Tag Archives: manchester united

Que Sera, Sera

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The recent Champions League QF between Liverpool and City proved to be a bit of a conundrum, didn’t it? Whilst the eventual result spared us the possibility of the idiot neighbours being crowned Europe’s finest for at least another year, it’s left us with the utterly nauseating prospect of the scousers winning it. What a charmed life they lead in that competition. It doesn’t matter that they remain a completely unremarkable side if you discount Salah’s heroics this season; somehow they’re in the semi-finals again drawn against sodding Roma.

I do have to give Liverpool fans some credit though as they routinely treat the Champions League with the reverence it deserves. Although the ‘famous European nights at Anfield’ legend is teeth-grindingly irritating to all of us who’ve been force-fed this mantra over the years, they genuinely believe it to the extent it’s become a self-fulfilling prophecy. It’s been repeated so often that it’s now accepted as fact and actually bears fruit for them on a regular basis.

Despite being one of the cringiest things I’ve ever seen, you can’t deny that pre-organised ‘coach welcome’ thing they did against City worked an absolute treat. Flares going off, missiles thudding against coach windows, loads of singing… it was nothing like as sinister as was subsequently claimed but it was more than enough to put City off their stroke. Whilst my natural inclination would be to steer well clear of anything so staged and contrived, part of me at least respects the fact the scousers can still rouse themselves for such occasions.

Hypothetically speaking, say if United were ever inclined to put on a similar show, do you reckon we could still manage it? I have my doubts. The days of Roma and Leeds getting legged all over the forecourt seem a world away now. If the Liverpool team coach turned up for a Champions League tie at OT there’d be more chance of them getting ambushed by selfie sticks and autograph hunters than a hail of bottles and cans.

If you think I’m exaggerating here then just cast your mind back to the recent Seville home game and ask yourself, ‘would Anfield have been so deathly quiet?’ Would it bollocks. The uncomfortable truth is they can still do it when required whereas we’re reliant on a couple of hundred J stand barmies clad in garish bobble hats and Adidas Originals to generate any kind of atmosphere.

Due to deadlines and time constraints, I’m writing this pre-match so I’ve got no idea what happened at Wembley against Spurs last weekend. Given you’re reading this a week later, the players have either been revelling in self-congratulatory bullshit on Instagram all week or they’ve been keeping a very low profile having neglected to turn up once again. Quite honestly, I’m struggling to care either way about the bunch of frauds at present. Whatever will be, will be…

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This team do my head in. Just as you manage to convince yourself that they are making some progress and have moved beyond that 4 years and counting spell of looking like a disinterested rabble, they go and turn in that West Brom performance. All the good vibes and positivity generated by that Lazarus-like comeback in the derby obliterated in the space of 90 stupefyingly predictable minutes. It’s just so completely typical of them, the utter bastards.

I dunno. I suppose I’m as guilty as anyone of trying to accentuate the positives under Mourinho but you can’t continue to excuse afternoons like that. It was flashback to what was witnessed week in, week out during Van Gaal’s 2nd season. Quite simply, we should have moved beyond those kind of results by now. It’s all well and good producing a stirring comeback to beat City, but it means nothing if you hand them the title by failing to show against rock bottom relegation certs a week later. It’s just embarrassing.

My hope for the summer is that Mourinho just goes for it. No doubt we’ll spend big yet again but I’d be more encouraged if he concentrated solely on shipping out some of the deadwood. Fuck that, actually just bin ALL of the deadwood. Let’s face it, if we don’t challenge for the title next season (which we evidently won’t, because we’re still capable of losing at home to West fucking Brom) then Jose will end up falling out with absolutely everybody and getting sacked anyway. This is his last season coming up, so he may as well just go all out now rather than continuing with the never-ending re-building job he’s currently embroiled in.

If it were me, I’d start by asking the goalie if he wants to stay. If he doesn’t, then I’d shake his hand, wish him all the best for the future and drive him to the airport. He’s been an absolute star and has already suffered enough. I’d then bin every fullback at the club – the dreamy Dutch one, the rubbish Italian one and both of the failed winger ones. Smalling and Jones will be placed on the transfer list with immediate effect; Eric Bailly gets to stay with the proviso he stops being injured.

Fellaini should get the remaining few weeks of his contract cancelled for having the cheek to turn down a completely unmerited new deal. Seriously, who the fuck does he think he is? Pogba gets to stay on the condition he parts company with his agent and endeavours to become the player we all know he could be. Mata, Herrera and Matic are permitted to remain at the club, mainly due to the fact it would be foolish to get rid of the entire playing staff in the space of a single transfer window.

Jesse Lingard should be congratulated for his remarkable upturn in form but warned about his conduct off the field and tested for undiagnosed ADHD. Lukaku gets to stay on condition he practises basic passing and trapping a ball over the summer. Martial should be binned for looking permanently miserable and having a very irritating fan club on social media. Marcus Rashford to be offered a new deal on the condition he gets himself a girlfriend who’ll make him realise spending 18 hours a day in Lingard’s company is not only mentally exhausting, it’s also affecting his development as a functioning adult.

I’m done with them for now. See you in August.

Copyright Red News – April 2018

www.rednews.co.uk

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Highway To Hell

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Good old Juan Mata. Whilst everyone was losing the plot after the Champions League exit, the nicest man in football™ also proved himself a master of understatement by summing up events as merely, “a complicated week.” That’s one way of putting it, though I can’t help thinking ‘calamitous’ might have been a more fitting adjective.

After Ben Yedder’s 2nd goal prompted the mass exodus from the ground, the mood walking away wasn’t one of resigned disappointment, it felt almost mutinous. I know plenty of people have never really warmed to Mourinho, but I was genuinely surprised at the level of invective being aired. This wasn’t just the usual handful of gobshites sounding off, it was more than that. It felt like a tipping point had been reached.

Jose, true to form, came out swinging. Whilst he was obviously correct in pointing out that our recent Champions League is poor and home exits are nothing new, it was pretty disingenuous of him to ignore the fact that he was brought here to try and change that. Yes, he may well have been in charge of Porto and Real Madrid when they knocked us out, but using that fact to justify failings on his current watch was somewhat spurious reasoning.

As regular readers know, I’ve always defended Mourinho and would have been happy to see him appointed as Fergie’s successor 5 years ago. We needed someone with the same self-belief, drive and winning mentality who would be completely unfazed by the size of the club and level of expectation. Clearly he has his character flaws, but then so did Ferguson. We revelled in his malevolent side and siege mentality for many years, reaping the rewards of his similarly gargantuan personality and monstrous ego.

The major difference between the two was hammered home after the Seville game, however. Whereas you always sensed Ferguson took defeats personally and everything we experienced (good or bad) could be used to impact on his players’ long-term development, there was no evidence of that from Jose’s reaction. He didn’t defend his tactics or his squad, or even seem that chastened by the result – he merely used the opportunity to defend his own reputation.

Needless to say, it wasn’t great timing by Mourinho to remind us of his previous successes over United in the competition. We’re acutely aware of his past pedigree as it’s one of the main reasons he was appointed manager in the first place. His press conference might have been better received if he’d at least sounded contrite rather than brushing criticism away and offering the somewhat lame excuse of, ‘well you’ve seen all this before, haven’t you lads?’

He wasn’t done yet. Jose was back in front of the press prior to the Brighton game, this time armed with a list of Rafa-style facts detailing each of our European exits in recent years. His tone was just as bullish as had been 3 days earlier, although this time he was at pains to stress that the Seville result needed to be viewed in context. His main point being that this United team are still a work in progress lacking experience at the very top level. A fair point I suppose, and at least this time he resisted the temptation to big up his own past achievements.

Manchester United v CSKA Moskva - UEFA Champions League

At least the defeat took the ongoing beef with Pogba off the back pages briefly, but that one is certain to rear its head again given his ongoing absence from the starting line up . The fact he was left out for the biggest game of the season speaks volumes, and that’s before you consider the minimal impact he had after he eventually came on as sub. Regardless of form, I don’t think any of us would picked Fellaini over Pogba versus Seville, especially as we were starting another 2 holding midfielders in Matic and McTominay. Relations between the pair don’t appear to have improved and as I said last month, it won’t come as much of a surprise if Pogba’s gone in the summer.

Ditto Luke Shaw, another player subject to Jose’s oft-schizophrenic approach to motivational techniques. Now we all know that Shaw needs a regular kick up his sizeable arse and it’s long been a cause for concern that his attitude and approach require constant tuning. Mourinho isn’t the first coach to experience this and I doubt he’ll be the last. However, it was only 6 weeks ago that Shaw was being praised for his consistency and a new contract was being mentioned. Was this just an attempt to alert potential suitors? If so, why the abrupt change of heart within a couple of months?

Another in the firing line is Alexis Sanchez, a player whose descent into utter mediocrity has been impressive even by recent United standards. I mean, at least Di Maria gave us 6 weeks of good form before downing tools and viewing apartments on the Champs-Élysées. It came as no surprise to see him dropped for the Brighton game as he’s been absolutely shocking since he signed. Fingers crossed we’ll start to see the best of Alexis after he’s had a break in the summer and a full pre-season behind him.

The FA Cup, as it has been on a couple of notable occasions in United’s history, could turn out to be Mourinho’s salvation in what has become a very testing 2nd term in charge. That however, remains a very remote possibility considering the state of our record against both Spurs and potential finalists Chelsea in recent years – we haven’t beaten either team away from Old Trafford since 2012.

All things considered, last week’s international break probably came at the right time to give several figures in the dressing room a few days break from each other. Just be thankful for Will Grigg and Wigan Athletic’s recent heroics, otherwise we might have been facing a genuine end of days scenario in the not too distant future. Watching City win the treble would be the most “complicated week” imaginable.

Copyright Red News – March 2018

www.rednews.co.uk

Business Time

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In this age of #mufcfamily twitter cranks and rolling 24 hour sports news coverage, you don’t really get many surprise transfers anymore. Those seismic moments where you switch on teletext to find out United have signed Eric Cantona or you bump into a mate in college who tells you Andy Cole has been announced. These days, the minutiae of each deal becomes a deathly dull narrative that often drags on for weeks.

Refreshingly then, the manner in which the Alexis Sanchez transfer came to fruition was something of a modern day novelty, as the entire saga was boxed off and sorted within the space of a few days. Of course, United then did their very best to make the announcement as cringeworthy as possible by making the poor bloke play a wonky version of ‘Glory, Glory Man United’ on the piano dressed in his full kit. Seriously now, whichever social media savant dreams this stuff up on the club’s behalf, just stop it.

Ditto the dog thing. Jesus Christ, just because a few Arsenal divs completely lose the plot and decide to display the saddest banner in football history, it doesn’t mean United fans should feel obliged to do the same. It’s not that I lack a sense of humour about this kind of thing (actually I do), it’s more of a predisposed inclination for us not to advertise the fact our support comprises of a sizeable proportion of complete and utter berks. Smother yourselves in Pedigree Chum and send them birthday cards for all I care, just don’t go putting up banners in the ground welcoming a pair of fucking Labradors.

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The Huddersfield home game saw the 60th anniversary of Munich remembered. Keen to be in place for the minute’s silence taking place prior to kick off, I made a point of forgoing my usual pre-match routine and being in the ground early for once. (Will be disappointed if I don’t receive an email from the club acknowledging this, incidentally.) Firstly, it was a nice gesture by United to present everyone with a programme, book and pin badge marking the occasion, but the build up to the silence left me shaking my head.

In previous years the club have got the tone of these things spot on, but this year’s was very off-key. You don’t pre-empt a minute of respectful contemplation by playing the usual pre-match playlist at ear-splitting volume up until a few seconds before the referee blows his whistle. It all felt a bit crass, a poorly misjudged precursor to what in previous years has been a sombre and reflective moment. I’m not criticising the club for the sake of it here, it’s just the staging of this (likewise the decision to have Fred the Red lining up with the team) needs re-thinking in future.

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Following this weekend’s revelations, I guess we need to talk about Paul. In fairness, the only genuine surprise here is that rumours of his alleged discontent have taken so long to surface. As I said when he signed, he’s a Raiola player and Raiola players never stay anywhere very long. Or as another Red News contributor succinctly put it to me this week, “lie with dogs, get fleas.”

Although he’s been brilliant on occasion, for the most part his form has been as erratic as his haircuts. I’m sure all of us were hoping for far more than what he’s actually delivered over the last 18 months. One suspects much of the goodwill between Raiola and United/Mourinho has evaporated since Mkhitaryan was nominated as the makeweight in the Sanchez deal, so it wouldn’t come as much of a surprise if he’s now in Pogba’s ear suggesting it might be time for a change of scenery.

If Raiola has received word that Madrid or Barca are interested then expect this nonsense to continue until United sanction his departure in the summer. I won’t be that despondent to be honest. I think we all suspected Spain was his preferred destination all along and we were just a highly lucrative stepping stone to that outcome. As ever, it’ll all depend on whether they can come up with a commensurate package to what he’s earning at United; and if they’re willing to fulfil any extraneous demands Raiola himself dreams up. On the other hand, it’s also worth acknowledging that Poggers might just be poorly as he claims. If so, sorry about this misunderstanding and get well soon, Paul x

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Aside from the errant Frenchman, the other talking point du jour is VAR. Now until this weekend, I assumed that VAR worked a bit like it does in cricket. If there’s a contentious decision, the referee calls for the VAR man to have a look at it and he clarifies whether or not it’s offside or handball or whatever. No. Of course not. Obviously that’s far too simple a process for football to adopt. Instead the FA has implemented a needlessly convoluted system where you’ve got some weirdo Michael Cox-types in an underground bunker in Bletchley (or something) watching games and then pressing a big red ‘grassing up’ button to alert the referee when they see something they don’t agree with.

So the system they’re using is slow, interrupts the game’s flow and lines used to determine offside decisions are confusingly non-linear. It all appears a bit rushed and unpolished, so it’s no surprise the Premier League are giving it a wide berth at the moment. All a bit embarrassing for the FA – they must know the system they’ve developed is shit but they feel obliged to persevere with it. So what to do? Here’s the perfect solution: ensure the system gifts United a spectacularly unwarranted goal in the next round. Can you imagine the reaction? There will be a public outcry, governmental intervention and laws passed ban VAR’s usage within 48 hours. Problem solved, no need to thank me.

Copyright Red News – February 2018

www.rednews.co.uk