Tag Archives: manchester city

Miles Away

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As far as derby build-ups go, it was an action-packed week. Whilst United were out in Turin enjoying their most fortuitous Champions League victory since overturning Bayern in the ‘99 final, City were facing the fallout of Der Spiegel’s grand reveal of their dodgy dealings over the last 10 years. In the end, any potential embarrassment counted for little as it was United who were left humiliated after turning in another truly pathetic performance. 

Obviously beating Juventus earlier in the week was something worth celebrating but let’s be honest, it was a complete fluke. Mata scored a lovely free-kick and then we bundled in a winner, but it was a hollow victory given we posed precisely zero threat throughout the preceding 85 minutes. Mourinho cupping an ear and pulling faces at the home fans was all very amusing, yes… but he’s fooling nobody despite seizing the rare opportunity to show off his tried and tested, pantomime villain routine. José, like his team, is merely going through the motions. There’s no momentum and there’s little progress to speak off despite some exaggerated claims to the contrary. 

Qualification for the knock-out stages is almost a certainty now, but we won’t last long there because we’re nowhere near that level. The way things are going, it’s doubtful we’ll even qualify for Europe next season. We’re stuck in exactly the same loop that we’ve been in throughout the last 5 seasons – failing miserably with a squad of expensive underachievers, ageing has-beens and overrated youngsters. The football we play is absolutely abysmal – I’ve given up pretending otherwise. If you don’t agree, then keep drinking the Kool-Aid. 

Mourinho’s reaction to the defeat was completely baffling. “I think it is not a bad performance at all” was a bizarre assertion given we completed a grand total of 5 (yes, FIVE) passes prior to City (96 passes) taking the lead on 12 minutes. (I hate to rob statistics from terminal bores like The Guardian’s Jonathan Wilson but sometimes it has to be done.) José then claimed that City would’ve been in “big trouble” if he’d been able to call on Fellaini from the bench with 20 mins to go. He was talking utter bollocks here again. I seem to recall that Fellaini was on the pitch whilst City were strolling round and putting 44 passes together prior to their 3rd goal. Much like his fellow lamp posts stood around in midfield, he did absolutely fuck all to try and stop them.  

Then, to cap it all, news broke on the Monday that United are set to offer new contracts to Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia. I guess it was a good day to try and bury bad news since most reds were still recovering from the previous day’s events. But seriously, is someone having a fucking laugh here? This has to be a wind-up, surely? I’m genuinely starting to think that Mourinho knows he’s on his way out so is getting his revenge in early. I can’t see any other explanation at this point. 

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Anyway, back to Der Spiegel. And hearty congratulations to our German friends for confirming precisely what anyone with half a brain long-suspected about the Abu Dhabi-affiliated enclave in East Manchester. What’s most remarkable is it took a news outlet on the continent to bring this cosy set-up to the wider public’s attention despite the subject being widely discussed on forums and in fanzines over the last 10 years. It’s all quite simple, City have used every trick in the book to financially dope themselves and boost their income over the last decade, neatly circumventing UEFA’s FFP rules in the process. 

Manchester Council are complicit of course, happy to take their money enabling a complete re-generation of the surrounding area and local ‘journalists’ are content to look the other way and focus on daily puff-pieces praising their spectacular football. Witness the hilarious exchanges on Twitter when the MEN’s Stuart Brennan was questioned on whether he’d be following up the story. “I’m not working today” and “I’ll talk to my boss tomorrow and see what she wants to do” was the extent of his reaction. I guess the panel dishing out Pulitzer Prize nominations won’t be in touch any time soon then.

Ultimately, nothing will change following these revelations because there’s little hope of truth and justice coming to fruition when corruption is unearthed nowadays. The fact most reaction to major news stories take place on social media, where every clown can weigh in with their opinion, makes reasoned discussion even more unlikely. Someone might make an erudite point but it’s immediately lost in a maelstrom of abuse and brainless inter-club point scoring. Opinion from anyone expressing the slightest allegiance to United is dismissed as our position is so entrenched and intrinsically ‘anti-City’ that it counts for nothing.

I’ve gone off on a bit of a tangent here I know, but I suppose this is just how 21st century politics is played out in general. It’s why we’re staring Brexit in the face and it’s how proven liars like Donald Trump can end up as President. Any criticism of the status quo, even via nuanced debate, is rendered mute. Everyone can have a say now, but it’s rare that anyone gets listened to. Imagine if something like the Watergate scandal was uncovered these days. Nixon wouldn’t be impeached; Woodward and Bernstein would be shouted down and the Washington Post dismissed as peddling fake news. We are fucked, we really are. 

Copyright Red News – November 2018

www.rednews.co.uk

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Reasons To Be Cheerful, Part 3

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Well December went well, didn’t it? It all started so well with that memorable win at the Emirates, but sneaking out of there with 3 points unfortunately meant that we’d used up an entire month’s worth of luck in the space of 2 hours. By the time Boxing Day arrived it felt like Van Gaal had returned like the Ghost of Christmas Past. The players appeared to sense this too and joined in by attempting a macabre re-enactment of the infamous Norwich home game that ruined Christmas 2015.

Factor in a 0-0 draw against Southampton a few days later and it momentarily felt like we’d regressed 2 years. We haven’t, thankfully… I genuinely believe that. It was just a hefty kick in the bollocks that needs to be kept in perspective. Since I wrote here a month ago we’ve played a dozen games and suffered a major dip in form. Injuries, fatigue, a post-derby hangover… blame whatever you want. Yet we’re 2nd in the league and comfortably reached the CL knock-out stages – so we’re not doing all that badly.

Let’s be realistic here: over half of United’s squad still comprises of haphazardly recruited, distinctly underwhelming footballers – good players, but not great players. Most will be replaced as soon as their contracts are up. Forget the net spend figures and Jose/Pep comparisons being bandied about as they’re irrelevant for the most part. Looking at the talent we have in place, I maintain that we’re overachieving with what we’ve actually got.

Unfortunately, the gargantuan ball ache that nobody anticipated this season was Manchester City’s ridiculous form. The fact they’ve amassed an unprecedented points total at this stage skews the picture to the point that any progress made by United has been obscured. 2 years ago we’d have been 3 points clear at the top of the table with 47 points after 22 games. Instead, we’re sat 15 points off the pace so understandably, the mood about the place is poised somewhere between subdued and clinically depressed.

So, what to do? According to your average, internet-based moron, being 15 points behind City and with everyone feeling a bit sorry for themselves, it’s time to sack the manager. Quite how anyone could reach that conclusion is baffling, but such a mindset does exist out there. Can you imagine the alternative to Mourinho at this juncture? I can. United hovering just above mid-table with Giggs and Phil Neville in charge whilst Paul Scholes sits in the ITV studio claiming we’re ‘doing pretty well’ all things considered. Meanwhile, the entire footballing world pisses themselves laughing at our expense. No thanks, I’ll stick with Jose if you don’t mind.

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That doesn’t mean to say I don’t think Mourinho has to change if he is to succeed in the long-term at Old Trafford. I think we were all guilty of underestimating the extent to which Guardiola would impact on City’s fortunes this season, but does Mourinho have to ability to drag this current United squad up to their current level? Either by instilling some radical shift in mindset and tactics, or by making some unforeseen changes in personnel.

To put this another way, Ferguson re-invented his United teams numerous times due to the shifting demands of what he deemed necessary to succeed. He famously gambled on youth in 1995, built a team of warriors to out-battle Arsenal, then set about constructing a side that proved even more consistent than Mourinho’s powerful 2005 Chelsea vintage. Basically, we might need a re-think if we’re going to get anywhere near City over the next couple of years – it’s not enough just to keep our fingers crossed hoping they won’t quite hit the same heights next season.

Take Lukaku as an example here – signed at huge expense to lead our attack for the next 5-6 years. Although his goals contribution has been respectable, I don’t think I’m being that unkind in suggesting he’s not the most fluid, all-round footballer to have graced the No.9 shirt at OT. Even as a flat-track bully, he doesn’t do that much bullying and he manages to miss as many sitters as both Rashford and Martial combined. I’ve no desire to kick Romelu whilst he’s down here at all, he’s clearly trying his hardest. I’m merely suggesting that Jose might benefit from re-visiting his plan of having him as our attacking figurehead for the next 5 years.

If you don’t agree with this harsh assessment of Lukaku’s form, then take some solace from the fact that regular whipping boy Jesse Lingard has improved immeasurably since being singled out for a slagging off here a couple of months back. Whilst Lukaku and the returning Zlatan have looked well off the pace, Lingard has carried the team over the last couple of months and proven himself United’s most potent attacking threat by miles. Fair play to him. I will happily admit to being wrong and I genuinely hope he maintains this new level of consistency he’s reached. I still think he’s a bit of a dickhead, and acknowledge the fact he’s quite entitled to hold the same opinion of me.

Despite the team’s solid progress overall, we’re left facing the grim prospect of watching City steamroller towards the title for the next few months. As unpalatable as this may be, we’re just going to have to suck it up as every minor setback befalling United is inevitably blown out of all proportion. We’ve still got much to play for despite the league summit being out of reach; still in the FA Cup and worse teams than ours have won the Champions League in the not too distant past. I appreciate I’m clutching at straws here, but how sweet would that be? Shades of ’68 as City win the title whilst United usurp them by claiming the big one. Lingard screamer to win it in the last minute, anyone?

Copyright Red News – January 2018

www.rednews.co.uk

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

www.rednews.co.uk