Tag Archives: paul pogba

Burning Down The House

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“I will be successful here. There are players here that won’t be part of that.” Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, 21st April 2019

“I might just have a look at him again because if he has changed as I think he has… he might have a career here.” Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, 16th July 2019

Welcome back, readers. Good summer? Did you marvel at the spirit of those brave Lionesses? Were you surfing the wave of national pride instilled by the Cricket World Cup win? Were you one of the 17 attendees of the #glazersout protest at OT last month? Very nice. Settle yourself down and let’s crack on with a brief appraisal of the summer’s transfer dealings prior to what’s set to be another… erm… season in the history of Manchester United Football Club.

To nobody’s surprise, the great summer re-build of 2019 began slowly and never quite gathered pace. The demolition crew got called to another job and somebody forgot to order a skip, presumably. Ander ‘antithesis of the modern footballer’ Herrera went to PSG for a huge payday and Valencia packed his bags for Ecuador at long last… so as things stand it’s pretty much as you were. Having ended last season fantasising about a bloody cull of a dozen or so serial wasters, disappointingly, Woodward appeared to set about this task brandishing a dessert spoon.

At the time of writing, neither of the gruesome twosome of Pogba and Lukaku have been shifted. Both made noises and there were certainly clubs interested, but no one came up with the money funnily enough. As regards Lukaku, if Inter Milan did offer a reported £54M then I’ve no idea why United didn’t snatch their hand off. Just because United vastly overpaid 2 years ago doesn’t mean we should be so presumptuous to expect his next club to do similar. I don’t care about him offering a guaranteed 20 goals a season either, we miss out on at least another 30 due to him tripping over his own feet every 5 minutes.

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Pogba’s forlorn attempt to force a move was every bit of half-hearted as one of his typical performances. If you’re going to style yourself as some nomadic, hired-gun big bollocks a’la Zlatan, then your football has to back that up. £120M fee, £350K a week wages and a £20M Raiola dividend represents an astronomical outlay and should guarantee a return. The fact Madrid prioritised 4-5 other players before turning their attention towards him spoke volumes on how United’s abysmal ROI hasn’t gone unnoticed. Neymar is similarly tainted now too, he comes with that much baggage that willing suitors are thin on the ground.

Whilst we’re on the subject of Pogba and Lukaku, if the pair do remain at the club this season, I’ll make the prediction now that this won’t be the last time I’ll be having a pop at them. I’d better be careful, however. It’s been suggested on social media that United supporters’ criticisms of certain underperforming players carry racist undertones. Presumably this has lain dormant for years whilst the likes of McGrath, Ince, Cole, Yorke, Ferdinand and Evra were universally lauded, only to be unleashed in a ball of pent-up rage and frustration now the team struggles down in 6th place.

I made the mistake of engaging some random on twitter on this subject a couple of months back. He was an intelligent guy who was adamant that race was one of the reasons behind the onslaught of criticism Lingard and Pogba regularly face. I don’t believe that there’s any racial motive behind any such criticism, personally –  but I wasn’t going to win this argument as the lad in question happened to be black. It was a genuine ‘check yourself’ moment as I found myself about to tell a black guy what did and what didn’t constitute racism. Clearly, I was hopelessly out of my depth and not fancying an internet pile-on, I extricated myself from the conversation as quickly as possible.

Just so we’re clear then (if it ever needed pointing out), when I’m calling Lingard a dick, I’m calling him a dick because he’s a dick. I’m not singling him out for abuse because I’ve got a small platform on which I can push a long-suppressed racist agenda onto a load of easily-influenced, potential white supremacists. Although there’s plenty of groups openly peddling that kind of nonsense in 2019, it’s a bit of a stretch to suggest United fans’ criticism of players is fuelled by an undercurrent of Infowars-style populism amongst our support. Sorry, not having it.

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As regards incoming players, despite being linked with just about everyone in Europe, deals have been concluded at a breathtakingly slow pace. As of fanzine deadline day (last Saturday), we’ve signed only Daniel James and Aaron Wan-Bissaka. However, yesterday saw news break that Harry Maguire will be announced in due course and the proposed Dybala-Lukaku swap deal is still up in the air.

Whilst there’s a couple of capable defensive additions there, with a little over a week to go until the Chelsea game the squad still looks dangerously imbalanced. Currently we have Pogba, McTominay, Matic, Lingard and Mata… and that’s about it. If we start the season with just 5 established midfielders (I’m not counting Fred, Pereira and Sanchez) then by the middle of September I predict we’re going to be seeing Jones or Rojo featuring there. If that thought doesn’t scare the shit out of you too, then you’re either incredibly brave or completely deranged.

No one was expecting last season’s dysfunctional mess to be fixed in a single transfer window, but I can’t help feeling we’re quickly going to regret the soporific approach to squad re-structuring that’s been in evidence. Much needed pruning of deadwood like Darmian and Rojo has failed to materialise, which makes it all the more frustrating how each received undeserved, extended terms in the vain hope of maximising returns from potential buyers. As predicted at the time, we appear to be stuck with the pair indefinitely as no other club appears to be in the slightest bit interested.

Ole may well publicly bemoan the “hard” market and shortened transfer window, but surely the club should have anticipated what was awaiting them this summer? United are no longer in an exalted position where they can bully the likes of Leicester and Newcastle into reluctantly selling their prized assets. No club in the Premier League is in a position where they are are forced to sell because everybody is stinking rich now. United have spent years extolling the virtues of their commercial acumen and infinite revenue streams; rather than making a statement and demonstrating a genuine desire to get back to the game’s pinnacle, most of this summer has instead been spent splashing about and treading water.

Copyright Red News – August 2019

www.rednews.co.uk

Round and Round

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Firstly, a public service announcement. Elsewhere in today’s mag some of my fellow contributors have been tasked with recalling the glorious culmination of the treble season; (clearly a ploy by the Editor to end the season on a positive note.) This column flatly refuses to join in as I maintain the utter shitshow witnessed over the last 9 months needs putting to bed. So if you’re here for nostalgia and a reminder of a time when players cared about performances and results, feel free to turn the page and move on. If mean-spirited invective and doom-laden pointlessness is your thing, then do continue reading. Thank you.

A few years ago when Liverpool were splashing around in the same puddle of mediocrity United find themselves now, it became a thing to laugh at their regular claims at having ‘turned a corner’. 3 games unbeaten: ‘turned a corner’; win at Old Trafford: ‘turned a corner’; sign Alberto Aquilani… ‘turned a corner’. That’s now United, except rather than turning corners, instead we’ve perfected the art of going round in circles. There’s no deviation from the set path we’re on, just an 18 month cycle of sacking managers and making the same clueless decisions over and over again.

This season ends much the same the last as the last one did. We have one of the most highly remunerated squads in world football but it’s riddled with players who routinely underperform. Mourinho dragged this sorry bunch to a 2nd place finish last year and called it one of his greatest ever achievements in management. People laughed. The club hierarchy decided not to back him in the transfer market so he lost the plot and did what Mourinho does when he doesn’t get his own way. He fell out with everybody and got himself sacked. Quite honestly, I don’t blame him one bit at this point.

2 years ago in the aftermath of the Europa League final, Mourinho gave an interview about his tactical preparations for the final and one comment was particularly telling. “I even joked with Smalling – ‘With your feet, we’re for sure not playing out from the back!” So here we had a manager fully aware of his players’ limitations, adapting accordingly and succeeding for the best part. That summer we bought Victor Lindelof, who despite showing some much-improved form in recent months struggled badly during his first season. Fair enough, that was to be expected.

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Clearly United needed further reinforcement in central defence, but it wasn’t forthcoming as Woodward allegedly knew better than the manager. We’d signed Bailly (constantly injured) and Lindelof (still acclimatising to English football) but another new face was refused. Smalling signed a new contract in December and then Woodward sacked Mourinho a week later. So who decided to offer Smalling the new contract? Did Mourinho sanction this because he was refused a new defender or is Woodward making calls on player retention ahead of the management team?

Martial is another one who Mourinho had sussed out months ago. Undoubtedly talented, but more often than not he doesn’t appear in the slightest bit interested. Mourinho called him out last summer but wasn’t backed, before Martial’s form briefly re-appeared in the autumn and an uneasy truce was reached. Mourinho gets sacked at Christmas, Martial signs a 5 year contract in January then quelle surprise, his form drops off a cliff again. So once again, who decided to offer Martial the new contract? Was this a Mourinho or an Ed Woodward decision?

There’s a similarly sorry tale associated with almost every player in the squad now. Take Pogba as another prime example, moonwalking round the gaff and lording it up like he’s the fucking Fonz or something. All whilst he’s making eyes towards Spain in the hope of earning another bumper payday for his shitstain of an agent. Once again, Mourinho knew exactly what he was dealing with here but was never going to succeed in a battle of wills with the club’s greatest commercial asset. Pogba might have 35 million Instagram followers in thrall to his antics but I personally don’t know anyone who isn’t desperate to see the back of him.

If Pogba seems a tad misguided as regards his current standing amongst supporters, his mate Lukaku is absolutely clueless. This clown actually appears to be of the opinion that he’s somehow in demand and has more attractive options on the table for next season. Mate, if you can find ANYONE else prepared tolerate your first touch who’ll pay you £250K per week then cheerio and good luck. Just imagine him rocking up at Juventus to assist the Ronaldo show. 3 misplaced passes in the first 15 minutes of his debut and he’d be ushered out of the country and never heard of again.

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The level of delusion radiating from a number of our players is quite incredible. It’s clearly catching as well, as noises persist that Marcus Rashford thinks he’s in with a shout of moving to Barcelona. Which Barcelona is this then? Is there one in an alternate universe that welcomes 10 goal a season strikers with a routinely piss-poor conversion rate? Yep, it all sounds dead plausible this. Presumably he’ll be taking his imbecilic, best mate Lingard with him too and we’ll be getting Suarez and Messi in part-exchange.

The epic climax to the 1998/99 season truly signalled the end of an era at Manchester United. At that point, the process of the club becoming more concerned with financial rather than on-pitch success was well underway, but the people driving the commercial interests of the club were still outnumbered by stakeholders interested in football. Fast forward 20 years and where are we now? Owned by Florida-based carpetbaggers, loaded with debt and being dictated to by wankers like Raiola and Pogba. How the mighty have fallen.

It really doesn’t matter who the so-called manager is when the bloke actually calling the shots is a star-struck, ex-investment banker with no track record in football whatsoever beyond signing strategic alliances with pillow case manufacturers. The question of Woodward’s competency shouldn’t even be up for debate. Under his stewardship, the club have re-written the book on the consequences of poor succession planning and set the benchmark in how to dismantle a successful football team following two decades of sustained dominance.

What a mess. I’ll see you in August for much more of the same.

Copyright Red News – May 2019

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Ball of Confusion

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Firstly, I’d better explain that this was written in the aftermath of Barcelona at home, so in case there was a repeat of the le miracle de Paris during the return leg, I’ll apologise now for not being psychic. As it is, I’m left to comment on what transpired at OT the other night and as you can probably guess, I wasn’t exactly blown away by the performance served up.

The night started with my old man accusing me of being ‘miserable’ because I expressly stated during our journey to the ground that I wasn’t particularly enthused by the prospect of seeing Messi again. My Dad loves football. As well as supporting United for 50+ years he’s got a genuine affinity with Celtic and Barca too. Whereas me on the other hand, I actively dislike any football team that isn’t Manchester United.

Why would I feel excited about seeing Messi again when I’ve already seen him play a handful of times including 2 x European Cup finals when he’s made us look like rank amateurs? I know he’s an all-time great who’s racked up 900+ career goals against Osasuna and Levante, but I would honestly rather he were out injured as I’m completely sick of the sight of him in a ‘versus MUFC’ context.

In the days preceding the game there were numerous clips floating about of the meeting with Barcelona back in 1984, when the 58,000 packed inside Old Trafford witnessed one of the greatest nights in the club’s history. As well as marvelling at the fact this game took place a full 35 years ago, I was left pondering the extent to which genuine big European nights have changed during that period.

We all know the atmosphere is routinely crap these days, but previously I consoled myself that OT could still rouse itself when the occasion demanded it. Sadly, Wednesday night confirmed the fact we just can’t do it anymore – regardless of who the opposition is. I know our current team isn’t the greatest but this was still a European Cup QF at home to Barcelona and the ground should have been rocking.

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Being totally honest now, the atmosphere was pretty dire. I’m not comparing it to that night back in ‘84 alone as that would be a ridiculously unfair comparison. We’ve had so many memorable days and nights during those intervening years, but I’m struggling to recall the last time the ground crackled with excitement and the noise generated meant your ears were still ringing the next day. Sadly, such occasions have gone for good now, they really have. We were privileged to have been around when Old Trafford was something special.

Watching the opposition dominate possession has become routine over the last few years. After taking an early lead, unlike PSG or Juventus, Barca didn’t attempt to rub our noses in it and instead seemed content with stopping us scoring. Not too onerous a task when considering we’d managed just a solitary goal in the 4 previous Champions League home games this season. Watching Barca keep the ball with zero fuss and routine efficiency demonstrated just how far United are from their level. Half of our players are utterly terrified of the ball and we were incapable of stringing 3 passes together for much of the evening.

Pogba, once again, was absolutely appalling and failed to make any impression whatsoever. Despite Solskjaer’s hopes of keeping this prize bellend onside and building a team around him, it would make far more sense to take whatever money is offered for him this summer. Unfortunately, my guess is that there’ll be no firm enquiries from either Madrid or Barca because neither are daft enough to spend £100M+ on a very average midfielder who delivers so little so consistently. If you think I’m being overly harsh then more fool you. Phil Neville was a more consistent big-game, midfield performer than this clown.

‘His excellency’ was merely anonymous, however. The most inept performance award yet again went to Ashley Young, who’s fast using up any goodwill he’s earned with his wholehearted yet typically underwhelming stint at fullback over the last few years. I’m so bored of watching Young toil away, squandering possession week after week after week. He’s now reached that same stage in his career where Gary Neville realised his time was up and promptly retired with credibility still intact. The penny hasn’t dropped with either Young or the United hierarchy, unfortunately. Christ knows why he’s been given a new contract because it’s only going to get even more embarrassing for all concerned from this point.

After 4 defeats in the last 5 games, the one positive bit of news this week was that Ander Herrera could be leaving at the end of the season. We might have worse players on the books but if the club don’t cave and reward a 29 year old with a 4 year, 200K per week deal then that’s a step in the right direction as far as I’m concerned. He’s nothing special and he never has been. Shipping him out as well as a few more of the 6/10 crew would make for a very positive summer’s business.

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Still, all the usual gripes aside, we’re still in the game and we go to the Nou Camp with an outside chance of causing an upset. Stranger things have happened already this season as we’ve come away from both Turin and Paris with very unlikely victories having been given the run-around at Old Trafford. Surely it can’t happen again? Probably not, but I’ll be keeping everything crossed hoping for another freakish thunderbolt of divine intervention.

Leeds look like they’re getting promoted, City are set to win a domestic treble at the very least… and if they don’t then Liverpool will win the title. Both Liverpool and City are very well placed to reach the Champions League semi-finals. There’s a head-wrecking set of variables in place here that are pointing towards a testing next few weeks followed by a potentially horrific summer. It’s probably too late but we need to try and stop the unthinkable happening.

Help us, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. You’re our only hope.

Copyright Red News – April 2019

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