Keep your mails coming to firstname.lastname@example.org…
It could be worse
To all fellow United fans writing in about how depressing the current team is (I can’t believe I’m going to use a patented Scouse phrase) Calm Down, La! Paul MUFC Salford (I never envisaged it getting this bad) you are evidently a young man. To give you and others who are currently showing worrying levels of depression let me try and give you some perspective from an old geezer.
I was there along with many others of my generation on that fateful day April 27th 1974 when the King of Old Trafford, Denis Law, backheeled us into oblivion because Docherty had decided he was surplus to requirements and sent him to City, We refer to the Blues as The Bitters. You have no idea of the amount of scorn we were put through by them at the time. The stick we got at college.
You never saw the dynamic forward duo of Wyn Davies and Ted MacDougall; the years of Frank O’ Farrell or Dave Sexton whose football was so turgid it made LVG’s reign playing Brazil 1970 football in comparison. You didn’t live through the years of absolute domination by Liverpool when we just hoped season upon season we could just give them a bloody nose now and again which, I am pleased to say, we managed on quite a few occasions. (Check Arthur Albiston’s goal and Souness’s furiously impotent reaction.Still brings a delicious thrill down my spine). Of course we might be seeing the same thing again so I’ll grant you that, Paul. And through it all United fans sang “Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life” through these MISERABLE periods…also..”All We Are Saying Is Give Us A Goal”
The point is, Paul, every single player that you named is a hellofasight better than some of the crap players we’ve had in the past. Now the current overlords (Glazers; Woodward etc) are on a totally different scale to previous ones but going back to Louis Edwards (if anyone reading this is above 75 then they may be able to go back further) United’s owners have always been greedy bastards taking money out of the club and not prepared to spend. One that sticks in my mind is that Sir Matt wanted to buy Wales centre half, Mike England, the VVD of his day and United’s hierarchy didn’t cough up the cash to ensure the Busby legacy didn’t end up more trophy laden than it did. Fergie broke the mould for a while…well a 25 years while because he pulled the club out of a mire which we are most assuredly not in now.
So enjoy the football that is being served up by this current good team…I didn’t say great whilst playing other mainly good teams and try and think long rather than short term. As Arnold said…might have been MacArthur…We’ll be back!.
Cheers, Gary (ex Pat United Fan in Pennsylvania) B
Not all doom and gloom
Despite my mail wondering what United were playing at earlier this week I do see some causes for optimism. And most of it is centred around the progress made with the academy, which was lagging far, far behind City, Chelsea, and Arsenal in the recent past.
Firstly Greenwood is outstanding, considering I’m excited about his future. Garner looked wonderful for Watford last week, I’m looking forward to seeing if he can replicate that form over the rest of the season. Henderson has come back into the fold and exactly the right time, I’m optimistic that he can push De Gea to recover from his slump and/or establish himself as an excellent option in goal. Hannibal is a phenomenal talent and Mengi looks a good prospect, I’m excited about seeing them establish themselves in the Under 23s this year and hoping to see them get the odd run out in the first team. As Tuanzebe is still at the club I can only assume he’s going to be getting some more minutes this year, I’m hoping to see him push his claim to partner Maguire. Jurado, Fernandez, and Garnacho have arrived from the top three in Spain with burgeoning reputations, I’m excited about their progress and it’s good to see the club make these signings knowing that there’s a good chance they’ll be sold for profit even if they don’t quite make the grade (a la Solanke, Ake, and Shelvey).
I’m optimistic about the van der Beek signing. I’m optimistic about Rashford producing better numbers year on year. I’m optimistic about Bruno producing over a full season. I’m optimistic about Martial becoming a more rounded player. I’m optimistic that this window might finally convince the club to bring in a Director of Football. Finally, I’m optimistic about the club taking the women’s team seriously, and looking forward to seeing two world class players in Heath and Press turn out for the club.
It’s not ALL doom and gloom.
…Hey Jimmy, thanks for your heartfelt email. There are still some hopeful utd fans, I’m one of them.
I was optimistic at the end of last season and was also published in a mail where I stated I was somewhat glad the wheels came off in a few games as it showed we didn’t have the squad depth to compete in multiple competitions and proved we needed to recruit.
Naturally, utd always splash lots of money so the 3, 4 or 5 signings sure to happen gave us lots of hope.
Now with just the one signing in the midst of all our nearest competitors making waves in the transfer market, I still have hope. But my hope of getting closer to the top 2 and maybe win a cup is replaced with hope we’ll stay in the top 4 and that Ole will figure out how to get the best out of the current players.
It will probably be a very up and down season again and I’m naively hoping for more ups than downs 1but if you don’t have any hope for your team then you may as well go and support Bayern Munich.
Jon, Cape Town
(P.S. I think covid screwed up this season more than last. Last season a lot was played out already, the finish was just condensed. This season players are starting with no pre-season and not much holiday. It will likely be 12 to 15 games before we start to get an idea of how things are shaping up – yes, I’m giving myself 12 to 15 games to remain hopeful whatever happens before then).
Glazers have invested
Mike’s email articulated a common theme amongst Man Utd fans, i.e. that the Glazers have underinvested in the team. Whilst he’s correct that these parasitic owners have stripped huge amounts of money from the club by paying themselves and servicing their leveraged buyout (this model of club purchase shouldn’t be allowed), he’s somehow failed to notice the eyewatering sums of money that have been made available to fund player transfers and wages. I could start quoting figures from Transfer League and making comparisons but we’ve all seen those mails before so let’s just agree that Man Utd have spent a shit tonne of money, so they’re not being underfunded and are simply making poor decisions in the transfer market. And it’s not that they’re necessarily buying poor players, but the wrong players for the systems that the managers employ as well as vanity signings, big names for maximum exposure. Again, this isn’t any ground-breaking insight from me and has been mooted on these pages before. It just baffles me when Man Utd fans still carp on about underinvestment and that’s before we get into the astronomical wages they offer to mediocre players let alone their highest earners (9 members of their squad are on 6 figure weekly salaries).
James Outram, Wirral
United and City
I wanted to send a mail on City but couldn’t without first mentioning United. I know a lot of United fans have rightfully been annoyed at the lack of transfer activity and they’re right, but it’s also annoying from the business sense, which Woodward and co. are supposed to excel at. It seems a strange choice to hire a manager based on his three year plan, see the first year of that bring about improvements (in league position and squad) and then to abandon that in year two. Ole is not Klopp, but he has done enough to justify an outlay this summer. It also weirdly puts Lampard and Ole in different directions to last season, where they were both given similar leeway for different reasons. The investment in Chelsea means Lampard has no excuses for finishing 30 something points off Liverpool. It also means his frailties as a manager (mainly really irritating defensive issues) all point the spotlight at him. While I’m not suggesting that Ole has a squad like at Cardiff, it is accepted that the current squad is a mile off Liverpool, therefore decreasing the pressure on him. He and the club set out on this plan, and the club has so far not lived up to their end. What makes the club look a lot worse than Ole was how they went about it; public chasing of players and then not getting any. If the aim from manager and club was to get the best out of what they had, that has to be said at the start of the season. Even the players want new faces in because they expected new faces to come in. It’s all very stupid.
Anyway, on to City. I really, really don’t like Rodri as a CDM. He doesn’t position himself well enough to protect against counters, he doesn’t read the game unfolding when it does happen and when he does, he lacks the energy and speed to get out to stop it. Fernandinho is still twice the player in that regard. I don’t see it as coincidence that City faltered last year with Fernandinho playing as a CB and that they conceded four goals after he went off on Sunday. Rodri is great at five yard passes, great at stale possession, but it’s killing city when they need to speed up play to break teams down because that is a shit skill to have. Also the lack of David Silva and the turn to 4231 as a formation doesn’t get the best out of them with those centre-mids because it leaves City attacking with four attacking players, and them only. Whereas before they attacked mainly with five and then sometimes a fullback making it six. In theory they should be better defensively from this, but as pointed out, Rodri is a sausage and Guardiola seems really awful at buying defenders.
Fairly dreadful viewing I felt.
Grujic is a tidy midfielder but he doesn’t really have the creative spark or the industry or the tight touch of our other midfielders. With him as the fulcrum today we didn’t look great although it’s harder to come and have a great game when you’ve got a lot of young players and many short of match practice around you.
Curtis Jones seemed like he struggled to get involved in the first half under the pressure of the press so in the second half moved deeper a lot to bring the ball forward unopposed. I still felt he didn’t quite look right and think he probably found it harder without the clever movement of Firmino and Mané in front of him.
I think playing Salah wasn’t a great idea. People kept trying to find him with passes and he wasn’t often in great positions or was very well marked. I’d personally have rather seen Harvey Elliot playing. It’s also easier to criticise in retrospect because if you’re going to lose the game then don’t risk your best players whilst doing so.
Origi and Elneny took awful penalties. Everyone knows you always miss when you shoot at torso height slight off centre.
It’s a Scouse thing
Ferg, cork, piss off mate. I get that we have fans all over the world but do not try and justify the relationship between Everton and Liverpool fans in our city. One thing that will never be understood by out of town fans of the reds or blues is how it is. We hate each other we rip each other we bloody drink with each other. But we bloody love each other. We have a person who supports the other side telling us r ma is this r club is that but then we have a jäger bomb together. I appreciate that both clubs have fans all over the world that is why we are huge but u will never get the Everton Liverpool thing unless u are a scouser end of discussion.
16 thoughts on Spurs
16 Spurs thoughts, definitely not conclusions:
1) How we won 7-2 I don’t know. Man for a man, Maccabi seemed technically better than us, more confident with the ball at their feet and constantly found space between the lines that allowed them to…
2) Take a record amount of 472 long range shots. Makes sense, considering Joe ‘I shout louder than anyone’ Hart is in goal and is terrible. He somehow pulled off a couple of decent saves but is definitely not better than Gazzaniga
3) I listened to the first half with no sound which is sometimes nice to do as you can’t consciously or sub-consciously be influenced by the commentary. What I can tell you is that Harry ‘98% pass completion rate’ Winks was shit. Even his usual strategy of making 5 yard sideways passes wasn’t very effective. Constantly hitting it behind a teammate or just to another player who isn’t even a teammate, who knows why
4) This is the classic Tottenham I mentioned the other week when I emailed after the Saints game. We will be terrible at the back which is absolutely, bar the peak Kyle/Toby/Jan/Danny years, the Spurs way. Tasty going forward though
5) The first 2 penalties should not be penalties. Ever. Even with the current rules, they aren’t penalties
6) Dele’s skill for the penalty, that was definitely a penalty, was just lovely. However, he showed exactly why he rarely makes a squad nowadays. Slows play up 99 times out of 100 and his rare moments of brilliance are just that, rare
7) I know there’s a lot of rotation atm what with us playing 7 games a week but I’m very excited to see Tanguy, Pierre and Gio get a run together. It’s a much better combination of different skills and attributes and is the sort of trio that could run a game. The Winks/Pierre axis is not for anyone with a footballing thirst for creativity
8) Awful passing all round. Sanchez on the Maccabi equaliser is channeling his inner Dier
9) Frustrating decision making. A lot of backward/safe passes when the forward pass is on and not even difficult
10) Davies is average, at best, but I have a feeling he’s going to be part of a 3 man defence
11) With Dier and 1 other
12) Mourinho looked pissed that Dele scored the penalty
13) Sergio is a player. He better start Sunday
14) Gio is a player. He better start Sunday
15) Sonny is a player. Hope he miraculously starts Sunday
16) Harry Kane looked ok didn’t he? Will probably start Sunday
Glen, Stratford Spur
Taking a stand
This is the second letter I’m sending this evening (from USA). Some things in football are making me very proud of the game I/we love and it’s nothing to do with which team I or anybody else supports. I am so proud of Marcus Rashford and what he is achieving with feeding kids. I’m a United supporter but I’m equally proud of Raheem Sterling for maturing into a spokesman for resisting issues that plague society. So many African footballers…in some cases practically rebuilding infrastructure in their countries.Many many other examples.
But the one thing that compelled me to put finger to keyboard tonight is a team in the USA that was only founded this year, the San Diego Loyals, and in their very first year have given up their chance to go to the playoffs (Guys, it’s the US). Why on earth would you yield such a prestigious position? (Again it’s the US and it means multi kudos over here).
The reason is they have a player who is the first professional footballer who has come out as openly gay (I’m not going to name him; you can look him up if you like and for the record I’m a 67 year old straight with 6 grandkids). He was hit with a homophobic slur immediately prior to half time, 2 weeks after a black Loyals player was hit with a racial slur.
The Loyals came out for the second half, took a knee, walked off and forfeited the game.
The manager, one Landon Donovan, whom Everton fans may remember with some affection.
Kudos Mr. Donovan. You were a greater player than a lot of people gave you credit for but you are a much greater man. .
Gary (ex Pat Utd Fan in Pennsylvania) B
Death, taxes and City
In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes and Manchester City getting drawn in soft as f*** Champions League group every season.
…Another long drawn out Champions League draw has come to pass, an event that should take half an hour tops but seemingly goes on for hours is now concluded and ooooft! We sure do have some tasty draws.
Last year when Chelsea were drawn against Ajax, Valencia and Lille I titled it the “Group of Moderate Peril”, this year we play Rennes, Krasnodar and Sevilla, all teams Chelsea have never played before which will be quite a refreshing change, we certainly could’ve had a much harder group but realistically with our attacking talent we should get out of this group, no excuses, Group of Moderate Peril 2.0 it is though.
In other group news, Manchester City got another so called “easy group” and Manchester United are rivalling Group B for the so called Group of Death.
Group B: Real Madrid, Shakhtar, Inter and Monchengladbach
Group H: PSG, United, Leipzig and Basaksehir
Cannot wait for it all to kick off, especially after UEFA confirmed fans will return, capped at a safe 30%, oh football we do love you!
…I saw Porto come out as a team from pot 1 and I knew what was gonna happen. Every year. Every single year, they (Citeh) get a group that they can just walk through. Well at least the last couple of years anyway (easier to add a disclaimer than to check google). Low and behold, Olympiacos are the next team to be drawn for that group and I stopped paying attention because their were three newcomers to competition and I just assumed city would get one of them too just for good measure. They can literally play their 2nd team and finish top. At least the blue side of Manchester will be happy with the draw….
On the flip side, unless the Red Devil’s dramatically increase their game, it will be nip and tuck if they are to progress. I am not so sure they will find PSG an easy proposition. That comeback win in Paris seems an age away now. Leipzig are no slouches as Spurs and Liverpool found out last season. And then a trip to turkey to top it off. No fans means it won’t be as hostile as it could have been but still, far from a foregone conclusion. Like the Bayern group, this one is a little tasty and the top seed looks they are the only ones guaranteed to progress.
Chelsea’s group seems relatively straightforward. You’d expect them to qualify along with Sevilla. The freezing weather will be a bigger issue than the Krasnodar team and having just signed the Rennes keeper, Chelsea have recruited the perfect spy in Mendy. Like City, it really could have been a lot worse and expect there will be some content smiles down the King’s Road after seeing that.
Liverpool’s group is an unknown. Ajax have lost quite a few players per the last few months (Van De Beek, Ziyech, Dest), so they could continue to be quite brilliant or they could be woefully short. I guess we won’t know until they kick a ball in anger when the group stages begin. Atalanta have made a strong start in Serie A and caused problems for a few teams last season making it to the quarter finals. So a couple of potential banana skins in there. With the greatest respect, I don’t see Midtjylland causing problems for anyone with designs on winning the tournament.
I would have thought at least 3 from 4 to qualify for the knockout stages but I wouldn’t count United out yet. They were quite brilliant towards the end of last season. There’s also Bayern’s attack VS Someone’s defence and Messi and Ronaldo renew their rivalry for a Brucey bonus. All very exciting, just hoping their isn’t another COVID break.
VAR is founded on a lie
VAR is tedious.
Complaints about VAR are tedious.
But complaints about the complaints about VAR?
Well hopefully that’s marginally less tedious, because that’s what I want to do here (at some length, sorry).
One of the things which is so depressing about the whole VAR affair is how – rather like a certain virus – there is no end in sight. We are told up front that there’s light at the end of the tunnel, only for that light to remain the same distance away as the months roll by, and we start to feel like we’re living the same tiresome debates over and over again.
Why is this happening? Well in my view it’s because all the conversation about VAR focuses on completely the wrong issue.
Typically the narrative you hear is something along these lines:
“It’s not VAR that’s the problem its the official / the application of VAR / the rules. Once these are fixed, then it will be fine”.
This is precisely wrong. The problem lies with the very concept of VAR itself. Let me explain.
VAR is completely based on a single false assumption, which is:
– The laws of the game must be applied consistently.
It’s an understandable error to make. This sounds completely right and sensible. Of course we should be following the laws of the game. That’s what they’re there for. Anything else would be grossly unfair!
The truth, which has never been encoded or discussed, but which has been present in football since the start, is this:
– Referees apply football laws inconsistently on the basis of context, in order to achieve “just” results
In other words we all know (fans, players, and referees) that sometimes the letter of the law doesn’t perfectly correspond with justice in the game, and as such we “bend the rules” in order to come to a decision which more truly reflects a fair outcome.
There are loads of examples of this, but to list a few:
– Often innocuous incidents that would have been a foul outside the box aren’t given as fouls inside the box, because it’s recognised that a penalty would be too harsh a punishment. When they are given, we call them “soft penalties”.
– The same thing apples to handballs; if any of the recent handball incidents had happened outside the box, nobody would have complained because the punishment (a free kick) would be deemed proportionate whilst a penalty is not
– Identical fouls sometimes pick up bookings and sometimes don’t due to various contextual factors (position on the pitch, time in the game, attitude of the player, whether they are already on a yellow, etc. etc.)
– Typically players and fans don’t get too upset about goals being scored which are fractionally offside; because they know that the players were all playing within the spirit of the rules, which are there to prevent goal hanging, not to punish minuscule infringements. Such goals “deserve” to count, so we like to see them given, or as it used to be said “give the benefit of the doubt to the attacker”.
In practice, most football rules have always been more like “guidelines” which referees are allowed to apply somewhat selectively, based on context, in order to get the best outcome. They are not binary, the way VAR sees them. By VAR logic, there is no such thing as a “soft penalty” – there are penalties, and non penalties – but we all know the truth. Sometimes you just do what feels right, not what *is* right.
The reason people hate VAR so much is because it infringes on this sense of justice, resulting paradoxically in:
More correct decisions
More unjust outcomes
People find this very hard to articulate because it’s highly counter-intuitive, but it’s what lies at the heart of the VAR debate, and is why people find it so difficult to fix it. People simply cannot believe that football was broadly more just when decisions were broadly more “incorrect”. (Naturally there were occasional terrible decisions, like a goal being given when a player was 5 yards offside, but these were pretty bloody rare).
In many ways VAR is a cautionary tale of what happens when you try to treat a chaotic organic system like a predictable machine. It’s like the football equivalent of Soviet social planning – and just like with Soviet central planning, when it all goes tits up the authorities conclude that the problem was that they weren’t controlling it tightly enough – and things get even worse!
The only solution, I’m sorry to say, is to pull the plug. I’d like to think we can keep it for certain outrageous refereeing mistakes, where there has truly been a miscarriage of justice – but this should be a once every couple of months kind of situation.
Sadly such a decision would require an extreme amount of humility, and a willingness to be seen as “anti-progress”, so I really can’t see it.
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