Date published: Monday 22nd November 2021 9:36 – Ian Watson


Phil Neville, Neil Warnock and Vincenzo Italiano.

Get your views on the Manchester United debacle or anything else in to theeditor@football365.com

What’s next for United?


A few weeks ago I wrote to the Mailbox about a left-field candidate for the United job, Fiorentina’s Vicenzo Italiano. After watching Ole’s final coffin nail on Saturday, I tuned into the Fiorentina-Milan match. What a difference! A Fiorentina team with passion, the crowd right behind them, racing into a 3-0 lead before finally winning 4-3, taking Milan’s unbeaten record with them.

Italiano is only 43, a former midfielder who knows the importance of a functional midfield, who came up the hard way with Serie C and B clubs before Fiorentina took a gamble on him this season. With the exception of Dusan Vlahovic, Fiorentina are a very average team (including Arsenal’s Torriera in midfield), who are performing beyond all expectations under Italiano. An extra advantage would be the possibility of Vlahovic coming with him, who is exactly the type of striker United need to dovetail with Greenwood, and who may well be one of the best strikers in Europe (including Haaland) in the coming years. Would the suits at United be willing to roll the dice on Italiano? Someone took a chance on Pep and Klopp. I would say why not?

On another note, has anyone considered that, if Zidane gets the job, Pogba and Martial might decide to try to pull another fast one and start playing again? Those two, amongst others, are symbolic of all that is rotten at United at the moment and the new man should make it a priority to show them the door. And don’t get me started on Maguire. Has to be stripped of the captaincy at a bare minimum.

Jonny

…So United are going to appoint an interim coach until the end of the season with the aim of finishing fourth, assuming three clubs sail off into the distance.

For what it’s worth, it’s the most sensible plan that’s come out of the United board in ages, an acknowledgement that, having missed out in Conte by dithering, better candidates will be available next summer.

To do that, they need an interim that will enforce discipline, park egos and reputations at the dressing room door, get the players running, instil the rudiments of defensive organisation, find ways of getting the ball into the opposition’s half, work out how to defend counter attacks much better (by fair means and foul), make them awkward, annoying opponents and then find a way of getting the ball to Ronaldo and a couple of other attacking players in dangerous positions that will threaten the opposition goal.

The right candidate will also, preferably, know English football and the league to minimise any transition time, obviously not be a candidate for the permanent job, have no past connection to the club (now has to be the moment the Ferguson cord is cut), and ideally be able to tell his successor who’s got the right stuff and who’s a bit Spursy.

Neil Warnock is available. I think he would almost certainly get United into fourth position. He always leaves teams in a better position than the one he inherits and moving them up four places in the league is easily within his compass, particularly as he’s not having to work with players who need to perform at their absolute maximum every week to be competitive in every match.

As a City fan, I am pleased that United fans think themselves above him and the Glazers and Woodward don’t know who he is because six months of Colin is what those players need and deserve.

Mark Meadowcroft


Solskjaer makes Premier League winners and losers farewell


…Phil Neville to be borrowed from Inter Miami until the end of the season anyone?

Aaron (get through group stage, draw psg…. the cycle starts again)

…So the sh*tshow that is currently Manchester United looks set to continue to the delight of all the ABU’s. OGS’s termination has been on the cards for weeks if not months, and now the club finds itself without an immediate replacement.

Given the egos and lack of effort being displayed by the current squad, does anyone seriously think they will pull their collective fingers out for a coaching staff that contributed to this current fiasco in the first place? It’s a bit like getting a substitute teacher a few weeks before end of term.

So now the Board emabrks on being flirty flirty with all the pretty girls in the room without taking into consideration the direction of the club first.

OGS built the team to be a counter-attacking team, which I am sorry to say, is the philosophy of a mid-table team (and guess where we ended up!) In order to be an elite team one has to learn to be comfortable with possession and know how to break teams down. In other words, it may require a complete change in emphasis and player overhaul.

Is the Board willing to make such a commitment to any new manager or have they secretly settled for 4th to keep the cash going?

I think I know what their direction will be.

Adidasmufc (my vote is for Favre or Simeone)

…The more interesting question might be who Man U appoints as interim manager. The ‘permanent’ manager to be appointed in summer will be from the pool of usual suspects.

Write off this season and my vote for interim manager goes to Keano….he’ll sort out the dressing room…make sure every player puts in a shift every match, every training session. Plus every post-match interview will be a must-watch! (Plus i’ll love the footage of Maguire kicking his heels on the bench…)

Lionel, Man U, Singapore

…I genuinely feel bad for Ole. Nice guy, over promoted into an incredibly difficult job. Did all he could to make it work but didn’t have the ability.

But he made Utd hard to hate.

Can we have Ronaldo as the next manager please?

Aidan, Lfc (one of the best of all time. Just don’t like him)

…I think Ole did a fine job given his managerial experience and will benefit a lot from his time at Manchester United. Not to mention his role in bringing the supporters together. Looking back, I think his appointment is very similar to Kenny Dalglish’s appointment at Liverpool. Both were brought in for short term, immediately improved the performance and were given a long term contract. Both made some expensive (and average) signings, while trying to figure out tactics and formation, but were always supported by fans. And it is difficult to dislike them even if you are a rival fan like me.

Manchester United however, need a much bigger overhaul at all levels and no one (okay, maybe Pep) would have won the league with them given their current state. Getting the right manager is really crucial for where they are now. They have tried to hire experience (LvG, Mourinho), unproven (Ole) and something in between (Moyes) and nothing has worked for them. Interesting to see how the next appointment goes…

Dushyant Jamwal, LFC, Dubai

Maguire and Zidane


Lots has been written – because of his serious lack of speed (others have to cover for him at all levels) he will always look awkward like yesterday. Far too slow for the Prem.

If they go for Zidane that will be a problem for Ronaldo as they hated each other at Madrid.

Cheers

Steve Smith

…If Zidane joins United, will the Premier League have its most impressive line-up of managers ever?

Robert, Birmingham.

…A while back I wrote in saying Ronaldo was a mistake only to get responses saying I was nuts and look at the goals he scores. My point was that United scored more in the same number of league games last season and the same is still true. Trying to fit an aging striker into a team after getting rid of what Ole thought were slow or aging strikers never made sense. The ONLY thing Ole had going for him was the fast counter with Rashford/ Martial/ Greenwood/ (James) using their pace to get behind their opponents – which of course never worked well against rigid two banks od four – but enough to keep United interested and interesting, Calvino who cleverly holds up play and presses and a fresh Fernandes, unfettered by having to play beholden to the great Portuguese god of football.

Who made the call on bringing back Ronaldo? I doubt it was Ole and it spelled his death knell as soon as it happened – just dragged out for far longer as the PR of sacking their feel good boy legend was too great and needed the fans to turn on him – which they have now done.

Stupendously inept management all around was always going to come crashing down.

Just wonder if Gary Neville has managed to come to the surface having buried his head so far into the ground. His defending Ole with all his might has seriously damaged his reputation as an unbiased and quality football analyst while seriously toxic Keane and Scholes come out shining – Scholes in particular who has called it right on the money each game.

The irony of United exploding spectacularly against Watford – led by the supreme feel good manager – showing him how it is really done. Raineri to United? A feel good manager who knows how to set up a team to defend.

Paul McDevitt

United f***ed it again


No single result in a football match has ever transformed a managers status from ‘the right man’ to ‘must go immediately.’ Liverpool lost 7-2 at Aston Villa last season yet nobody believed Klopp would be on thin ice. Sir Alex’s United lost 6-1 at home to Manchester City but wasn’t grounds for dismissal – yes young United fans, even Sir Alex’s teams lost now and then.

My point is for Ole to be sacked now, his position within the club was clearly at the stage marked ‘another one of them and he’s gone’ in the boards eyes. Surely once you’re at that stage, you take advantage of the international break and make the change. There is no coming back or recovering from that stage. Yes the Watford performance was terrible, but it wasn’t much worse than some other pretty terrible performances from this United side in recent months. They lost 6-1 to Spurs at the start of last season for goodness sake.

If I were a United fan I would be even more appalled by the handling of the sacking than the display at Watford – for it to emerge last night that a board meeting was taking place, only for no announcement to be made until Sunday afternoon is fairly pathetic and amounts to leaving Ole balancing his foot on the wobbly trapdoor waiting for it to open. There was once a time when United were at least a fairly respectable bunch in how they went about their off-field business. It reminds me of that horrendous Tom Hicks interview-in-front-of-the-fireplace way back when.

The reason for not sacking him sooner is even more apparent now in the fact it appears very unlikely that a successor will be confirmed in the next day or so – meaning United haven’t planned this and don’t have somebody lined up. Often you see managers sacked and another appointed very quickly, meaning everything was done and dusted a couple of weeks before but clearly not the case here.

I personally am looking forward to Michael Carrick getting the new manager bounce and being offered a three year contract before the end of the season. The last thing anyone needs is a United side which ‘knows what to do with the ball’ with one of the most expensive squads ever assembled.

Martin, YNWA

…Ole getting the sack was a long time coming. Everyone could see it. My question is, how come the United board seem so unprepared for it? This is one of the biggest clubs in the world and the lack of a plan is absolutely shocking. If United appoint Carrick as an intern to the end of the season then the season is a write off. After signing a 36 year old Ronaldo. Way to waste a year of a legend. I guess as long as the Glazers get their yes man and £60m/year dividend then all is good. Shambles from top to bottom.

S. Avery, Wisconsin (guess the Arteta/Ole debate has been finished)

Ole’s legacy


Where to begin? It’s horrible to see it end like this for Solskjaer, not the manager but the man. A club legend who came in to combat the toxic atmosphere of Mourinho’s final months. He really never have taken the job full time but how could he have turned it down.

As a manager, looking at the results in black and white, he didn’t do too bad, year on year improvement in the league, cup finals but for all of us that have watched his United team we know thats not the truth of it. Under him they where never near winning the league, they where favourites for the Europa league and a handful of semi finals that resulted in losses. Those losses summed up Solskjaer’s reigh. Nearly but just not good enough.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s time at United ends with him becoming their first full time manager in 49 not to lift any silverware. Ok that is being kind and counting the Charity/Community shield but the point stands. Indeed since 1932 only 4 managers have failed to lift some sort of silverware with the club. Solskjaer, Frank O’Farrell, Wilf McGuinness and Walter Crickmer. Solskjaer took charge of more than double the amount of games of those three, although Crickmer’s reign lasted longer this is solely due to the break out of the war.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the player was and is a fan favourite who will never be forgotten. Solskjaer the manager, was out of his depth. Clearly he wants the club to succeed, he just didn’t have the capabilities to be the manager that brought that success. For him he is better of out of it.

For United, we now enter the inception era of management. A caretaker, until the interim comes in, until the full time manager comes in. Good knows how this will work out (we all know) but at least Solskjaer is out of it now.

Paul (Ireland)

Get the scarves out


Another day goes by and more feul is added to the dumpster fire that is Man Utd. Ole is sacked but make no mistake the only reason is that the 4th place trophy the Glazers hold so dear was in jeopardy. They can’t milk a cash cow thats not generating any cash. Basically this is all Man Utd is, a fantastic cash cow for the owners.

There may be a little bit of a new manager bounce and short term improvement in results but eventually the lack of ambition in the boardroom will permeate through the club, infecting whichever new incumbent occupies the coaching or playing side and dragging everyone down to just being content to hoover up their salaries until they are sacked or sold/contracts run out.

Get out the green and gold scarves again and turn every match day into massive protest. The alternative is that we’ll be saying the same thing in 2 years.

Harry, Durban South Africa

Time for players to pay


Managers come and go, players stay albeit they play on the pitch not the Coach or Manager. While Managers continue to shoulder blame for the teams inadequacies and poor performances, players remain inadequately punished or completely unpunished for poor performances. I subscribe to the view that players should shoulder some responsibilities when they consistently perform badly, including pecuniary penalties. It’s about time to start including clauses in their contracts requiring them to meet some performance standards or attract penalties or punishment. It seems to me that, many a time, players don’t care and play as if there is nothing at stake.

Professor (Dr) David Achanfuo Yeboah

Top three, not a big six


Comfortable wins for Liverpool, Chelsea, and City this weekend yet again. Is it fair to say that the traditional ‘top 6’ no longer exists and that it is more accurate to say it’s now a ‘top 3’? Let’s just take goals for and against, for example. (They are, after all, what decides whether teams win or lose games right?)

Chelsea – F30. A4.

City – F25. A6.

Liverpool – F35. A11.

So, for these three combined that’s 90 scored and 21 conceded.

Now for Arsenal, Utd and Spurs.

Arsenal – F13. A17.

Man Utd – F20. A21.

Spurs – F9. A16. *

And for these three, that’s 42 scored and 54 conceded.

*Written at half time in the Spurs v Leeds game.

Respectfully, it cannot be a coincidence that the first three clubs have had long-term plans (players, managers, women’s teams, their academies, infrastructure, and significant community projects) which they have also executed.

With the latter three, you have boards more devoted to revenue streams than to what is happening on the pitch. That all three have been in relative chaos, and in decline accordingly, for the last ten years.

I don’t have a crystal ball. Maybe Conte and Arteta will lead their respective clubs back to the promised land. Perhaps. But not, I think, to a level where they will be competing for the PL title anytime soon. Not because they’re not capable managers, but because of the ‘income first’ mindset of the people that run their clubs.

Which brings me neatly to Manchester United. I wrote in a couple of weeks ago that it almost doesn’t matter who replaces OGS quite simply because of the reasons I’ve listed above. United’s board and owners are the problem. OT is dated and crumbling, the training ground is sub-standard, and their overall recruitment policy has been nothing short of criminally negligent.

And now they’ve sacked a manager they should never have given a fixed contract to in the first place, without ANY idea of a replacement. Genius. A farcical situation which quite neatly encapsulates the point I’d made.

Forget Poch or Zidane or Ten Hag. Who on earth would touch that job with a ten-foot bargepole?

Mark (It’s going to be Rooney, isn’t it? Please let it be Rooney). MCFC.

Arsenal goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale punches the air

Ramsdale debacle


“OK guys. Whatever happens tonight your job is to make Aaron Ramsdale a star. Or… you’re both fired.”

I think this was the meeting the top brass at Sky Sports had with Carragher and Tyler in the build up to the match at Anfield on Saturday. There can literally be no other explanation for the narrative around the Arsenal goalkeeper

It began with the scoreline at 0-0 when Salah scuffed a weak shot straight at him and Carragher proceeded to speak about this as if Gordon Banks could now step aside.

A few minutes later he got a finger tip to a TAA shot that was going over anyway and I think Carraghwe actually wet his lovely tailored pants.

Then he made an abysmal effort to keep out Mane’s soft header and threw himself to the ground about 3 minutes too early to allow Jota an easy finish. So there wasn’t much the lads could do here except make the defence 100% responsible.

Another routine save from Jota reestablished him as the world’s primary goalkeeper.

What was going on here. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a really poor performance treated as 90 minutes of genius before by people who weren’t the players parents.

There is an unreal smell of misplaced arrogance with this guy. In that sense he seems like a second rate copy of Joe Hart who let’s face it wasn’t very good.

James Quinn, Dublin

Strange times


Conclusions/observations from a very strange day of football.

The ManU board hold an emergency meeting and do f all! Now this is worrying as it suggests that they might actually have a plan, don’t sack Ole until his replacement has been secured (saving grace being they will appoint the wrong man anyway) and certainly don’t put a caretaker in. Thankfully it now appears that they will actually fuck it up by waiting until Monday, 24 hours before an important game and it could be Carrick, normal service resumed and the laughs just keep coming.

Which Harry Maguire turned up, Englands’ or Uniteds’? They are one and the same, the difference is Englands’ is generally playing against vastly inferior players not Premier League one’s. Yet he’s not even Uniteds’ worst defender, lack of fitness and confidence (thought the ear cupping had solved that!) aren’t helping him but no such excuses for £50m AWOL Bissaka.

DVdB gets a full 45 minutes and is judged as Uniteds’ best player, must have been a serious injury keeping him out for so long.

How many “Who the f**k are you?” responses did DeGea get after his “we don’t know what to do with the ball, it’s embarrassing” interview, show him Watfords goals and ask him the same, one scuffed effort, one across him and one through his legs!

Norwich won! Joelinton scored!

Arsenal get spanked (thanks Mikel) and the majority of their fans take it with good grace! Liverpool were ok and excellent in small spells, a fantastic learning experience for Arsenals’ youngsters to see what levels are needed.

Mikel Arteta needs to work on his Simeone.

Liverpools’ (lack of) strength in depth was not tested, but a forward line of a fit again Firmino, Jota and Minamino/Origi would hardly put the sh*ts up the opposition. However, a fully fit midfield and with TAA/Robertson/Tsmikas continuing to create, even they should score enough to keep LFC in the hunt. Jota is clearly quality but does benefit from defenders spending more time worrying about Salah and Mane.

Chelsea rolled over a poor Leicester (don’t tell me Chelsea made them look poor, Albrighton started!) and impressive as it was, it wasn’t like LFC’s 4-0 win there in 2019, hard to see where or when a blip will come but (fingers crossed) surely it has to.

Thiago Silva v Jamie Vardy, a combined age of 423 but still two of the best players on the pitch. Silva defies logic, a Kante/Jorginho shield is as good as it gets yet he still oozes class.

My TAA bias is being severely tested by Reece James, as much as I like Walker for his speed, I think both of James and Arnold in a 3-5-2 or 3-4-3 could be Englands’ best option. By 7.30, TAA had another two assists!

Burnley scored 3! Crystal Palace scored 3, away from home!!! Joelinton scored!

I hope Roy Keane is on sky today, comedy gold.

Back to the sh*tshow that is MUFC, their fans have kept banging on about this being a squad good enough to challenge for the League and Champions League, has the penny dropped yet that it isn’t? 4 against Leicester, 5 against LFC (could have been 8), 2 against City (could have been 10), 4 against Watford (could have been 6 or 7, Watford ffs!), Villareal should have been 4 up, the midfield cannot protect a dodgy defence despite them apparently working on it this week!!!!!

The players have definitely given up, Ronaldo is 5 yards out and heads back across the goal? He was probably as surprised as anyone to see another United player in the six yard box.

Another 24 hours for OGS to sit and stew is just cruel.

Will the board do a Barca and appoint Giggs? Get Dennis Irwin back on a £1 a month, give Zlatan £600k a week and bring in a defensive co-ordinator, a set piece analyst, an in-game restart facilitator and a wet nurse for Bruno, Harry, Cristiano and Paul, these questions and many others will be answered in next weeks episode of SOAP (cue the music).

Will Granada run a Monday evening special on Uniteds’ collapse, finishing with black and white footage whilst playing “The party’s over” (RIP Gerald), if they do, hope the outcome is very different!

The last two very much for our older listeners!

Howard (coyb) Jones

Read More