Tag Archives: antonio valencia

Mistletoe and Whine

Northampton Town v Manchester United - EFL Cup Third Round

As December arrives, the run of victories needed to signal that progress has been made is still proving maddeningly elusive. Form-wise, it’s exactly the same story as it’s been for much of the last 3 seasons – we win a couple, draw a couple, then there’s a demoralising defeat. Then the cycle starts again. And again. This team never gets as far as turning a corner as it appears destined to go round in circles indefinitely – we’re stuck on a merry-go-round of mediocrity.

One of the curious managerial ticks of Mourinho, besides the booting water bottles and getting himself sent off, is the fact he’s always treated the league cup with an almost unnatural level of respect. Walking away from OT after the West Ham league game last Sunday, the frustration of another draw was compounded by the surety that we’d batter them 3 days later. If only those brief outbreaks of free-flowing football witnessed in the Europa League and EFL Cup could be replicated in the league, eh?

Not a chance. The latest brace of squandered points again came courtesy of the team’s recently acquired habit of conceding within the last 10 minutes, this time directly as a result of Marouane Fellaini’s untimely introduction at Goodison Park. As I’ve stated a number of times previously, and I don’t say this flippantly, the bog-brushed Belgian is football’s version of the Ebola virus. He is a menace and he is dangerous.

Quite why Mourinho, like Moyes and Van Gaal before him, seems to view Fellaini as some sort of trusted lieutenant remains a complete mystery. With his first touch of the ball he passed straight to the opposition, with his second he stuck out a leg and gave away a penalty, then with his third he passed the ball straight out of play. This was the sum total of his contribution having presumably been sent on to add some composure and help see the game out. Composure? I honestly wouldn’t trust him to make a cup of tea without setting himself on fire. I’m not even joking.

If we’re looking for reasons why we continue to struggle, then one needs look no further than the fact that this clown has now racked up 100 appearances for Manchester United. I honestly have no idea how he continues to feature at all. Is he really, really good in training or something? Does his contract stipulate that he has to play a certain number of games? Does he possess incriminating evidence regarding the sexual predilections of an unnamed Glazer family member? Am I missing something? Just… why?


Since January is fast approaching, it’s fair to assume that we’ll be active in the transfer market again in search of defensive reinforcements – this despite Ed Woodward stating unequivocally at the fans’ forum a couple of months back that there would be no new additions until the summer. Rojo, Jones and Darmian continue to look like disasters waiting to happen, Smalling and Shaw are forever injured… the only one who I’ve any real confidence in is Eric Bailly and of course no sooner is he back from injury, then he’s off to Gabon for the African Cup of Nations.

Antonio Valencia appears to be another Mourinho favourite despite being routinely average week-in, week-out. This is another part of the problem. Because his colleagues are so consistently error prone, journeyman trundlers like Tony gain an unmerited significance in the greater scheme of things. It’s a nonsense really, that an unspectacular winger who was initially moved back as emergency cover has now made the right back berth his own. Quite simply, he’s nothing special. He’s a great athlete, he diligently runs up and down, he makes tackles and he attempts crosses. Jesus, we may as well sign Micah Richards if being merely perfunctory is deemed acceptable.

Instead of signing another 2-3 players in January, it would give me more pleasure if we avoided spending altogether and instead binned 4-5 off the wage bill who are going absolutely nowhere at OT. Memphis, Ashley Young, Schweinsteiger, Fellaini… that’s just for starters. Let’s just get rid and start again. We can persevere with the remaining lot, try and drum some sense into them and if cover is required, farm the youth and reserve teams and let’s see who we unearth. It would be a gamble, obviously… but I’d rather see youngsters given a chance as opposed to bang-average senior pros who don’t have any future here beyond the end of their contracts.

Admittedly, there’s an element of ‘cutting your nose off to spite your face’ in this, but why not? For the last 3 years we’ve had a steady influx of new faces each transfer window and it’s got us precisely nowhere. We’ve spent about £300M at the last count and for what return exactly? We’re on our 3rd manager in 4 years, we aren’t playing any better and the squad is still littered with crap players. Enough’s enough.

It doesn’t matter if we finish mid-table because the way things are going, we’re going to finish mid-table anyway. What’s the point in finishing 6th and qualifying for the Europa League again? That’s doing us no favours whatsoever this year, if anything we’re at a disadvantage given how participation affects preparation time for league games. I genuinely think it would work to our advantage if we resisted throwing money at any further stopgaps, and instead focused on clearing out the dross whilst waiting for proper targets to become available in the summer.

Anyway, I think that’s me done for 2016. Fellaini, Brexit, Trump… it’s been an absolute stinker. Merry Christmas, everybody.

Copyright Red News – December 2016


Do It Better


Up until recently, a weekend without football was one of those awful anomalies of the fixture calendar – something you had to endure a handful of times per season in the knowledge things would soon be back to normal. Due to being knocked of of the cups we’ve had 2 or 3 in recent weeks and all things considered, they’ve actually proven fairly enjoyable. Mainly this is due to the fact that things can’t get any worse if we’re not actually playing, can they?

The Olympiakos away game could prove to be the tipping point as regards Moyes’ reign at United. Unless there’s an unforgettable night at Old Trafford on Wednesday we’ll soon be out of Europe too, meaning the last couple of months of the season look set to provide as much appeal and excitement as the last 6 months or so have. It’s pointless pretending otherwise… we’re a shambles at present. It’s all a bit of a mess.

The performance in Greece followed the Palace away game which led certain commentators to suggest we might have turned a corner of sorts. We hadn’t. Merely keeping a clean sheet and beating relegation fodder is cause for an outbreak of unconfined positivity these days, especially as it was done without the utterly execrable pairing of Young and Valencia – fast becoming the least threatening pair of wingers in United history.

Other than a brief 6 week spell after he signed, Young has proven to be a complete waste of space at Old Trafford. He doesn’t have a trick, or pace, can’t cross a ball and he’s physically weak. Compared to wingers of the past (and I’m including the likes of Arthur Graham and Ralph Milne, here), he just doesn’t move very well with a football. The only thing Ashley Young appears to be capable of is cutting inside and attempting something spectacular from 25 yards… which tends to result in a goal about once every 6 months.

Valencia meanwhile, is possibly even more of an enigma than Young. The frustrating thing here is that Valencia can play. He really can. We’ve seen him destroy Ashley Cole on a number of occasions and there was that golden spell he had pre-injury where every cross he put in seemed to land on Rooney’s head. I defended the guy for a long, long time but I’ve given up now. Things reached a nadir last season where his confidence had gone to the extent that when faced with a defender, he was performing 180-degree pirouettes and heading back to the half-way line.

On the occasions he does fancy taking on the full back and actually beats him, it usually results in one of his signature-move, ‘smashed across the box’ crosses that again, have about a 1 in 50 success rate. As everyone in the Premier League sussed months ago, it’s all too predictable and easy to defend against. It speaks volumes for Tony’s ongoing slump, that watching him toil with his waning powers, one finds oneself pining for the living embodiment of brainless inconsistency that is Nani. Nani for Christ’s sake! I swear, even Bebe seems a preferable alternative to Valencia at present.

Most fans accept that players go through dips in form at one time or another, it just starts to become a major annoyance when a few weeks becomes months (or indeed years in the recently-departed Anderson’s case). Perhaps the wisest thing the player himself can do is keep their head down and play through it until things improve – a point that seems to have been missed entirely by Tom Cleverley.


Cleverley, just in case you’d missed it, is not happy right now. Apparently he’s been ‘stung’ by the criticism he’s received from United fans this season and feels he’s been made a bit of an escape goat. I have to admit, my first thought after hearing this was one of confusion because I haven’t heard any criticism of him whatsoever at a game, so presumably he’s talking about getting a bit of stick off bellends on twitter. Simple solution to that one, Tom: don’t take any notice of bellends on twitter.

For me, Tom Cleverley isn’t really a player that invokes any strong feelings because he doesn’t really do much other than simply existing. Indeed, I can’t say I’ve noticed any drop off in his performances because it’s difficult to recall any of his performances. People call him The Brand, but it’d be more accurate to describe him as The Bland. My biggest problem with Tom Cleverley is the way people often compare him to Ray Wilkins due of his penchant for passing sideways. To me that is just an insult to Wilkins who I thought was a lovely player, a true artisan – Cleverley is just a maladroit droid in comparison.

It probably never occurred to Tom or his advisors that in conceiving his TC23 website and media presence, they’ve only succeeded in making him more unpopular with the world in general. This isn’t just limited to these rabid hoards of United fans who are hounding him either, given that England fans have already selected Tom as their official World Cup pariah before the tournament has even started. We all know that no England tournament exit is complete without an MUFC-affiliated scapegoat, fair play to England fans for deciding on this year’s at such an early stage – I expect the quality of effigy likenesses to be off the chart given the additional lead time that’s now available.

If Tom wants to improve his standing in the hearts and minds of United and England fans, I’d suggest it might be wise to explore traditional methods such as playing well in football matches. Y’know, winning the odd tackle, take a few more risks, maybe even consider scoring a few goals or something? Puff piece, ‘nobody understands me’ interviews with a sympathetic Oliver Holt aren’t going to placate anyone or do you any favours – especially when they’re packed with condescending drivel about how your game might be better appreciated by Spanish football hipsters.

Unfortunately, you don’t play in Spain, Tom. You might feel you’d avoid the white hankies and be universally lauded in the land of tiki-taka but you’re at Man United – at a time where competition for midfield places is at an all-time low and you’ve had ample opportunity to make your mark on the team. Almost 3 years into a United career you’re better known for a website and going out with a girl from TOWIE than you are for being good at football, and that’s not down to any misunderstanding or lack of awareness on anyone’s part other than you and the people you’ve got setting up these media opportunities.

Too harsh? Possibly – but he’s 24 now so we’re not talking about some kid who’s just broken into the team, he’s an experienced international who’s got an opportunity 99% of his fellow professionals would kill for. The longer this shocking season goes on, the spotlight will rightly intensify on David Moyes – but it’s time some of his charges began to take more responsibility themselves. No passengers.

Copyright Red News – March 2014