One Mailboxer isn’t panicking like many Man Utd fans over their current state of shambles, while we also have missives in reaction to Tuchel getting it all wrong against Arsenal.
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Reason for United optimism
Like many others, I noticed that Man Utd were rubbish on Tuesday night. Without their best centre back (Varane). And best left back (Shaw). And two preferred central midfielders (I struggle to describe McFred as “best”, although that’s probably true). And best centre forward (Ronaldo). Under an ineffectual interim manager. The night after a team member’s son died. Against quite possibly the best team in the world.
The consensus is that last night showed us the true picture of where United are now. The team is a shambles. Bad with the ball. Bad without the ball. Gutless. A disgrace. I understand the reaction. They were very poor. But as bad as United have been this season, they’re almost exactly as good as Arsenal, Tottenham and West Ham, and they’re better than everyone else outside The Big Three.
Everyone seems to just shrug this off as a minor anomaly in the Unified Theory of United Rubbishness. But it’s not an anomaly, it disproves the theory.
Rubbish teams aren’t better than most other teams, so Man United aren’t rubbish. They’re just a lot worse than we expect them to be. If “United consistently perform below expectations” generated more clicks, we would all have a different view of this situation. The click-bait that F365 so enjoys calling out has created an environment around United that’s so febrile the entire football community has come to accept something that can be disproved just by looking at the league table.
That’s the reason for optimism. As bad as United have been relative to our collective expectations of them, they’re still better than almost everyone else. I can hear Johny Nic beating away, on his keyboard, thinking about the financial chasm between teams and the impact this has on sporting outcomes, but that’s another argument for another day (unless you’re Johny, in which case it’s always an argument for right now).
In De Gea, Varane, Bruno and potentially Sancho they have a spine of top quality players on long term deals. Add to that McFred and Lindelof who clearly aren’t top level but are functional and at least try, and appear to be decent characters. Then there’s the English lads – Shaw, Maguire and Rashford – who shouldn’t be beyond salvaging from their current malaise. And DVB – has to be a player in there somewhere and Ten Hag has a better chance of finding him than most. Those players supplemented by the youth – Elanga, Williams, Garner, Tuanzebe (not really a youth), Mejbri, Pellistri – should be enough to compete for minor European places with proper coaching.
Obviously you would want to bring some players in, but only a few. I was going to suggest some names but hopefully they’re young players I’ve barely heard of who have the right mental as well as physical attributes, and maybe a Tielemans type signing if one is available for a reasonable fee. With the players who leave, you’ve offset the cost of missing out on the Champions League in saved wages alone. Then you see who makes it from the young players, let the world see the style of play the manager is implementing, and start adding the extra quality needed to be back in Champions League contention the next season.
That kind of rebuild is probably unthinkable to those in charge of the club, but the opportunity is there for them. As this season has proved, they can be bad and still be better than almost everyone else. Embracing a drastic rebuild now doesn’t have to make them any worse than they are currently, and it could make them better much faster than people are predicting.
Andy B – London (note, better doesn’t mean as good as this Liverpool, they are really, really good)
This is an email about pity, which hurts most of all.
What has bothered me most in the fallout from the most recent shallacking is the wave of pity that has befallen our club. Pity is rarely bestowed upon equals, or those who have a perception of parity.
The knowing smirks among Liverpool players. The head tilt from Klopp to Rangnick with arms outstretched, like an old family member seeing someone for the first time in twenty years at a funeral. The old, “It’s wonderful to see you but it’s a shame it’s under these circumstances”.
The hugs after the whistle between the two teams. Liverpool players almost looking too embarrassed to celebrate, like they had just beaten Sydney FC in the Steve Finnan pre-season cup somewhere in Middle Earth. For comparison, go back and watch the immediate aftermath of the 2009 loss at OT to Pool or the 6-1 loss to City in 2011. The opposition dancing around like they had conquered Goliath, our players leaving the field as if SAF was running punishment training at Carrington in fifteen minutes. SAF rushing a handshake as though he was playing fingers are lava.
What is worse is the self-pity shown by the players, throwing hands up in the air, kicking posts and signage, looking up to the heavens for respite (little do they know that Cantona is still here with us on earth).
True rivals do not pity each other. They f*cking hate one another. I want to be goaded when I go to work the day after a loss from my scouse mate knowing that one day I’ll be able to return the favour. All I got in the coffee room was a light pat on the back – condescending as though a heavier touch from him would destroy my remaining spirit. He couldn’t offer me the milk quick enough before putting it back in the fridge.
So here we are, the pitied ones. One of the world’s most well-known teams, with replica jerseys of replica jerseys walking around every corner of the Earth.
Even Roy Keane is broken. What a pity.
Shopping in the budget aisle
It must be hard, Colin Crust, to face your team shopping in the “middle basket”, as they’re not the type of players that could get you top four.
You certainly couldn’t get top four, win the premier league or the Champions League with off-brand players like relegated Hull’s Andy Robertson, or Southampton’s erratic Sadio Mane. Failed youngsters like Mohammed Salah and Jordan Henderson won’t work, nor will a faded journeyman such as James Milner. If he was any good, his club wouldn’t have let him go. Heaven forfend you buy a player from German nobodies, Hoffenheim or Schalk, and end up with a non-scoring striker like Firmino or a centre half that keeps charging off into the distance, like Joel Matip.
It’s only trusted, world class, readymade stars that could ever get you there. Manchester United should try that for once. I’m sure there are some big stars out there. Heck, I hear France’s talismanic playmaker is about to be available for a free… and he counts as homegrown!
Rangnick’s ten-man shortlist on Man Utd’s £20m budget
United reflect Prem weakness
When people complain of it being a “weaker” Premier League this season, I think what they’re getting at is that *this* Manchester United side are still within touching distance of a top-four finish.
*This* Manchester United “team” who turned in *that* non-performance at Anfield last night is somehow still in contention to be playing Champions League football next season.
Say no more.
Lee, not the Liverpool fan one who seems to write in every day
F365 and Sarah Winterburn absolutely owe an unconditional apology to Solskjaer. It seems the PE fraudster who kept harping on about DNA and nostalgia wasn’t really the problem after all.
Everything that went well under him was despite him only due to Bruno, it’s the same Bruno now isn’t it? Everything that didn’t work was his fault, yet we’ve become even more worse than ever before. That first half, I haven’t ever seen anything that bad all my life, they were bloody scared of football!
Statements coming from the club that it won’t take us 30 years ffs the delusion of grandeur! I don’t remember Liverpool being this atrocious during our dominant period. They were poor but at least they put in the effort and the fight!
Have to say I was appalled at the Sky Sports punditry team toward the end of Tuesday night’s game – Hannibal Mejbri running around like a headless chicken, picks up a yellow card and is only saved a second one after a stern talking-to from Martin Atkinson, and nobody can come up with ‘Hannibal Lecture’ to mention in commentary? Poor.
Dave Horgan, Dublin
Tuchel f***ed it
Tuchel has to shoulder the blame for that defensive “masterclass”.
As soon as the line ups were released, it was obvious that Chelsea would lose. How on earth he expected to win with that defence, I’ll never know.
The only positive, hopefully this contributes towards Tottenham not getting 4th, although at this point, I’m not sure if Chelsea will even manage it…
James, Gravesend, CFC
…Sometimes all you can do is sit back and laugh, the best one liner from the game is when Thomas Tuchel is blaming the quality of the pitch, Chelsea played at Stamford Bridge…..
Frustrating when we have seen the performance we put in against Real Madrid but then witness the comedy that was tonight, fair play to Arsenal though hopefully we still finish in the Top 4, but anything is possible if we play as poorly as that again.
The Admin @ At The Bridge Pod
Chelsea are safe
Betteridge’s law of headlines: Any headline that ends in a question mark can be answered with the word “no”.
Headline: Have Arsenal turned this into a race for two CL places?
Let’s be realistic. Chelsea are 5 points ahead with a game in hand. Even if they had an absolute stinker and from their final 7 games picked up 3 wins, a draw and 3 defeats they’d still finish with 72 points. That would mean Arsenal and Spurs both would need 16 out of a possible 18 points to overtake them (as Chelsea have a far superior goal difference).
Given that Arsenal and Spurs are still to play each other, they’d both need to win all their games and draw the North London Derby for that to happen.
For Chelsea to finish 5th, they’d have to suffer a catastrophic loss of form and would need Spurs AND Arsenal to pick up close to maximum points. There is absolutely nothing in the form of those teams to suggest that’s about to happen.
Mike, LFC, London
I’m not too surprised by Arsenal’s win over Chelsea, we’ve become something of their bogey team over the last couple of years, winning 3 of the last 4 league games against them + the FA Cup final win against them 20 months ago. I have been a huge lover of the 3-4-3 (or 3-4-1-2) formation for well over a decade. I am always surprised that more teams don’t use it and I was not surprised at Conte’s Chelsea demonstrating their dominance in 2017 when he reintroduced it to the English League and had so many teams copy the formation. I really think that is the way for Arsenal to go for the season’s remainder, especially considering the leaky defence and losing 4 out of 5 games in the last month. Holding can actually win headers, catering for Ben White’s weakness. With Partey out, an extra CB helps cover Xhaka’s ineptitude (pleeeeeeease sell him in the next window, Mikel). 3-4-3 would set the team up for Saliba to slot into the back line next season alongside White and Gabriel. It has also freshened up our attack, as seen with Saka’s free-roaming role at Stamford Bridge fresh with the knowledge that Elneny and White would slot in if he was caught out of position, and Martinelli and Smith-Rowe in theory being able to play in the midfield 4 or the front 3.
Nketiah finally scores in the league (it’s April), yes we need him and Laca to do a job for the last few rounds but a team who wants to finish top 4 should not have Nketiah, Laca or Xhaka in the starting 11. Darwin Nunez would be a dream signing but honestly the Arsenal transfer team need to work a few miracles to get signings in for next season after the weak showing in the last few weeks.
I think it really is a coin toss at the moment between Arsenal and Spurs for 4th (surely Chelsea don’t let a 5 point lead slip this late in the season…)
Finally, on Arteta. 4th would be an exceptional achievement considering preseason expectations. This is his second full season at Arsenal, plus he actually has won a trophy or 2 already, unlike Solskjaer or the ridiculously-overrated Pocchetino at Spurs. Along with most Arsenal fans, I think finishing 5th or 6th will still be seen as progress and we would then be back playing in Europe with the aim of springboarding into the top 4 next season.
Andrew M, AFC (Looks like it could be an extremely tasty NLD in a few weeks), Australia