The perfect Manchester United manager no-one has mentioned

Mauricio Pochettino is the favourite, with Antonio Conte and Zinedine Zidane in the running. Manchester United should want Christophe Galtier.

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Toph choice
Christophe Galtier should be on the Manchester United shortlist if they’re seriously considering replacing Solskjaer.

Did fantastic work with St Etienne, winning their first trophy in decades and qualifying for Europe on several occasions. At Lille he finished second in his first full season, developed some excellent players, and showed his adaptability to cope with losing key players like Rafael Leao, Nicolas Pepe, Gabriel and Osimhen. He finished one point outside the Champions League places in the abandoned 19/20 season despite losing Leao and Pepe, then won the bloody league last year after losing Osimhen and Gabriel.

Now he’s at Nice and they’re looking like being PSGs biggest challengers this year. He is tactically astute and has good man management too, evidenced by the performances he got out of previously inconsistent players like Sanches and Osimhen, and Jose Fonte’s Indian Summer.

Conte and Zidane would be gone within two years. Rodgers is going to find it very tough to win over a lot of fans being a former Liverpool manager. Ten Hag could be a good shout though.
ThaiWolf, HK


Roll and Flick
Why is Antonio Conte the favorite for Ole’s job? Why has nobody approached Hansi Flick?

Surely somebody has the sense to sell Ronaldo to him. He gets to coach MBA Rashford, David da Gea is comparable to Neuer, Greenwood, England future captain Maguire, plus the pay is nice, what’s not to like?

Oh right, the club leadership.
Dave(They are always a step behind, aren’t they?), Somewhere


Rock and a hard place
I’m really grateful that Mike (Just give him more time and few more 100 million, we might keep a clean sheet) pointed out the hospital pass from Fernandes preceding Pogba’s red card, because I was thinking about how much shit Pogba will get for the sending off when it actually highlights a problem Pogba has, which is that he’s damned if he does, and damned if he doesn’t.

Clearly Pogba and Fernandes were not on the same wavelength for the short corner, which can easily happen when you’re 5-0 down and one of you has been on the pitch for only 15 minutes. But even then, if Fernandes’ pass wasn’t wayward, there should have been no opportunity for Keita to get to the ball before Pogba. Pogba had already chased up loose balls and seemed to genuinely want to help the team, and then there was the hospital ball which lead to a 50:50 with Keita.

If Pogba chose not to go for it, literally everyone would be mailing in to say what a bad attitude he has, how lazy he is, how he’s not committed to the team. Or he can go for the ball in a risky lunge that there’s a chance he can win, but if he doesn’t it’s a possible booking or worse. The tackle, in the end, was bad, but it also looks a bit worse than it was. I think due to the mechanics of the ball being round, Pogba’s foot rolled and deflected over the rolling ball rather than being planted directly on Keita’s shin. I know that’s not that much consolation to Keita, whom I hope is not seriously injured, and the challenge was out of control and could have led to a more serious injury, but I think it’s important to see that the challenge came from someone striving to make a difference who got a challenge wrong, rather than indiscipline and malevolence.

It was a risky challenge that was misjudged, but he was put in it by his team mate (again, not through malevolence), which had he shirked everyone would be questioning his attitude and if he ended up fouling the man everyone would be criticising him for that. I appreciate there is also a third option where the might have won the ball cleanly, but such was the weight of the pass and the different understandings of what they were going to do after the short corner realistically only Keita was going to get the ball first, hence Pogba being at full stretch and out of control.

Without falling into even more cliches, elite level sport is often about fine margins and Pogba got the tackle wrong. For Paul Scholes, who so often got tackles wrong (and according to Keane often deliberately), to say Pogba should never be in a Man Utd shirt again is harsh and more than a little hypocritical. Obviously there will be lots more emails to tell me I’m wrong, and that Pogba is trash, and that he has a terrible attitude, and that this challenge was the worst challenge since Pickford clattered into Van Dijk etc etc. But it’d be nice to see more balanced reflection on an honest mistake rather than storing up ammunition for why Pogba is the devil incarnate and we’d be best well rid.
Daniel, Cambridge


Just a quick thought I had regarding Pogba: would Keita have been injured if Pogba had been properly punished for trying to suplex Yerry Mina two weeks prior?

We’ve seen some awful defending from Pogba this season, surely someone should have seen this coming and issued a red sooner preventing that crazy sliding tackle from happening on Sunday. On one side I think Pobga’s rotten form is contributing to Man U decline, so their desire to keep him in the team is good for everyone else, but if it’s going to mean injured players maybe he shouldn’t be on the pitch at all.


Ole v Bruce
As a Newcastle fan, we’ve been vilified as a fanbase over the course of the past few weeks for our supposedly brutal treatment of Steve Bruce. A few things to note on that first:

– Steve Bruce was an unpopular appointment – not because he managed Sunderland, but because he’s statistically one of the worst Premier League managers ever, and his most recent (long enough to judge) job was failing to get Aston Villa out of the championship with a very good squad at that level.

– We wanted him do well, as our team would then be doing well. But he didn’t. The football was rubbish, players regressed and we fluked some wins/draws to stay up.

– His record is not the same as Rafa’s. In Rafa’s last 6 months we were on the up and Bruce took us back down. Underlying stats got much worse under Bruce.

– He then ruined all hope by coming out as disinterested, saying he was trying to keep us “ticking along” and largely giving up. At least even trying as manager of a club loses you a lot of credit with the fans.

Let’s compare that to Ole – yes Man U have been atrocious this season, but he’s at least had some good moments. The counter-attacking, the big results against big teams and such showed some promise and it’s time to move on now.

But the comments from Newcastle fans about Bruce (a failure who disgraced the club) are written about as disgraceful whereas reporting on the fan reaction to Ole is far more understanding.

Both managers are/were out of the depth and should have been replaced. Both clubs fans have legitimate reasons for their manager to be moved on, yet it’s Newcastle fans taking the flak from other fans and the media – for no reason whatsoever.
James, Sussex.


Fearing City
You’re probably sick of reading about #OleOut or #OleIn by now, but I wanted to give my two cents on the matter. I’ll start by saying I’ll always back the manager. I’ve never called for a Manchester United manager to be sacked and never will.

However, the issues at Manchester United are (mainly) down to Ole and the coaching staff. Every game we play the same way and every game you could name 9 or 10 of the 11 players who will play. That makes a team easy to play against and predictable. Liverpool, for example, most of the time press and sometimes they don’t (they don’t press as much vs. City for example). That’s what good coaching can do. It gives you options. Similarly, Liverpool can switch between different formations on the fly, Manchester United can’t.

Similarly, players are dropped or hooked for poor performances at any other club, regardless of size. There is not a snowballs chance in hell Maguire or Shaw start on Sunday with Pep or Klopp as manager after the Shambles that was the Leicester performance.

I’ll finish by pointing out that one defensive error can be placed on the player as an outlier, but the defensive mistakes Manchester United make happen every game. That’s on the coaching staff. Every goal on Sunday was avoidable with a coherent defensive structure. You wouldn’t see the mistakes Manchester United constantly make in a Sunday League team. It’s ridiculous. If we’re being honest, Manchester United are lucky to be as high in the table as we are due to the defensive mess. Aside from Leeds and Newcastle, we arguably should have lost every other game this season. I dread what City will do to us.
Ryan, Ireland (MUFC)


The Wizard of Ole
I keep reading about Ole having a plan – which was reiterated by badwolf in the afternoon mailbox.

What is ‘the plan’? Can anyone articulate it? Even Ole’s number one fan, Gary Neville, can’t say what Ole is doing only what Ole isn’t doing, but excusing that because Manchester United have never done it before – such as no pressing and no running.

So what then are Manchester United actually doing, and doing such that it would indicate some kind of thoughtful concept that will not just win them one or two games but a league or Champions League? I don’t see it.

I read a great article on Thomas Tuchel. It talked about how he researched other coaches, the latest in coaching theory and devised training drills to complement the philosophy he was formulating. The drills he puts his team through – both generic and ones to address a specific opponent. How he changes pitch sizes, makes them think harder about their relative positions and gets them to work out how to overcome challenges on the pitch in real time.

When you read up on other coaches like Guardiola, Klopp, Sarri, Bielsa, Conte, etc, you see that they have all developed a philosophy, crafted a coaching plan to reinforce that philosophy and look to bring in players that will work best inside that philosophy.

So going back to Ole, I have yet to read anything that addresses a similar idea.

For the last two years he has relied on a counter-attacking game, based on having several fast forwards and then complemented by a midfielder in Fernandes who could find a pass to break the lines when needed. That’s it. Occasionally, when arsed, they can pull off something great and come back from a possible defeat. But it’s individual brilliance not tram work.  Because of a lack of a plan, he doesn’t buy players to complete the puzzle, so he ends up with expensive buys sitting on the bench or, when dropped into the team, seem completely out of place and confused.

So what is the project he is so close to completing? What is the plan that Ole has that some fans seem to be able to see that no one else can?

Or is Ole just the new Wizard of Oz, with Liverpool pulling back the curtains as Scholes predicted.
Paul McDevitt


Essentialism and football narratives
As someone who grew a love of football in their late teens after vehement opposition as a kid, part of my basic understanding of the PL has been around narrative.  Part of the discussion and understanding of why the broad consensus of how players, teams and coaches are discussed in the minds and pubs of the fan ecosystem is still based more on story that just stats.

Sure, stats and facts don’t care about your feelings, but stats aren’t how we learn of footballing triumphs.  We learn about them through stories, dramatised visits of past glory and lists of why this team scored that goal through goal threat equation metrics.  They back up your feelings and they reinforce certain ideas of ‘Things Must Be’.  If X has done Y then X can make Z win Shiny Cups and sponsorship deals.

Ole has entered the 21/22 season in his 10th year of senior managerial football, yet still engenders a consensus of not having experience.  He took up coaching roles immediately after retiring from playing and began coaching for United’s reserves from 2008.  He went to Norway in 2011, where he secured Molde, his first football home, to their first ever Shiny League Cup in his first season, which he followed up on the following season. He had a season with Cardiff where he got them relegated in 2014, yet the talk is that, because he has only managed an elite club for 3 years with it’s own established director of football and bottomless pits of wealth, he has no experience.

[Don’t let the irony of José getting humbled by the latest Norwegian champions by 5 escape from the idea Ole was an antidote that has served the club in many positive ways, proving he can fix ‘elite managers’ mistakes]

It is unfair to say Ole’s tactical nous being fairly limited has only just been found out. His ‘team of individuals’ philosophy is about as old hat as it comes.  Fergie built many fantastic ‘teams of individuals’ and kept to a fairly rigid system.  Everyone knows the 4-4-2 he employed (and the wilful use of media narrative to affect his opponents and fans) and don’t have many vivid memories of him having free flowing formation changes.  The case that Ole making up for his tactical deficiencies by employing the same ideas has been evident for some time.  His Manchester United teams have always had their deficiencies (let McFred’s subliminal corporate critique remind you fans were not loving it last season), however, his recruitments and the selection of players building off last season’s second place finish was a general indicator the spine could finally be found.

Jadon Sancho’s careful two-year pursuit, a World Cup winning CB, the careful nurture and promise of Greenwood, the craft of Rashford learning from arguably the most selfless elite modern forward in Edinson Cavani (the man had to play out of position for the majority of his ‘prime’ years to accommodate the other big names of Ibra and Neymar whilst consistently posting double figure goal/assist tallys and staying patient his entire career waiting for his opportunity to lead the line).  The team of individuals were, arguably, set to evolve and realise the promise of what most could argue would be a formidable spine of attacking talent for the next 4-5 years (assuming Greenwood took over from Cavani) without investment regardless of Ole being in charge at the start of this season, showing that, finally, they could buy as many DMs as they wanted to stop the Twitterati pundits complaining.

Then Cristiano got bored of life in Italy and almost went to Man City.

Then Media Master Alex Ferguson made a phone call.

Then the fans and pundits alike were able to get even more excited from the narrative. Finally, a REAL winner, and the Holy Son of Ferguson to boot. Retweets and likes aplenty proved a social media hit. Everyone agreed now, Manchester United HAD to win a Shiny Cup, because here was the man who had won so many Shiny Cups, his stats alone were better than some consider elite clubs (Tottenham’s entire recorded history of Shiny Cups vs Cristiano can be amusing to consider).

He doesn’t press? His stats say he’s the definition of a luxury player in terms of team discipline and pressing actions? He needs a team set up to do all of the work around him because he will just stand there and demand his team pass him the ball exclusively (I wonder how many death threats in Portuguese Greenwood has heard shouting across from him during training sessions? [CITATION NEEDED – Due to Liverpool performance, we cannot definitively prove Man U train on anything now besides maintaining abs worthy of building a 10-figure earning fitness brand when you retire with your multi-billion dollar net worth a la Galáctico])

“It’s fine guys, look at those abs. Looks at those goooooooals.  Look how cool he looks now he’s wearing his old number 7 that is about as essential to his story as it is to his marketing.  It’s just like when he was out darling baby boy. He’s going to make our guy winners again!”

How’s that working out for you?

Sure, Cristiano is scoring a lot of goals. That is what Cristiano does. We all know this.  But Cristiano comes with a tax. If a team can’t work harder at the basic arts of football to accommodate a luxury player, the house of cards crumbles.  The problems that were underneath are exacerbated by the necessity of Records. Bad form at the back?  Overuse of players due to a manager who is too rigid in trusting players who need resting for every basic task?  Can’t drop your luxury player because Papa Ferg told him off via the media for not playing the Chosen One during a bad result?

I don’t have a dog in this fight, but Manchester United fans and the team itself need to understand the ‘catch-22’ they’re in.  The coaching staff are lacking due to teams inability to instigate basic press (someone tell Mike Phelan about curving your runs) and the manager is lacking faith in his reserves (even starting Utd players are puzzled as to why VDB can’t start).  The team are in a funk, and it’s fair to argue a core of them are in dire need of rest (Maguire and Shaw have played almost the entirely of games for both Utd and England since beginning of Project Restart, yet still start every game).  They now have to slap a square peg into the round hole that didn’t need filling in Cristiano, which completely ruins the already insecure foundations the team ethos was built around.

I feel sorry for the fanbase, but they (along with most pundits) need to stop finding bogeymen or singular points of blame. The Project has collapsed, but is not capable of being fixed. The CR incident will most likely be judged to have set Manchester United back several years if they don’t win a minor cup this year, and they don’t look capable with Ronaldo leading the PL charge.  If he could settle for a CL/Cup guarantee and sit out more games, the team would be able to fake their way into semi-cohesion.  They need new coaches and new ideas in the backroom because the tunnel vision is evident.  Ole needs to trust the rotation and change how Manchester United play with/without CR and bring fluid  flexibility to the squad (which he can’t do on his own based on the record).  If you get a new manager, they need to be able to say No to the Chosen One and the squad will have to learn to share the load and relearn the basics.

Newcastle owners and fans, take note, this is how NOT to waste your newfound millions.
Almost Genius, Chelsea (someone enlighten me as to why English coaches don’t understand how to get the basics of pressing right and we have to buy German)


A true great
I wanted to write in to convey my sadness at the news of the passing of Walter Smith. A real legend of the game here in Glasgow.

As a Rangers fan he brought tremendous success to our club and signed some terrific players like Gazza and Brian Laudrup to name but a few.

His teams possessed tremendous team spirit, something fostered by Walter.  He was unfortunate to be at Everton with one hand tied behind his back but Fergie knew he was a top coach and had him briefly at Manchester United. He then gave Scotland back some credibility after the disaster of Bertie Vogts.

His return to Rangers peaked with a run to the final of the UEFA Cup final. The following day he was a coffin bearer at the funeral of Celtic great Tommy Burns showing unity in a city where football often splits Glasgow.

A real gentleman . RIP Walter

Thanks for the memories
Neil, Glasgow

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