Tag Archives: ed woodward

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

Surf’s Up

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Well that was unexpected, wasn’t it? I’m still struggling to try and get my head around the fact we’ve actually experienced a summer for once. A genuine, proper summer like you see on telly or that the rest of the world gets to enjoy every single year without fail. The weather proved such a constant distraction that I struggled to watch much football at all. Sat in the garden, enjoying a drink and staring into space/at my phone proved a far more enticing prospect than spending 4 hours on the couch each day glued to the World Cup. At risk of sounding like the toppest of the toppermost reds, I think I only watched about 6 games in total.

Don’t get me wrong, I still followed proceedings via the internets, I just couldn’t be bothered to put a full shift in watching 60-odd games like you’re supposed to. I’ve now come to terms with the fact that I overdosed on football several years ago and these days I’m more of a recreational user. I think I’ve simply seen too much over the years to still give a shit like I used to once upon a time. I can just about muster the enthusiasm for United still, but listening to Alan Shearer share his thoughts on Iran v Morocco holds about as much appeal as gouging my own eyes out with a rusty spoon.

Of course, tradition dictates that I still had to watch the England games. After all, I have a 14 year old son who was taking an interest and thankfully, he’s not as bitter and twisted as I am. These started out as the usual “I wonder how badly they’ll embarrass themselves?” which then became an almost fearful “Christ, they’re not actually going to reach the final are they?” as the tournament progressed. I make no apologies for not wanting England to win it because as any right-thinking person would agree, such an outcome would have been absolutely fucking horrendous.

You don’t agree? Well in that case, why were you singing ‘World Champions Twice’ and ‘Stick Your Fucking England Up Your Arse’ for the last 10 years? I joined in with those two ditties with gusto and meant every word, so I’m not suddenly going to start ballooning around with the Brexit hoards, giddily telling everyone I meet that ‘it’s coming home’. “Football’s coming home”? What utter nonsense. Football never left as far as I’m concerned and any notion that this country somehow ‘owns’ the game is completely ridiculous. The only thing that England and their followers have ownership of is an inflated sense of self-importance and a crushing inferiority complex.

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Defeat in the semi-finals was the perfect result for all concerned. England were able to return home having achieved precisely nothing as all-conquering heroes; with expectation levels now guaranteed to be through the roof when the next tournament rolls around. Harry Maguire becomes the nation’s sweetheart, Raheem Sterling is temporarily forgiven for having a tattoo and Gareth Southgate wins Sports Personality of the Year and receives a knighthood. Meanwhile, everyone else raises a glass and the 4 year cycle of perpetual failure begins once more. Hooray for the 3 lions! What a load of self-congratulatory, pretend-beer spilling, shared national experience bullshit.

Anyway, with the World Cup dealt with I suppose it’s time we addressed United’s prospects for the new season. Ahem. I’m afraid there’s no prizes for guessing I’m not exactly brimming with optimism on that score either. Managers set the tone in any workplace and football is no different. Unfortunately, anyone looking for crumbs of comfort from Mourinho needs to seek assurance elsewhere. Far from coming back refreshed and re-invigorated after the summer break, he currently has the air of a man in the grips of a full-on existential crisis.

You can hardly blame him. The clear out we were hoping for simply hasn’t happened and barring any sudden, last-minute movements we’ve (predictably) struggled to add much needed reinforcements in key areas. It’s genuinely, head-wreckingly baffling that we’re set to start the season with Young and Valencia as first choice full-backs yet again. Two uninspiring wingers converted into perfunctory defenders are still the best pairing that Manchester United can muster in 2018. This is Valencia’s 10th season at the club and Young’s 8th now. Yes, kudos to the pair for being loyal servants and solid pros and all that but let’s be honest here, both should have been shipped off to Villa or Stoke 5 years ago.

Unfortunately, we’re still hamstrung by the fact that players signed at huge expense to replace the pair have never delivered. Quite understandably, they’re doggedly refusing to contemplate pastures new as this would also signify a considerable dip in wages. Luke Shaw is still here (with re-tinted highlights and a terrifying new set of veneers) and is giving it the usual positive spiel about “good energy”, but you know full well that he’s going to be out of favour again by the middle of September. Chris Smalling too is blasé about claims the club are trying to sign a new centre back, I suppose I would be too if I was picking up £80,000 a week and still had 2 years left on my contract.

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A sizeable number of MUFC twitter gobshites are absolutely furious with Jose’s miserable demeanour, presumably they’d prefer him laughing hysterically and cracking jokes like Jurgen Klopp. Personally, I’ve got no problem with him looking thoroughly fed up. If he’s pissed off with Woodward and the OT bean counters, then he has every justification to have a public strop about it. I’d rather have a suicidal-sounding Mourinho in charge as opposed to some hooray for everything, yes-man who’s content with the prospect of finishing 20 points behind City again.

You might not appreciate the scowl on his face, you might not enjoy the style of play for the most part, but Jose is a pragmatist who knows his players’ capabilities and limitations. This may be an affront to misty-eyed connoisseurs of the football seen under Tommy Doc and Ron Atkinson, but we live in different times now. If United were to finish 11th like we did in Fergie’s third season, Mourinho would be sacked. The stakes are higher now. That’s why he advocates safety-first, no frills football. Simple truth is his squad isn’t good enough to kick on and progress beyond that.

We’ve spent £80M+ on a player like Pogba who’s under the microscope every week and pilloried for every sub-par performance, yet we play him alongside the likes of McTominay and Herrera. And still people are scratching their heads wondering why he looks better playing for France in the World Cup. If you’re going to sign a player like that and build a team around him, then you have to remember to build the actual team.

How short-sighted does the quibbling over an extra few million Euros for Perisic look now, given how strong he looked for Croatia on the biggest stage this summer? As for how to best maximise Pogba’s effectiveness, it’s almost as if United are content to have an all-dabbing, social media figurehead at the club yet aren’t too concerned whether everything is in place for him to realise his potential as a footballer.

Mourinho always said he should be judged after 3 years in charge and that time is now fast-approaching. As things currently stand though, it wouldn’t come as a shock if he didn’t last the season. He’s too stubborn to tweak his own methods and since the club don’t appear to be backing him 100%, I think he’ll be gone sooner rather than later. Whether he goes down fighting or limps out of the door with an apologetic shrug remains to be seen, but I’m sticking my neck out and predicting things will get very messy over the next few months. Welcome back, everyone!

Copyright Red News – August 2018

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