Tag Archives: manchester arena

You’ve Gotta Hand It To Them

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After the downbeat tone of last month’s piece, 3 consecutive league victories have steadied the ship and (just about) prevented City from disappearing out of sight before Christmas. Note that statement comes with a major caveat given they are today’s opposition and I’m writing this without knowing the result of last Saturday’s Arsenal trip. Reading this then, you’re either buzzing at the fact we’re still in contention, or resigned to the fact this season’s league ambitions stretch no further than a comfortable top 4 finish.

In any other season, we’d probably be thrilled at United’s overall form but there’s no getting away from the fact that City have upped the bar to an almost unassailable level at present. 20 consecutive wins (or something) is an incredible feat no matter what era it occurs in or whatever the level of football. They are utterly relentless at the moment. The only solace I can take from this is that before today, I genuinely haven’t seen a single minute of them in action this season. It’s just easier on the blood pressure to avoid the television and radio and let things take their natural course.

Every now and then you get a reminder why this is definitely the most sensible option. It’d slipped my mind they were playing Southampton until a message popped up in the Red News WhatsApp group chat that simply said “fuck, fuck, fuck”. Ah right… that’ll be their late winner then – only six minutes into injury time as it turned out. I honestly don’t know why people put themselves through it. I got suckered into listening to the last 5 minutes of their game at Bournemouth back in August which had a similarly demoralising conclusion. The radio went off and I drove to OT in silence, cursing my stupidity.

As regards today’s fixture, it’s got ‘season-defining’ written all over it. If this United side is going to take the difficult step up from being merely good to great, then now is the perfect time to suggest that with a positive result in a game of this magnitude. Allowing City to dominate possession would appear to be a recipe for disaster, so l’m just praying we try and seize the initiative rather than cautiously sitting back and letting them have the ball. The form they are in though, we may well get rolled over whatever tactics are employed.

Continuing the theme of begrudging praise, the recent form of Ashley Young deserves a mention. Despite him being something of a model professional who’s a thoroughly nice guy off the pitch by all accounts, it’s fair to say that I’ve never warmed to Ashley Young the footballer. However, credit where credit’s due, he’s been excellent this season. It just goes to show that the old cliché about ‘needing a run in the side’ is true and perhaps we’re sometimes too quick to write off players who’re struggling for form on the fringes of the team. Oh, hello Nani. *cough*

That said, I still maintain that despite both Young and Valencia regularly putting in decent shifts, both full-back positions need addressing at some point. Offensively and defensively, they do an alright job but I remain unconvinced we can’t do better in that department. It’s fair to assume both Darmian and Shaw are on their way out sooner rather than later, and Jones/Smalling/Rojo/Blind never look entirely comfortable there despite being able to fill in when called upon. Oh for a young Denis Irwin, Gary Neville or Patrice Evra…

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The Watford game also saw Jesse Lingard turning in one of his infrequent star turns, making up somewhat for his execrable performance at Huddersfield which had me ready to strangle him last month. Ever the social-media savant, he immediately took to Twitter and proclaimed that he felt “like Hercules”. Hercules? Do me a favour. Jesse lad, you aren’t no Young Thug no matter how much time you spend stood in front of the mirror listening to absolutely shit hip-hop and practising gangster poses. You haven’t got a ‘Mink Flow’, you’re from Warrington. Grow up.

Down at the other end of the table, I note that soul-sucking, fun vacuum David ‘6 year contract’ Moyes is back in football on his latest destroy and exit mission. One can only assume the shysters in charge at West Ham have lost the plot completely. What possible grounds are there for thinking the bloke will do anything other than guide them to certain relegation? Obviously the Duane Duvatts were absolutely livid with the appointment, whereas Moyes his usual sanguine self. “If it works, great. If it doesn’t, then I’ll see the East End of London for seven months, then I’ll go elsewhere.” Textbook Moyes, that.

Another one not yet done with snaffling all he can from football’s trough is Sam Allardyce. Amazingly, the Everton job is now his 12th managerial appointment. This takes him comfortably past Harry Redknapp who’s had 9, but still some way behind Neil Warnock who’s now at his 15th different club. It makes you wonder how these blokes keep getting offered work in spite of repeated failures, whereas other managers disappear off-radar completely. Is it just coincidence that the above-mentioned are some of the most media-friendly in football? Keeping friendly hacks onside to generate undue praise and gloss over any evidence of incompetence (or indeed financial impropriety), seems to be the way to go. It’s no wonder Moyes is so blasé about getting another job beyond his next disastrous reign.

Anyway, that’s me done here for another year. Merry Christmas all, and I’m sure you’ll join me in wishing for City to hit some sort of metaphorical iceberg before I appear here again in early January. Have a good one…

Copyright Red News – December 2017

www.rednews.co.uk

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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

www.rednews.co.uk