Tag Archives: jose mourinho

Adiós Señor Pussycat

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“Are you looking forward to the game on Saturday?”, I was asked prior to the trip to Anfield. Of course I wasn’t. In all my years watching, I’ve rarely gone there confident and expecting to win and this year proved no different. It doesn’t matter who’s playing or if either side is in form, ultimately you’re just hoping to get out of there without having suffered a defeat. There was a brief spell in the late 90’s where United would go there looking to exploit their obvious weaknesses and win, but for the most part it’s a tortuous 90 minutes to endure.

Mourinho’s approach to these type of fixtures (ie any tough away game at home or abroad) often comes in for criticism, but in truth it’s not that far removed from how Fergie usually set his stall out. If Lukaku had buried that chance in the first half during that blink-and-you’ll-miss-it period when United actually took the game to them, the day would have been hailed as a perfect smash and grab. Given the fact he didn’t and we barely managed to string 3 passes together for the rest of game, I was quite content with the point. Utterly painful viewing though, that last 10 minutes.

If Anfield proved anything, it’s that United are in no way the finished article yet. The free-scoring, relatively simple start to the campaign has been encouraging but faced with the first real test against non-useless opposition we couldn’t have looked much more uninspiring if we’d tried. With Spurs and Chelsea incoming, we desperately need to get back some of the momentum gained during August/September to avoid nosediving into a similar slump to that witnessed this time last year.

The sense of foreboding isn’t exactly helped by our mounting injury list. I don’t know what it is with this club, but year-on-year we seem to have 7-8 players missing as a matter of routine. Is it all down to bad luck or are we just doing football wrong or something? I’ve got absolutely zero statistics on this but City never appear to have half their team missing in action. Do you reckon there’s some special footballer medicine we can try? Not trying to insinuate anything here but perhaps we should ask Guardiola what he gives to his players? That stuff seems to work pretty well.

Losing Pogba at the precise moment he was starting to look imperious was a classic United injury. Then Fellaini comes in and starts to resemble an actual footballer and he goes down too. Brilliant. The biggest miracle amidst suffering several long-term absences, is both Phil Jones and Chris Smalling have remained fit for the last couple of months. I mean, how? This freak occurrence is surely some sort of record in itself and can only mean that double leg fractures for the pair must now be imminent.

Mourinho’s post-Benfica claim that “I never speak about injuries” (whilst speaking about injuries), clearly isn’t the only thing irritating him at the moment even if he suggests otherwise. It didn’t take a genius to work out the source of long-term Mou mouthpiece Duncan Castles’ Daily Record piece suggesting that Jose could depart at the end of his current deal; and that no talks had begun on the contract extension most assumed would be on the table by now.

Placed alongside some recent quotes of him bigging up the “fantastic” PSG, I expect this was little more than a public word in Woodward’s ear that he might want to pull his finger out on any new proposal, with Jose clearly miffed one hasn’t been forthcoming already. PSG would certainly love to secure Mourinho’s services in future, a fact that United must surely be aware of and which serves to strengthen Mendez’s hand even further in any forthcoming negotiations.

So basically, this doesn’t look like anything to get too worked up over. Probably nothing more than a standard case of agent briefing journalist to help clear the path towards his client receiving a whopping new pay rise. In fairness, the United board probably needed the reminder that this needs to be addressed sometime in the near future. As ever, suspicions persist their day-to-day priorities are focused more on generating new revenue streams as opposed to trivial matters like securing the manager on a new 5 year deal.

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The latest ‘strategic partnership’ announced sees the club jumping into bed with the General Sports Authority of Saudi Arabia to help “create a sustainable and thriving football sector.” (Translation: play in several lucrative friendlies.) How lovely. If this is United’s attempt at keeping up with Barcelona and City, “we need to develop an alliance with tyrannical dictators with an appalling record on human rights too!”, then I can only despair. I suppose this latest move does at least explain the club’s long-held reticence towards investing in a women’s team.

Quite how an alliance with the Saudi regime fits in with United’s commitment towards corporate social responsibility is unclear. This is what it says on the club’s website

Everyone at the club is committed to tackling environmental and social issues at regional, national and international level, using the Manchester United brand to leverage support and create awareness of the issues facing the planet.

I’m assuming this will now be amended to “we don’t actually care that much because we’re making lots of money.” All the atrocities Saudi Arabia is regularly accused of (try corporal punishment, sexual slavery, torture and human trafficking for starters) aren’t conjecture or hearsay, they happen there every day. I just find it incredibly sad United are entertaining these despots when they’re in an almost unique position of being able to reject such overtures if they wanted. When City leapt into the arms of Thaksin Shinawatra and later Sheikh Mansour, we poured scorn on their willingness to turn a blind eye to the source of their new-found wealth. United heading down a similar path is every bit as depressing.

Copyright Red News – October 2017

www.rednews.co.uk

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No Surprises

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After all the usual bluster, transfer deadline day passed by with very little occurring of United-related interest. Not much new there. For all the talk of monster deals and last-minute scrambles, hardly anything of note ever happens. We signed Rooney and Berbatov in previous years, sure – but nothing will ever top the genuine madness of 2013 when after being linked with Kroos, Fabregas and Herrera all summer, Woodward managed to sign only Marouane Fellaini. “Oh I can smile about it now, but at the time it was terrible…” etc.

All the lols this year were at Arsenal’s expense, of course – with Arsene Wenger seemingly hellbent on shredding his legacy with each passing week. His attitude now seems to be, “well if I’m going down, I’m taking all of you lot with me.” It’s no wonder all the ArsenalFanTV loons have become minor internet celebrities due to being in a state of permanent apoplexy; I daresay we’d be losing the plot if the same was happening at United.

I’ve always had plenty of time for Wenger, who seems to be a thoroughly decent man despite working in football all his adult life. The fact he’s facing all this hassle at the age of 67 is an unflattering end to what’s been a brilliant career. At this point he should be sat in the director’s box enjoying his retirement rather than struggling with a conundrum that’s had him stumped for over a decade. He clearly doesn’t know or he’s just too stubborn to admit that he’s taken the club as far as he can. I just feel sorry for the bloke now, he deserves far more than the ire of rent-a-gob no-marks who’ve lost sight of the fact they had the time of their lives following the teams he built previously.

I don’t want to come across sounding too pious, however. As stated earlier, if a similar scenario was occurring at United no doubt we’d all be seething. From the fans point of view, they’ve been banging on about Arsenal’s clear failings for the last 6-7 years and the club haven’t done a thing to acknowledge their grievances. Wenger did a great job of keeping them in contention (thereabouts) whilst the Emirates was paid for, but that move from Highbury was 11 years ago now. Meanwhile, the club are plodding along, content with a 4th place finish each year whilst blindingly obvious weaknesses in the team remain unaddressed. I’d be getting pretty irate too, in fairness.

No such dramas at OT where Jose’s invincibles are cruising towards the league title, apparently. Personally I think the pundits might be getting a tad carried away, but the consensus opinion seems to be that last season’s problems are all fixed and we’re going to walk it. Yeah right. Although I’d agree our start has been very encouraging, it’s worth recalling that we also won our first 3 league games last season before going on a run that saw us take just 6 of the next 21 points available. Looking at the games coming up I expect we’ll comfortably avoid a repeat of that, but I still don’t trust half of our players to maintain this improvement for a full season unless they’ve undergone secret brain transplants over the summer.

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Over at Wastelands, I see Guardiola has been in full-on, passive-aggressive oddball mode for the last couple of weeks. I always figured Mourinho was supposed to be the sulky, petulant one but their roles have reversed over the last year or so. Dunno what it is with Josep these days, he previously seemed to be a cool customer but now he looks like he’s about to embark on a Klopp-style spin out at any given minute. I reckon he’s incredibly miffed that the job isn’t proving anything like as easy as he anticipated. I suspect he assumed he’d merely turn up, commence his tiki-taka eulogising and the trophies would flow at the same rate they did at his previous clubs.

This is England though, innit? Or more pertinently, this is Manchester City – where having an unlimited transfer budget proves as much of a distraction as it is a bonus. Guardiola has broken up the established order (binned Zableta, ostracised Hart, clearly doesn’t rate Aguero), but the spine of the team no longer looks as strong as it did under Mancini or Pellegrini. Players like Sterling are signed for £50M then they’re ready to sacrifice him as soon as they get a sniff of Sanchez’s availability. I just don’t get them – for all their talk of ‘the project’ and their long-term commitment to becoming global football superpower, there’s still a strong whiff of short-sighted flippancy about much of the decision making.

For example, take the decision to banish Joe Hart. Now everyone knows Hart is a bit of a bellend, but there’s no denying he did alright for City. It’s not like Guardiola replaced him with a better pedigree keeper or anything, it was more a case of ‘don’t fancy you, see ya.’ I know United have been guilty of a number of similar volte-faces over the last few years, but our chronic inconsistency proves that changing half your team each summer doesn’t pay immediate dividends. If City go on to win the title or the Champions league then I’ll be proven wrong on this, clearly. I just feel that they’d be better served by a more methodical approach as opposed to hoovering up 5 new players every transfer window.

Anyway, enough of everyone else’s business – even Wayne Rooney getting caught in flagrante isn’t our problem anymore. The sun is shining, United are unbeaten and we’ve drawn Burton at home in the League Cup. Not even the international break or the threat of imminent nuclear war can spoil the buzz. What a time to be alive.

Copyright Red News – September 2017

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Higher Ground

Greetings, fellow football enthusiasts! After a welcome summer off, August rolls round again and it’s time for another 10 months of ill-considered United opinion. All ready to go then? No, not really? Excellent, let’s do this.

Firstly, I’m going to start with a heartfelt apology to the UEFA Europa League, the much derided, slow-witted sibling of its Champions League big brother. I spent the vast majority of last season demonstrating zero enthusiasm for our participation due to being a time-served dickhead, before shamelessly diving onto the hype train just as the final approached. This was clearly a bit snide and I was proven very wrong indeed.

As anyone in attendance will testify, Stockholm was a Euro away classic that will live long in the memory. Not in terms of the game, that was a bit of a stinker in which we bored our way to victory, just in terms of the trip itself. Great people, great city, great result. Flying out of Manchester just hours after the atrocity committed at the Arena felt very odd indeed. Placed in the context of life-changing events like that, football is obviously meaningless. It did however present the opportunity for those present in Sweden to demonstrate solidarity in some small way, proving that life goes on and we won’t be intimidated from doing what we love.

Arriving home after zero sleep in 36 hours, I made the mistake of binge-watching a jumble of media reports from both the match and the aftermath of the bomb… and all of a sudden I was an emotional wreck; proud of the team for completing the set and immensely proud of the city for its immediate response to the attack. I know it’s only football, but you know what it’s like at European finals… you don’t win them very often and when you do it can all come flooding out. I dunno what to say in conclusion, just that winning the Europa unexpectedly proved quite a life-affirming moment. And clearly, that’s not a sentence I ever envisaged writing.

Anyway, onto current matters and how are we looking for the season ahead? The transfer window this summer has proven remarkable based on the sheer number of players we’d apparently agreed personal terms with. At some point in mid-June we were clocking one per day. Morata, Neymar, Perisic, Aurier, Rodriguez, Talisca, Fabinho… it was relentless. Ed Woodward must have been dual-wielding mobile phones like some kind of cocaine-deranged city trader to have had all them lined up.

Away from Fantasy Island, actual real-life completed business has been more steady with only Lukaku, Lindelof and Matic arriving thus far. Solid acquisitions there, nothing too ground breaking but there’s still plenty of time remaining for one or two more. Common sense suggests that prior to further additions, we’ll have to ship a couple out as only Rooney and Januzaj have departed up to now. As things stand it’ll be a surprise if Ashley Young is still here in September and Mourinho managed to break several thousand hearts by quashing rumours of Fellaini heading to Galatasary.

I’m close to giving up on this now. Quite how Fellaini continues to enjoy the confidence of successive United managers remains the great unsolvable puzzle of our times. It’s become a question that gives me sleepless nights. I watch closely, I look for clues, I’ve pored over all available evidence but I still don’t have a clue what he’s doing here. In times of weakness I’ve started to doubt my judgement, but I can’t get beyond what I consistently see with my own eyes. One day the penny might drop and I’ll be able to understand his appeal, but I remain utterly perplexed for now.

As much as Fellaini’s employment continues to baffle, Rooney’s departure wasn’t any surprise at all. As a staunch Rooney advocate over the years, it probably took me longer than most to admit the game was up. But Fergie (as always) had it right when he was trying to edge him out back in 2013, as the last 4 years have been grim viewing for the most part. It certainly won’t take Everton long to realise his performance level is more Stella than stellar these days. However, in years to come the Rooney I’ll recall won’t be the lumbering 2017 vintage, it’ll be the spud-faced nipper that was smashing it up week in-week out from 2004-2012. He leaves as one of United’s greatest ever signings and we should wish him well.

Being brutally honest though, I’m struggling to see how we’ve improved significantly on what we had last year. Lukaku will replace Zlatan, Matic will screen the defence a’la Carrick and Lindelof will probably take a few months to settle based on how nervy he’s looked pre-season. All in all, a serious title challenge appears beyond us unless there’s a spectacular improvement on how the team performed for most of last season.

However, this doesn’t mean there isn’t room for some optimism. It’s highly unlikely that Chelsea will repeat their relentless form of last term, especially minus Costa. Liverpool and Arsenal are still as shit as ever and I think City’s decision to change their entire defence in one fell swoop is going to hurt them despite their plethora of attacking options. So if Lukaka scores goals, Pogba kicks on, United manage a serious upturn in home form… well you never know.

I can’t help suspecting that we’ve still got a big one incoming. We’re massively lacking a fancy dan, creative type so it’ll be a surprise if we start another season with (shudder) Young and Valencia as our only specialist wide players. I’ve got a theory in any case. As Neymar has gone to PSG, there’s no way that Madrid will be able to handle not making a splash this summer so they’ll push hard for Mbappe now. Meaning… hello Gareth Bale. It’s happening, people. Imagine the Instagram likes? #baleisared #allhailkingmonkey #pleasemakeitstop

Copyright Red News – August 2017

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