Tag Archives: premier league

Roll With The Punches

Harry Maguire just cannot catch a break at present. Given his performances in an England shirt over the last few years, one might have expected the international break to provide some welcome respite from his current struggles at club level. Unfortunately not. Another error-strewn display against Germany means that his nightmare year continues. Having become a laughing stock on social media during United’s seasonus horribilis under Solskjaer and Rangnick, he’s now become a pariah of the national team too. 

Quite why Maguire evokes such animosity is a bit of a strange one. Compared to a lot of modern players he seems quite likeable and grounded to me. Unlike many of his peers, Maguire’s route to the top was fairly unconventional. He hasn’t grown up living a life of privilege in the academy system having been spotted as a school-age prodigy, he made it all the way to captain of Manchester United having spent a few years kicking around the lower leagues. It’s not quite the rags to riches career trajectory of Jamie Vardy say, but it’s still a path that’s become increasingly uncommon. 

There’s no denying that Maguire’s performances were uniformly abject for much of last season. He appeared to suffer a major hangover after the Euros and his form hasn’t recovered since. However, the fact he was playing alongside numerous teammates content to phone it in week after week didn’t exactly help matters. Although he was crap, I didn’t once get the impression that he didn’t care or that he’d given up. Others went missing entirely, but you couldn’t accuse Maguire of hiding or shirking responsibility at any point. Recall that whilst all this was occurring another high-profile, self-proclaimed leader of the team was holed up in Dubai nursing his hamstring for 3 months. 

The clamour to write him off at this point doesn’t make much sense to my mind, especially considering he played very well during his first 2 years at the club. He was overpriced at £80M certainly, but the player doesn’t set the transfer fee. Considering he’s spent most of his time here alongside a fragile keeper, extremely limited defensive colleagues and with a failing midfield in front of him, I honestly believe that he’s done okay. I certainly don’t think he’s in anyway more culpable than the rest of his teammates. Bruno Fernandes has been routinely garbage throughout the same period yet nobody is suggesting that he’s finished.

Maguire isn’t the first player to suffer like this and he shouldn’t lose any sleep about England fans selecting him as their MUFC-affiliated scapegoat in a World Cup year. He’s in good company here and would be wise to just bide his time and take his opportunities when they arise – which they will sooner rather than later given the congested fixture list and Varane’s inability to stay fit for any length of time. Also, he (or his family members) would be best advised to swerve journalists seeking off-the-record comments. Everyone is aware there are mitigating circumstances to his current form so there’s no need to actively brief against his teammates. You’re the captain, just own it and let your football do the talking. 

As he sat at the Etihad watching events unfold, Maguire might have been forgiven for being quietly relieved he was spared the latest indignity to befall United there. Once upon a time conceding 5 or 6 in a derby would have sent me spiralling off into a deep sulk, whereas these days I just shrug it off and crack on. There’s little point in getting down about it, they are simply miles ahead of everyone else currently. As unpalatable as the result was, United remain a team acclimatising to life under a new manager and with several new signings still finding their feet. After a miserable start to the season the last couple of months have provided a number of encouraging signs, so I refuse to abandon all hope yet. 

Nevertheless, the fact remains it was a complete abomination of a performance. The starting midfield was a disaster which left the defence totally exposed. Ten Hag looked on shaking his head but I’d have preferred for him to do something decisive. It was obvious what was occurring within the first 5 minutes as the team were all over the place. The loyalty shown to McTominay was totally misguided, especially considering he’s only a stop gap defensive midfielder and we had one of the world’s best sat on the bench. The funds were released to sign Casemiro after the debacle at Brentford, so why hold him back now given that deficiencies in this position persist?

I wasn’t confident pre-match, but then what sane person is watching this team? Similar to Gary Neville, a couple of misguided souls in the WhatsApp group got all giddy after an unbeaten September and predicted an away win. Instead, it was another of those days that have become commonplace in recent years; United looking utterly bamboozled when confronted by opponents playing with pace and intensity. Having more than matched Liverpool and Arsenal in recent weeks, I was faintly optimistic we might be past having complaints about lacking the fundamentals. Clearly this wasn’t to be the case. 

I think I first decided not to like Erling Haaland a few years ago, the minute I discovered he had signed up with Mino Raiola. As a result of that move I figured he would never join United and was therefore more than likely a bit of a bastard. I didn’t like his agent (RIP btw), I don’t like his dad, I don’t like his City and Leeds supporting childhood and I don’t like his smug-looking, leader-of-the-Hitler-youth-in-a-previous-life face. All completely ridiculous I know, but then that’s me. Consequently, the derby was the first time I’d ever seen him play. Verdict? Yes, I was completely right. Roll on his inevitable move to Spain in 3 or 4 years time. 

Ten Hags explanation as to why Ronaldo didn’t feature did little to suppress the chat around that current predicament. Why on earth wasn’t he encouraged to move on in the summer? Similar to the situation surrounding Pogba that proved a constant distraction over the last couple of seasons, United would be better served by informing Ronaldo he is free to leave the club given he’s no longer a first choice starter. An amicable solution needs to be found here, otherwise the noise surrounding the issue is only going to intensify over the coming months. It’s a sideshow that United could do without. 

One final shoutout this month to United’s ticket office, unwavering in their ability to dream up convoluted ways of making life as difficult as possible for their customers. When you’re thousands of miles from home, queuing to get into a game under the watchful eye of twitchy riot cops and stewards checking the passport of every single ticket holder, you start to question the sanity of everyone involved in such a farcical scene. It’s so over the top and completely unwarranted. Not one to brag or anything, but I’m finishing off this piece propped up on a sun lounger the morning after the night before in Cyprus. Despite the moans and constant hassles involved in following this team of ours, it’s at times like this you realise we’ve still got it better than most. Yamas!

Copyright Red News – October 2022

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Pretty Vacant


After a summer of discontent featuring a squad re-build progressing at a glacial pace, it was important that United got off to a good start this season. If ten Hag was disappointed after the opening day Brighton defeat, he must have felt almost suicidal when the half time whistle blew at Brentford. I’ve been going a long time now and I can’t recall seeing anything quite as bad as that opening 45 minutes. The mood was downbeat in the pub beforehand but I don’t think anyone anticipated the absolute horror show we were about to witness. I walked out at HT as did many others.

Of course, it never helps when your goalie starts throwing the ball in his own net. Everyone has their own take on De Gea but the consensus amongst people whose opinion I value is that he should have been binned off a long time ago. Whether Henderson was a good enough replacement is debatable, but in my opinion he should have been given a 6 month run in the team once he’d regained fitness last season. We all know De Gea has numerous weaknesses, but crucially it’s no longer enough to merit his place simply “because he’s a good shot stopper”. Christ, all Premier League keepers are good shot stoppers, aren’t they?

It’s far too early to be questioning the new manager’s methods, but watching De Gea’s feeble attempts at playing out from the back as opposed to launching a goal kick upfield was excruciating. When a keeper isn’t comfortable with the ball at his feet, he’s unlikely to develop this facet to his game at 31 years old. Brentford had clearly done their homework and exploited this in the most brutal manner imaginable. It might sound harsh and there’s no doubt De Gea has been a tremendous servant to the club over the last decade, but he needs replacing if we’re going to progress. It was a deeply embarrassing day all round. 

As pretty much all pre-season optimism had dissipated at this point, several highly vocal, self-reverential nutcases on twitter had a plan. Pausing momentarily from working themselves into a frenzy about players they’d never heard of 3 days previously, the idea of #emptyoldtrafford was born. Apparently if this hashtag was RT’ed enough times, Old Trafford would be deserted for the forthcoming Liverpool game and the Glazer’s resolve would miraculously crumble. The legions outside would carry Jim Ratcliffe into the stadium where he would by interviewed pitchside by Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville, presumably. 

With 70,000 match-goers lined up outside OT, one could only assume that the twitter lads planned to stand outside their bedrooms in solidarity. The only certainty was that the campaign was doomed to failure from the moment it was conceived and that internet gobshites posing as United fans vastly overestimate the influence they have over actual United fans. Instead, a real-life protest organised by real-life supporters attracted huge numbers and widespread media attention all by itself. Who would have thought such a thing possible?

The twitter reds constantly bang on about division and toxicity amongst the “fanbase” but what they fail to grasp is that despite the numbers they attract, their influence on people in and around the club is negligible. They might consider themselves knowledgeable, but ultimately their experiences amount to little more than arguing on the internet about their favourite tv show. These individuals are never going to effect change because they possess zero credibility amongst match-goers. United supporters’ feelings are probably more aligned now than they have been at any time since the Glazers took over. At this point you’d struggle to find anyone with something positive to say about the club’s owners. 

To be clear, I don’t think the idea of emptying the ground at some point should be disregarded entirely. The idea has the potential to be a highly effective protest but you’re not going to achieve this with only 5 days notice and nobody of any substance on board. Get MUST, the fanzines, TRA and The 1958 behind it and with proper publicity the idea might have a decent chance. As unpalatable as it might sound to those of a ‘burn it all down now’ disposition, Liverpool at home so early in the season was never a realistic prospect for orchestrating a mass boycott. 

The fervour of the pre-match protest led to one of the best atmospheres OT has seen in a long time. The place was rocking during the first half and the team responded with a performance that was a vast improvement on the dire effort shown the previous weekend. For the first time in months we saw evidence of the basics in place. Every player looked focused, committed and willing to put in a full shift for 90 minutes. We know they’re some distance from challenging for the top prizes but if the players can maintain a level of effort somewhere above bare minimum, I expect our fortunes might improve quickly. 

As is customary following the Liverpool game, there was another debate about the ‘murderers’ chant and whether or not it’s a reference to Hillsborough. It’s getting really tiresome now. Firstly, there’s no doubt the antipathy between the two sets of supporters gives the fixture an edge that nobody wants to lose. However, the ‘murderers’ insult is aired more frequently and vociferously now than it ever was previously. People point to Liverpool fans singing about Munich in the past as some sort of justification but honestly, it’s straw clutching in the extreme. It’s 2022 and we should be doing better. 

I’m not suggesting that reparations need to be made and we should start handing out garlands of flowers to each other, I just find it very sad. In the past I’ve caught myself trying to explain the nuances to people as if the song actually being a reference to Heysel validates it somehow, but in truth it doesn’t. The tit-for-tat nonsense needs to stop. There can still be a rivalry and a mutual loathing without celebrating tragedies that have befallen the respective clubs. In simple terms, singing ‘murderers’ doesn’t reflect well on United fans and it makes us look and sound like dickheads. 

After such a positive performance and result against Liverpool, Southampton away suddenly felt like a big game. United have been abject for months but we seem to be particularly awful at early kick offs, not to mention the fact we hadn’t seen back-to-back league wins since February. A scruffy 1-0 win was more than acceptable despite the fact that all composure went out of the window after taking the lead. The last half hour was desperate at times and we seemed determined to give the ball away at every opportunity. It’s far too early to say whether a recovery is underway but I’m taking solace from the fact the players at least look slightly interested again. That will do for now. 

Copyright Red News – September 2022

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Welcome To The Pleasuredome

So here we are again. After the protégé, the legend, the serial winner, the ex-player and the unknown German bloke, this time we’ve opted for a bald manager. Quite honestly, I’ve got no idea how this one will work out but I can take a wild guess. The “open heart surgery” as prescribed by Dr Ralf has predictably failed to materialise so ten Hag needs to try and get a tune out of the same set of chancers who failed his predecessors so spectacularly. Good luck with that one, Erik. 

The notion that Rangnick would take up a consultancy position was always highly suspect, especially given how everything unravelled towards the end of last season. It has to go down as one of the most bonkers appointments ever by an alleged top tier club. Expecting that group of players to adapt to a highly energetic, pressing style of play dictated by a man found holed up in Russia after spending 20 years kicking round mid-tier German clubs was quite deranged thinking. I’ll always respect Ralf for sticking his neck out and briefing against certain individuals, but that’s only because I feel nothing but disdain for them too. It all felt very liberating but as a motivational tool it was desperate stuff.

At least ten Hag has been spared the misfortune of having Paul Pogba to contend with. Once his departure was confirmed I toyed with the idea of sitting through the Pogmentary, thinking it might prove quite cathartic given how much I’ve grown to despise him. The reviews were universally terrible, making it sound every bit the ill-conceived, vanity project you’d expect from someone who considers a 280K weekly wage as derisory. The real mystery is why on earth he was offered any incentive to remain here at all given how he’s royally taken the piss for the last 5 years. I didn’t bother watching in the end. Much like the man himself, I just couldn’t be arsed. 

News arrived that the next biggest ego at the club was seeking an exit too. Other than commercial reasons, I’m not sure what the sense is in clinging on to Ronaldo if he does want out. United desperately need committed players, so it doesn’t bode well if your biggest name is hawking himself round Europe in the hope of securing another crack at the Champions League. I would rip the contact up and let him walk if he finds a willing suitor. It was one thing indulging the histrionics and persuading him to stay back in 2008 as he was the best player in Europe; doing the same for the 2022 version holds little appeal as it would only prolong the current circus. Thanks very much and see you later.

It was reassuring to see that ten Hag had clearly done his homework prior to taking charge at United. Within days of arrival he demonstrated huge respect for club traditions by confidently leading us into our traditional, fruitless summer transfer saga. This years target being fellow Dutchman, Frenkie de Jong. At the time of writing, United’s overtures remain very much unrequited but not to worry, we’ve only been plugging away for the last 10 weeks or so. We’ve still got another month and a half of banging our collective heads against a wall before the humiliation is complete for another year. 

In all seriousness, I expect this one will ultimately be resolved and Frenkie will indeed go to Manchester. I don’t blame the lad one bit for dragging his heels given that Barcelona reputedly owe him millions in deferred wages. Once again that shower have proven themselves to be utterly shameless in the way they conduct themselves; negotiating with United all summer whilst reneging on debts to sign new players on contracts they wont be able to honour. I reckon Lewandowski’s lawyers will be privately rubbing their hands together in preparation for everything going pear-shaped in a year or two. 

As soon as Pogba and 29 year old TikTok sensation Jesse Lingard left the club, the constant leaks we’ve become accustomed to in recent years seemed to dry up overnight. This was verified by the genial Richard Arnold in leaked footage of his pow wow with Max and Paddy of the 1958. It was just a pity that having been granted an audience with the newly incumbent CEO their line of questioning wasn’t a little more robust. Arnold’s claim that no club in the world could fund a new stadium without outside investment was a bit hollow when you consider the previous owners managed to re-build the Stretford End and then sign off on the gargantuan North Stand re-development completed in 1996. 

It would have been nice to see Arnold challenged on the reasons why the club needs to seek outside investors at all. If revenue streams weren’t being used to service the enormous debt and pay regular dividend payments to his bosses, with responsible financial management the club would still be the cash rich entity it was prior to them taking over. This might sound like an over simplification of something very complex but it isn’t really that complicated at all. Back in those days investment capital was generated organically through existing revenue streams. Transfer fees could be paid for up front and in full. There was no need for staggered payments and routinely buying players on tick like we see now.

Following the meeting I saw a number of comments along the lines of “fair play to him for sitting down and speaking candidly” as if some kind of seismic breakthrough had taken place. Unfortunately, the idea that Arnold is determined to usher in sweeping reforms is utter bollocks. People shouldn’t need reminding that he’s had his nose in the trough since 2007 and joined the board of directors in 2013. He’s just as culpable as his best mate Woodward and the Glazers themselves for overseeing the current mess in which the club finds itself. Arnold is simply doing his masters’ bidding, the fact he bought a couple of rounds and briefly paid lip service to supporters’ concerns means precisely nothing.

The fan survey sent out a couple of weeks ago is another example of the club making all the right noises whereas in reality there is no prospect of developing OT or building a new stadium. Plans were drawn up to extend the South Stand over a decade ago that would’ve taken the capacity over 90,000. Instead the ground has barely been touched since, barring extending the disabled section and a few cosmetic repairs when necessary. Personally, I’ve no interest in wider seats, fan zones, refreshed concourses and over-priced vegan food options. A modernised OT will only ever become a realistic prospect once the owners commit to paying down the current debt. Until then, any discussion is largely pointless and merely diverts attention from their continued misappropriation of the club’s finances.

Copyright Red News – July 2022

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