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Pogba should not be exonerated
There is clearly a desperation amongst United fans, and quite a few journalist too, including some not too far from here, to argue the merits of the World’s most expensive footballer (as was).

Every article or email attempting to justify his poor performances, caveat those poor performances with the fact that i’ts well known he isn’t very good at winning the ball back, as if this somehow exonerates him and should be overlooked and accommodated.

Call me old fashioned, but there are a few fundamental traits I’d expect from a midfielder, not to mention one you’d paid over £100m for. Being able to perform effectively in two opposing directions and getting the odd tackle in are both high on the list.

Tweeting and Dabbing aren’t?

Don’t get me wrong, as I sit here reading the emails from Utd fans, drinking my brandy and smoking my cigar, I’m happy for the desperation to remain.

Pogba could possibly be the first player in history to not win the Balloon D’Or as a result of actually playing, as earlier in the season, when he wasn’t playing, his stock was rising at an incredible rate.

Now then, its customary at this point for rumours to start kicking in about the next final piece of the jigsaw for United, as the last final piece of the jigsaw wasn’t quite it. I reckon we’re on the 6th iteration in the past two years.

If you hear of a player who they or their manager previously let go for nothing, who can dab or play a piano, who has dogs you can put a picture of onto a banner adorning old Trafford, who hashigh shirt selling potential, who can be described as an orange, that’s clearly the guy. Money will be no object. Stick a tenner on them signing whoever that guy is.

You’re welcome


More from Planet SportBecker impressed by Andy Murray’s drive, passion and attitude (Tennis365)


Who besides De Gea has had a great Man United season?
Getting on the bandwagon to slate United’s defence, whilst tying it in with a running theme of Liverpool’s horrific defending this season.

Bar the gimme of De Gea, is there a single United player in defence that’s better than what Liverpool have to offer?

Clyne and Valencia are both solid but unspectacular.

Van Dijk has a lot to prove at Anfield but I would rank him just ahead of Bailly, happy to call it a tie however.

Matip is much more comfortable and easily better in probably every regard to Smalling.

Lovren and Jones both manage to make hilarity out of any questions posed to them, but Lovren can at least pass a ball.

Robertson I would say has performed well, especially against City, but again, may tie with Shaw/Young as needs a bit more time to prove himself.

This question could go further yet with Firmino & Salah obviously performing better than Lukaku and any one of United’s attacking midfield trio. Mané’s form wouldn’t get him in the United team at the moment, whether you want to prioritise Lingard, Martial or Sanchez over him, but I’m still happy with him overall.

United’s midfield is an obvious strength (if it was managed properly), and I’d take Pogba and Matic at Liverpool over Can and Wijnaldum, with the attacking mid spot going to either side from Lallana/Ox/Lingard/Mata.

Remarkable the amount of money United are spending on wages (best indicator of player ability), with such poor individual performances, even if they are in second, who amongst them is having a great season? Once again De Gea’s the gimme, and you’d include Lingard, but only against his pre-season expectations (similar stats to Mané, different conclusions). Martial is improved on last season no doubt, but needs better consistency as a starter for a top-four team, and now has positional struggles to deal with. After that Matic has started well but run out, Fellaini came to be appreciated but got injured/decided he’s leaving, and United are looking around for match winners and nobody fancies themselves.

Liverpool do have shocking depth though, and it will probably cost them now the CL is rolling back around.
KC (don’t get me started on Mou v Klopp)


Five Man United players who need to go…
So after watching the United game yesterday, I wasn’t too surprised we lost considering the amount of chances some players missed. Martial should have definitely scored in the first half and have no idea why Sanchez decided to wait after skipping past the keeper just for the defender to block it. Anyways, team definitely needs to become more ruthless in the manner City & Liverpool play with their intensity and realistically, would be happy with United finishing in the Top three, but they definitely should not be finishing 4th or below, otherwise people should start questioning what Mourinho is capable of.

To the main topic however, the players that need to get chopped and sold. For too long now, United have kept players that they do not play enough at all during the season (because they aren’t good enough, simple as that) but have never tried to sell them or had any luck selling them. I could name five players that are not good enough for United at the moment or have not been anything impressive for a number of years, but are somehow still stealing a career at United. These five players would be Smalling, Rojo, Fellaini, Blind & Darmian (Forgot he existed to be fair).

Smalling – Was only decent at United for the last eight years when Van Gaal was manager because the team rarely took risks and played SO deep where there was rarely any space in behind the defence.

Rojo – Think he has been injured more than actually being available to play. Way too rash a defender at times and does not seem entirely interested in getting back into the starting line-up.

Fellaini – Do I need an explanation, he resembles a giraffe with an afro who can head now and then.

Blind – Actually thought he was good when playing CDM, but way too slow to be a defender and has not impressed since making a big mistake against City last year.

Darmian – Doesn’t seem to know his best position and was not even good enough to start when Van Gaal was manager.

Think United need to start becoming ruthless in selling these players that do not understand the importance of playing for the badge. Players such as Valencia, De Gea, Lingard (At the moment), Matic & Mata understand how big a club United are and what the expectations are in terms of winning trophies and being consistent. However I am aware the club are losing its identity in actually trying to form a team instead of just buying individuals and hoping for the best. Its similar to what Madrid did between 2000-2010 in buying these so called ‘Galacticos’ and Barca dominated the majority of that period because overtime they bought what they needed in building a team, not what they wanted or what seemed attractive at the time. I know its early days, but the link up player yesterday against Newcastle was utter rubbish, especially from Pogba, Lingard & Martial who are young and creative and it’s something that has to improve fast with Champions league football coming up soon.

Not too sure why Mourinho hasn’t even tried changing formation or experimenting during a game when we are drawing or losing to try and catch the opposition off guard. I mean 4-2-3-1 is becoming such a standard formation which is WAY too predictable and lacks width to a degree. For someone who is known as the ‘master’ tactician, he doesn’t seem to know what to do when we go behind in a game, he kind of just sulks on the bench and complains to his assistant. It is as if he never expects the team to go behind, and lacks a Plan B when this happens, which shows a large degree of complacency. Teams almost sense that once they go 1-0 up against United they can win. 9 times out of 10, that team will win the game now, which is very disappointing from the players to be honest and almost the opposite of what United stood for before and why teams were scared of playing against United before. The identity is getting lost and there is still room for a lot of improvement even though a lot has improved recently this season.
Rami, London


Length + Width – Compression = Fragmentation
This is the Manchester United equation and explanation for why play is dire, possession play is poor and chance creation is limited. I’ve mailed a few times to talk about United’s play when pressed, especially in big games. This extends to matches against the Newcastles and Huddersfields that have pressed United from the front.

Length – United play a very long set-up. Defensive line starts too deep, Matic starts too deep and Pogba is dragged deep as well. The result is that the ball (and players) have to travel long distances to get anywhere near the opposition’s goal. This also makes United predictable. Add a little bit of pressure here and there, United are completely nullified. If United pushed up 20 metres up the pitch, the game would be contained in the other half and chances would increase. If United really want to play this current way, then a deep lying passer of Carrick’s calibre should be used to break lines with passes from deep, along the ground. This would serve as the transition from defence to attack. Matic is not that man. Another alternative is to push up and have ball playing centre-halves like Rojo or Lindelof in the team to act as extra playmakers. This is the modern and preferred alternative.

Width – Staying wide is great as it helps stretch the opponent but United stay wide and play slowly and movement is static. This affects possession play because players don’t move in to play combinations with their mates to help break there press. The usual solution is to pass backwards until De Gea has it and is forced to kick it to no one in particular. This is also why United struggle to keep possession against pressing teams. Every player on the ball should have at least three options at every given point in time. United players often have one option – backwards or sideways.

Compression – As long as United can’t be compact in the opponent’s half and can’t keep the ball properly, they will always be open to the counter-attack. There are so many spaces and United never create overloads on either side of the pitch. This means that the opponent can defend comfortably. Watch what happens when Martial gets the ball on the left. He gets no overlapping support and no overloads are created. This means that he has to do it all. This has been the hallmark of the current United side. Goals have come via moments of brilliance, instead of actual team effort.

Fragmentation – The end result of everything is fragmented play. Little pockets of good play, followed by large doses of dross. The players are culpable for individual errors and lack of concentration but the systematic collapse is Mourinho’s fault. Not sure what he teaches them at training! As long as we keep on like this, we will never hit the heights we have the potential to attain.
Chuck, MUFC London


Not worried
Man Utd has been hilariously inconsistent all season and yet, despite all the fighting talk from Liverpool and Arsenal fans, we are still second. I’m not worried at all.
Monty (I bet Smalling still makes it to Russia 2018), MUFC


Not so impressed by Liverpool
I must have watched a different game from everyone else because I didn’t see much discipline or control from Liverpool yesterday, at least in the first half. We had the ideal start with an early breakaway goal, but instead of taking the wind from their sails this just spurred Southampton on and they were by far the better side over the first 42 mins. They hassled us in midfield, winning the ball and immediately looking to overload our right side (where TAA was left isolated far too often by AOC), with Hojbjerg, JWP and Carrillo each drawing good saves from Karius. It took a beautifully constructed second breakaway goal to puncture their optimism, and from then we saw out the game with minimal fuss – but regardless, a 2-0 half-time lead flattered us hugely.

On the subject of Karius: let’s hold off the coronation for now. His recent run has been hugely encouraging, but we’ve seen multiple similar false dawns from both him and Mignolet in recent times. Karius will presumably play every game for the rest of the season – it would be kamikaze to rotate Mignolet back in for the CL – so let’s see him keep up this form until May before we declare the goalkeeping situation solved.

With that out of the way, there was plenty to be positive about as well. We won without playing particularly well, made ground on second place and didn’t overexert ourselves ahead of a testing fixture in midweek. Van Dijk was excellent, serenely unaffected by his barracking from the crowd. He’s won his personal battles every time he’s played and in time I think he’ll make a huge difference; Karius certainly seems to be drawing confidence from his presence. Firmino continues to be quietly brilliant, maybe not quite at the level of Kane or Aguero but certainly in the next bracket down. He flies under the radar but he’s unique in terms of what he brings to the team – as well as a goal and that assist yesterday, he also made seven tackles. And Mo’s incredible debut season keeps on going, he’s now only two goals from matching Suarez’s best ever season for us and he has at least 13 games left. What a signing he has been.
JG LFC (now onto the CL!)


Why are Arsenal fans so unhappy?

I know it seems pretty obvious as they have just lost the NLD but I ask this because whenever we Spurs fans or the media start to talk about Spurs being a great side and that maybe the power has shifted in north London all we get is ‘but you haven’t won anything yet’.

Now this is perfectly true but Arsenal have won the FA Cup three times in the last four years so why if winning trophies is so important for being a successful big club aren’t the Arsenal supporters happier?

Yes they’re going through a bit of a slump in the league but it was only two seasons ago that they finished second.

There not in the Champions League but they’re still in the Europa League and as Man United proved last season this can be a way in to the UCL if you can win it, plus it’s another one of those all-important trophies that we keep being told make you a big successful club.
Fenspur (One happy Spurs fan, even without a trophy in 10 years…)


Maybe Spurs ARE like Busby Babes…
First of all, I am writing to tell you that I will be issuing your website with a formal writ. ReadingMediawatchthis morning, and in particular, the opening segment, I suffered what I can only describe as a sharp pain shooting down my left arm, no doubt caused by the large volume of salt I was exposed to.

The mail addressed Neil Ashton’s somewhat hyperbolic coverage of my team’s excellent 1-0 win over Arsenal at the weekend, and whilst I agree he can go a little over the top at times, and he’s far from my favourite journalist, the criticism of the piece was the typical rubbish Spurs fans are often hit with by fans who are unable to understand nuance or context.

“BUT DEY HAVVEN’T WUN ANNY TROFIES!!!” SMASH SMASH SMASH. Those poor keyboards. PC World will be rubbing their hands with glee and whacking their forecasts up for their hardware if this continues much longer. Extra shifts at the factory!!!

The piece simply talks about Spurs as an aesthetic (that’s how we look to the naked eye, chaps) We’re an excellent side to watch, and we’ve done it (urgh) ‘The Right Way’, investing in the squad intelligently and squeezing every penny out of clubs for outgoing players, in spite of dunderhead pundits like Phil Neville warning us that we’ll ‘finish below Everton’ because they’ve spent £145m on mid table dross like Michael Keane, that we don’t pay our players enough money compared to our rivals, a quite clearly flawed trope as our players over the last few years have arguably been the most consistently overperforming, when you look at how we fare compared to predictions.

In terms of our style, we are a joy to watch. Yes we have some minor flaws which have seen us miss out on titles, but this doesn’t take away from the fact that we finished last season with a +60 goal difference. The Dutch team in the 70’s didn’t win anything either, despite Ajax dominating club football for a spell. I take it they were also ‘shit’ because they failed to win a tournament and lost 3-2 to Scotland in a World Cup game? Nah, not for me Clive.

We played a side on Saturday with the second highest avg possession in the league (after City) and we absolutely ground them into dust. They had no answer to the power of our midfield, the pace of Son, the brute strength of Kane and the trickery of Dele and Eriksen. Yes, they had some chances to equalise late on but they didn’t equalise, and if you’re scoring on chances, we win that game 8-2. Go figure.

‘They needed two attempts to beat Newport’. Manchester Utd once drew at home against Exeter City. They also drew against Burton Albion when they were in the Vanarama Conference. Chelsea lost at home to Bradford, Liverpool drew at home against Plymouth Argyle and Exeter…I mean I could go on…

Spurs have beaten Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund this season with a combined aggregate of 13-3. We’re a good side that has the occasional hiccup. The Southampton and Newport games were both in absolutely appalling conditions, and both were dealt with handsomely at Wembley…so no bother.

The lack of nuance comes with the comparison with Busby’s Babes and Shankly’s Liverpool. Nobody is saying that Tottenham are as successful as either, but moreover, that we play some irresistible football and have the ability to absolutely overwhelm teams for 90 minutes. We have controlled aggression and power that lasts the full game with no let up. Not the 30 minute blitzkrieg Liverpool gave us, before we stepped up and schooled them in their backyard. Not the aimless no risk puntball pushed by Mourinho, or the godknowswhattheirstyle is pushed by Wenger. We have players all over the pitch who are confident on the ball, play from the back, and put teams to the sword. The only team this season that have been a class above are City, a club with a billion pound squad and arguably the best coach in the last 10 years, and even he failed to get more than a point from us last season.

The point is, watch Tottenham play. We’ve grown organically, we have English players, we play with a swagger and we’re simply better than you. And we spend less on transfers than the entire Premier League, and my god doesn’t that boil your piss.
RossH1983 – THFC


Why the double standards?
I wrote in at the end of last week, albeit somewhat after the furore had died down, to defend Pochettino’s comments about football being about trickery. The sum of my comment was ultimately, in the wake of Tottenham’s dodgy pens last week, what makes diving such a special case? Why does that specifically bother everyone so much?

Players do all sorts of things in a game to gain an advantage that’s not technically due to them. When a player pulls an opponent’s shirt, it’s a cheat they hope to get away with, and often does. When a player appeals for a corner when they clearly got the last touch, that too is dishonest and seeking advantage.

I think Saturday’s north London Derby provided a perfect example. In taking the lead Harry Kane gained an advantage from putting his arm on Koscielny’s shoulder. It wasn’t physical assault but it was an advantage gained in the grey area of the rulebook. The advantage was enough to allow him to hang for a split second longer and head into the corner. Without that little gain, would he have scored? His two other missed headers would suggest maybe not.

I haven’t seen a single outlet say they thought it was a foul. This website commented ‘Kane’s ability to hang in the air was almost as impressive as him guiding the ball far out of Cech’s reach. Look at it again, it was impressive because he propped himself up on the defender.’

Two points. Firstly, yes, I’m an Arsenal fan. Of course I’ll appeal for a foul there. Ultimately it changes nothing. We defended that cross badly. Koscielny was flat footed etc etc… Without that goal we still ought to have lost by two or three I’m not trying to save face. Maybe it wasn’t a foul and it’s the prism through which I viewed it that distorts things. Or perhaps, people are just less bothered about this sort of ‘trickery’.

My second point is hypothetical. Had the game been won by a Kane penalty, awarded following a soft penalty, one where a striker leaves his foot there for contact or where he makes the most of very limited contact, would the reaction have been the same? Would we have applauded the clever attacking play or would we have seen moral outrage like usual when simulation takes place?

My point is not about Arsenal v Tottenham, it’s about the different emphasis placed on different acts of gamesmanship. I refer back to my opening point, I think I agree with Pochettino that football is about trickery. Getting what you can out of different situations.

Personally, I don’t like it when an opposing team nicks a dodgy penalty of us but equally, I didn’t like a going a goal down from anything dodgy that a ref doesn’t spot. Surely we want an entirely clean game or we accept it for what it is? Just because it was a great looking header, doesn’t mean it wasn’t a foul.
Ben Smith
PS – You can add waving an imaginary card to this. Why do people hate that so much but think it’s fine to appeal for a corner that wasn’t yours? Both are trying to convince the ref to make a specific decision. Why do we hate one and feel ambivalent to the other?


The new Ranieri?
Following on fromWinners and Losers this morning.

I’ve really warmed to Carlos Carvalhal since he’s taken over at Swansea.

His metaphors and similes have made me smile, like a 2018 Claudio Ranieri

Source: football365


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