Tag Archives: champions league

Gods and Monsters

0F879FB5-48C5-4F4F-925C-7A6B4B5491A6

Season’s greetings, readers. The good news is that Christmas is fast approaching, whilst the bad news is United are in action more frequently over the next month or so. At least a few days off work means the opportunity exists to try and blot this out via excessive drinking and/or drug use. It’s the only sensible option now, surely? You’ve got to be some kind of masochist to be deriving any enjoyment from our football whilst sober. It’s got that bad I’ve marked next year’s international breaks on the calendar. Although once upon a time regarded as a nuisance, they now provide a welcome respite from the drudgery of watching United every week.  

The Palace and Young Boys games last month saw us reach that rarefied level of mediocrity not witnessed since the winter of discontent during Van Gaal’s final season. Some older heads compared the general mood to May 1989 when barely 20,000 turned up at OT to watch dead rubber, end-of-season snoozathons versus Wimbledon and Everton. We’ll get better in time, there’s no doubt about that. But these are dog days, my friends. The general malaise on the pitch is spreading to the stands and Old Trafford is getting emptier by the week. We’re bad at the moment, really bad. 

You know exactly how grim things are when you’re receiving texts off mates informing you that they’ve stuck a tenner on 0-0 at 18/1 and your reaction is “good value”. And that’s against Young Boys, remember… comfortably one of the worst teams we’ve faced in Europe over the last 20 years. That’s the extent to which the level of expectation has now sunk; people are turning up/tuning in and fully expecting not to be entertained. You know things aren’t going well when the manager is celebrating goals by smashing up water bottles at the side of the pitch. And the bet? He cashed out with 10 minutes to go for an easy £100. 

E71D0907-958D-4237-BFAD-84DBBA4B57AA

The usual ‘hooray for everything’ twitter lunatics were ecstatic of course. Yes, qualification for the knockout stages was achieved, but an injury time Fellaini winner shouldn’t shift attention away from the dismal 90 minutes that preceded it. This wasn’t the team misfiring or having an off-night, it was a textbook example of our current performance level. We’ve been absolutely appalling all season. 7th position in the league and 16 points behind the leaders flatters us quite frankly. The fact we’ve qualified from the CL group stages with a game to spare is a minor miracle. 

Looking at the team, it’s hard to see any positive signs that improvement is likely over the next few months. Believe me, I’m not wallowing here… this is just an honest appraisal of where we’re at. I’m sure Lukaku will start scoring goals again at some point, but he’s not suddenly going to develop into a capable footballer. Our midfield continues to underperform. Physically imposing, yes… but we’re so static and lacking any kind of creativity. Pogba is a talent, but he doesn’t have the desire or motivation to lead us up a mountain from where we’re currently stuck. We might as well cash-in as soon as anyone offers big money because his heart simply isn’t in it. 

Matic is 30 but plays like he’s 40 and Fellaini is routinely awful despite offering a late goal every 6 months. Elsewhere, non-entities like Lingard and Herrera have somehow played themselves into peoples’ affections over the last couple of years. I can see why, because they do at least seem to care, but it doesn’t change the fact that both are incredibly limited and offer no level of consistency whatsoever. I’m not having a pop at these lads personally here, but we’re destined to struggle for a long time to come if average players are going to be rewarded with 5 year contracts just because their attitude doesn’t stink. 

D14A6EF0-5FE0-425C-8141-9CC92B478A57.jpeg

As ever, our defence is an accident waiting to happen. Current (no sniggering) ‘player of the month’ is Victor Lindelof, presumably because he managed to stay fit for a handful of games (before getting injured again) and every other player in the squad performed significantly worse. After the recent bombshell news that Young and Valencia are being offered renewed terms, it seems that Chris Smalling is also in talks over a new deal. Once again, I have absolutely no idea how or why. 

Do we offer these contracts and trigger extensions under the illusion that it might pique the interest of other clubs so they’ll inexplicably rush in waving a huge cheque? I don’t understand United’s thinking here at all. If you’ve got a player who’s underperformed throughout the entirety of his previous deal, why are we insistent on tying them down to a new one? Presumably Matteo Darmian will be the next recipient; sign him up for 5 years on £100,000 a week and then watch Milan steam in with that £60M offer. 

To my mind, given his obvious limitations, United should be nudging Smalling towards the exit door rather than attempting to secure his services for another 5 seasons. We did exactly the same with Luke Shaw, who still looks nothing like the finished article despite many people having convinced themselves otherwise. To prove yourself at United these days, it appears all you need to do is turn up for training every day and fulfil any commercial obligations the club put in front of you. Luke Shaw has been here 4 and a half years now yet I can’t recall 4 and a half standout performances from him in that time. Not to worry, there’s your new contract. 

The only current player deserving any kind of increased remuneration is the goalkeeper, who despite not enjoying his greatest run of form in recent months, continues to perform at a level that puts the rest of his teammates to shame. Keeping De Gea beyond this utter shitshow of a season would be tantamount to cruelty at this point. How demoralising must it be having an ever-evolving cast of clowns playing in front of you as opposed to the solid defensive unit most top sides tend to favour? Yet here we are, dishing out new deals like confetti and rewarding year upon year of injury-prone ineptitude. Mourinho was brought in to sort out this mess but it’s honestly getting worse. 

Copyright Red News – December 2018

www.rednews.co.uk

Advertisements

A Minor Turn

E9FBD948-AE57-43C7-8E95-C630FDBA4AC5.png

To say the 3-2 turnaround against Newcastle came as something of a relief is quite an understatement. 8 weeks since the last win at OT, utterly devoid of ideas and confidence, 0-2 down and going absolutely nowhere… yet finally something clicked and we were treated to a glimpse, the merest flicker of professional pride in evidence. Finally our beleaguered team showed they do still possess some cojones. 

Yes, it was only Newcastle. But that isn’t the point, is it? If you can’t enjoy a comeback like that, whatever the circumstances, then you may as well give it all up. It may well turn out to just delay the inevitable but where United are currently, a win’s a win and we’ll take it. I’ve thought it for a while but home games have become even more of an ordeal of late. Against a United team with little attacking potency and defensive fragility, every opposition team turns up sensing blood. The huge crowd and the overriding sense of frustration about the place just feeds their confidence; whereas in years past they knew they were facing defeat before they’d even got off the bus.  

So does this result change anything? Will it be a turning point from which everyone chills out a bit and starts to enjoy themselves? I doubt that very much. I strongly suspect that relations between management and certain dressing room ‘personalities’ are now irreparable. There’s too much been said already and the individuals concerned are either too stubborn or too stupid to even consider embarking on a conciliatory path. No, I just can’t see it. That ship has already sailed so we’re heading towards what’ll be full on Armageddon in the not too distant future. 

This season we’ve struggled to display any cohesion whatsoever despite the fixture list throwing out a straightforward run of games throughout August and September. Now faced with Chelsea away, a Juventus double header and City away in the next few weeks, the potential for complete meltdown is staring us in the face. I don’t think I’m being overly dramatic by stating if we lose 3 of them, expect Mourinho to be gone by Christmas. 

I hope I’m wrong. Personally speaking, I’m still (just about) a believer and I want the board keep their nerve and give him more time. But looking at everything that’s happened since the end of last season, I can only see the current uneasy impasse ending sooner rather than later. Mourinho was mortally offended by the club’s failure to sanction his signings in the summer and the breakdown in his relationship with Pogba, the club’s most marketable asset, only makes his position more vulnerable still. 

View this post on Instagram

Pogflash ⚡️⚡️

A post shared by Paul Labile Pogba (@paulpogba) on

As for Pogba, I don’t know any United fan above the age of 12 who still has any time for the guy. I don’t believe he ever wanted to come back here and he’s basically spent the last 3 years phoning in performances each week, biding his time waiting for the call from Spain. When he inevitably departs next summer, what will he be remembered for? He scored the opening goal in Stockholm and starred in the comeback against City last year. And ummm… that’s about it, isn’t it? I don’t think I’ve missed anything. 

Other than that, he dyes his hair often, he dances round the dressing room wearing oversized headphones and he posts regular selfies on social media. He certainly generates plenty of clicks, I’ll give him that. As a footballer though, I’m sorry, the lad is just an expensive liability rather than club captain material. I can’t be doing with him anymore. If stating that makes me an embittered, out of touch gammon then fair enough. I’ll take that with chips, peas and a fried egg on top. Cheers. 

Admittedly, part of my reasoning for still clinging to the notion that Mourinho is the right man is that I have no idea who we could realistically turn to next. There’s no way Juventus would release Allegri mid-season or that Levy would allow Pochettino to leave Spurs… not that I’m convinced by either. United will always be United and hold huge appeal but as far as any outsider is concerned, we’re in the middle of a full scale civil war and there are unanswered questions about who exactly is in charge. If Mourinho goes we’ll have become one of those other clubs who changes their manager every 2 years… though we’re probably already in that bracket given what’s occurred since 2013. 

I’ll also admit that José hasn’t helped himself. The fact he’s not bought a house up here is an absolute joke and demonstrates how he’s never considered this a long term appointment. In my head, this is where I saw him settling after 10 years of flitting round Europe, a career defining appointment where he could put down some roots and build himself a legacy. The fact he’s content to live in a hotel speaks volumes and shows that he’s never fully bought into the idea of being manager of Manchester United. Fair enough if his family is settled in London, but you’d at least find yourself an apartment, surely? To me it’s all just a bit weird that he chose not to. Is 24 hour room service really that appealing? I think it would do my head in after a couple of weeks. 

40074935-57E4-4344-9C3A-E1C6ED5EBF03

As I touched on a couple of months ago, his other fatal flaw has been his unfathomable loyalty to the not quite good enoughs who should by rights have been moved on years ago. Valencia, 10th season. Smalling, 9th season. Young, Jones… 8 seasons. Fellaini, 6 seasons. This is why we’ll continue to struggle for the foreseeable. These players are loyal foot soldiers, yes. No doubt they listen to instructions and don’t cause any him any headaches in the way that Martial and Pogba might. But let’s be honest here, this bunch score 7/10 on a good day and you don’t win major titles when the nucleus of your team are merely half-decent. I wish he’d have been far more ruthless and binned the lot within days of arriving here. 

These gripes aren’t really important in the grand scheme of things, however. The root of our problems, as we should all be aware by now, is a little further up the food chain. By staying put when the takeover took place, perhaps we’re all complicit in this shitshow and what we’re witnessing now is just the natural conclusion of the club being sold to Florida-based carpetbaggers 13 years ago. There’s no end in sight to this mess whilst investment bankers are making footballing decisions and overruling the man tasked with building a winning team. That’s the reality of what we’re faced with regardless of whether Mourinho survives beyond the next few weeks. 

Copyright Red News – October 2018

www.rednews.co.uk

 

Que Sera, Sera

image

The recent Champions League QF between Liverpool and City proved to be a bit of a conundrum, didn’t it? Whilst the eventual result spared us the possibility of the idiot neighbours being crowned Europe’s finest for at least another year, it’s left us with the utterly nauseating prospect of the scousers winning it. What a charmed life they lead in that competition. It doesn’t matter that they remain a completely unremarkable side if you discount Salah’s heroics this season; somehow they’re in the semi-finals again drawn against sodding Roma.

I do have to give Liverpool fans some credit though as they routinely treat the Champions League with the reverence it deserves. Although the ‘famous European nights at Anfield’ legend is teeth-grindingly irritating to all of us who’ve been force-fed this mantra over the years, they genuinely believe it to the extent it’s become a self-fulfilling prophecy. It’s been repeated so often that it’s now accepted as fact and actually bears fruit for them on a regular basis.

Despite being one of the cringiest things I’ve ever seen, you can’t deny that pre-organised ‘coach welcome’ thing they did against City worked an absolute treat. Flares going off, missiles thudding against coach windows, loads of singing… it was nothing like as sinister as was subsequently claimed but it was more than enough to put City off their stroke. Whilst my natural inclination would be to steer well clear of anything so staged and contrived, part of me at least respects the fact the scousers can still rouse themselves for such occasions.

Hypothetically speaking, say if United were ever inclined to put on a similar show, do you reckon we could still manage it? I have my doubts. The days of Roma and Leeds getting legged all over the forecourt seem a world away now. If the Liverpool team coach turned up for a Champions League tie at OT there’d be more chance of them getting ambushed by selfie sticks and autograph hunters than a hail of bottles and cans.

If you think I’m exaggerating here then just cast your mind back to the recent Seville home game and ask yourself, ‘would Anfield have been so deathly quiet?’ Would it bollocks. The uncomfortable truth is they can still do it when required whereas we’re reliant on a couple of hundred J stand barmies clad in garish bobble hats and Adidas Originals to generate any kind of atmosphere.

Due to deadlines and time constraints, I’m writing this pre-match so I’ve got no idea what happened at Wembley against Spurs last weekend. Given you’re reading this a week later, the players have either been revelling in self-congratulatory bullshit on Instagram all week or they’ve been keeping a very low profile having neglected to turn up once again. Quite honestly, I’m struggling to care either way about the bunch of frauds at present. Whatever will be, will be…

image

This team do my head in. Just as you manage to convince yourself that they are making some progress and have moved beyond that 4 years and counting spell of looking like a disinterested rabble, they go and turn in that West Brom performance. All the good vibes and positivity generated by that Lazarus-like comeback in the derby obliterated in the space of 90 stupefyingly predictable minutes. It’s just so completely typical of them, the utter bastards.

I dunno. I suppose I’m as guilty as anyone of trying to accentuate the positives under Mourinho but you can’t continue to excuse afternoons like that. It was flashback to what was witnessed week in, week out during Van Gaal’s 2nd season. Quite simply, we should have moved beyond those kind of results by now. It’s all well and good producing a stirring comeback to beat City, but it means nothing if you hand them the title by failing to show against rock bottom relegation certs a week later. It’s just embarrassing.

My hope for the summer is that Mourinho just goes for it. No doubt we’ll spend big yet again but I’d be more encouraged if he concentrated solely on shipping out some of the deadwood. Fuck that, actually just bin ALL of the deadwood. Let’s face it, if we don’t challenge for the title next season (which we evidently won’t, because we’re still capable of losing at home to West fucking Brom) then Jose will end up falling out with absolutely everybody and getting sacked anyway. This is his last season coming up, so he may as well just go all out now rather than continuing with the never-ending re-building job he’s currently embroiled in.

If it were me, I’d start by asking the goalie if he wants to stay. If he doesn’t, then I’d shake his hand, wish him all the best for the future and drive him to the airport. He’s been an absolute star and has already suffered enough. I’d then bin every fullback at the club – the dreamy Dutch one, the rubbish Italian one and both of the failed winger ones. Smalling and Jones will be placed on the transfer list with immediate effect; Eric Bailly gets to stay with the proviso he stops being injured.

Fellaini should get the remaining few weeks of his contract cancelled for having the cheek to turn down a completely unmerited new deal. Seriously, who the fuck does he think he is? Pogba gets to stay on the condition he parts company with his agent and endeavours to become the player we all know he could be. Mata, Herrera and Matic are permitted to remain at the club, mainly due to the fact it would be foolish to get rid of the entire playing staff in the space of a single transfer window.

Jesse Lingard should be congratulated for his remarkable upturn in form but warned about his conduct off the field and tested for undiagnosed ADHD. Lukaku gets to stay on condition he practises basic passing and trapping a ball over the summer. Martial should be binned for looking permanently miserable and having a very irritating fan club on social media. Marcus Rashford to be offered a new deal on the condition he gets himself a girlfriend who’ll make him realise spending 18 hours a day in Lingard’s company is not only mentally exhausting, it’s also affecting his development as a functioning adult.

I’m done with them for now. See you in August.

Copyright Red News – April 2018

www.rednews.co.uk