They Walked In Line

Burnley v Manchester United - Premier League - Turf Moor

United at Turf Moor and Job Done.

The Manchester United performance against Burnley on Sunday was just what the doctor ordered. In a season with so many soap opera worthy distractions off the pitch the performance was necessary. With the eyes of the anyone but United world glaring from behind their net curtains to watch us fail, crumble and collapse; United came away with chances taken, defence in tact, solid performances all over the pitch and three points. That’s not to say there wasn’t the odd head in hands moment, and yes, it was against Burnley but United can only beat the team in front of them. In a very welcome sense it was job done.


For the most part United looked comfortable throughout the match at Turf Moor, Victor Lindelof was back from the dead after his crucifixion in previous games, Chris Smalling partnered him in defence and at some points in the first half Marouane Fellaini dropped back in what became a back three. Luke Shaw continued his excellent start to the season, he was positive with his forward play once again and Jesse Lingard looked interested too; he could have scored with a cheeky flick of his boot from a Valencia cross but he was denied. The opening goal eventually came from the most gorgeous Alexis Sanchez cross, it hung in the air and was begging to be headed into Joe Hart’s net, Romelu Lukaku duly obliged and turned to salute his team-mate for the assist.

United soon went in search of their second goal, Lukaku could have had it when he benefited from the counter to a Burnley attack. A square pass was cut out by Luke Shaw who found the striker, breaking forward with Sanchez left and Lingard right, Lukaku went left before receiving the ball back and seeing his shot saved by Joe Hart.

Lukaku was not to be denied for long though and he took his second goal of the afternoon just before half time. After a nice give and go involving Luke Shaw and Alexis Sanchez, Shaw made a forward run before Sanchez back heeled the ball back, Shaw found Lukaku who held the ball up and laid it off to Lingard before backing into space, Lingard’s resulting shot was blocked by Ashley Westwood and it came down invitingly for Lukaku, striking the ball home; Joe Hart was helpless and United went into half time two goals up with very little threat from Burnley.

Marcus Rashford had a day to forget. He came off the bench to replace Sanchez and tried to make a positive impact, he and can be happy with the cross to the far post to set up Chris Smalling’s header – the defender couldn’t make it count. He was also at the centre of the penalty decision too; Valencia’s long ball down field was headed on by Lukaku to Lingard before his return pass enabled Lukaku’s cross into the box. The ball evaded Lingard’s bycle kick but found Rashford who was brought down by Lennon. Paul Pogba missed the resulting penalty.

Rashford’s afternoon came to an early end when he was given a red card for headbutting former United player, Phil Bardsley, who had returned to the Burnley starting line up for this game. Marcus Rashford looked to take the ball down the wing with Bardsley for company, the defender did his job and the ball went out of play but once it had Bardsley kicked out at Rashford who then put his head up close and personal with the defender. The referee had no other option once ‘headbutt’ contact was made, and Marcus will learn to count to ten in such circumstances in the future, it was all a bit unnecessary. Rashford apologised to the United fans after the game, United will be without him for three games once the Premier League returns.

Burnley were arguably lucky to finish with eleven men themselves, after Lukaku held off the attentions of Ben Mee, the Burnley defender seemed to fall conveniently with his arm across the ball knocking it out of the striker’s path though no hand ball was given.

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Mourinho’s Red and White army!

Jose Mourinho once again thought United had done “so so well” (he likes so so at the moment, it seems to be his go to phrase). The manager talked about how the match reminded him of the Spurs game, “but today we score!”. “Everybody had the correct approach” he said, before praising once again the United faithful, saying that the “performance and happiness is Old Trafford’s responsibility” – feeling that the positivity and unity given to the team during the Spurs defeat was carried into the Burnley game.
Support for the team and the manager should have never really in doubt amongst the majority of United’s fans but Jose continues to say and do the right things and only looks to strengthen his relationship with the red and white army. Some reading this now will see it as a move of fan manipulation by a man unsecure in the hot seat, but it is continuing and strengthening a United voice at a time one is absolutely needed. The fans are with Jose. The fans will be with with the team, everything else secondary.

On the pitch on Sunday Mourinho’s team were doing the right things, Fellaini (92%), Pogba (89%) and Matic (86%) had excellent pass completion stats according to the official website; 21 shots and 9 on target suggest that whatever plans are made during training might be bearing fruit on match day. The passing looked crisper, the play looked sharper, we had ideas when we had possession. Marouane Fellaini was pivotal to United on Sunday. While we salute players for their new-found attitude, or perhaps beg a certain French midfielder to find a better attitude, the big Belgian in the middle should not go un-noticed, he has done everything asked of him and done it well. We can be glad he has signed a new United contract, he deserves it.

Elswhere, Romelu Lukaku took his chances and should have had a hatrick, Lingard and Sanchez were involved and tricky and the boss was very happy with the defensive display of Smalling and Lindelof at the back. Luke Shaw can be proud of himself for this whole opening month, not just on Sunday where he valiantly copped a yellow card for the cause to break down a counter attack after Lukaku’s shot on goal. Low key it may have been but it is an indicator of a team pulling together. 

It may have been Burnley (they only had 2 shots on target from 9 in total), but the confidence all round, can help us throughout the season and can be crucial when the bigger challenges come. GTS

© 2018 Simon Andrew Moult / Moultymedia.

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Bizarre Love Triangle (Spurs P2)

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We knew the knives would be out following the Tottenham defeat but I felt a very real sense of togetherness and pride. Don’t get me wrong, I would prefer for that sense to swell within me after a 5:0 victory where United have literally played the opposition off the park (Arsenal 8:2, Ipswich 9:0, City 5:0) and it feels bizarre that such a stirring comes after a loss but that’s where we are. We got a performance to be proud of; if any of Lukaku’s chances go in it’s a different game. On a different day at the very least we’re either a goal up thanks to Rose’s back pass or we’re level seconds after Harry Kane’s superb header found the net.

“I wouldn’t be worried if at half time we were winning three nil, at half time the result should be three nil, three one, two nil, we were so so so much the best team in the first half”
“When you play the way you play, when you create what you create, when you miss the chances that we missed… at half time everybody was frustrated but totally convinced that we were going to win the match. Even with the unexpected two nil, the way the team kept playing until the third goal arrived. My message to the players has to be a positive message and I’m really happy, humbled, by the way the supporters reacted to the boys.”

It seems that most of United’s support that night were reading the same script; Jose spending some time applauding the Stretford End was the moment we needed. It felt like a turning point. It felt like a man thanking the core support for staying to support him and the team, despite all the questions they probably had, all the confusion they all felt, and all the anger they wanted to direct somewhere. Remove yourself from the he makes more money, I need more money, I want a centre back he won’t let me have one BS ; take away all the drama and we have a defiant manager and fans willing to stand with him.

There is no brainwashing involved here. We know Jose isn’t perfect, the rational amongst us aren’t saying he’s the messiah but the issues aren’t all down to him so pardon me for thinking that men in ties in the boardroom should shoulder as much if not more blame than a coach who seems to have been crucified for at one point believing there might be a United player in Victor Lindelof. This week I’ve heard from our own fans that the board were correct not to sanction moves for any of the players Jose wanted and Victor is one of the poor sods they always mention. Perhaps in another team in another season he would have been able to acclimatise in the shadows but he’s shown a weakness and it has been exploited. If opposing players are cash strapped students, Victor Lindelof is the broken cash machine that keeps paying out. When they get so much joy from him, our opposition will continue to ask questions of him. He’s been crushed in front of us, and as much as the staff will shield him, he’ll have to improve in front of us too.

Publicly though, Jose is refusing to put that weight onto Victor’s shoulders. When asked about him, Jose built a wall;”My team played so well and strategically we were so so so so good and you want to try and transform this press conference in a situation of lets blame the guy.” before going on to ask the media what they wanted from a Jose Mourinho team;

“I’m sorry, you have to tell me what is the most important thing because I don’t know. When I win matches I come here many times and you are not happy that I won matches and you say that the most important thing is the way of playing. You need to make a decision because I need to know from you… if it is to play well or it is to win matches, play offensively or for a certain result.”

When the press asked him what went wrong on Monday night, he asked them if they had seen the goals. What else can he say. They asked him if he knew what his best back four was at this moment in time, Jose’s answer here too was direct and to the point; “No.” He did then elaborate on the partnerships he’s had to mix and match, Lindelof and Bailly, Jones and Smalling, there is a suggestion that Rojo comes back into the side as soon as he is available but Jose is working with what he has available.

Some would suggest that Jose cannot be trusted with the money, but that idea is alien to me. It suggests that a manager is clearly no longer able to make purchases, try them and move them on if they don’t fit in as expected. Every manager makes what turns into a bad move transfer wise, for every Eric Cantona and Ole Solskjaer there is a Nick Powell, Jordi Cruyff, Adnan Januzaj, Garry Birtles.

SIR ALEX FERGUSON SIGNED BEBE for crying out loud!
The United board have to back him now, they should have backed him in the transfer market. Offering a manager a new contract and telling him they don’t trust his ideas for new signings is bizarre but this circus is what we are all having to deal with now. For his part I think Jose’s reaction has been outstanding. He went over to Luke Shaw and he applauded the fans, Jose knew the cameras were on him and yes it was done partially with that attention in mind because it put him with us. He’s not been shy in laying the blame for the lack of new signings right at Ed Woodward’s door, he spoke the words, we saw the action and now it feels as though he’s standing on our side of the picket line.

“My message was the same as the supporters”, said Jose afterwards, “the message that the supporters gave to the players was my message, was the same.”

Jose told the media he was happy with the attitude of his team and he was (mostly) correct. He was full of praise for the fans and he was correct there too; “Goals are an amazing vitamin, or an overdose of fatigue.”  The players are with him, the majority of fans are with him, the board are backing him (now), in reality this could be an uneasy truce, I’m sure some journalists will continue to right sentences about insiders and use phrases like “it is believed” but I want to believe we are United.

“One thing we know”, says Jose, “the team is United”.

 

The bizarre love triangle continues, the results will come. GTS

(if you want more, try these from the archives)

True Faith

United: Love it or Leave It

© 2018 Simon Andrew Moult / Moultymedia. Many thanks for your support.

Shell Shock (Spurs p1)

Seconds after kick off against Tottenham last night, it all looked like it was going to be ok. From kick off Tony Valencia had the ball wide, he sent it forward, Lingard jumped to nod the ball onto Fred and Fred’s attempt went wide of the post. It was a signal of intent from a player and team that needed to come out and show something after the disaster at Brighton. Mourinho made six changes, back came Valencia, Smalling, Jones, Herrera and Matic and we were led to believe they would probably line up in a 4-3-3 but Jose kept everyone on their toes; Ander Herrera started more defensively, Pogba alongside Matic in midfield and we’d clearly be demanding a lot of Valencia and Shaw for the width. Jesse Lingard started as part of a front two with Lukaku. It seemed like a positive and confident statement from a manager knowing his team would be under the lens, but then you might well ask yourself, when aren’t Manchester United under the lens.

 

Sixteen minutes into the first half, it all looked like it was going to be ok. With Spurs in possession the ball found Danny Rose who made an instinctive pass back to his keeper, the pass was too short and Lukaku pounced, taking it round Hugo Lloris but with an empty net to aim at the United number nine sent the ball agonisingly wide. It looked odds on a goal but Spurs escaped. There was enough evidence early on to show us that there would be no hangover from last week’s trip to the seaside. The players seemed to believe the breakthrough was coming and because they believed, the crowd believed, and the crowd fed the players and United flowed forward in ways we hadn’t seen too often under Mourinho. Nemanja Matic broke up a Spurs attack on the edge of the United box, Pogba looped the ball into the air towards Luke Shaw and Shaw played a lucky one two off a Spurs man’s leg then found Jesse Lingard and continued his run down the wing for the return pass; Shaw’s cross found Romelu Lukaku but the shot was sent into Hugo Lloris.

Fred seemed to pop up everywhere, Lingard was excited, Shaw had purpose, Matic was sensible; dare I say it even Paul Pogba seemed to be doing his job, there seemed to be only one way this was going to go. United were doing enough surely, it would come, wouldn’t it? The fact United were unable to find the net during a 20-30 minute period in which they were very much on top was a concern. The fact that Lucas Moura had become more present in the game and therefore increasingly annoying, was a concern. Ander Herrera received a yellow for giving the Brazilian his full attention and David De Gea’s kick out only just cleared his head, Matic had the ball mugged off him when he wanted an hour with it, Dele Alli would have got a shot away if it had not been for Chris Smalling denying him the opportunity. Spurs had apparently soaked up all they were willing to and now saw chances to play into the game. Lucas Moura again threatened to put Spurs ahead going like a ferrari with Phil Jones for company. Jones made contact and was lucky the official wanted no part of it, Moura was knocking on the door and would not be denied all night. United continued though, Fred curled an effort wide, he then went on to set up Pogba for a shot which Lloris saved; Matic’s effort from the return cross looked as if it was going to loop into the net but it didn’t. There were signs of this becoming a game for either side to take hold of, but as the clock ticked into the last 15 minutes of the first half there was no sign of the carnage that was to follow.

 

When Tottenham appeared in the second half it was as if they believed they had withstood everything United had, and having gone in level at the break when they could have and should have been behind, they were now going to push on and see what they could get. Harry Kane fizzed a shot or a cross into the danger area, De Gea might have been aware that Lucas Moura was ready to pounce and got a hand to the ball flicking it clear but just over the head (again) of the Brazilian. Lingard looked to attack into the Stretford End as both teams looked for the advantage and thats where this ends as a contest.

 

The visiting side made the breakthrough; Dele Alli was found in space and when the ball hit Chris Smalling and went out for a corner, everything United had built about to be taken apart. Harry Kane’s looping header in the 50th minute looked like the simplest thing in the world. United had kept him largely silent up to this point and I dare say Phil Jones thought he had done his job but the World Cup golden boot winner backed off Jones and sent the ball into the net beautifully. David De Gea and Romelu Lukaku could only watch and United were one down. Within 2 minutes and 12 seconds later Lucas Moira got the goal his quality display deserved but unbelievably and undeservedly, United were two down.
From a United point of view it now became about asking questions of Spurs and seeing if we could get ourselves a goal. Whenever that occurred, if indeed it could, would determine what we could get out of this game. Unlike the Brighton game when United never even looked like recovering from the shell shock, at Old Trafford on Monday night they did keep their heads high. Phil Jones was hauled off injured and was understandably frustrated by it, Lindelof came on as his replacement and we all collectively hoped that other Victor would turn up; the one that looked half decent in his displays for Sweden and not the one that was had on toast in against Brighton. Matic came off and Fellaini came on, perhaps surprising some who might well have wanted Rashford in the hunt for goals. Ander Herrera had already been sacrificed to see what Alexis Sanchez had to offer.

Sanchez was into the action quickly enough, his long ball was nodded down into Lingard’s path, the ball couldn’t settle and the shot went over for a corner but United soon found their way forward again; Fred’s pass across to Pogba sent the Frenchman back a bit to collect and the cross deflected for a corner but the Stretford End still roared. United kept possession, Spurs tried to push out from their area and Luke Shaw kept the ball going in the right direction. Paul Pogba won a free kick which Fred took and sent to the post but Lindelof’s header failed to trouble anyone.

Victor Lindelof was about to answer the question United fans asked when he came on, this was the performance of a man visibly short of confidence, rightfully roasted and shrinking before our very eyes. Jamie Carragher all but wrote his United obituary after the game and when he nearly gifted Spurs a third goal, you can’t really argue with that assesment. Spurs’ Danny Rose had played his own keeper into similar trouble in the first half, Lindelof’s pass back was more central but equally as weak and needed David De Gea to sprint into action. Dele Alli was pushed wide and couldn’t glide round our keeper as he wanted to, De Gea then saved the resulting shot and earned the thanks of a sheepish Swedish defender. If Victor Lindelof is going to make it at Manchester United he is going to have to improve far beyond what we have seen this month. Perhaps in past seasons he would be able to grow into United without the spotlight but this is the way things are currently and he’s getting asked questions in front of a critical audience. It’s perhaps unfair but some will doubt that he can improve. He remains one of our defensive options so he has until January.

It looked unlikely United would be scoring, one move pretty much encapsulated the home team’s evening when Luke Shaw sent ball fizzing goalwards goalwards and Lukaku narrowly avoided making contact with his head. Frequently the ball was in the right areas, Tottenham constantly trying to send it away and United continuing to ask questions. I have the feeling they could have been there on Tuesday morning and still the ball would not have found the net.
On Monday night the final flicker of United hope was extinguished fittingly by Lucas Moura, a thorn in our side all night. Spurs were clearing from a United attack, the ball bounced over Fred and fell for Kane who played in Lucas Moura; Moura accelerated away from Chris Smalling, who did attempt a tackle more in hope than expectation before Moura finished lethally.
A United performance that promised so much and looked for most of the first half like it would deliver, in the end gave us nothing. 3 – 0 is probably unfair, and does not tell the full story of the match but it does tell the story of a football club. There are lots of things to be positive about (Shaw for one) but there are negatives we are all too aware of will not go away and as a football club we will remain under the microscope. GTS

 

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Mourinho headed straight for Shaw at the final whistle. United’s left back can be proud of his performance on Monday night.

 

© 2018 Simon Andrew Moult / Moultymedia. Many thanks for your support.

They Cancelled Eldorado

man-utd-chief-ed-woodward-1005548Wanting to leave United should NOT be the deciding factor in becoming Captain.

We need One Choir singing from  One Hymn sheet not an out of key Choir Boy!

Enough soap opera. They all represent Manchester United and need to remember that.

It’s a tale as old as time. Big money movies, small screen soap operas; men in suits think they have a winning idea, they stick loads of money in it, make it look more glamorous than anything you have ever seen, they really stick the full weight of the machine behind it; so convinced are the men in suits that this is going to win everyone over and make a connection. But it the grand plan doesn’t connect with people! Do you know what happened next? Flop! King Arthur, flop! An English soap opera set in Spain, all the glamour, who cares about anything else! Well the BBC cancelled Eldorado.

Manchester United is the latest soap opera to hit your screens; the disconnect between the board and the manager and arguably the players has been rivotting or painful to watch and much like Manchesterford’s finest, Acorn Antiques, we have had key players failing to follow the script. At least Victoria Wood’s world within a world was funny – what’s happening at Old Trafford is not.
The he said, they said, he said nonsense shows no sign of going anywhere and I’d rather not discuss it but I will because it’s indicative of what is going wrong at Manchester United.
Last week, James Cooper goes on Sky Sports reading a statement; United are “insensed” at rumours of a bust up between Paul Pogba and Jose Mourinho, “they are telling me there was no bust up” says Cooper who then goes on to suggest that idea is “nonsense” and that the “relationship between the two is good”.
For his part Sun Journalist Neil Custis was of the opinion that this was an attempt to “knock down” a story under orders from the United press office. The journalist seems to suggest that if James Cooper had spoken to Custis before going on camera armed with the red tinted defence, the story may well have been different. Neil Custis stood behind his story, the rift is clear and present; manager and midfielder are at odds.
Jose Mourinho takes to the microphone at his Friday press conference and tells the press not to make up lies. Jose is pretty clear; there was apparently No fight, no exchange of words, no problems at all. Jose cannot say enough nice things about the world cup winner and captain of his team; “I cannot demand more from him, I cannot ask more from him I want him to play well, I want him to play for the team.”
In days gone by if there was a sniff of a story and our manager gave that kind of reponse, the story would have died and we would have all been able to concentrate on the football but we are in different times. When Jose comments on the HUGE news that David De Gea is committing his long term future to Manchester United he says “it was a collective situation involving the player, the agent and Manchester United. The agent didn’t create a war to achieve his objectives. He respected the club, he respected the player.”

 

Jose might well have heaped praise on his captain, but in praising his goalkeeper and the conduct of the agent (Jorge Mendes, by the way, who also represents Mourinho), he also managed to park a double decker bus at the door of Paul Pogba’s agent Mino Raiola. This ability to aim a verbal laserbeam with pinpoint presicsion in this way was a thing of beauty in one respect becuase i’ve always wanted to believe Paul Pogba wanted to be at Manchester United specifically and that his head was being turned by the agent. I’ve supported Manchester United long enough to know that I’m naive in this respect but I never want to lose this naivity; representing Manchester United should mean everything to anyone lucky enough to do so. So I want to believe it means the world to Pogba, and I want to believe that because he’s ‘one of our own’ it means as much to him as it meant to players like Paul Scholes or Denis Irwin, players for whom contract negotiations seemed to be the player asking the chairman for a pen.
The fact that Manchester United told the world they were angry is a giveaway that there is something to know, but the manager does not need to get on with a player in order for them to do a job . Sir Alex and Eric Cantona may have had the arm round the shoulder relationship but Wayne Rooney and Sir Alex did not. Rooney told the Telegraph in 2015 “it’s not just me who has had a fall out with Alex Ferguson. I think many players have. Some have left some have stayed”, this after it was revealed by Rooney that he spoke to his manager about looking for a move if Sir Alex’s plans no longer included the striker. When the issues are no longer repairable, and say, a football boot is kicked in the face of our poster boy, poster boy is soon in Madrid doing keepy uppies in the sun or Jaap Stam signs for Lazio and looks very happy about it… not.
No one is bigger than Manchester United and while they represent that shirt they have my support because I want to believe that they know what it means. I want to believe we are singing one song, from one hymn sheet.

On Sunday quite a few of the choir boys were off key and instead of being cancelled the soap opera was commisioned for another week of episodes. It was within their power to put it all down, regardless of the issues, everyone had said the right things and the team had the ability to fire a message to Neil Custis, James Cooper, Kevin Palmer, everyone; IGNORE THE SOAP OPERA IT IS THE FOOTBALL THAT COUNTS.
There is no distraction from the tension now because on the pitch we were poor. Defensively we switched off. Ashley Young stepped up to shadow Solly March but backed off him, he found enough space to find Murray, with a flick of the boot Brighton were a goal up and questions were being asked of Viktor Lindleof. Within minutes it was 2:0, Gross with the corner, United failed to fully deal with the danger and Duffy finds the corner with a strike better than it has any right to be. United very quickly not just on the ropes (the back four certainly were) but in danger of being out for the count before the half time break. This fear was realised with a 44th minute penalty; Eric Bailly brought down Pascal Gross who took the penalty and may well have been lucky given that it struck De Gea’s legs, next week that bounces to safety perhaps but on Sunday it put United 3:1 down. Forgive me for not focusing on the positives because I couldn’t find any.

 

Jose’s post match comments were centred around making “too many mistakes” and those mistakes giving “happinness and confidence to Brighton, taken from us” he also told reporters he would not go in the direction of being critical to his players, when elaborating he said that he had in the past been too honest and open and would now only speak about his players when they have had good days.
On Sunday Jose “was not expecting big mistakes” but his captain Paul Pogba told reporters “the attitude that we had is not like we wanted to beat them”, before putting himself first in the firing line for that criticism; “I put myself first, my attitude wasnt right.” Of course, I put myself first could be a staggeringly self aware moment of clarity from our midfielder, but I think he means it more as the buck stops here.
I like the fact that Jose is doing all his negative / realistic work behind closed doors and I like the fact that in the wake of this response another hopefully more succesful shut down will occur but his captain mentioned attitude three times in his Sky Sports interview and the press are quick to pick up on his crumbs that the team was not correctly prepared. Pogba suggests a “big lesson” has been learned after that defeat. United were humbled many times last season, we all had to pick ourselves up and hope for better next time, Brighton clinched survival on the back of our bad day at the office last season in this same fixture.
United have had embarrasments; yesterday shouldn’t have been a big lesson, anyone who needed to learn another “big lesson” should look at themselves in the mirror. Are they really good enough to play for us?

 

We need United players who are going to turn up and try – and collapse on the floor at the final whistle because they are feeling the dissapointment of every supporter. I thank Paul for stepping up and taking the bullet with his it starts with me comments, I agree – it does, but there are plenty who watched yesterday and think he doesn’t give a crap. There are plenty out there who thinks United’s is just the fattest pay cheque and if he’s not taking ours it will be someone else’s. I think Paul makes a good captain, he would have made a better one without all this going on because now it’s reactive not pro-active. I long for the days when allegedly wanting to leave Manchester United was not the key factor it getting you the armband.
We are years away from winning the league but I want to believe that Paul Pogba wants to be part of our rebuilding. There are those that suggest otherwise. I want to believe that Jose Mourinho is part of our rebuilding, there are those that suggest otherwise. Love him or hate him Jose needs the players to do better. But not one person comes out of Sunday’s horror show with any credit, Jose bought the two central defenders that were ripped apart, Paul Pogba is again the focus and off the field is again where the story lies, Ed Woodward shoulders monumental blame too.
The Spanish transfer window closes on August the 31st and United are soon to appoint a Director of Football so the moves Ed Woodward makes next are going to tell us how this soap opera ends – roll credits.
GTS

 

All That They Have

THIS summer, thanks to England and the World Cup we all got taken on a fantastic ride, whether we truly believed ‘it’ was coming home or not, I don’t know, but it is easy to be sceptical and game by game all of that went. I wouldn’t say club colours fully disappeared but I enjoyed the sense I felt as I watched England progress. I thought the season’s positivity might some how bleed into the Premier League season and that it might benefit Manchester United.

How wrong could I have been? Well it turns out some people place huge importance on Pre Season, who knew? We beat Real Madrid, and we lost to Liverpool (I think, I can’t honestly tell you, but I remember the reaction to our pre season was in the main quite negative). It felt like we were being written off before a serious ball had been kicked: written off by fans in the same foxhole as us.
I support Manchester United. Not a group of players, not a specific player, not a specific manager. Jose Mourinho is the manager of my football team, therefore he is my manager. The fact that he seems to boil the piss of our rivals is humorous, the fact that he admits that the match-day battle commences at the pre-match press conference is glorious. He makes mistakes, he has made mistakes and he will no doubt make more in the coming season but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with anything he has said during pre-season.
We have a football manager in charge of a brand, and it feels as though while our manager and our coaches are on the pitch trying to make us successful on the pitch, he and they are coming up against men in suits, their only job is to continue the success of the brand. It seems as though success on that green stuff is a long way down the list. Not so long ago I did wonder how far I would like us to go to get rid of that brand mentality; maybe losing a few games isn’t that bad, would relegation be that bad? It might well lose us a few of the overseas fans and possibly when the men in suits see that we aren’t flogging much merch in Hoboken and LA then we wouldn’t be beholden to the sponsors in that area and we wouldn’t need to go over there and keep them all happy. Brilliant. So let’s get relegated right? That would solve everything wouldn’t it! Yes, wait…what?
I snapped myself out of that staggering frame of mind pretty quickly once I had followed that thinking through to its conclusion; supporting the self harm of your football club is not the answer.
Jose and his ability to work with those above him will determine whether and for how long he stays at Old Trafford. His ability to work with those in his squad is not as fragile as some might have you believe; Luke Shaw delivered a performance to be proud of on friday night, he has admitted himself he feels free to attack more and be the player Manchester United saw when they bought him. Paul Pogba talks about needing to be trusted to be happy, Jose made the man captain on Friday night and Paul responded with an 80 minute performance to impress everyone. He also spoke after the game about moving on from the world cup victory, and working to get better. If the fact he has a world cup medal in his garage at home is “not enough” and he wants to achieve more, then we want him at Old Trafford. We need the confident Pogba who told Sanchez that he wasn’t taking the penalty, even though “I know what I hear after if I miss!”
Bailly did well, Shaw, Darmian, Pogba even Andreas Pereira, I don’t care why they are performing so well only that they are. If they are doing so to shut Jose up then so be it, Manchester United benefits.
Jose has a vision, after the victory on Friday night he spoke of seeing “glimpses of the football we want to try and play” and how they “dealt with problems as a team”. Leave all the I make more money than you do, board room bullshit out of it; we can be happy.
There’s a way about certain United fans these days that seems to think it’s impossible for anyone to complain about how things are because the ‘bad’ they speak of isn’t anywhere near as bad as it has been in the past. When performances have been bad, and Dad and I have driven away from Old Trafford and he looks at me and says “it’s not as bad as when we were relegated”. For the modern generation of United fans this is a slump, even though it’s not a down period with the drama of the past that’s fine, I’m not sure younger fans need to experience United in the conference leagues in order for their opinions to be seen as valid ones. It’s perfectly okay to moan, but moan when the season starts – and moan when they give you reason.

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While there were of course things to work on from Friday night, the team played well, questions were asked of players by the manager and they responded.
“I asked them, give me what you have.”

It’s all any of us ask. GTS

Part 6

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It’s 81 minutes in and I am watching England players play what is lovingly described as “tippy tappy crap” in search of a goal. I’m sat here thinking that this nonsense feels familiar, the clueless arseclownery sold to us as patient build  up, Manchester United have been involved in that. That dog don’t hunt.

I started this blog to see if it was possible to rekindle love for my national football team; to get involved in the community spirit and see if it was possible to forget club colours and follow ING ERL AND. I’ve found something I was not expecting.

91st minute of five extra and my timeline us going nuts. Every single person on my timeline is reminding me where (take your pick) England player comes from;

Spurs are going to win this game for England.

Here we go, City making sure we are solid at the back.

Great pass from the Spurs lad, the Liverpool lad let it down.

Here’s what I’ve found out: as the going gets tough our club colours come out. Suddenly it’s right to blame Rooney because you “can’t trust a Manc” to do the job, England fans online clubbed together to pay for an early flight home for Raheem Stirling, and only Marcus Rashford is quicker off the mark than Spurs fans reminding you Harry Kane is theirs.

I thought it was just me and the United fans I know. I thought the feeling of apathy was just from us. I’m now of the belief that it’s honesty from me. The other football fans, those I thought were better than me because they left the club colours at the door in support of the nation but it’s all bollocks As soon as they struggle every player gets hung up by their individual club shirt. It’s England pride with Velcro on the back, easiily removed as needed.

I asked a few England fans something as I’ve travelled this country over the last few weeks. I wondered, if they were to get to the knockout stages, would they be tempted to fly out abs support the team? The resounding answer was “No”. I’m told that most of “those in France with England shirts on aren’t there for football, just to fight”. I know this is a huge generalisation and I’m not going to take his words any futher but it’s a perception England haven’t managed to shake so far.

England draw, I have no idea what excuses Woy gives because Sinny puts 10 credits on the jukebox and I’ve got a song to choose coz he’s a diamond. A crystal drinking diamond (get on that for word play).

England march on. Apathy continues. I want them to make me care. England I’m asking you to make me care, in fact like the Stone Roses’ song I choose.. I’m begging you.

Til next time

Part 5

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Somewhere in a North Yorkshire pub, a Welshman is nervous. He’s surrounded by Englishmen so he has every right to be, and the teams are out;

The anthems come, I don’t sing too loudly, stay under the radar for a bit longer, I think, let’s not alert the whole pub yet. The English meekly sang their anthem – the Bale comments regarding a lack of passion seemingly reflected here.

During the game I can’t hold back my patriotic and passionate views, biased views, as always. The banter between me and seemingly 200 Englishmen ensured that the pub was full of laughter as well as the usual noises associated with watching a game with a few pints. The “ooohhh’s” and “aahhhh’s” as well as expletives, of course.

I’m becoming the entertainment now with my quick witted retorts to whatever they threw at me, like a seasoned comedian, Chanting, singing and winding them up as England kept failing to make the most of their chances. I’m louder than the lot of them – one man standing alone against all these Englishmen!

We get a free kick….. everyone is telling me it’s going in, I am adamant it’s too far out…. then……

GET IN YOU FUCKING BASTARDS!

Heard across the whole pub and down the street no doubt. My voice booming in contrast to the silence of the rest of the pub. The half time banter now in full force as people come up to me to chat about the game, about Bale and, with more animation, about Hart.

The second half is the worst of my life!! From the moment the clock started I’m screaming at them to take it to the flag. TO THE FLAG!!! Everyone around me is laughing but mostly nervous about the game and the desperate three points England needed.

When the first goal goes in I’m convinced it was offside, it looked offside. I was drowned though by the noise that the English FINALLY made. They showed passion but only when they scored. I’m lifted in the air, beer going everywhere! I need another drink, there is a feeling now this is going to be a battle on the big screen and a “battle” in the pub.

Towards the end, England are missing opportunities – could Wales hang on like they did against Belgium twice….. could they get that point they so desperately need to qualify to the next round?

And then.

Pandemonium.

OH NO….. a last minute goal was the LAST thing I needed here.The pub goes wild, I don’t even know who scored, I don’t care. I rest my head on the bar and I feel it being patted, hair ruffled, joyful sounds from the England fans scratching my ear drums like a spike has been inserted.  Mobile phones are out and filming the celebrations in the pub and my pain.

Bar staff come up to me to console me, telling me I was excellent entertainment and that I took it all well. A lot of of the lads in the pub, some I knew and a lot that I didn’t, all coming up to me afterwards to shake my hand and pat my shoulder. Their messages were all the similar which started with a “haha we won” followed by congratulating me on making it a brilliant atmosphere and that I was a legend in the bar. A small condolence for the last minute loss but condolences nonetheless. Should I have gone or should I have watched it on my own without all that fuss to endure at the end? I think my little write up has answered that, to have been alone at home and witnessed that last minute goal would have been depressing. At least my attendance at the pub, the 1 against 200 (ish), gave me something to enjoy and something to talk about.

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No Welshman was harmed during the production of this blog

Cheers to Taffinoski follow him @taffinoski – Wales continue on their own journey and this week mine with England came to an abrupt end. I didn’t see the game, you could say my journey went off road. Very much so in fact. Have you ever been to Byker? It’s an interesting place where interesting people live. I couldn’t ask anyone the score, lets just say… the television show Byker Grove was full of shit. It lied to me. Geoff Keegan lied to me!

Part 6 will come when I stop moving. Thanks again to Taff, for now for both England and Wales the journey continues. See you down the road.