lad, you aren’t no Young Thug no matter how much time you spend stood in front of the mirror listening to absolutely shit hip-hop and practising gangster poses. You haven’t got a ‘Mink Flow’, you’re from Warrington. Grow up.

Down at the other end of the table, I note that soul-sucking, fun vacuum David ‘6 year contract’ Moyes is back in football on his latest destroy and exit mission. One can only assume the shysters in charge at West Ham have lost the plot completely. What possible grounds are there for thinking the bloke will do anything other than guide them to certain relegation? Obviously the Duane Duvatts were absolutely livid with the appointment, whereas Moyes his usual sanguine self. “If it works, great. If it doesn’t, then I’ll see the East End of London for seven months, then I’ll go elsewhere.” Textbook Moyes, that.

Another one not yet done with snaffling all he can from football’s trough is Sam Allardyce. Amazingly, the Everton job is now his 12th managerial appointment. This takes him comfortably past Harry Redknapp who’s had 9, but still some way behind Neil Warnock who’s now at his 15th different club. It makes you wonder how these blokes keep getting offered work in spite of repeated failures, whereas other managers disappear off-radar completely. Is it just coincidence that the above-mentioned are some of the most media-friendly in football? Keeping friendly hacks onside to generate undue praise and gloss over any evidence of incompetence (or indeed financial impropriety), seems to be the way to go. It’s no wonder Moyes is so blasé about getting another job beyond his next disastrous reign.

Anyway, that’s me done here for another year. Merry Christmas all, and I’m sure you’ll join me in wishing for City to hit some sort of metaphorical iceberg before I appear here again in early January. Have a good one…

Copyright Red News – December 2017