Tag Archives: manchester city

Oranges & Lemons

Back in August when all pre-season optimism was obliterated at Brentford, I doubt even the most optimistic United fan would have predicted one trophy already in the bag and another up for grabs as the season draws to a close. Whatever happens from now until the start of June, what we’ve witnessed has exceeded pretty much all expectations. Regardless of horror shows served up at the Etihad, Anfield and most recently in Seville, we’ve comfortably avoided the never-ending shitshow of the last few campaigns. The players at least look bothered again and honestly, that will do for me given the state we were in 12 months ago. 

Setbacks remain fairly commonplace but what’s different now is the response to these. This time last year the team looked to be actively seeking reasons to down tools, and that’s if they even bothered to turn up in the first place. You can’t fault the effort being put in and certain players have helped re-establish a bond between players and supporters. Personally speaking, rather than wishing death on them as a group, it turns out that some of them are actually quite likeable. This feels like a major turning point, and I suppose indicative of how low the bar had fallen at the end of last season. 

As far as setbacks go, one I didn’t foresee was that last 10 minutes at home to Sevilla. 2-0 up and cruising then all of a sudden we’d managed to concede 2 and both starting centre backs were lost to injury. What looked like a relatively simple task in the away leg became a huge test, plus we’re now reliant on Lindelof and Maguire for the remainder of the season. The absence of Martinez is arguably a bigger blow than losing Casemiro or Fernandes for any length of time given how he’s come to influence how United function in both defence and attack. It’s a huge miss and the only positive is that the diagnosis wasn’t more severe than what was originally feared. 

The spotlight now is fixed squarely on Maguire again. I’ve been a staunch defender of him over the last few months amidst the utterly moronic pile-on that occurs every time he’s mentioned on social-media. That said, moments like that first goal in Seville make me realise I’ve attempted to defend the indefensible in his case. Some players have big enough shoulders to move on from career slumps whereas others simply crumble. I’m not going to add to the chorus of ridicule but Maguire looks completely shot now. It’s the same thing that happened to Phil Jones, it doesn’t matter what he does at this stage because he’s basically become a living, breathing meme. 

De Gea is another one who needs shipping out sooner rather than later. If he does stay, it’ll be only be indicative of the club’s perilous financial footing and our unwillingness to spend on a replacement. Any other rival club wouldn’t think twice in our situation. If a new keeper isn’t currently high up the list of priorities this summer, then I’d argue it should be. He was equally culpable for that first goal in Spain and just like in his early days at the club, opponents now routinely target him given his reluctance to leave his line and inability to command the penalty area. 

Ten Hag needs to shoulder some of the blame regarding the Europa exit as it was spectacularly naive persisting with playing out from the back given the personnel at his disposal. We all know that De Gea is limited with the ball at his feet but this is mitigated when he’s got Martinez and Varane in front of him. Maguire and Lindelof just aren’t able to offer the same level of composure so we were always going to struggle against a backdrop of 40,000 hyperactive Spaniards. He must have clocked this since De Gea was back in “if in doubt, launch it” mode for the Brighton semi-final a few days later. 

Looking towards the summer, I expect much depends on whether or not the takeover occurs in the coming weeks. There’s been a lot said about the process dragging on to a 3rd round of bids but is anyone really surprised? Any sale was always going to take months and I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re still in this situation going into next season. It’s not like signing a player where everything can be boxed off within a few hours. The Glazers have been in this for the money since 2005 so it was only to be expected they’d attempt to rinse as high an offer as possible out of any prospective bidder. It’ll take as long as it takes and I doubt I’ll be happy with the outcome in any case. 

I suppose we should address the likelihood of the unthinkable happening in just a few weeks. There’ve been a couple of close shaves in recent years but the manner in which City have moved insidiously closer to the treble this season is starting to cause major heartburn. I’ve tried to block it out for the most part feeling confident that Arsenal were looking comfortable at the top of the table, optimistic that their widely predicted capitulation might not happen. Except then it did. Unfortunately the wheels look have well and truly fallen off that particular bandwagon now. 

Unbelievably, it seems a large number of United’s online following are quite comfortable with the prospect of Armageddon fast approaching. Apparently Arsenal imploding would be a far more desirable outcome given the comedy potential in witnessing the meltdown of their fancam lot. Yeah, let’s forget the decades-long local rivalry, 100+ charges of financial irregularities, the sportswashing, the fact that CITY MIGHT WIN THE TREBLE when you can have a good old LOL at half a dozen helmets famous for screeching performative nonsense into a video camera. 

Given that Arsenal appear hellbent on bottling it, realistically it’s only us or Real Madrid who can stop them at this point. Given what’s at stake, the forthcoming FA Cup final promises to be some day. I’m not going to stoop so low as to name and shame the member of our WhatsApp group who claimed pre-match “it would be a relief to get beat by Brighton” to avoid the prospect of facing City at Wembley. This is no time for negativity despite the potential doomsday situation ahead of us. It’s a full-on death or glory scenario now, it will either be one of the greatest days ever or one of the worst. Que sera, sera. 

Copyright Red News – May 2023


The Beat Goes On


Having argued quite vociferously against the resumption of the Premier League, I’ll happily concede that it turned out to be quite watchable in the end. Winning helps of course. 11 rapid-fire games with United looking focused and determined for the most part. Despite being confined to watching on TV, I can honestly say I’ve enjoyed the last 6 weeks of football as much as anything in any period since Fergie retired. Not that that’s saying much.

The realisation hit me that watching football on telly shorn of the compulsion to attend in person (a growing trend in recent seasons, admittedly) is actually quite underrated. It’s an absolute doddle, this part-time supporter caper. There’s little stress involved, it doesn’t cost anything like as much as buying a ticket and you don’t have to mix with the ever increasing number of complete bellends who spoil the match day experience. Having spent nigh on 40 years looking down my nose at mere ‘fans’ and quietly revelling in my self-appointed top red status, it turns out the armchair lads are actually onto something.

I jest of course. Despite the novelty of watching United string a few wins together, it all had a hollow ring to it. We watched 6 weeks of walking-pace, contractual obligations being played out with piped in crowd noise to provide the illusion of authenticity. It was a bit like watching the longest post-season tour in history… or a particularly unmemorable World Cup where everyone knew who won before the draw was made. It was entertaining to a point and provided some relief after weeks of below-par crime dramas and basketball documentaries on Netflix, but let’s not pretend it was football. Not proper football, anyway.

The post-apocalyptic, Bizarro World version of the Premier League briefly afforded us the chance to make history. At one point it looked like we might be in with a shout of lifting the inaugural Covid League title awarded to the the team with the best record post-lockdown. Unfortunately we had to settle for 2nd place as dropped points meant City picked up the germ plated, commemorative trophy. This made it a Coronavirus double for the blues, still buoyant after their extra-time victory in the CAS Cup.


Despite paling in significance with the real thing, there was still plenty to digest. For the first time in a long time, a United manger successfully figured out his strongest line up and boy, did he decide to rinse it. As we limped over the finish line at Leicester the team was basically running on fumes. The only big disappointment came at Wembley where Ole justifiability gambled on resting a few players. That didn’t work out at all as the performance showed. We’re still in need of further reinforcements clearly, but that single setback shouldn’t detract from the progress made since January.

The main reason for the improvement is Bruno Fernandes. Not only has he arrived and made an excellent contribution himself, his enthusiasm appears to have had a positive effect on everyone else around him. The attitude of many of the squad has been questionable, both collectively and individually for a number of years. Fernandes comes in and it’s like they’re trying their best to impress the new kid in school who everyone agrees is cool. Shaw is moving up and down the touch line faster, Matic looks halfway mobile and perhaps most shocking of all, Pogba has declared himself match fit.

In the final game at Leicester, Bruno looked absolutely shattered after 10 minutes. He still didn’t stop all afternoon despite the feet no longer doing what the brain was telling them to do. Having a player like that in the team, a proper natural leader actively looking to take responsibility rather than shirk it is absolutely priceless. His head doesn’t drop and he leads by example, every single game. He might not be THE captain, but he’s A captain. Successful football teams tend to have 4 or 5 players demonstrating these qualities.

Despite quickly becoming the star turn, it’s not been all Bruno. Ole deserves a lot of credit for the way he’s used Mason Greenwood this season, integrating him slowly into the set up and knowing precisely the right moment to unleash him as a first choice starter. Greenwood himself is something else. 17 goals for an 18 year old, 3rd choice striker is a ridiculous return in his first season. It’s not just the goal return though. As he’s shown already, he’s a very capable all-round footballer.


The decision to shift Lukaku in order to give this kid more game time doesn’t seem so controversial 12 months on. Unlike the human water buffalo, Greenwood is great with the ball at his feet and supremely comfortable in possession. He knows when to do the simple things and when to attempt the extraordinary. There’s no need to blow any more smoke up his arse right now because we all know how talented he is. It’s hard not to get excited about how good he could be in a few years if he continues to develop as he has throughout this season.

Coming up next we’ve got more televised summer football in the form of the Europa League’s conclusion being played over in Germany. It’ll be a bittersweet feeling should United progress to the final (not a foregone conclusion by any means) as European finals are those occasions where you feel compelled to be there. I’ll be made up for Ole if he wins his first trophy as a manager but it won’t be the same without 40,000 reds ballooning round Cologne to mark the occasion. I suspect town could be interesting that night though.

In the same way that Liverpool’s title win became inevitable months ago, I’ve reached a similar conclusion about the prospect of City winning the European Cup later this month. It’s going to happen sooner or later so it may as well be this year. Liverpool are champions and Leeds have won promotion so I figure we take the hit and make it an annus horribilis hat-trick. They won’t be able to experience it properly and it’ll be the worst final in living memory regardless what happens. At least our blue brethren will be spared the usual scramble for excuses after they fail to sell out their allocation. Every cloud and all that.

Copyright Red News – August 2020


Run! Christian, Run!


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.


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