Tag Archives: liverpool

Que Sera, Sera

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The recent Champions League QF between Liverpool and City proved to be a bit of a conundrum, didn’t it? Whilst the eventual result spared us the possibility of the idiot neighbours being crowned Europe’s finest for at least another year, it’s left us with the utterly nauseating prospect of the scousers winning it. What a charmed life they lead in that competition. It doesn’t matter that they remain a completely unremarkable side if you discount Salah’s heroics this season; somehow they’re in the semi-finals again drawn against sodding Roma.

I do have to give Liverpool fans some credit though as they routinely treat the Champions League with the reverence it deserves. Although the ‘famous European nights at Anfield’ legend is teeth-grindingly irritating to all of us who’ve been force-fed this mantra over the years, they genuinely believe it to the extent it’s become a self-fulfilling prophecy. It’s been repeated so often that it’s now accepted as fact and actually bears fruit for them on a regular basis.

Despite being one of the cringiest things I’ve ever seen, you can’t deny that pre-organised ‘coach welcome’ thing they did against City worked an absolute treat. Flares going off, missiles thudding against coach windows, loads of singing… it was nothing like as sinister as was subsequently claimed but it was more than enough to put City off their stroke. Whilst my natural inclination would be to steer well clear of anything so staged and contrived, part of me at least respects the fact the scousers can still rouse themselves for such occasions.

Hypothetically speaking, say if United were ever inclined to put on a similar show, do you reckon we could still manage it? I have my doubts. The days of Roma and Leeds getting legged all over the forecourt seem a world away now. If the Liverpool team coach turned up for a Champions League tie at OT there’d be more chance of them getting ambushed by selfie sticks and autograph hunters than a hail of bottles and cans.

If you think I’m exaggerating here then just cast your mind back to the recent Seville home game and ask yourself, ‘would Anfield have been so deathly quiet?’ Would it bollocks. The uncomfortable truth is they can still do it when required whereas we’re reliant on a couple of hundred J stand barmies clad in garish bobble hats and Adidas Originals to generate any kind of atmosphere.

Due to deadlines and time constraints, I’m writing this pre-match so I’ve got no idea what happened at Wembley against Spurs last weekend. Given you’re reading this a week later, the players have either been revelling in self-congratulatory bullshit on Instagram all week or they’ve been keeping a very low profile having neglected to turn up once again. Quite honestly, I’m struggling to care either way about the bunch of frauds at present. Whatever will be, will be…

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This team do my head in. Just as you manage to convince yourself that they are making some progress and have moved beyond that 4 years and counting spell of looking like a disinterested rabble, they go and turn in that West Brom performance. All the good vibes and positivity generated by that Lazarus-like comeback in the derby obliterated in the space of 90 stupefyingly predictable minutes. It’s just so completely typical of them, the utter bastards.

I dunno. I suppose I’m as guilty as anyone of trying to accentuate the positives under Mourinho but you can’t continue to excuse afternoons like that. It was flashback to what was witnessed week in, week out during Van Gaal’s 2nd season. Quite simply, we should have moved beyond those kind of results by now. It’s all well and good producing a stirring comeback to beat City, but it means nothing if you hand them the title by failing to show against rock bottom relegation certs a week later. It’s just embarrassing.

My hope for the summer is that Mourinho just goes for it. No doubt we’ll spend big yet again but I’d be more encouraged if he concentrated solely on shipping out some of the deadwood. Fuck that, actually just bin ALL of the deadwood. Let’s face it, if we don’t challenge for the title next season (which we evidently won’t, because we’re still capable of losing at home to West fucking Brom) then Jose will end up falling out with absolutely everybody and getting sacked anyway. This is his last season coming up, so he may as well just go all out now rather than continuing with the never-ending re-building job he’s currently embroiled in.

If it were me, I’d start by asking the goalie if he wants to stay. If he doesn’t, then I’d shake his hand, wish him all the best for the future and drive him to the airport. He’s been an absolute star and has already suffered enough. I’d then bin every fullback at the club – the dreamy Dutch one, the rubbish Italian one and both of the failed winger ones. Smalling and Jones will be placed on the transfer list with immediate effect; Eric Bailly gets to stay with the proviso he stops being injured.

Fellaini should get the remaining few weeks of his contract cancelled for having the cheek to turn down a completely unmerited new deal. Seriously, who the fuck does he think he is? Pogba gets to stay on the condition he parts company with his agent and endeavours to become the player we all know he could be. Mata, Herrera and Matic are permitted to remain at the club, mainly due to the fact it would be foolish to get rid of the entire playing staff in the space of a single transfer window.

Jesse Lingard should be congratulated for his remarkable upturn in form but warned about his conduct off the field and tested for undiagnosed ADHD. Lukaku gets to stay on condition he practises basic passing and trapping a ball over the summer. Martial should be binned for looking permanently miserable and having a very irritating fan club on social media. Marcus Rashford to be offered a new deal on the condition he gets himself a girlfriend who’ll make him realise spending 18 hours a day in Lingard’s company is not only mentally exhausting, it’s also affecting his development as a functioning adult.

I’m done with them for now. See you in August.

Copyright Red News – April 2018

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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

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Yesterday’s Men

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During his time at Chelsea, every Mourinho smirk, quip and raised eyebrow had the English press pack in raptures. In case you hadn’t noticed, there’s a very different narrative being played out now he’s Manchester United’s manager. José is the out-of-touch dinosaur and instead it’s Pep, Poch and Jurgen Klopp getting journalists into an engorged state. That’s absolutely fine. The rush to hand out plaudits and prizes after 6 or 7 games is utterly laughable, as City’s recent coronation as ‘the invincibles’ proved quite succinctly.

When I was a kid, I can recall my old man telling me not to even bother looking at the league table until after 10 games or so. At that point, you get a fair indication of what’s what given each team will have played a couple of tough fixtures so you can properly assess form. It’s pretty obvious stuff, really… but football in 2016 doesn’t care for a sense of perspective or reality, it’s all about hyperbole. As Sparky notes elsewhere in this issue, everything either has to be “the best ever” or “the worst ever.”

The truth of course, is that United are somewhere in-between. I closed last month’s optimism-fuelled column with a note of caution regarding the impending Manchester derby – a wise move given how it duly managed to obliterate the early season feel-good factor within the space of 45 minutes. How very sobering. Even more depressingly, the resultant hangover has proven difficult to shift as we head into a very testing autumnal run of fixtures.

The 1st of these, away at Anfield, was negotiated successfully with the deployment of some vintage Mourinho nullifying tactics. As unpalatable as some might find it, the ‘go for a 0-0 and anything else’s a bonus’ mindset was entirely predictable and executed perfectly. 35% possession would have made Van Gaal wince and despite the lack of chances, in this instance the end result justified the means. With Chelsea and City around the corner, the last thing required was another defeat.

Clearly, a United team being sent out with such limited ambition is going to irritate a sizeable number of people. Mourinho’s willingness to exercise such a game plan was cited as a reason some were against him ever being given the job in the first place – his propensity for negativity being a ‘betrayal of our attacking traditions’ and all that.

Personally, I don’t see a problem. If he was setting us up to bore teams into submission every game like we tried to for much of the last 3 seasons, then I’d be complaining as loud as anyone. But he isn’t. It’s not Southampton at home, it’s Liverpool away… and the result is everything. There have been plenty of abject games at Anfield over the last 20 years, where typically we’ve turned in half-hearted performances and been soundly beaten. The last time we went there and properly dominated them was the 3-1 win back in December ’97 – it just doesn’t happen very often. So all things considered I’m quite content with a single point, thank you very much.

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If Mourinho has discovered that his time as the darling of the English press is over, it’s nothing compared to the mensis horribilis that Wayne Rooney has just endured. Despite the fact that the football watching public have long been frustrated by his fading abilities, it’s only in the last 4 weeks that the cabal of media/ex-pros and managers have finally admitted the game’s up too.

It probably took me longer than most to recognise change was needed as I’ve usually sported a pair of blinkers where Wazza’s failings are concerned. I’ve been content to overlook his leaden feet with increasingly redundant arguments about his effort and work rate – a will to win that was still good enough to craft us an FA Cup winning goal from nothing as recently as May, let’s not forget. The reality however, is that the bad has outweighed the good for months, if not years now.

The ongoing debate about his current/future position has always been skewed by the fact that many people can’t admit the most obvious detail – Wayne simply isn’t a top class midfielder. He just doesn’t possess the requisite touch and passing consistency. The notion that a striker can drop back and influence games from a deeper role as the years take their toll is a convenient one, but how many players have truly managed to achieve this? Charlton, Dalglish and Keegan perhaps… though none of these played in the current era with its unrelenting speed and intensity.

The desire is still there with Rooney, his effort and work rate haven’t diminished despite regular claims to the contrary. The problem is simply down to his declining physical state – he’s just not as quick as he was 10 years ago. The brain sees the pass/anticipates the incoming tackle, but the feet are no longer as quick to react. Sadly, it’s probably just a natural consequence of him doing this week in, week out for the last 14 years.

And for 12 of those years, Rooney has been wearing a United shirt – a key performer during the most successful era in the club’s history. 500 games, 250 goals… yet many will be delighted to see the back of him when he inevitably moves on at the end of the season. Not me. Nor am I joining in with those gleefully revelling in his current predicament and enjoying the opportunity to stick the boot in. Despite the fact his career at Old Trafford seems to be heading to a somewhat ignominious conclusion, he deserves far better than that.

Copyright Red News – October 2016

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