Tag Archives: brendan rodgers

Stormy Clouds

Luke Shaw

As the years go by and the faces change, United never seem to lose that innate ability to make things difficult for themselves. Any thoughts of ending the season on a high have been obliterated in recent weeks, as it only took Carrick getting injured and Rooney dropping back into midfield for old problems to re-emerge. After 3 defeats on the bounce, that period of 4 games when everything clicked during March and April now resembles more of a blip than a season-defining eureka moment.

Although Van Gaal has delivered a return to the Champions League, everything points towards another summer of extravagant spending and further squad upheaval. Back in August, Falcao and Di Maria were the 2 genuine big dawgs brought in yet both have proven spectacular flops. Young and Fellaini meanwhile, despite appearing to have no future here, each end the season as deserved first choice starters. Whether that’ll still be the case at the start of next term remains to be seen, but their upturn in fortunes highlights the futility of making predictions and the absolute minefield that is squad preparation and planning.

As well as the gruesome twosome of Radamel and Angel, the other major disappointment has been Luke Shaw – the £30M wunderkind who is currently looking about £25M overpriced. If you’re being kind, you can focus on the mitigating factors of his age, his inexperience and the constant injuries he’s suffered all season. Worryingly though, on the rare occasions he has featured, I’m hard pressed to recall very much that marks him out as anything special. At all. When I look at Shaw, he makes me think ‘John Curtis’. Playing for United just smacks of too much, too young for him at present – he’d be better off being taken out of the spotlight and trying to get his mojo back out on loan somewhere.

Another one who’s had a tough time of late is Adnan Januzaj, the fleet-footed, ferret-faced great white hope of the Moyes era who looked a genuine contender for about 15 minutes last season. This year, Adnan has been relegated to the dubious role of ‘comes on with 20 minutes left and gives the ball away repeatedly’ – it’s got to the stage where he knows it and everybody watching knows it too. Like Shaw, he looks like he’d benefit from a year away learning his trade elsewhere. He’s clearly not good enough to be starting games, and he’s not making any kind of impression during these brief cameo appearances. Whatever we’re doing with him currently doesn’t appear to be working, which suggests a re-think might be required before his career at OT stalls completely.

Still, as the arrival of Memphis Depay demonstrates, at least we’re doing our ‘business early’. You can’t pick up a paper or watch 5 minutes of SSN without being reminded how important it is to ‘get your business done early’… as if signing players in July or August is a completely catastrophic idea, tantamount to enlisting Harry Redknapp to oversee business on transfer deadline day. I have no idea about Depay. He’s got loads of tattoos, which means he looks like a footballer and he’s apparently got a bit of an attitude problem, which means he also acts like a footballer. Add in a 10 minute highlights reel on YouTube showing him tormenting the likes of NAC Breda and Go Ahead Eagles, and you’ve got all the evidence needed to suggest we’re onto a surefire winner with the lad.

An immeasurably pleasing sub-plot of the Depay capture is the news he was Liverpool’s chief object of desire this summer. Apparently they’ve been courting him for the last 18 months(!) and on one occasion, the player was even blessed with a papal visit from the great man himself, Brendan Rodgers. One can only imagine the cringeworthy introductory spiel he was subjected to, “I see you as a precious orchid, Memphis… I want to nurture you and nourish you.” Little wonder he opted for Old Trafford the moment big Louis strode in and slapped his balls on the table. Naturally, Rodgers was quick to refute any interest on LFC’s part, flatly denying reports to the contrary. This despite PSV recently going on record stating that Liverpool were in regular contact and talks had taken place between club and player. Oh dear.

What then, do we make of Van Gaal’s first year in charge? All season I’ve tried to remain positive, convincing myself we’ve been making progress in the face of setbacks that were to be expected. But truthfully, the last couple of weeks have been as grim as anything witnessed under Moyes. LVG himself hasn’t shown himself up as the barking, strutting mentalist some anticipated. He’s proven himself to be more of a chilled-out entertainer during his TV spots and press conferences – tersely avuncular as opposed to passionately unhinged.

There have been numerous occasions this season where we’ve looked in dire need of some sort of direction from the sidelines, particularly as we’ve struggled with the ability to change tempo and chase late goals. Once upon a time that would have been Fergie’s cue to start prowling the touchline, seeking out an instant response… which he found, more often than not. Van Gaal, almost disappointingly, appears to have taken a vow of stasis in such circumstances. Ryan Giggs easing himself off the bench with his hands in his pockets then waving his arms about a bit just doesn’t seem to have the desired effect.

If we’re assuming another half-dozen new faces arrive and a handful exit the club, that leaves United pretty much where we were at the start of this season. Another £150M down, players attempting to settle into English football and a manager still experimenting with his best formation and starting XL. At the moment, it’s acceptable because 4th represents steady progress after finishing 7th last year. Any failure to challenge for the title next term though, and LVG might be struggling to call on the goodwill he’s being afforded at present. Put another way, it’s doubtful whether many will tolerate a 3rd consecutive season of transition.

Anyway, that’s me done. See you back in August for more idle speculation, poorly judged opinion and juvenile bitching. Hugs.

Copyright Red News – May 2015

www.rednews.co.uk

The End

Brendan Rodgers

This season. This fucking season. As we reach the final couple of weeks it’s now become clear that Moyesageddon was only a precursor to the main kick in the bollocks: Liverpool are going to win the league. Shanks looking down, Stevie G, Suarez’s rebirth, Brendan Rodgers, class and dignity, justice at last, back on their perch… just switch off now and avoid contact with everyone and everything until August.

I’m not sure how this has happened. They finished 7th last season and Rodgers was something of a laughing stock to everyone outside of the red half of Merseyside. I predicted he’d get another year before being found out and hounded out of the place, Hodgson-style. Suarez was desperate to leave, Gerrard was creaking, Carragher had retired… they were just a mix of flop signings, average journeymen, a couple of promising kids and Suarez. A Champions League spot looked beyond them, never mind actually winning it.

Yet here we are. Rodgers has left his fat wife and had his teeth done, they’ve scored 96 goals (one for each angel) at the time of writing and won 11 league games on the bounce. Since the realisation dawned it was a possibility, I’ve been clinging to the hope that once the pressure of being in sight took hold, they might crack. Instead, Chelsea and City have been so generous in chucking points away that it looks like Liverpool are going to win it with games to spare. No nerves, no gut-wrenching fear, no fixture congestion – just a steady procession to the title.

Rather than endure any 1992-style heartbreak, it appears they’ve wisely fast forwarded to 1993. They’ve got that momentum United had back then, where everything has aligned and neatly fallen into place. Gerrard, whether you can stomach the comparison or not, is their Bryan Robson. Suarez, despite being a hateful shit, possesses the same potent mix of genius and lunacy as Eric Cantona. Obviously I can’t stand him, but he’s an absolutely brilliant footballer – the standout player in the league this year by a mile. I don’t rate Liverpool as a great side, but why should that bother them? United won it last season and we weren’t a great side either.

If Liverpool do win it, it’ll be richly deserved. Yes, Rodgers is a Brent-esque buffoon, but he’s absolutely perfect for them and knows exactly what buttons to press. He’s all sentimentality and syrupy rhetoric, referencing their past at every opportunity whilst bigging-up the fans and their knowledge and their sportsmanship and their influence and their humble nature etc etc. He’s clearly a skilled coach who knows his way round a training pitch, but he’s proving himself a skilled manager too. Rodgers understands the scousers’ love of self-aggrandising bullshit and their inherent sense of moral superiority – and he’s got the whole place in awe of him at present. It doesn’t really matter that he’s talking bollocks as long as everyone is listening and believing in him.

Moyes

Which brings us to David Moyes… to whom people are still listening, although believers are becoming scarcer by the day. Indeed, as I’m writing this, news is breaking that his departure will likely be announced within hours. It comes as no great surprise. The last few weeks have just been a continuation of what we’ve witnessed all season – mostly miserable, punctuated with the odd decent performance when the opposition isn’t up to much. The Bayern tie ended up exactly as anticipated (soundly beaten) and his much heralded return to Goodison resulted in another predictably meek showing. We really can’t go on like this.

I’m not sure why the feeling in pubs or internet message boards or day-to-day conversations hasn’t led to vocal dissent at the match. Is it just pigheadedness or drunkeness or are people genuinely expecting things to improve over the next few months? The team don’t look like they’re improving, they look like they’re going backwards. Players don’t look like they are playing for the manager, they look like they are playing in spite of the manager. There’s no confidence and no belief. All this ’20 times, 20 times’ nonsense is really starting to grate too; we took the piss out of the scousers for years for their ‘we won it 5 times’ comfort blanket bleating – is that what we’ve been reduced to? ’20 times’ has become the soundtrack to our downfall. ‘Playing football the Matt Busby way’? Yeah right, if only.

I was never comfortable with the Moyes appointment and said as much in this column before he was handed the job. There were better options available and I didn’t agree with the reasons given against other key candidates – all proven winners who happened not to be Scottish. Looking back, it’s quite insane how (if we are to believe the account in his book) Ferguson was virtually given carte blanche in appointing his own successor. It’s absolutely crackers. Was anyone else even short listed? Why was no one else interviewed?

That said, I was quite prepared to give Moyes time. He said straight away that changes needed to be made, which at the time was really encouraging given that Fergie trotted out the “very happy with the squad” line every time the ongoing lack of investment was questioned. He was serious, grounded and clearly not versed in making extravagant claims or outlandish gestures. Okay, there was very little stardust there, or irreverence or mischief – qualities that Ferguson relied upon time and time again. Life under Moyes was always going to be a little more dour and methodical, that’s just his nature.

The hope was that in time, he would grow into the job and start to look and sound more like a Manchester United manager. The reality, however, is that the exact opposite has occurred. As I’ve said before, it’s not the results that have hurt so much this season, it’s the manager’s doleful reaction to them. As time has gone on, Moyes has appeared more and more defeatist in his media briefings – everything appears to be about lowering, as opposed to increasing expectations.

As supporters, we don’t need to be reminded that we’ve ‘enjoyed the Champions league experience’. Champions League football has been a minimum expectation here for the last 20 years. A successful campaign is not qualifying for the Champions League, it’s WINNING the Champions League… and the Premier League. That is the benchmark and what we should be looking towards doing every single season. We are not Newcastle, or Aston Villa or Everton. Failing to qualify this year shouldn’t be seen as a disappointment, it should be seen as a complete fucking catastrophe.

Nobody is demanding that we win every single game or win titles every year – we’re not stupid and we know football doesn’t work like that. What we should demand is a manager who has the ability to confound, inspire and bring people together – and we’ve not seen anything like that from Moyes over the last 9 months. Something needs to change. By the time you read this, it probably already has.

Enjoy the hibernation period, it’s going to be a long summer…

Copyright Red News – April 2014

www.rednews.co.uk

Serenity Now

IMG_2233

Champions again. 11 months later than hoped for, title No. 20 is in the bag and we can finally look forward to a little respite on the “Aguerooooooooo….” front. I’m reasonably confident MOTD will remove the clip from their opening titles next season and one assumes that Sky might cease playing it every 15 minutes. Persuading every single City fan I know to change their ringtone might prove a tad ambitious, however.

Despite talk of trebles and doubles ultimately proving just that, we’re left with a more than satisfactory single to savour – one that all of us would have settled for before a ball was kicked. Of course winning the league is always something to cherish, but winning it back from ‘them’ after ‘that’? This title feels more cathartic than celebratory.

After the final day drama last season, history will no doubt show this years title was won at a canter – but I remained somewhat twitchy up to the point we went 3-0 up v’s Villa. The bookies paying out early happens every year now, but the fact pretty much the whole of the football world (with the exception of Brian Kidd) declared the title race over and done with weeks ago only increased my sense of agitation. Talksport were dismissively telling listeners, “United have nothing to play for” prior to the West Ham game – pretty much the same line they were trotting out on the night we lost at Wigan 12 months previously. “Nothing to play for”? – we still needed another 7 points for fuck’s sake.

So despite being ‘inevitable’ and a ‘procession’ it never felt entirely comfortable. The thrills and spills of the opening half of the season were replaced by a return of the defensively solid, wildly unspectacular football that’s become our trademark over the last 3-4 years. Whilst there were some fantastic moments with late winners and goonage aplenty, it’s difficult to recall many games where the team performed for 90 minutes – the manner of the crucial 3 away victories at Liverpool, Chelsea and City being especially indicative.

Liverpool dominated us for the best part of the game and we only began to get a foot in the game once they’d had a man sent off; the trip to Stamford Bridge saw us storm into the lead then go to pieces before Clattenburg intervened and handed us back the initiative; RVP’s free kick at City, surely THE moment of the season – came off the back of a 20 minute spell where we’d barely had a kick and were hanging on desperately for a point. 3 pivotal games, 3 slightly fortuitous yet insanely satisfying wins. Our luck couldn’t last.

If those 3 fixtures were representative of United pre-Christmas, the 3 games biggest games during the 2nd half of the season resulted in 3 disappointing defeats. Madrid sent us out of Europe by winning at OT, a fairly abject performance saw us lose to Chelsea in the cup replay and City were well worth their victory in the recent derby. Our form aside from these games was solid enough but it’s fair to say, very rarely set the pulse racing. Winning is great of course and makes even the most uninspiring football palatable, but Manchester United should be about more than just winning.

Nevertheless, perhaps it’s slightly churlish to be airing these gripes now and instead we should instead focus on some good, old fashioned ballooning in light of what the management and squad have achieved – and it is a huge achievement. It won’t be celebrated with quite the same gusto that we’ve greeted previous trophies with, but that’s just an unfortunate consequence of us having gorged on success over the last 20 years.

My 40th is fast approaching and it occurred to me the other day that most of my first 2 decades were spent longing to see United win the league. That finally happened just prior to my 20th, so since then I’ve seen it happen another 12 times. 12 titles in 20 years – after it had taken us over 100 seasons of playing league football to amass the previous 8. If you’d informed me in the summer of 1992 that was going to occur, I’d have most likely called you a lying bastard before politely enquiring where you’d got your drugs from.

Whilst we can look forward to a relaxing few weeks receiving begrudging guards of honour and watching the tombola XL, the Berts are quietly licking their wounds and steadfastly maintaining an FA Cup will represent progress. After the awful noise which followed their title win last May, they’re pleasingly silent at present – no doubt gathering their breath for another sustained period of self-aggrandising bullshit should they overcome Wigan at Wembley. I received a solitary text from an alright one after the Villa game offering congratulations, this having been inundated with gloating messages at the close of last season. I didn’t bother sending any nonsense out myself, just having the knowledge that they’re hurting is enough.

Talking of pain, the serene ending to the season at OT is in marked contrast to the misery currently being experienced by supporters of Liverpool FC. If the manner of our title win feels ever so slightly anticlimactic, then do console yourself with the fact it’s gone down like a cup of cold sick on Merseyside. I’ve managed to go the whole season without mentioning Brendan Rodgers, mainly due to the fact I’m not sure where to begin – the man is truly a gift that keeps on giving. One expects he’ll be given another season before the scousers tire of his bluster, which is a relief because in the meantime he’s doing a fantastic job of promising an awful lot whilst in reality, delivering very little.

Rodgers, let’s not forget, wasn’t even first choice when he came in last summer. Roberto Martinez sussed the job was going to be a nightmare given the financial constraints in place following Dalglish’s extended shopping spree so sensibly gave them the swerve. It was clear FSG needed a good communicator after the PR disaster overseen by ‘Kenny’ and they got one. A master exponent of kind of flattering, syrupy rhetoric the scousers lap up, Rodgers is very good at talking so they took to him immediately. They called him ‘Brendan’ whereas everyone else pissed themselves laughing and called him ‘a dickhead’.

In fairness to Rodgers, he’s on a hiding to nothing ultimately – despite his brief surely not extending much beyond ‘manage expectations’. Although welcomed as ‘one of us’ after speaking in hushed tones about ‘class’, ‘dignity’ and ‘the Liverpool way’, it’ll be a surprise if he’s still there at the end of next season. It must be soul destroying for them at present: United champions, yet another slow realisation their owners aren’t going to pour millions in, manager a national laughing stock and their best player finally proving beyond all reasonable doubt he’s the biggest cunt in football. 23 years since they won the league now, roll on 2016…

Before I sign off, one last thing that’s been bugging me. Not content with insisting everyone should stand up for the Busby Babes every 10 minutes, I hear certain denizens of Stretford End Tier 2 spent part of the recent derby waving their JD Sports Adidas above their heads whilst bellowing ‘shoes off for the Busby Babes’. Here’s an idea for anyone involved – why not take it a step further and do something truly original? How about removing your shoes and beating yourselves unconscious with them instead?

Enjoy the summer and see you next season.

Copyright Red News – May 2013

www.rednews.co.uk