Tag Archives: anthony martial

Chain of Fools

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Although pre-season suggested impending doom, the speed at which everything unravelled was still something to behold. Despite Mourinho having a face like a yard of tripe and seemingly doing his best to talk down our prospects, the fixture list actually came out looking pretty kind to United. No really severe tests during the first couple of months, maybe if we got off to a decent start then things might settle down and…

Nope. Not happening. 30 minutes into the Brighton game, the wheels had well and truly come off and any misguided pre-season optimism was extinguished. It was all so predictable. The most blackly comedic aspect was that Mourinho picked exactly the same team most of his internet-based detractors were clambering for. Bailly and Lindelof at centre half, Pereira given another start and Martial picked up front. In short, it failed miserably. 

I’m at a complete loss to explain the unconditional love a loud minority of reds continue to have for Anthony Martial. To me, he’s the absolute personification of the modern day player who takes everything whilst giving virtually nothing back in return. I used to think that insouciant, blank expression fixed to his grid was a sign of self-confidence, but now I’m not convinced. I think it’s more the case that he genuinely doesn’t give a shit what happens. 

I don’t think he’s in the slightest bit concerned if he plays or if he doesn’t, or if he goes to the World Cup with France or stays at home. There doesn’t seem to be any change in his body language or reaction no matter what happens to him. The fact he left pre-season training to attend his child’s birth and support his partner came as a shock as it suggests there is a human being with feelings in there somewhere. So he’s not just an automaton being forced to play football against his will? I see. 

If Martial was a genuine top drawer player then perhaps his unflinching self-regard would make some sense. Instead, he has the air of someone with nothing to prove when in reality he still has everything to prove. I’m not really concerned with the fact he scored the winner in the FA Cup semi during his first season, it’s his constant smacked arse demeanour ever since then that gives you more of an insight to the kind of man we’re dealing with here.  

Presumably, the ultimate source of his dissatisfaction is the fact he isn’t starting week-in, week-out in either his preferred position up front or elsewhere. Rather than taking this on board and endeavouring to develop and improve like any other 22 year old footballer might, instead he appears to have embarked on the kind of career-defining sulk that was pioneered by fellow French dissident Nicolas Anelka back in the late nineties. 

The difference is that when Anelka was agitating to get out of Arsenal, he had Real Madrid waiting in the wings and fluttering their eyelashes at him. With the greatest respect to Martial, the only place he’s going after United is down. He’s not prolific enough as a goalscorer and not a talented enough winger to make the move to one of the best sides in Europe, expecting otherwise would be sheer delusion on his part. 

If Martial’s agent had any sense at all he’d be pleading with his client to get his head down and start working whilst he still has this opportunity. Try cementing a place in what’s a struggling team with numerous starting berths up for grabs. His chief rivals are Rashford and Lukaku, and neither of them could be described as untouchable – yet they’re both justifiably ahead of Martial in the pecking order. 

Contrary to what a sizeable number of Martial FC fanboys seem to think, that’s not solely down to Mourinho bearing some sort of grudge or purposefully stifling his development. It comes down to having personality, the right attitude and not letting your head drop. It’s exactly the same reason why the extremely limited Olivier Giroud now has a World Cup winners’ medal whereas Martial was left watching it at home on telly. 

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When France won the World Cup, I received a text in the immediate aftermath from fellow Red News scribe Sparky stating “Great, that’s Pogba’s head nowhere near football for the next 6 months.” Didn’t take long for that one to come to fruition, did it? Fair play to Poggers for being so candid in the aftermath of the Brighton defeat. For the team captain to freely admit “my attitude was not right”, that’s some next level honesty that is. It’s not something you ever want to hear from one of your players, of course… in fact it’s absolutely batshit crazy when you think about it. 

I mean, we’d lost on that very same ground only 6 months previously. It wasn’t like Brighton away was a game any casual observer was expecting us to turn up and win convincingly, to me it spelt potential banana skin with a capital P. For all the bullshit uttered by Pogba about the captaincy being a honour… blah, blah, blah… his blithely inept performance and that admission afterwards said it all about his true character. 

Despite being old enough to know better, I still struggle to get my head around the complacency of professional athletes earning vast sums in such exalted, privileged positions. Paul lad, you’re the new captain of Manchester United. Having the right attitude is a pre-requisite for the job. We, as supporters, can predict the fixtures the players won’t show up for yet several still seem to be under the illusion that they’re good enough to coast through games with less than 100% invested. Lads, you aren’t. You really aren’t. 

Copyright Red News – September 2018

www.rednews.co.uk

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Killing Me Softly

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Hmmmm. You can tell that something’s amiss when you reach an international break and instead of thinking ‘dammit, no football for 2 weeks’, instead you’re thinking ‘hooray, no football for 2 weeks’. We’re within touching distance of the top of the table and on course to get through the CL group stages – a scenario I would’ve happily taken if presented with a couple of months ago. Instead, it all feels pretty hollow. I’m afraid there’s no getting away from the fact that watching United has become a deathly dull pastime of late.

When I first had a whinge about Van Gaal a few weeks back, I was quickly shot down by a handful of smartarses who were quick to point out we’d gone top of the league after consecutive wins against Liverpool, Southampton and Sunderland. What could possibly be my problem? It’s not just about results though – this team is always going to be good enough to win more games than they lose. The problem is down to the mentality and the possession-at-all-costs approach. It’s suffocating. It may well successfully bore the opposition into submission but it’s also making me lose the will to live.

Van Gaal, clearly, will not change. I’m not giving to start insulting the guy because he’s only doing what he’s always done. His approach may well ultimately bear fruit… it’s entirely possible in this oddball season where Chelsea have sunk without trace and City look brittle shorn of Silva and Aguero. Silverware will be more than enough to appease the majority of United fans but in 30+ years of attending games I’ve never been as consistently bored as I am right now. I had to smile the other week though, following Louis’ “don’t boo the team, boo me” instruction. Louis mate, they were booing you.

Thing is, I’m not even suggesting that something drastic needs to happen. I don’t think binning Van Gaal at this juncture would be beneficial in the slightest and I’m fully in favour of giving him more time to fine-tune things. It’s just… well it’s just proving deeply uninspiring waiting for things to click. If we had some topsy turvy 3 -3’s to amuse ourselves with whilst adjustments took place it might prove a little more bearable, but 3 x 0-0 draws in a week was slash-your-wrists gear. No more of that United, please. Anything but that.

Is anyone else getting a bit overwhelmed by the unerring omnipresence of the Co92 currently? Seeing Beckham back in town doing his UNICEF ambassador bit this weekend made me realise that we’ve come full circle and reached the unlikely stage where he can no longer be considered the most rampant self-publicist of the group. You literally can’t switch on the telly or open a paper without hearing from Gary Neville at the moment. Pundit, coach, commentator, columnist, hotelier, club owner, champion of the homeless… the bloke is absolutely relentless.

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Since retiring from playing GNev has transformed himself into some bizarro world hybrid of Donald Trump and Tony Wilson. Where is it going to stop? Is he hoping to usurp Gary Lineker as the new face of Walkers Crisps? Would be a seismic event for sure, but such a coup isn’t beyond him given his burgeoning media profile. Does he have political aspirations I wonder? Mayor of Bury seems an attainable target but that’s a position for a man of advancing years. What about in the meantime? Leading Manchester Council, buying out the Glazers, re-opening the Hacienda, becoming a Tory MP, playing bass when Oasis re-form… he seems hellbent on doing absolutely everything that pops into his head.

During my mini meltdown a couple of issues back, I expressed some concern about the wisdom of spending £60M on a relatively unknown teenage striker. Thankfully, any fears I had look to have been unfounded as Anthony Martial has come in and endeared himself to everyone with both his performances and his seemingly nonplussed reaction to life in the spotlight at Old Trafford.

That said, it’s not surprising that he looks unfazed at the prospect of playing in front of 75,000 every week when you learn that aged 19, he’s already married with 2 kids! That shows some otherworldly level of maturity, that – at 19 I was sleeping ’til 12 every day and doing my best not to get booted out of college. Kids, in fact responsibility of any kind, was only something that happened to the incredibly foolish or incredibly unlucky. Still, fair play to the lad – in the context of modern footballers it marks him out as pretty much unique.

Hold on a minute. Or does it? A quick google brings up nothing whatsoever about the birth of Martial’s second child, yet an accompanying twitter search brings up a million braindead re-tweets welcoming the latest member of the #mufcfamily. Sample quote: “nigga be scoring on and off the pitch!” Jesus Christ. Who in their right mind thinks, ‘nothing much happening today barring homicidal maniacs running round Paris with machine guns, I think I’ll announce that Anthony Martial’s missus has had another kid’? I suppose this serves me right for ever having anything to do with social media. It’s full of absolute imbeciles – me included.

Looking at the upcoming fixtures, it looks like we’ve got a bit of straightforward run now so the perfect opportunity to cut loose and go GOAL CRAZY presents itself. Anyone else fancy a bit of cavalier football? Remember that? Passing the ball fowards, having a shot, a bit of excitement perhaps… With Watford, PSV, Leicester, West Ham, Wolfsburg and Bournemouth incoming there don’t appear to be many potential 0-0 boreathons on the horizon. If this season is ever going to burst into life then now is surely the ideal time. Please let it be time.

Copyright Red News – November 2015

www.rednews.co.uk

Things Change

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Like the majority of supporters, I’ve been mildly enthused with the changes Van Gaal has put in place since last summer. The football hasn’t been great, granted, but I’ve been towing the line and trying to focus on the positives. He’s cleared out numerous has-beens and never-gonna-bes, he’s brought in some decent players and he’s doggedly tried to instil this new ‘philosophy’ (more of which later). Whatever belief I had, however, has now been spent. Call it a moment of clarity, a rattle-out-the-pram incident, whatever… that final 48 hours of the transfer window on top of the last 20 minutes at Swansea has seen me flip-flop into the non-believer camp.

Swansea. It’s now over a week ago but I’m still finding it hard to shake the utter abomination of a performance that followed Mata’s goal. Luke Shaw aside, we were an absolute disaster. From the moment Fellaini entered proceedings, there was only one way it was going to end up. Seriously, is that it? That’s the extent of Plan B? Abandon all thoughts of playing football and lump it up front to the big lad? It’s so appalling it’s almost laughable – the kind of thing I’d stop myself doing when my lad’s under 7’s team were about to lose another game. It’s 2015 and that’s what we’re reduced to? That’s part of the philosophy? Seriously, every other manager/coach in the country must be pissing themselves.

Under Ferguson (and no apologies for mentioning him, he’s our main point of reference and set the standards for modern-day Manchester United), we were famed for our approach to chasing games in the dying minutes. It wasn’t done by simply ballooning the ball forwards, it was done by increasing the pressure, tempo and intensity until the opposition simply capitulated. This was coached into the players from the day they joined the club. We did it all the time… so frequently it became second nature. A reflex, almost – without thought or hesitation.

United under Van Gaal don’t play to their instincts, they play to a philosophy that demands stilted, possession football which stifles any attempt at creativity. Wander out of position, you get dropped. The amount of times players are seen glancing towards the bench rather than looking to each other for direction is telling. We’re inflexible – to the point the team lacks a collective personality and struggles to adapt to changing conditions (not the weather) mid-game.

So by looking towards the bench, what do the players actually receive? Very little, it appears. I can’t recall Van Gaal making a single call from the touchline, not one. Instead he’s sat on the bench clutching a dossier full of instructions which have presumably been relayed in painstaking detail during the days beforehand. Again, this just seems utterly baffling and unworkable. Things happen in football matches which require teams to react and improvise… United simply don’t at present. The message is clear, the team’s brain sits on the sidelines and deigns to speak to you when he sees fit. Until such time, you just do what you’ve been told.

Thankfully, due to real-life commitments, I managed to swerve deadline day on SSN this year. 12 hours of Jim White, Guillem Balagué and their ghastly supporting cast of unemployable ex-pros wasn’t worth a day’s holiday; so I was content to be stationed in work with nothing but text messages and internet access to keep me informed of ongoing developments.

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Obviously, very little work got done. After the relative calm of deadline day last year, this year’s saw a return to the bumbling catastrofuck of 2013 aka ‘Fellaini Day’. Then, as now, we’re left surveying the aftermath and thinking, ‘what on earth has happened there?’

The club’s approach to acquisitions now appears to be completely at odds with the football we’re witnessing. Whereas everything is meticulously considered and precise on the field, with zero surprises mandatory; our method of signing players is more on a par with Van Gaal’s end of season speech – somewhat eccentric and largely incomprehensible. Instead of signing the central defender we’ve needed all summer, we sold one instead. Rather than sign a new keeper, we sold another… in fact we very nearly sold another three.

Whether the De Gea non-transfer was United taking revenge on Madrid for the Ramos dealings, or Perez failing to install Adobe Reader in time, I have no idea… and no real interest if I’m being honest. What’s clear though, is that we’re left with a £30M asset whose head is elsewhere and who doesn’t want to be here. It’s all very embarrassing – and reflects badly on the credibility of any long-term plan in place. All summer we maintained that De Gea wasn’t going anywhere, then that suddenly changed with 12 hours remaining. If the intent was to sell him all along, then Madrid should have been set a deadline to conclude a deal weeks ago. It was amateur hour. Cityesque, almost.

Becoming embroiled in last day dramas doesn’t indicate a calm or measured approach, instead it smacks of vital decisions being made on instinct alone. Anthony Martial at £36-52M may turn out to be a world beater, but at the moment he’s just a teenage kid who nobody had heard of this time last week. Expecting him to come in and seamlessly adapt to the Premier League isn’t just a speculative punt from Van Gaal, it demonstrates the club moving to an unprecedented level of desperation.

If Martial comes in and looks the part, then brilliant – I’ll be the first to apologise for ever having doubted the man. In the meantime though, it’s now clear that this signing could either make or break Van Gaal at Old Trafford. For such a master pragmatist and keen philosopher, he’s made a monumental gamble here. At the moment it resembles something of a public unravelling or a last-throw-of-the-dice. Time will tell whether instead, it proves to be his masterstroke.

Copyright Red News – September 2015

www.rednews.co.uk