Boring International Week – Thoughts On The Past Month

There’s been a lot of football played over the past month but work has been hectic and I haven’t found a spare hour or so to just sit down and express my thoughts until now. We’re in the midst of the boring international week which I’m sure no one in the UK enjoys so now seems like a good time to catch up on recent games while there isn’t any meaningful football being played.

I Won Money Betting On The Cup Final 🙂

I said back in January that I’m not much of a gambler but I intended on placing a small bet on the EFL Cup final and that’s exactly what I did. I placed my bet online with SkyBet who I’ve used for various forms of online gambling over the years and I won just over £20 with a bet of around £30 on us to win.

Obviously, this is not life changing money and it’s only something I do once in a while just to add that extra something to the game. My next bet will be on the Europa League final, assuming we get there of course which is what I’m expecting. My previous bet was on the FA cup final last year. I don’t even remember my bet before that because there hasn’t been many special occasions over the past few seasons.

Other than that, I occasionally use Sky for their live roulette site which is a fun way to pass some time when I’m bored. I enjoy the occasional spin of roulette because it’s exciting, unpredictable and very easy to play once you know how. Like my bets on football, my roulette sessions are few and far between, 3 or 4 times a year perhaps. Anything more than that would be unhealthy. If we get to the final, I will be sure to let you know about my bet and how much I win or in the worst case scenario, lose.

Disappointing After The Final

The game after the final was the awful 1 – 1 draw at home to Bournemouth which was a terrible result. Zlatan was particularly poor not only because of the penalty he missed, but the chances he missed too. He’s had games in a United shirt where he’s been completely anonymous but this was definitely his worst game. His obvious elbow just just compounded a very bad day for him which we’re still suffering from now because of the needless ban. It’s easy to forgive him for this poor game though considering that he won the cup final for us the week before.

Then there was the loss at Chelsea which, let’s be honest, no one was really expecting to get anything from anyway. Chelsea have been our bogey team for years and even before Zlatan’s ban, we weren’t the favourites. The sending off for Herrera in the first half completely killed the game even if Rashford did have a great chance which he should’ve scored.

Either side of the Chelsea game, we had the games against Rostov which felt like a dead rubber. Both were incredibly boring and the overall feeling when the games ended was relief that they had finally finished. I’m expecting more of the same in the next games against Anderlecht.

Despite how boring all the games have been so far, I really want to see the team win the Europa League. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not what we should be aspiring for long term but seen as how we’re in it, we may as well make a really push for it and I was very disappointed last season when Van Gaal just gave up against Liverpool.

I would take the Europa League over a top 4 finish without hesitation and Mourinho said something similar last week. The EFL cup and Europa League would mark a prerry decent season, even though there have been several Van Gaalesque results such as the Bournmouth game, Burnley, Stoke and several others.

Everybody Hates The International Week

Like most fans of Premier League clubs, I hate the International break. Living in Scotland, I have friends who don’t follow the Premier League and enjoy watching Scotland play (even though we’re rubbish) but I’m not interested at all. For me, it’s two weeks of no football.

It’s worse at the start of the season when it seems that there’s an international break every few weeks which ruins the flow of the season. At least with this international break, as annoying as it is, it’s the first in a few months and there won’t be another before the end of the season. I wish they would just do away with the mid season international friendlies altogether.

Hard Run Until The End Of The Season

There are 11 games to go until the end of the season and the top 4 is still in our own hands, despite all the disappointing draws. The next 3 games could be described as “winnable” although when you are Manchester United almost every game should be described as winnable. The next 3 games are home to West Brom, Everton and then away at Sunderland.

The West Brom game should be an easy win but as we’ve seen multiple times this season, the home games against mid to lower table teams have been extremely frustrating and have largely ended in disappointment. While Everton are a good side, I’m actually expecting it to be an easier game than West Brom because they’ll actually try and play football and the game at Sunderland should be an easy win.

Following these games, things get more difficult with games away at Arsenal, Spurs and Man City to come, as well as the home game against Chelsea. If we’re to get in the top 4, we really need to be getting as many points as possible in the games leading up to our clashes against the top 4 rivals. There’s also the fact that around these crunch games with our rivals, there’ll be the Europa League games too. It’s certainly going to be an intense 8 weeks until the end of these season and I suspect that by the next time I post here, we’ll have a much clearer idea about which direction the season is heading in.

What The F**k Is Going On?

Every time I see a United team sheet recently, this is pretty much my reaction,

The reason for this reaction? The exclusion of our best player, Anthony Martial. He has been in and out of the team all season and it seems to have gotten worse since Christmas. The really frustrating thing about all of this is that Mourinho seems to be singling him out for critisicm and holding him to a far higher standard than everyone else in the squad.

Here are a few Jose Mourinho quotes on Martial over the past few weeks.

“You have one opportunity, you have two, you have three – if you don’t bite then somebody comes and takes the bait” – 25th November 2016

“Anthony has to listen to me and not his agent. He has to listen to me.” – 1st January 2017

“He didn’t catch with both hands a big opportunity he had.” 25th January 2017

“He has done enough to be on the bench.” 31st January 2017

This is just the tip of the iceberg. Regarding that last comment about doing enough to “be on the bench”, he said that in the aftermath of the Wigan game and before the Hull game. Prior to the Wigan game, Mourinho said that Martial would start against Hull if he played “amazingly”.

Well, he got two assists and had a perfectly good goal disallowed and he still didn’t start the next game. Worse still, Mourinho started going on about how Mkhitaryan was ahead of him and as a result, Martial had “done enough to be on the bench”.

The thing is, they both started the game against Wigan but only Mkhitaryan lined up against Hull. It was not Mkhitaryan who replaced Martial, but Rashford. What had Rashford done to warrant taking Martial’s place?

It doesn’t matter that Rashford’s numbers, in every measurable way, are worse than Martial’s this season. It doesn’t matter that Rashford runs the ball out of play every single game and looks like a headless chicken, he has well and truly taken Martial’s place. He has started the last 3 games in a row and done almost nothing. Martial assists two and gets dropped for several games on end. It makes no sense.

On top of that, you’ve got two untouchables in Pogba and Zlatan who are the first names on the team sheet regardless of form and prior performances. Pogba has been abysmal since Christmas and had the worst collective performance of any United player this season against Liverpool.

Zlatan can plod around the pitch for 90 minutes and do absolutely nothing but he’s still guaranteed to start the next game. While I don’t like the thought of having untouchables in the squad, I can understand it at the same time. Pogba, while being terrible for weeks, is capable of brilliance and winning a game as we saw at Middlesbrough. While Zlatan isn’t doing much of anything if he isn’t scoring, he has found the net 20 times already this season.

What I can’t understand though is why these two get a free pass in the hope of what they “may” do and Martial not only doesn’t get this kind of treatment, but needs a 10/10 performance just to start the next game. As far as I’m concerned, Martial is the most talented player in the squad and is more than capable of being one of the best players in the world.

We all saw what he was capable of last season so if anyone should be getting a free pass in the hope of what they may be able to do, it’s Martial. My paranoia in this situation is being fuelled by Morinho’s track record with young players who he’s let go and have gone on to be superstars once they left, De Bruyne and Lukaku being the most obvious two.

There’s even talk amongst fans of Martial becoming a “sacrificial lamb” in Mourinho’s attempt to stamp out insubordination and install a “winning mentality” back into the squad. Well I’m putting this on record right now. If Martial leaves in the summer I will never forgive Mourinho. Even if he goes on to win the league, I will never take to him and I know of several fans who feel the same.

There’s been constant talk of him leaving over the past couple of months and Martial himself responded with this tweet the other day.

I would take these words with a pinch of salt. If Mourinho continues to freeze him out the way he has been doing, I would be amazed if Martial sees out the summer and if he walks out of the door, he will be taking my support for Mourinho with him. As I said in the past, I wanted Mourinho to take charge and was glad when the club got rid of LVG so that they could get him, but getting rid of one of the world’s best young players as part of a stupid mind game is unacceptable.

Wayne Rooney – Manchester United Legend

Many Manchester United fans, myself included, have regarded Wayne Rooney as a club legend for several years now. Well, his place amongst the legends in now undisputable because he is the club’s all time leading goal scorer. It was nice that the goal to break the record at Stoke was a stunning last minute free kick that was actually worth something. With his obvious decline over the past few years, you felt like he would limp over the line with either meaningless goals in the Europa League or easy finishes against lower league opposition in one of the cups.

The goal against Stoke was only his second in the league all season and he will be lucky to get two more in the rest of the campaign. With how bad he’s been over the past few seasons, it’s easy to forget how good he was in his first 10 years at the club. He is a legend in every sense of the word and he will probably only be appreciated in 20 years when fans have had enough time to forget about his decline.

The Early Decline

It’s really remarkable how young Rooney was when he started to decline. He was our best outfield player during the David Moyes debacle and I would still regard that as a very good season for him with 19 goals and a similar number of assists. If you’re in a generous mood, you would still say that Rooney was at the top of his game in the 13/14 season, especially when you consider he was playing for a useless manager (David Moyes) and half of his team mates had given up and didn’t bother trying.

There’s no denying though that when Van Gaal became manager, the rather rapid decline began. He was just 28 when Van Gaal walked through the door. While he was noticeably worse and stuck in an obvious decline under Van Gaal, especially in the first half of last season when he was utterly dreadful, it’s hard to know how much of that is down to Wayne himself and the awful brand of football that Van Gaal played which could go games on end without producing more than one shot on target.

What we’re left with now though is a 31 year old Rooney and he looks like a 40 year old. While most footballers start their decline at 31, Rooney is pretty much at rock bottom. He can’t get in the team, fans don’t want to see him in the starting line up anymore and it is widely accepted that his best days are well and truly behind him.

Now that he’s got the record, there’s constant talk of a summer move to either China or the USA for a fat pay cheque. The sad thing is, I hope he goes in the summer. I don’t want the club to auction him off to the highest bidder, just give him away so he can choose his preferred destination and I think the club will do the right thing in this regard.

It’s time for Martial, Rashford, Pogba and (hopefully) the incoming Griezmann to be given a real chance to spear head United’s future without Rooney getting in the way. For 10 years, Rooney was good enough to be a leading figure in a title challenging side. Those days are gone and it’s time for a clean break for all parties.

Today, Rooney has the odd moment of the old brilliance in him, as we saw at Stoke, but those moments are few and far between. As he gets older, it’s likely that he will continue on this downward trajectory and rather than being a permanent feature on the bench, he would be better off elsewhere and United would be better off giving young blood his place, not to mention the obscene wages he’s on.

Did He Fulfil His Potential?

A common accusation that fans throw at Rooney is that he didn’t reach his full potential. I think a big reason for this is because of the heights that Ronaldo has gone on to reach and Rooney was the better of the two in 2005 and 2006. This isn’t really a fair comparison though because Ronaldo has gone on to reach stratospheric levels, a level that only a handful of players have reached in the history of the game.

I could go on for days about why Rooney did in fact reach his potential but it is best summed up like this: he is the leading goal scorer for both England and Manchester United, breaking a record that stood for 40 years. Many great players had their shot at both these records and were not able to reach them, Wayne Rooney did. Of course he reached his potential.

My Favourite Rooney Moments

Most people talk about the overhead goal vs City or the Newcastle goal, both of which were fantastic, but I’ve seen them so much that I’ve become numb to their brilliance. One of my favourite Rooney moments was his hat-trick vs West Ham in 2011. At the beginning of the 10/11 season he was awful, there were allegations in the press about his private life, there was the transfer request and the conflicting stories about his injuries. In the calendar year of 2011 he was fantastic and his hat trick vs West Ham will always be one of my favourites. 2-0 down at half time, Rooney steps up with a fantastic second half hat-trick which helped us on the way to the title.

Another of my favourites was his goal against Everton at Goodison Park at the end of the 06/07 season, Rooney’s first Premier League winning season. Again, 2-0 down at half time, United come back to win 2-4 with Rooney scoring the third. This was a pivotal win as we won the league for the first time since 2003. Something else I loved about this goal was the way he celebrated in front of the Everton fans.

Here are two YouTube with some of his best goals. This first one is 10 of his best goals for United, complete with English commentary. These wouldn’t be my best 10 Rooney goals but then again, choosing just 10 would be very difficult because he’s scored so many great goals.

This next one is called 50 best goals for Manchester United which is misleading because in this video there’s a mix of United, England and even his Everton goal against Arsenal. On top of that, there’s annoying music in the background and the picture itself has been shaved as is so often the case with these YouTube goal compilations. Despite the overall poor quality, many of his best goals can be found in this video.

So far, I haven’t found a YouTube video with all 250 of his United goals although I’m sure plenty of them will crop up over the next few months. MUTV have a show running which contains all 250 of his goals which I’ve watched. The only problem is that the commentary on the majority of his goals (and all of them from the last 6 years or so) is from the MUTV commentators and I can’t help but preferring the BBC, Sky, BT, Setanta and whoever else has broadcast United games since Rooney signed.

If he does go in the summer, I will naturally be very sad about it, even though I realise it’s for the best, both for himself and the club. He’s a once in a generation talent and as a Manchester United fan, I’ve been very lucky to have watched him in a United shirt on so many occasions and it will be sad when it inevitably comes to an end, regardless of how poor he’s been over the past couple of seasons.

Disappointing Liverpool Game, Awful Stoke Game

A few months ago, I wrote after the game at Anfield and I described Liverpool as being “Mourinho’d” such was that we shut them out and frustrated them, just as Mourinho has done in the past. That was all well and good at the time, especially when you considering the poor form we were in and the fact that we were away from home.

Coming into last weekend’s game, my expectations were entirely different. Considering the winning run we’ve been on, the poor games that Liverpool have had recently and the fact that we were at home, I was expecting nothing but a win. I was very disappointed with how things unfolded. It was the most disappointing game since the City game, which was admittedly worse.

The whole team performance was bad with many individual mistakes, a few golden opportunities missed and no real rhythm or urgency to the game. Speaking of individual mistakes, Pogba was as guilty as anyone. For their penalty, he made himself look a dummy. You really have to see it again to appreciate how bad it is.

All footballers have bad games and this was Pogba’s worst in a United shirt. He’s had a few poor performances but his showing against Liverpool was by far the worst. It wasn’t just the penalty he gave away either. Prior to that, he was one on one with the goalkeeper and he had a very tame effort which he put well wide with very little power.

Of course there was the penalty, then there was another occasion where he was dilly daddling on the ball in our own half, lost the ball and Liverpool nearly scored. I’ve noticed that he has a habit of holding on to the ball in midfield more than necessary. Many times, he will keep the ball for 4 or 5 seconds before moving it forward and you’re left thinking that the ball could’ve been moved on in 2 or 3 seconds instead.

More annoyingly than that though, he seems to have some kind of allergy to doing the simple thing. When he picks the ball up in midfield, he wants to dribble someone. He wants to out muscle someone. He wants to do a step over. He doesn’t want to just pass and move. If he is to become a player the justifies the tag of world’s most expensive player, he needs to learn when to hold the ball, when to dribble and when to move it quickly.

Garbage Again At Stoke – I don’t know if the stereotypical view of “cold Tuesday at Stoke” plays on the players’ minds  because we never do well their. Rooney scoring the fabulous equaliser made the headlines for obvious reasons, but it’s another performance that I was very disappointed with.

Some fans would say that I’m insane. They’d point to the amount of chances we created and the lack of chances that Stoke created. I would counter that by saying that this is not a one off. We now have the most draws in the Premier League and it’s because of the team consistently missing easy chances. We’ve seen it time and time again this season.

Looking To The Future – A Day At Wembley? – Last night, Liverpool managed to have another dreadful game and get themselves knocked out of the League Cup, putting Southampton in the final. Unless there’s a real debacle tonight, we will be there too seen as how we have a 2-0 advantage over Hull moving into tonight’s game.

Let’s have it right, the League Cup is a “Mikey Mouse” cup but it’s a cup nonetheless. A remember growing up, Fergie never used to field a strong team and we never went very far in it, but his attitude seemed to change in his last 10 years and we had numerous final appearances.

Now I’m not much of a gambler, but if we go through tonight, which I fully expect us to, I will place a small bet on us winning the cup. I did this last year in FA cup final and I find it adds that extra dimension of excitement and tension to the game. I will be sure to post about it when the time’s right. I also intend on doing a piece dedicated to our record goal scorer, Wayne Rooney. I touched on it higher up, but the achievement is deserving of its own piece, hopefully with a few YouTube videos showing every goals he’s scored which nobody seems to have uploaded yet.