Please Jose, Leave Chris Smalling On The Bench!

When last I wrote here, it was after the miserable run of form in November where United were seemingly losing further touch with the top 4 every week. What a differeance a month makes! We have now won three games in a row, performances are picking up and we are very much back in touch with the top 4 which as I said a few month ago, would be more than enough for me this season.

I will be the first to admit that when I wrote the last post, I was frustrated by the trend of frustrating results but one thing I absolutely stand by is my criticism of Chris Smalling. He’s been out for the past month and as far as I’m concerned, it’s no coincidence that we’re winning and looking far more comfortable at the back in his absence.

Rojo and Jones Have Been A Revelation

With Eric Bailly injured I feared for our defence but it has to be said, Jones and Rojo have really stepped up to the plate. They’ve been so good that I hope Bailly does not come back into the team until after the Africa Cup of Nations unless it’s because Jose wants to rotate the squad during the festive period.

If he were to come back into the team automatically now, it would only be for a handful of games over the Christmas period before he’s off to represent his country. Jones and Rojo are doing so well that it makes no sense to break up what is turning into a fantastic partnership for the sake of a few games.

The problem is though, with the hectic Christmas period upon us, it’s highly likely that the squad is going to be rotated and it wouldn’t at all surprise me if Jones is rested for at least one game, especially with his injury record.

If the squad is to be rotated, that leaves the door open for both Smalling and Bailly and I have this horrible feeling inside that it will be Smalling that gets the nod with Bailly’s upcoming departure. I really don’t want him to get his foot back in the door of the first team. I want him on the sub’s bench where he belongs or better yet, sold off so I can just forget about him.

I hate how rubbish he is on the ball and I hate the panic you can sense from him every time he’s in possession and put under pressure because he doesn’t have the skill or finesse to look up and pick a pass to get himself out of trouble. I honestly thinks he’s the worst player with a football at his feet that I’ve ever seen representing Manchester United.

Please Jose, leave Chris Smalling on the bench over Christmas, I’m begging you! If you are to rotate the squad, bring in Bailly, bring in Blind. Heck, bring in Fosu-Mensah. I think all of this is wishful thinking though. I believe Jose will stick with Jones and Rojo but Smalling will manage to worm his way back into the starting line up via a rotation system and who knows where things will go from there?

It wouldn’t surprise me if he remains in the team until he messes up another game, like he did against Manchester City, like he did against Chelsea, like he tried to do in both the semi and FA cup final. We’ll have to wait and see.

Then again, maybe I have no idea what I’m talking about and Smalling will come back into the team and prove his worth, as Jones and Rojo have. When I say that I may have no idea what I’m talking about, I’m certainly not alone.

For example, you could take a look at the first few pages of the Phil Jones Performances thread from which is a large Manchester United fans’ forum. The first few pages, which are about his injuries at the start of the season before he got into the team, make for very entertaining reading. Here are a few of my favourite quotes (I’m paraphrasing slightly).

  • Rip up his contract
  • Give him away to anyone that will take him
  • Joke of a footballer
  • Worst thing we ever did was give him a 4 year contract
  • How anyone could have any hope that he’ll make it is beyond me

With how he’s playing at the moment, these comments look ridiculous just a few months down the road. Maybe at the end of the season I will look just as clueless with my comments about Smalling. I would love to look clueless and for Smalling to prove me wrong. Come on Chris, prove me wrong if Jose puts you back in the team.

A Miserable Month And Miles Off The Pace

It’s been around a month since I last wrote here and that was post Liverpool away which I thought was a fantastic result. Problem is, it’s been one step forward and two steps back in the month since that night and we now languish in 6th in the table. 6 points away from the top 4.

Just a few days later there was what can only be described as a humiliation away at Chelsea, the bore draw with Burnley, an easy win at Swansea and now more points just thrown away against Arsenal. I said in my first post that top 4 would be enough for me this season but even that is now starting to look optimistic. Here are a few of my thoughts which I’d like to put out there. I’d like to think that these are not knee jerk reactions to the poor form the team is in, but are rational opinions.

Chris Smalling Is Useless – I have never been a fan of Smalling because, quite simply, he is rubbish on the ball. We’ve seen the big deal that Guardiola made about needing a Goalkeeper who can play out from the back, well we don’t even have a centre back who can play the ball out.

The way Smalling adjusts his body to kick or control a football is awful to watch and it’s obvious to anyone that it doesn’t come naturally to him. That would be all well and good if he was a rock of a defender but I really don’t know what people see in him.

I will be the first to admit that at the start of last season, he was an absolute tank and it looked like he had finally turned a corner. At the time, Van Gaal was calling him Mike for some reason, and someone joked that it was as if Smalling truly believed that he was Mike Smalling and he had forgotten everything that was holding Chris Smalling back.

In the Calendar year of 2016, he’s back to regular old Chris Smalling and it isn’t a change for the better. He ended last season in awful fashion by trying to botch up both the semi and FA cup final and he hasn’t started this season any better.

I blame Chelsea’s first goal on Smalling and that set the tone for the rest of the game. I’ve noticed that he has this habit of being a football shepherd where he’ll stick his arms out for someone else to come and get the ball when he should just take control of the situation himself.

Then there’s his blatant shirt pulling. He’s a penalty waiting to happen with the increased scrutiny on shirt pulling this season. And yet, he’s vice captain of Manchester United. It really does blow my mind. It’s no surprise to me that he’s been dropped by England but I fear there’s many more seasons of him and his poor touch haunting the United defence.

Rahsford Is Overhyped and Over Played – It’s clear to anyone that’s been watching that Rashford needs some time out of the spotlight and out of the team. He was awful against Arsenal and I don’t recall him winning a single dual in the air. To top it off, their late equaliser was clearly his fault which can be put down to naivety and inexperience.

For all the criticism that Zlatan has faced, he would probably have been far more useful against Arsenal than Rashford turned out to be. One thing I am sick of is seeing is Rashford on the wing. He is not a winger, it’s clear as rock water. His close ball control is nowhere near as good as Martial’s and he is nowhere near as dangerous. Rashford’s only trick is to boot the ball a mile ahead of himself and beat the defender for pace but he rarely gets the space to do so, hence why we often see him just run the ball out of play when he’s on the wing.

You could say that the goal against Arsenal came as a result of him being shunted onto the wing where he is out of his depth. He either needs to play up front waiting to score or not at all. Following this display against Arsenal, I would gladly see Zlatan come back into the team and Rashford on the bench.

Overall, we’ve seen very little from Rashford this season to justify his place in the team. There was the last minute winner against Hull which was a case of right place at the right time (one of his better qualities) and a well taken goal at Watford which ultimately proved to be pointless. He scored against Leicester too but he was awful that game and I recall him just running the ball out of play on multiple occasions.

Nothing in football would make me happier than seeing Rashford succeed at the top level with United but at the moment he looks a long way away from doing so. I don’t want to see him in the starting line up for the next few games and I certainly don’t want to see him keeping Martial out of the team when Martial is clearly the more talented player.

Liverpool Get Mourinho’d, Again!

Last night’s game at Anfield was a fantastic display and result. Forget what you read in the media about 35% possession, no identity and negative; it was a good result. Leading up to the game, Liverpool were the heavy favourites and they were well and truly brought back down to earth by a very well drilled and disciplined United team and we should have won had it not been for the awful miss from Zlatan.

I really liked Mourinho’s comments after the game about Liverpool “not being the last wonder of the world” which is a snipe at the media who have been hyping them up for the past week. Mourinho used the same tactics he’s used against Liverpool in the past and Anfield was the quietest it’s ever been. You could hear their bench shouting instructions throughout the game it was so quiet. The game plan was to slow the temp down, frustrate Liverpool, stop them pressing in the midfield, win the duals in the air via the long ball and hit them with a sucker punch. It would’ve gone to plan had Zlatan not messed up his header in the second half.

My Summary Of The Game

Zlatan was dreadful – He was slow all night, his hold up play left a lot to be desired and he gave the ball away several times. To top it off he had that awful miss where he should have at least hit the target but he instead put it across the face of goal. It’s hard to know whether or not he was actually going for goal or putting it back across for someone else which seems like a strange thing to do seen as how there was no one within 15 yards of him and he would surely have known that. Whatever his intentions where, he made a right old mess of it and he was our worst player on the night.

Herrera stepping up – I’ve never really taken to Herrera like most other fans have but he was well deserving of his man of the match last night. If he can put in more performances like that, his place in the starting 11 will finally be nailed on.

Rashford is not a winger – I’m getting a bit tired of seeing Rashford starting on the wing. Either play him up front or don’t bother. His close control is nowhere near as good as Martial’s because he just boots the ball a mile ahead of himself and tries to run on to it. Every game he gives possession away either by hitting the ball too far ahead of himself or by running it out of play. Incidentally, I’m becoming very concerned about Martial who is clearly more talented than Rashford and I am probably going to do a post about this in a couple of weeks if things don’t change.

De Gea being De Gea – I see some Liverpool fans online saying that United only got the draw because of two great saves by De Gea. My response to that is simple. He’s the best goalkeeper in the world and this is just what he does. He’s part of the Manchester United team and he did the job that all United fans have come to expect from him. There’s nothing to see here.

While a win is better than a draw, there’s no doubt in my mind that the result last night was better for United than for Liverpool and our fans will certainly be happier both with the result and the performance. With another tough trip to Chelsea coming this weekend, it was important to avoid going there on the back of a loss and that’s exactly what we’ve done.



Ben Haines The Manchester United Fan

For the past 30 years, I have been a passionate supporter of Manchester United. In my earliest years as a fan I remember us being pretty bad in the early Sir Alex Ferguson Years. Then throughout high school, college and my early years as an adult, it was unprecedented success and looking back, I loved every moment.

Since Ferguson retired, it feels like we’re going back to the old days. I remember the day when David Moyes was appointed as manager and I never had a good feeling about the appointment. He’d never won anything previously and I was desperately disappointed that we didn’t just get Mourinho (a mistake we corrected 3 years later but with much uncertainty moving forward).

I never had any faith in David Moyes and his season in charge was abysmal. It’s clear to the whole world that he was a man out of his depth and I kind of felt sorry for him at the time but that sympathy has turned to anger with comments he’s made since he’s left. He will tell anyone that will listen about how he had a six year contract and that if he knew he was only staying 10 months, he would’ve done things differently. Shut David, you just weren’t up to the task.

David Moyes in his office

Take a look at this man. David Moyes, the man who was has since been to Spain and failed miserably, the man who is now bottom of the table with Sunderland having not won a game in seven attempts, was manager of Manchester United. Let that sink in.

Then came Louis Van Gaal and again, I was not overly optimistic about his appointment but I was at least more optimistic about it than I was about Moyes. On the one hand, LVG had been sacked by Barcelona, sacked (in disgrace) by Bayern Munich and had failed to get the Netherlands to the world cup in 2002.

On the other hand, he was coming off the back of very respectable 2014 world cup with the Netherlands, he had won league titles everywhere he’d been and there weren’t any other managers realistically available at the time. What I did not expect from LVG was the garbage football that plagued his entire tenure and left me counting the days until his sacking.

2014-2015: LVG achieves the bare minimum and I back him no end

Right from the beginning of his first season, the aim was to get back into the top four. The “rat race” as LVG named it. He achieved this goal with a brilliant run at the end of the season with wins against Spurs, City and the Scousers. Even though the last few games were garbage with drab draws and defeats, the goal had been achieved.

The were murmurs throughout LVG’s first season that the football was terrible and not at all in line with the “United Way”. I backed him throughout the first season, perhaps even lying to myself in the process.

I kept saying that it was his first season, he didn’t have much of a pre season because of the World Cup and he needed another transfer window to bring in the players he wanted. My belief was that so long as we got top 4 in the 2014-2015 season, we would sign some top players and mount a serious title challenge in 2015-2016.

2015-2016: LVG goes backwards

My enthusiasm for Louis Van Gaal and his “philosophy” was completely drained out of me by November 2015 and I was in the “LVG Out” camp by January 2016. Instead of building on the previous season, it just got worse and worse.

The football went from boring to utter garbage and with the exception of Martial, the signings were a disaster. Memphis Depay is perhaps the most disappointing signing in Manchester United history. 2015-2016 was a record breaking season for all the wrong reasons with lack of goals and chances created.

I’m a little ashamed to admit it, but after LVG managed to survive in January I was actually hoping we would lose the FA cup semi final and miss out on the top 4 so that LVG would be sacked. It was clear that he wasn’t going to turn things around in his third season and I was sick watching his boring, sideways football every week.

We finally get Mourinho, but under a cloud

Three years too late, we finally appointed Mourinho as manager, the first appointment that I fully backed since the departure of SAF. Even with Mourinho, there are so many unanswered questions and uncertainty moving forwards because of his capitulation at Chelsea.

Despite his Chelsea meltdown, I 100% supported the appointment of Mourinho and still do now, despite the indifferent start to the season. It’s going to be an interesting season with many tough games and teams ahead.

Here in my first post, I am going to come out with my hopes for the season: top 4 is good enough for me! It sounds like LVG all over again, but I would genuinely be happy with a top 4 finish in Mourinho’s first season, providing of course that he builds on it and mounts a title challenge in his second season.

The league is more competitive than it’s ever been and the times of winning the league three times in a row are gone. With the next two games being away at Liverpool and Chelsea, we could be a long way off top 4 in a few weeks.

It’s going to be interesting to look back at this post at the end of the season and see whether or not my perspective on things has changed, just s it did with LVG as I became more and more tired of him.