Tag Archives: bayern munich

Beyond Belief

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Despite a mixed bag of results on paper, there’s no disputing that last month’s testing run of fixtures proved quite… umm… testing. It was an absolute horror show at times, and proved that early season predictions that some sort of renaissance was underway were well wide of the mark. At the moment, United look to be heading towards mid-table rather than mounting a title challenge. The team is all over the place and we look a mess. Rather than settling in, instead (as many predicted) Mourinho has started to lash out.

During the 27 years of stability under Fergie, we managed to swerve most of the crises that befall other football clubs. Dressing room dissent was dealt with swiftly, underperforming players were removed and any established cliques were abolished. There was no going back for those who’d served their purpose or who fell below the standards he imposed at the club. It didn’t matter if you were Jim McGregor or David Beckham, upset him and you were history.

As supporters, we were complicit in this too. Fergie could get away with making unpopular decisions because of his longevity and his track record – he just wasn’t questioned by the vast majority. (It might be worth adding that I’m talking purely about football decisions here, given that he was rightly called out on his support for the Glazers and his indifference to the wider issues pertaining to the 2005 takeover.)

Post-Fergie, it’s a very different script at Old Trafford nowadays. It started with Moyes, continued with Van Gaal and now a few months into his reign, we’re seeing it with Mourinho too. The minute there’s a few bad results or questionable team selections, the spotlight falls on the manager and his whole tenure is called into question. In other words, we’ve headed down the same path as every other set of dumbo football fans across the country.

The players in place now are a mixed bag that have been brought to the club by 4 different managers, as well as a couple that were reputedly signed by Woodward alone (presumably on the advice of others.) As a group they have failed to adapt to changing systems and appear to lack any kind of team spirit or pack mentality. Despite containing several self-proclaimed ‘big men’, they are soft-centered and crumble under the slightest pressure. They lack bottle, leadership, fight and initiative – it’s a toxic mix of has-beens, maybes and never gonna bes.

Add to this the fact they’ve now successfully seen off two managers whilst absolving themselves of any kind of culpability. I’m aware that Moyes is the John Major of football and Van Gaal was well past his sell-by date – both deserved to go – but this all increases the players’ sense of entitlement and demonstrates their expertise in passing the buck. Enough is enough on that score. If there’s a problem within that dressing room it’s with them as a group, not the new manager. If Mourinho decides the way to proceed is naming and shaming a few in an attempt to get a reaction, then he should be applauded. If they don’t like it, then they can find a club that’s more tolerant of half-arsed mediocrity.

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The camera-friendly, ‘just happy to be here!’ mentality is probably best summed up by Bastian Schweinsteiger, who Mourinho was quick to point towards the exit door within a couple of weeks of taking the job. We’re constantly reminded by his friends and ex-colleagues what a great guy he is, and how they’re disgusted at his treatment, yet what has Bastian actually done here over the last 18 months other then pose for selfies and post self-pitying, #sadface missives on social media? Good riddance to him when he does finally get off his sizeable backside for a similarly underwhelming stint at the Seattle Blue Sox, or whoever else is daft enough to hand him another contract.

If Schweinsteiger is such a proud professional with a burning desire to play football, then he would have listened to what Mourinho was telling him and done what 99% of other footballers do in such circumstances. When informed they’re no longer part of a manager’s plans, most players simply instruct their agents to find them another club. All this nonsense about him loving United is just posturing. The only thing Schweinsteiger admires about United currently is the enormous pay cheque he picks up at the end of each month.

As Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and his cronies at Bayern Munich are so appalled at poor Basti’s plight, then rather than bitching about United and Mourinho, why don’t they pick up the phone and ask him to come back? Exactly. Of course they won’t – because they aren’t that stupid or deludedly sentimental. It’s exactly the same reason Klopp will never hand Gerrard another contract at Liverpool, despite him hanging round Melwood like some sort of lovesick ex-boyfriend. Bayern knew Schweinsteiger was finished 2-3 years ago, the same everyone else in football. Well, everyone except Manchester United, rather embarrassingly.

Finally, like me you’re probably still trying to get your head round the fact that Donald Trump has won the United States presidential election. A power hungry, bad tempered xenophobe running the free world. Scary stuff, eh? Never fear though, as this could actually work to our advantage. Okay, so the end of the world might now be inevitable during our lifetimes, but if he does push the button, at least it could be next May with Liverpool poised to win the title and City in the Champions League final. Keep your fingers crossed…

Copyright Red News – November 2016

www.rednews.co.uk

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Tip-Toe Through The Tulip

Louis Van Gaal

Louis Van Gaal doesn’t need much of an introduction – he’s been a well known football face since he rose to international prominence as coach of the all-conquering Ajax side of the early 90’s. Outspoken and never far from controversy or shy of confrontation, he’s dominated the back pages of Spain, Germany and his native Holland for the best part of 3 decades. Now newly installed as United boss, one anticipates that a repeat scenario over here is completely inevitable.

Coinciding with his arrival at Old Trafford is the release of Louis Van Gaal – The Biography by Maarten Meijer (Ebury Press, £16.99). Meijer is a Dutch football commentator and academic who has previously published books on Guus Hiddink and Dick Advocaat. This latest effort offers a welcome crash course in the life and times of the man christened the ‘Iron Tulip’ by the German press.

The book is a comprehensive run through Van Gaal’s career to date and an attempt to dig beneath the public perception of him as nothing more than a bullying, dogmatic control freak. Sound familiar? Oh yes, it’s pretty striking how many parallels there are between Van Gaal and Sir Alex Ferguson. Unspectacular playing career? Check. Incredible work ethic? Check. Belief in youth? Check. Love of rotation and constant tinkering? Ch… you get the idea.

Unlike Ferguson, Van Gaal has never managed to stay in one place beyond a few years, however. The author details the reasons why tenures at Ajax, Barca and Bayern all ultimately unravelled, mainly due to his autocratic style being at odds with the political structures in place at each of these European giants. That said, Meijer also describes a man capable of embracing change who’s refined his football vision over the years. Meijer suggests LVG’s first spell at Ajax imploded as the demands of his ‘total football’ philosophy took a physical toll on his group of players. Van Gaal went on to revise this singular approach in later years, with his title winning team at AZ Alkmaar instead characterised by an ultra-direct, counter-attacking style of play.

After detailing a career built on principles of “discipline, structure and organisation”, Mejier reaches a conclusion of sorts by proposing that LVG has shown signs of mellowing in recent times and the ‘Van Gaal 2.0’ arriving in England is a more “relaxed and diplomatic” creature. The squad of players he’s inherited (not to mention the Manchester press pack) will certainly be hoping so.

During his first season at Munich (when Van Gaal took on an underachieving side and led them to the brink of the treble) Karl-Heinz Rummenigge expressed delight with the new appointment, “he’s the right man at the right club at the right time.” Whether that’s the case now remains to be seen – although based on the evidence presented here, it’s going to be a whole lot of fun finding out.

Strap yourselves in, people.

Copyright Red News – August 2014

www.rednews.co.uk

Barbarism Begins At Home

Chosen one

Taxi drivers’ opinions are always a good barometer of domestic and foreign affairs, and hailing a black cab in town pre-Olympiakos, the guy behind the wheel managed to sum up the current situation at United in just 3 words. After a group of us dived in and revealed Old Trafford as our destination, his deadpan reply was brilliantly succinct.

“Are you sure?”

Despite the horrors witnessed of late, of course we were. This, after all, was likely to be the last Champions League tie we’d be seeing for quite some time. Although we’re pretty bobbins at present, it’s still United in the European Cup KO stages. And if you can’t get excited about that – regardless of who the manager is – then you seriously need to have a word with yourself. United v Olympiakos, 2-0 down, full house at OT… what’s not to look forward to?

David Moyes spent his pre-match press conference swatting aside questions about his future, claiming key figures within the club were being “very supportive” and he was unperturbed about the prospect of imminent unemployment. 7 defeats in 14 games since January and the fact he was fielding such questions at all told a different story, however. If Moyes isn’t concerned about his position given what’s occurring at present, then I’d suggest he should be.

Although the diabolical Liverpool performance ended with a defiant show of unity from the OT crowd, the reality when talking to people is somewhat different. Speak to any United fan one-on-one and you’ll struggle to find anyone who’s not lost faith in the chosen one. There are still some people not advocating instant dismissal, mainly because they don’t see any benefit in sacking the manager prior to the summer. I personally don’t know anyone (barring a couple of internet-based lunatics) who remains confident of Moyes’ ability to turn things round. It’s not unfair to say most reds want him out of the job as soon as possible.

Moyes has been fortunate over the last couple of months that home fixtures have been something of a rarity, meaning that the OT crowd hasn’t been given much of an opportunity to vent. The miserable showing in Greece was a distant memory by the time the Liverpool home game came round, and I’d suggest it was only the fact it was Liverpool that prevented booing at the final whistle as opposed to the “20 times, 20 times” ballooning that transpired. Likewise, the next home game is City. Another bad result there and pride will again dictate that grievances aren’t made public… yet.

Whilst the majority of United’s support has been behind him all season, the fans’ patience won’t last indefinitely. The last 4 home games of the season, Bayern aside, are Villa-Norwich-Sunderland-Hull. No deadly rivals there, just home bankers against Premier League flotsam who we should be beat easily – exactly the kind of fixtures in which we’ve struggled all season. Any repeat of the Liverpool performance in these games and it’ll be a surprise if the result is not met with widespread, public dissent as opposed to disgruntled mutterings. Moyes should feel blessed that he’s not been on the receiving end already.

In the end, a 3-0 win over the Greeks and progress to the next round guarantees him another few weeks at least – but one senses that things have to change quickly if Moyes is to remain in charge beyond this season. Claims of unrest in the dressing room have been floating about for months – nothing new there. But now rumours are circulating about key personnel aligning themselves away from the manager and the sounding out of potential successors. Despite Moyes claiming his position remains secure, he’ll be the last to know if moves to remove him have already begun in earnest.

Suits

The Glazers, according to some, have become increasingly twitchy in recent weeks. Season ticket sales remain strong, but despite claims to the contrary, demand clearly isn’t what it was 5 or 10 years ago. Anyone unsure whether or not to renew in the past would end up doing so, fearful of losing their seat forever – a threat that simply no longer exists. Once upon a time season tickets were prized, family heirlooms passed down from generation to generation, whereas nowadays they’re basically on open sale each summer. Fancy a season ticket at United these days? Phone them up and surrender your card details. You need 2 or 3 together? Not a problem.

Whilst the commercial side of the club seemingly goes from strength to strength, with new sponsorship hook ups announced on a weekly basis, no Champions League next season means that particular revenue stream will take a huge hit. Factor in a potential drop in demand for season tickets (even more likely should the club include Europa League games in the ACS), and that might just prove the straw the breaks the camel’s back.

Although he’d (quite rightly) never admit to it in public, Moyes knows that he’s fighting for his future now and desperately needs a strong end to the season – and even that might not be enough to save him. Since last summer we’ve heard a lot about how United operate differently to other clubs, we show saintly levels of patience with managers and give them as much time as they want, apparently… but the reality isn’t like that at all.

Taking the Busby and Fergie dynasties out of the equation, our previous managerial departures have been just as brutally swift as those at any other football club. McGuinness and O’Farrell were both sacked within 18 months of starting the job; Sexton after winning his final 7 games on the bounce (including a win at Anfield); Ron Atkinson dismissed just 12 months after he had United 10 points clear at the top of the table; Docherty just weeks after wining the FA Cup… albeit for shagging the physio’s missus. (Obviously there’s no chance of those kind of shenanigans with a good Christian man like Moyes.)

At this point one can only presume that the club will proceed with their much-heralded, ‘long term’ perspective and outwardly at least, maintain that the manager retains their full support and backing. Only a sustained outpouring of pent-up frustration from the crowd will force a reversal in this stance. In simple terms: the fans turning on the manager will signal the point at which the club has justification to act. “We had to sack him, it’s what the baying mob demanded”, would be the shrugged explanation. Although the owners will ultimately dictate whether or not he gets another season, it’s the rank and file OT support who hold the power to decide Moyes’ fate.

Copyright Red News – March 2014

www.rednews.co.uk