Man Utd’s £86million ‘fidget-spinning circus act’ the biggest flop of them all…

Antony celebrates scoring for Manchester United. Credit: Alamy
Antony celebrates scoring for Manchester United. Credit: Alamy

The Mailbox passes judgement on Manchester United’s most expensive signing of the Erik ten Hag era. Also, responses to Stewie Griffin; and have City’s players zoned out?

Get your views in to theeditor@football365.com

 

Antony’s a clown
Antony is a truly abysmal footballer better suited to walking a tight rope at the local circus than playing for a Premier League side. Let’s get this straight, every other expensive acquisition in the league can rest easy so long as the fidget spinner continues to serve up his dross, even his also spectacularly poor teammate Sancho, because this fella is comfortably and by some distance one of the worst signings and investments seen for a long time. Even his own teammate Bruno was clearly frustrated with Krusty the Clowns poor game intelligence and totally unnecessary slowing down of play.

What is it 5 whopping goal contributions in about 20 games for United? Most of those probably consolations anyway. And what’s worse, he displays no ability whatsoever to take a game by the scruff of the neck, or drive his team towards victory as a player with his price tag should be delivering. Seems to be severely lacking footballing IQ. Would be best he goes and joins Pique’s Kings League, that sort of gimmicky nonsense would be a better home for his “talents”.

I’ve said my piece Chrissy. Heh heh.
Paulie Walnuts, New Jersey

 

United’s reality check
This was the type of game that shows you where you are as a team and for United, we are still very early on in a rebuild.

The first half was a competitive affair between both United and Palace. United showed some great intensity in the first half by competing for everything against palace which is all you can ask for in an away game. Wan-Bissaka was an early star for me. He has been such a changed player over the last month. He’s gone from needing to be sold to now being a real conversation to start as first choice against Dalot. Weghorst looked lively in the first half linking up some play and dragging defenders away to give others chances which is great to see considering he’s only had one or two training sessions with the club. De Gea pulled off another world-class save but there will probably still be people thinking he’s a big issue for the team which is ludicrous. Eriksen and Bruno linked up to give United the lead before the first half with Weghorst drawing the Palace defence away from Bruno for the simple finish in the box.

The second half was disappointing from United. Fair play to Palace who did not stop and gave a great account of themselves. United looked like they were cruising for the victory which at 1-0 is always risky. Fantastic free-kick from Olise, there’s not much you can do to stop that goal but the foul that gave the free-kick didn’t need to happen but that’s United’s fault. Casemiro picking up a yellow is a big disappointment for United as he will miss the Arsenal game which means it’s either Fred or Mctominay which is worrying or he might try something different with Martinez at CDM with Shaw at centre-back and bring in Malacia. Rashford was defended really well by Nathaniel Clyne and was not able to get into the game at all.

Overall, This is the type of game that grounds United fans to remember we are only 6 months into a rebuild. I found it crazy that there were fans even playing with the idea we were in a title race. Of course, we could have been second in the league but we do not have the squad yet to be competing for the league. Disappointing to drop points late in the game from a free kick that didn’t need to happen. Missing Casemiro against Arsenal will be a real challenge and I guess we will have to wait and see what Ten Hag’s plan is.
Max Of Whitegate

 

United screwed by the refs
Totally screwed over there by the ref and VAR. It would be great to know how not awarding a penalty for a blatant trip in the area is not considered a clear and obvious error? Had the penalty been justifiably given and scored, game over and Casemiro gets taken off without the need to walk the yellow card tightrope. Instead Palace get impetus to attack, Casemiro misses the Arsenal match and they score a last minute wonder free kick.

Ah well, swings and roundabouts. Hopefully the paranoid tinfoil hat brigade remember that the next time they moan about a decision going our way.

Bring on the Arsenal!
Garey Vance, MUFC

 

Why Arsenal will win the league
You love to see half the Arsenal fans getting excited and the other half becoming anxious about increased expectations and putting their team down. To be fair, the same can probably be said for any fan base that comes with reach of the promised land having spent so long in the doldrums. But I think Arsenal are nailed on for the title for several reasons. I also think they won’t get a better chance for a long time and if they don’t win it this year it will be mega-bottlage on a Newcastle scale (I’d love it though…)

Firstly they’re 8 points clear with half of the season gone. Bigger leads have been blown and in less time but who can you see catching them? City probably should if you take the quality of the squad and their experience of winning titles but they’ve been totally off this season and their only clean sheets since November have come against Chelsea. City would have to beat Arsenal twice, not impossible but totally against the form book this season. City also have their eye on Europe and while Arsenal are still in the Europa, once the top four is sewn up domestically that will become less important. City NEED to win the champions league. I think City finish behind Arsenal this season.

So then there’s United who are now eight points behind having played a game more. We aren’t going to win the league simply because we don’t score enough goals. The Palace game showed the weakness in the squad and players look like they’re starting to get tired. After half time they looked like they had more energy than us. For United to have any chance we’d have to beat Arsenal on Sunday with one of McFred deputising for Casemiro (or Shaw centre back and Martinez as DM?) and even then we’d be five behind having played a game more. And our goal difference is gash. Yes, United are going in the right direction and having a decent season but it’s in danger of petering out, no matter how much you now apparently love us. This year is too soon for title talk and we’ll finish third/fourth and be happy about it. Next year however….

Newcastle are the only other team with a realistic chance of catching Arsenal. I suppose with some creative transfers in the next week or so could give them a better chance of bridging the gap but I think they’ll be pretty happy with their progress so far and won’t do anything daft. Top four is where they should finish.

So Arsenal should win the league this year, and probably at a canter. I expect United will be completely out of the race after a drubbing at the Emirates on Sunday and City will go through the motions until May when they’re distracted by a run into the latter stages of the Champions League.

But next year Arsenal will need to contend with City renewing their focus, Newcastle with additional funds and Champions League football. Liverpool AND United with new owners looking to make a statement in the summer. And you’d probably expect Chelsea to improve once they have signed every top four transfer target in this window. So if Arsenal don’t win the league now, they will regret it.

But they will. So it’s all fine.
Ash

Read more: Sir Jim Ratcliffe might be the least bad option for Manchester United and their fans

Has Pep lost the City players?
Before tonight’s game with Spurs, I just wanted to follow up on Blue Dave’s mail yesterday regarding the current issues at City. Unsurprisingly, I completely agree with the points he made but I’m also coming from a slightly different angle. That of motivation.

I’ve written in about this before, after a poor start to the season immediately after the two where we amassed 198 points (and Liverpool right behind us) and I suggested that it must be a nightmare to keep players, from both teams, focussed after two seasons of such unrelenting intensity.

I said that the main players must have heard every motivational speech and hairdryer rant that Pep had in him and queried as to when those same players would begin to mentally ‘roll their eyes’ when hearing such yet again. I wrote that back in September 2020 and here we are in January 2023, and I think it’s even more of a ‘thing’ now than then.

I may be oversimplifying this but bear with me. Both Guardiola and Klopp’s systems depend on 11 players concentrating for 96+ minutes of each and every game, without exception. 2 or 3 players either don’t or can’t put in that level of commitment? The system fails.

I don’t know whether I now look at the Southampton game, in particular, with ‘doom and gloom’ 20-20 hindsight, but I don’t remember the last time I saw so many mis-placed passes. So much head tennis or the ball being hoofed forward. So many sideways passes and a distinct absence of intensity or movement. One touch football between ‘triangles’ just not happening and, on more than one occasion, two City players going for the same ball and getting entangled with each other.

All of these things are the opposite of how a Guardiola team should play. At the time, I put it down to the changes in team selection and the consequent introduction of those who haven’t played a lot of time in the first team. But then, bringing on the ‘big guns’ didn’t change it either.

I’m not criticising the players or their professionalism but, except for the CL, the spine of the team such as Silva, Gundogan, Walker, De Brunye, Stones et al, have won every domestic trophy over the past five years. And they’re all five years older.

The main City squad is still made up of genuinely world-class players but how to keep the fire in the belly burning after all of that? I’m not sure you can.

And so tonight, if the score ends up 5-0 because of the brilliance of individual players, then I won’t be surprised. Equally, if it ends up 0-3 with a Kane hat-trick (God forbid) I wouldn’t be surprised either.

In Pep we trust without doubt, and we City fans can but hope that he’ll find a fix, but I personally believe that the title race is going to be a lot tighter than the bookies, amongst others, would have you believe.
Mark (God I hope I’m talking out of my a*se). MCFC.

Stewie’s return
Long time F365 groupie and avid mailbox reader, you find some of the best amateur opinions and analyses right here.

And speaking of amateur, I think Stewie Griffin is one of the brightest suns in the world of the F365 mailbox. I for one would never dream of censoring him because he’s our very own Richard Keysy and brings home the eyeballs by spewing his aggressive anti-Gunners vitriol. Fair play, that vitriol has got to go somewhere. And especially in a season where there’s so much to secrete, and for us Gooners, so much to appreciate.

While it is a moment in the sun for us enjoying our football, our management and our team spirit, it does juxtapose the hard times it took to get there. But then again, who swallows their team’s misfortunes and suffers in silence? We are football fans and the beautiful game instills in us a passion to roar for goals and celebrate crunching tackles and serenade the Three Points points in the bag. The regrettable dark side of this passion are the jeers, the banners flown overhead and the vilification of professionals trying to do their jobs (albeit sh*ttily). I guess we just have to look at Man United, Chelsea, and Tottenham in recent years and acknowledge their fans’ dignity in their respective moments of failure? There was no dignity and there never has been for the losers. In the words of Peep Show’s Alan Johnson ‘show me a good loser, and I’ll show you a loser’.

Inquest and Introspection are important for a fan base to communicate its feelings to the owners and management, but to an acceptable limit (not going full Everton or Joseph Watts). Our past failures have brought us to this point in time and molded us into a team with an identity, an accomplishment in and of itself. Whatever the season brings, we got people talking and played beautiful football while doing it.

Best of all, we rattled Stewie and you just can’t put a price tag on that

�� Credit: Alamy
�� Credit: Alamy


Indian Gooner (hope city tw*ts sp*rs tonight or vice-versa)

 

…Stewie! Welcome back lad! Happy new year!

I, and I am sure other mailboxers, missed your context-free, pessimism tainted, result oriented discourse. I was wondering how you were taking in this wonderful run Arsenal are on and I am glad to see that the year maybe new, the optimism within the arsenal community is renewed, but the feeling of cold hard caution has not left your sinews. As if without your “Beware the ides of March” variety soothsayer energy, we would have forgotten that the title is not wrapped up, last sixteen years have been frustrating to say the least, and that teams have squandered title races with similar or larger leads in later stages of the campaign,

To address the substance of your diatribe and offer a couple of fact checks, Wenger left in 2018 and not 2020. While the professor had many flaws and Ol Stan is no saint, it is worth remembering that Wenger left, the power structures were rebalanced (albeit not necessarily smoothly), and Stan Kroenke and co started spending some money albeit according to a plan that seemed to be a long term one (Even as the initial implementers of said plan were a dicey duo of Snahelli and Emery). You see, while there remains some things that one would want to criticise the Kroenkes for, the fact that changes were made and the zig zagging path of progress has brought us (ever so briefly, potentially) back to the top of the league. More importantly, it has brought us a team to believe in and a manager who can inspire faith in the team and supporters and the first inklings of fear in opponents now. With all this, much of the anger has dissipated. See how that works? Some accountability leading to action leading to results leading to a happier fanbase? I know the past was scarring. It is the same club in terms of it being the same entity, but its component parts are now quite different from the ones that created those terrible memories so maybe worth a wee bit of benefit of the doubt.

You are right on the team being scant and reinforcements being critical. You will be hard pressed to find a gooner who would not agree with you. About Murdyk, it may backfire. I have found it helpful to look for patterns in individuals, organizations, political parties, etc. to discern what they are about. The pattern of the Edu-Mikel-Vinai triumvirate seems to be that they are willing to sacrifice risky ventures in search of short term gains at the price of sticking to a longer term plan. It can be annoying to some of us, frustrating even for we do not know what they seem to know. Sometimes, offering time and patience to those who have done enough to deserve it is a worthy coping mechanism. Mistakes are inevitable. They are also often fixable. There is some way to go. Life and Arteta, finds a way.

We may (and in my opinion the safe money might be on this) still lose. Maybe the mistakes that lead to the undoing of this title race have already been made. City might go on a 15 match run in the 19 or so games that are left. Chelsea and Liverpool might get it together for the second half. But what if one or most of these things do not happen? Bigger miracles on longer odds have happened. The youngest team in the league with the youngest manager at the helm who also happens to be on his first job is playing some excellent football and bringing loads of joy. That joy might not last but nobody could take away the fact that it was felt. Whether it ends in 1st, 2nd, or 4th, this is a great season. Not all treasure is silver and gold.

As for me, I am looking forward to the United/Arsenal match up. It has been a while since the two have been at the top end of the table and have had well balanced teams going against each other. I do hope Arsenal give them a tonking and register a statement victory but low-key worried that ETH has already created an incredible team that is bloody hard to beat. Also picturing a strong United, Arsenal, Newcastle, and Chelsea/Liverpool next season. Feels like a return of the late 90s, early 2000s PL with some obvious evolutions.

Warm regards,
Lash, India

 

…A few decent points but as usual a complete ramble by the end. Did anyone see the Happy Days episode where the Fonz jumped the shark?

One of the longest mails published for a while and maybe it’s time for young Stewie to retire from the mailbox.

Constantly talking about the past as if it is at all relevant to what is happening at the club today. It’s time to get with the times Stewie.

“It is hilarious because these days all you ever hear from Arsenal fans is how “well run” the club is, how “outstanding” the vision is etc. So tell me folks, is Kroenke no longer in charge?”

Yes, the owner listened to the fans and actually changed the way they worked. Recruiting Edu as a ‘transfer specialist’ has allowed the manager to concentrate on managing is among many things that have changed.

I would pick apart the rest of it, but I’m sure that’s the reason he writes in in the first place.
Mikey, London (enjoying the ride but not celebrating just yet)

 

…I know I shouldn’t bite but Stewie…
Number one – it literally isn’t your name – you’ve nicked it from a cartoon baby – which is pretty apt to be fair.
Two – spending over the odds (Mudyrk) and not demanding enough for your homegrown talent (Nketiah) is plain stupid.
Three – if Gabriel Jesus was fit, Nketiah (one of our top scorers) would be on the bench which has been recently reinforced by Smith Rowe.
Four – Kroenke was NEVER the problem? “He always provided funds and gave managers autonomy”- did he? – then was this another Arsene Wenger who
was forced to make a profit in transfer window after transfer window? (Kroenke joined the board in 2008).
Five – Arteta literally has been working at undoing the culture of the club so that its motto means something. Victoria Concordia Crescit – Victory Through Harmony – which over the couple of seasons has been coursing through players, coaching staff and fans’ veins – everyone except you!
And finally, was this another Stewie Griffin using Spurs as a stick to beat Mikel with? The same Spurs we’ve just done the double over? I’m sure if we fail to win the league, you’ll write in and tell everyone you were right – but the goal always was Champions League this season – anything else is a bonus.
Graham Simons, Gooner, Norf London

 

…I was reading Stewie’s reply thinking ‘This sounds like the sort of thing Richard Keys would say’ and then, as if from nowhere, along comes the line ‘I’m not being Richard Keys…’

Are…. are you Richard Keys? The hairy-palmed cheating prima donna himself?

*inserts Charlie Day red string gif*
Tom (I’m obviously biased, but I always find my fellow Arsenal fans/F365 mailer actually pretty level/lacking in entertaining histrionics, not sure who you’ve seen parading around the Finsbury Park area) Walthamstow

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