Increased Europa League ticket prices, Why the surprise?

Danish champions FC Midtjylland are charging Manchester United fans 710 kroner (£71.00) for next month’s Europa League tie – three times what they asked Southampton fans to pay during the qualifying stage back in August. Here we take a look at the reason why.

By Danny Wyn Griffith.

Danish champions FC Midtjylland are charging Manchester United fans 710 kroner (£71.00) for next month’s Europa League tie – three times what they asked Southampton fans to pay during the qualifying stage back in August.

Manchester United fans and the British media have since rightly cried foul over the excessive-looking increase in price. However, this shouldn’t be any kind of surprise to the fans who are used to following the club along Europe’s shores.

February 23rd 2012, Manchester United scraped past Ajax 3-2 on aggregate in the Europa League last 32 round, despite being defeated 2-1 by the Dutch giants at Old Trafford. The same night, Athletic Club Bilbao beat FC Lokomotiv Moscow on away goals at La Catedral after the tie finished 2-2 on aggregate.

Both victorious sides were drawn together for the next round in what would prove to be their first meeting since the famous 1957 European Cup Quarter-final. That tie has forever been embedded in European Football history having seen Los Leones beat the Busby Babes 5-3 in the first leg at home in Bilbao, before heading out of the competition to a 3-0 defeat at United’s temporary home at Maine Road, with late-greats Dennis Viollet and Tommy Taylor scoring in both legs.

The 2011-12 UEFA Champions League campaign had gone much the same as this term’s; having seen United finishing third behind FC Basel and S.L Benfica in their much-fancied group.

Whilst no United fan would have been overjoyed at the demotion, many were quietly licking their lips in taboo-like manner at the European cities, grounds and bars that were potentially waiting for them in the Europa League – much like this year.

Having first of all visited The ‘Dam, United drew the Basque side and many a Red were glad to be looking at a Spanish euro-away that didn’t include the usual suspects of Barcelona, Real Madrid, Valencia, Villarreal etc.

The Basques were also well known for their love of red wine and hospitality off the pitch – whilst being renowned for their la furia never-say-die attitude on it – all of which made the tie a standout amidst the draw.

What wasn’t to be expected was the eye-watering increase in ticket price that saw Athletic Club charge United fans €90.00 for the second-leg at the Old San Mamés.

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Second leg stub from the San Mamés

Whilst I and many other a Red 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.

Given this, we really shouldn’t be surprised at the £71.00 being asked of us for the upcoming FC Midtjylland tie in Denmark. Especially given the ground’s capacity is a mere 11,800 and we were only given a marginal 800-ticket allocation.

“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, on the Danish club’s website.

He continued: “We are in competition with Manchester United to move forward, and their huge turnover and amounts of TV money are so much greater than ours. I think we put up a very fair price, as we could easily sell out even if we made it 1,500-2,000 kroner (£150+) per ticket.”

To be honest, you can’t actually blame these smaller continental sides in increasing the prices when they draw United, due to the ever-recycled line of ‘We’re Manchester United, the world’s biggest club and we have 659million fans worldwide’ that is spouted by Ed Woodward and the marketing department to lure our next commercial partner in Mongolian dumpling manufacturing.

I’m just surprised Paul Scholes hasn’t come round to calling that particular line boring yet.

Nevertheless, opponents have now realised that if the regular match-goers aren’t willing to pay the going-price, many more will supposedly be waiting in the wings to do so.

One only needs looking back a couple of months to remember the away-end at CSKA Moscow being full of Moscow Reds – no disrespect meant towards them.

We are now that global brand the club vowed to become over the last decade or so. With that comes the burden of foreign clubs hiking prices for their Cup Finals against us and it’s the supporters picking up the tab once again.

This isn’t the first time, and certainly won’t be the last time we do so either.


First published in Red News Issue 231 on 23/01/2016.


The Smalling Wall

Chris Smalling has enjoyed a rise in stature since Louis van Gaal arrived in Manchester. Here we look at the improvements he’s made.


By Danny Wyn Griffith.

Slowly walking off The Etihad turf last November, Chris Smalling’s face was awash with deep regret.

He had just been sent off in the 168th Manchester Derby and given Manchester City the edge in a match they had thus far been second best in. He was jeered off by both sets of fans. A rare site nowadays.

He proved the catalyst in a narrow 1-0 defeat to their local rivals. The Manchester United section went home cursing the Chris Smalling effect.

His first yellow card was needless, whilst the second bordered on career-suicide. That seemed to have guaranteed his departure from Manchester United come the end of the season – I was convinced of it.

Less than a year on from that day at Eastlands, his Manchester United career seems to have been restarted all over again. It was nothing more than a sharp learning curve, it seems. I’ve happily reconsidered my opinion of him since.

He has transformed himself from a nervy-lank into arguably the best performing defender of the English Premier League season so far.

He is Louis van Gaal’s go-to-man when it comes to defensive matters. He’s relished the task at hand without any qualms.

A Chris Smalling that seems to be growing in stature by the game is now marshalling a Manchester United defence that has been ridiculed since the heyday of a Nemanja Vidic/Rio Ferdinand partnership.

Louis van Gaal’s constant reminding of the process can be tiring at times, although he deserves praise for the development he’s overseen in Chris Smalling’s game.

Surprisingly, the Iron Tulip refused to accept any praise when questioned on the matter whilst suggesting the player himself was the one who took the initiative.

He said: “I think that the player when he does things, he does it always by himself.

“I help him with advice and demands, with training sessions, showing images to improve him.

“But he has to be open and he has to perform on the pitch. He does everything himself. The greatest compliment you need to make is to Chris, not to me.”

The difference in Chris Smalling’s defensive statistics since Louis van Gaal arrived underlines the Dutchman’s effect.

Per game – according to he now averages at least 0.8 tackles, 1.2 clearances and an interception more than at any other point during his top-flight career.

He’s developed a bully-type presence when facing Premier League strikers – see Romelu Lukaku last week – whilst every ball crossed into the box seems to have his name on it.

However, a sense of elegance has also been added to his game.

He was renowned for being shaky on the ball. It always seemed like an earthquake was taking place between his feet. He’d receive the ball and get rid of it pronto. If he dared to venture from defence, he was odds-on to turn around and pass back to his closest ally.

Chris Smalling was no Franz Beckenbauer.

Nevertheless, a look at his passing stats since Van Gaal arrived on Manchester highlights a startling improvement in his all-round game.

Since the start of last season, he averages at least 18.6 passes per game more than at any other point in his career whilst averaging an 87.5% pass completion rate.

He finished last season ranked in 20th place with an 88.6% pass completion rate – just behind accomplished passers such as Yaya Toure (17th place – 88.9%) and ahead of Nemanja Matic (36th place – 86.4%).

Evidence of his improvement is there for all to see.

Tomorrow will be the 170th Manchester Derby, and the first that Smalling knowingly heads into as a starter – barring any injury.

He’s a vital part of the backbone that has propelled Manchester United to the higher reaches of the English Premier League of late. He also grabbed a goal during the last meeting between both sides at Old Trafford in April.

The manager even talked him up as a future Manchester United and England captain this past week – further emphasising his sudden importance in the Dutchman’s eyes.

The boy from Greenwich has developed into one of Louis van Gaal’s most trusted confidants and he doesn’t seem to be looking back.

by Danny Wyn Griffith.

More is Expected, Memphis.

Memphis Depay hasn’t been at his best of late. Here, we look at the the reasons behind his form.


By Danny Wyn Griffith.

“He’s our new boy on the wing, Memphis Depay…” sang Manchester United fans to the Because I Got High – Afroman tune whilst building up to their first away match of the season at Villa Park in August.

Two months on, Memphis Depay could be dropped for this Saturday’s Barclays Premier League clash at Goodison Park, according to numerous reports.

The Dutchman arrived in Manchester with high expectations following a twenty-five goal return at PSV Eindhoven last season. So far, things haven’t materialised to that extent having twice been substituted at half-time in his past six appearances for Louis van Gaal’s side.

It definitely seems as if Depay has found the pace and demand of the English game difficult thus far, having excelled in the UEFA Champions League.

His stats seem to back-up the thought that he’s currently more adept to European opposition. His UEFA Champions League stats show he’s had 1.9 shots, 0.6 dribbles and a key-pass per game more compared to his showings in the English Premier League, according to

He has three goals in four European games, compared to just one in eight domestically. The cross he provided for Marouane Fellaini’s late header against Club Brugge in August is his only assist of the season – the match he scored two of his four United goals, in fact.

However, reports have emerged that exterior aspects might be hampering his game with a reported dressing-down having been given to him by United’s assistant, Ryan Giggs.

Although Louis van Gaal warned of a potential bedding-in period being required, stories of this sort were not expected so early on in his Manchester United career – despite past off-field problems.

He himself already seems quite wary of the demands asked of him when recently questioned about the difference between the English and Dutch league in leading Dutch newspaper, De Telegraaf.

He said: “There are a lot of games in Manchester. There are very few rest days and on training days you are mainly concerned with recovering.

“It’s heavy, two games a week, always at a high level, and my body has to get used to that.”

Memphis seemed to be a confident and carefree soul when he took PSV to the Eredivise title last season.

This season, he seems to have had his wings clipped.

Louis van Gaal’s reserved playing style and the increased competitive nature of the Premier League haven’t helped matters. You also wonder if he’s taken too much for granted early on in his Red Devils career.

However, a reprieve in Ashley Young’s knock might see him given another opportunity to impress this Saturday.

If he does, United fans might just be going home high on Holland’s finest.

The Basque Gem of Manchester

Drinking Kalimotxos with Basque locals after Manchester United’s defeat to Athletic Bilbao, whilst praising a certain Ander Herrera..

By Danny Wyn Griffith.

Ander Herrera first came to my attention during the Europa League tie against Athletic Bilbao in 2012.

He dominated the midfield during both ties, and emphasised Marcelo Bielsa’s philosophy at the San Mamés with his industrious performance.

A mate and myself were left praising him and his team whilst drinking Kalimotxos (Pints of Red wine and Coke) with locals after the 2-1 second leg defeat on that night in Bilbao.

United officials also took note, and finally completed the deal two years on from the humbling defeat in the Basque Country.

Given his mesmerising recent performances for Manchester United, the mind-boggling question is – How did Ander Herrera become United’s “odd man out” in the first place?

Nearly seven months ago on a sunny afternoon in the M16 0RA area against QPR, United fans sensed the much-needed complete midfielder had finally been delivered.

Ander Herrera of the Basque Country produced a swashbuckling performance in which he produced a goal and gave glimpse to midfield capabilities not seen since the heyday of the legendary, and particularly hard-to-replace, Paul Scholes.

Ander went on to start cementing his first-team place, and despite the patchy form United kept producing, his new venture seemed rosy.

This was until a fractured rib against West Ham brought a stop to his progress at the end of September. He was not seen for a month afterwards, until he made his comeback during the Monday night match against West Bromwich Albion.

According to reports, he picked up another knock on the ribs during the first half, and was hauled off at half time. His replacement, Marouane Fellaini, made an instant impact with a goal-scoring second-half performance and the rest was history.

Fellaini, ridiculed throughout his Manchester United career thus far, had now become indispensable in Louis Van Gaal’s eyes.

Herrera was reintroduced to the line-up nine days on against Hull City and produced an assist on his return. This would prove to be a false dawn, though.

He was pulled out of the starting line-up after the unconvincing 2-1 victory away at Southampton, in which he was substituted after 51mins, and was only seen from the beginning against lowly Yeovil Town over the course of the next two months.

To make matters worse for Herrera, The Iron Tulip reached an opinion that he was too much of a risk taker for a team looking for results, rather than performances.

What must be remembered is Ander Herrera was the main standout performer for Manchester United on that cold evening in Yeovil. He produced a 20yard effort rewarding of the man seen as Paul Scholes’ replacement, which lifted United past the League One strugglers.

However, Louis Van Gaal had other ideas. He proceeded to drop Wayne Rooney into a midfield three – sometimes as the holding-midfielder – and kept Herrera watching on from the bench.

His absence came around the same time his name was dragged into a match-fixing case going back to his time with Real Zaragoza. This might have been Van Gaal’s way of taking him out of the limelight. Who knows?

Herrera’s reprieve came due to an unfortunate injury picked up by Daley Blind during the first-half against Burnley under the Old Trafford lights on February 11th. On came Herrera, and he hasn’t looked back since.

You’d expect a player to be out-of-touch given the lack of competitive playing time he’d seen over the previous two months. However, it became immediately clear that Herrera is a natural footballer. His “off the cuff” instincts and effort outweigh any lack of match sharpness that his absence might have caused.

He built on his encouraging cameo performance against Burnley by scoring in the next two matches away at Preston and Swansea, respectively.

Ander Herrera has been a mainstay in United’s midfield ever-since. Deservedly so, may I add.

United’s renaissance could be put down to recent stability and Van Gaal’s firm choice on formation more than anything else. However, Ander Herrera’s reintroduction coinciding with the run of form should not be ignored.

In my eyes, he’s the fine definition of a complete-midfielder. He brings box-to-box elements to a midfield that has looked static – to say the least – over the last few years.

In addition, his eye for that final ball certainly cannot be faulted. Look no further than the pass he produced for Juan Mata’s opener away at Anfield. The link-up play and “brotherly-love” United’s midfield Spaniards put on show that afternoon is something the Red Army should get giddy about.

Manchester United fans would have been forgiven if they thought the International Break had come along at the wrong time, given the form on show.

They were to be proven wrong though, as Herrera and co. produced another solid performance against Aston Villa this past weekend.

It might have been Rooney’s stunning finish that stole the headlines, but it was Herrera’s brace which emphasised his importance to this current United side.

In this form, he is truly un-droppable. The Basque gem of Manchester is certainly here to stay.


By @dannywgriffith.


Info used above sourced from and Picture sourced from


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