Tag Archives: liverpool

Fail We May, Sail We Must

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Football fans in this country really are easily pleased. Having commented on the growing discontent amongst the fanbase which led to an air of protest in and around Old Trafford last month, it’s now all but evaporated. What happened? It clearly doesn’t take much to win us over, does it? Win a couple of games + sign a new player = everything is well in the world. I despair at us sometimes. The Glazers and their appointed puppet masters are most likely laughing their heads off.

Cast your mind back 20 years and the likes of MUST and IMUSA were asking genuinely pertinent questions about the running of the club and key issues affecting supporters. Major battles were won, notably stopping the Murdoch takeover attempt, but ultimately the war was lost in 2005 when the Glazers took control. It still felt there was an ideological resistance in place, however. Nowadays our supporters groups’ objectives appear to extend little further than being served Strongbow Dark Fruits on draught.

The single fan collective boasting a visible presence inside OT and an ongoing dialogue with the club is TRA. Judging by the rapid fall-off in audible dissent since we returned from the winter break, it really is no wonder the club are keen to engage with those running the group. As far as I can make out the extent of their demands amounts to little more than cheap ale for their members and permission to stand without being hassled by stewards. Their intentions to help improve the atmosphere can’t be faulted, but I can’t help think they’re selling themselves short with their extremely limited, self-interested manifesto.

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We all know that so-called ultra groups have had success in affecting change at clubs on the continent. Perhaps it would be nice if TRA used their new-found status to push for something more than just a weekly piss up and a group singalong? Those running the group probably never considered the implications of entering into a close dialogue with the club, but things start to look a bit suspect when open hostility within their section drops to a murmur within the space of a few weeks. Still, at least everyone involved can pat themselves on the back now they’ve coincidentally been promised a significant number of additional seats for next season.

At whose expense though? Well that’s becoming a familiar pattern now, isn’t it? The Family Stand is being packed off into North Stand Tier 2 in a similar move to the evictions that took place in the Stretford End last year and J Stand before that. I’m sure it’s completely unintentional, but these switcharounds always seem to involve people sat in cheaper seats being forced to move into more expensive areas against their will. ‘You can pay for next season at your current rate then after that… well that’s your problem’. Still, as long as TRA have got Peroni and Estrella available and personal abuse of Woodward is quashed, no harm done and happy days.

Anyway, what about this Bruno Fernandes, eh? Whilst I’m not quite full-on, head over heels smitten kitten yet, I will happily admit to being slightly aroused by what we’ve witnessed so far. How refreshing it is to have someone demanding the ball constantly who looks totally comfortable in possession. It’s going to take a while to get used to this again after watching Lingard and Periera perfect the art of hiding in plain sight over the last couple of years.

I guess the note of caution comes from the fact we’ve experienced numerous false dawns similar to this in our desperation to herald the arrival of a game changing playmaker in recent times. Kagawa, Mkhitaryan, Di Maria and Sanchez all gained similarly rave reviews during their nascent United careers before fading miserably within a matter of weeks. Let’s hope the Bruno-inspired feel-good factor is still in place after 50 games and this current honeymoon period proves to be just a taster of what he’s capable of.

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The true end of an era is fast approaching now, with it all but inevitable that Liverpool will end a 30 year drought by winning the Premier League at some point during the next few weeks. As someone who grew up in the 80s, the thought of Liverpool waiting that long for a league title back then was completely absurd. Their victories were as routine as United’s failures – as a child it felt like Liverpool winning the league was almost pre-destined. That’s why Michael Thomas’ goal was celebrated so riotously in 1989, it was a genuinely life-affirming event to witness Liverpool beaten in such impossible circumstances.

Since then, I suppose we’ve had it pretty good overall. We’ve picked up more trophies and league titles than my 16 year old self could ever have anticipated and Liverpool’s ongoing travails have provided some truly glorious entertainment along the way. Honourable mentions going out here to Giorgio Armani, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Diego Forlan, John O’Shea, the United flag at Anfield after #19, Gerrard’s slip, Demba Ba, Patrice Evra, Luis Suarez, Crystanbul and Kenny Dalglish being the bitterest man on earth.

Yes. I’ve already come to terms with our fate and rather than feeling sorry for myself, I’m choosing the path of stoicism and self-reflection. We had a good run so we just have to suck it up now. At least they’re going to win the thing in March with a 55 point lead. Imagine how bad it potentially could’ve been if they’d scraped it on the last day with 80 points. Just don’t sweat it, Coronavirus is coming. By the time they pick up the trophy, the lucky ones amongst us will be living on Super Noodles and sleeping in oxygen chambers whilst everyone else is eating soil and bidding for used space suits on eBay.

It’s happening. Deal with it.

Copyright Red News – March 2020

www.rednews.co.uk

Run! Christian, Run!

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Season’s greetings, readers. It’s only been a couple of weeks since the last mag so it feels a tad premature to be sitting down and commenting on the latest chapter of this mostly-underwhelming season. Never mind, eh? At least after this column there’s a few weeks break until I’m back again with another 1100 words of cutting-edge and thrillingly insightful MUFC opinion. You never know, perhaps over the coming weeks there might be a continuation of this recent upturn in form so I’ll have nothing but positive vibes to share in the new year? We can only dream.

Anyway, all talk of doom and gloom is banished momentarily as we bask in what was a tremendous result in the Manchester derby. Possibly more important than the result was the performance itself, the first time in what feels like years that United have opted to go toe-to-toe with a genuine rival in an attempt to outplay them. It’s no exaggeration to say that first half display was perhaps the best we’ve witnessed since Fergie left. I know City aren’t as strong as they were but it was still great to see and something the players should take huge encouragement from.

The next step now (obviously) is to try and build on this and establish some consistency. We’ve shown we can do okay up against teams who play football, you just fear for these players still when they’re pitted against opponents who are up for a scrap. It’s alright taking points off City and Spurs, it’s the likes of Burnley and Newcastle who’ll continue to cause us major grief whilst the team is still in development mode. Anyway, credit where credit is due – that was a tremendously satisfying win after the wretched football that’s been served up for much of the season so far.

In other news, as a consequence of last Saturday’s heroics, it appears that we’ve accidentally handed Liverpool the title. I’ve made a conscious effort since August to ensure there was no repeat of last season where I spent about 6 months silently willing City to win each week in the hope they’d stop Liverpool winning the league. I’m not proud of this at all. Despite leaving me feeling increasingly grubby throughout the duration of this period, it worked to a point. City won it again to absolutely zero fanfare and crisis was averted for another year.

There’s no point sweating it anymore because this season, it’s definitely happening. It’s as inevitable as something that’s completely fucking inevitable. If you’ve ever fancied the Inca Trail, scaling Kilimanjaro or a short stay at Dignitas, get it booked now for next May. For the non-adventurous, brace yourself for an attempt on the longest and most significant media blackout of your entire football watching career. It’s going to be horrendous.

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I fully expect Sky staffers are already putting in overtime producing the celebratory montages now. It’ll be pretty easy in fairness as they’ve probably got a shitload leftover from last season that never made it to air. King Kenny, Gerry Marsden, Rogan Taylor, Mick Quinn, Steven Gerrard, Margaret Aspinall, Rafa Benitez, Colin Murray, Jimmy Tarbuck… expect the full cast, past and present to be wheeled out in tribute. I’m telling you now, plan ahead and be prepared for this as the eulogies will continue all summer long.

At least it means we’ve been spared the prospect of City wining three in a row, but let’s be honest, their domestic treble barely registered as very few people outside areas of Greater Manchester and Stockport are remotely interested. It’s weird how flat things seem over at Eastlands. The formerly happy-go-lucky, giddy blue hoards seem more focused on hounding journalists and shouting down allegations of human rights abuses in the United Arab Emirates than winning the European Cup.

They’d never admit it, but the time-served blues I know appeared to be having a lot more fun as the self-styled, morally superior, perennial underdogs of yesteryear. These days it’s just gripes about scousers, bent VAR decisions and wild conspiracy theories alleging UEFA corruption. They’re like lottery winners who moved off their old estate into a massive house, sent their kids to private school and now have a Range Rover and a Lamborghini on the driveway. Their old friends are jealous, the new neighbours are snobs with little respect for new money, so they’re left crippled with self-doubt and a nagging inferiority complex. Life is shit like that, sometimes.

Elsewhere in the Premier League, the seasonal ‘managerial merry-go-round’ is in full-swing with Everton and Arsenal both wielding the axe following Spurs’ recent dismissal of Pochettino. We can only hope Duncan Ferguson sticks around as it’ll only be a matter of weeks before he stops swinging ball boys round in celebration and instead starts grabbing them by the throat. Freddie Ljungberg by comparison is a spectacularly boring choice, Arsenal could have easily upped the bantz levels by bringing in Sol Campbell or Tony Adams in a hopelessly misguided attempt to bring about an improvement in form and player morale.

Anyway, Merry Christmas to one and all. My list this year includes a brand new ground development taking the OT capacity over 90 thousand, half a dozen new first team players in January and reduced bar prices for all, not just singing section barmies. In reality, I’m fully anticipating dropped points at Vicarage Road and Turf Moor whilst Liverpool are being crowned world champions. Buckle up, lads and lasses… as I’ve tried to warn you, scousemageddon is finally upon us.

Copyright Red News – December 2019

www.rednews.co.uk

 

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