Tag Archives: sky

Things Change

Pensive louis

Like the majority of supporters, I’ve been mildly enthused with the changes Van Gaal has put in place since last summer. The football hasn’t been great, granted, but I’ve been towing the line and trying to focus on the positives. He’s cleared out numerous has-beens and never-gonna-bes, he’s brought in some decent players and he’s doggedly tried to instil this new ‘philosophy’ (more of which later). Whatever belief I had, however, has now been spent. Call it a moment of clarity, a rattle-out-the-pram incident, whatever… that final 48 hours of the transfer window on top of the last 20 minutes at Swansea has seen me flip-flop into the non-believer camp.

Swansea. It’s now over a week ago but I’m still finding it hard to shake the utter abomination of a performance that followed Mata’s goal. Luke Shaw aside, we were an absolute disaster. From the moment Fellaini entered proceedings, there was only one way it was going to end up. Seriously, is that it? That’s the extent of Plan B? Abandon all thoughts of playing football and lump it up front to the big lad? It’s so appalling it’s almost laughable – the kind of thing I’d stop myself doing when my lad’s under 7’s team were about to lose another game. It’s 2015 and that’s what we’re reduced to? That’s part of the philosophy? Seriously, every other manager/coach in the country must be pissing themselves.

Under Ferguson (and no apologies for mentioning him, he’s our main point of reference and set the standards for modern-day Manchester United), we were famed for our approach to chasing games in the dying minutes. It wasn’t done by simply ballooning the ball forwards, it was done by increasing the pressure, tempo and intensity until the opposition simply capitulated. This was coached into the players from the day they joined the club. We did it all the time… so frequently it became second nature. A reflex, almost – without thought or hesitation.

United under Van Gaal don’t play to their instincts, they play to a philosophy that demands stilted, possession football which stifles any attempt at creativity. Wander out of position, you get dropped. The amount of times players are seen glancing towards the bench rather than looking to each other for direction is telling. We’re inflexible – to the point the team lacks a collective personality and struggles to adapt to changing conditions (not the weather) mid-game.

So by looking towards the bench, what do the players actually receive? Very little, it appears. I can’t recall Van Gaal making a single call from the touchline, not one. Instead he’s sat on the bench clutching a dossier full of instructions which have presumably been relayed in painstaking detail during the days beforehand. Again, this just seems utterly baffling and unworkable. Things happen in football matches which require teams to react and improvise… United simply don’t at present. The message is clear, the team’s brain sits on the sidelines and deigns to speak to you when he sees fit. Until such time, you just do what you’ve been told.

Thankfully, due to real-life commitments, I managed to swerve deadline day on SSN this year. 12 hours of Jim White, Guillem Balagué and their ghastly supporting cast of unemployable ex-pros wasn’t worth a day’s holiday; so I was content to be stationed in work with nothing but text messages and internet access to keep me informed of ongoing developments.


Obviously, very little work got done. After the relative calm of deadline day last year, this year’s saw a return to the bumbling catastrofuck of 2013 aka ‘Fellaini Day’. Then, as now, we’re left surveying the aftermath and thinking, ‘what on earth has happened there?’

The club’s approach to acquisitions now appears to be completely at odds with the football we’re witnessing. Whereas everything is meticulously considered and precise on the field, with zero surprises mandatory; our method of signing players is more on a par with Van Gaal’s end of season speech – somewhat eccentric and largely incomprehensible. Instead of signing the central defender we’ve needed all summer, we sold one instead. Rather than sign a new keeper, we sold another… in fact we very nearly sold another three.

Whether the De Gea non-transfer was United taking revenge on Madrid for the Ramos dealings, or Perez failing to install Adobe Reader in time, I have no idea… and no real interest if I’m being honest. What’s clear though, is that we’re left with a £30M asset whose head is elsewhere and who doesn’t want to be here. It’s all very embarrassing – and reflects badly on the credibility of any long-term plan in place. All summer we maintained that De Gea wasn’t going anywhere, then that suddenly changed with 12 hours remaining. If the intent was to sell him all along, then Madrid should have been set a deadline to conclude a deal weeks ago. It was amateur hour. Cityesque, almost.

Becoming embroiled in last day dramas doesn’t indicate a calm or measured approach, instead it smacks of vital decisions being made on instinct alone. Anthony Martial at £36-52M may turn out to be a world beater, but at the moment he’s just a teenage kid who nobody had heard of this time last week. Expecting him to come in and seamlessly adapt to the Premier League isn’t just a speculative punt from Van Gaal, it demonstrates the club moving to an unprecedented level of desperation.

If Martial comes in and looks the part, then brilliant – I’ll be the first to apologise for ever having doubted the man. In the meantime though, it’s now clear that this signing could either make or break Van Gaal at Old Trafford. For such a master pragmatist and keen philosopher, he’s made a monumental gamble here. At the moment it resembles something of a public unravelling or a last-throw-of-the-dice. Time will tell whether instead, it proves to be his masterstroke.

Copyright Red News – September 2015


Into The Valley


Football commentators should be heard but not seen, I’ve decided. Think of the ones that really piss you off, Alan Green or Jonathan Pearce for example – you’d be able to recognise them in the street, right? Of course you would. Now consider the ones that you generally have no feelings towards, names like Mike Ingham, John Murray and Ian Dennis – these blokes are just voices, doing the job they’re paid to do without resorting to hyperbole or moralising. You wouldn’t be able to recognise them because they’ve never had a camera pointed at them – even their own families might struggle to pick them out in a crowd.

Like referees, being a commentator is a very weird occupation when you consider it. Some try to proclaim it as a ‘dream job’, getting paid to watch football – but it just strikes me as an utterly soul-destroying career choice. All those hours driving up and down motorways, waiting around at airports, nights in shitty hotels, listening to Niall Quinn drone on as he evaluates Knutsford Services’ range of Ginsters’ pasties for the 47th time – it must be horrendous.

Anyway, as soon as these blokes cross that line where the camera is turned on them, they seem to undergo a change where they cease being mere broadcasters and instead feel the need to develop a personality. They hire agents, start earning bigger money and suddenly they’re described as ‘legendary’, ‘outspoken’ and ‘respected’. At this point, the fundamental purpose of their job – to describe the action at football matches – gets lost completely. Instead, you’re left with unhinged, Maude Flanders-type figures, serving up indignation and outrage at the expense of reason and perspective.

The reason for this little rant – as you might have guessed – was the performance of Martin Tyler during United’s game at Cardiff the other week. Tyler was just a normal, faceless-type commentator once upon a time, back in the days when he was ITV’s No.2 behind Brian Moore. He had the foresight to jump on the Sky bandwagon back when satellite telly was in its infancy, a decision that proved to be a very astute one. Alongside Keys and Gray, he became one of the faces of Sky’s all-conquering coverage during the 90’s – and he’s still going strong now aged 68, having survived the culling of his former colleagues.

Tyler is horrendous to listen to these days. Pious and condescending, a self-appointed ‘guardian of the game’ who constantly uses his exalted position to try and provoke witch-hunts and stir up controversy. My terminal distaste for the bloke started last season when he was still hell-bent on pursuing his ‘De Gea is shit’ agenda, even when the rest of the population had woken up to the fact he was the best young goalkeeper in the country. Tyler still wasn’t convinced though, “Hmmm, United’s young keeper under pressure there…we know how much he struggles with the physical side of the game – don’t we, Gary?”

So Rooney gets into a tangle with Daffyd Williams or whoever and boots him. It’s probably a red card but since it’s really early in the game, he gets away with a yellow. It’s the kind of thing you see 50+ times a season, not in the slightest bit controversial in truth. Tyler however, is left utterly bereft at the great injustice that has befallen the plucky underdogs and proceeds to whinge about the decision throughout the entire game. Rooney scores: “well, Cardiff can feel aggrieved at the fact Wayne Rooney is still on the pitch!” Rooney sets a goal up: “Well this is just pouring salt on the wound!” Cardiff player gets booked: “It almost seems unfair that a yellow card is the same punishment Rooney received for what appeared a much more serious offence.” On and on and on and on, he whined – it was absolutely pathetic.

I’m not really sure where I’m going with this other than to state: Martin Tyler, what a complete dick.

Fellaini sad

I read the other day that an anagram of Marouane Fellaini is ‘a lone, failure man’. This pleased me immensely so I duly checked and sadly, it turns out that it isn’t strictly true and instead it’s ‘a lone, failure main’ – but for the purposes of this we’ll go with ‘a lone failure man’. Yes, I’m sorry to confirm that our new, midfield lynchpin looks a complete dud at present. Slow, no physical presence, immobile, shit passer – the guy looks lost – just as many doom-laden sages predicted he would.

In every decent game I saw him play for Everton (invariably against United), he played much further forward but Moyes has so far tried to integrate him into the side as a deep-lying defensive midfielder. The problem is that Michael Carrick has made that position his own in recent seasons – it’s the one area of the midfield where there hasn’t been an issue. With Carrick injured at present, the hope was that Fellaini would be able to thrive in his absence. However, when presented with a starting role at Sociedad and Cardiff he looked lethargic and out-of-sorts as United regularly surrendered possession. Playing Phil ‘Wreck-It Ralph’ Jones has proven a much more successful alternative – as witnessed in the games vs Arsenal at home and Leverkuson away.

Despite a less-than-impressive start, it’s too early to write him off just yet, especially considering he’s playing with a busted arm – although yes, I know that never stopped Eric. Worryingly, Moyes has suggested that part of the underlying problem is that he’s been played so deep – hinting that in future he might be utilised further forward. Evertonians would no doubt smirk at this suggestion, as it became common knowledge at Goodison that Fellaini moving up front signalled ‘last-throw-of-the dice’ tactics that usually failed. He’s not an attacking midfielder, he just he played there a few times with limited success – more often than not against United.

Overall, the team look to be building up a nice bit of momentum as we approach the (cliché incoming) ‘busy, festive period’. After a ropey start we’ve clocked 11 games unbeaten – although please bear in mind, I’m writing this before the Spurs away game where things will inevitably come crashing down. We’re reasonably well-placed then, and although I don’t expect we’ll win the title this season – remaining in contention and a comfortable top four finish will be enough to prove most doubters wrong. For now.

Just as David Moyes is starting to get his head around the job, I’m starting to get my head around him too – it’s all been a bit like being introduced to an eager-to-please, new stepdad so far. He still has a fair bit to learn about us, however. Just as that element of trust is being established he comes out with a statement like “I would have taken the result before the game”, following the disappointing draw in South Wales.

Listen David, with all due respect, this isn’t Everton. We’re Man United – we don’t take draws at places like Cardiff, we suffer them.

Copyright Red News – December 2013


Another Day In Paradise


If ever there was a day in the football calendar that sums up the cornucopia of cuntery the game has become, it has to be transfer deadline day. The summer window now culminates in a 24 hour festival of idiocy that has become something of a mainstay in popular culture – a bit like Glastonbury or Henman Hill at Wimbledon – in that it provides an opportunity for social inadequates to mug for the camera like total twats and get on telly if they so desire.

Since the signing of Berbatov in 2008, United have been mercifully quiet on the last day of each transfer window – instead it’s been left to the likes of Peter Odemwinge and Harry Redknapp to provide the gags for SSN’s last day banterthon. Not this year, unfortunately. United’s fruitless pursuit of Cesc Fabregas and cack-handed dealings with Everton led to a situation where we started the last day with a wad of money in our pocket and a faint whiff of desperation surrounding us. Since we’d spent the previous 5 years in pursuit of ‘value’ in the transfer market, it didn’t take a genius to work out we weren’t going to find it on this occasion either.

The worst part of the day was the realisation that due to it being the last day of the summer holidays, I was set to be at home all day on childcare duties. The child in question made it very clear that he was intent on spending the day trying to give himself a seizure by playing his PS3 for 15 hours straight – my only task would be to provide regular refreshments. It therefore became crushingly inevitable I was going to spend the best part of that 15 hours watching Sky, refreshing various live transfer blogs, checking twitter and generally hating myself for being so weak-minded as to be actually bothered about this shit.

I’d had the mental strength to avoid it in previous years, but that was achieved with the knowledge that nothing of any relevance was likely to happen. This year though, knowing that in all likelihood something would happen… I just got sucked into it like every other moron. I wasn’t watching with the expectation something wonderful was going to occur, as the day progressed it was more a case peering through my fingers and wondering ‘how much more of a fuck up can we make of this?’


Firstly, let’s consider what we did achieve. Marouane Fellaini – United’s first afro-bonced midfielder since the days of Remi Moses – who arrived for the princely sum of £27.5M… only £4M more than his reputed buyout clause at the end of July. In any other industry such a cock up might lead to someone losing their job or at least some sort of explanation given to stakeholders – in football, however, such ineptitude is merely par for the course. £4M is only £3M less than the figure Bebe cost, after all… and from the evidence seen so far, United should easily hope to recoup that figure once they appoint an official wig partner.

Yes, the wig thing. Deary fucking me, as if things weren’t bad enough. In the words of one swag seller, “wigs are the new Green & Gold.” The Palace home game provided all the evidence you needed… hundreds of the fuckers. There was one cretinous individual you might have spotted sat on the front row near where Boylie sits wearing one of these things. Every time the ball went out of touch he stood up and started doing a stupid dance, waving his arms around, presumably hoping the cameras would pick him out and he’d make the ‘look at this zany prick’ spot on Soccer AM. Almost unbelievably, his girlfriend (or carer) sat next to him didn’t appear to be embarrassed by this at all. I genuinely hope the pair of them got hit by a bus on the way home.

Fellaini wasn’t the real story of deadline day, of course. Despite the last minute scramble that took place, United had been courting him all summer and the end result was one of the least surprising signings in recent memory. The real intrigue on Sad Bastard Monday stemmed from our interest in Ander Herrera from Athletico Bilbao, a name that had Spanish football sages getting all giddy whilst the rest of us merely shrugged – perhaps underwhelmed by his disappointingly orthodox hairstyle.

Sky were quick to confirm that Herrera was quality with a capital ‘Q’. He had to be because he had scored a goal against Barcelona, a clip I would estimate they showed in excess of 200 times in the space of 6 hours. Also, it looked like it was very much on because sun-dried Joe Mangel lookalike and ‘Sky Sport’s Resident Spanish Football Expert’ Guillem Balagué said it was.

Quite why Balagué has the reputation as an expert in football is one of the great mysteries of the modern game. I don’t follow the bloke that closely or anything but his name has surely become synonymous with inaccuracy and incorrect information. Has he ever got anything right? The minute the words ‘Balagué says…’ or ‘Balagué reckons…’ are uttered should be confirmation that whatever follows probably isn’t going to happen. I’ve not checked this, but it would not come as a surprise to learn that Spanish dictionaries actually contain the verb ‘Balagué’ – which roughly translated into English means ‘to get something wrong’.


As time ticked on, the Herrera deal began to resemble a low budget Almodóvar farce. By far the greatest moment of the day (by now evening) was the revelation that the trio of lawyers attempting to finalise the deal on behalf of United were actually nothing of the sort. Disappointingly it turned out they actually were lawyers – indeed they were identified as representatives of the very reputable Spanish firm Laffer who’d helped broker Javi Martinez’s protracted move to Bayern a year previously – it just wasn’t clear exactly who they were attempting to represent in this instance.

A couple of weeks later this still hasn’t been cleared up. United have gone on record stating that Laffer weren’t representing the club and indeed, weren’t even known to them. Laffer meanwhile have been quoted in the Spanish media clearly stating their position – that they were not representing the player. Likewise, Herrera himself has confirmed that he had instructed no lawyers to push through the deal and was merely waiting to see if the clubs reached agreement. To me, this still doesn’t tie up sufficiently – who were Laffer there on behalf of in that case? With such contradictory denials from all parties on record, why have neither United or Laffer (both facing some ridicule and with reputations on the line) opted to challenge what the other is saying?

Should we even care? Probably not when hot on the heels of the Mister Potato and Kansai Paints captures, we can bask in the knowledge that Ed and Dickie have finally secured the club’s first official nutritional supplements partner in Japan. Welcome Manda Fermentation Company Ltd! That AND a midfielder in the same month. We are truly blessed. 
Copyright Red News – September 2013