Tag Archives: manchester city

All Change

93bb47e1-992c-4aa9-a1ea-b9393ec28b58

And just like that, he was gone. The fact Mourinho lasted as long as he did this season is quite remarkable considering he seemed to make his mind up he was leaving back in August. He knew it was coming, the players knew it and we all knew it too. The last few months were an absolute disaster. The poor results racked up and Woodward eventually had no option but to pull the trigger. No complaints at all there – it was an entirely correct decision. 

I’ll always like Jose for many of the reasons people despise him. He radiates an overpowering sense of boredom and intrinsic distaste of modern football and footballers that I find completely relatable. He appeared to detest many of our players for exactly the same reasons I do. The problem is, it’s okay for me to feel like that as I’m an anonymous, middle-aged fanzine writer who will happily admit to feeling completely underwhelmed by football in 2019. However, it becomes a bit of an issue when your club manager is gripped by the same sense of ennui and withering distaste for everything and everybody connected with the game. 

I hope Mourinho takes a break now, a very long break. I know he messed up hugely at United and was the chief architect in his own downfall, yet I’d still side with him over the players he found himself at war with. The main problem (in my opinion anyway) was that he was completely unable to wipe the slate clean when he should have arrived here refreshed and ready for a new start. Jose can’t let the past go. He had all his baggage out on display and like a recent divorcee rushing into a rebound relationship, previous experiences tainted his decision making. He’s a bitter man who’s at war with himself as well as the world in general. I wish him well, the miserable bastard. 

f5c899f5-029e-4b3a-b9a8-b505e4154de6

Enter Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, all-round United hero and possibly the nicest man in football. Within a matter of milliseconds, everyone was partying like it was 1999 as there was actual, watchable football being played. It appears it really was that simple and contrary to popular opinion, Woodward is very possibly a football genius. Seriously though, despite a simple run of games prior to grinding out victory against Spurs last Sunday, Ole has clearly had a positive effect on the team’s mindset and 6 wins out of 6 speaks for itself. There’s a long, long way to go before we can confidently say things have turned around but it’s been a really encouraging start.

Unfortunately I have to lower the tone at this point by passing comment on Mr Pogba’s recent conduct. Not content with making a complete tit of himself by smugly revelling in Mourinho’s departure all over his social media accounts, he then decides to rouse himself and start playing like an absolute world-beater at the precise moment Jose left the building. So is he taking the piss? Answer: Yes, he clearly is. It might just be me that’s taken major umbrage here, but Pogba dancing round the pitch after scoring against Bournemouth looked every bit as inappropriate as a Tory MP grinning for the cameras after opening a food bank. 

Paul lad, you really just need to get your head down and play now. Not just when you fancy it, how about every week regardless of who’s in charge of picking the team and deciding tactics? Right now, you still owe us big time for doing precisely nothing to help the cause over the last few months. Do us all a favour, eh? Drop the incessant posturing and just try and play to the best of your abilities every single game. We really would appreciate it. 

3284eac1-e2b9-4ed3-843a-886361b91711

Needless to say, it’s going to take a lot more than a handful of goals and a couple of defence-splitting passes for Pogba to redeem himself in my eyes. What happens the next time he has a crossed word with Solskjaer or any future manager who neglects to massage his ego momentarily? Will the toys be thrown back out of the pram or was that 4 month sabbatical he took exclusively reserved for Mourinho? I’m just not buying it, lads. The guy’s a clown and Fergie had him sussed out years ago.

I don’t really need to point out that this horrific season has been compounded by the fact that Liverpool are currently odds-on favourites to win the league. The fact we find ourselves silently willing City to overhaul them makes an already grave situation feel even more desperate. It was little more than an inconvenience when Chelsea and Arsenal were winning titles and punctuating our two decade run of success. Actively hoping City win the league to stop Liverpool feels almost depraved in comparison. What have we become?

I couldn’t quite get my head round the fact a few reds I know were able to settle down and watch City v Liverpool recently. Some wrong ‘uns on twitter actually seemed quite enamoured with the prospect. Don’t get me wrong, I’d already reconciled myself with the fact I wanted City to beat them but there’s no way I could contemplate watching. I’m not being all top red about it but sitting through that would have felt uncomfortably voyeuristic. I’d rather keep my head down and brace myself for the consequences should the unthinkable happen. 

3fa13cb2-15c1-48f7-8272-d5fd095a6f85

Continuing on the same theme, a few deluded souls appeared to take some solace from the fact Wolves subsequently knocked the scousers out of the cup. Personally, I’m struggling to see how that was a good thing at all. Klopp isn’t is daft as he acts and he knows they’ve got a smallish squad. Fending off City is going to be tough so any free weekend will prove a blessing as the season progresses. Make no bones about it, Liverpool losing that game was completely by design. Of course he’ll look silly if City eventually overhaul them and they finish potless again, but if they end up winning the title it’ll be rightly be seen as a genius move. God forbid it actually happens. 

Copyright Red News – January 2019

www.rednews.co.uk

Advertisements

Miles Away

A6CAAA5A-21A9-4536-BF6A-DEEA0B59E6DD

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. 

7E1F55AB-7439-473A-BF37-B01C4F7D1AF9

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

Reasons To Be Cheerful, Part 3

image

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.

image

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