Tag Archives: david de gea

Gods and Monsters

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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. 

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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. 

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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

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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

Up The Hill and Down The Slope

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So as we enter the merry month of May, there’s still no word on whether or not Spanish Dave will still be here next season. It’s not looking too hopeful, given that his girlfriend (a 2015 Spanish version of Whigfield from what I can gather) thinks Manchester is “uglier than the back of a fridge” and Jorge Mendes keeps crossing out Dave’s name on United’s contract offer and scrawling ‘Radamel Falcao LOL’ in red crayon.

Like everyone else, I like De Gea and I hope he stays for a long time. He’s been a great signing who’s developed superbly after being singled out and targeted as something of a soft touch during his first season. His supposed ‘catalogue of errors’ was something that was hugely over-exaggerated and I was always confident that given time and a little nurturing, he’d be sound. If he does go, however, then so what? With the greatest respect to the lad, he’s only a goalie. If he wants to go to Real Madrid and suffer the fate of not being Casillas then let him… it’s really no biggie in the grand scheme of things. We’ll soon find another one.

The derby turned out nice again, didn’t it? The build-up was horrendous given that the City fans I know (firmly back in plucky underdog/damage limitation mode) all solemnly predicted a United win. The thought of losing 5 in a row to them didn’t bear thinking about and thankfully, wasn’t something we were forced to suffer. You know you’ve been in a top goon when seats are getting obliterated in celebration, you’re being gripped by people who sit 3 rows behind and you’ve still got purple/yellow bruises on your calves 2 weeks after the game.

It’s always good value getting into work early on the morning after a derby win. The tension is palpable. Confused expressions of blues expecting full-on soccerbantz, countered with the feigned indifference of reds content to let them stew in their own disappointment. One always cracks after a couple of hours of non-football chat, resulting in a tentative “so, I suppose you had a good day, yesterday?” At which point, resisting the temptation to sprint the length of the office and do a knee-slide whilst triumphantly flicking the V’s with both hands raised, I find it’s more dignified just to smile, give an affirmative nod and maintain the silence.

After the giddiness of beating Liverpool and City in recent weeks, we were probably due a reality check – so the defeats at Chelsea and Everton came along as no great shock. United were well worth a point at Stamford Bridge and came very close to achieving that when Falcao hit the post. Possession stats, however, are meaningless in high-stakes games where one manager has basically instructed his team to sit back and let the opposition have the ball. Mourinho remains a master pragmatist, which is probably one of the main reasons why he’ll never manage United. He genuinely couldn’t care less whether it’s entertaining or not, he’s only interested in getting the 3 points.

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The Everton game, on the other hand, was a genuine reminder of the shortcomings we’ve demonstrated this season. United simply didn’t turn up. It was Leicester away revisited as we were exposed due to a high defensive line, with several players looking bang average again after playing out of their skins for the last couple of months. Visits to Goodison Park always play out exactly the same way – Everton (both team and crowd) are a highly excitable bunch so you just need to let them tire themselves out a bit and wait for them to lose belief. What you don’t want to do, quite clearly, is to give the ball away straight from a corner and concede a goal after 5 minutes.

Despite this sudden downturn in form kiboshing the happy happy, joy joy vibes of late, the season is trundling to a reasonably satisfactory conclusion that should see us secure a Champions League place. And let’s not forgot, back in January as we blundered round the pitch at Deepdale being outpassed and outfought by Preston, you would probably have laughed in my face if I’d suggested that was still looking likely. Anyway, (almost) mission accomplished. Now whereas Moyes might have ordered an open-top bus for such an outcome, it’s good to note that Van Gaal is making all the right noises about his plans for next season. “I’m ­always at a club to win championships – not to finish third or fourth.”

This month marks the 10 year anniversary of the Glazer takeover, the event which led to the club being burdened with a £660M debt and also within weeks, became the catalyst for a couple of thousand reds to stop attending Old Trafford and instead form their own club, FC United of Manchester.

The existence of FC United, despite them going about their business in an environment (figuratively, if not geographically) a million miles from OT, remains an emotive subject that will continue to divide opinions decades from now. There might not be the levels of vitriol flying about that there were during their first couple of seasons, but there remains an ever-present undercurrent of tension. On the hand, there are those that’ll insist on brandishing the ‘Judas’ card at the merest mention of their name, whilst on the other, (choosing my words carefully here) there’s a condescending, holier-than-thou element within their support who’ll look somewhat aghast whenever you ‘fess up to still attending MUFC games. Admittedly, I’ve met far more of the former than the latter.

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For the most part though, you’ve got a few thousand people in the middle. Most FC fans of my acquaintance aren’t the militant lefties or tree-hugging idealists they’re ridiculed as, they are just normal reds. Reds who said “not one penny” and actually meant it; beer monster reds who watched United for years yet slowly drifted away; reds who stopped going well before Glazer, enticed back by an affordable alternative; swing both ways reds who will contentedly watch FCUM one week and MUFC the next. I’ve never met a single one though, who professes to no longer care about Manchester United. They might no longer attend games but the bond will always be there – it couldn’t not be given how FC came to exist.

Anyway, this is all just a roundabout way of tipping my hat to everyone connected with the club following their promotion up to the Conference North and the imminent opening of their new home at Broadhurst Park. 4 promotions and building a ground from scratch within 10 years is an amazing achievement, especially considering they started out at the very bottom of the pile with absolutely nothing. So many congratulations and the best of luck to all concerned… the story will make a great film one day (or more likely a terrible one, if Hollywood ever gets involved).

Copyright Red News – May 2015

www.rednews.co.uk