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Coutinho and the great demise of Man Utd
They say football is cyclical but can that be true forever? Manchester United harnessed the globalisation of the game at a crucial time that allowed them to dominate football and effectively buy success over a sustained period.
However, have they fallen so far that regaining that position is now impossible?
Liverpool appointed an unbelievable manager at a time when the football landscape was such that, pre Neymar, they were able to recruit – for relative buttons – Mane, Salah, Firmino, Robertson etc. and turn them into world beaters.
Post Neymar, they performed possibly the greatest piece of transfer business in the modern game. Selling Philippe Coutinho for £140m and investing in Van Dyke and Allisson did two things – firstly, Liverpool secured the services of the best defender and best goalkeeper in the world, but secondly and crucially they have insured that prices are now such that even a moderate to poor centre back such as Harry Maguire now cost £80m+.
I have heard numbers such as £300m being required to get United back to the required level? That would get two forwards at the level of Liverpool or Man City. What about the rest of the team?
In reality, they will need to spend at least a billion pounds to get anywhere near the first X1 of the big two – that is not realistic. Who would move to them anyway?
Football certainly was cyclical – maybe it isn’t anymore and this is the beginning of the end for the original champagne socialists?
Ole is the new Brendan
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is to Manchester United what Brendan Rodgers was to Liverpool.
FSG came into Liverpool when they were languishing around mid table and Roy Hodgson got the boot and Dalglish came in to steady the ship (somewhat). Some good transfers (Henderson / Suarez) and some bad transfers (Downing / Caroll and more) were made.
Rodgers came and introduced further key players (Coutinho / Sturridge / Firmino) but more importantly played with a flare of counter attacking football which almost took Liverpool to a much wanted first premier league title. Rodgers set the foundations which gave Klopp the platform to build his European champions.
Ole is in that position now. Glazers aren’t new owners but Ole is clearing out the team and bringing in the right players – three signings last summer are part of that and are very good players.
Ole isn’t the answer – he’s part of the long term solution were someone else will bear the fruits of his labour.
Man Utd need to support Ole with Arsene Wenger
Our recent history is both well catalogued and I’m sure to our rivals, rather hilarious. We have proved that changing systems as often as we change managers doesn’t work.
Then there’s Ole. A club legend. An all round good guy and a caretaker manager… Until the team actually showed they could play a bit and Ole was offered the job permanently. In my opinion, prematurely and another and one of the countless stupid mistakes made by Ed Woodward. But he’s here now. Nothing would be gained by sacking yet another Manager. He needs backing, not only in the transfer market, but with some good old fashioned football savvy. Would I have appointed Ole? Not until the end of last season, and then only if 3 or 4 world class managers hadn’t been available. However, we have made our bed and should lie in it. He now needs support. The £250m Transfer Budget Gary Neville referred to yesterday would be a start, but only half the issue. He needs real support. A footballing brain. A man who knows United, knows football and could be a mentor to Ole to give him the 4 or 5 transfer Windows the ex-player experts say he needs. United needs a Director of Football and there’s one particular guy who is currently available, always played football the way it should be played, is a master tactician and who changed the face of British Football.
That man could work closely with Ole and possibly change the current fortunes of our great club. That man is Arsene Wenger.
Labouring to try and make that pun work felt a lot like watching United yesterday, utterly pointless.
Anyone who thinks Olé is the “right man for the job” is deluded. United are the worst team on earth to watch at the moment. In any sport. Even if the Glazers and Woodward changed our crest to a dollar sign and started signing WWE wrestlers instead of new players, we should still be doing better than we are. We should just turn Old Trafford into a mattress factory and be done with it.
The players are utterly bereft of confidence, which is understandable. This is illustrated perfectly by the litany of ultra-basic errors we’re seeing – passes straight out of play, bad touches that would shame a priest, players so static you’d think the batteries had gone in your xBox controller. But they have no guidance. There is no observable style of play, no tactics other than to harmlessly orbit a stubborn defence until they use our patented MUFC Counterattack™ against us, and then play substitute bingo until the clock runs out.
The only reason not to sack Olé immediately and with extreme prejudice would be if we’d invented a time machine and could go back and prevent him from being appointed in the first place.
At this stage we should be just looking for loopholes in the football bylaws that will allow us to play robots or animals or something because we are a joke.
Steve Synnott (cranky now)
To add to the emails from my “Red Devils” brethren:
I have been a ManUtd fan since the rapturous days of “Trinity and the Devil” (Charlton, Law, Best; and the devil – Nobbi Stiles – greatest defender I have ever witnessed)
Aside from – Owners, GM, Coaches, Players – here’s another massive decay zone: THE SCOUTS!!! Were they snoozing when, at the same time this year – The Africa Cup of Nations, CONMEBOL, CONCACAF, and MLS were all in motion??????
From those 4 – an amateur could have picked out – 22 players – less costly, better and much more passionate, than all but maybe 1-3 players still at United!
My inoculation fix before icing Ole:
1. Bring back Zlatan and make him Captain! He is the second coming of Cantona. He will revive passion and light a fire in thar dressing room.
2. Dump Pogba – and if possible Martial; and with that money recruit from – Africa, LATAM, and more Daniel James EPL profiles (Adama Traore and look at the 2 Longstaff brothers!!!)
3. Clean house of the Scouts, and Physio crew (Too many injuries – mean unprepared players from the off season)
If – God Forbid – the above does not work then we fans should our utmost to force the sale of United to a truly devoted ownership that will INVEST rather than DIVEST from our beloved club. Cheers.
BIG MOE, Virginia. USA
Stand by Ole
Lets discuss why Man Utd should stand by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Gary Neville made quite a few interesting points regarding the shambles that is the Utd board. Post Ferguson we appoint Moyes on a 5 year deal, don’t land any of his transfer targets, panic during the last couple of days in the window, sign Fellaini. Under Van Gaal, we saw a many players shipped out for prices way below their values such as Jonny Evans and Michael Keane, combined with purchasing players that weren’t any better – Rojo, Darmain? Next we jumped to our third manager and ‘born’ winner Jose, again this is a disaster with short term purchases and targets mixed with the bizarre, Fred for 52 million? Buying two centre backs and then deciding neither of them are good enough?
So onto the appointment of Ole, I’ve actually been impressed with the three singings made, two of which will slot directly into the starting 11, James at this stage should be an impact player from the bench still learning his trade. The players sales have left us short, but it was so necessary they had to be moved on. Put any manger in the world in charge of this team and nothing will change, Klopp hardly did well for Liverpool until many transfer windows into his time there, I remember Liverpool fans at one stage wanting him out. Guardiola likewise struggled in his first season, despite inheriting a very good city team. From the current team its obvious Mata is past it, as is Matic. Pereira is so far below the required level its unbelievable. Fred has been a disaster. Rashford and Lingard should be in and around the squad, starting when on form, but again they need to be surrounded by better quality players.
So what’s next, either we sack Solskjaer, bring in yet another manager (who wouldn’t do any better until he can bring in his own players). Or we stick to the plan – positives include the excellent Tuanzebe coming through alongside McGuire and Wan Bissaka, giving the making of a strong, long-term defence, McTominay has impressed this season (although we need another option in there, perhaps two if we can’t hold onto Pogba next summer). Ultimately due to lack of squad depth and 6 players missing from our strongest first 11 yesterday will see any team struggle. Yes the football is poor, but we must be patient – there are no quick fixes and it will get better with players returning and hopefully a reinforcement or two in January. We are only 8 games into the season and there’s another 30 to be played. Ride this storm, back the manager and hope the board have finally learned from the errors of their way.
Peter Crawford, Glasgow
As a Villa fan I was delighted with the win on the weekend and hope this is the start of a run.. cr@p it’s the international break. Living in Australia, my mid week viewing will be Australia vs Kuwait.. top game. No one wants to talk about Villa on this site although we did have a cr@p load of articles how we were the next Fulham. No one seemed to notice that we lost about 10 players from our Playoff winning side. To engage in conversation, I would say Ole has been a tad unlucky in recent weeks. I’m not suggesting he’s working miracles, far from it, but how does Maguire miss that header and I thought the contact on James was worse than Mane and the non pen in mid week.When you’re on top you get the decisions and so we all knew 7 years ago. Ole’s direction for the club is key in all of this. Dean smith has a plan, our players might be naive on occasions and make mistakes, but we have a plan and try and execute it. He wants to play attacking football and go at teams. We’ve had some teething problems but here’s hoping we’re ahead of Man Utd in two weeks. Ole, tactically does not seem to know what to do. Although the quality of the midfield is absolute garbage. That doesn’t mean he’s in the wrong re his direction for the club, it’s just may not be great at coaching. The comparisons to Frank Lampard though are unfair. Man utd were crap when the special one was there and Frank took over a club and yes he lost Hazard but they were goodish last year. Why not move Ole into the DOF role. Saves you paying out his contract in two weeks..
Rapid “morning after” conclusions
1/ Solksjaer’s face on the front cover of 365 this morning is haunting, the pain and suffering is palpable, Joaquin Phoenix would struggle to replicate the look. Despite being a Liverpool fan, I find myself almost sympathising…almost ; )
2/ How do you solve a problem like Spurs: I have had a visceral annoyance with this team for what feels like decades and I suspect many people feel the same way. It’s the arrogance and incompetence of the Chairman that gets me and which seems to permeate to all things Spurs. They behave like they belong at the top and then constantly get it wrong by chopping and changing managers and failing to support successful ones properly (like the present one). They win the award for the most consistently annoying EPL team of all time for me. Man U will challenge them for that title if they don’t sort themselves out.
3/The Liverpool/Leicester penalty: Replace Mane with Kane and Liverpool vs Leicester in the league with England vs Argentina in the World Cup knockout stages and Shearer and Murphy would be saying “you can’t kick at someone’s leg like that, he is within his rights to go down and flag the infraction to the referee. Football isn’t a full contact sport” instead of “never a penalty, football is a contact sport”. Similarly replace Mane with Martial for Man United and I would be out of the blocks complaining about the diving culture at Man United. Plus ca change.
4/Man City’s backline: Looks like they could be really in trouble without LaPorte (note to self: stop thinking that LFC will win the league, stop it…shush..shhh…no really just shut the !@* up!)
5/ Arsenal looking ok? What do you think Gooners? It is not looking so bad is it now with your own young marvel to generate the feel goods. But Mezut Ozil looks like a gonner.
6/ Chelsea’s youngsters: Looking enviously over at the Bridge. Inevitable dip in form will happen some time in the season but the future is looking decidedly blue. I don’t know why but I find myself really rooting for Pulisic for some reason – come on lad!
7/ Brighton, Wolves and Newcastle: get in you beauties! This is why we love the game: shock results are possible and no team can take 3 points for granted at any time. But what the heck happened to Norwich after beating Man City?
Miguel LFC ( who’s mind is quiet for now)
The board need to keep their nerve
Okay I thought I would give you my thoughts on the current United sh*t show, the fact is the board and Ed Woodward have been taking the piss for years, emphasis on profits rather than proper recruitment, statement signings so Ed can wave his tiny willy about shouting about beating City to the punch rather than recruiting the right people. Ole needs time, he also needs some of his players to pull their collective fingers out and step up to the plate as too many of them seem to disappear and wilt under the spotlight. Every team has it’s fair share of keyboard warriors, you know the type one loss “SACK HIM, DISGRACE” Etc and the United contingent are currently up in arms about everything, first it was the dead wood, Ole got rid, then use the kids, he has, his three signings have been the only shining light so far this season yet apparently he didn’t sign enough, we’re short in Midfield and Attack, rinse and repeat. I keep saying this, Ole need time and at least a couple more transfer windows to get the team together he wants, Fernandez would be ideal for a start as well as Haaland up front (I know he’s young and unproven) Ole has a plan in place it just needs the board to give him the backing he needs as well as keeping their nerve while results are not the best.
Just a quick one from yesterdays game, why did the ref decide the elbow in McTominay’s face was accidental when you can clearly see he knew exactly what he was doing, should of been a penalty and a red card all day long, not that we deserved anything from the game. Lastly United seem to make it a tradition to sign Brazilian’s who have no concept in how to play football, I wanted Fred to get a run in the team but Jesus Mary and Joseph the lad is way out of his depth, another willy waving buy from good old Ed.
Paul Murphy, Manchester
Promising Man Utd
The way I see it, Manchester United under Ole is a Championship club looking for relegation so that it can be back where it truly belongs. So each week, I’m going to send my review of United matches treating it as such:
This Newcastle United looks like it will narrowly escape relegation and as such this was always going to be an uphill battle for United. However, the players seemed rejuvenated after a thrilling draw against Alkmaar midweek and continued their prowess against Newcastle. Losing 1-0 against Newcastle is nothing to be ashamed off and it’s a credit to the players that they held off Newcastle for so long. The attack seems to be improving too and the most promising aspect was the 3 shots on target. Ole must be thrilled. What a tremendous improvement after no shots in the Europa game. I mean, I’m no mathematician but that’s almost a 300% increase in attacking intent. If that isn’t progress, I don’t know what is.
Looks like United may actually score a few goals over the course of the season even if you may not get greats odds for that. How United fans must be wishing that Fellaini hadn’t snubbed them for China. Losing your star player can affect any team’s performance and Ed should have done so much more to make him stay. A million dollar a week in wages should have done it but those stupid Glazers; Always pinching money. On to Liverpool now and after the proficiency they have shown in defence, I’m feeling very optimistic. Who wants to wager United won’t lose by more than 5 goals? Any takers?
Why is nobody talking about Aurier’s assault on Alaba?
I have been pro-VAR since the idea was first floated, but sadly I have resigned myself to the anti-VAR camp for this season. It’s not to do with the joy of celebrations, or even the ridiculous delays, but two decisions that show VAR is nothing but a self-congratulatory UEFA gimmick.
1. Serge Aurier on David Alaba. Not giving a straight red for that ‘challenge’ is a clear and obvious error
2. The Nicolas Pépé penalty appeal yesterday. He was hauled to the ground with two arms and a knee. Not giving that as a penalty is a clear and obvious error.
What is the point of VAR if it isn’t even functioning for what it was promised? Some minute offsides have been corrected but the obvious poor refereeing decisions haven’t been
For what it’s worth I don’t think Liverpool should have been given that penalty, but it wasn’t a clear and obvious error. Unlike the above.
On a more positive note, who doesn’t feel the immature joy of playground football when Saint-Maximin does 900 stepovers on the left wing? He reminds me of why I love football.
Mike, a relatively content but not exuberant Arsenal fan
Yeah, sorry, another VAR mail. It’s not working well though and so this topic isn’t going to go away. Consider two incidents at the weekend. Jimenez is bearing down on goal and Fernandinho is chasing him and as Jimenez is about to shoot, Fernandinho makes contact and knocks him off balance. There isn’t a lot of contact, but it’s enough to stop Jimenez shooting and I think it’s a penalty. And if it’s a penalty, it’s probably a sending off too. You might disagree with me, but that doesn’t matter for the purposes of this debate. Had the referee agreed with me and given the penalty, VAR couldn’t have over-ruled it because there was contact, so it’s not a clear and obvious error. However, as the referee didn’t given it and the contact was slight, VAR can’t over-rule it because it’s not a clear and obvious error. So here we have it – Schrodingers’s penalty : an incident that is simultaneously a penalty and not a penalty, facilitated by this silly expression “clear and obvious”.
You could make the same point about the Mane/Albrighton incident. VAR can’t over-rule it, but had the penalty not be given, VAR couldn’t have over-ruled that either.
This is incomprehensible. This isn’t a debate about whether or not either incident was a penalty, but a debate about how the rules could allow for completely opposite decisions depending on a subjective, split second decision that divides all that watch it. How can VAR judge the same incident to be two entirely different things? Both incidents were either penalties, or they weren’t.
It’s hard not to draw the conclusion that the powers that be don’t know what they’re doing.
Mat (If Liverpool are still top at the start of January I might start believing)
Bruce and the lack of balls
So Newcastle beat Manchester United 1-0 at home. They beat a team midweek-rocked and essentially leaderless, but what did Steve Bruce do with 15 minutes to go, at home, with a 1-0 lead? He pulled all his players back into the last 25 yards, even Andy “Talisman” Carroll to park a pantheon of buses.
Where was the Jesse Marsch “this is not a f*cking friendly” attitude? Newcastle had United on the ropes and could have won by three instead of nail-biting their way through free kicks, maybe arguing about McTominay crying like a baby on 94 minutes, when we had already seen that Mr. James had already exhausted the officials’ patience for dropping at any moment as if he’d been shot from the stands.
I watched the last quarter-hour through my fingers, and I’m not a fan of either team. Chr*st on a Bike, go out and win the game! Someone please hire Jesse Marsch. It doesn’t have to be as a soccer manager. If he walked into a conference room at my business and spoke to me like that, I’d run through the glass wall, even though my German is limited.
Come on, Newcastle, you’re better than this. Bruce Out. Three points at home against a rudderless, travesty of a long-gone team does not save your (rather wide) ass.
Oh – Steve (4-1 for the Chels was rather nice), Los Angeles
Jonny Nic makes a very good point that clubs need to give more consideration to their young players rather than buy ready ones. My club, Palace’s two best players last year were both academy graduates. One of them, Wan-Bissaka was sold for £50m this summer. Ironically when he only broke into the side in January 2018 due to a chronic injury crisis meaning the club had no fit fullbacks (Joel Ward and Tim Fosu-Mensah) or first teamers that could be crowbarred into full back (Martin Kelly). Just prior to his debut AWB was 6 months from the end of his first professional contract and was about to go on loan to the conference/league 2 to secure first team experience before most likely being released.
AWB got his chance and the rest is history. We currently have some other players in the academy but none get minutes to show what they can do. Perhaps more first teamers are slipping through the cracks. Perhaps not. One thing Jonny does not mention in his article is that Chelsea’s young players have all won FA Youth Cups, Youth Champion’s Leagues and represent their countries at junior level. They have the best academy in the country. The fact they have only just started using it – due to a transfer ban – is a travesty. However, other clubs have not got the same quality of youngster because a) they have not invested in and scouted talent as part of academy infrastructure, or b) they are situated in an area that creates high competition for talent.
Chelsea are an exception to the rule. However, Arsenal and Brighton have also shown good blooding of youngsters from academies that don’t win trophies.
Thoughts on Hull City
I’m bored at work, so I thought I’d respond to some of your articles through the medium of Hull City.
1) In the Football League 16 conclusions, we were referred to as “perennial mid-tablers”. True for the last couple of seasons, but before that we yo-yoed for the best part of a decade. Just a small clarification – we weren’t always this meh. And that leads me on to point 2.
2) As an England fan, I’m loving what’s happening at Chelsea. Seeing young, English players playing and scoring regularly fills me with vast excitement for the future. But, don’t be fooled – Chelsea only works because their youth are good.
We’re playing a tonne of youth at the moment – no transfer ban, we just have crap owners who don’t really like spending money (but don’t seem to realise the crapper the club is, the less they’ll be able to sell it for. Allams Out). We’re playing a tonne of youth, but they’re not good enough. Bowen is of course quality, even if we signed him as a late teenager, and Batty is looking good in centre mid, next to Kevin Stewart who may finally be justifiying his transfer fee (though will never justify being 0.5 of an Andy Robinson). But that’s about it.
Robbie McKenzie and Brandon Fleming, amongst others, just don’t seem to be up to scratch. As great as it is to see home grown talent on the pitch, losing 3-0 to one win all season Huddersfield does not fill me with joy.
And finally, point 3.
3) In response to winners and losers – I genuinely would not have Solskjaer as manager at Hull. We’re currently 16th in the Championship, and should McCann go (not that this is looking likely, this is purely hypothetical) I’d expected us to get a much better manager than Solskjaer. I don’t think anyone can blame him for getting Cardiff relegated from the Prem, because it’s what they do – but he looked out of his depth in the Championship the following season. Man Utd would have been better with Nigel Pearson for god’s sake (I’m not being a PFM, don’t worry, he’s just our previous manager and I miss him).
That’s my 3 cents. I should probably do some work now.
Bored Hull fan, Leeds