Tag Archives: manchester united

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

Something/Anything?

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Here we are again. Alongside the erratic form that has become the team’s hallmark in recent years, its ability to nosedive into a crisis every couple of months has become a constant. On the one hand, in recent weeks we’ve cruised to victory against Newcastle and Norwich and progressed in the FA Cup. More tellingly, we’ve been soundly beaten by Liverpool, City and Arsenal before the latest nadir of losing to Burnley at home. That win at the Etihad seems a long, long time ago now.

In the not too distant past, defeat to 3 rivals in a calendar month would have triggered a major inquest. These days it barely registers. It speaks volumes as to how far expectations have sunk that defeats are greeted with a weak smile from the manager and a shrug of the shoulders from everyone else. There’s no point blaming Solskjaer for the state we’re in, but his post-match interviews are now unwatchable.

Ole’s dogged determination to sprinkle sequins on dogshit seems to be working though. I’ve never known a time during my football watching life where in the aftermath of a trip to Anfield, some people you speak to seem almost enthused by a 0-2 defeat. “At least we had a go 2nd half.” Yeah, at least we had a go.

It appears we’ve made a similarly forlorn attempt at bringing in much-needed reinforcements during the transfer window. I don’t know what it is about this club, but whatever the internal process is for getting deals done seems to make an already tricky process even more convoluted. As per usual, strategy and long-term planning are unfathomably inconsistent. Back in August the club were briefing the usual suspects how they were irritated by the Fernandes rumours and simply weren’t interested. 6 months later, after his price has skyrocketed, United are suddenly all over him.

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This leaves you with the impression that the club’s recently overhauled system of player recruitment still isn’t fit for purpose. A global network of 52 scouts, football development staff, a chief negotiator… yet successive windows come and go with the same end result. For all Woodward’s bluster in explaining his bold new vision during the recent UWS interview, it still feels like United are highly dysfunctional in this area. We deliberate too long, there are regular about-turns on priority targets and there’s little evidence of a long-term vision barring the painfully simplistic ‘try to buy young and cheap’.

For the last 6 months we’ve heard Ole acknowledge the fact we need strengthening several times, yet another transfer window has passed without any noticeable improvement to the squad’s overall quality. The club keep making noises that a re-build is in progress, but I don’t sense any urgency or desire to make the key acquisitions we’re crying out for.

It was obvious last season that our main problem was the midfield yet we spent all summer pursuing another central defender. The January window arrives and negotiations for Fernandes commence. If they broke down because Sporting hiked the price unreasonably, why didn’t United simply move onto the next choice target? Instead we retreat, sit on our hands and wait for the charade to begin again in June.

At some point, the penny might drop that much of United’s activity during these transfer windows amounts to little more than posturing. The proposed re-build doesn’t have to take years. Clubs aren’t limited to 1-2 signings during each transfer window. If there was a genuine determination to improve the team, there’s little doubt the process could be accelerated. Just because Sanchez was a disaster, it doesn’t mean every future piece of business completed in January would be similarly cursed. You can only assume that contrary to what the club likes to project, funds aren’t being made available for players that we desperately need.

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I guess it all comes down to priorities. Whilst the playing squad is crying out for reinforcement, the club have instead taken on Neil Ashton (ex-The Sun) in a PR role. Rather than keeping this on the down-low, Ashton announced he was set to work for United on live television as he signed off from chairing Sky’s Sunday Supplement. It’s absolutely laughable. Within days, nonsense puff pieces starting appearing all over the shop. ‘Ed’s doing a good job ‘cos the share price is booming’, ‘United to beef-up scouting efforts’ etc, etc. None of this guff will placate the perma-sceptical fanbase so presumably it’s a vain attempt at reassuring potential sponsors all is well. Priorities.

You know things are getting really bad when stalwarts like Ashley Young are jumping  ship, rejecting a 12 month extension for the chance to join up with Lukaku and Sanchez at Inter. I could join in with the misty-eyed, hypocrites praising his commitment and professionalism at this point but that’s no fun, is it? I never liked him and I’d be a liar if I started pretending otherwise. That stupid thing he does raising both hands before every shit corner annoyed me as much as Valencia standing still with the ball at his feet when facing an opposition full-back. He stayed 7 years too long and I feel genuinely enthused by the fact he’s gone.

In case you hadn’t noticed, the level of toxicity surrounding the club is growing by the week. Audible dissent has been heard at OT for the first time since the Green & Gold days and the always tetchy social media crowd continue to fling vitriol around with wild abandon. This is not exactly a new development of course, they’re always on the verge of a fresh meltdown, but each poor result increases the bile a few more notches.

The latest bone of contention was talk of organising a mass walkout during today’s Wolves game, somewhat crassly planned for the 58th minute. Having seriously considered the idea for a few moments, I reached the conclusion that it just wouldn’t work. Even if 15,000 leave the ground, that’s 60,000 still sat there singing ‘You are my Solskjaer’ in implicit approval of what they’re watching. End result is we’d be doing Ashton’s job for him.

Finally, in case you missed it, Red Issue’s former Ed came out of semi-retirement last month and unleashed, via twitter, a scathing expose of the parasitic fancam clowns who have attached themselves to the club in recent times. It was quite something and a timely reminder of how they’re still sadly missed in United fanzine circles. You were left marvelling, as ever, at both the forensic research carried out and the sheer level of invective they specialise in. We can all try, but nobody calls out bullshit better.

Copyright Red News – February 2020

www.rednews.co.uk

Lost and Found

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Amidst the unabashed frivolity of the holiday celebrations, it can also be a time for sober reflection as we contemplate life without those we’ve loved and lost. This Christmas was set to be especially tough as there’s a (semi) popular lad at the club who’d been missing since the end of September. He was making sporadic posts on social media and was spotted in a couple of far-flung locations during his extended absence, but where was he? Thankfully, our prayers were answered as Paul Pogba turned up at last. Not on an exercise bike, a basketball court or dancing the Shaku Shaku… I mean actually in a United shirt.

What joy and relief we felt as he entered the fray at Vicarage Road as his erstwhile teammates cruised to a 0-2 defeat against rock-bottom relegation certs. He looked half-decent during his 20 minute cameo, prompting all manner of excitable musings from the xG virgins on social media. Am I being too cynical? Almost certainly. Maybe I should switch my brain off and pay attention to Raiola when he’s claiming his man wants to stay at OT and “win prizes”. I don’t think so. I expect the reality here is the human slug fears Juve/Barca/Madrid might have focused their attention elsewhere. This was nothing more than a vain attempt to build bridges and secure improved terms from United as a back-up plan.

Or, perhaps not. No sooner did Pogba make a return to first team duties, he promptly disappeared again. His “people” deciding there’s another problem with the ankle that now requires an operation – cue another few months of him flitting round the globe in a desperate rush to find match fitness. Even mild-mannered Ole looked completely exasperated when breaking the news during his post-match interview at the Emirates. I can’t say I’ve had enough of Pogba and his “people” now, because I lost all patience with them 2 years ago. If you’ve still got any faith whatsoever in this clown then I quite honestly feel for you at this point.

Following Haaland Jnr’s decision to move to Dortmund instead of Old Trafford, I suspect we’ve now reached the final stretch of Raiola’s influence on the current squad ecosystem. Fergie certainly wouldn’t entertain him, and it was clear in summer 2016 that Woodward was taking a huge gamble by ignoring past indiscretions and welcoming him and 3 of his players (Pogba, Mkhitaryan and Zlatan) back into the fold. Another of his charges, Lukaku, would arrive a year later.

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In some respects Raiola is no different from any other agent. He nurtures a strong relationship with each of his players when they’re young, he has extensive contacts throughout Europe and he’s focused on earning himself a few quid. He reportedly speaks 7 languages so he’s clearly not thick. That only tells half the story though. A line from Zlatan’s book provides an insight to how Raiola differs from the majority of his peers: “The guy wasn’t actually a mafioso. He just looked and acted like one.

We can therefore conclude that Raiola fancies himself as a bit of a maverick. He wears jeans and sunglasses to meetings and probably quotes The Godfather trilogy like millennials know Harry Potter. He bought Al Capone’s ex-house in Miami, which is just about the most tryhard gangsta flex imaginable. For a self-styled loose cannon who’s unfazed when pitted against adversaries like Moggi, Berlusconi and Ferguson during negotiations, Ed Woodward was always going to be a pushover in comparison. This was never going to end well for United.

Aside from all the posturing, it’s clear that Raiola is singularly dedicated to each of his players and will do anything possible to orchestrate the most lucrative career path open to them – with a large emphasis on the word ‘lucrative’. Despite being involved in high-profile deals like Bergkamp to Inter (from Ajax) as far back as 1993 and Nedved to Juventus (from Lazio) in 2001; it was the hook-up with Zlatan back in 2004 that helped him realise his full potential in plundering the riches of European football’s 21st century transfer market.

Raiola wants his players to adopt the same mindset he himself possesses. Clubs exist to be exploited – until they have outlived their usefulness in terms of gargantuan bonus payments and a platform from which his clients can temporarily project their talents. Quaint notions of loyalty and longevity don’t exist because earnings are best maximised by instigating a move every 2-3 years. It was no exaggeration when I previously surmised that Pogba’s long-anticipated switch to Spain was being planned before he’d even re-signed for United.

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With the club in its current state, it’s extremely doubtful whether de Ligt or Haaland would have chosen to come here regardless of any agent’s influence. We’re a dysfunctional mess and any emerging starlets would be best advised to steer clear of M16 at present. However, I can’t say I’m too despondent about this state of affairs. Even if the club was on a secure footing, I’d prefer to avoid the de-stabilising presence of this fat little man whose sole focus in life is pimping out young footballers so he can eventually bid on another summer house in Florida.

It was still amusing to see Woodward scrambling to brief his regular press mouthpieces after news broke of Haaland’s ‘snub’. Yes, of course United pulled out of the proposed deal as they weren’t prepared to give into Raiola’s excessive demands. I mean, they’ve only paid him an estimated £30-£40 million in commission fees over the last 3 years. However, we’re now supposed to believe the club has suffered a sudden bout of fiscal modesty and no longer wants to risk being exploited.

Do me a favour. The fact is, United are the biggest, the richest and currently run by the daftest. This is why the club has been at the centre of numerous catastrophic transfers in recent times where we’ve repeatedly had our pants pulled down. Whilst Woodward remains in charge, United will continue to be at the mercy of leeches like Raiola and Pogba.

Copyright Red News – January 2020

www.rednews.co.uk