Who wants to be the tallest dwarf?
It’s funny to see United fans complain that nobody has recognised that they’re the tallest dwarf. United finished 33 points behind a Liverpool that fell apart at the end and 15 points behind a City team that lost more games than them. While they did indeed finish third they’re a long, long way from challenging for the title and they’re no closer now than they were under Moyes, that’s the point. 66 points is usually good enough for sixth or seventh so your position in the league is solely down to the teams below you being a little more mediocre than you. Despite finishing third, you were closer to relegation than you were to winning the title, it’s no cause for celebration.
If we’re going to credit OGS with buying Bruno Fernandes then we also need to point out that he was also the guy who didn’t buy Bruno Fernandes. Maybe if he’d moved for him last summer United might have finished on 68 points but could you imagine the crowing from United fans if that had happened?
Just to be an equal opportunity curmudgeon, this Liverpool won’t go down as one of the all-time greats. No points record, no invincibles and no double/treble. I mean congratulations and I’m sure you don’t care but they did one thing and did it very well. Better teams have come away with more from a season and we didn’t lose our shit over them.
I’m sorry, I’m not being totally serious. Apart from Liverpool everybody else has been pretty mediocre and lockdown aside it’s been a pretty disappointing season all in all. I’m not looking forward to the next five years if the gap between the top two and everybody else remains so large and the indignity of once great giants fighting amongst themselves over scraps from the big boys’ table.
SC (Put everyone in the losers list), Belfast
Why do points matter though?
I think Ole has done well, I’ve said as much before and I’m saying it again, but there’s something that keeps bothering me in the mailbox and with some (emphasis on some) articles or points within articles.
Why do people keep referring to where this points total would have gotten United in other years, like that matters? Should we dilute Leicester’s title-winning season because there are other seasons that points return wouldn’t have gotten them the title? When teams survive relegation, we don’t say it doesn’t matter because the year before their points would have gotten them relegated. If Liverpool won the title next season with 80 points, would it matter that 80 points would have them in third this year, or would it matter that they won back to back titles?
Every year is different and only the truly ridiculous achievements last in our memories because time shows how hard they are to achieve (Treble winners, Invincibles, Mourinho’s Chelsea’s defensive record, Centurions), but the achievements in between that all vary. Whoever wins the title wins the title, because they are the best that year; whoever comes third is there because they are third best that year. I can’t understand why this is a stick to beat someone with. I think Liverpool are exceptional and City are still brilliant, despite their defensive flaws; both teams are regarded as the standard in England, and probably most of Europe. I think finishing third to them is fine for now.
And the thing for saying Ole spent money so dilutes finishing third is weird when we’ve seen so many teams, across the league, spend money and it hasn’t been the sole solution (Fulham being an example, Bournemouth and Villa another, Pep’s fullbacks another, United themselves another). Further afield, Barca have also proved that in recent years. Spending obviously helps, but so does the right spending and the right coaching and system. He’s not a football genius, but he’s doing a grand old job.
…I felt compelled to write in for the first time since 2013, when you posted my letter re Phil Neville retiring (I miss Phil). Anyway, I digress…
So, I’m quite annoyed because all the talk and poking fun at Lampard and Ole regarding getting the same or less points than last year. It’s all a bit absurd really.
Firstly, they did what they needed to do to get into the Champions League. Secondly, since the 2016/17 season, the points required to get into the top 4 has dropped year on year (from 76 in 16/17 to 66 this year).
In the meantime, last year, we had clubs like Aston Villa spending £140m, Wolves spending £88m and Brighton spending £63m.
Do you not think that as opposed to the team’s stagnating, the quality of the league is actually improving and more bottom half teams are taking points off the historical ‘big teams’?
There are always going to be a couple of really good teams in the league that this doesn’t happen to – last year, it was City and Liverpool, but this year, even City lost a number of games to the so-called lesser teams.
Anyway, a top 4 position is worth more money to these clubs, and if the big clubs can keep getting into the top 4 and winning all the money, maybe the gaps between the top 4 and the rest will become bigger and everyone will be happy again…
Yours in frustration,
Eoin ‘thinks Ole is doing a great job’ McGloughlin
Some sensible Manchester United thoughts
Just a few thoughts on the end of the season:
1) I’m not going to go down the ABU365 route because I don’t think it’s true, but I think that the people flagging up the lack of praise for Ole had a point. This is what you actually said about Ole in Winners and Losers:
‘Ole Gunnar Solskjaer deserves credit for accepting he had encountered some problems that required external help’ and ‘The manager has also gambled on the fitness of the elite members of this squad to time a late sprint to perfection, worthy of Champions League qualification.’
Sorry, ‘praised at length’, Ed? I suppose two sentences is A length, but we both know that’s not what you meant. It’s a good job Ole doesn’t want praise because if that’s all he deserves then it’s meagre to say the least. The rest of the only section about United was either about Bruno (who is, indeed, worthy of praise) and highlighting about how Ole was a bit rubbish for a while. I’m not saying he’s manager of the year or anything, but I think he deserves a bit more than two lukewarm, throw-away comments in a section mostly about someone else. Quite how Klopp wormed his way in that section is another issue entirely.
2) I was looking back at some old mails I’d sent in for the mailbox and, it doesn’t make pleasant reading. As recently as January 22nd, I had extrapolated our results at the time and worked out we were due for a 54-point finish, which would have been good enough for joint 9th (which I also predicted). I’m glad to say that I was wrong but I think that this is why Ole does deserve a bit more credit and an apology from me. He did manage to significantly improve our season and, yes, a good chunk of that was by bringing in Bruno, but that is still part of his job and he did it well. So I’m sorry Ole, I was too harsh on you back then and you have proved me wrong.
3) …to an extent. There are still longer-term and bigger issues at play. Whether he gets in the five new players that Gary Neville reckons we need or not, he still needs to start trusting and making use of the full squad – next season more than ever. As he said himself in his post-game presser, we cannot get away with rotating the team in Europe next season at all, so we will need to make use of the full squad. The burnout that was present in the last few games was unacceptable, and I’m not blaming our schedule – our fixture list was probably the kindest of the lot – I’m blaming the lack of rotation from Ole. I’m not saying wholesale changes every game; just one or two rested each game, to keep it fairly stable and competitive without wearing out the whole team at once.
4) This summer obviously provides us with an opportunity to do strengthen the squad, but we absolutely must take full advantage of that. We need to urgently get 2/3 players over the line in the next three weeks, if only so that the plans are seen through and the new players can start adjusting. I absolutely do not want to see the same rumours flying around at the start of September, with only one signing actually finalised. We simply have to avoid a repeat of last year and just get the damn business done.
5) As for the Europa League, I’m not really holding my breath there. Obviously, I would love us to win it but it’s still going to ask a lot of the players that are already struggling. Hopefully the good finish to the season will buoy them a little bit and lift their spirits, but we’ll see. That said, if we aren’t able to win it, I genuinely hope Wolves do. I really like Nuno as a manager, and they have some amazing players – they are a very likeable team and a Europa League win would be massive for them. Again, only if we don’t win it!
6) And finally, to the Championship. If I had to nail my colours to the mast, I would love to see Brentford win the playoffs. They aren’t off to the best start but it would be good to have a new promotee in the Premier League. If not them then I would prefer Fulham, but we’ll see what happens.
Just, thank God that league season is over!
…First of all I wish some of my fellow United fans would stop being so damn defensive. Suggestions of bias against United and all of this ABU365 nonsense makes us look desperate and bitter. Calm down for f**k’s sake and accept that it’s just someone else’s opinion. You’ll find it very difficult to find a more balanced set of impartial, insightful and well-written articles as you do from the F365 team.
Anywho, on to more prominent matters at hand. United finished thrd. Mint! Genuinely excellent. I never expected United to manage this at the start of the season, let alone in mid-January following our lacklustre defeat at home to Burnley.
What many opposing fans need to understand regarding our delight at finishing third is that it is all relative. Relative to where we have been over the past few seasons. Relative to the direction in which our trajectory seemed to be heading. Is third where we want to be or strive to be every season? No, of course not. But that’s beside the point. This season has been a stepping stone for us. A move in the right direction. That is all we can ask for at this stage.
Obviously there is no way we are ready to compete with the likes of Liverpool and Citeh in our current state. I can’t think of a single United fan that I know who actually think this. But, this season we have taken one large step toward allowing ourselves to grow in stature once again, and take those first steps required to begin closing that gap. To develop in a way in which actually feels sustainable. Had we not achieved Champions League football both the opportunity for significant financial investment in our squad, and the attractiveness to lure some of the best available talent (I’m looking at you Jadon!) wouldn’t have been anywhere near what we now have. Hopefully, with the correct investment we can then take yet another step forward. We need to continue building a better, more balanced squad, with the right individuals, and the right collective attitude. For me at least, it feels like the first blocks of this have been put in place this season. And for this, Ole deserves a great deal of credit.
So, let’s just continue to concentrate on our own progression at this stage. Hard as it may be let’s only worry about competing with Liverpool and Citeh when we are actually able to compete with them again over a full season. This may happen in the coming years, it may not. This season has at least given us a fighting chance of this happening sooner rather than later!
Al Williams (Old Trafford N42)
…That time of the year again, ey? Tribalism is absolutely rampant in these and all other football pages, and no doubt will be for a few more days. United fan here. Solskjaer would have gone down as a winner if the winners and losers lists were drawn up two weeks ago (Average age down, style of play improved, several players showing vastly better form, morale up, recruitment significantly better). As it is, he is very, very lucky not to have completely f**ked it in the end. Losing to Chelsea in the manner that Utd did was a bitter disappointment. A place in the final was there for the taking and all Solskjaer could come up with was the simplistic thought that ‘3 at the back with two pacey forwards splitting the centre-backs worked against strong attacking teams earlier in the season, so I’ll give it another go’.
He overstretched the squad by failing to rotate, and showed virtually no trust in the likes of Fred, Ighalo and Mata to see out games that were already won. United could easily have lost against Southampton, West Ham or Leicester, even when all their previous good work and Leicester and Chelsea’s inconsistency had come together to create a situation where United failing to qualify for the Champions League would have been a colossal failure. If the penalty had been given against Pogba, we might well be sitting here discussing a manager who had contrived to lose two very winnable semi-finals and had thrown away an unmissable chance to return to the CL, finishing with a points total that would not have been sufficient to qualify in 9 out of the last 10 seasons. If that constitutes ‘winning’… *sigh*
On Steve Bruce – I really like him. Always have. He gets things wrong on the PR side (ask Sheffield Wednesday fans), but I don’t think many people would disagree that he seems like a decent fella who tries his best. But we’ve been down this road with the ‘injury crisis’ excuse before. I’m sure F365 have done a piece compiling all the quotes from him in different jobs about how immensely unlucky he’s been to be perpetually beset by a full treatment room. Wenger (and others) have always banged (bong? bung?) the drum that muscular injuries are usually due to mistakes in preparation. If Bruce is to survive in the top flight (He can clearly coach a defence and knows how to foster team spirit), this is a weakness which he and his team have to address.
Two greedy points, because I’ve clearly consumed too much football content over the last two days – I’ll miss David Silva as a player as much as I’m delighted he’s gone as a rival fan. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a midfielder in this league with such a deft touch in tight spaces, and that ability to disguise every pass before making it look like the most obvious option on the pitch. And KDB is disgusting. It’s not fair that a player can be that good at so many things. Watching him pull out some Ronaldo-esque footwork before picking out the top corner was the final straw. He has to be the PFA player of the year, surely. (No offence Sadio Mane).
Guess who’s back…
Well done. At least you’re prepared to admit it. Finally.
Can we now expect an article attempting to make amends for the pathetic agenda you’ve clung to for the entire season? No, instead we get a completely pointless piece on how clubs have fared against your haughty expectations… with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer pictured for the link.
United are placed tenth… ffs…
“You could easily argue United should be far higher on this list; they finished third and no-one could reasonably have expected them to have done any better… blah, blah, blah… they have underperformed once again.”
Using the picture of Solskjaer for the article and then taking more (even by your own reasoning) undeserved shots at United is embarrassing enough. But a quick scan of the front page of your site at the time of writing this, shows there are 13 articles either about United or using a picture of someone from the club (or both).
You clearly understand that you need to feature United prominently on your site to have any hope of continuing to exist. You must do, otherwise why pain yourselves daily in reporting on a club you so obviously have a problem with? You need United. You need United fans. And you contribute nothing positive. You just feed.
That makes you parasites.
That third place is really grinding now, isn’t it?
William Douglas Foster, Stretford
Stop with the Lampard hate
Again with the anti-Lampard , snide remarks: ‘What a remarkable job his cousin Frank has done to finish one place and six points worse off than last season.’
What an absolutely churlish and pointless cheap shot.
The bloke who has just won the Italian League with years of experience and who had Eden Hazard in full on swan song mode single handedly responsible for 68% of Chelsea’s goals and assists last season Capitalised on yet another Spurs collapse to finish third before Hazard won him the Europa league trophy , and Lampard didn’t quite cut muster for your liking with a team of kids and no Hazard by six points and one place?
Bloody hell, wind it in a bit.
Stop with the Lampard love
Very much enjoying the ABU boo-hoo from United fans about F365’s PL expectation table. Although (even as a Liverpool fan) there does seem to be a bit of (conscious or unconscious?) anti-Utd bias on F365, there is an easy way to compare this particular subjective ranking to a more objective one. A quick Google throws up Sporting Index’s pre-season points expectations from late July 2019. Whatever you might think about gambling and football, these numbers are put up by people whose livelihoods depend on being objectively right more often than not and whose firm loses money if they are wrong (as opposed to journalists that depending on being interesting, or perhaps provocative…).
So what did the pros think 12 months ago? Ah – they thought United would finish on 68 points. They also thought Chelsea would finish on 67 points. Ranking all the teams by the number of extra points versus these expectations Man Utd were 11th – so if anything, F365 are a touch too generous. On the other hand, Chelsea rank joint 9th (with Palace) – the mystery should be how they ended up 4th in F365’s table. Southampton are hard done by, 5th best outperformers but ranked 9th (so basically F365 got those two the wrong way round). Bournemouth come in 14th but are ranked 19th by AB-South Coast-365 (Brighton: 8th vs 11th). Spurs get a notably easy ride (19th vs 14th).
One match to define a season?
If you were to review Arsenal’s season today, you might give a D, or a generous C-. If you were to review the season after an FA Cup win, I would rate it a B+. Football is a strange game but the FA Cup final is huge for Arsenal this year and its frustrating that again the success of our season depends on a final against Chelsea.
The target at the beginning of the season for Emery would have been to get back into the Champions League, especially with the outlay on Pepe. When Arteta took over, I argue the expectation was for Europa League football. In that, Arteta has failed. To be clear, I think Arteta has done a pretty good job considering the situation and I can’t wait to see what he can get done next season. However, he has failed to get Europa League football through our league position.
This means that Arsenal’s season is entirely defined by this final. A win, another trophy and Europa League is a great return for his first half season. When you look at the season as a whole, it is incredible that we could get anything out of it. Injuries, captain issues, poor recruitment, players assaulted, a 350k water boy, a headless manager, a complete rookie manager and a global virus. However, with the squad we have, no European football, and the finances it brings, is essential.
Mourinho might finally realise the importance of the ‘European Place Trophies’, but Arteta could secure an actual trophy and European football. The fine line between a relatively successful season and an utterly terrible season is very very fine for Arteta and I really hope we can win it and see where Arteta can take us rather than how far back Arteta will be starting from…
Rob A, AFC
All the young dudes deserve respect
So the same people who were laughing all season about Ole not being able to get United in the top 4 (5th to 5th I kept hearing) are now saying he hasn’t been successful despite finishing 3rd?
Of course we know United shouldn’t be pleased about 3rd, but considering where we were 6/12/18 months ago, this is a bloody miracle. I’ve written in the past about how he’s restored the club’s soul and how much that means to every United fan out there.
But Ole is the type of manager every fan should want to see succeed. We talk about how the game’s gone, with the money involved, mercenary players, constant managerial changes, and clubs prioritising commercial success over what’s really important. Now here comes a young manager, steeped in the history of the club, who despite having his credentials doubted every step of the way (even I didn’t see any way back after Burnley), has taken the club back to the Champions League and undoubtedly is going in the right direction.
The same goes for Lampard, and he was in an easier position. Chelsea finished 3rd last season and won Europa. They did lose their best player, but Lampard has found a way to combine youth and experience and play some sensational football. Is he a failure because Chelsea didn’t win the league? Of course not.
Let’s give all these young managers the credit they deserve (Arteta too). It’s tempting to laugh at Ole because of how abysmal United were pre-Bruno, but he had to pick up the pieces post Jose, integrate youth, implement a distinct playing style, and cope for majority of the season without Pogba, and a few months without both Rashford and Martial. I mean the shortage of options meant Andreas Pereira started 18 games this season. EIGHTEEN.
Is he tactically naive? Absolutely. But just like this team he’s not yet the finished article. Success is a matter of perspective, but it’s ludicrous to suggest a team that overcame a 15 point gap (in Feb!!) to 3rd in 12 games, hasn’t lost since Jan 15th, and could still win Europa as having underperformed overall. It’s even crazier to think the manager doesn’t deserve most of the credit (with or without Bruno).
Even Pep finished 3rd in his first season in the Prem, and he had the spine of a title winning team and numerous world class players at his disposal. Klopp finished 4th. And they were/are hugely more successful, influential, and just better managers than Ole ever has been. Put some respect on his name.
IP (Some respect, not all the respect)
And so does Brendan
Despite the many, many words attempting to explain, the only possible reason I can think of for putting Leicester in the winners and Rodgers in the losers is to have a dig at Rodgers. If, ultimately, finishing fifth and qualifying for Europe is a fantastic season for the club, then the manager did a fantastic job to get them there.
It’s hard not to cringe reading the criticism of Rodgers, seemingly written while pretending that many pieces fawning over him hadn’t appeared this season, which were seemingly written pretending that F365 hadn’t already turned him into a clown for years. And I’m an Arsenal fan, I have no specific love for the man.
This is a trend that has been going forever. Ultimately, whenever you laugh at the “other” football media and their short-sightedness, I can’t help but laugh at you.
Chelsea’s loanees graded
This could become a new trend within the mailbox, or it could end with this mail, but I thought I would grade Chelsea’s squad players out on loan, naturally we have more than most so I will reduce it down to the major names, sorry Jacob Maddox and Nathan Baxter.
Baba Rahman – N/A – I felt it would be incredibly harsh to grade Baba Rahman after he only featured twice for Real Mallorca before suffering a serious injury which meant he has missed every game since, most likely will be sent out on loan again this summer unless a buyer comes in for the defender.
Davide Zappacosta – 4/10 – Only managed 7 games on loan at Roma due to Cruciate Ligament Injury, has one assist in those 7 but that was against a very poor SPAL side, likely being sold or loaned out again.
Marc Guehi – 7/10 – Certainly a potential first team player for Chelsea in years to come if he keeps up his current form, been solid at the back for Swansea who took the last Play Off Spot, joined in January and Swans’ fans speak highly of him, likely will head out again on loan next season but maybe to a Premier League side.
Ethan Ampadu – 4/10 – Barely played for RB Leipzig this season, it was a loan move that did not work out for any party involved, could become a squad player next season or another loan, likely the later.
Tiemoue Bakayoko – 6/10 – Reasonable season at Monaco, has done enough that Bayern were rumoured to be looking at him, has no future at Chelsea that is clear, likely sold this summer.
Danny Drinkwater – 0/10 – Joined Burnley on loan in August, in September suffered an injury to his ankle ligament after being involved in a fight outside a nightclub, joined Aston Villa on loan where he reportedly headbutted team mate Jota, his Premier League career is likely done, Championship beckons.
Conor Gallagher – 7/10 – Another player Swansea took on loan this season from us, after a first half of the season loan at Charlton, another who has done very well in the Championship, 6 assists in 20 matches is not to bad at all, could be a good squad player next season.
Victor Moses – 6/10 – Antonio Conte loves him, likely will leave this summer, but he has done the job as a wing back for Inter this season.
Kenedy – 4/10 – Mainly been used as a sub all season for Getafe, keep forgetting that he is still part of our club, likely will be loaned out yet again, cannot see any potential buyers.
Mikey, CFC (Looking forward to this time next year when I grade Kepa a 10/10 for claiming the Zamora Trophy after his loan to a La Liga side, I joke)
The kids are alright
It’s been a week with a mailbox utterly dominated by Liverpool and United mails.
It’s almost as if the other two members of the top four are actually far less supported and propped up entirely artificially by financial doping.
At the end of every domestic season I like to look across the European leagues at player performance. This season is no different, but I looked extra hard because A: I’m still furloughed, and B: my girlfriend and I both moved our parents into our respective houses at the beginning of lockdown and therefore can’t see each other.
The players under 30 in the ranking of Europe’s best 20 players were:
#2 Kylian Mbappe (21) L1
#4 Kevin De Bruyne (29) EPL
#9 Jadon Sancho (20) BDL
#10 Timo Werner (24) EPL
#12 Luis Alberto (27) SA
#14 Alphonso Davies (19) BDL
#16 Ricardo Pereira (26) EPL
#17 Serge Gnabry (25) BDL
#18 Duvan Zapata (29) SA
#19 Adama Traore (24) EPL
#20 Riyad Mahrez (29) EPL
That’s five of the top twenty playing in the Premier League, six if Sancho moves to United.
Three playing in the Bundesliga including Sancho
Two in Serie A
One in Ligue Une
And zero in La Liga.
I think looking at that list and with the ending of an era in Barca and Madrid both in terms of players and finances, the chances are good that the next five years will see another period of English dominance in European competition.
Pulisic, Werner, Foden, Greenwood, Rashford, Traore, Saint-Maxim, Alexander-Arnold, Ndidi, Mount.
All would have been eligible for an U21 World Cup this summer, all are thrilling and all play in the EPL.
It really should be a fun few years.
Let’s get giddy about no transfers
Obviously we as a football culture fetishise transfers to an unhealthy degree. Each day, countless trees are butchered and turned into paper in order to provide a medium for Neil Custis to write some twaddle about Mbappe to Liverpool for £500B. Obviously it is very entertaining to see Harry Redknapp leaning out of a car window to spill the goss or tracking private jets circling over Manchester that might contain Messi, but the real reason we love transfers is that they spell the possibility that our beloved team might improve.
Unfortunately, that is rarely the case. Everton and Aston Villa spaffed enough money around last summer to plug the national deficit, but got nothing in return. Woodward continued to make Man Utd look very silly. Though credit where credit’s due, he has improved from the Fellaini days. And Newcastle refused to activate Rondon’s £16.5M release clause in order to spend £40M on Joelinton – losing their Champions League winning manager in the process. Meanwhile, Liverpool spent zilch and improved by two points. While Chelsea lost their top scorer, snuck Pulisic through the back door, and hardly regressed.
Obviously, big transfers do have a place. Allison and Van Dijk clearly took Liverpool from nearly men to world beaters, while Fabregas and Diego Costa provided a similar spark to Chelsea in 2014. However, spending big money for the sake of it is clearly very foolish.
The takeaway is that maybe we should all learn to get equally excited when are team’s don’t make any transfers.
Let’s get giddy about some transfers
Just a bit of fun, trying to predict how the next month will actually pan out, while the nations rags spread rumours about Daniel Sturridge/Lionel Messi* arriving at your Club (*delete accordingly depending on your level of fantasy and/or horror.)
Here’s my attempt:
Arsenal: Coutinho in a 49m + swap for Guendouzi makes sense for all parties.
Aston Villa: Grealish to stay put. Axel Tuanzebe to come on loan.
Brighton: Ryan Sessegnon in a season long loan deal after he struggles to get a sniff at Mourinho’s Spurs.
Leeds: Josh King to provide Leeds with some finishing ability. Bournemouth will be decimated by the transfer window. At least they’ll have plenty of money to spend!
Leicester: The Tigers steal a march on David Brooks while the top 4 fight over Sancho and Havertz.
Man City: Nathan Ake may just be the most glaringly obvious signing of the transfer window.
Newcastle: Phil Jones arrives for an absurdly overpriced, new money statement-signing. See also: Jesse Lingard.
Sheff Utd: Callum Wilson to reinforce their forward line in time for another top 10 finish.
Plenty of value out there this year. I predict a manic month of swap deals and cut price sales.
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