Erik ten Hag is getting off lightly as Man Utd conspire to f*** up again…
The Mailbox reckons Erik ten Hag is swerving scrutiny while Man Utd’s season threatens to unravel. Also: Liverpool’s anthem boo-ers are told to hand in their blue passports.
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Ten Hag can be criticised
I’ve been waiting for Man Utd to get a good result before writing this so it doesn’t seem like a knee-jerk, but alas that appears wishful thinking at the moment. Essentially, I wanted to in part agree with last week’s mailboxer (Ash I think) who criticised Eric Ten Hag.
While I think Ash went a bit far and Ten Hag has clearly done a good job overall, that doesn’t mean he is immune to criticism and to me he’s clearly got some fairly obvious things consistently wrong.
Firstly, playing out from the back. It’s a great ideal but you have to have the players to do it. A team with De Gea in goal simply cannot afford to, it costs far more than it gains. Potentially add in technically limited players such as Wan Bisaaka and Maguire and it’s a recipe for disaster. To be honest Seville away was an accident waiting to happen, we’d got away with it a number of times before that game. Yet even now the team insists on doing it and getting into trouble, presumable at Ten Hag’s behest.
Secondly, a lot had been made of his ability to get United back into a game they have been chasing and rightly so. But Ten Hag’s game management when winning or on top when level is poor. Again, Seville at home is the obvious example but there have been many others. His major tactic this season has seemed to be to throw Fred and/or McTominay on and automatically sacrifice any ball playing/keeping ability in midfield. It’s basically handing over all momentum to the opposition and saying, ‘the game is now your attack against our defence’.
Lastly, Antony. For £80m what exactly are you getting? He’s pretty good at cutting in and scoring into the to the far corner but literally what else? His lack of anything other than this means he needs to score every game otherwise he’s a waste of a man. Other than an admittedly very good assist against Notts Forest I struggle to remember him progressing the ball, never mind setting something up. Even the aforementioned one trick will dry up once defenders get used to him, you would assume. He seems very much a Ten Hag signing, for a lot of money and in a position that perhaps should not have been as much a priority as others. Perhaps the money would have been better spent fixing other problems or at least strengthening other squad areas.
All that said, I reiterate like most United fans I’m a big Ten Hag fan, I just don’t think questioning some of his work is sacrilege.
On a separate note – and I know this further diminishes my chances of being published – what have you got against Frank Lampard? No one thinks he is a good manager. But it seems personal to you. The overstating how bad he is, the frequency with which you do it and the glee you take is bizarre. Another outlet treating another individual this way would be called out by yourselves as mean-spirited/a pile on/bullying/possibly even prejudice. As I said, he’s far from great but what specifically makes you dislike him so much?
Ronnie Buzzard, Manchester
…That Eric ten Hag has improved the team is not in question. However, he has failed woefully to address two key weaknesses in United’s game. Manchester United losing form at a crucial point in the season is unfathomable, to say the least. What borders me most is the way our forwards waste golden goal scoring opportunities as if nothing is at stake. Under Sir Alex the unstated underlying philosophy was for United to score more goals than the opposition and that was done excellently well, winning matches 5-3, 4-3 etc. It is now increasingly clear that our current batch of attacking players are hopeless, wasteful and, definitely, overpaid for the poor performance. Rashford, Nartial, Anthony and many others are all guilty as charged, evident in our goal difference compared with the top six teams. I have never seen any football team create and waste so many chances as United. This wastefulness continues unabated and Ten Hag has not been able to resolve it.
The other key issue which is, by and large, responsible for United’s losses is individual error. United have lost too many matches as a result of individual errors and ten Hag has not been effective in eradicating this issue, not even minimising them.
Professor (Dr) David Achanfuo Yeboah
…Deja Vu. 2021-21 happening again, when Liverpool were totally out of the running for a CL spot, and then kept winning, (including at OT). That season, it wasn’t at Man United’s expense but this season maybe.
United’s away form has been abysmal, and so often by shooting themselves in the foot.Brighton, West Ham, Palace, Spurs (FFS), even Arsenal.
Glass half full, as ever, improve the away form next season and will be closer to the top. But it will be really disappointing if United were to miss out on top 4, even if we do win the FA Cup (fingers crossed that match is not 0-6).
Still feel I tempted fate in an earlier email a couple of months back, where I mocked Liverpool, and was hoping they would be in the Europa Conference next year. Hubris for you.
Respects to Brighton, who also have a say in all this.
Read more: Man Utd facing Liverpool unpleasantness but West Ham now free to dream of glory
…If United lose out on cl to liverpool now I’ll be gutted, but I’d take this season over the last 10, and I have hope for next year.
Lay off De Gea
As an all too familiar sight of Manchester United haplessly labouring to a 1-0 loss ruined a sunny May afternoon, for what is probably 10 years in a row now, I depressingly scroll through the reports and Twitter autopsy.
From the influencer fans, to the grand advisory council of ex stars like Rio, the conclusions are clear: De Gea is all to blame.
Not just for that goal, it seems, but for their entire downturn in recent fortunes. The same De Gea who currently has the most clean sheets in the Premier League. The same De Gea who has performed countless saves that not many other keepers on this planet could manage- not just this season, but for years.
The same De Gea who has been club player of season more than anyone else currently in that side.
Of course, these feckless, reactionary idiots don’t just blame him for conceding the odd goal. Oh no. It is also purely his fault that the team are not creative enough. The goalkeeper doesn’t get enough assists.
There is, somewhat bizarrely, no blame placed upon the other 10 men on the pitch seemingly incapable of scoring a goal. No mention of the fact that the first choice centre back pairing are injured. No recognition that one of the current replacement centre backs has spent the last 10 years at left back for club and country, until Ten Haag made the awkward realisation that even Luke Shaw is a better CB than Harry Maguire.
Little credence is given to the fact that the first choice striker, Martial, has scored 9 goals in 3 seasons- when he isn’t injured. Backup- Weghorst- has yet to score a Premier league goal for United in 14 outings. Rashford’s rich vein of form has been cut short since the injury. Eriksen has clearly not fully recovered either. Garnacho’s not even fit to come off the bench yet. McTominay is still out.
Fernandes has become inconsistent, petulant and is struggling to impose himself in recent games. Antony has wilted. Sancho looks terrified at receiving possession of the ball, and hastily returns it to the nearest opposing defender he can find.
Casemiro’s legs have gone and look very much in need of a holiday. They all do.
They’ve played twice a week since Christmas. After a World Cup in another continent.
All of this whilst their club is in complete limbo as the Glazer family drag out a protracted sale in search of every last dime they can squeeze out of the brand, at the expense of any planning or certainty for next season now too.
But sure, let’s just blame it all on De Gea, that fits much easier into a reactionary tweet.
Mike (Europa Thursdays are here to stay) in Oxford
Arsenal’s big win
I thought that was one of the games of the season and Newcastle played their part but maybe being a bit too “Arsenal” and perhaps wanted it too much?
I had this game marked out, much like many, where our title challenge would fall off the rails, it turns out that a 3-3 at home vs bottom of the league would be the end (who knew).
Newcastle came into the match with their “I’m hard” look, scowls everywhere. They were leaving a bit in after the ball was gone, that’s fine too, your patch, we get it, but that’s the thing, Arsenal do seem to get it, whatever IT is. Arsenal have won away at Newcastle, spurs, Chelsea (ha), Villa Park, and a draw at Anfield. They can handle themselves on the road now, very well. It’s quite hard to play football at any level, where you know you’ve got to execute the pass and simultaneously tense up coz you’re gonna get whacked, but Arsenal dealt with it well. Nothing Newcastle did after the play was particularly bad, but they definitely tried to “leave a bit on em”.
After riding our luck for the first 10 minutes and getting a Correct call, we dominated with clear cut chances in spaces we just were not afforded during the home match. Big chances were missed by all 3 of Saka, Martinelli and Odegaard, as good as they’ve done this season, we’ll need even more from them next season.
At half time Alan Shearer says for the penalty he can’t say for certain its hit his thigh. Not sure who he played for in his career, doubt that would be part of his reasoning though. He went on to say it wasn’t “clear and obvious” that it hit his knee?
Look at the trajectory of the ball in motion as the arm comes down and behind and the knee goes up in front, why does the ball go UP, Alan? Seems pretty clear and obvious to me.
I thought the officials did well. 53 minutes with the ball in play at the Emirates, with time wasting galore, constantly kicking the ball away, and surprise surprise they didn’t like it when the shoe was on the other foot. Arsenal did no more than what Newcastle did to Liverpool and Arsenal this season.
Arsenal had big moments at key times of the match, we scored first after weathering the early storm, Granit Xhaka had a challenge on willock as he goes to shoot which is as good as a goal, and surely one of the tackles of the season.
Tierney made us much more stable as Zinchenko pre world cup form vs post world cup, certainly from a defensive point of view, has gotten much worse.
Scoring a second on the 70th minute allowed us some breathing space and we were not under the kosh the way I’d expected it.
Finally, a word on Kiwior, who has allowed Arsenal to get back to playing their own game by defending on the front foot. The margins are small at the top, you have to be able to defend open space, and Holding can not do that to the standard required, he backs off and lets the attacker dictate the move, bringing arsenal closer to their box. Holding is a very very good dfender that would look good at a mid table club, but Kiwior appears to have a bright future.
Eddie howe is very pale, is that why Tindall looks orange? Or is it just his Hawaiin sunset special. Immaculate.
Strevs, Afc, Canada
…Probably the most satisfying win of the season that, in context. It felt like last season’s capitulation there was on everyone’s minds but the Arsenal players, with Newcastle hoping to fly at us with a fast start and blow us away like they’ve done to Spurs and Utd recently.
In fairness, hitting the post within a minute was alarming and the corner routine which led to the penalty incident was superb. I really do believe it hit his thigh though, and for once rated it as good reffing/VARing.
As we’ve seen before though, it was a huge momentum shifter. The delay/time it takes for these decisions to be made, added to the fact the fans have no clue what’s going on, mean that the game can flip on the incident and that certainly happened here. When we played Leicester and Trossard had a goal disallowed, it completely took the wind out of us for the rest of the half and I felt similar happened to Newcastle here.
This, our goal soon after and the ‘game management’ which followed all angered the crowd and I think worked in our favour. I’ve seen it at The Emirates – and was there and angry in January in fact – where the over emotional crowd spill out onto the players on the pitch.
I think the moaning about it from Howe is pretty rich considering that return fixture. I’ve never left a game more annoyed at another team’s tactics than that night, and at least yesterday we had a lead to protect. That day they got the draw they came for, this time they didn’t get the win they went for. And frankly their own change in tactics suited us there.
Ultimately I’m happy that we didn’t crumble to their ‘robust physicality’ and for anyone who backed a Bruno G card they must wonder how they’re not up today. I’m happy we showed fight and effort here, even if the title is gone.
It’s been too good a season to let it just peter out. Wins like this matter to show we’ve got something about us longer term.
Joe, AFC, East Sussex
While Klopp was a little OTT the other weekend, this weekend’s performance by Taylor was an example of the kind of refereeing performance that drives managers crazy. Especially when compared to the Arsenal/Newcastle game – equally hard fought and as or more feisty – where Kavanagh managed to keep his cards in his pocket and let the game flow as much as possible until near the end, where he calmed it down.
Taylor’s idea to blow up for every infringement destroyed what might have been a good, competitive game, while handing out bookings for minor challenges only puts pressure to continue booking or ignoring other clear-cut bookings—an incredibly inconsistent performance.
Meanwhile, the football cognoscenti call for respect. And I agree that they should be shown more respect. But I can see why they are not.
What supports this inconsistent level of competence is the PGMOL’s code of silence – an almost mafia-like omertà – which is a great CYA for mistakes and a lack of accountability. Most managers would at least understand an error or marginal call if it were explained.
Rugby referees are brilliant at this. They make fewer mistakes in an arguably more complex game and are willing to be miked up and explain their decisions to team captains, the player(s) involved, and everyone watching.
They are a credit to all match officials.
They earn every bit of respect.
The PGMOL, on the other hand, is incapable of openness which gives the impression of dishonesty.
A 2015 report showed 53.8% of EPL managers had been replaced in the prior 20 years. A recent report showed the average lifespan of a manager has halved in the last decade. (And it’s worse in the Championship.) This shows the immense pressure managers are under. Managers who are effectively the spokespeople for their clubs – no matter what decisions owners or CEOs take – and expected to do media interviews before and after every game.
In the meantime, the PGMOL are allowed to duck for cover and only under the most extreme pressure forced to account for a decision.
Howard Webb came in as the new ‘chief’ supposedly to improve standards, but I bet few would claim they see any improvement. I am not sure that the odd apology cuts it.
We haven’t had any kind of regular communication – any communication – as to what might improve things. We watch ex-refs trot out the trite sound-bites supporting referee decisions while most onlookers cringe – how can they not be embarrassed? The irony is that they are so willing to speak out once they are no longer a ref.
George Bernard Shaw once said “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” There is no illusion in the case of the PGMOL.
Passport to nowhere
After laughing all season at the Chelsea Circus act, after Saturday’s classless display by the Liverpool crowd I am praying they do not reach Champions League qualification.
Freedom of speech yes, dignity and silence would have shown you all in a different light.
Maybe hand in those British passports you all have to travel to European games.
Keep anthems out of football
This is quick message to the snowflakes that wrote in criticising Liverpool fans for booing the anthem. For starters, these are doubtless the same “Free Speech” crowd who booed players taking the knee under the guise of “keep politics out of football”. I would guess they are also the type of people who voted Brexit, and think you’re “not allowed to say anything anymore”. And probably donated to the Go-Fund-Me for the racist pub owners who displayed golliwog dolls.
Playing an anthem which is effectively an ode to a monarchy that founded its wealth off the repression, torture and enslavement of millions of Africans and South east Asians, is in itself, a political act. If you are a person of colour with knowledge of the fact that eg the late Queen made sure she was personally exempt from having to follow racial equality laws (meaning she didn’t have to employ any Blacks); it’s an insult to be told to sing that song. But yes, must be “Woke” to care about racial equality, slavery etc yes yes. 🙄🙄
The key thing here though, is that Liverpool is not Pyongyang. It is a city that is (allegedly) part of a democratic nation. What separates the UK from eg Qatar, Zimbabwe and Iran is the ability to question its elected leaders and repudiate parts of the nation’s fabric one doesn’t agree with. You shouldn’t do that violently of course (that’s called insurrection), but panto-style booing is certainly all good. So, imagine my delight to see the panty-wetting Brexit Massive, anti-Woke Daily Mail pondl-life – usually the first ones to cry “free speech”, losing their shit because some clueless septuagenarian muppet who’s never worked a day in his life, and is literally the head of the biggest welfare spongers in the UK, as booed at a football match! Hahaha LMFAO.
I don’t get the Daily Mail crowd’s love of the monarchy – don’t they hate welfare spongers? Imagine being fine with hungry kids, nurses, teachers using food banks; but being just fine with spending £250m on a w**k-fest for some entitled fool to play Dungeons and Dragons?
Absolutely pathetic salty tears. And since you snowflake dumbos brought politics into football, here’s your riposte! 🤫
Stewie Griffin (“If you don’t like our monarchy then p**** off and go live elsewhere” they say. We were well up for that except you Brexit monarchy-loving cretins denied us Freedom of Movement! Remember? So you’re stuck here with us. F**** Charles, FAKE KING!)
…The PL wanted the anthem played before this weekend’s matches specifically to honour the coronation of a king. Whether they intended it as such or not, that is a political statement. For those calling scousers a disgrace and embarrassing, why is it appropriate for the premier league to make a political statement honouring the monarchy before a football match and not appropriate to protest that statement? The song itself is a political statement, it’s not about the people or the country, it’s a plea to a god to have a monarch rule over us, I’m an atheist who thinks we should have dumped the monarchy long ago, the anthem has nothing to do with me. For myself I neither sing nor boo the anthem and in general would prefer people didn’t boo the anthem but in this particular instance I fully support it. And for those who are trying to equate a minutes silence for 97 people who were killed at football match to a song played to honour a party for one of the most over-privileged people on the planet, really? A more apt comparison would be the minutes silence at Anfield after the death of the queen.
The new Divock
When I saw the headline about Nunez I thought it was a windup from a troll or a fan of another club, but fair enough it was a more cogent argument from someone who clearly supports the club. So thanks, Eric.
I’d like to respectfully disagree, however. I can’t argue that Nunez is at the level we would want -or perhaps had imagined off the back of his performance against us in the past. But I would argue that we need different options. Last season we were very reliant on Mané and if I understand it correctly Diaz is the successor to Mané on that left hand side. Gakpo is showing link-up ability suggesting he can be in the Firmino role. Jota’s finishing can take some of the burden off Salah.
But against teams that push up, having a quick outlet other than Salah gives us that option. Or if one of our forward line is injured (ie most of this season), we need another striker.
He’s basically our new Origi.
Price tags vary and you can always say we could have bought someone cheaper. But I am not writing him off just yet. He might only play in the Europa League, but we’ll need him to do just that.
After all, even Sinama-Pongolle was useful.
Paul in Brussels (never mind Anfield, did anyone hear the Champions League anthem at the coronation? I thought I did!)