Tag Archives: paul pogba

Surf’s Up

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Well that was unexpected, wasn’t it? I’m still struggling to try and get my head around the fact we’ve actually experienced a summer for once. A genuine, proper summer like you see on telly or that the rest of the world gets to enjoy every single year without fail. The weather proved such a constant distraction that I struggled to watch much football at all. Sat in the garden, enjoying a drink and staring into space/at my phone proved a far more enticing prospect than spending 4 hours on the couch each day glued to the World Cup. At risk of sounding like the toppest of the toppermost reds, I think I only watched about 6 games in total.

Don’t get me wrong, I still followed proceedings via the internets, I just couldn’t be bothered to put a full shift in watching 60-odd games like you’re supposed to. I’ve now come to terms with the fact that I overdosed on football several years ago and these days I’m more of a recreational user. I think I’ve simply seen too much over the years to still give a shit like I used to once upon a time. I can just about muster the enthusiasm for United still, but listening to Alan Shearer share his thoughts on Iran v Morocco holds about as much appeal as gouging my own eyes out with a rusty spoon.

Of course, tradition dictates that I still had to watch the England games. After all, I have a 14 year old son who was taking an interest and thankfully, he’s not as bitter and twisted as I am. These started out as the usual “I wonder how badly they’ll embarrass themselves?” which then became an almost fearful “Christ, they’re not actually going to reach the final are they?” as the tournament progressed. I make no apologies for not wanting England to win it because as any right-thinking person would agree, such an outcome would have been absolutely fucking horrendous.

You don’t agree? Well in that case, why were you singing ‘World Champions Twice’ and ‘Stick Your Fucking England Up Your Arse’ for the last 10 years? I joined in with those two ditties with gusto and meant every word, so I’m not suddenly going to start ballooning around with the Brexit hoards, giddily telling everyone I meet that ‘it’s coming home’. “Football’s coming home”? What utter nonsense. Football never left as far as I’m concerned and any notion that this country somehow ‘owns’ the game is completely ridiculous. The only thing that England and their followers have ownership of is an inflated sense of self-importance and a crushing inferiority complex.

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Defeat in the semi-finals was the perfect result for all concerned. England were able to return home having achieved precisely nothing as all-conquering heroes; with expectation levels now guaranteed to be through the roof when the next tournament rolls around. Harry Maguire becomes the nation’s sweetheart, Raheem Sterling is temporarily forgiven for having a tattoo and Gareth Southgate wins Sports Personality of the Year and receives a knighthood. Meanwhile, everyone else raises a glass and the 4 year cycle of perpetual failure begins once more. Hooray for the 3 lions! What a load of self-congratulatory, pretend-beer spilling, shared national experience bullshit.

Anyway, with the World Cup dealt with I suppose it’s time we addressed United’s prospects for the new season. Ahem. I’m afraid there’s no prizes for guessing I’m not exactly brimming with optimism on that score either. Managers set the tone in any workplace and football is no different. Unfortunately, anyone looking for crumbs of comfort from Mourinho needs to seek assurance elsewhere. Far from coming back refreshed and re-invigorated after the summer break, he currently has the air of a man in the grips of a full-on existential crisis.

You can hardly blame him. The clear out we were hoping for simply hasn’t happened and barring any sudden, last-minute movements we’ve (predictably) struggled to add much needed reinforcements in key areas. It’s genuinely, head-wreckingly baffling that we’re set to start the season with Young and Valencia as first choice full-backs yet again. Two uninspiring wingers converted into perfunctory defenders are still the best pairing that Manchester United can muster in 2018. This is Valencia’s 10th season at the club and Young’s 8th now. Yes, kudos to the pair for being loyal servants and solid pros and all that but let’s be honest here, both should have been shipped off to Villa or Stoke 5 years ago.

Unfortunately, we’re still hamstrung by the fact that players signed at huge expense to replace the pair have never delivered. Quite understandably, they’re doggedly refusing to contemplate pastures new as this would also signify a considerable dip in wages. Luke Shaw is still here (with re-tinted highlights and a terrifying new set of veneers) and is giving it the usual positive spiel about “good energy”, but you know full well that he’s going to be out of favour again by the middle of September. Chris Smalling too is blasé about claims the club are trying to sign a new centre back, I suppose I would be too if I was picking up £80,000 a week and still had 2 years left on my contract.

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A sizeable number of MUFC twitter gobshites are absolutely furious with Jose’s miserable demeanour, presumably they’d prefer him laughing hysterically and cracking jokes like Jurgen Klopp. Personally, I’ve got no problem with him looking thoroughly fed up. If he’s pissed off with Woodward and the OT bean counters, then he has every justification to have a public strop about it. I’d rather have a suicidal-sounding Mourinho in charge as opposed to some hooray for everything, yes-man who’s content with the prospect of finishing 20 points behind City again.

You might not appreciate the scowl on his face, you might not enjoy the style of play for the most part, but Jose is a pragmatist who knows his players’ capabilities and limitations. This may be an affront to misty-eyed connoisseurs of the football seen under Tommy Doc and Ron Atkinson, but we live in different times now. If United were to finish 11th like we did in Fergie’s third season, Mourinho would be sacked. The stakes are higher now. That’s why he advocates safety-first, no frills football. Simple truth is his squad isn’t good enough to kick on and progress beyond that.

We’ve spent £80M+ on a player like Pogba who’s under the microscope every week and pilloried for every sub-par performance, yet we play him alongside the likes of McTominay and Herrera. And still people are scratching their heads wondering why he looks better playing for France in the World Cup. If you’re going to sign a player like that and build a team around him, then you have to remember to build the actual team.

How short-sighted does the quibbling over an extra few million Euros for Perisic look now, given how strong he looked for Croatia on the biggest stage this summer? As for how to best maximise Pogba’s effectiveness, it’s almost as if United are content to have an all-dabbing, social media figurehead at the club yet aren’t too concerned whether everything is in place for him to realise his potential as a footballer.

Mourinho always said he should be judged after 3 years in charge and that time is now fast-approaching. As things currently stand though, it wouldn’t come as a shock if he didn’t last the season. He’s too stubborn to tweak his own methods and since the club don’t appear to be backing him 100%, I think he’ll be gone sooner rather than later. Whether he goes down fighting or limps out of the door with an apologetic shrug remains to be seen, but I’m sticking my neck out and predicting things will get very messy over the next few months. Welcome back, everyone!

Copyright Red News – August 2018

www.rednews.co.uk

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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

In Through The Out Door

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Hello again. Been quite an eventful summer, really – and that’s before you even mention the football. Indeed, the Euros seemed to pass by as a bit of a non-event as the fallout of the Brexit vote took hold of the national consciousness. For the first time in decades, politics became the main talking point across the country for about 2 weeks, before the release of Pokémon GO gave people an excuse to chat about something else instead. Personally I’ve no issue with people crashing cars and walking off cliffs catching cartoon monsters on their smartphones, it’s certainly a more interesting spectator sport than watching England.

Since winning the FA Cup at the close of last season, United have undergone a bit of a transformation. I’m not referring to the new manager or recent signings either, I’m talking at boardroom level. Ever since the evening of Saturday 21st May, Ed Woodward has been doing a very good impersonation of someone doing their job competently. Van Gaal was quickly relieved of his duties, Mourinho appointed seamlessly and potential signings have been identified and completed within a matter of days. Compare this to the mess 3 years ago when one was left with the impression that Moyes wandered into the Old Trafford without having the foggiest who or what was needed to make improvements.

I’d hesitate to use the phrase ‘breath of fresh air’, but having Mourinho installed at long last does feel like a clean start. How long that feeling persists remains to be seen, as we’ve been here before when Van Gaal arrived and brought similar positive vibes into the job with him. Right now, however, I’m feeling quite content… he’s making all the right noises and it’s all been ultra professional and low key so far (as low key as someone so obviously box office can be, anyway.)

What’s proving very obvious even in these early days, is that appointing Mourinho has put United back at the very pinnacle of being able to attract players again. One senses that this summer we’re not hamstrung by the fact the manager isn’t an indecipherable lunatic, instead we’ve got more of a regular lunatic who despite being hard to please, might just turn out to know what he’s doing. Crucially, Mourinho needs this just as much as we need him at this juncture – his reputation was dented by the fallout at Chelsea and the United job offers him a shot at redemption on the biggest stage.

The other ego landing at Old Trafford this summer is Zlatan Ibrahimović, a man who previously rivalled José for the title of biggest bellend in world football, (obviously all that’s forgotten now they’re ‘our’ bellends.) Quite honestly, Christ knows how this one will work out. On the one hand, it’s got Falcao-style disaster written all over it. He’s too old, we’re not good enough to support an immobile, non-tracking striker and he’s capable of looking absolutely average with alarming regularity. On the other hand, if you can ignore all this and dare to dream for a moment, it could just prove to be a stroke of genius.

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United have lost that once innate ability we had to brutalise absolute dross – the sad truth is the likes of Southampton, West Brom and Swansea no longer fear us. We desperately need to get that back if we’re going to be challenging for the title any time soon. In Zlatan, we might hopefully have signed the ultimate flat track bully – someone who will clean up against journeyman defenders and start making us hated again. If he can score 20 goals, wind people up, get sent off 2 or 3 times and transmit a bit of arrogance back to the dressing room (Eric Cantona arrogance, not the ‘I’ve got 5 Lamborghinis’ type) then he’ll have done alright.

Talking of the dressing room, has there ever been a more depressing spectacle than the team bus getting bricked outside Upton Park at the end of last season? I’m not talking about the Danny Dyer-alike bottle chuckers either, I was more appalled at the sight of 20 adult men on board, cuddling each other and taking selfies mid-bombardment. Now as much as I would have gained immeasurable pride if they’d jumped off the bus and steamed into them, I’m aware that probably wasn’t a very realistic proposition. But lads, seriously, you’re representing Manchester United here. Cower a bit, keep your heads down by all means, just try to refrain from shrieking and posting OMG! reaction videos on Instagram.

The other big dawg who looks like he’s set to rock up at OT imminently is Paul ‘Poggers’ Pogba, a mere snip at ONE HUNDRED MILLION POUNDS. I suppose this figure will produce a fair amount of seethe within the AMF community, but quite honestly, who cares any more? In simpler times, I can remember my mum being appalled that Bryan Robson was earning 3-4 grand a week. The amount of cash pouring into football now means that silly numbers like the Pogba fee no longer hold any meaning. We live in an age where Watford can reportedly turn down £30M bids for Troy Deeney and Palace and West Ham are bidding £25M for players. The game is now awash with so much money, the people in charge literally don’t know what to do with it.

In any case, given Pogba’s age, the fact he’s a Raiola player and his oft-mentioned desire to play for Madrid at some point, there’s a very reasonable chance United will be seeing most if not all of their money back in 2-3 years. One suspects he’s being sold this move on the premise that he’ll be off again after a couple of seasons and this is just another step towards that. That’s how Raiola operates and always has done. At least his machinations won’t come as a surprise to United this time out, considering they experienced them first hand in 2012 when Pogba upped sticks for Juventus in somewhat hazy circumstances.

Finally, a couple of wishes for the new season. Can we ensure that none of this Icelandic slow clappy nonsense infiltrates the ground, please? Let’s leave that to Crystal Palace, eh? Also, I’m praying that some mind-numbing variant of the Will Grigg’s on fire song hasn’t already been dreamt up – it’s already well past its sell-by date but it’s kind of inevitable that some bright spark will try and introduce it. You managed to resist vuvuzelas, so you can swerve this too. Don’t let me down, reds.

Copyright Red News – August 2016

www.rednews.co.uk