Tag Archives: mufc

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

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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

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Run! Christian, Run!

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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.

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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

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