Tuesday, September 3, 2013

5 Takeaways From This Transfer Window

John Peters/Man United via Getty Images
The transfer window closed last night to a fanfare of angry, confused and bewildered tweets flying around Twitter as fast as people’s fingers could type. In the end, saying it wasn’t a very pretty window would be an understatement. We signed only one player – a player who cost us 4.5m more than he had to if we had just pulled the trigger a few weeks earlier before his release clause expired. It was a frantic last 24 hours and a lot of lessons were learned. Below are my 5 takeaways from this summer’s transfer window.

1. It’s no surprise, but waiting until the last minute to do transfer business is almost never beneficial. Moyes had been coy all summer stating that he was looking to bring in some players, but that he felt comfortable with the players that he had. A page out of Fergie’s book, but on deadline day, the hectic nature of how we conducted our business seemed to suggest otherwise. If Fellaini was a legit target all summer, we should have triggered his release clause and moved on to other business. We ended up signing Fellaini at the 11th hour and completely botched the transfer of Ander Herrera. If the Fellaini business had been taken care of weeks ago, we could have secured Herrera long before yesterday, successfully hurdling the complicated Spanish tax laws that deterred us from signing him at the last minute.

2. If you try to sign a player and the bid is continually rejected, just stop. I lost count of how many bids we had for Fabregas, even after they said he wasn’t leaving and the player himself said he was happy in Spain. While he and Fellaini are completely different players, the desperate attempts to sign Fabregas, to me, sent a message we needed someone in after all. Fast forward to last night where we were forced, at the very last minute, to overpay for a player we could’ve had weeks ago.

3. Last year, before Evra turned his act around, I was an advocate for bringing in someone like Baines. I wasn’t over the moon for Baines, but if we could get him cheap enough last year, I was all for it. However, we’ve needed a MF for years and the continued attempt to sign Baines (and Coentrao at the last minute) was a totally misguided avenue and one I’m still a little perplexed by. What kind of message does that send to Evra? And, what kind of message does it send that, while we’re clamoring for a MF, you’re looking to bring in a left back when we really don’t need one? The answer? Not a good one.

4. No one is immune to growing pains. I’ll advocate for Moyes as long as he’s our manager. Unless something catastrophically bad happens and it was his doing, you’ll never hear or see me utter the phrase “Moyes out,” like some of our rival teams’ fans have done in abundance over the last 18 or so months. I will say that Moyes isn’t an unseasoned manager. With his appointment basically chosen by SAF himself, I expected a much more focused and fruitful transfer window. Woodward as CEO is probably to blame for most of it, but in the end, we’re Manchester United and stuff like what happened yesterday should never have happened. I hope it served as an eye-opening lesson because if something like that happens again, some people will be without their jobs.

5. Forget all the botched transfers we had this past window. It’s over and let’s move on. Fellaini, while some think he’s not worth 27.5m, is the kind of player I think we need in the MF with Carrick. While Carrick had arguably his best season last year, we still knew we needed someone to partner with him. Cleverley played well in a dismal performance at Anfield, but Fellaini is the type of player to grab a hold of the MF and help dictate the tempo and flow of the game. To say we’ve been poor on aerial balls in the last few seasons would be an understatement. Fellaini brings the ability to win the balls in the air, hold up play and be a nasty boss in the MF, the likes of which we haven’t seen since Roy Keane. Will he solve all our problems? Most likely not, but he does fill a very specific void we’ve been looking to address for years. Forget the pricetag. If he helps us win another title, it’ll be just as good an investment as 24m for RVP last year.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

10 Things We've Learned and Relearned About United

Well, I need to start this post by officially eating crow for my last post. I sincerely didn’t think we’d sign RVP. I mean, come on, it’s RVP and it was Arsenal. Joey Barton helping an old lady across the street was more likely to happen. With that said, we’ve played 3 matches so far as we head in to the completely pointless and unnecessarily nerve-wrecking international break. An injury crisis that needs no introduction, as well as any new members, is what’s lurking in the distance as we wait for the next week to be over. So, as we sit in angst – eyes shut and fingers crossed – here are 10 things we’ve learned and relearned about United over the course of the first 3 matches.

1. RVP = MVP

Sure, we knew how special he was at Arsenal, but any fan who tells you they were 100% confident he’d perform at United is lying. While he played all league matches for Arsenal last year, critics, pundits, and ITKs always seemed to point at his track record of injury. People said we wasted 24m to get him and that it would all backfire. We’re only 3 matches into the season, so it’s way too early to tell, but there’s no way we’d have 6 points at this stage without RVP. Rooney showing up in the condition he was in paved the way for RVP to swoop in and save the day. He singlehandedly earned us 3 points against Southampton. I’d say that’s a good start to making it all worth 24m.

2. Bubonic Injury Plague

I have no idea what’s in the water at United, but I certainly wouldn’t drink it. Our injury record over the last three seasons is truly staggering. I was a conspiracy theorist with my last post about the IPO and RVP, but there’s something amuck with fitness and training at United. It continues to be a problem that we can’t solve. For me, it’s one of two things. It’s either we have players with brittle bones or there’s something wrong with our training and physio. Something needs to be addressed because Michael Carrick (our best MF last year) at CB and Antonio Valencia (our best winger and best player last season) at RB just won’t fly.

3. Nani, Are You Okay?

Everton away to start the season was always going to be a tough task. They were 3rd in the league in goals allowed last season, so it was never going to be a walk in the park. Throw in Carrick at CB, Valencia at RB, and our uncanny ability to not stop Fellaini and we were doomed. However, a player who had a chance to silence doubters who question his loyalty, consistency, and overall value to United, did nothing to help his case. To put it mildly, he was awful. His absence from Old Trafford during the second match only stirred the pot that he wasn’t going to be a United player on deadline day. Turns out he is still our player, but his substitute appearance at Southampton simply continued his run of inconsistency. He is such a great player, but he needs to sit down with himself and get rid of whatever uncertainties he’s having. When he’s on, I’d argue there isn’t another player in the league more capable of taking over a game. That’s the Nani I miss.

4. Kagawa Might Be The Signing of The Year

I said this after the first game and even though RVP has been nothing short of heroic, I do think that Shinji will be our best signing of the year. Unless there is a great CMF available in the January transfer window, we won’t sign anyone. A team like United that’s unwilling to spend the kind of money in MF won’t reach further into the pockets in the inflated January window. Kagawa is the type of player we haven’t seen in a long time. His movement and awareness is unbelievable. While it’s only been a few matches, I can tell that his ability to see into the final third will help us out tremendously. The ball sticks to his feet and he finds space so well that you almost don’t need 4 in the MF when he’s there. I can’t wait to see more of him because he’s the type of player to be a catalyst going forward.

5. Rooney’s Unacceptable Fitness Woes

Wayne Rooney, you’re a professional. There’s no excuse to come into a new season in the shape you were in. I don’t care what you do in the offseason, but when you show up for the first match of the season, you should be lean and able to run 90 mins without any problems. People pointing at his recent thigh injury as a chance to get in shape seems counterproductive given that he will be out of commission with his leg up, keeping him off the training ground. Whatever clarity this time-out brings, Rooney needs to rededicate himself to United. Questions swirling around whether or not he’ll leave United will always be there – it’s Wayne Rooney. But, while he’s here, he should make sure he doesn’t give fans – and SAF – any more ammunition. Show up in a month’s time ready to play and be the talisman we need and all we’ll forget you currently look like Ando during last year’s summer tour.

6. We Desperately Need a Solid Back 4

I remember a few seasons back when we went 14 consecutive games with a clean sheet. During that year – and that stretch – I NEVER felt uneasy as teams would come at us. Now, any movement towards the back third makes me nervous. We used to boss the aerial ball (Vidic) and our keeper used to have the confidence to go after the ball on set pieces and corner kicks (VDS). Now, something just isn’t right. The constant shuffling in the back and Vidic being out for a large portion of last year doesn’t help. What needs to happen is our players need to get fit and they need to claim the position as their own. Buttner needs to challenge Evra. Rafa needs to battle for permanent right back. And we need to see Smalling, Jones, and Evans in there making a case for permanent places. Rio is getting up there and Evans was superb last year in Vidic’s absence, so I’d love to see that pairing work out. Whatever it is, we need some consistency. It’s the only way we’ll survive this season in the back.

7. De Gea Stills Needs More Confidence

You simply can’t argue the fact that De Gea was the best shot stopper in the Prem last year. The stats confirmed it. My eyes confirmed it. He needed to bulk up and you can see that he did. You also can’t argue the fact that his confidence and his timing is still off. He’s unsure of himself on corners and some set pieces. Direct shots are where he shines, but when a ball gets put into the box, something happens and he’s like a fish out of water. We watched him battle the critics – and himself – to be an amazing keeper last season. I’m certain that he can make the adjustments he needs to, but he needs to make them quickly. With issues at the back, we can’t afford to have a liability between the posts, too.

8.Where’s the Magic in the MF?

I take back what I said in #1 about RVP single-handedly earning us 3 points at Southampton. Paul Scholes had A LOT to do with that. But, therein lies the problem. Scholesy is pushing 40 years old. It shouldn’t take a nearly 40 year old man who came out of retirement to help United to bring our MF together after 70 minutes of flaccid play. Let’s get something clear – our MF, passing, and space between MF and defense at Southampton was atrocious. Then Paul Scholes comes on and we pull out a page from the United teams of the 90s. We’ve made a habit of patching holes in the MF over the last few seasons, but the time will come when we can’t look to the bench and bring on magician Paul Scholes. Kagawa is helping in his CAM role and maybe Carrick – who was awful at the weekend – will get back in the groove of 2011/2012. Whatever it is, it needs to happen sooner rather than later.

9. Having Options Up Front Isn’t a Bad Thing

People thought that when we brought in RVP we would get rid of someone. We did and it was Berba. They said that we didn’t need 4 strikers. They said we wasted money on RVP that should’ve been used for a CMF. With the investment in van Persie paying off, we need to understand that having attacking options isn’t a bad thing. I hate to say it, but look at City last year. Their attacking was really potent. Granted, they had a sensational MF in Silva and Toure, but they had options up front. With RVP, Rooney, Welbeck, and Chicharito, we have options. Chicharito, while he didn’t touch the ball a lot at Southampton, had a work rate that opened play up for us. He hustles all the time and is happy to earn his spot on the team. Welbeck welcomed the challenge of fighting for a regular role. Rooney has to battle to get back to fitness or he isn’t guaranteed a role. Look at what we did to Berbatov, someone who was joint top scorer and helped us win the Prem. We sat him. Now, whether they’re lying and are resentful about the attacking plethora, it doesn’t matter. What I can say is that if you’re fighting for a spot, you’re going to go out every minute you’re on the pitch and show SAF why you deserve to be there. That will translate into goals. And that’s something we lacked last season.

10. The United of Yesteryear Isn’t Dead Yet

Over the course of the last three or so seasons, commentators – when United was trailing late – would always make a reference to our ability to score late goals. They’d simply state that United are always capable of a last minute brace, but being capable simply didn’t pan out. We found ourselves trailing more than we had in the past and we found ourselves unable to breakthrough and get that last minute goal United had become famous for. I might be jumping the gun, but our heroic comeback at Southampton is proof, for me, that we are still capable of pulling one from the depths. I’d rather not have to search for a last minute goal, but instead be leading all game long. Of course that’s not realistic, so it’s nice to know that we still have it in us to score a late winner.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The IPO That Could Save United

 For two seasons we’ve been calling for two things: a central midfielder and for someone to eradicate the Glazers from ownership of our club. As of yet, neither has happened. And as unbelievable as that sounds, it could happen and it could be a “two birds with one stone” kind of thing. Now, there are always variables at play when it comes to players coming and going, especially with horrible owners like the Glazers. But, if there were no Glazers, the betterment of our club would hopefully come to the forefront of the issues at hand, not fans lambasting the owners for lining their pockets while pushing the club further into debt. And while we continue to loathe the Glazers and pine for a midfielder, it could be two other things that help perpetuate at least one of those fantasies for United fans: Robin van Persie and the United IPO. Here’s a novice’s take on what’s going on – or lack thereof – in this summer’s offseason.

The IPO. We heard rumblings of one last season happening in Singapore, but that never happened. In the last two weeks, we heard confirmation that there would be an IPO and we also found out some of the intricacies of this public offering. Initial reports were that the Glazers would use the IPO funds to help pay down the club’s debt. Figures I saw were anywhere from 60m to 100m. As more details emerged (@andersred), we learned that less and less debt would actually be paid and that the Glazers would individually be able to pocket up to 25m. This, as it should, infuriated fans who didn’t need another reason to hate the owners. It also came to light that employees, including Sir Alex Ferguson, could profit from the IPO by purchasing more stock shares than just the regular investor.

Then, in this past week, the shares debuted on the NYSE to even less fanfare than the bleak initial reports suggested. Here’s where the IPO could backfire, leaving fans with a light at the end of the GLAZERS OUT tunnel. Forbes has Manchester United valued at $2.23 billion. The Glazers, no doubt, like that valuation because it keeps the leverage firmly planted in their corner. When the IPO debut, it was about $14 per share. That price doesn’t make the Glazers happy because the value of the IPO would be a measly $234 million. This low price and deal value could give a potential buyer the leverage needed to try and pry the ownership away from the Glazers. Potential investors haven’t wanted to pay the estimated $2 billion for a club they suspect isn’t really worth that. If this IPO fails to really perform, the Glazers might be forced to entertain offers for the club. Whoever this may be, we hope they have the interests of the club at heart, not a way to make themselves more money. Following? Good. But, you ask how this plays into our ploy to get a CM. And what about RVP?

The Glazers did drop around 50m last off season, our largest transfer window ever. We got Jones, Young, de Gea. We were level with City on points to end to the season, throwing away an 8 point lead atop the table with a month to go. But, what didn’t happen was United paying for the central midfielder we’ve so desperately needed. I’m not one for silver linings, but losing to City – albeit on points – means that the Glazers can’t truly point at our team and tell us we’ll be okay. We need a CM and we need one now. So, in a very quiet offseason for United, we suddenly hear that we’ve launched a bid for RVP, the leagues most enigmatic scorer last season? This and the IPO virtually coincided, and that’s no coincidence. And, while I reserve judgment on SAF and the IPO issue, we have always known that he is well-versed it playing the right card at the right time. RVP’s kit sales alone would generate income for United, so announcing our interest in – and supposed signing of – the player would generate a buzz right when the IPO was set to launch. Now, whether we end up signing RVP has yet to be seen, but I’m 50/50 on it right now. What I do know is that while true United fans will embrace Kagawa, the idea of “van Persie” on the back of a jersey would be exactly the type of move to get people talking about United in an otherwise dull offseason. And if it generated enough money, we might be able to grovel for funds to buy a CM.

In the end, do I really think that we’re going to sign RVP? No. I see it as a tactic to try and drive the share price above $14, for whatever that's worth. I also don’t see that panning out, ultimately leading to a renewed interest from someone in buying our club away from the traitorous owners we’ve been shackled to for the last 7 years. If that does happen, I honestly believe that the club’s best interests will be taken care of. At the forefront of those interests? Removing debt and getting a top class central midfielder. So, at the end of the day – with all these variables floating around – I don’t see the IPO going the way the Glazers want and I don’t see us signing RVP. What I could realistically see are new owners and an investment in the club and CM we’ve needed. Mind you, the outcome of this might be well down the road, but we’ve waited 7 years to get rid of the Glazers. If you asked me to wait two years to get a CM, but that meant getting rid of the Glazers, I’d take that every single time. I think most supporters would, too. But, if the IPO works for the Glazers, maybe they'll invest in a CM? In the balance is A) getting a CM or B) getting new owners and a CM down the line. Honestly, I'd prefer the latter, but beggars can't be choosers. Only time - and money - will tell.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The 5 Lessons Learned From Heartache

A word to describe this past week: Numbing.

In the span of seven days we saw City snatch the title away from us in the most egregious of fashions and then we saw the unthinkable happen when Chelsea went into the Germans’ lair and snatch the Champions League trophy. I haven’t been a United fan for thirty years like some people I know, but I doubt that the end of a season has brought on more heartache than this year’s campaign. It’s probably not advisable to write about the pain of this season so soon after the pain was inflicted, but I wanted to capture the angst of still being upset and the realization of what is needed going forward – while it’s still fresh.

It was this time last year that we had just signed Phil Jones and most people really had no idea who he was or where he’d play. They knew we had signed him from Blackburn and that was about it. Soon after, we signed Ashley Young and then David De Gea. The glaring oversight was still the hole in our midfield. Things were glossed over in the first few weeks when we beat Spurs 3-0, Arsenal 8-2, and Bolton 5-0 in successive games. Then things started to go bad. Cleverley was back from his loan spell at Wigan and was going to have to fill the shoes that Sneijder didn’t fill. Well, he got hurt. Then Anderson disappeared. Then City beat us 6-1. Then there were a few more injuries. Then there was Vidic. Then more injuries. I turned 30 in August and by December I’d had no less than three heart attacks on account of United.

And despite all this, we were somehow 8 pts clear of City on April 8th. I tweeted that day to @JuveUnited that we’d somehow muck it up or make it difficult and wasn’t that the truth. A loss to Wigan, a terrible last 8 minutes vs. Everton, and a 1-0 loss to City all happened and the 8 pts were gone. Before March, City had been favorites all season. At the beginning of April, we were favorites to win. And somehow, throughout it all, it came down to the last minute of this season to decide the winner. There were a million emotions that day, but in the week since it happened, I’ve sorted my feelings out and I’ve come away with five important lessons from this season. Here they are.

1)    We might not have agreed with some of Fergie’s selections this year, but we aren’t the manager, are we? City have spent close to 500 million pounds to buy the team they have and Fergie basically duct taped a squad together for the 50 some odd matches this year. Yes, our record, and play, in Europe was awful, but with the amount of injuries we had compared to City’s, and the amount of money we spent compared to City, we still managed our highest point total ever and only lost on goal difference. To City’s best team ever. We’re all geniuses from our couch, or OT, or the away section of a United game, but that’s the extent of it. Say what you want about certain games, but Fergie is a genius and that’s that. Yes, you’ve heard that a lot, but it’s true.
2)    City won’t be going away. In sports, we see the oddball team win a trophy and then disappear back into obscurity. That will not be the case with City. They were the favorites going into the season and they won the league. They will be favorites next season, so we have to get used to it. Sure, their history is cloaked in massive failure, but the team they fielded this year was the better team and that was obvious. They will continue to buy and field more expensive players than us. Let’s just get used to it. Yes, we have a much more successful history than City, but going into the 2012-2013 season, we’re the underdogs. Let’s run with it. 
3)    We need personnel changes. No, I don’t think Fergie should leave. I do think that he could do with an injection of different, more youthful coaches and trainers. But that’s not where it starts or stops. For seasons we’ve needed a dominant CMF. We haven’t gotten one. Speculation will run rampant, but I think part of the reason we didn’t go all out for the CMF we needed last summer was because we were the champions. We spent some money, but the type of money we spent on 3 players would’ve needed to go toward the hole in our MF. Maybe losing the title to City will mean we get the money for a CMF. Maybe not, but we can’t keep patching up the hole with Paul Scholes. We need young blood. Not just in MF, but all over the pitch. Let’s start there and address that first. The rest will come.
4)    Money isn’t everything. Sure, in a sport where there is no salary cap, and where you can literally spend as much as you want, that doesn’t mean you always need to. City will spend and spend and spend, but we can get really good players without matching their spending. Players love big paychecks, but engrained in just about every athlete is the desire to win and to play. To get the type of MF we want, we will have to pay. But there are other players available who will fill much-needed gaps, but won’t break our bank. It’s about getting quality with what you pay for. There is plenty of value in the market. I don’t want to hear otherwise.
5)    Sometimes it takes a massive heartbreak to realign your priorities and perspective. This year was a monumental blow to our confidence. Look at our success over the last 15 years, or 10 years, or even the last 6 years. We got spoiled. We won three in a row, lost it, then got it back, then lost it again. Winning is always fun, but without losing once in awhile, winning would mean nothing. It’s our job to take this season and not only learn from it, but act on it. United isn’t a team to stay stagnant. Things will happen for us. And like all other fans, I can’t wait to see what those things will be. City might be favorites, but United love a challenge. We’ll see how it all pans out next year. I’ll tell you this: I wouldn’t want to be a fan of any other team. Win or lose.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Did Mancini Pull a Fergie?

The sound you heard on Wednesday afternoon in the blue part of Stockport was the sound of treachery. It was the sound of morals being torn to shreds and then tossed into the garbage disposal to circle the drain and head for the bowels of Manchester’s sewage system. Four months ago, City got what we thought was the final bitter taste of the ibid that we call Carlos Tevez. His refusal to warm up and play against Bayern Munich when his team trailed by two goals in the much coveted Champions League was what we all thought to be the final straw for Roberto Mancini. He vowed that day that Tevez would never play for Manchester City ever again. He called everyone he thought would be willing to take on this awful, cursed burden that had once lit up the scoreboard for both teams in Manchester, but to no avail. On more than one occasion Tevez was headed to Italy with rumored destinations to be Juventus or Inter or even AC Milan. When that didn’t pan out, he was off to Brazil, then not. Then nothing since.

His antics for us and for City were forgotten for most of the season as this year’s two top teams battled it out each week for the Prem title. We couldn’t be bothered to worry about Tevez. When the childish refusal to get off the bench and warm up happened, even City fans wanted absolutely nothing to do with him. They wanted his head on a stick. We laughed at them because we knew that when he signed with City, he was a poisonous player who masked it all with devilish hustle and goal scoring panache. Some say we treated him unfairly by denying him a new contract in mid-season, but ultimately I think it was the right move because this would be happening to us if we had resigned him. We dodged that bullet. Alas, City fans and United fans – who once loved the boy from Argentina – wanted him out of the city for good. Then Wednesday night happened and once again City fans and United fans found another thing to argue and hate each other about.

The same City fans who had tossed his kit in the trash, or burned it in protest, were now the same fans waving shirts bearing his name when the final whistle blew against Chelsea. There is absolutely no doubt that when he came on he was the reason that City got three points. They looked flaccid and resigned to the fact that a newly upstart Chelsea team was going to be the first team to get points off them at home. Our four point lead looked intact through the 60th minute with Chelsea leading 1-0. It was destined to happen though, wasn’t it? The rumblings around the league when Tevez even made the bench were foreshadowing that he’d either come on and help them win or take the field and sink their title hopes. There was no middle ground. Luckily for City, he earned them the three most critical points they’ve won this entire season. But when the dust of it all settled, something even more alarming was surfacing – the comparisons that people were drawing between Mancini and Alex Ferguson.

I read an article today where someone was likening Mancini’s decision to play Tevez to Fergie’s decision to give into Rooney’s wage demands two seasons ago. United fans will say that it’s unfounded and ridiculous and City fans will say that there is no difference in the actions. Knee-jerk reaction aside, the claim on the outside could be deconstructed simply by saying that both managers caved to a world class player’s behavior, showing a lack of pride and principle. You could apply that same argument to Wenger ‘s spat with Fabregas or even AVB’s decision to field a team penciled in by the team’s owner. There are more complexities to each situation than just trying to draw any parallel possible. Given the many dynamics at play, here’s how I’d analyze our situation and City’s situation – While it seems plausible to compare the two on a basic, perfunctory level, the situations and managers are very, very different. The one key variable in this comparison’s validity, or lack thereof: Winning.

Let’s examine this a little more closely. Since coming to City, Mancini has been a true enigma. His spats with Balotelli, his line-ups, his scarves. You never really knew where he stood or what he was thinking. Then about a 1/3 of the way through this season – with City playing amazing football – he started being a manager with a backbone. He spoke publically about Balotelli’s behavior, even making a joke that if Balotelli hadn’t stayed out until 4 in the morning he might’ve scored more goals in City’s match the day after. He disciplined outlandish behavior on the sideline and in the locker room. Then, when want away Tevez refused to warm up, he made the ultimate statement by saying Tevez would never again play for City. I applauded him and I think the vast majority of other fans did the same. It was a brave decision, even if it was just him flexing bravado and puffing his chest. While it showed true gusto, I think it came down to two things – 1) He thought he could win (and was winning) without Tevez, and 2) He thought he could sell Tevez with no problem. But something happened. With City in a downturn and losing its grip on the Prem title, he became desperate for a spark and threw Tevez in the melee. For me, as a United fan, it was desperate, but United fans have been used to winning – and that’s the key variable. I don’t say that as a jab at City at all. It’s a fact. With his back against the wall with 30 minutes left to pull back at least a point, the man got desperate and played Tevez. To his credit, the act of desperation resulted in three vital points for City. He and Tevez called each other’s bluff, but just like gambling, it was a crapshoot. Getting the three points was THE ONLY thing that would ever have justified Mancini’s action. So to those who backed the decision, well done.

The fact of the matter is that he was the one who made the statement that Tevez would never play for City again and he went back on that. Act of desperation and result aside, that’s what he did. City fans are happy to live with the three points, as I’m sure United fans would be, too, but the aftermath and how the two sets of fans would deal with it are completely different based on the history of winning. When you’ve been successful like United have, giving into a temperamental player like Tevez wasn’t going to happen at the sacrifice of the club’s pride. City are desperate to win and willing to let his atrocities slide. For example, United took back Cantona after assaulting a fan, but he was always willing to die (and fight) for the club. He didn’t disgrace us by doing that. He embarrassed himself and he has to live with it. Also, Fergie never said that Rooney was done as a United player. In fact, during the whole thing, he publically said that he’d love to have Rooney sign a long-term deal. Rooney embarrassed himself there and United fans let him know about it. Some haven’t forgiven him. With Tevez, he made a mockery of himself over the last four months (closer to a year) and tried to make a mockery of the club by crawling back when no one wanted him. Some say it's all about winning, but Mancini sacrificed the power of his word and the pride of the club by letting Tevez back into the team after everything that happened.

But, in the end, it all has to do with winning or not winning, and what you’d do to get there. If you want to justify the actions of Mancini and Tevez all in the name of winning, so be it. What I’m saying is that Fergie would never have done that because the honor of the club is more meaningful than a trophy. Then again, we have a lot more than City, so who knows.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Paying Paul Pogba

Nothing in sports really surprises me anymore. It seems that just about anything and everything has been done, achieved, reached, seen, witnessed, experienced, and lived. Players play and fans watch – on and off the field. It’s been this way ever since we started piling in seats to surround a bunch of players play their respective sports for a few hours at time. We work 40, 50, 60, 70, even 80 hours a week to earn a wage that we then, in turn, throw down to watch players who will make our yearly salary with one kick of a football.  So, it seems that over the course of history, we’ve seen it all. Thusly, nothing really surprises us. We’ve come to expect that the ridiculous is now the norm. Millions of dollars mean nothing to us because we aren’t earning it. As long as they provide us with some entertainment for 9 months out of the year, it’s all worth it.

We watch and read about players signing contracts that put enough cash in the their pockets to finance small revolutions or enough money to wipe out the debt in some third world countries.  This holds especially true in football and it’s gotten exponentially worse over the last ten years. That is ever apparent in the love/hate relationship we have with the magical thing we call the transfer window. Speculation all summer and winter as to whom is going where. Who is leaving? Who is staying? But most importantly – how much is it going to cost? What people conveniently overlook is not just what it’s going to cost us now, but what it’s going to cost us (or other teams) in the future. I’m not just talking about monetary cost, either.

We’ve become accustomed to expecting that clubs will fork over mountains of cash that make absolutely no rational sense other than “well, we need ______________ in our squad.” We pay for entertainment and I understand that, so I get that clubs will shell out loads of money on an investment looking at future returns. How high clubs are willing to go is directly correlated to how deep their pockets are. But, the reality of it is that cash is splashed, values are inflated, and then players are overpaid and overvalued. I’ve never condoned spending frivolous amounts of cash and I’ve especially never condoned the spending of that kind of money on players who haven’t proven themselves to their club, or even to their sport. This leads me to our fill-in-the-blank – Paul Pogba.

First off, this lad has played fewer games than I could count on one hand and is rumored to be asking for $45k/week. If it were up to me, that’s not going to happen. Putting aside the fact that Ravel Morrison was a nutter, he had also not proved himself to the club yet, so I’d feel the same way about him asking for $45k/week. Then you have Danny Welbeck on the flipside who’s making a reported $15k/week, producing, and not demanding more money than he’s earned. Look at it this way – if I just started a job and before working a single day I asked my boss for a raise, he’d think I was out of my mind. And rightfully so. You don’t get raises based on what you’re going to do. You get raises based on what you’ve done. It’s as simple as that.

Second, United has never been about overpaying for players, especially youth players. Sure, we’ve had our flops, but that’s going to happen with every club, just some clubs more than others. The difference is that we’ve bought players based on what we thought was a fair value and we ended up being wrong. Other clubs have thrown money at players who weren’t ever worth that amount of money, and they knew it (Milner, Barry, Carroll, Downing, Torres, Arshavin, etc). Our mistakes were in thinking that players would be worth the money we paid (Bebe, Veron, Anderson). In this case, Pogba has done nothing to warrant making $45k/week. We’ve heard that it will cost more to replace him than paying him that weekly wage or that he will be worth it. The fact of the matter is that, you can’t throw that kind of money at someone just cause you’re worried that you’d have to replace him if/when he starts playing. That’s basically paying someone to stay put, and I don’t support it. He needs to put in some first team performances to prove to us that he won’t be the next Bebe or Anderson.

Lastly, throw together everything I’ve mentioned above, mix in an agent, and you’ve got total anarchy in the world of football. Who knows exactly what Pogba is thinking or feeling. Actually, you don’t need to know what he’s thinking because his agent, who is on Twitter, is apparently tweeting on behalf of the player. If I were Pogba, I’d put the kibosh on that. If he wants to come out and state his demands/thoughts/plans, then do so, but having your agent speaking on your behalf is counterproductive to the cause. Agents work for themselves and what’s going to get them the most money. We’ve seen it a million times, most recently with someone like Tevez. The agenda of agents mixed with greedy players are what’s behind paying exorbitant fees/wages for players like Milner, Garry, Carroll, Downing, Torres, Arshavin, and Tevez. It’s a volatile mix that’s giving unproven players like Pogba the gusto to think they can ask for that kind of money.

At the end of the day, asking for more of anything – especially money – should be predicated upon what’s happened before you ask for it, not what’s going to happen after. I don’t care if you’re 55 or 35 or 25 or 18. When you’re asking for $45k/week (that’s close to what I make in one year), you should have a body of work to support it. When it comes down to it, Pogba doesn’t. He’s not a proven player that we’ve picked up from another team. He’s a reserve player with a blank resume up until this point. He’s basically played zero first team matches and he’s not even 19 yet. I just don’t think that we should have to throw that kind of money at him for him to stay with us. I do hope he stays, puts in the effort that a 19 year old should, and shows us what the hype is really all about. And then when he sits down with SAF/United management to ask for a raise, he’ll have earned it. Until then, he simply hasn’t.

On Twitter at @JasTheDevil

Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Morrison Obituaries

We all fancy ourselves armchair managers or voyeurs who can predict a line-up or substitution or a transfer. We sit at home, pint in hand, and we figure that we know what’s best for our club. And a few weeks ago when the rumor mill was churning about the end of the transfer window and who would/wouldn’t be leaving their clubs, all of our eyes shifted to the rumors about our Ravel Morrison. The enigmatic player who had only made 3 League Cup appearances was suddenly the talk of the United Kingdom. The buzz about this player was a mix of the good and the bad. The best academy player since Scholes mixed with the attitude of someone like Balotelli. In his limited appearances for the club, he had become a cult legend. If he made the bench, Twitter exploded. If he made it on the pitch, Twitter imploded. The only thing that was for certain was that all Reds wanted him to come through the ranks and live up to the billing he brought with him. As of January 31st, that door closed with the closing of the transfer window.

In the article "Morrison vs. Morrison" I wrote two weeks before the window closed, I wrote down what I felt would most likely happen. On 1/31, those hunches, and fears, were realized when he left for West Ham. People took to the Internet to vent their frustrations that we couldn’t hold on to him or to lambast him for wanting to leave. As much as it hurts to see such a talent leave our club, the one thing people shouldn’t be is surprised. His exit was in the making years ago. I was never sure how bright his star would shine, but I always feared it wouldn’t be brightest in Manchester. Morrison is a tabloid’s wet dream. I’ve been to Manchester, and as lovely as it is, the city isn’t big enough for our club and for Morrison. It was a showdown in the vein of the OK Corral. When the dust settled, there was really only one outcome and it was Morrison riding off into the sunset, destined for a life outside the city of Manchester.

People speculated where he’d go. People speculated what the fee would be. People speculated as to whether it would be a loan or a permanent deal. First, people were sure he was going to Italy. Then people were sure he’d be loaned out. People thought he might end up at City. Then we read that he was headed for the Championship on a permanent deal. Cue a wave. What I will say is that I’ve never been fickle on my thoughts about Morrison. You can see them in my articles. You can see them in my tweets. If he didn’t want to be here, then I didn’t want him here. It was that simple. I refuse to believe that you can fundamentally change who someone is. As promising as this talent was, it just wasn’t meant to be and that really shouldn’t be a shock to anyone.

The UK is a place where nothing is off-limits in the press and tabloids. So, it was really a match made in heaven. The bad boy from up north comes riding into London, baggage in tow. No doubt we’ll read about Morrison getting into an early morning fight in a bar with the hooligans on Green Street. No doubt we’ll read about a row he’s gonna have with Big Sam. No doubt we’ll read about some (and watch some) lovely goals at West Ham. The kid has raw talent, there’s no denying that. But the kid also has some raw emotions and manners. That equation never yields truly predictable results. In the end, I feel that he just wasn’t destined for United. Seems he is destined for the newspapers.

Follow me on Twitter at @JasTheDevil