Adiós Señor Pussycat


“Are you looking forward to the game on Saturday?”, I was asked prior to the trip to Anfield. Of course I wasn’t. In all my years watching, I’ve rarely gone there confident and expecting to win and this year proved no different. It doesn’t matter who’s playing or if either side is in form, ultimately you’re just hoping to get out of there without having suffered a defeat. There was a brief spell in the late 90’s where United would go there looking to exploit their obvious weaknesses and win, but for the most part it’s a tortuous 90 minutes to endure.

Mourinho’s approach to these type of fixtures (ie any tough away game at home or abroad) often comes in for criticism, but in truth it’s not that far removed from how Fergie usually set his stall out. If Lukaku had buried that chance in the first half during that blink-and-you’ll-miss-it period when United actually took the game to them, the day would have been hailed as a perfect smash and grab. Given the fact he didn’t and we barely managed to string 3 passes together for the rest of game, I was quite content with the point. Utterly painful viewing though, that last 10 minutes.

If Anfield proved anything, it’s that United are in no way the finished article yet. The free-scoring, relatively simple start to the campaign has been encouraging but faced with the first real test against non-useless opposition we couldn’t have looked much more uninspiring if we’d tried. With Spurs and Chelsea incoming, we desperately need to get back some of the momentum gained during August/September to avoid nosediving into a similar slump to that witnessed this time last year.

The sense of foreboding isn’t exactly helped by our mounting injury list. I don’t know what it is with this club, but year-on-year we seem to have 7-8 players missing as a matter of routine. Is it all down to bad luck or are we just doing football wrong or something? I’ve got absolutely zero statistics on this but City never appear to have half their team missing in action. Do you reckon there’s some special footballer medicine we can try? Not trying to insinuate anything here but perhaps we should ask Guardiola what he gives to his players? That stuff seems to work pretty well.

Losing Pogba at the precise moment he was starting to look imperious was a classic United injury. Then Fellaini comes in and starts to resemble an actual footballer and he goes down too. Brilliant. The biggest miracle amidst suffering several long-term absences, is both Phil Jones and Chris Smalling have remained fit for the last couple of months. I mean, how? This freak occurrence is surely some sort of record in itself and can only mean that double leg fractures for the pair must now be imminent.

Mourinho’s post-Benfica claim that “I never speak about injuries” (whilst speaking about injuries), clearly isn’t the only thing irritating him at the moment even if he suggests otherwise. It didn’t take a genius to work out the source of long-term Mou mouthpiece Duncan Castles’ Daily Record piece suggesting that Jose could depart at the end of his current deal; and that no talks had begun on the contract extension most assumed would be on the table by now.

Placed alongside some recent quotes of him bigging up the “fantastic” PSG, I expect this was little more than a public word in Woodward’s ear that he might want to pull his finger out on any new proposal, with Jose clearly miffed one hasn’t been forthcoming already. PSG would certainly love to secure Mourinho’s services in future, a fact that United must surely be aware of and which serves to strengthen Mendez’s hand even further in any forthcoming negotiations.

So basically, this doesn’t look like anything to get too worked up over. Probably nothing more than a standard case of agent briefing journalist to help clear the path towards his client receiving a whopping new pay rise. In fairness, the United board probably needed the reminder that this needs to be addressed sometime in the near future. As ever, suspicions persist their day-to-day priorities are focused more on generating new revenue streams as opposed to trivial matters like securing the manager on a new 5 year deal.


The latest ‘strategic partnership’ announced sees the club jumping into bed with the General Sports Authority of Saudi Arabia to help “create a sustainable and thriving football sector.” (Translation: play in several lucrative friendlies.) How lovely. If this is United’s attempt at keeping up with Barcelona and City, “we need to develop an alliance with tyrannical dictators with an appalling record on human rights too!”, then I can only despair. I suppose this latest move does at least explain the club’s long-held reticence towards investing in a women’s team.

Quite how an alliance with the Saudi regime fits in with United’s commitment towards corporate social responsibility is unclear. This is what it says on the club’s website

Everyone at the club is committed to tackling environmental and social issues at regional, national and international level, using the Manchester United brand to leverage support and create awareness of the issues facing the planet.

I’m assuming this will now be amended to “we don’t actually care that much because we’re making lots of money.” All the atrocities Saudi Arabia is regularly accused of (try corporal punishment, sexual slavery, torture and human trafficking for starters) aren’t conjecture or hearsay, they happen there every day. I just find it incredibly sad United are entertaining these despots when they’re in an almost unique position of being able to reject such overtures if they wanted. When City leapt into the arms of Thaksin Shinawatra and later Sheikh Mansour, we poured scorn on their willingness to turn a blind eye to the source of their new-found wealth. United heading down a similar path is every bit as depressing.

Copyright Red News – October 2017


The Beat(en) Generation


Unless you’ve been living under a rock or are marooned up in Tier 3 somewhere, you’re probably well aware of the singing section’s recent attempt to award Romelu Lukaku his own personalised terrace ditty. Nothing too controversial with that decision, you might assume. Unfortunately, the boundaries of good taste have been well and truly obliterated as the song in question not only acknowledges Romelu’s goal scoring abilities, it also alleges in uproariously graphic detail that his penis size is equally impressive.

A bit weird? Undoubtedly. Was I surprised to hear it? Not in the slightest.

So this month’s burning question then: are the United fans singing this a massive bunch of racists or merely just a bit of an embarrassment? Since we’re living in the era where anything brainless is excused as banter, it’s very unlikely that anyone revelling in the size of another bloke’s cock is not doing it entirely seriously. Consequently, I’m not sure I agree with Marina Hyde’s assertion that all racial stereotyping is racist, but I’d certainly concur that the song is entirely classless and doesn’t reflect well on anyone joining in or United fans in general.

Given that Lukaku has weighed in himself now asking fans to ‘move on’, it’s more than likely the song will die a slow death rather than hanging around forever like the similarly unreconstructed ‘you eat dogs in your own country’ Ji-Sung Park effort. I hope so. Once upon a time attempts to generate an atmosphere at OT didn’t involve marching to the ground from the Tollgate pub whilst singing a song in praise of your leading goalscorer’s penis. I might be a traditionalist lacking a sense of humour, but it just strikes me as a bit fucking zany and needs to be knocked on the head.

It’s not the first time the J-Stand happy clappers have prompted collective groans from many observers and I doubt it’ll be the last. Perhaps I should be full of admiration for people still trying to create an atmosphere in the ground when that ship sailed 20 years ago; but they lost me at the point they called for a new singing section independent of the existing singing section in Tier 2 of the Stretford End. That’s before you get to the fact placing this in J-Stand meant uprooting hundreds of long-standing ST holders in that area. I’m sorry, but any credibility these people ever had evaporated at that point.

Unsurprisingly, 2 years on from their move to J-Stand, the entire venture has been every bit the resounding flop most of us in the ground anticipated. The atmosphere or noise level on an average match day hasn’t improved at all (not helped by the football on view in recent years, admittedly), so the only discernible change is that supporters in the section are given carte blanche to stand for the duration of the game… that and it’s created a safe space for those involved to compare bobble hats and show off their brand new ‘vintage’ Adidas trackie tops.


So let’s re-cap here. A singing section is started in Stretford Tier 2 and it doesn’t work. Singing section is then moved to J-Stand, and again it doesn’t work. Unperturbed by this, it appears the organisers haven’t given up. An email has recently been circulated to their members outlining details of the latest meeting the group’s leaders have had with Dan Schofield, the Head of Venue Operations at OT. As well as blaming ‘day trippers’ for the general lack of atmosphere in there week-to-week, they are also lobbying United to free up a block of unreserved seats in J-Stand so the singiest of their singers can all sit/stand together. Yes, you did read that correctly. Their latest brainwave is to create a further singing section within the singing section that was put in place 2 years ago.

I’m sorry lads, but do you honestly believe that this latest round of proposals is going to work? You’ve already usurped 1,600 people who sat in those seats for years and now you’ve decided half of those who replaced them aren’t worthy of a spot in your section either. It’s utterly mental to assume that inconveniencing another several hundred ST holders you class as ‘day trippers’ is going to achieve anything whatsoever other than pissing a load more people off.

Here’s a novel idea, if you’re that motivated and convinced that your time and energies invested in this can make a genuine difference, how about just singing your hearts out at the match and not attempting to dictate who sits where and who’s worthy of a place alongside you? Without wishing to sound patronising, if I sound defeatist it’s because the battle you’re currently engaged in was fought and lost by a generation of United fans who felt just as passionate about this once upon a time as you feel now.

The average age of those people is probably 45-50 these days, and those of us who haven’t been priced out or simply got bored of the gentrification of the place are still going to the match now. We’ve spent most of our football watching lives being told to shut up and sit down by the club and the authorities; so after 20+ years of seeing the match day experience in steady decline the sense of ennui and déjà vu about proceedings becomes palpable.

I don’t know what the answer is here, but I’ll wish you all the best with your endeavours and trust you’ll count your blessings that at least the club are prepared to listen/pay lip service to your present manifesto. In the meantime, I’ll continue to die a little inside each time you launch into another impassioned rendition of ‘whoa whoa whoa whoa, hey hey hey hey’ and trust you’ll try to refrain from singing about Lukaku’s dick given it makes us all look like… well, dicks. Good luck.

Copyright Red News – September 2017

No Surprises


After all the usual bluster, transfer deadline day passed by with very little occurring of United-related interest. Not much new there. For all the talk of monster deals and last-minute scrambles, hardly anything of note ever happens. We signed Rooney and Berbatov in previous years, sure – but nothing will ever top the genuine madness of 2013 when after being linked with Kroos, Fabregas and Herrera all summer, Woodward managed to sign only Marouane Fellaini. “Oh I can smile about it now, but at the time it was terrible…” etc.

All the lols this year were at Arsenal’s expense, of course – with Arsene Wenger seemingly hellbent on shredding his legacy with each passing week. His attitude now seems to be, “well if I’m going down, I’m taking all of you lot with me.” It’s no wonder all the ArsenalFanTV loons have become minor internet celebrities due to being in a state of permanent apoplexy; I daresay we’d be losing the plot if the same was happening at United.

I’ve always had plenty of time for Wenger, who seems to be a thoroughly decent man despite working in football all his adult life. The fact he’s facing all this hassle at the age of 67 is an unflattering end to what’s been a brilliant career. At this point he should be sat in the director’s box enjoying his retirement rather than struggling with a conundrum that’s had him stumped for over a decade. He clearly doesn’t know or he’s just too stubborn to admit that he’s taken the club as far as he can. I just feel sorry for the bloke now, he deserves far more than the ire of rent-a-gob no-marks who’ve lost sight of the fact they had the time of their lives following the teams he built previously.

I don’t want to come across sounding too pious, however. As stated earlier, if a similar scenario was occurring at United no doubt we’d all be seething. From the fans point of view, they’ve been banging on about Arsenal’s clear failings for the last 6-7 years and the club haven’t done a thing to acknowledge their grievances. Wenger did a great job of keeping them in contention (thereabouts) whilst the Emirates was paid for, but that move from Highbury was 11 years ago now. Meanwhile, the club are plodding along, content with a 4th place finish each year whilst blindingly obvious weaknesses in the team remain unaddressed. I’d be getting pretty irate too, in fairness.

No such dramas at OT where Jose’s invincibles are cruising towards the league title, apparently. Personally I think the pundits might be getting a tad carried away, but the consensus opinion seems to be that last season’s problems are all fixed and we’re going to walk it. Yeah right. Although I’d agree our start has been very encouraging, it’s worth recalling that we also won our first 3 league games last season before going on a run that saw us take just 6 of the next 21 points available. Looking at the games coming up I expect we’ll comfortably avoid a repeat of that, but I still don’t trust half of our players to maintain this improvement for a full season unless they’ve undergone secret brain transplants over the summer.


Over at Wastelands, I see Guardiola has been in full-on, passive-aggressive oddball mode for the last couple of weeks. I always figured Mourinho was supposed to be the sulky, petulant one but their roles have reversed over the last year or so. Dunno what it is with Josep these days, he previously seemed to be a cool customer but now he looks like he’s about to embark on a Klopp-style spin out at any given minute. I reckon he’s incredibly miffed that the job isn’t proving anything like as easy as he anticipated. I suspect he assumed he’d merely turn up, commence his tiki-taka eulogising and the trophies would flow at the same rate they did at his previous clubs.

This is England though, innit? Or more pertinently, this is Manchester City – where having an unlimited transfer budget proves as much of a distraction as it is a bonus. Guardiola has broken up the established order (binned Zableta, ostracised Hart, clearly doesn’t rate Aguero), but the spine of the team no longer looks as strong as it did under Mancini or Pellegrini. Players like Sterling are signed for £50M then they’re ready to sacrifice him as soon as they get a sniff of Sanchez’s availability. I just don’t get them – for all their talk of ‘the project’ and their long-term commitment to becoming global football superpower, there’s still a strong whiff of short-sighted flippancy about much of the decision making.

For example, take the decision to banish Joe Hart. Now everyone knows Hart is a bit of a bellend, but there’s no denying he did alright for City. It’s not like Guardiola replaced him with a better pedigree keeper or anything, it was more a case of ‘don’t fancy you, see ya.’ I know United have been guilty of a number of similar volte-faces over the last few years, but our chronic inconsistency proves that changing half your team each summer doesn’t pay immediate dividends. If City go on to win the title or the Champions league then I’ll be proven wrong on this, clearly. I just feel that they’d be better served by a more methodical approach as opposed to hoovering up 5 new players every transfer window.

Anyway, enough of everyone else’s business – even Wayne Rooney getting caught in flagrante isn’t our problem anymore. The sun is shining, United are unbeaten and we’ve drawn Burton at home in the League Cup. Not even the international break or the threat of imminent nuclear war can spoil the buzz. What a time to be alive.

Copyright Red News – September 2017