Tit-for-tat mentality sees fans pick up the bill

The sudden increase in ticket prices across UEFA club competitions is football’s quiet scam, with away fans losing out more often than not.

With Valencia following the recent Spanish trend of upping ticket prices once drawn against English opponents, Manchester United officials reacted by announcing they’ll again be returning the favour.

3,800 Valencia fans who visit Manchester for the UEFA Champions League group tie will now be charged £77 instead of the original quote of £55. The added £22 will subsidise Manchester United fans due to visit the Mestalla in December – who were also quoted £77 – with any additional revenue being donated to the Manchester United Foundation.

If you’re a Manchester United fan due to visit the Mestalla, this may seem like karma being served. But read between the lines and you’ll soon realise this is yet another example of tit-for-tat behaviour which results in fans picking up the bill – only difference being they’ll be Valencia fans, not Manchester United.

True, Valencia are in the wrong for increasing the price to such an extortionate amount, but the issue surely lies deeper in the commercial opportunism which seems to be swallowing the game as a whole. This isn’t the first case of such nature. It’s quickly becoming football’s quiet scam.

The Old San Mamés Stadium. Image: Wikimedia

I was part of the travelling United contingent visiting Athletic Bilbao for the 2011/12 UEFA Europa League last-16 tie. Eye-wateringly, Athletic increased ticket prices and charged United fans €90.00 for the second-leg at the Old San Mamés. Whilst United fans never begrudged paying the fee demanded, it was a hard one to swallow due to it being a 350% increase on the €20 fee the visiting Lokomotiv Moscow fans were asked to pay in the previous round.

Then in 2016, the Spanish gave way to the Danish as FC Midtjylland charged Manchester United fans 710 kroner (£71.00) – three times what they asked Southampton fans to pay earlier in the tournament.

“I can understand that it’s expensive for a Manchester United fan to see FC Midtjylland and that they are angry, but that’s how it is,” explained Jacob Jørgensen, the club’s commercial director, at the time.

Then last season, Manchester United faced a UEFA Champions League last-16 tie away to Sevilla. The Andalusians triggered a series of complaints from United supporters after charging £89 for them to watch the first leg in Spain. Branding the prices “unfair” and “excessive”, United –  similar to the present day with Valencia – reacted by raising the cost of tickets for Sevilla supporters travelling to watch the return leg at Old Trafford to £89 and said they would use the extra proceeds to help refund their own fans.

Sevilla responded by then subsidising their own support, whilst Valencia may still decide to do the same. Nevertheless, this doesn’t stop the issue from rising to the fore again in the future and Manchester United fans aren’t the only side to have suffered of late.

The Wanda Metropolitano built in 2017.

Atletico Madrid announced ticket prices of £79 for Arsenal fans in last season’s UEFA Europa League semi-final, in comparison to the £36.50 paid by Los Colchoneros for the first leg at the Emirates Stadium. However, Arsenal confirmed they would also make up the difference, ensuring their fans paid the same price as Atletico fans for their visit to north London. Only difference being they would be doing this out of their own pockets, not by transferring the cost to Atletico fans.

Still the scam recently caught up with leading Belgian side Anderlecht. They were ordered by UEFA to partially refund Bayern Munich fans for their 2017/18 Champions League group match. The Belgian club charged visiting supporters €100 per ticket for the game at the Constant Vanden Stock Stadium, which Bayern won 2-1, with the visiting fans throwing fake money on the pitch in protest. UEFA ruled the price was excessive and instructed Anderlecht to reimburse Bayern by €30 per ticket.

In a statement released at the time by their Control, Ethics and Disciplinary Body, UEFA said: “RSC Anderlecht is ordered to contact FC Bayern Munich within 15 days to compensate their supporters with an amount of €30 per ticket to those away fans located in the upper tier section (sections S14, S15, S16 and S17).”

This incident followed Anderlecht fans calling their very own hierarchy a “disgrace” in April 2017. They accused the club of “a lack of consideration” over high ticket prices for the Europa League quarter-final home tie with Manchester United. A banner stating “€40 for a standing place? Shame on ‘our’ directors” was attached to railings at the main entrance to the Belgian club’s Constant Vanden Stock stadium prior to the match.

All of the mentioned examples happened in UEFA licensed tournaments. The association’s recent ordering of Anderlecht to refund Bayern supporters shows the occasional right-minded individual remains part of the organisation after all. Nevertheless, the issue requires further attention, otherwise supporters will keep on picking up the bill in the future.


Football Supporters Europe are asking UEFA to amend and clarify Article 19 – Paragraph 3 of its Safety and Security Regulations at the earliest possible opportunity to prevent clubs from using loopholes in the regulation, for example by charging regular season ticket holders or members much less than away fans. The most effective way to make the regulation as fan-friendly as possible would be to change the regulation to: “The price of tickets for supporters of the visiting team must be no higher than the cheapest tickets available for home fans in the respective categories.”

They are also calling on UEFA to continue to enforce its regulation by obliging clubs to compensate the affected fans in cases of a breach of the ticketing regulation. However, early arbitration rather than retrospective disciplinary proceedings would minimise these cases.

They further call on all clubs playing in European competition to adopt self-regulation mechanisms, taking the purchasing power of the respective country of the visiting team into account, therefore encouraging more supporters to travel from countries with significantly lower wages and salaries.

More at this link.


Women’s Championship: Scoring by the dozen

“Hopefully the WSL re-structuring will be the catalyst for domestic women’s football to reach the same heights and interest as international fixtures – where attendance records are continuously being broken.”

Women’s football is entering a new era in England. The league system has changed to three divisions: The FA Women’s Super League, The FA Women’s Championship and The FA Women’s National League – which is split into northern and southern sections. The FAWSL is a fully professional league, while the FAWC is made up of mostly semi-professional teams. Those that can’t meet the criteria of either league make up the FAWNL… and that caused quite a stir over the summer.

Many well-established clubs in women’s football have been forced to drop divisions due to their inability to meet new licence criteria in the leagues they were participating in. Sunderland Ladies and Doncaster Rovers Belles were the biggest names to suffer relegation as they couldn’t afford to stay in the FAWSL and FAWC respectively.

Sunderland had a track record for bringing through several players who went on to star for the England national team. However, they couldn’t meet the required pro or semi-pro standard after their parent men’s club cut ties with them. Meanwhile, Doncaster had actually won the Women’s Championship – previously known as Women’s Super League 2 – last season. They will now play in the National League (alongside Sunderland) with all of their players moving to other clubs.

On the flip side, one of the winners from the revamp is Manchester United. They’ve been given a second-tier licence and will field a women’s team for the first time in 13 years. Coached by former England defender Casey Stoney, they’ve amassed a host of international players and top, young prospects. I travelled to Aston Villa Ladies to see how they’d get on in their debut league game.



Heading to Boldmere, a residential area on the fringes of Sutton Coldfield, none of my wildest thoughts could come close to what I was about to witness. And why would they? Who in their right mind goes to a ground thinking 12 goals will be scored? And by a single team, as well?

This was the first time I’d seen a game with a double-figure goal tally. The closest I’d come was nine when Gateshead beat Wrexham 7-2 at the Racecourse Ground back in 2011. That was a battering. This was a mauling.

The most ironic thing is, it actually started very brightly for Villa. The first 10 minutes featured a lot of home possession and some great tackles to win the ball back from United. However, for all their positive play, Villa couldn’t get it right in the final third and United soon found their rhythm.


Lauren James, at just 16 years of age, showed so much ability in midfield, running at the Villa backline and causing problems with her exquisite passes out wide. She opened the scoring with a deflected shot and then doubled United’s lead after striking the ball superbly from outside the box.

Aston Villa already looked doomed before a flurry of goals killed off the match unequivocally. Jess Sigsworth – top goal scorer in the WSL2 last season and one of the Doncaster players who left during the summer – bagged a hat-trick in 10 minutes, while Katie Zelem also scored from the penalty spot. The half-time whistle blew and the away side led 6-0. Mental.

If Villa thought the worst was behind them, then they were severely mistaken. United actually matched their first half scoreline with 70 minutes on the clock. Sigsworth grabbed another two and the phenomenal Kirsty Hanson was rewarded for her amazing performance on the wing with a brace herself. Substitutes Mollie Green and Ella Toone showed how United’s bench is equally as dangerous with a goal apiece, before several more chances were spurned late on.

I genuinely lost count of the score at the end, as did those around me – one person thought they’d won 14-0! Honestly, it could so easily have been that much worse. Sian Rogers in the Villa goal was actually in good form and stopped a number of efforts throughout the game. She was mostly let down by a defence who couldn’t handle United’s excellent movement. As soon as they were in behind, their finishing was of the highest quality. Unfortunate for the keeper, who looked visibly upset at her side’s capitulation.

The Villa ultras

I’ve seen fans turn on a team within an instant of a goal being scored against them. So I must say, it was so refreshing to see – but mostly hear – Villa supporters rallying their side throughout the whole game.

The pocket of claret and blue in the corner of the ground were armed with a flag, a drum and an array of uplifting songs that never ceased after any goal. Each player had their own unique tune but the most frequent number they put out was the most warming. It went: “we don’t care what the score, we’ll love you evermore.”

One fan even sang this at club captain Kerri Welsh long after the final whistle had gone. A great effort from them fans; absolute true ultras.


United arrogance

The positivity of the Villa fans contrasted greatly to the poor attitude from some Man United followers. Their away pocket gave the “you’re getting sacked in the morning” to Villa’s Gemma Davies, a head coach who is 26-years-old and in her first league outing at the helm of any major team. Then they sang about which fans amongst themselves hated Villa more, asked the home side what the score was, mocked the use of their drum and asked why they weren’t singing during any 30-second breaks between chanting.

I’m all up for having a pop at opposing fans during a game but it didn’t feel like healthy banter. It felt more toxic than that. Almost arrogant. There was very little chanting in support of their own team and things didn’t help when I spotted a kid pointing at his United badge in front of Villa’s drumming fans, while someone in the opposite stand also stuck his middle finger up at them. All at 12-0 up and with no provocation. Why?

It wasn’t all bad though. There were a couple of Mancunians who I stood with at the start of the game that really got behind their team. They rallied around Sigsworth in particular, who they possibly knew. I enjoyed their elated reactions to her goals and also learnt a number of northern colloquialisms about football. It were a good knock from their side, that’s for sure.


This was my second women’s football league match, with the setting contrasting somewhat to my first experience down the road at Birmingham’s 30,000-capacity St. Andrew’s. I’d previously argued that women’s games should be at bigger stadiums like that all the time but I can understand the draw of tighter grounds like Midland Premier Division side Boldmere St. Michaels’.

The 3G pitch was off-putting (some of the bounces were ridiculous and actually helped United) but the Trevor Brown Memorial Ground – which is named after their former chairman – has a very decent set-up. And, from my experience, it’s a lot more accessible than Solihull Moors’ Damson Park, where Birmingham City Women play their home games. However, I still believe these elite-level female athletes deserve a stage equivalent to that standard.

Hopefully the league re-structuring will prove to be the catalyst for domestic women’s football to reach the same heights and interest as international fixtures – where attendance records are continuously being broken. I know a lot of people were angry with how certain clubs were shunned in the re-modelling process and I can understand how one would think it’s money taking over football again. But it feels like the right step to me. It must give a huge incentive to young girls knowing they can be paid to play football full-time.

The more clubs that are encouraged to become professional is surely a positive thing for aspiring females. Which is why Man United re-forming their women’s team is such a good move in my eyes. I don’t know why their full-time squad are in the predominantly semi-pro second tier though. Perhaps they feel like they should earn their WSL spot, which is fair enough. But it seems like they belong in the WSL already. The team that they’ve assembled would surely hold their own and maybe even challenge for the Champions League spots.

As for Aston Villa Ladies, I honestly don’t believe they’re a bad team. They looked good in spells but perhaps lacked a bit of experience with their squad averaging 21 years of age. There’s no way they’re going to be experiencing days like this every weekend. United were just a level above.

‘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.

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.

What might have been, Louis

We look into whether Louis van Gaal’s apparent faith in youth at Manchester United has been out of necessity, rather than choice.

By Danny Wyn Griffith

Of late, Louis van Gaal has been gaining rare plaudits for his apparent faith in youth. I believed this willingness to promote youngsters, along with his ‘chest out, walk tall’ demeanour, would suit Manchester United to a tee when he was announced as the new manager in June 2014.

Jesse Lingard, Tyler Blackett, Saidy Janko, Andreas Pereira, Reece James, Paddy McNair, Tom Thorpe, Cameron Borthwick-Jackson, Donald Love, Joe Riley, Marcus Rashford, Regan Poole, Timothy Fosu-Mensah and James Weir have all graduated to the first-team in some capacity under Louis van Gaal.

Some have had more success than others. Some had none.

Marcus Rashford, Jesse Lingard, Cameron Borthwick-Jackson and Timothy Fosu-Mensah are now establishing themselves as first-team squad members, having thoroughly impressed.

Reece James, Saidy Janko and Tom Thorpe turn out for Wigan Athletic, Celtic and Bradford City via Rotherham United, respectively.

It’s been like this for a while at Manchester United. Youth graduates get their debuts in low key cup-ties, only to be forgotten months down the line.

United’s academy had been more of a money-making machine than player-churner over the past decade. It had also been mentioned they could make a fair amount of money by selling academy products each year, instead of emphasising the need to develop them for their own benefit.

Danny Drinkwater is flying high with Leicester City, Gerard Pique has more silverware than the Queen with Barcelona, whilst Paul Pogba will forever be remembered as the one that got away.

However, it might now seem as though the focus has been shifted back onto making real use of the youth academy, with Louis van Gaal heavily reliant upon it of late.

Local boys Rashford and Borthwick-Jackson have taken their rare opportunity with some stand-out performances. Warrington-born Lingard has gone on to make one of the three attacking midfield berths his own over the past six months.

Nevertheless, had it not been for injuries, I think it’s fair to say that neither Rashford, Borthwick-Jackson nor any of the other recent debutants would have been given a shot at the first-team at this stage of the season.

This apparent faith in youth has been out of necessity, and it was certainly not in touch with Van Gaal’s past record when it comes to promoting youngsters.

Had he actually believed the likes of Rashford, Borthwick-Jackson and Fosu-Mensah were of the right calibre to challenge first-team members, they’d have been in the starting line-up before Christmas.

Having had a torrid run of results, the first-team was in dire need of fresh legs. An injection of youth would have lifted the spirits prior to our defeat at Stoke City, say.

Louis thought better of this, though, which is quite surprising given his trophy-laden career is full of success stories when it comes to handing youngsters their chance.

It’s a story that our Louis is well known for repeating, as having Clarence Seedorf, Patrick Kluivert, Xavi, Victor Valdes, Andres Iniesta, Thomas Muller and David Alaba in your list of debutants is quite the accolade.

On the other hand, his record when it comes to handling senior players is patchy at best.

Prior to his arrival at Old Trafford, he made enemies in Lucio, Rivaldo and Luca Toni during his managerial career.

Brazilian striker Sonny Anderson referred to Louis as ‘The Hitler of Brazilian players’ following their time together at Barcelona.

Add to this the way he’s exiled Robin Van Persie, Javier Hernandez, Rafael da Silva, Victor Valdes and Angel di Maria to an extent during his United career, and a pattern occurs.

Hugo Borst, during his brilliant ‘O, Louis’ biography, seems to back up the thought that Van Gaal believes youngsters obey his orders better compared to the older generation.

This makes his refusal to turn to the youngsters when things got tough before Christmas, not when injuries forced his hand after the New Year, all the more surprising.

He’d have bought himself some more patience by placing faith in the youngsters at an earlier stage, and benching the then underperforming senior players.

Had he done, you could picture him at the end of season gathering, potentially revelling in his vindicated decision saying ‘Here, Louis van Gaal identified the problem areash, now thish ish how Louis van Gaal turned it around’ with a large glass of red wine in his hand.

Unfortunately, Louis will never be able to say this.

Louis van Gaal, an advocate of giving youth their chance throughout his career, and manager of a club so entwined with their youth-promoting history, only turned to this method when his hand was subsequently forced.

It’s a question of what might have been for The Iron Tulip who could, and maybe should, have been perfect for United.


This piece was first published in Red News Issue 233 on 03/04/2016.

Football Protests: Do they work?

Here is Ed Wade with his summary of the most influential Football fan protests.

By Ed Wade.

It doesn’t take much to make fans voice their opinions when they get disgruntled, be it with the owners, manager or players. If something isn’t right, it’s not long before we see a march to the stadium, a banner outside the club, a written letter to the board of directors or even a stadium walk out.

We have most recently seen the likes of Liverpool have ticket prices lowered as a result of a stadium walkout, whereas Charlton Athletic will have to see if the weekend’s ‘Coffin’ protest against the club’s owners comes to any fruition. But how often does the protesting actually work?

  1. Liverpool fans reduce ticket price

With the growing amount of money in the Premier League including a new £5-billion-pound TV deal, fans across the UK are sick and tired of paying extortionate ticket prices. For Liverpool fans, £77 was the highest priced match day ticket and it was simply too much. The Kopites staged a mass walkout during their home game against Sunderland during the 77th minute and got their reward. The club Fenway sports group who are the club’s owners lowered the price to £59 and issued a statement of apology. Since then the Premier league has put a cap on prices for match day away tickets at £30. Score one for the fans.

  1. Seville protest the splitting of La Liga television money

The start of the 2016/17 season will see the television money of La Liga split fairly for the first time. With Spanish clubs negotiating their own deals in previous seasons, Real Madrid and Barcelona would take home the lions share, leaving the other La Liga clubs fighting over the scraps. In 2012 this became too much for Seville fans, who had a home match against Levante delayed, so that Spanish broadcasters could show a post ‘Clasico’ press conference. In protest of their treatment, Seville supporters bombarded the pitch with tennis balls. It has taken years to click but finally we will see a more even split of finances amongst Spanish clubs.

  1. Ajax fans wait until the 14th minute to enter stadium

During a champions league game in 2010/11 season, the famous Ajax VAK410 waited until the 14th minute (club legend Johan Cruyff’s number) before taking their seats against AC Milan. Supporters of the club were unhappy at having to fork out 80 euros for a ticket. Banners read ‘against modern football’ as the spectators expressed their views. Unfortunately, the protest didn’t work as UEFA fined Ajax for misconduct and prices remained just as high.

  1. Swedish fans stay silent over crowd rules

During a derby between Swedish giants AIK and Djurgarden in 2011, supporters of both clubs remained in total silence for the first 10 minutes of the game. The fans were protesting against the Swedish FA who had warned that attending football matches could be dangerous and wanted to prove just how much live games would miss the supporters. Such was the silence, you could hear conversations between players. The FA never a blind eye and didn’t really take any notice.

  1. Manchester United supporters try and get a new manager

It was always going to be a difficult job to replace Sir Alex Ferguson. David Moyes endured a torrid time at the club and was a dead man walking for much of the campaign. Fans were so unhappy with performances at the club, they flew a plane over Old Trafford during a game with Aston Villa, costing £840 with a banner reading ‘Wrong one – Moyes out.’ The Scot didn’t last till the end of the season and was sacked with three games remaining.

  1. A chicken goes wild at Ewood Park

During a relegation six pointer between Blackburn and Wigan in 2012. A 23-year old Rovers fan Anthony Taylor released a chicken with a Blackburn flag wrapped around it onto the pitch. It was a clever move as fans were unhappy with the club owners Venky group who, had made their money, you guessed it, by poultry. Things didn’t get better for the club as they lost the game and were relegated to the championship, with the same owners still there.

  1. Brazil protest its own World Cup

With Brazil set to host the 2014 World Cup, masses of public funding was used to build new and adequate stadiums. Brazilians were unhappy considering some of the more pending issues in the country such as housing and schooling, were often ignored. Brazilian authorities ended up firing tear gas during riots in Sao Paulo and Rio De Janeiro. There were continuous protests during the tournament, which also saw the ITV studio windows receive a battering. From a footballing perspective it was a massively successful tournament but the protests did very little in terms of funding change

  1. Luis Figo gets a head thrown at him

Luis Figo was labelled Judas after his transfer from Barcelona to Real Madrid in 2000. The Portuguese star had spent five years at the Nou Camp and was a firm fan favourite. That love turned to hatred during the Clasico in Barcelona, though, as amongst all the booing and missiles Figo received, he also had a pig’s head launched at him whilst taking a corner. Figo never complained about Barcelona fans afterwards and really kept his Poker face to remain cool. The Referee suspended the game for 13 minutes, fearing for the safety of the players.


Football supporters are such a key part of the game and make for the whole dynamic of how the game is played. With the game always changing it will be fascinating to see what else supporters have up their sleeve.


See also – https://footballfoyer.com/2016/02/18/politically-charged-footballers/ 


M.U Reform Required

We look into the structure troubles currently engulfing Old Trafford. This piece was first published in Manchester United’s Red News fanzine on 28/02/2016.

By Danny Wyn Griffith.

Until recently, a particular backroom role was always stigmatised within English Football, only to be regarded a normality amongst most continental sides.

The role in question has seen a couple of mishaps nearly forever tarnishing it’s image in England, despite some incidents being in the relatively distant past.

Recent sour incidents happened with Damian Comolli at Liverpool, Franco Baldini at Tottenham Hotspur and Joe Kinnear with his delirious ‘all my qualities put me head and shoulders above the rest’ rant upon his return to Newcastle.

Manchester United also possess their own chequered past with this role having seen Sir Matt Busby take a similar position when he retired in June 1969, with Wilf McGuiness being elevated to the manager role. That ended with Sir Matt briefly retaking the reigns in December 1970, when McGuiness was subsequently sacked.

This role often seems to either bring out a manager’s forceful or apprehensive side, depending on their personality, as it has reputation for ruffling one’s feathers from the off.

However, it has become abundantly clear that Manchester United desperately requires a Sporting Director or Director of Football in this day and age.

The club requires a figurehead to perform the glue-like role in between Ed Woodward, as Executive Vice Chairman, and the manager – be it Louis van Gaal today, or whoever it may be in the future.

The utter footballing disorganisation that has been allowed to infest the club ever-since Sir Alex Ferguson and David Gill left in 2013 has taken some doing, and the club is now in desperate need of restructuring from top to bottom.

The ‘one man does all’ managerial likes of a Sir Alex is approaching extinction, with only Arsene Wenger carrying that sword today, perhaps.

Modern day managers require a go-to man that is allowed to focus on tasks that arise outside first team matters, especially given the amount of commercialised PR-driven dribble that is put their way nowadays.

Nevertheless, a football club with the right structure, financial clout and a focused view on where they want to go, and how they want to do it, can go a long way to reaching their end-goal these days.

Manchester United need a club philosophy in terms of recruitment, youth development and playing style that doesn’t end up with someone in the dugout holding a Filofax containing notes on the ‘Ten best ways to cure Insomnia’.

The hierarchy have taken their focus off the youth academy to such an extent, that they’ve had to undertake a so-called ‘root and branch review’ of its dealings following a ten-match losing streak at U18 level.

This resulted in a departure for the long-serving Paul McGuiness, who fulfilled numerous club roles and nurtured many a talent over the years, at the beginning of February.

Remarkably, the youth teams have been so under resourced at times this season that they’ve had to wait until one age group finishes a match, in order to run a player over to be part of another age group’s squad.

Even more astoundingly, it took the club ten months and two rejections by known Reds in Oxford manager, Michael Appleton and Tottenham Hotspur’s Head of Youth Development, John McDermott to realise that the answer to Brian McClair’s long standing void already laid at the club in Nicky Butt.

In addition to this, we approach each summer transfer window in overconfident fashion, only to be outmanoeuvred and made a laughing stock amongst our rivals due to our incompetence and sheer ignorance, before adopting a scattergun-like approach come the end of August.

To make matters worse, Manchester City have shown United the correct way of late, by employing former Barcelona kingpins Ferran Soriano and Txiki Begiristain to head their footballing programme as CEO and Sporting Director, which has now resulted in Pep Guardiola joining the club for a three-year stint before another so-called project takes his fancy.

All of this whilst United’s own Ed Woodward’s official job description on the club’s investor relations page (ir.manutd.com) reads his mammoth duties in plain black and white:

Edward Woodward, aged 43, is Executive Vice Chairman and a Director of Manchester United plc. Mr Woodward oversees the club as a whole having joined in 2005. Since 2013, Mr. Woodward has taken responsibility for all aspects of the football club, including transfers and the world famous Manchester United Academy.

Therefore, it should be no bombshell whatsoever that the footballing side of the club is in such disarray, given the man in charge specialises in investment banking, commercial operations and qualified as a Chartered Accountant from PricewaterhouseCoopers in 1997 after receiving a Bachelor of Science Degree in Physics at Bristol University in 1993.

Now tell me, what exactly has any of that got to do with Football?

Forget the current conundrum regarding the United Kingdom’s position within the European Union; Manchester United and Old Trafford requires reform first and foremost.


First published in Red News Issue 232 on 28/02/2016.

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