‘New’ Mourinho needs sustenance to clear the grey skies

“They must have known that he may not bring the glory days back via the ‘United Way’; he has his own lane of operations, so rather than spewing complaints about his managerial philosophy, why not stomach the gritty performances and celebrate the triumphs that he has brought so far?”

By Takudzwa Chikonzo

The start of the new Premier League season has been a difficult one for anyone who has any association with Manchester United, and when you look across town at the Etihad Stadium or in Merseyside at Anfield, you wonder how the situation could have been all so different. However, can we realistically say that there is no sense of fascination, albeit waning, in the “where have we seen this before” rhetoric with Jose Mourinho?

There are those that love to see him suffer, to see him with his back up against the wall. Some are quite tired of the usual antics from the Portuguese manager. Others would say that the treatment of the man in press conferences and the media, mixed with the perceivable lack of support by United’s chief executive, Ed Woodward, is unfair and people must look at the overall picture: when Mourinho came in at United, the team were in a precarious position, with their rivals looking forward rather than over their shoulders, and are now a much better outfit.

He has brought some needed stability to a team that had become uncharacteristically unappealing and bland.

However, with two seasons under his belt and a somewhat solid platform that he could have used to kick on in his third season, Mourinho has found himself being criticized for his unhappy mood and gloomy persona that have followed him from a difficult pre-season.

His demands for “respect, respect, respect” and the usual deflection tactics after the defeat to Tottenham Hotspur made him look like a man whose ego had been bruised, desperately holding on to what seems relevant to him, but such scenes have been lost on the wider audience who are looking more to the future rather than past glories.

Is he justified for wanting respect for winning three Premier League titles, amongst his other achievements at various clubs? Probably. Will he be held as one of the greatest managers in the world when he finally decides to hang up his managerial boots? Most definitely.

A comfortable win against an out-of-sorts Burnley team would only take the heat off of him for the moment, and so the international break can provide some time to reflect on what has been a disappointing start by his standards. What may come from his reflections would be anyone’s guess, but with a banner flown overhead at Turf Moor taking a swipe at Woodward as a “specialist in failure”, there seems to be a clear winner in the fans’ eyes at this present moment, and that is Mourinho.

From his one-minute applause of defiance at the Stretford End, to the encouragement afforded to players after the body blow given to them by Spurs; to appreciating the travelling supporters in Lancashire and handing his jacket to a young fan amid chants of “Mourinho’s Red Army”, the creation of a siege mentality and this ‘modified Jose’ aura may be his light at the end of a tricky dark tunnel, the security he may need to carry on.

United supporters have always had an uncomfortable relationship with the Glazer family, and with a lack of support from the board in the transfer window, the majority of supporters would gladly give their all to the Mourinho cause. Although there are those that are against the current managerial regime, there is a sense of loyalty and understanding from a fanbase that is desperate for success. This must not be taken for granted.

In their eyes, Mourinho was the only man that could take United to the very top once again. They must have known that he may not bring the glory days back via ‘the United Way’, but that has not been seen at Old Trafford for a number of years now. He has his own lane of operations, classic Mourinho and all, so rather than spewing complaints about his managerial philosophy, why not stomach the gritty performances and celebrate the triumphs that he has brought so far?

A change in Mourinho’s approach would be a welcome one, but it needs to be sustained, and the hope is that this is not a calculated move to calm the storm in the short-term. The current situation at the club, both on and off the pitch, is one that cannot go on for much longer if United want to be taken seriously by a football world that is enjoying their failings.

What has been disappointing to see from the current United regime is the clear lack of identity, long-term planning and, now, the possible divergence of ideas between manager and chief executive in the transfer window.

Mourinho wanted his customary ready-made, trustworthy lieutenants, whilst Woodward was looking at younger, more profitable prospects to develop for the long-term success of the club, both financially and on the pitch. Mourinho is a man for the short-term, so with this in mind, as well as the renewal of his contract, surely the manager needed to be supported with the funds necessary to build on the recruitment that has been done so far?

Modern football thrives on ‘progression’ and ‘evolution’, and although United and Mourinho have an air of confusion about their current operation, the change of approach against Spurs was an encouraging showing, with an emphasis on pressing higher up the pitch and having more shots on goal. United were frantic and ran hard in the first half, and could have been ahead at half-time, but their defensive frailties came to haunt them against a side that were flustered at first, but slowly grew into their own in the second half.

Against Burnley, Romelu Lukaku made clever runs into the channels, with less emphasis on having his back to goal, Luke Shaw continued his impressive form at left back, Paul Pogba was more direct in his passing, Jesse Lingard was inventive in his movement and Alexis Sanchez was much better with his final ball and his overall link-up play. If there is a change of thinking, which could be attributed to the influence that Michael Carrick and Kieran McKenna may be having at Carrington, then it needs to be maintained.

It is never too late to mount a credible title challenge in September, so the good news is that Mourinho has time on his side. The key players, too, seem to be on his side, and any signs of player mutiny have not been evident recently, Lukaku stating that Mourinho is actually “a really good guy” away from the cameras, and Shaw opening up about Mourinho’s treatment of him, stating that the manager knew he could do better, and is now reaping the rewards of his criticism masked as motivation.

For Mourinho, this may be his last chance at elite management at an elite club. What supporters have wanted from the very start was for him to embrace the opportunity, to take his time in building a team reminiscent of the glory days before Moyes and Van Gaal, to lift the gloom that had embedded itself in the snoozy Theatre of Dreams, and create a culture that made United one of the most feared teams to play against for more than two decades.

A consistent starting line-up, with a clear style that plays to the strengths of the team in the best Mourinho resemblance of yesteryears, may help in bridging the gap between themselves and the early pacesetters. It is too early to write off United, and whilst many may have already looked at past Mourinho third-season failings, a new approach would be welcome and could be his saving grace at a time when he needs the support of everyone associated with United more than ever.

The message is clear from a large contingent of the fans. It is time for the ‘new’ Mourinho to stand up and repay the faith.


The clock ticks on José Mourinho and Manchester United

Only two games into the season, yet José Mourinho and Manchester United’s hopes are apparently hanging by a thread. Will they pull the trigger so early in the season? Or will they persist with Mourinho and his antics?

By Marco Gerges

José Mourinho’s job has been getting harder since he joined Manchester United back in May 2016. Of late, criticism has been on the increase with the Portuguese manager taking the Red Devils in the wrong direction.

The 55-year-old has seemingly lost his touch since coming to the red side of Manchester and the media believe his job is under major scrutiny. Things have been heating up around the coach especially since Sunday’s 3-2 defeat against Brighton. The result left Manchester United fans in shock after their side, who were expected to be title contenders, fell to a side only promoted to the Premier League last season. What makes the defeat even more embarrassing is that Manchester United’s squad is worth around £767 million, while their opponent’s squad was worth only around £108 million.

Mourinho is mostly criticized for his very defensive style of play, yet results aren’t showing that his tactics are effective. Instead of using such a defensive system, the United boss should take advantage of the quality players in his squad. He has some of the best attacking options in the league, world-class attackers that should compete at the top level.

Even though Mourinho has won four best manager awards, he’s struggling to make his mark at United as the fans are thirsty for their first league title in five years. Humiliation is likely to come his way as the media and some fans have gone against him, whilst results need to be more consistent.

Mourinho has only one way to save his job now, winning trophies and proving that he can beat the top clubs and fight for the league title. Even though fans would love a change in style of play, titles are still to be expected. Fans were delighted when Mourinho won the League Cup, Community Shield, and Europa League all in the same season. His tactics weren’t much different from the previous season, but he’s currently failing to bring the best out of his players.

The transfer market shouldn’t be an excuse. Since Mourinho took charge at Old Trafford, around £400 million has been spent. With that, he should now possess a side that can compete for and even win the league. With the UEFA Champions League starting in nearly a month, the former Real Madrid boss could face the sack if he fails to do well at domestic level during the run-up.

If Mourinho is to be sacked, the most likely and favourable replacement would be Zinedine Zidane. The Frenchman won three Champions League titles in as many years with the Los Blancos. Even though he had a world class team with him, his tactics also led them to La Liga glory in the 2016/17 season.

Currently, the Manchester United board are still backing Mourinho, they believe he needs time to fully implement his tactics on the squad having seen World Cup duties hamper his pre-season preparation. Even after a rough start to the season, the Red Devils can still get to rivals Man City and other title contenders. They are still one of the favourites to win the title, though it will be very difficult, yet if the team performs well and if the coaches’ tactics are efficient, then why not?

Now there is one thing Mourinho should be cautious about this season; they are his rivals. His side might have had just one bad day against Brighton, but his defensive style of play will not be strong enough to stop attacking teams like Tottenham, Liverpool, Man City, Chelsea, and maybe even Arsenal. He has the players to form a dangerous front three, but he seems reluctant let them off the leash. Alexis Sanchez, Romelu Lukaku and Jesse Lingard has the potential to be a potent attacking front three, similar to Liverpool’s, with the ability to terrorise any defence it comes across. Add to the mix Paul Pogba’s mercurial, yet ever-inconsistent form, and the likes of Nemanja Matic and Fred – and Mourinho’s side has real potential.

Another flaw in the system is his defensive line. Even though he plays very defensive, his current back four have many problems. They are mostly unorganised, have problems communicating, and have difficulty tracking runs. Last Sunday wasn’t the only example of this, but also Vardy’s goal against United on match-day one. If Mourinho could solve these defensive problems, he might create a defence akin to his first two years at the club, where his side conceded only 29 in the 2016/17 Premier League and 28 last season.


The Portuguese coach is seemingly on borrowed time to resolve his problems. Being a coach at Man United isn’t easy, the club need someone that can push the team forward week in week out. The question now is, will the criticism get to him? He has been long criticised, especially for his defensive and abrasive management style. Nevertheless, this doesn’t seem to affect him and this could be good and bad for fans. He could be working on something big within his current system, or it means he’s just a bit stubborn and wants to keep playing the way.

Hopefully things get better for Manchester United for the sake of the fans as some are getting tired of Mourinho’s antics. Since Sir Alex Ferguson’s departure, they are yet to find the right man to lead the club. Following consecutive failures with Louis Van Gaal and David Moyes, it currently looks like Jose Mourinho will join the list and United will need to search for yet another manager.

Now it’s only a matter of time before Mourinho’s future is decided. His next match is on Monday against Tottenham. This is the perfect opportunity to show the world that he has what it takes to take down top sides in the league. Mauricio Pochettino’s Spurs side are serious title contenders, so they will give everything for what might be a season defining win.

Mourinho is currently in deep fire, with many believing he’ll be out of Old Trafford by Christmas. Yet it’s still the beginning of the season, many things can change throughout the campaign. Mourinho should really change his style of play as he has some of the best attacking options in England. By not doing so, his job is getting harder and his stubborn ways may eventually lead to an ugly ending for him in the North West.

Elite Managers are making their mark in England, but how sustainable is it?

Europe’s finest coaches have swarmed on the Premier League, but will the clubs make the most of it?

By Robbie Chalmers

The English Teams have hit a second wind in Europe’s elite club competition and look well set for a strong challenge. This success has benefited from the talents of Europe’s finest group of coaches, each of whom has had the room to imprint their own philosophy without protest. But will it be a flash in the pan?

Some drubbings, a breathless end to end affair and a tightly contested bout. These are the three categories games in the Champions League knockout stages take. In the decades preceding this year the first leg is generally a cagey, tactical chess match with little real goalmouth action. This season though has continued a recent trend of high pressing, attack minded teams who have no issue taking it to the home side. Porto, along with Besiktas, suffered a 5-0 hammering while Basel were on the end of a predicted 4-0 mauling. Juventus uncharacteristically gave away a two goal lead in a game where they had 40% possession at home whilst Sevilla and Barcelona had to settle for fiddling draws.

The contrast between each game is pertinent as they were all ties in which English clubs partook. Very impressive when given a glance and, looking even further, each team perfectly carried out their managers core tactical blueprints. Man City played head-spinning pressing and possession football to cut down Basel, Tottenham produced a brand of possession themselves with a mix of athleticism and directness that befits Pochettino’s style. Meanwhile, Liverpool countered Porto to oblivion much to Klopp’s pleasure and Conte instilled an intensive defensive display against Barcelona and sought to attack the spaces with three pacey forwards filled with boundless energy. While much of United’s game against Sevilla was about Pogba not starting, much of the focus at the final whistle was directed at a cautious defensive display that lacked any real ambition to commit men forward. These contrasting styles are what make the top end of English football so interesting to watch around the world.

But is this actually a good thing?

Ask any man of football, whether it’s a journalist, ex pro or simply a season ticket holder, what the philosophy of English football is and they may actually struggle to give an answer. If they did, it may be; a physical and direct game, a risky and expansive attacking team with good wing play or a team that simply relies on its superstars to win matches.

The FA has its own philosophy outlined for future generations of players on their official website. However a philosophy doesn’t just count for players but for managers, coaches and even owners. The top clubs in England have been run predominantly by foreign managers from all parts of the world for the last 20 years. The last time English teams dominated European football Ferguson, Wenger, Benitez and Mourinho were at the helm of the old ‘Top Four’. The former two emphasised an attacking game whilst the latter chose more pragmatic means, both methods leading to success. Two of the four won the Champions League while another became a runner up.

The resources are even more so now

Each coach at England’s top 5 teams presently has had between 18 months to four years at the helm to build their own side. Abramovich at Chelsea no longer groans at the sight of less than attractive football given Pep’s Barcelona team have become more and more of a distant memory and also his purse strings have tightened slightly. Guardiola himself was reportedly given the chance to give his input on signings and procedures before he came in at City and is now reaping the rewards. Mourinho was cast in as the all-knowing salvation to save them from the drab Van Gaal years (which is saying a lot) and Klopp was a too good to miss opportunity for Liverpool. Pochettino is the perhaps the exception here. The Argentine was a more organic appointment as he was a manager on the up who has taken the club with him on his personal upward curve. When you feel you’ve got a once in a decade quality manager you’re going to make it work. And to make it work make them happy: give them total control.

With clubs adopting a more short term approach by bringing in a manager to instil a philosophy to the club, rather than bring in a man that’s suits a pre-existing ideology; the long term thinking becomes secondary.

Poor results are over exaggerated in the media, fans have become more impatient and a manager’s job, particularly at the top, becomes a trap door hidden under a glossy carpet. Young academy players are given less and less chance at these teams as the elite managers aren’t allowed the luxury of risk. None at the moment are English born either so they have no inherent desire to give them chance in the hope of developing future talent of their own country. Young players are seeking more chances abroad with young Jadon Sancho making his first appearance for Borussia Dortmund two weeks after signing whilst previously going unused at City. Pep has talked up the use of Diaz and Foden as top young prospects but the Spaniards shelf life at top clubs, like Mourinho, is between 2-4 years. After they go, then what? The short term success could be undercut by a gruelling transition period after another face aims to build a side in his own eyes.

For instance Jose was tipped to replace Rijkaard at Barcelona in 2008 and even had an interview to which the club’s representatives were very impressed. But he wasn’t for them. He didn’t fall into their model. Yes the Catalans are very dedicated to the way they play putting him at a disadvantage but Jose was the man of the moment. The best around. Yet they decided to go with the man who had no top flight experience, but a deep rooted understanding of their philosophy.

Clubs like Sevilla and Villarreal do well to bring in managers with the right profile also. The same example can be made when Joachim Löw was promoted after Klinsmann left the German national team. The Bundesliga also has a long history of promoting from within, with both Bayern and Dortmund very keen to fight it out for 30 year old Julian Nagelsmann at Hoffenheim after they finished fourth last season. It’s his first professional job and yet they see that his methods benefit the way the clubs are modelled. And as we know Germany and Spain are still pretty good at football despite inferior resources.

In the meantime top clubs from England continue to benefit from these master coaches so long as they have the control. But in the end the results falter and the managers depart under the cloud off dizzying expectations because, with so many clubs after four trophies, they can’t all be equally successful.

And with that, English clubs will need to go back to the drawing board and start again as a new solutions man arrives to wipe the slate clean.

Helenio Herrera & José Mourinho: Both cut from the same cloth

Past master tactician, Helenio Herrera, and modern-day great, José Mourinho, were doppelgängers in all but looks.

By Danny Wyn Griffith

I have a fair collection of critically acclaimed books, although I’ve probably only completed reading half of them. Much of that is down to the fact I’m easily distracted whilst probably lacking the self-discipline when it comes to finishing something I’ve started. Yet, despite not normally being one for New Year resolutions, this year I set myself the target of actually completing the books I read.

One of the books I’ve had on the go for a couple of months is Sid Lowe’s Fear and Loathing in La Liga. The fact this book remains unfinished is in no part down to its content. This, in fact, is a book I’ve enjoyed reading thus far and offers a thorough chronology of La Liga – and arguably Europe’s – biggest rivalry, between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

Whilst cracking on with the book last night, I came to a chapter called HH: The Original Special One. Now, I’ve come across Helenio Herrera numerous times over the years whilst researching different pieces. However, last night the surreal similarity in nuances and character, between both himself and José Mourinho, dawned on me.

True, both have followed similar career pathways to a certain extent, but the sameness in which they dealt with aspects of the game stretches much, much further.

Back in 2010, José Mourinho arrived Real Madrid, much the same as Helenio Herrera arrived Barcelona in 1958. Both men were tasked with knocking their arch-rivals off their perch. Both succeeded in similar vain.

Herrera came to Catalonia at a time when the Madridians had won four of the last five league titles, along with the first three European Cups, and they also had Alfredo Di Stefano. Mourinho on the other hand, was called upon by Real Madrid President, Florentino Pérez, at a time when Barcelona had won consecutive league titles, were managed by Pep Guardiola and also had a younger Lionel Messi.

Nevertheless, both had relative success at that they were tasked with. Helenio Herrera lifted the league titles in both his seasons at Barcelona, the 1958/59 Copa del Rey and also picked up two Inter-Cities Fairs Cup – similar to the latter UEFA Cup Winners Cup. Whilst José Mourinho’s Real Madrid picked up the 2010/11 Copa del Rey and also beat Barcelona to the 2011/12 La Liga. In doing so, they topped the league by nine points, setting records for most games won in a La Liga season (32), most away wins (16), most points obtained in any of the top European leagues (100), improving the most goals scored record they already held (121) and finished the season with the highest goal difference of +89.

Helenio Herrera and José Mourinho celebrating their success

Both Helenio Herrera and José Mourinho employed similar tactics to overhaul their rivals. The pair approached their roles with enough aggression, bite and rancour to inspire an entire army, whilst also creating a siege mentality and adopting a win at all costs mentality that was unrelatable to others.

Helenio Herrera, the founder of catenaccio, will forever be known as a true master tactician – despite some calling it anti-football. José Mourinho, revered for his ability to study his opponents to the utter most minuscule detail, arrived at Real Madrid having just won the treble with Inter Milan, and in doing so, knocking Barcelona out of the UEFA Champions League semi finals, despite a 1-0 defeat at the Camp Nou; a defeat Mourinho recalled as “The most beautiful defeat of my life.”

Both are pure controversialists. Helenio Herrera often mentioned in full-view that he believed Real Madrid were paying the referees and opposition, much like José Mourinho stated that Barcelona were diving and cheating their way through matches – and recently referred to Manchester City as a team who “falls over with a little bit of wind.”

They deal in provocation and nothing else. Real Madrid players came to hate Herrera, with some refusing to shake his hand, and even debating a boycott of Spanish duties when he became Spain national team coach between 1959-62. José Mourinho and his role in arguably the most infamous rivalry in modern day sport, between his Real Madrid and Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona, is just one of many furious scenes he’s been partial to over the years.

Both Herrera and Mourinho are similar in their reputations of creating strong-minded dressing rooms, but that doesn’t stop them from singling out those who fail to follow their strict demands.

Helenio Herrera decided early on at Barcelona that much-talented Barcelona great, László Kubala, had surpassed his peak, and as the team’s highest earner at 1,308,025 pesetas a year, was therefore a burden. Herrera called Kubala out on his fitness and dedication, stating more than once that he believed the Hungarian failed to look after himself during his trophy-laden career. He even called him the ‘cancer’ of the team for constantly slowing his team’s quick tempo.

You need not look further than Mourinho’s current spell as Manchester United manager to spot his willingness to call out his own players. Henrikh Mkhitaryan seems the most recent casualty, whilst Luke Shaw has also bore the brunt for the best part of his Old Trafford reign, with Mourinho previously stating: “I cannot compare the way he trains, the way he commits, the focus, the ambition. I cannot compare. He is a long way behind.”

José Mourinho has a purpose for each word he states. He delivers them with venom, skill and composure, none more so than his recent spat with Antonio Conte. Get into a verbal slanging match with Mourinho with the utmost caution – his vocabulary and lengths holds no boundaries. He finds no separation between the physical, technical and psychological sides of football, and believes that each match starts at the pre-match media conference. It’s hard not to imagine Helenio Herrera employing the same tactics in today’s media-frenzied game.

José Mourinho, much like Helenio Herrera, is also known for his short-term success – rather than long-term. He builds for the present, and seems to care little for the future. Like Herrera, Mourinho has tendency to focus on players in their prime, and less on potential.

As former Inter Milan Chairman, Massimo Moratti, who employed José Mourinho to great success, just like his old man, Angelo Moratti, did all them years back with Helenio Herrera, once put it: “They have similar characters – great workers, great professionals and charismatic. It’s difficult to find a defect in Mourinho. Perhaps that he is a little bit introverted, but he is marvellous.”

Masters at winning, cut from the same cloth. Helenio Herrera was the special one, fifty years before the dubbed special one.

Now then, where was I on that book…

Highs and lows of 2017

Football, a funny old game. Over the course of the year, your team suffers highs and lows. Here we cherry-pick our most iconic moments for 2017.

By Danny Wyn Griffith

Football, a funny old game. Over the course of the year, your team suffers highs and lows – one more so than the other depending on where your allegiance lies. Your team may finish 2017 in a better state than they started it. Or a player you used to adore may now be hated in your household, having signed for one of your closest rivals. Here are our highs and lows over the past year – if you disagree, feel free to leave a comment below.

Best game: Barcelona 6-1 PSG

Having punctured the Barcelona juggernaut by dispatching them 4-0 in the first leg, PSG headed into the return leg in confident manner – overly so, perhaps. Luis Enrique’s Blaugrana set about clawing back the deficit. Everything seemed achievable when leading 3-0 after a 50th minute Lionel Messi penalty. That was until Edinson Cavani grabbed a crucial away goal on the hour mark that should have all but buried the match. But PSG crumbled. The Barcelona beast was awoken, with Neymar, not Messi, taking the bull by the horns and pulling his team past the Parisians. It was Sergi Roberto who grabbed the winning goal five minutes into added time, but it was Neymar who deserved the accolades. The ramifications went deeper than the UEFA Champions League campaign. Neymar subsequently joined PSG as they paid his release clause, and the rest *might* become history…

Best goal: Diego Costa, Chelsea v Southampton

Where do we start? Having scoured through goal footage of all sorts, it all depends on your personal preference. If you prefer the acrobatic type, look no further than the Emre Can goal against Watford, Olivier Giroud against Crystal Palace at the Emirates or Fernando Torres against Celta Vigo. A halfway dipper? Memphis Depay against SK Viral. Skilful goals of the highest individual order? Try this Bergkamp-esque by Partick Schick or Luis Suarez against Atletico Madrid. Nevertheless, we’ve chosen this Chelsea goal taken straight off the training ground and finished by Diego Costa. Outstanding.

Worst miss: Mathieu Valbuena, Lyon v Lille

Romelu Lukaku had his fair share of near-misses, Dele Alli hit the post despite rounding the keeper, whilst Cristiano Ronaldo had a couple of must-score misses as well. Yet, as for having the time and being centre of the goal as the ball arrived at his feet, Lyon’s Mathieu Valbuena takes this one whilst 1-0 down at home to Lille.

Best breakthough: Kylian Mbappe, Monaco/PSG

No doubting this one. By guiding his Monaco team to Ligue 1 glory and the UEFA Champions League semi-final, eventually losing out to Juventus, Kylian Mbappe strides away with the gong. His twenty-three goal tally boosted Monaco’s performances to higher peaks than imagined. This subsequently lead to a protracted loan move to PSG, with a £166mil price tag awaiting him next summer.

Standout signing: Neymar JR, Barcelona to PSG

If not for the end product as yet, but for the sheer audacity, it has to be Neymar’s move from Barcelona to PSG. He rattled one of Europe’s elites upon completing the move, choosing to rub Barça’s reputation in the whole saga. True, there wasn’t any sort of respect shown here. But Barcelona have no right to cry wolf. They, along with the rest of Europe’s elite clubs, have courted players in exactly the same manner for many a decade. The shock here was the fact they were on the receiving end this time around.

Poor signing: Davy Klassen, Ajax to Everton

Transfer fees are extortionate, we all know this by now. Therefore, we’ll attempt to look at the player’s impact with this one, instead of the price-tag alone. We’ve gone for Davy Klassen and his £23.6mil move from Ajax to Everton. The blame doesn’t lie at the player’s door alone, as the Everton transfer strategy seemed skewed throughout the summer window. Having signed in mid-June, then manager Ronald Koeman and Everton Director of Football, Steve Wright, kept on chasing number tens in his mould. Truly mind-boggling scenes came to a head when the window closed and Everton found themselves with five central attacking midfielders – and no striker of note. The former Ajax captain may come good, but for now he seems like a flop.

Remarkable quote: Delusional David Moyes

David Moyes upon joining West Ham: “I think I’m capable of doing the job at any club in the world so I’m sure I can do it at West Ham.”

Did I just hear that? Less said about that, the better.

Best individual performance: Neymar v PSG

See best team performance and Neymar’s contribution.

Biggest upset: Bristol City 2-1 Manchester United, Carabao Cup quarter-final

Scenes. Final whistle goes, Bristol City supporters swarm the pitch while manager Lee Johnson catches his breath after doing to José Mourinho what he did at Old Trafford all those years ago. This was Bristol City’s first triumph over Manchester United since 1978. They can now look forward to a two-legged semi-final against Manchester City.

Best manager: Zinedine Zidane

Once again, it depends on your preference. José Mourinho, despite complaints about his football, grabbed two trophies in the League Cup and UEFA Europa League. Is it performances or trophies you prefer? I know which one I’d pick. Antonio Conte and his famed three at the back ran away with the 2016/17 Premier League, whilst Pep Guardiola, despite not winning any accolades in 2017, has his Manchester City team rampant this season and will certainly be up there for 2018 if he carries on in the same manner. Elsewhere, you have Massimiliano Allegri winning the Serie A and reaching yet another UEFA Champions League final with Juventus, Leonardo Jardim with Monaco or even Brendan Rodgers and his unbeaten Celtic – despite the league being on par with the English Championship. Our choice in the end was Zinedine Zidane and his riotous Real Madrid side. La Liga winners, a second consecutive UEFA Champions League, Spanish Super Cup and Club World Champions. So close to being a full house.

Onwards to 2018…

Football related arrests fall in UK

Despite regularly portraying football fans as individuals intent on disrespect, disobedience and disorder, the UK Government’s football-related arrest figures for 2016-17 paints a different picture.

By Danny Wyn Griffith

Despite regularly portraying football fans as individuals that are intent on disrespect, disobedience and disorder, the UK Government’s football-related arrest figures for 2016-17 paint a different picture.

According to the newly released statistics, football-related arrests have fallen once again and are at historically low levels. The Home Office figures show a long term drop in the number of football-related arrests, almost halving over the last seven seasons from 3,089 to 1,638.

Football Supporters Federation (FSF) Caseworker, Amanda Jacks, said: “It’s very pleasing to see arrests remaining at historically low levels. Any match-going fan will know that the overwhelming majority of football supporters are well behaved and that match days largely pass without incident – these figures reflect that.”

There were 1,638 football-related arrests in 2016-17 – equivalent to just four arrests per 100,000. This compares to five arrests per 100,000 at the Grand National, nine at the Royal Ascot, 16 at the Henley Regatta, 31 at the Notting Hill Festival and 53 at Glastonbury.

Amanda Jacks continued: “Over the last seven seasons we’ve seen significant improvements to football policing, supporter behaviour and fans’ involvement in match-day planning. These have all contributed to a better match-day experience.”

Of the 1,638 football-related arrests, the three most common offence types were public disorder (31%), violent disorder (21%) and alcohol offences (16%). The EFL Championship contributed most to the arrest total (28%) and Birmingham City recorded most arrests for any individual club (71).

Amanda Jacks added: “This demonstrates how safe football is and how misleading media coverage around disorder at the football can be. It’s important to understand that the legislation around football is the most restrictive of any major past time in this country. Football fans face arrest for actions or behaviour that simply don’t exist as offences at any other event such as drinking alcohol in sight of the field of play.”

Football fans may have bad reputations, but as the latest statistics show, they’re certainly getting the raw end of the deal.

Full statistics can be found here.

Information was gathered from the FSF website. Read about the FSF’s “Watching football is not a crime!” campaign.

The art of substitutions

As a football manager, time often calls on you take necessary risks in order to win matches. Sometimes these risks pay off, other times they’ll blow up in your face..

By Danny Wyn Griffith

Time often calls on football managers to take necessary risks in order to win matches. Sometimes these risks pay off, other times they blow up in your face. Along with a change in tactics, substitutions are another prime example of how to alter the course of a match. Being able to take off the underperforming striker, and replacing him with someone who has a point to prove has the potential to turn the game on its head. Same goes for when you’re defending a tight lead. At this point, you may want to take off an attacker, in order to have that extra man in midfield to close out the match. We must remember, however, that having the opportunity to call on substitutes is still a relatively new modern day luxury.

The first-ever recorded substitute in international football is known to have been Richard Gottinger replacing Horst Eckel for West Germany against Saarland in a 1954 World Cup qualifying tie. English football history was made on 21 August 1965, as Charlton Athletic goalkeeper, Keith Peacock, became the first official substitute to venture onto the pitch in domestic football, as he replaced the injured first-choice keeper, Mike Rose, against Bolton Wanderers. At the beginning of the 1965/66 season, the Football Association had taken it upon themselves to allow substitutions, but only to replace injured players. In the years leading up to the decision, big matches, such as the FA Cup final, had seen sides depleted by the end of matches, thereby having an effect on the outcome of the tie.

The rules regarding substitutions have changed drastically over the course of the past 52 years, so much so that suggestions have been banded regarding the introduction of a further substitute, thereby making it a permitted four. Having said that, regardless of how many you’re allowed to make, the most important aspect is their effect on the match.

This season, we’ve seen managers’ decisions pay off handsomely. José Mourinho, into his famed second season at Manchester United, saw a remarkable start to the season. He took Marcus Rashford off for Anthony Martial against West Ham on the opening day; Martial scored. With the score deadlocked at 0-0 against Leicester City, he took off Martial for Rashford and Henrikh Mkhitaryan for Marouane Fellaini; both Rashford and Fellaini scored as United went onto to win 2-0. True, having such talents to call upon off the bench has its advantage and, sometimes, lady luck may be on the manager’s side. Yet, one must remember that when, how and why you make these changes is what separates the best managers, from the rest.

Elsewhere in the Premier League, we’ve seen Peter Crouch, at 36 years of age, come off the bench to rescue Stoke City at West Bromwich Albion, and then score the winner at home to Southampton. We’ve seen Everton’s forgotten man, Oumar Niasse, who was cast aside without any disregard upon Ronald Koeman’s arrival, prove the Dutchman’s judgement to be wanting, as he came off the bench to score twice against Bournemouth, turning a potential 1-0 defeat into a much-needed 2-1 win for the struggling Toffees.

Still, there have been times when substitutions backfire dramatically. A recent example, ironically, being José Mourinho’s decision to call upon Fellaini to replace Mkhitaryan in the 2016/17 Premier League meeting at Goodison Park. Leading 1-0 with three minutes remaining, Fellaini is thrust on, for one can only imagine his height being a major factor in Mourinho’s decision making, with Everton’s set-pieces causing issues for the Red Devils. Less than a minute into his return to Merseyside, Fellaini fouls Idrissa Gueye. The referee awards the home-side a penalty. Leighton Baines scores and the match finishes 1-1. Fellaini is ridiculed in the weeks that follow. Mourinho’s judgement is questioned.

As a football manager, you live and die by your decisions. As shown, the same sub, but at different stages of games, can have a devastatingly good or bad effect. Football’s history is riddled with such instances.

During Manchester United’s famous 1998/99 treble season, Sir Alex Ferguson had the knack of rotating his forwards, Dwight Yorke, Andy Cole, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Teddy Sheringham, in a destructive manner. He once called upon the benched Solskjaer on a cold winter’s evening at Nottingham Forrest, with the Norwegian responding by scoring four goals in an 8-1 thrashing. In the FA Cup final, Teddy Sheringham replaced the injured United captain, Roy Keane, after nine minutes. Two minutes later, Sheringham broke the deadlock and guided Manchester United to the FA Cup win. Four days on in Catalonia, Sir Alex’s side faced Bayern Munich in the UEFA Champions League final. Only previously European champions under Sir Matt Busby in 1968, United found themselves 1-0 down for most of the match after a Mario Basler free-kick for Die Roten. Ferguson called upon Sheringham and Solskjaer in the second half, replacing Jesper Blomqvist and Andy Cole. In added on time, Sheringham would equalise, before Solskjaer would win the match. Ferguson’s decision paid off. Manchester United were European champions once again.

At one time, managers had no control between the dressing room and the final whistle, other than tactical changes and half-time rants. Substitutions, however, gave managers the opportunity to make amends for previous decisions and affect results mid-match. Football hasn’t looked back since Keith Peacock’s introduction for Charlton Athletic in 1965, and with player data and analytics playing such a huge part in the modern day game, expect substitutions to alter the course of matches, more so than ever, over the coming years.

Bad money dies, I love the scene

We look at the moral issues surrounding Paul Pogba’s world record transfer from Juventus to Manchester United. First published in Red News, issue 235, 08/08/16.

By Danny Wyn Griffith

Manchester United hope to conclude a deal that will see Paul Pogba return to the club he left in acrimonious circumstances back in 2012.

The astronomical figures being demanded by Juventus are thought to surpass the £100million mark. This is now causing many to cry foul over the moral issues surrounding spending such a sum on a player that was allowed to leave the club on a free only three years earlier – no matter how begrudgingly a circumstance it may have been.

Recent to cry-foul is Pogba’s fellow Frenchman Emmanuel Petit, Harry Redknapp who reckons the money should somehow be spent on Dele Alli instead and Robbie Fowler, well.. unsurprisingly.

What needs remembering is the figure really shouldn’t be an issue. The quoted figure could be £200million, and it still shouldn’t really matter.

This isn’t money being handed on a plate by a Russian oligarch. This isn’t money being sifted into the club through a Middle Eastern Sheikh. And this certainly isn’t American money, trust me.

This is money that is there to spend, that has been there to spend, and it’s about time that it was spent.

Manchester United are due to be the first British club to earn more than £500m revenue in a year, and they’ve competed for next to nothing over the past three years.

Second-quarter revenues rose by 26.6% to a record £133.8m, with commercial revenues up 42.5% to £66.1m. Third-quarter revenues rose by 29.9% to £123.4m.

Imagine the potential figures should José make a success of his time in Manchester.

For too long have the Glazers restricted club transfer activity due to the debt they loaded against the club upon purchase. For too long has the club been outmanoeuvred in the transfer market by their fellow European peers.

This is where their path now takes a turn. This is when the sometimes bullied, turns into the bully.

This is money that Manchester United as a club generated, therefore it’s only right that the footballing side gets to bear the fruits of their labor.

Bear in mind that this, first and foremost, is actually a football club.


First published in Red News, issue 235, 08/08/16.

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