Tag Archives: doom

Gimme Some Truth

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Typical. Having ended the last column with the doom-laden prediction that Ole might not see out the month of November, right on cue the team lurched out of its 6 month stupor and managed to string together a few wins. Despite decades of practice, I remain an utterly crap football pundit. Thankfully I do recognise this shortcoming in myself so had the good sense to stop gambling on the sport years ago.

Does this sudden improvement change much? Not in the grand scheme of things. 7th in the table is better than 13th and clearly making chances and scoring a few goals is a step in the right direction. Personally speaking, it’s going to take a lot more before I acknowledge this recent run as anything other other than a temporary blip. Since we’re currently stuck with this uneven mix of youngsters, deadwood and permanent crocks… the team could yet finish 5th or 15th this season.

I know I sound like a miserable bleeder but surely it’s better to be realistic in this situation? For all the saturated coverage football enjoys with round-the-clock SSN and the execrable MEN daily blog, perspective has dipped to an all-time low. Rashford smashes in a free kick against Chelsea and 18 months of drilling every effort into Row Z is forgotten in an instant – suddenly he’s on a par with Ronaldo. Fred finally manages a complete handful of passes and he’s the new Makelele. The McSauce and Martial FC cults… I honestly had a better grasp of footballers and their respective talents as a 9 year old than these clowns spouting nonsense on twitter and YouTube fan channels.

You want some real perspective? Let’s try the fact that Spurs have just sacked Pochettino after a miserable run of 25 points from their last 24 league games. Relegation form, that – but it fairness it coincided with a period of upheaval during which they underwent a protracted move into a new stadium. Not to mention they also reached their 1st ever European Cup final in May which might have proven a tad distracting for a club starved of trophies in recent years. Throughout that same time United have collected a grand total of 24 points, also relegation form. So excuse me for not turning cartwheels because we managed to dominate Brighton at home and Rashford did a couple of stepovers whilst playing for England versus Kosovo.

It’s all well and good extolling the virtues of patience and how it served us well in previous generations, but I was around for the 4-5 years in which Fergie struggled to find the right mix and can’t recall anything like the level of mind-numbing tedium we’ve seen a continuation of over the last 12 months. I don’t have any faith in the board, the coaching staff or half of the players we’re invested in. Despite people claiming otherwise, we’re still crap to watch and evidence of genuine progress is hard to see. Just 6 wins from our last 20 league games is pathetic. Faith in youth and the ‘United way’ is great, but they’ve fast-become well-worn tropes that excuse the lack of investment and urgency in addressing continued failings.

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If you look back to where we were at the start of this decade, it’s incredible to consider just how far we’ve sunk. Back then, despite being recently schooled by Barcelona in Rome we were still in an enviable position domestically and in Europe. All it needed was to continue the blueprint Ferguson had created a few years previously. Add 1-2 players a season and accept the fact you need to pay above and beyond the going rate to attract the best available. Instead, we decided to cut corners. Playing Phil Neville, O’Shea and Jones in midfield; Tevez and Ronaldo never replaced; investment in level-par workhorses like Young and Valencia as opposed to seeking-out the best in class. The list of failings could go on – we brought this decline on ourselves from a position of almost total dominance.

It took us 30 years (with the various ups and downs along the way) to reach the summit of European football again. To throw that away in the manner United did, especially with the unfathomable sums of money pouring into the club, wasn’t just careless… it should be seen as criminal. The arrogance of Ferguson telling us how great the Glazers were whilst not signing a central midfielder for 5 years; the arrogance of those owners sucking millions out of the club and allowing the quality of squad to slowly regress and decay; the arrogance of supporters too, endlessly parroting the mind-numbing ‘20 times’ mantra and still banging on about the treble now. The club has sat on its hands whilst City and Liverpool glided past us, fully-focused on writing their next chapters rather than trading on trophies won last century and tolerating mediocrity.

Do you think this would have happened at any other European giant? Would Juventus or Real Madrid or Bayern be content to sit in mid-table experimenting with various permutations of inexperienced kids? Would they bollocks. We’re currently being sold a lie with all this ‘faith in youth’ nonsense that bears little relation to how youngsters have been integrated into the squad in previous generations.

The class of ‘92 are rightly cited as the textbook modern day example of successfully birthing a selection of youth team players as opposed to spending millions. Remember though, that group was married into an already title-winning side alongside the likes of Irwin, Pallister, Bruce, McClair, Keane, Giggs and Cantona… not to mention the signing of Cole who was the most prolific striker in the country at the time. Those players were the established framework which enabled those youngsters to come in and thrive – the foundation of experience and a proven level of consistency was already in place.

How would Beckham, Butt, Scholes and the Nevs have fared with our current group? Shaw, Young, Jones, Lindelof, Lingard, Pereira and Martial doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, does it? I’ll tell you now, Ferguson would never have attempted such a move because he’d have known full well we’d have been left woefully exposed and the latest group of kids would barely have stood a chance. Instead, he’d have been demanding the likes of Kane or Lewandowski be recruited as a matter of urgency. The idea that Williams, Garner, Gomes, Chong and Greenwood might collectively blossom in this current set-up isn’t just wildly optimistic, it’s verging on ridiculous.

Copyright Red News – December 2019

www.rednews.co.uk

Through The Wire

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It wasn’t too long ago that a bad result could send your weekend into a tailspin and cause genuine doom and gloom, but seasoned observers are well past that stage now. These days we simply turn up, expect the worse and everything tends to play out as expected. There’s no point denying it or trying to accentuate the positives. The problem we have is due to being Manchester United, each anticipated bump in the road prompts a tidal wave of wailing and self-pity from the excitable online elements of our fanbase.

Nobody wants to badmouth Ole because clearly, he’s doing his best to succeed in an incredibly pressured environment. Turning around the fortunes of this football club has beaten better managers than him before and it’ll beat better managers than him in future. There’s no shame in that. The titanic is half-sunk and he was given couple of buckets and a box of sticking plasters to try and fix it. Meanwhile his star player has forsaken the mundanities of life at Carrington to instead spend the international break enjoying a panoramic view of Dubai’s skyline. No rush Paul, in your own time.

When Solskjaer was given the job on a temporary basis, his brief was to bring a demoralised squad back together and inject some joy into proceedings. There’s no doubt he achieved this, but unsurprisingly his players soon slipped back into old habits once the initial buzz had dissolved. This time last year, talk was all of ‘parking the bus’ and ‘not playing the United way’ as Mourinho relinquished control and seemed hellbent on driving the club into the sea. In truth, very little has changed over the last 12 months besides Ole’s stoic determination to put a positive spin on successive poor performances.

Looking back a few months, in what other industry would a manager be given a 5 month trial period then dragged in mid-way through this and awarded the gig full-time? I know the feel-good factor was in full bloom at that point but it has proven to be another disastrous decision based on crowd-pleasing sentimentality and short-term results. Be honest now, if Woodward had delayed the appointment for a couple of months, would Solskjaer have been given the nod after 2 wins in final 12 games of last season? Would he bollocks.

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Even during the honeymoon period, the team’s performance level remained patchy despite the brief upturn in results. The crescendo of this time was that spirited 3-1 win in Paris but let’s be honest about that, we were well and truly humbled over the two legs and were incredibly fortunate to snatch victory via a ridiculous VAR decision. Our season effectively ended that night and there wasn’t a sniff of progress in evidence throughout the remainder of the campaign.

Our position now isn’t down to Solskjaer, regardless of his actual merits as a manager or coach. I don’t think anybody wants to see him sacked, but we’re getting to the stage where it’s becoming something of an inevitability. He’s not here on an ego trip and he genuinely cares about the club, as did Wilf McGuinness 50 years ago. 5 wins in 23 games speaks for itself though, sadly. He never really stood a chance with the group of players he inherited.

The jungle drums are already beating with United ‘sources’ (Hi Ed!) briefing the Beeb that “we just need to get to January.” Excuse my cynicism, but what good is that going to do? We endured a dismal run of form from March to the close of last season and what action did it prompt? Very little. We shipped 6 players out in the summer but only signed 2 defenders and a youth prospect to replace them. Our position now isn’t surprising in the slightest. It didn’t need Coleen Rooney-level powers of deduction to conclude things would quickly unravel.

The best we can expect in January is signing an over-the-hill stop gap like Mandzukic or overpaying for the likes of Dembele at Lyon. Neither are good enough but we‘ll probably do it anyway just because it’ll keep the engagement numbers high and buy the next manager some time before we nosedive into our next crisis. There is little evidence of a plan or strategy to get us out of this, only non-demonstrable claims of having ‘faith in the manager’ and ‘patience’. There was no patience with Moyes, Van Gaal or Mourinho during similarly testing periods so it would be naive to think the OT board are suddenly impervious to below-par results and stilted progress.

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All indications are that despite claims to the contrary, the club in still in the process of making decisions we will come to regret in future years. Victor Lindelof recently secured a new contract after his agent leaked mentions of Barcelona’s vague interest in the hope of forcing United’s hand. What exactly has Lindelof done to merit an improved, long-term deal after signing a 4 year contract (with the option of an extra year) as recently as 2017? Over the last 2 seasons he has (very) slowly come to terms with the physical demands of the Premier League without ever looking particularly comfortable. As far as I can see, he’s successfully adapted from rabbit in the headlights mode to just about competent.

It’s this blasé acceptance of average performers that kept the likes of Young, Smalling, Jones and Valencia at the club for nearly a decade apiece. Whatever happened to striving for best in class and seeking out excellence? McTominay is another one who’s been talked up way beyond his actual prowess on the pitch. Do the McSauce zealots actually bother watching matches before proclaiming their boy Pirlo incarnate? McTominay is a perfunctory workhorse in a midfield that habitually fails to dominate and impose itself. Lung-bursting effort alone shouldn’t mean he’s considered a long-term solution. He’s in the team due to a chronic lack of options in that area.

The fixture list doesn’t bring any respite over the coming weeks. There’s Liverpool today followed by 4 away games in the space of 10 days including trips to Stamford Bridge and Belgrade. Unless things improve dramatically Ole could well be gone before the end of the month. Matchgoers have shown incredible patience over the last few months, just how long will Woodward exercise similar restraint?

Copyright Red News – October 2019

www.rednews.co.uk

Round and Round

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Firstly, a public service announcement. Elsewhere in today’s mag some of my fellow contributors have been tasked with recalling the glorious culmination of the treble season; (clearly a ploy by the Editor to end the season on a positive note.) This column flatly refuses to join in as I maintain the utter shitshow witnessed over the last 9 months needs putting to bed. So if you’re here for nostalgia and a reminder of a time when players cared about performances and results, feel free to turn the page and move on. If mean-spirited invective and doom-laden pointlessness is your thing, then do continue reading. Thank you.

A few years ago when Liverpool were splashing around in the same puddle of mediocrity United find themselves now, it became a thing to laugh at their regular claims at having ‘turned a corner’. 3 games unbeaten: ‘turned a corner’; win at Old Trafford: ‘turned a corner’; sign Alberto Aquilani… ‘turned a corner’. That’s now United, except rather than turning corners, instead we’ve perfected the art of going round in circles. There’s no deviation from the set path we’re on, just an 18 month cycle of sacking managers and making the same clueless decisions over and over again.

This season ends much the same the last as the last one did. We have one of the most highly remunerated squads in world football but it’s riddled with players who routinely underperform. Mourinho dragged this sorry bunch to a 2nd place finish last year and called it one of his greatest ever achievements in management. People laughed. The club hierarchy decided not to back him in the transfer market so he lost the plot and did what Mourinho does when he doesn’t get his own way. He fell out with everybody and got himself sacked. Quite honestly, I don’t blame him one bit at this point.

2 years ago in the aftermath of the Europa League final, Mourinho gave an interview about his tactical preparations for the final and one comment was particularly telling. “I even joked with Smalling – ‘With your feet, we’re for sure not playing out from the back!” So here we had a manager fully aware of his players’ limitations, adapting accordingly and succeeding for the best part. That summer we bought Victor Lindelof, who despite showing some much-improved form in recent months struggled badly during his first season. Fair enough, that was to be expected.

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Clearly United needed further reinforcement in central defence, but it wasn’t forthcoming as Woodward allegedly knew better than the manager. We’d signed Bailly (constantly injured) and Lindelof (still acclimatising to English football) but another new face was refused. Smalling signed a new contract in December and then Woodward sacked Mourinho a week later. So who decided to offer Smalling the new contract? Did Mourinho sanction this because he was refused a new defender or is Woodward making calls on player retention ahead of the management team?

Martial is another one who Mourinho had sussed out months ago. Undoubtedly talented, but more often than not he doesn’t appear in the slightest bit interested. Mourinho called him out last summer but wasn’t backed, before Martial’s form briefly re-appeared in the autumn and an uneasy truce was reached. Mourinho gets sacked at Christmas, Martial signs a 5 year contract in January then quelle surprise, his form drops off a cliff again. So once again, who decided to offer Martial the new contract? Was this a Mourinho or an Ed Woodward decision?

There’s a similarly sorry tale associated with almost every player in the squad now. Take Pogba as another prime example, moonwalking round the gaff and lording it up like he’s the fucking Fonz or something. All whilst he’s making eyes towards Spain in the hope of earning another bumper payday for his shitstain of an agent. Once again, Mourinho knew exactly what he was dealing with here but was never going to succeed in a battle of wills with the club’s greatest commercial asset. Pogba might have 35 million Instagram followers in thrall to his antics but I personally don’t know anyone who isn’t desperate to see the back of him.

If Pogba seems a tad misguided as regards his current standing amongst supporters, his mate Lukaku is absolutely clueless. This clown actually appears to be of the opinion that he’s somehow in demand and has more attractive options on the table for next season. Mate, if you can find ANYONE else prepared tolerate your first touch who’ll pay you £250K per week then cheerio and good luck. Just imagine him rocking up at Juventus to assist the Ronaldo show. 3 misplaced passes in the first 15 minutes of his debut and he’d be ushered out of the country and never heard of again.

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The level of delusion radiating from a number of our players is quite incredible. It’s clearly catching as well, as noises persist that Marcus Rashford thinks he’s in with a shout of moving to Barcelona. Which Barcelona is this then? Is there one in an alternate universe that welcomes 10 goal a season strikers with a routinely piss-poor conversion rate? Yep, it all sounds dead plausible this. Presumably he’ll be taking his imbecilic, best mate Lingard with him too and we’ll be getting Suarez and Messi in part-exchange.

The epic climax to the 1998/99 season truly signalled the end of an era at Manchester United. At that point, the process of the club becoming more concerned with financial rather than on-pitch success was well underway, but the people driving the commercial interests of the club were still outnumbered by stakeholders interested in football. Fast forward 20 years and where are we now? Owned by Florida-based carpetbaggers, loaded with debt and being dictated to by wankers like Raiola and Pogba. How the mighty have fallen.

It really doesn’t matter who the so-called manager is when the bloke actually calling the shots is a star-struck, ex-investment banker with no track record in football whatsoever beyond signing strategic alliances with pillow case manufacturers. The question of Woodward’s competency shouldn’t even be up for debate. Under his stewardship, the club have re-written the book on the consequences of poor succession planning and set the benchmark in how to dismantle a successful football team following two decades of sustained dominance.

What a mess. I’ll see you in August for much more of the same.

Copyright Red News – May 2019

www.rednews.co.uk