Tag Archives: erik ten hag

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Despite a couple of disappointing results in the few weeks, it’s hard not to feel quite enthused about all things United at present. For the first time since the upturn in form at the beginning of Solskjaer’s tenure we’re seeing real progress on the pitch. The contrast with what we witnessed throughout the entirety of last season is stark, with the team looking motivated, players committed and the crowd in full support as opposed to disengaged. What we’ve seen since the resumption after the World Cup has exceeded pretty much all expectations; going to Old Trafford is something to look forward to again and no longer feels like a chore. 

Whilst the players deserve much of the credit, the architect of this has been the manager. The more I hear him speak, the more I like him. No histrionics, no emoting, no fuss – he’s just quietly cracking on with the biggest job in football under unparalleled scrutiny and crucially, getting the big decisions right. Showing faith in Rashford, ruthlessly cutting Maguire and catapulting Ronaldo into the footballing wilderness were each huge calls, but they have quickly paid dividends and results speak for themselves. Both Martinez and Casemiro (much to Graeme Souness’ chagrin no doubt) are proving to be fantastic signings. 

We’re still a way off being the finished article, but all evidence points to the fact that Ten Hag knows what needs to be done and has plans in place to achieve this. If the club wasn’t up for sale we might have been in position to pick up a better option than Wout Weghorst to supplement the attack in the short term. Unfortunately, loan signings from Burnley are indicative of the financial reality facing the club as it seeks new investors or ownership. It’s doubly frustrating as the likelihood is that 80-odd points will win the league this season and we aren’t far off that target. 2 or 3 more key additions and this team could have been genuine title contenders. 

The football world is always a much nicer place when Blues’ heads are falling off and after defeat in the recent derby, there were more fantastic scenes following the release of their lengthy rap sheet at the conclusion of the Premier League’s 4 year investigation into City’s financial affairs. Reactions to this were mixed from those of my acquaintance, some are unmoved and find it all very amusing whereas others are extremely twitchy, aware that the consequences of a guilty verdict could be far-reaching. Vincent Kompany may well roll his eyes and Guardiola can blame everyone else for their predicament, but the evidence available in the public domain looks to be damning. 

Whether or not Manchester City ever actually receive punishment remains a moot point. We live in a country where people with wealth and power routinely evade justice for circumventing financial laws and regulations. Football has functioned within its own peculiar bubble for years and club owners are well versed in acting with financial impunity without sanction. City’s statement claiming they were “surprised” by the charges isn’t as ridiculous as it sounds. As far as they’re concerned they’re just playing the lucky hand they’ve been dealt in a game that’s been rigged for decades. 

Irrespective of whether anything comes of these particular charges, whilst football club ownership rules remain anything but “fit and proper” the game is only likely to face similar issues in future. Arab states, Russian oligarchs and US-based venture capitalists should never have been allowed to take control of 100+ year old community assets. City’s alleged transgressions are just the latest consequence of the Premier League and the FA deliberately choosing to look the other way and give tacit approval to unscrupulous foreign investors. The current mess wouldn’t require cleaning up if they’d maintained a semblance of common sense and integrity instead of welcoming these suitors in the first place. 

You would assume that with results improving there might be a drop off in the toxic bile spewed out by certain MUFC-affiliated content providers on social media. You’d be wrong. Harmony and positivity doesn’t tend to drive clicks so instead it’s full speed ahead with the usual attention-seeking knobhead agenda. Having declared war against Harry Maguire last season they’re having to dream up new scapegoats now and the latest, incredibly, is Alejandro Garnacho. A couple of less than stellar performances and he’s deemed “shit” and written off completely. Now I’m aware I’m also guilty of the odd knee-jerk reaction but this is taking the piss when talking about an 18 year old kid who’s made a great impact so far this season. 

I’m aware I’d be better served by not getting wound up by these people and their grift. I’m not their target audience and I could choose to simply ignore them. However, their very existence is a stain on the club and it’s support. I don’t like these people speaking as United fans on a public platform because they aren’t representative of United fans and they know nothing of our history and culture beyond what they’re read on the internet or seen on television. It wouldn’t be so bad if they were left to fester on their own YouTube channel but they’re now permeating the mainstream with the likes of SSN providing an outlet that further legitimises their bullshit. You know what I mean, fam? 

The weirdest sub-section of United online fandom are undoubtedly the twitter users who faithfully kept the Mason Greenwood flying throughout the duration of his absence over the last 12 months. Barely a week went by without seeing his name trending, with huge numbers of predominately overseas-based reds parroting their support and demanding their “starboy” be welcomed back with open arms. News that the CPS has dropped all charges last month sent these lads into overdrive. Apparently with Greenwood back and under Ten Hag’s tutelage, United would soon be “cooking”, whatever that’s supposed to mean. 

The club obviously has a decision to make over the coming months. There’s a lot to consider but it’s difficult to see any conclusion to this sorry episode other than Greenwood leaving at the end of the season. United is a commercial behemoth in thrall to multiple commercial partners, and that’s before you start to consider the opinions of individual stakeholders and how they might feel about implicit support for a player initially charged with attempted rape, controlling and coercive behaviour and assault occasioning actual bodily harm. There’s a decision to be made here, certainly – but it’s very clear what needs to happen.

Copyright Red News – February 2023


Roll With The Punches

Harry Maguire just cannot catch a break at present. Given his performances in an England shirt over the last few years, one might have expected the international break to provide some welcome respite from his current struggles at club level. Unfortunately not. Another error-strewn display against Germany means that his nightmare year continues. Having become a laughing stock on social media during United’s seasonus horribilis under Solskjaer and Rangnick, he’s now become a pariah of the national team too. 

Quite why Maguire evokes such animosity is a bit of a strange one. Compared to a lot of modern players he seems quite likeable and grounded to me. Unlike many of his peers, Maguire’s route to the top was fairly unconventional. He hasn’t grown up living a life of privilege in the academy system having been spotted as a school-age prodigy, he made it all the way to captain of Manchester United having spent a few years kicking around the lower leagues. It’s not quite the rags to riches career trajectory of Jamie Vardy say, but it’s still a path that’s become increasingly uncommon. 

There’s no denying that Maguire’s performances were uniformly abject for much of last season. He appeared to suffer a major hangover after the Euros and his form hasn’t recovered since. However, the fact he was playing alongside numerous teammates content to phone it in week after week didn’t exactly help matters. Although he was crap, I didn’t once get the impression that he didn’t care or that he’d given up. Others went missing entirely, but you couldn’t accuse Maguire of hiding or shirking responsibility at any point. Recall that whilst all this was occurring another high-profile, self-proclaimed leader of the team was holed up in Dubai nursing his hamstring for 3 months. 

The clamour to write him off at this point doesn’t make much sense to my mind, especially considering he played very well during his first 2 years at the club. He was overpriced at £80M certainly, but the player doesn’t set the transfer fee. Considering he’s spent most of his time here alongside a fragile keeper, extremely limited defensive colleagues and with a failing midfield in front of him, I honestly believe that he’s done okay. I certainly don’t think he’s in anyway more culpable than the rest of his teammates. Bruno Fernandes has been routinely garbage throughout the same period yet nobody is suggesting that he’s finished.

Maguire isn’t the first player to suffer like this and he shouldn’t lose any sleep about England fans selecting him as their MUFC-affiliated scapegoat in a World Cup year. He’s in good company here and would be wise to just bide his time and take his opportunities when they arise – which they will sooner rather than later given the congested fixture list and Varane’s inability to stay fit for any length of time. Also, he (or his family members) would be best advised to swerve journalists seeking off-the-record comments. Everyone is aware there are mitigating circumstances to his current form so there’s no need to actively brief against his teammates. You’re the captain, just own it and let your football do the talking. 

As he sat at the Etihad watching events unfold, Maguire might have been forgiven for being quietly relieved he was spared the latest indignity to befall United there. Once upon a time conceding 5 or 6 in a derby would have sent me spiralling off into a deep sulk, whereas these days I just shrug it off and crack on. There’s little point in getting down about it, they are simply miles ahead of everyone else currently. As unpalatable as the result was, United remain a team acclimatising to life under a new manager and with several new signings still finding their feet. After a miserable start to the season the last couple of months have provided a number of encouraging signs, so I refuse to abandon all hope yet. 

Nevertheless, the fact remains it was a complete abomination of a performance. The starting midfield was a disaster which left the defence totally exposed. Ten Hag looked on shaking his head but I’d have preferred for him to do something decisive. It was obvious what was occurring within the first 5 minutes as the team were all over the place. The loyalty shown to McTominay was totally misguided, especially considering he’s only a stop gap defensive midfielder and we had one of the world’s best sat on the bench. The funds were released to sign Casemiro after the debacle at Brentford, so why hold him back now given that deficiencies in this position persist?

I wasn’t confident pre-match, but then what sane person is watching this team? Similar to Gary Neville, a couple of misguided souls in the WhatsApp group got all giddy after an unbeaten September and predicted an away win. Instead, it was another of those days that have become commonplace in recent years; United looking utterly bamboozled when confronted by opponents playing with pace and intensity. Having more than matched Liverpool and Arsenal in recent weeks, I was faintly optimistic we might be past having complaints about lacking the fundamentals. Clearly this wasn’t to be the case. 

I think I first decided not to like Erling Haaland a few years ago, the minute I discovered he had signed up with Mino Raiola. As a result of that move I figured he would never join United and was therefore more than likely a bit of a bastard. I didn’t like his agent (RIP btw), I don’t like his dad, I don’t like his City and Leeds supporting childhood and I don’t like his smug-looking, leader-of-the-Hitler-youth-in-a-previous-life face. All completely ridiculous I know, but then that’s me. Consequently, the derby was the first time I’d ever seen him play. Verdict? Yes, I was completely right. Roll on his inevitable move to Spain in 3 or 4 years time. 

Ten Hags explanation as to why Ronaldo didn’t feature did little to suppress the chat around that current predicament. Why on earth wasn’t he encouraged to move on in the summer? Similar to the situation surrounding Pogba that proved a constant distraction over the last couple of seasons, United would be better served by informing Ronaldo he is free to leave the club given he’s no longer a first choice starter. An amicable solution needs to be found here, otherwise the noise surrounding the issue is only going to intensify over the coming months. It’s a sideshow that United could do without. 

One final shoutout this month to United’s ticket office, unwavering in their ability to dream up convoluted ways of making life as difficult as possible for their customers. When you’re thousands of miles from home, queuing to get into a game under the watchful eye of twitchy riot cops and stewards checking the passport of every single ticket holder, you start to question the sanity of everyone involved in such a farcical scene. It’s so over the top and completely unwarranted. Not one to brag or anything, but I’m finishing off this piece propped up on a sun lounger the morning after the night before in Cyprus. Despite the moans and constant hassles involved in following this team of ours, it’s at times like this you realise we’ve still got it better than most. Yamas!

Copyright Red News – October 2022


Welcome To The Pleasuredome

So here we are again. After the protégé, the legend, the serial winner, the ex-player and the unknown German bloke, this time we’ve opted for a bald manager. Quite honestly, I’ve got no idea how this one will work out but I can take a wild guess. The “open heart surgery” as prescribed by Dr Ralf has predictably failed to materialise so ten Hag needs to try and get a tune out of the same set of chancers who failed his predecessors so spectacularly. Good luck with that one, Erik. 

The notion that Rangnick would take up a consultancy position was always highly suspect, especially given how everything unravelled towards the end of last season. It has to go down as one of the most bonkers appointments ever by an alleged top tier club. Expecting that group of players to adapt to a highly energetic, pressing style of play dictated by a man found holed up in Russia after spending 20 years kicking round mid-tier German clubs was quite deranged thinking. I’ll always respect Ralf for sticking his neck out and briefing against certain individuals, but that’s only because I feel nothing but disdain for them too. It all felt very liberating but as a motivational tool it was desperate stuff.

At least ten Hag has been spared the misfortune of having Paul Pogba to contend with. Once his departure was confirmed I toyed with the idea of sitting through the Pogmentary, thinking it might prove quite cathartic given how much I’ve grown to despise him. The reviews were universally terrible, making it sound every bit the ill-conceived, vanity project you’d expect from someone who considers a 280K weekly wage as derisory. The real mystery is why on earth he was offered any incentive to remain here at all given how he’s royally taken the piss for the last 5 years. I didn’t bother watching in the end. Much like the man himself, I just couldn’t be arsed. 

News arrived that the next biggest ego at the club was seeking an exit too. Other than commercial reasons, I’m not sure what the sense is in clinging on to Ronaldo if he does want out. United desperately need committed players, so it doesn’t bode well if your biggest name is hawking himself round Europe in the hope of securing another crack at the Champions League. I would rip the contact up and let him walk if he finds a willing suitor. It was one thing indulging the histrionics and persuading him to stay back in 2008 as he was the best player in Europe; doing the same for the 2022 version holds little appeal as it would only prolong the current circus. Thanks very much and see you later.

It was reassuring to see that ten Hag had clearly done his homework prior to taking charge at United. Within days of arrival he demonstrated huge respect for club traditions by confidently leading us into our traditional, fruitless summer transfer saga. This years target being fellow Dutchman, Frenkie de Jong. At the time of writing, United’s overtures remain very much unrequited but not to worry, we’ve only been plugging away for the last 10 weeks or so. We’ve still got another month and a half of banging our collective heads against a wall before the humiliation is complete for another year. 

In all seriousness, I expect this one will ultimately be resolved and Frenkie will indeed go to Manchester. I don’t blame the lad one bit for dragging his heels given that Barcelona reputedly owe him millions in deferred wages. Once again that shower have proven themselves to be utterly shameless in the way they conduct themselves; negotiating with United all summer whilst reneging on debts to sign new players on contracts they wont be able to honour. I reckon Lewandowski’s lawyers will be privately rubbing their hands together in preparation for everything going pear-shaped in a year or two. 

As soon as Pogba and 29 year old TikTok sensation Jesse Lingard left the club, the constant leaks we’ve become accustomed to in recent years seemed to dry up overnight. This was verified by the genial Richard Arnold in leaked footage of his pow wow with Max and Paddy of the 1958. It was just a pity that having been granted an audience with the newly incumbent CEO their line of questioning wasn’t a little more robust. Arnold’s claim that no club in the world could fund a new stadium without outside investment was a bit hollow when you consider the previous owners managed to re-build the Stretford End and then sign off on the gargantuan North Stand re-development completed in 1996. 

It would have been nice to see Arnold challenged on the reasons why the club needs to seek outside investors at all. If revenue streams weren’t being used to service the enormous debt and pay regular dividend payments to his bosses, with responsible financial management the club would still be the cash rich entity it was prior to them taking over. This might sound like an over simplification of something very complex but it isn’t really that complicated at all. Back in those days investment capital was generated organically through existing revenue streams. Transfer fees could be paid for up front and in full. There was no need for staggered payments and routinely buying players on tick like we see now.

Following the meeting I saw a number of comments along the lines of “fair play to him for sitting down and speaking candidly” as if some kind of seismic breakthrough had taken place. Unfortunately, the idea that Arnold is determined to usher in sweeping reforms is utter bollocks. People shouldn’t need reminding that he’s had his nose in the trough since 2007 and joined the board of directors in 2013. He’s just as culpable as his best mate Woodward and the Glazers themselves for overseeing the current mess in which the club finds itself. Arnold is simply doing his masters’ bidding, the fact he bought a couple of rounds and briefly paid lip service to supporters’ concerns means precisely nothing.

The fan survey sent out a couple of weeks ago is another example of the club making all the right noises whereas in reality there is no prospect of developing OT or building a new stadium. Plans were drawn up to extend the South Stand over a decade ago that would’ve taken the capacity over 90,000. Instead the ground has barely been touched since, barring extending the disabled section and a few cosmetic repairs when necessary. Personally, I’ve no interest in wider seats, fan zones, refreshed concourses and over-priced vegan food options. A modernised OT will only ever become a realistic prospect once the owners commit to paying down the current debt. Until then, any discussion is largely pointless and merely diverts attention from their continued misappropriation of the club’s finances.

Copyright Red News – July 2022