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Jose Mourinho was right (but was also a d*ck who made matters worse)
I really enjoyed the article you published yesterday listing how Jose Mourinho had been proven right retrospectively about various claims that seemed utter nonsense at the time. Its also quite magnanimous to highlight them all and hold hands up, rather than glossing over it, despite how clear and obvious it seemed at the time that he was full of s**t.
The thing I think it’s important to keep sight of at the same time, though, is that Jose Mourinho also spent the last 18 months of his tenure acting like an unreasonable dick, making comments that actively made his situation worse.
Jose was so poorly behaved, and such a poor man manager, that the utterly mediocre interim coach who followed him was made to look like a revolutionary football genius for 3 whole months, seemingly by virtue of simply not being Jose Mourinho. (On this point, as absurd as it seems, I think we also need to acknowledge that PAUL INCE(!) was indeed right about Ole all along, and that he or indeed Steve Bruce could have gotten as much of a dead cat bounce as Ole!)
Oliver Dziggel, Geneva Switzerland
Through the looking glass
Now that we’re in the abyss between defeats, I can maybe look at Manchester United with a more pragmatic view. Our problems are not new. We have been unable to break down stubborn defences since 2013.
Mourinho had made us a team that was hard to beat. 10 or 11 men behind the ball, just with an ineffective counterattacking strategy. Solskjaer earned his early points by playing with more pace in the transition and we caught some teams, most notably Spurs, napping during this period. Once teams caught on, then our fortunes instantly reversed and we were suddenly laying ineffective sieges to well-drilled defences that just waited for us to over-commit and then caught us on the break – see Crystal Palace, Newcastle. The difference was, though, these teams had other strings to their bows. Better dead ball routines, more movement across the front, more direct passing, etc. etc.
Solskjaer’s tactics, if you can call them that, rely heavily on some very tenuous circumstances:
1. Teams must over-commit against us, giving us opportunities to break.
2. We have to be solid defensively.
3. We have to be quick and decisive in the transition.
The first is incredibly easy to mitigate, just sit back and let United take the game to you. They will be unable to break quickly or break down the defence because their movement up front is terrible and they have no creative playmakers.
Chelsea were extremely unfortunate to get the result they did against United. Were they more clinical, the score line could easily have been reversed. They made the first circumstance possible by over-committing and taking the game to us. We made the result possible by achieving the 2nd & 3rd.
Since that game, all three requirements have not been there. We’ve either been laying siege to teams who know that we won’t be able to break them down, or we’ve made crucial defensive mistakes, or we’ve been profligate with our miniscule number of chances.
The quality of football and the variety of tactics on display by Solskjaer suggests to me he has no idea what the problem is, let alone how to fix it.
The board have left us with a threadbare and inexperienced squad of youngsters, has-beens and wantaways but as Norwich showed everybody against City, missing players is no excuse for missing work-rate and passion. You can be forgiven for lacking imagination sometimes, as it’s a rare and precious commodity, but the basic principles of movement & effort have been forgotten overlooked at United. Through pure arrogance.
A good manager should be able to serve up better displays with far less than Solskjaer has. Injuries or no injuries.
What misty-eyed naiveté has people thinking he can turn this around is beyond me but let’s hope they’re right.
Steve Synnott (maudlin)
Midfield not attack
Sorry F365, but though United are woefully short on goals, signing a centre forward will not solve this crisis. Fundamental to United’s inability to score goals is a real lack of quality on midfield. United have gone through games this season with a combination of any three of McTominay, Pogba, Matic, Mata, Lingard, Pereira, Fred and Gomes. Only Pogba could currently claim to have the quality to play for any of the other sides that traditionally make up the top six, and even he isn’t anywhere near consistent. Gomes may be quality in time and McTominay could be decent with the right players around him but he is not a player to build your team around. Pogba is likely to leave in the summer (I certainly wouldn’t pay him half a million a week). The rest need to be offloaded sorry Juan) and they probably aren’t going to bring in much in the way of transfer fees. United basically need to sign a whole new midfield that is capable of dominating games and opening up a defence.
Midfield has been a huge problem for United since Owen Hargreaves was signed and was the one area of the squad Fergie really neglected. Signing a centre forward, while it might stave off relegation, will only paper over the cracks that have grown into a chasm over the last twelve months. Everyone knew United needed a midfielder in the summer, yet one never arrived and we ended up selling two forwards without replacing either (ok Sanchez barely counts). The club may have been looking long term with their business and that’s fine, but there is a very real threat of relegation for any side that finds it so difficult to score goals. And does the long term plan include going through such periods of hardship? I somehow doubt it.
Clearly, not having a director of football (or whatever) has impacted on transfer business again and not putting one in place since sacking Mourinho is negligent on Ed Woodward’s part – add it to the list I guess! I haven’t always been the biggest advocate of the role as Fergie never needed one but when a club goes through managers so quickly you need that continuity. And speaking of sackings, I’m not sure what sacking Ole now achieves. Without the right structure of the club in place we’ll just be back to square one in 12-18 months time. I wrote in when he was given the job permanently to say it was the wrong call at the time and I stand by that, but right now who are we honestly going to replace him with that will get those players playing better football? Sam Allardyce?! Better to sort the structure of the club out then appoint a long term manager when it’s done.
I said there were difficult times ahead after the Astana game (how are your chips now Ted?) and we’ve managed 2 goals since and have lost to a Newcastle led by Steve Bruce. Could it get worse? Yep.
In your ‘what do the top 6 need in january’ article you noted Arsenal need a forward. I’d disagree with this. Whilst having Zaha may be great, I think there are still more pressing quality not numbers issues in midfield.
Up front Arsenal have Aubameyang, Lacazette, Pepe and these 3 are backed up by Saka, Nelson, martinelli (who have all looked capable).
Arsenal’s biggest problem has been linking the midfield to the front 3. We also still have an issue protecting the back 4 but you’d like to think that could/should be fixable with some coaching and team shape work – more of a team problem that should be fixable. Not only is it a player to link midfield and forwards, it is a midfielder who is willing to get beyond the strikers in to the box – ramsey being a big loss in this respect. None of Xhaka, Guendouzi, torriera, Ceballos do this, the closest we have is Willock.
So my vote would go to a ramsey replacement, or somehow getting that No.10 who we pay £350k per week back in the team and creating and scoring goals!
I’d like to tip my hat to Mike, LFC, London for his mail on United. It was nice to read a reasoned, non-patronising, non-gloating email with genuine footballing points made by a supporter of a rival team (mind you, that’s a only a geographic rivalry nowadays). Mike makes a lot of good points about how Liverpool have got from where they were at the point of Klopp’s arrival to where they are now, and I liked the way he compared that to our situation.However, where I do think there is a departure from Mike’s theory is that Klopp quite obviously had a comprehensive plan from day one.
We all knew that Klopp used the gegenpress and there was a distinct style and mentality with which his teams played. The players that Klopp brought in (with the exception of Salah, allegedly), were all players he had identified as fitting very neatly into his plan. Klopp had a tried and tested formula that, for all intents and purposes, he was just bringing to Liverpool, knowing it worked elsewhere. I’m not qualified to say whether this way of playing is what Liverpool would classify as “typical” Liverpool but, whether it is or not, it’s bloody effective. Ole’s style seems to be to just chuck a random combination of players into a loose 4-2-3-1 every game and to play on the counter, regardless of opponent.
Klopp may well have had a comparitive squad to the one Ole took over, as DL, LFC says (debatable, but let’s go with it), but his record in that first full season was still pretty good; 76 points, with a record of 22 wins, 10 draws and six losses, while scoring 78 and conceding 42 goals. To put that into context, to get anywhere near that this term, United would have to win another 20 games, while only losing another three. We’d also have to score another 69 goals in the remaining 30 games to get anywhere near Liverpool in Klopp’s first season; at a rate of 2.3 goals a game it is well beyond what we’re currently managing (1.125 gpg in the league, but that drops to 0.71 gpg if you discount the Chelsea blip). Hell, I’m not even vaguely optimistic that we can reach our own tally of 69 points from that year (W18 D15 L5) – there’s no chance that we’ll either win another 16 games or lose just two more in the next 30.
Where the aforementioned departure from Mike’s theory comes in is that Ole does not appear to have anything like the same kind of plan. His plan seems to be nothing more than buying “young and hungry” players and using a rigid 4-2-3-1 on the counter. That’s all very well in theory but in-game the absolute lack of any kind of tactical thinking is painfully obvious. I mean, how are you going to try and play a counter-attacking game against opponents playing a back five and two holding/deeper lying midfielders? How is that supposed to work? It might work against a team who attacks you – I recall Mourinho beating Liverpool’s gegenpress by just letting them have the ball and hitting them with a rare counter-attack – but against teams like Newcastle, who are happy to just work hard defensively until they see an opening, it’s just pointless.
There’s just so much naivety at United right now: letting Fellaini, Herrera, Lukaku and Sanchez leave because of the academy players in those positions (who, for all Solskjaer’s bluster about youth, are still yet to start a league game!); assuming that previously underwhelming players can suddenly up their game (Matic, Fred, Mata, Young, Martial); or that certain “key players” are actually worthy of their place in the team at all (Lingard, Rashford, Pogba). It’s been such a monumental f*ck up that I don’t actually think that there’s any way back from this in the short term. While I don’t believe that relegation is (yet) a genuine prospect, I don’t see that a top-half finish is even likely this season. Not only have the teams below us last year improved, we are now worse than all but a handful of teams. Gary Neville can talk about “four transfer windows” all he wants but Ole will be lucky to see two at the rate he’s going.
It’s not that we’re losing games – we all knew that this was going to be a troubled period and that we would incur more losses along the way – but the manner of said losses; with so little fight, so little nous, so little preparation, and all while looking weaker than every opponent (see Rochdale, AZ, Astana, Newcastle…). Hell, we’re not even losing games because we’re playing the youth because Young, Mata and Matic are STILL starting the majority of games. I don’t care what anybody says, putting Greenwood and Chong on for the last 10-15 minutes does not count as giving them a chance. Unless something drastically improves immediately after the international break then I don’t see Ole being in charge by Christmas. The next three fixtures will determine it I think; if we don’t get at least one win from those games then I can’t see him keeping his job for much longer.
In reply (and to expand on) Mike, LFC, London’s point..
United wouldn’t ever sign a Robertson, or a Gini from a relegated team because those players are not ‘box office’ enough. Their fans have this strange sense of entitlement, where they expect the worlds best players to come and automatically make them a great team.
It is not that Klopp necessarily ‘invests that money in players that are undervalued’, he identifies and invests in what he needs to work in his system and if those players are playing for Hull or Newcastle, why should that matter? But it strangely does to United.
The sharp tacks among you will realise the main problem here is that Ole/United do not have a vision.
I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall to hear Ole’s interview, against Klopp’s interview for their current jobs – the latter clearly came with a vision of what he would ‘make Liverpool’, and I think we are seeing that United still have no idea what they are trying ‘to be?’ (and Ole probably sold it on his status as a Utd legend).
For an organisation the size of that club, to not have a vision, or long term plan, is nothing short of shocking.
Throwing a billion quid at United will not work. Before any more money is thrown down that Pogba shaped toilet, United need to find a identity and then find players who fit that identity (see: Mane, Firmino, Salah, Robbo and Gini…) and get rid of those who do not fit (see: Emre Can, Coutinho et al…)
That, for me Clive, makes a good coach – someone who arrives with a plan/vision and knows what he needs to make that happen, and then makes it happen.
United need their own Klopp, or Poch (but that’s a different argument…)
1+1 does not equal 3
The “Manchester United can do what Liverpool has done” discussion is infinitely entertaining to me. People are trying to play this off as a simple equation and it is not. Liverpool brought in a world class manager to work with a corporate culture that had costs under control and were striving for on field success. Contrast that with United with their neophyte manage and incompatible corporate culture that is more interested in big slashy signings.
There is more to this equation than people realize and United are nowhere close.
Mark LFC (seriously, you’d think Klopps grew on trees)
Buying the media narrative
Some things I wonder about Man U…- Since when did Ole become a club legend, he was respected but really wasn’t a ‘legend’ until his appointment. As a striker he scored 126 goals in 366 matches over 11 years, not really legendary stuff.
– How, or why did Ed come in the picture for criticism. Every other club either blames managers or owners. If Ed is incompetent its hardly his fault that his employers stick with him.
– Why does Man U prefer to hire people associated with the club on the pretext of ‘knowing the club’. Its detrimental as someone more skilled for the job misses out. If Man U hasn’t adapted to the changes in the game, how does picking someone from amongst themselves help.
Tariq (Gary Neville next, he has managerial experience, knows the club and is a legend), LFC
To Bren (Ole) or not to Bren (Ole)
My fellow red Andrew is respectfully off his rocker. Ole is not the new Brendan Rodgers. Rodgers is a young manager with huge potential who is continuing to grow in capability. He is not an ex player. OGS is more like Souness, a middling manager who tinkers with youth with some success but will be unable to handle the pressure of expectation over several seasons despite the ex-player feel goods.
United are following the Souness, Evans, Houllier, Benitez playbook but somewhat backwards: OGS = Souness, for Mourinho see Benitez -a successful continental manager still with ample powers but diminished by the trials of management, for Van Gaal see Houllier – a continental manager with waning powers and significant flaws- especially in the transfer market, and for Moyes see Evans – a journeyman manager with a strong relationship with his incredibly successful predecessor that was always going to be out of his depth.
Will Man U go from Solskjaer to their own version of Klopp? Could their Brendan Rodgers be Pochettino and be next in line to partially right the ship? The squad is much more disjointed than what Brendan Rodgers had to work with and put together at Liverpool. Add to that the lack of power given to the ManU manager over transfer dealings strongly suggests that once OGS goes, Man united will be writing a unique and new chapter in the trials of a formerly all conquering team currently on the wane.
Miguel LFC (mind is still quiet)
RE. ‘One of your biggest fans!’
I was reading from ‘One of your biggest fans!’ essay on the problems at Man United and the following jumped out at me:-
“Manchester United are NOT a top 4 team and aren’t meant to be. We’re a top 2 team. If we don’t win the league, whoever finishes above us does”
Who says they are a top 2 team? You are as good as you are. There is no divine right to be Champions, Top 2 or Top 4. The arrogance of this statement is astounding. This guy needs to take a step back and realise how far United have fallen and have no ‘right’ to finish in the top 2.
Tom (AFC, London)
A long email about Jurgen
It’s 7.30 am in the morning here in New York and I just got done with my daily one hour commute. And all I could think of on the way to work today is what Jurgen has done for Liverpool and fans like me in the last four years. Jurgen joined the club when Liverpool was more of a meme generator rather than a title contender. We had Divock Origi ( later renamed Big C*** Origi), Lambert and Lallana up top. A team devoid of confidence or panache, who had just seen their club legend’s farewell descend into utter embarrassment at the hands of Stoke F**** City. That was the squad he inherited and in his first presser he said he had a strong squad, and that we have to move from doubters to believers. I still remember the trolling of him and the club when the team went to acknowledge the crowd after a draw with West Brom. They repeated that, but this time after coming down from 3-0 to beat Barcelona on the most magical night in the competition’s history.
He brought in Mane, Gini, Robbo, Matip, Fabinho, Mo,Virgil and others. Most of these lads were good, but not great, and he turned them into world beaters. He’s instilled in this team personality, and has filled his team with players and people who have strong personalities – anchormen, solid rocks, flamboyant, you name it, this team has it. And he’s done all of that despite losing his best player at a crucial time in 2017/2018; losing the Champions League final in heartbreaking fashion, and missing out on a title despite the best finish by any Liverpool side (a club that has won 18 first division titles FFS). His job is not done until he wins the league, and if you have been paying any attention at all, that’s exactly what the players feel as well.
This is a magnificent time for Liverpool fans of course, but it is also a great reminder that no matter what depths you fall to, with a clear sense of direction, someone to lead you through the rough patches, and belief in your principles gets you to the end.
So here is a toast to Jurgen Norbert Klopp, the mad f***** who raised a giant from a bottomless, dreamless slumber.
Don’t shoot yourselves in the foot over Poch
Sorry but Poch and Ole are in two very different situations and it’s all to do with expectations.
Before Ole United expected to be in the Champions League, to compete for the league and to play football in the ‘United way’. That’s why he is under pressure.
But before Poch what exactly were Spurs’ expectations? You’re talking about a club that qualified for the Champions League only occasionally, hadn’t won a major trophy in years, and hadn’t ever been to a Champions League final.
Like Wenger at Arsenal, Poch is the reason Spurs fans now expect to be in the Champions League. I’d look to the players at the end of their contracts that can’t be arsed anymore and Levy, who has let this happen, before I’d be criticising Poch.
Poch is the greatest Spurs manager I have ever seen and you’ll rue the day he ever leaves.
Spurs may need a reboot, which means signing a slew of younger players and bringing in youth team products but I don’t see anyone better to lead this project than Poch and I’m a gooner so I really should be hoping you shoot yourselves in the foot and fire him!
Graham Simons, Gooner, Norf London
On “17 Point Plan” from the mornings mailbox, a few comments and observations.
Hiring a United legend (Keane) as your next manager to “intimidate” the players is a great idea for two reasons – 1. Hiring a legend (Solksjaer) who has a history of managing small teams (Cardiff and Molde, Sunderland) has worked out great and 2. The worlds best authoritarian (Mourinho) couldn’t get this Utd team to work either so lets bring in a guy who’s tactical acumen on TV seems to consist entirely of “they need to run harder” and “why wasn’t he closed down”.On to your points:
1. I have no particular love for Pogba. But to say he had little to do with France winning the World Cup is ridiculous at best. Multiple players saying how he was the leader of that team, an excellent bond with Kante in the centre of the park etc. Go back and watch any of Frances games and Pogba is instrumental for them. Pogba is an excellent player and surrounded by other similarly talented players (Kante, Mbappe, Varane, Griezz) he’s excellent. Surrounded by mediocrity (Matic, Jones, Lingard etc) he struggles. Colour me shocked.
2. Not sure where you’ve got this idea of no player should be earning more then 200k a week from. A refresher course in basic Supply and Demand should help you.
3. Agree on this.
4. Yes, purchase a CAM to play CM. Great idea.
5. Koulibaly costs what, 150 million conservatively? Maguire cost 80 mil and Koulibaly is at least 2-3 times better then he is.
7. You were a top 2 team half a decade back. You’re now top 6 at best. Get over it and move on. This harping for the past leads you nowhere. Trust me, I’m a Liverpool fan.
9. This is the part that really gets me. Started of thinking this has got to be a parody or you’d just run out of stuff to say. No idea why you think players will agree to contracts that say they only get paid if they turn up for training at some ridiculous time or why they have to drive some particularly branded car. Every other club in the world trains at a normal time and let their players drive what they want without the kinda crap mentality United seem to have.
10, 11, 12. Agree
13: What. Just What. Even the psychos I was subjected to playing under as a 10 year old would say this is a bit over the top. Rather then some half baked idea of community service, maybe you should try an actual elite manager with actual tactical acumen and the personality to translate that to his players.
14. From a simple Google search, Aguero, Sterling, Hazard barely pass your standards (21, 17, 16 PL goals). Sane, Mahrez, Silva, Jesus, Lacazette, Firmino, Son, Moura, Kane, Pedro, Zaha and Richarlison all fail your tests (in the PL) and they’re all substantially better (IMO) then any attacking players in your current squad.
15. Not sure why there’s a whole point about squad numbers but OK.
16. Again, the fixation with formations, leadership, passion etc. Look around the league – all the best clubs change formation multiple times. Not multiple times a season, but multiple times a game. Watch a city game and see how the fullbacks become midfielders when in attack, watch how sterling is basically a second striker or how Bernardo will drift between CM and the wing position. I watched the Barca game on Sunday night and despite their formation being a nominal 4-3-3, Messi was basically a 10, Dembele switched between a touchline hugging winger and cutting in multiple times, Suarez dropped into midfield multiple times etc. Changing as and when needed is now a staple of modern football.
17. I agree with you here. But this is down to the management and board. What seems clear to me from the outside is that there is a clear identity crisis going on. Management (Woodward) is an accountant with zero football experience/knowledge. He wants the galacticos (Bale, Ibra, Ronaldo) to help the bottom line which is at odds with your supposed “promote from within” identity which is expressed by the legions of ex Utd players in the press (Giggs, Neville etc). Add in ownership who seem to only clear how much the club makes and not on pitch success. On top of that, add Woodwards inept Football related managerial decisions – bringing in Mourinho and not backing him, bringing in LVG after God knows how long in International Management, letting Fergie decide his own successor and the cherry on the cake, giving Solksjaer who’s only ever managed mediocre clubs a permanent contract after 10-15 good games.
A simple solution for me – in a few sentences not 18 points:
1. Shift Woodward over to be in charge of business decisions and not football stuff.
2. Bring in a experienced DOF who’s managed the top top clubs – like Sanllehi at Arsenal or the ex Barca guys at City and let him get on with it. Heck, give Van der Sar a shot and see how that works out.
3. Let Solksjaer go and bring in a genuinely elite manager – Poch, Allegri or someone of that calibre and clear out the deadwood. Its worked for City, Liverpool, Spurs and Arsenal seem to be on that path too.
Or ignore everything I’ve said, give Solksjaer 5 more years and let me have a good laugh every weekend at the pure fume coming from United fans. As a Liverpool fan who is finally watching his team competing at the top level again, this is by far and away my ideal solution.
Yusuf, very very contented Liverpool fan
A huge thank you
I just wanted to write an say thank you to Manchester United. The club, the managers, Ferguson, the Glazers and finally, and most importantly, the fans, especially those who write in to the Mailbox. You know who you are..
Thank you to Fergie for choosing David Moyes. At the time I thought “ooooo, that might just go wrong” and it did! Spectacularly. And the Chosen One banner? Oh how I laughed when it all went Pete Tong.
Thank you to the Glazers for their avarice in stealing all the hard earned commercial deal money. God bless your greedy, cold hearts.
Thanks so much Van Gaal and Mourinho for spunking all the money on dross. Watching Matic limp across Old Trafford is a joy to behold. Mata stumbling about sloth like, a treat for everyone.
Thank you little Ole with your Gollum like face and never say die spirit in the face of adversity and logic. So out of his depth, I actually want to jump into the TV set and cuddle him sometimes.
Thank you Jurgen and Pep for making this even more torturous for Manchester United. Not only are you truly terrible, but your two biggest rivals are amazing! You couldn’t write it.
And finally, and most importantly, thank you to all the fans of United. Over the years your massive collective sense of entitlement, your smug faces, your nasty little songs have eaten into my soul, ruined my weekends, broken my spirit. When will it ever end I thought?
Every last minute fluke, dodgy refereeing decision, every dive, elbow, stamp, tug back, all coming home to roost on the perch you have sadly departed.
Thank you for the miracle of Paris which wasn’t actually a miracle after all. But you got your little hopes up didn’t you? And then who won the European Cup (again)? Bless you all.
Thanks for all the mails to F365 too. I love the angry mails, fingers pounding on to each undeserving keyboard, the passion of Greta Thunberg. I love the mails where you can imagine tears rolling down the cheeks – “it’s not fair you stomp” like a toddler! Thanks for the sad mails, pondering where it all went wrong. And then the analytical mails, where you solve all of the problems in a few paragraphs, if only you could get the message over to the club – you could save them form this misery! I love the optimists too; yes of course McTominay, Lingard and Greenwood are the answer, just let them play, let them express themselves. You’re not too far away, just a bad run of injuries and bad luck isn’t it?
Thank you, genuinely, thank you all. The rest of the football world has been waiting for this day and you have not disappointed us.