Tag Archives: paul pogba

All Change

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And just like that, he was gone. The fact Mourinho lasted as long as he did this season is quite remarkable considering he seemed to make his mind up he was leaving back in August. He knew it was coming, the players knew it and we all knew it too. The last few months were an absolute disaster. The poor results racked up and Woodward eventually had no option but to pull the trigger. No complaints at all there – it was an entirely correct decision. 

I’ll always like Jose for many of the reasons people despise him. He radiates an overpowering sense of boredom and intrinsic distaste of modern football and footballers that I find completely relatable. He appeared to detest many of our players for exactly the same reasons I do. The problem is, it’s okay for me to feel like that as I’m an anonymous, middle-aged fanzine writer who will happily admit to feeling completely underwhelmed by football in 2019. However, it becomes a bit of an issue when your club manager is gripped by the same sense of ennui and withering distaste for everything and everybody connected with the game. 

I hope Mourinho takes a break now, a very long break. I know he messed up hugely at United and was the chief architect in his own downfall, yet I’d still side with him over the players he found himself at war with. The main problem (in my opinion anyway) was that he was completely unable to wipe the slate clean when he should have arrived here refreshed and ready for a new start. Jose can’t let the past go. He had all his baggage out on display and like a recent divorcee rushing into a rebound relationship, previous experiences tainted his decision making. He’s a bitter man who’s at war with himself as well as the world in general. I wish him well, the miserable bastard. 

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Enter Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, all-round United hero and possibly the nicest man in football. Within a matter of milliseconds, everyone was partying like it was 1999 as there was actual, watchable football being played. It appears it really was that simple and contrary to popular opinion, Woodward is very possibly a football genius. Seriously though, despite a simple run of games prior to grinding out victory against Spurs last Sunday, Ole has clearly had a positive effect on the team’s mindset and 6 wins out of 6 speaks for itself. There’s a long, long way to go before we can confidently say things have turned around but it’s been a really encouraging start.

Unfortunately I have to lower the tone at this point by passing comment on Mr Pogba’s recent conduct. Not content with making a complete tit of himself by smugly revelling in Mourinho’s departure all over his social media accounts, he then decides to rouse himself and start playing like an absolute world-beater at the precise moment Jose left the building. So is he taking the piss? Answer: Yes, he clearly is. It might just be me that’s taken major umbrage here, but Pogba dancing round the pitch after scoring against Bournemouth looked every bit as inappropriate as a Tory MP grinning for the cameras after opening a food bank. 

Paul lad, you really just need to get your head down and play now. Not just when you fancy it, how about every week regardless of who’s in charge of picking the team and deciding tactics? Right now, you still owe us big time for doing precisely nothing to help the cause over the last few months. Do us all a favour, eh? Drop the incessant posturing and just try and play to the best of your abilities every single game. We really would appreciate it. 

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Needless to say, it’s going to take a lot more than a handful of goals and a couple of defence-splitting passes for Pogba to redeem himself in my eyes. What happens the next time he has a crossed word with Solskjaer or any future manager who neglects to massage his ego momentarily? Will the toys be thrown back out of the pram or was that 4 month sabbatical he took exclusively reserved for Mourinho? I’m just not buying it, lads. The guy’s a clown and Fergie had him sussed out years ago.

I don’t really need to point out that this horrific season has been compounded by the fact that Liverpool are currently odds-on favourites to win the league. The fact we find ourselves silently willing City to overhaul them makes an already grave situation feel even more desperate. It was little more than an inconvenience when Chelsea and Arsenal were winning titles and punctuating our two decade run of success. Actively hoping City win the league to stop Liverpool feels almost depraved in comparison. What have we become?

I couldn’t quite get my head round the fact a few reds I know were able to settle down and watch City v Liverpool recently. Some wrong ‘uns on twitter actually seemed quite enamoured with the prospect. Don’t get me wrong, I’d already reconciled myself with the fact I wanted City to beat them but there’s no way I could contemplate watching. I’m not being all top red about it but sitting through that would have felt uncomfortably voyeuristic. I’d rather keep my head down and brace myself for the consequences should the unthinkable happen. 

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Continuing on the same theme, a few deluded souls appeared to take some solace from the fact Wolves subsequently knocked the scousers out of the cup. Personally, I’m struggling to see how that was a good thing at all. Klopp isn’t is daft as he acts and he knows they’ve got a smallish squad. Fending off City is going to be tough so any free weekend will prove a blessing as the season progresses. Make no bones about it, Liverpool losing that game was completely by design. Of course he’ll look silly if City eventually overhaul them and they finish potless again, but if they end up winning the title it’ll be rightly be seen as a genius move. God forbid it actually happens. 

Copyright Red News – January 2019

www.rednews.co.uk

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Gods and Monsters

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Season’s greetings, readers. The good news is that Christmas is fast approaching, whilst the bad news is United are in action more frequently over the next month or so. At least a few days off work means the opportunity exists to try and blot this out via excessive drinking and/or drug use. It’s the only sensible option now, surely? You’ve got to be some kind of masochist to be deriving any enjoyment from our football whilst sober. It’s got that bad I’ve marked next year’s international breaks on the calendar. Although once upon a time regarded as a nuisance, they now provide a welcome respite from the drudgery of watching United every week.  

The Palace and Young Boys games last month saw us reach that rarefied level of mediocrity not witnessed since the winter of discontent during Van Gaal’s final season. Some older heads compared the general mood to May 1989 when barely 20,000 turned up at OT to watch dead rubber, end-of-season snoozathons versus Wimbledon and Everton. We’ll get better in time, there’s no doubt about that. But these are dog days, my friends. The general malaise on the pitch is spreading to the stands and Old Trafford is getting emptier by the week. We’re bad at the moment, really bad. 

You know exactly how grim things are when you’re receiving texts off mates informing you that they’ve stuck a tenner on 0-0 at 18/1 and your reaction is “good value”. And that’s against Young Boys, remember… comfortably one of the worst teams we’ve faced in Europe over the last 20 years. That’s the extent to which the level of expectation has now sunk; people are turning up/tuning in and fully expecting not to be entertained. You know things aren’t going well when the manager is celebrating goals by smashing up water bottles at the side of the pitch. And the bet? He cashed out with 10 minutes to go for an easy £100. 

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The usual ‘hooray for everything’ twitter lunatics were ecstatic of course. Yes, qualification for the knockout stages was achieved, but an injury time Fellaini winner shouldn’t shift attention away from the dismal 90 minutes that preceded it. This wasn’t the team misfiring or having an off-night, it was a textbook example of our current performance level. We’ve been absolutely appalling all season. 7th position in the league and 16 points behind the leaders flatters us quite frankly. The fact we’ve qualified from the CL group stages with a game to spare is a minor miracle. 

Looking at the team, it’s hard to see any positive signs that improvement is likely over the next few months. Believe me, I’m not wallowing here… this is just an honest appraisal of where we’re at. I’m sure Lukaku will start scoring goals again at some point, but he’s not suddenly going to develop into a capable footballer. Our midfield continues to underperform. Physically imposing, yes… but we’re so static and lacking any kind of creativity. Pogba is a talent, but he doesn’t have the desire or motivation to lead us up a mountain from where we’re currently stuck. We might as well cash-in as soon as anyone offers big money because his heart simply isn’t in it. 

Matic is 30 but plays like he’s 40 and Fellaini is routinely awful despite offering a late goal every 6 months. Elsewhere, non-entities like Lingard and Herrera have somehow played themselves into peoples’ affections over the last couple of years. I can see why, because they do at least seem to care, but it doesn’t change the fact that both are incredibly limited and offer no level of consistency whatsoever. I’m not having a pop at these lads personally here, but we’re destined to struggle for a long time to come if average players are going to be rewarded with 5 year contracts just because their attitude doesn’t stink. 

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As ever, our defence is an accident waiting to happen. Current (no sniggering) ‘player of the month’ is Victor Lindelof, presumably because he managed to stay fit for a handful of games (before getting injured again) and every other player in the squad performed significantly worse. After the recent bombshell news that Young and Valencia are being offered renewed terms, it seems that Chris Smalling is also in talks over a new deal. Once again, I have absolutely no idea how or why. 

Do we offer these contracts and trigger extensions under the illusion that it might pique the interest of other clubs so they’ll inexplicably rush in waving a huge cheque? I don’t understand United’s thinking here at all. If you’ve got a player who’s underperformed throughout the entirety of his previous deal, why are we insistent on tying them down to a new one? Presumably Matteo Darmian will be the next recipient; sign him up for 5 years on £100,000 a week and then watch Milan steam in with that £60M offer. 

To my mind, given his obvious limitations, United should be nudging Smalling towards the exit door rather than attempting to secure his services for another 5 seasons. We did exactly the same with Luke Shaw, who still looks nothing like the finished article despite many people having convinced themselves otherwise. To prove yourself at United these days, it appears all you need to do is turn up for training every day and fulfil any commercial obligations the club put in front of you. Luke Shaw has been here 4 and a half years now yet I can’t recall 4 and a half standout performances from him in that time. Not to worry, there’s your new contract. 

The only current player deserving any kind of increased remuneration is the goalkeeper, who despite not enjoying his greatest run of form in recent months, continues to perform at a level that puts the rest of his teammates to shame. Keeping De Gea beyond this utter shitshow of a season would be tantamount to cruelty at this point. How demoralising must it be having an ever-evolving cast of clowns playing in front of you as opposed to the solid defensive unit most top sides tend to favour? Yet here we are, dishing out new deals like confetti and rewarding year upon year of injury-prone ineptitude. Mourinho was brought in to sort out this mess but it’s honestly getting worse. 

Copyright Red News – December 2018

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A Minor Turn

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To say the 3-2 turnaround against Newcastle came as something of a relief is quite an understatement. 8 weeks since the last win at OT, utterly devoid of ideas and confidence, 0-2 down and going absolutely nowhere… yet finally something clicked and we were treated to a glimpse, the merest flicker of professional pride in evidence. Finally our beleaguered team showed they do still possess some cojones. 

Yes, it was only Newcastle. But that isn’t the point, is it? If you can’t enjoy a comeback like that, whatever the circumstances, then you may as well give it all up. It may well turn out to just delay the inevitable but where United are currently, a win’s a win and we’ll take it. I’ve thought it for a while but home games have become even more of an ordeal of late. Against a United team with little attacking potency and defensive fragility, every opposition team turns up sensing blood. The huge crowd and the overriding sense of frustration about the place just feeds their confidence; whereas in years past they knew they were facing defeat before they’d even got off the bus.  

So does this result change anything? Will it be a turning point from which everyone chills out a bit and starts to enjoy themselves? I doubt that very much. I strongly suspect that relations between management and certain dressing room ‘personalities’ are now irreparable. There’s too much been said already and the individuals concerned are either too stubborn or too stupid to even consider embarking on a conciliatory path. No, I just can’t see it. That ship has already sailed so we’re heading towards what’ll be full on Armageddon in the not too distant future. 

This season we’ve struggled to display any cohesion whatsoever despite the fixture list throwing out a straightforward run of games throughout August and September. Now faced with Chelsea away, a Juventus double header and City away in the next few weeks, the potential for complete meltdown is staring us in the face. I don’t think I’m being overly dramatic by stating if we lose 3 of them, expect Mourinho to be gone by Christmas. 

I hope I’m wrong. Personally speaking, I’m still (just about) a believer and I want the board keep their nerve and give him more time. But looking at everything that’s happened since the end of last season, I can only see the current uneasy impasse ending sooner rather than later. Mourinho was mortally offended by the club’s failure to sanction his signings in the summer and the breakdown in his relationship with Pogba, the club’s most marketable asset, only makes his position more vulnerable still. 

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As for Pogba, I don’t know any United fan above the age of 12 who still has any time for the guy. I don’t believe he ever wanted to come back here and he’s basically spent the last 3 years phoning in performances each week, biding his time waiting for the call from Spain. When he inevitably departs next summer, what will he be remembered for? He scored the opening goal in Stockholm and starred in the comeback against City last year. And ummm… that’s about it, isn’t it? I don’t think I’ve missed anything. 

Other than that, he dyes his hair often, he dances round the dressing room wearing oversized headphones and he posts regular selfies on social media. He certainly generates plenty of clicks, I’ll give him that. As a footballer though, I’m sorry, the lad is just an expensive liability rather than club captain material. I can’t be doing with him anymore. If stating that makes me an embittered, out of touch gammon then fair enough. I’ll take that with chips, peas and a fried egg on top. Cheers. 

Admittedly, part of my reasoning for still clinging to the notion that Mourinho is the right man is that I have no idea who we could realistically turn to next. There’s no way Juventus would release Allegri mid-season or that Levy would allow Pochettino to leave Spurs… not that I’m convinced by either. United will always be United and hold huge appeal but as far as any outsider is concerned, we’re in the middle of a full scale civil war and there are unanswered questions about who exactly is in charge. If Mourinho goes we’ll have become one of those other clubs who changes their manager every 2 years… though we’re probably already in that bracket given what’s occurred since 2013. 

I’ll also admit that José hasn’t helped himself. The fact he’s not bought a house up here is an absolute joke and demonstrates how he’s never considered this a long term appointment. In my head, this is where I saw him settling after 10 years of flitting round Europe, a career defining appointment where he could put down some roots and build himself a legacy. The fact he’s content to live in a hotel speaks volumes and shows that he’s never fully bought into the idea of being manager of Manchester United. Fair enough if his family is settled in London, but you’d at least find yourself an apartment, surely? To me it’s all just a bit weird that he chose not to. Is 24 hour room service really that appealing? I think it would do my head in after a couple of weeks. 

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As I touched on a couple of months ago, his other fatal flaw has been his unfathomable loyalty to the not quite good enoughs who should by rights have been moved on years ago. Valencia, 10th season. Smalling, 9th season. Young, Jones… 8 seasons. Fellaini, 6 seasons. This is why we’ll continue to struggle for the foreseeable. These players are loyal foot soldiers, yes. No doubt they listen to instructions and don’t cause any him any headaches in the way that Martial and Pogba might. But let’s be honest here, this bunch score 7/10 on a good day and you don’t win major titles when the nucleus of your team are merely half-decent. I wish he’d have been far more ruthless and binned the lot within days of arriving here. 

These gripes aren’t really important in the grand scheme of things, however. The root of our problems, as we should all be aware by now, is a little further up the food chain. By staying put when the takeover took place, perhaps we’re all complicit in this shitshow and what we’re witnessing now is just the natural conclusion of the club being sold to Florida-based carpetbaggers 13 years ago. There’s no end in sight to this mess whilst investment bankers are making footballing decisions and overruling the man tasked with building a winning team. That’s the reality of what we’re faced with regardless of whether Mourinho survives beyond the next few weeks. 

Copyright Red News – October 2018

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